Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Know When to Hold 'Em...Know When to Fold 'Em..."

The classic betting advice from an old Kenny Rogers song is true for my sewing projects as well.  Sometimes it's just good to cut your losses and move on to a more successful project.  
Last weekend I had two days of sewing and fitting at Sarah Veblen's "Choose Your Focus" workshop Sarah Veblen's class offerings  There were seven of us attending from near and far.  I had spent some of my "idle" home renovation time sewing up and marking seven different mock ups so I could pack them up for Sarah to fit on me and to give me some design and fabric choice ideas.  
I attended two of the offered days, Friday and Sunday and found it a wonderful use of my time. First of all, it made me evaluate my TNT patterns and analyze where there are gaps.  I don't sew everything I wear, nor do I want to.  I have way too many other interests to focus on that concept. My life is rather low key and casual and knit tops are easier for me to fit at home so I didn't need Sarah's help for any of those.  (Of course I am soooooo fortunate that I can easily book time with Sarah if I need tweaking something since she lives about 20 minutes from my house.)  I have pants patterns that work well enough for my lifestyle....the Elenore pull on jean is my current favorite and I have an older bootcut Burda pattern for fabrics with drape that I can rely upon.  So what I decided to focus on A) a fitted sheath dress or two nailed down as a staple.  Carolyn Diary of a Sewing Fanatic has pulled that off magnificently for years.  I had a go at it when we were Florida snowbirds but although my dresses were wearable, they weren't yet perfect. McCalls 6201 I even had Sarah fit me in a different sheath a few years ago but I didn't love love my stretch woven version when I finished it.  Vogue 8828  then B) some patterns for simple woven tops since I already have knits in my repertoire and C) maybe a fun, slightly (but only slightly :-) funky jacket.  Well, two our of three ideas came to fruition.

Here are my mock ups and the patterns I decided to focus on for those two days.  I decided that I wanted to use stretch woven fabric to do my dress fitting with Sarah.  I have a good number of stretch cottons in my "resource center" and they sew up nicely for a casual warm weather dress.  
The first pattern that Sarah pinned on me was that rather dated Burda #3247 dress but which has great bones to it.  Yes, I have to correct the shoulder slope, adjust the front darts, take out a wedge in the middle back but the waist darts were just fine and along with the back darts gave my rectangular body semblance of a nice shape.  I'll open up the neckline and it will be a very useful base pattern.
The most fun pattern was Vogue 8997 which I did as a swing dress.  Lovely lines and once I adjust those princess seams this will also be a fabulous base for all sorts of variations.  This very versatile pattern has a sheath version along with a two piece and flutter about a lot of bang for your Vogue buck!  My third success was a simple but oh so handy woven tunic top, McCalls 7357.  I have a large number of floaty silk and silky fabrics that want to become tunics and I needed something feminine without too much peasant look....which at my age turns into feudal peasant way too quickly.  Not many changes to this mock up at all so it might be a nice easy sewing project for my upcoming August sewing retreat.  

Last success was a very last minute mock up that I brought along in case Sarah had time.  It's a classic blouse pattern, McCalls 6750.
Yes, I can show you what we pinned and marked but it's rather boring:

When I signed up for Sarah's workshop I did not have any particular event in mind.  Since that date I've gotten a family invitation to my aunt and uncle's 50th anniversary at a country club in northern VA so a new dress will be perfect.  

Now, what about those things that did not work.  Oh, I really wanted Vogue 1069 in my closet.  But the mock up looked awful.  That low armhole with the sleeve gusset and my short waisted narrow shoulder very asymmetric body were a bad match.  So, with some help from Sarah, I can adapt what I do love about this pattern....the deep, long shawl collar, the shoulder princess seams, the wide full bottom....and add those elements to a fitted jacket pattern in my collection.  Knowing that makes it so much easier to say good-bye to this particular dream and drop kick this pattern out of my sewing space.

The next discard was that McCalls pattern.  I had actually already done one major fitting and alteration but still greatly disliked the huge bodice dart.  Those other two dresses were so lovely that when I put on this mock up, which was close to being moved into real fabric, I decided it was not flattering enough to bother pursuing.  Yes, I could make it "better" but the design just didn't work as nicely.  I do like the raised waist and again, can use those features and put them on a dress that works better on my body.  
Not particularly nice bust dart

I was happy with the two days of my fitting time with Sarah as well as the benefits of watching her fit other people.  Small 1/4 and even 1/8 inch tweaks can make a lovely difference in how something fits and flatters.  I had sewn up two additional dress patterns but they were rather mediocre once I had gotten fitting help on these two.  I'll tuck them away in my closet in case I want to pursue them later but right now I'm itching to get to work on these four new garments. 

The workshop finished up late Sunday afternoon and I would have loved to holed up in my sewing room all week.  But very kind friends asked us up a lake house they were renting in northern New York state.  It was a small, quiet, beautiful lake and we did enjoy time to read on the decks, kayak, take the small outboard around the lake and then have day trips to Montreal and a wonderful trail at Bear Mountain on larger Cranberry Lake.  
Cranberry Lake in New York's Adirondack Park
Meanwhile, back at home our appliances were installed and the backsplash tile set. We arrived home last night and are happy with how the project is turning out.  We are home for four days this week, then away with friends at another lake, before we settle back and start putting everything together in the new kitchen and family room.  Cleaning, organizing and decorating is in our future but at least the workmen will be gone and we can do this at our pace.  I love summer, even when it is hot like it is this week, and don't want to miss out on the great outdoor activities in Maryland.  There will be time for cabinets and drawers and pantries and curtains when the days are shorter and we want to cocoon once again.  Until then, here's hoping you have been picking good projects that fit your life and style.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Keep Calm and Stop Procrastinating....Vogue 1385 and Home Renovations

Do you ever procrastinate?  Sometimes when I read other sewing blogs I imagine that "those people" never have doubts, never hesitate over next projects and never delay making design, fabric and pattern decisions.  Yes, I know in my head that this is not true but that's the mental game that my procrastination can play.  Then again, sometimes there are just plenty of other fun things in my life that keep my from my sewing room.  I started this sewing project so long ago that I can't even tell you why it took me so long to finally get it finished but the reasons don't matter at this stage.  I do remember that my inspiration was seeing the gorgeous versions done by Margy  Fool4fabric Vogue 1385 and Sharon  communing with fabric Vogue 1385  
I too have some wonderful ikat fabric in my resource center but I wanted to try this pattern on its own and work out any quirks from wearing it.  I used a lightweight jacquard fabric that I had from my Florida fabric collection.  It's very bright for here in Baltimore....and I had planned on finishing it during our Florida vacation in March but that darn procrastination kicked in back then.  It took June and the first really warm days of summer to get me to just "make it work."  
Details:  Vogue 1385  My shirt/jacket is view A.  My version is size C with a small FBA but 1" taken off each side seam from the high midriff area.  I certainly have a tummy and high hip fluff but this pattern has a lot of ease and I guess I am "straighter" than the model used for Sandra's Today's Woman draft.  Fabric is a lightweight cotton poly jacquard from Fabric Mart.  (Tank top and jeans are years old from Chicos.)

Vogue 1385

I was going to do something cute with the reverse white and green side but this fabric is bright enough on its own and does not need any more bells and whistles.  I did do piping along the front edge and collar with a thin cotton lawn in my resource center....which exactly matched that very neon green.  
Lime piping
In Florida where the sun is strong this color would not seem so bright but it definitely glows further north here in Baltimore.  

Next time?  Well, I like the slightly unique design and I especially love the longer jacket versions of Sharon and Margy. I will add a pocket and maybe take out the sleeve darts.  I like the distinctive stand up darted, fluted collar....slight unusual construction in that you mark the darts, many of them, and don't sew them until after you have put together the body pieces and the facing.  

Now it's time to share what really has been my obsession for the last several months.  Mr. Lucky and I have been talking about renovating our kitchen/family room for at least five years.  We were snowbirds then and whenever we came back after six months in Florida, our dirty scratched "no wax" floor, scruffy wallpaper, cracked grout-stained 4" tile and chipped sink, aging appliances and messy wood burning fireplace would shock us into saying "we have to do something about this."  But, being the good procrastinators that we are, we'd rather visit with friends, walk dogs, sew, golf, hike, read a book, kayak, sit on the deck or watch a movie.  
Last year we really started a full fledged effort to come up with a plan, find a contractor and get to work.  That didn't go so well and we were getting discouraged all spring and summer.  Contractors would come out, measure and then never get back to us.  We spent a lot of time looking at ideas "pinning" like crazy to various Pinterest boards, and finally got a referral to a wonderful contractor last fall.  We mulled over our decisions with him in the next few months, took our vacation in March then finalized our plans in April and started work right at the end of May.  
We have a modest home in comparison to many of our friends and family...although more than adequate for the two of us and certainly more than most people in the world.  It was even more modest thirty years ago when we did our first big renovation.  We are renovating to replace those worn items (but we did donate all the cabinets and appliances to Second Chance where they could definitely work in someone's getaway cabin or workroom) and also because we want to make our home appeal to the next buyers, most likely a young family who would enjoy our little neighborhood and its good local schools.  I'm not documenting every day since this is not a home improvement blog but I thought I'd share a little bit of what is keeping us busy.  
First the 26 year old renovation (during my country Laura Ashley period so imagine the fruit and flower wallpaper border, swags and mini floral wallpaper that used to be here also)

Next, clearing out the stuff to get ready for demo:

You can sort of tell from these pictures that we did not add on to the full width of our house 26 years ago.  Budget and engineering constraints.  That matters now only because it precludes us changing to any sort of island layout which is so popular and appealing these days.  Oh, well hindsight makes all of us into geniuses.  So we are keeping the peninsula, making it wider with a full bank of drawers.  We considered the ever popular stool idea but this room is relatively small and we still wanted sit down dining.  One major change will be that we no longer have a sofa in the room but will have four comfy arm chairs. We have a living room in the front of the house with a larger TV and sectional sofa since Mr. Lucky and I do love to cuddle up for an evening of PBS binge watching (yes, we are that generation.)  So this room will work more as one big room and give me more space for my extensive cookware.  
We are removing the wood burning fireplace to put in a contemporary gas fireplace which will give us a sleeker look without the necessary hearth and will be so much easier to use on chilly mornings.  I have loved having that wood fireplace....until the logs would burn down and usually Mr. Lucky had to go downstairs under the car port to fetch more dry logs.  
So here's the work that has been taking place since the end of May:

No more separate no wax floor

Newly stained floors and wider peninsula

Flooring transition piece from old part of the 1933 house to the new

New gas fireplace without the stainless surround that will be installed after construction

New floors and drawers waiting to be filled
In some upcoming posts I will show you the fabric I've selected to make long window panels and also an idea I have for a custom dining table for this space that is sewing related.  Next week the appliances and new toilet are installed which means we should have a functioning kitchen and powder room again.  We are keeping rugs and furniture off the new floors until early August.  It's been a little disruptive but summer is definitely a good time to do this dramatic a project.  We can grill if we need to, we had one week when we had to walk out the front door around outside to the basement to do dishes since the floors were being refinished and there are certainly plenty of places to eat out.  We have had minor issues come up....just had to order a new pendant light this morning since one of them was chipped when they went to install it yesterday.  We are simply so fortunate to be able to do a project like this.  It does feel like we are moving into a new house.  We did it for ourselves and also for an easier resale....but knowing what procrastinators we are it might turn out that we live here longer than expected and go straight to the "active adult community" from here.  
Next up, yes, I did do some additional sewing while this was going on downstairs but I only have mock ups to show you.  Here's hoping your projects, sewing or otherwise, are bringing smiles to your face each day.  Sew grateful, Jane