Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taking My Time and Taking Breaks

There are eleven groups of lessons in Kenneth King's Jean-ius class and so far I have completed lesson one, the jeans thread tracing.  Slow sewing for sure.  
Marking the jeans you love with thread tracing

Who knew I would make every rookie mistake which meant it took me twice as long to do this step.  
Front thread traced
Back thread traced
What mistakes?  Well, I used a strong milliners needle to do my thread tracing.  Nice sharp point....and a little too late discovered that randomly I had picked up one single thread on the inside of the jeans....which meant clipping and redoing the tracing when I moved the jeans.  

I really struggled understanding and seeing how to make the crosswise grain markings and missed a little phrase of Kenneth's...."lay the pants flat" which meant don't do this with the side and inside seams pinned together as in the previous illustration.  I was quite uncertain about my back crosswise line and kept going back and forth with the class video and my jeans in order to figure it out.  But persistence has paid off and I am ready to move to the next step of transferring these markings.

Meanwhile I am loving Craftsy's decision to create an ipad app that lets me download the class and watch it offline.  Hooray for that convenience.  My sewing room is the unhappiest place in the house to get our wireless connection so this makes my collection of classes so very convenient for me.  I've only downloaded the Jean-ius class and it does use up memory but I think once I've done this process there's no reason to keep it on my pad.
I did do a little retail therapy while prepping for this class.  I needed to buy pins, of all things.  I use Susan Khalje's very fine Japanese pins in my sewing room but they would be too thin and bendable for all the denim pinning that would go on during class.  So of course while I was at Joann's I had to pick up some of the new Vogues on sale this week.
New pins on the left
On the left, the pants are what I really love in that pattern and on the right, I love what Sharon and Margy did with this pattern.  Communing with fabric  Fool4fabric
Add caption
A few more.....

Then an Amazon order showed up with a few items that I had ordered while making my pink flower extravaganza.  These are single needle felting molds for making flower shapes our of wool roving.  Since I am heading out to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival late this Saturday afternoon, I'll pick up some more wool roving for these and future projects.
Last bit of retail news is from a neighbor.  Mr. Lucky and I took Lucky the rescue dog for a walk on Saturday so we could peruse the next neighborhood's community yard sale.  As always lots of children's clothing and my only interest was to look for a souffle dish.  But a lovely woman was selling off items from her parents' home which was being sold.  We picked up a small saucepan, small bowl and these lovely hand crocheted laces.  

Two of them were designed to be pillow edging and the other had been made for the top of a chemise nightgown.  The nightgown fabric is long gone and one of the straps was replaced over the years with similarly colored twill tape.  These were lovingly tucked away in the crochet box, maybe the box that held that crochet thread in the beginning, probably from the 1920's.  I love the lace but I also love the care and re-use effort.  
Speaking of lovely and re-using items, don't you just love the pin cushion that my sister-in-law made for me some years back.  It is too fragile to hold my every day pins at the machine but I am keeping my less regularly used pins in it and put it on the shelf afterwards to keep it safe and admire its design.
Last thing I have enjoyed in the last few days is reading this:
It's the selection for my book group discussion next week and I am glad it was selected.  Not a demanding read but engaging.  Those of you with an interest in historic quilts will enjoy the discussion of English and American quilts....pieced via templates versus applique.  
From Booklist: Honor Bright sailed from England to America in 1850 with her sister, Grace, who is betrothed to a fellow Quaker in Ohio. After Grace’s death, Honor is left in the awkward position of an outsider, searching for her place in an unsettled land of restless change where even the Quakers are different from those she had known at home. She finds solace in writing letters to friends and family in England and in the exquisite quilting skills that tie her to her old life and offer some hope of ties to a new one. Honor’s only true American friend is Belle, the unorthodox milliner who clandestinely aids runaway slaves, even as her rough and charismatic brother, Donovan, hunts them down. Horrified by the realities of slavery, Honor faces the new complexities of the Fugitive Slave Law and the challenges it poses for the Quakers and for her personally.
Nothing but coincidence that I had just read Sue Monk Kidd's novel about the abolitionist sisters from South Carolina and their challenges in opposing slavery and in becoming Quakers.
Now, onward to lesson two.....

Monday, April 28, 2014

Against My Grain

In my many years on this planet, my friends, colleagues, family and husband have said some nice things about my skills, talents and even my personality.  But I have seldom infrequently ok, probably never been complimented on how methodical I am.  In my younger years I reveled in being "enthusiastic and spontaneous."  Now I recognize the downside of those same traits...."undisciplined and distracted."  I can get the job done but it isn't always pretty watching it happen.  This might explain why I own numerous Craftsy classes but have only once watched one of them all the way through.  But like an overstocked "resource center," having too many unused Craftsy classes can be too much of a good thing.  So let's see if any of you Craftsy fans can tell which class I am committing to working my way through in the next month:

Craftsy class preparation
Yes, you're right, it's the Jean-ius class taught by Kenneth King.  I'm  liking him a lot as an instructor.  There are many steps, far more than any other RTW copying technique I've seen, and he explains his reasons for taking each one.  I'm one of those annoying students who wants to understand the why of each direction you give.  That childishly rebellious streak in me balks at "just do it this way."  I've almost made my peace with the fact that this class still may not produce a pair of miracle jeans.....the ones that make me look 20 lbs thinner and 20 years younger.  When I saw the finished gallery of projects, I was terribly impressed with a number of the results achieved by sewists all over the world.  Yes, I could just start with a Burda jeans pattern and work from a mock up and yes, I was impressed by the free jeans webinar info from Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns Peggy's Webinars and her pattern might even work but once more, let's use it or lose it.  I'm going to take this Craftsy class slowly with some simple TNT sewing in between for a break.  What made me consider making jeans is that so many retailers I used to buy from either have folded or no longer carry long length as an option.  I don't actually need blue denim jeans, I can still buy those in RTW but I love jeans in different colors and fabrics and am willing to give this method a shot. Maybe it won't work in the end but at least I will have practiced some slow sewing and that might have some good benefits for my mind as well as my closet.  I'll keep you informed as I progress.
In a slightly related note, on Friday Mr. Lucky and I had a tour with a friend of the Discovery Channel's Creative and Technical Center.  It was another one of those fun activities from our church auction.  We got to see where they do the sound editing for the many, many shows produced by Discovery.  In one of them, the fellow working on a promo for a show with loud zooming cars described his job as a cross between technology (as he demonstrated the sound library with 20 sounds from a 1975 Cobra) and art because he was the one making the choices about what cuts to use, for how long and when, all in a 15 second promo.  Made me think about the best seamstresses I see on blogs and in life....those who have beautiful choices of fabric and pattern and the finesse and skill to execute the construction so wonderously.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

New and Old, All in One

A car must be twenty years old in order to qualify for "historic" license plates; I have only a few more years to go to get my Social Security benefits; our 12 year old MacBook was called "vintage" by the Apple what do I call this aging Sewing Workshop Teagarden Tee pattern besides Out of Print?  Yes, I've owned this pattern for enough years to decide to either use it or lose it, a common theme in our household these days.  I bought the pattern itself fifteen years ago after a great local Sewing Workshop trunk show put on by Nancy Schreiber.  Didn't touch it until seven or eight years later when  friend stitched it up at a summer sewing retreat and let me try it on. I liked the lines of it so it moved from my file cabinet to my "must try" pile.  A few years ago I decided to cut it out in cheap junky surplus knit then stuffed it into a 2 gallon plastic bag to age.  I took it to at least two sewing retreats and back and forth to Florida.  (Recipes would usually call this step "mix thoroughly.")  Finally I have taken it out of my mental filing cabinet (the section marked Unfinished Things You have Halfway Started and Wish Would Go Away), pulled it from a plastic tub and focused my attention long enough to give it a whirl. 

One big pattern piece, plus gusset, that gets sewn up the back and center front then folded into place.....just like the Vogue Issey Miyake #2094, a version from before my garment sewing time
I used Sharon's hint to label all the match points  Communing with Fabric Teagarden Tee
quickie mock up for fitting purpose
Hey, not bad after all.  Now, my dressform has lovely straight and square shoulders so I will need light shoulder pads when I wear it.  But because of the wrap around origami design there are some pulls in the back on me.....and on the dressform, who has a younger, perkier figure.  
For once it wasn't my fluff making those ripples
So I'm not going to fret but will go ahead and make a "real" one.  I think 1 or 2" longer and then I'll cut it out in a soft, cozy brown rayon knit and sew it up.....sooner than the next few years, I promise.  It will be new to me, but an old design in "pattern years."
There's a little background to this project All those years ago I was already discovering this wonderful community of sewing aficionados on the web.  Long before pictures on blogs and Pinterest, even before Patternreview, there was an early sewing bulletin board. Two kind members of that community posted helpful tips for sewing the gusset on this pattern...and I am here to thank them for those encouraging remarks and explanations Cat Fur Studio blog  Mamafitz blog  After all those years and miles, I had saved their posts which made me smile and helped me make this top work.  Sew grateful, Barbara and Linda.
Yes, notes from 14 years ago.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Finite Number

Only a small amount of sewing occurred here last week when I closed up the loops on these 18 infinity scarves.  
infinity scarves for sale at the community yard sale

Back in February I did a big fabric cleaning out and sold more than 100 yards of my beautiful knits, silks, woolens and linens to a young woman who saw them on craigslist for $50.  She's a social worker in Baltimore (which automatically means hard work for little pay) and part time yoga instructor.  I think she was happy with the variety and quality and I was happy to make a dent in my two home merged conglomeration.  But as part of that fabric cleansing I found several of these silk or poly fabrics that I had planned for infinity scarves.  I quickly stitched up three for myself and then was on a roll and kept sewing for a day.  Last week I had only enough sewing time to stitch together the 2 inch turning seam. I'll see if I can sell these at our upcoming neighborhood yard sale in early May.  
My flower embellished sweater and Mr. Lucky chose to wear one of his Kwik Sew shirts
I did want to share how my flower embellished sweater turned out.  The Sunday before Easter Mr. Lucky and I braved the record crowds and visited the cherry blossoms in Washington DC's Tidal basin area by the Thomas Jefferson memorial.  
Since I had been obsessing about making these flowers all week, we couldn't resist this shot.

Then in mid-week I headed up to Pennsylvania for a book group discussion on one of my top 10 books of all time, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.  Since my girlfriend lives only moments from Fabric Mart I did stop by and indulge myself.  I have a major project in mind for the next few weeks involving one of my Craftsy classes and I'll show you more soon.  But geez, remind me that I do not need more fabric....just more sewing time.
Back from that trip and it was a hectic few days getting ready for my Downton Abbey tea for 10 ladies from my church on Saturday.  I had so much fun at the tea that I don't have any people pictures but here are the two tables and the food display.  
Pistachio shortbread, raspberry bars, lemon bars, wedding cookies, chocolate cake, cucumber dill, ham and tomato ginger jam and crab avocado sandwiches, asparagus quiche, scones
We had to sit at two different tables so I had them choose a number and then assigned each person a Downton Abbey identity.  When it came time to sit and eat, some people ate "upstairs" in our dining room with my Royal Worcester china and grandmother's silver service and some people ate in our family room, downstairs.  
I handed out a quiz, had Dowager Countess quotes to share and also a clever person's Downton Abbey bingo card.  (I love the bingo card so much that I will edit it and have a premiere party for the next season and use it.)

It certainly was not as elaborate as some of the parties I saw when I checked out Pinterest last week but the food was good and plentiful and so were the smiles and laughs. I will definitely offer it next year for our church auction and relax a little with some experience under my belt.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Blossoms and Books

Spring is here in Baltimore and my newly embellished sweater is in bloom....and a few of the flowers are blooming in my yard and neighborhood as well.  Yes, thanks to keeping my efforts focused this week I was able to complete this project and will be wearing it tomorrow to visit the Washington DC cherry blossoms themselves.  

Spring in bloom
Flowers were stitched to knit base then basted to the sweater neckline....looks like I won the Kentucky Derby, doesn't it?
Flower laden piece pinned to sweater before trimming and basting
Back is just as embellished as the front.
This project took longer than I anticipated.  I wanted this full, over-the-top look and that required a lot of flowers.  One of the lessons for me is to probably double how long I think any particular project will take.  I gave myself the week to work on this one but it took probably 18 hours of work to create all of these flowers, stitch them in place and baste the neckline.... and that was definitely more time than I had anticipated on Monday.  
Here are the flowers I made on the third and fourth days:
....and I still needed to make half a dozen more to fill in some gaps during assembly.

For this batch I used some wool roving that I needle felted onto a fabric base.  I used a hand needle felting tool from Clover and then my Viking needle felting machine.  Not much of a difference in the results for this project.  I love the texture and subtle color shifts from the needle felted roving, something that may not show up too well in my photographs.  
Wool roving placed on top of silk chiffon
Hand needle felting the wool roving
A new "fabric" to cut into a flower shape
Needle felting by machine onto a polyester base
Wool roving needle felted onto the pale pink polyester base fabric
After creating several needle felted bases I cut out flowers freehand and also with two of my Sizzix dies then added beads for some sparkle and contrast again.

I am happy to have this project work out as I had imagined it...and to have it out of my head and into my wardrobe.  I think it will be wonderfully festive for the start of spring.

Since I am catching up with projects that have been in my head for a while, I'd also like to catch up with my reading for the last month or so.  Our March vacation meant I had lots of time to just enjoy warm weather and great books.  In order of preference, here are the books that caught my attention:

Every bit as good as the reviews and word of mouth have said.  Can hardly wait for the book group discussion on this one in a few months.
I enjoyed this one tremendously and even did a phone in call to my March book group while I was out of town to hear what others thought.  Very touching story and quite interesting that he writes exclusively for young adults.  
So short but so enjoyable.  I have Anna Quindlen's latest book on reserve at the library but came across this little gem.  If you a reader you will probably just enjoy hearing another kindred spirit share the love of getting lost in good books.

Yes, yes, highly readable and I can understand all the hype.  Perfect vacation book.

I just love Bill Bryson's books and this was no exception.  Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, the Mississippi could he make me care about all of these topics and more?  Another winner from a wonderful non-fiction author.

Another light vacation diversion.  I read it when I was laid up for the last few days of our Florida trip with a terrible cold.  Thank you, Amy, for an entertaining read.
Oh, I so wanted to love this book.  After all, I love Jane Austen, I love Joanna Trollope....but I just have never loved the original Sense and Sensibility and a modern re-telling was even more annoying.  I may not go as far as one Amazon reviewer... I'm delighted to say I got this book free - and even then it was too expensive...but I did wonder why she wanted to update this particular novel.  I'm just annoyed that I will have to wait a while longer for her next "regular" novel.
Right now I am in the midst of Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone.  I somehow missed the news that this summer will be the start of the Outlander television series but a friend filled me in last night.  Oh, might have to re-read that one just to enjoy the whole experience again.
Speaking of television, thank you Nancy and Alison, for your suggestions about Firefox and the Acorn TV subscription idea.  I might just stop my Netflix account and change to Acorn.  We had to take one of our Apple laptops in to the Apple store yesterday.  Turns out that I put a CD into the drive and it is stuck there.  Nothing worked on our end nor could Apple people remove it....from our "vintage machine."  So we can't even download Firefox unless we buy a new computer.  But to get Hola I'm thinking that might be a good purchase this year.  As for British television, one of the terrific benefits of being back in Baltimore is access to the 24hour a day WETA UK channel which is broadcasting so many wonderful shows all the time.  Two of my very favorites are New Tricks and Hustle.  But now to get busy with an entirely different project for next week.  Mr. Lucky and I are hosting a Downton Abbey tea at our home next Saturday.  It was our church auction offering and we have a dozen guests coming that afternoon.  I am not sewing any costumes but I will be baking up many treats and will share pictures after the well as some surprises along the way.  
Here's hoping you have something fun up your sleeve in or out of your sewing room.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Still More Flowers....

Yesterday's crop of flowers took me a long time for a smaller result than day one's curled edge poppies.  I did new three varieties but after pinning them in place on my sweater, I still need some more varieties to make it as full and extravagant as I want.  I have an idea but it will mean a trip to Joann's this evening.  Stay tuned to see the next pink flower variation.  In the meantime, here's where the sweater stands so far and some details about the flowers.
Flower extravaganza in progress but plenty of gaps to fill
These wrapped flowers looked so easy and they probably are when made with a strip of quilting cotton.  But this rayon crepe was so slippery to handle that each one took me fifteen minutes.
Make a knot, then twist, pin, wrap and repeat....and keep re-wrapping the slippery fabric......then sew in place from the back
Silk organza from this month's Vogue pattern magazine instructions
My silk organza flowers don't resemble the picture because I used three layers and didn't paint mine....but I did use the cutting instructions:
The unpictured silk chiffon flowers were the easiest but still a little fiddly.  They were just 14 or 18" bias strips 1 1/2 wide, doubled over then hand gathered so they rolled into a flower shape.  I used pale, pale pink pearls to make them sparkle.  
I have enjoyed watching episodes five and six of The Great British Sewing Bee on youtube while working on this project.  We are an Apple computer household (although a very old operating system of theirs) and I wasn't able to download the Hola system.  I am waiting anxiously until that great system is available to MAC or ipad people since we happen to love, love love British television.  I get annoyed that the so called BBC America channel seems to only broadcast about a half dozen shows....and the GBSB is not one of them!!  I do love Gordon Ramsey and the episode today just happens to be a repeat about a local Baltimore restaurant.  But really, I want British television.  I am grateful that have been able to watch episodes one, two, five and six so far but would gladly pay to see the whole series.  I've heard about the American casting call and know that there are so many wonderful people out there in sewing world who would do a marvelous job.  But what I love about the GBSB is its gentility and fairness and I am less than hopeful that American producers can (or would want to) translate that touch to a US show.  OK, enough of my soapbox.  I have my daily walk, gardening, phone calls, emails, a cauliflower curry for dinner and then that run to Joann's.  I can see a final project at the end of the tunnel.....