Saturday, September 29, 2018

Vogue 8813

My August sewing retreat with the Northern Virginia chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG) was more productive than usual for me.  I was happy to sew up the overlay top and tank that I wrote about in my last post.  Next up was a new to me pattern, Vogue 8813, a dress that was also inspired by some snoop shopping in the previous spring.  

Vogue 8813 is a Marcy Tilton pattern and I'm not always a fan of her style on me.  I'm more of a sportswear or dressy casual girl and feel a little outside of my comfort zone in her artsy and generally asymmetrical clothing.  Hems seem to flare out at unflattering locations, IMNHO, and all that fabric overpowers the wearer too often.  I admire how cool and hip other bloggers and friends look in her designs, however, so I am trying to not get in a clothing rut.  
Vogue 8813

This dress was the closest I could come in her dress pattern selections to finding the happy medium that I could live with and I am thrilled with the result.  
I cut out a Medium in view B with 3/4 sleeves and decided to make without any fabric combining.  My first one use a brown and black ITY that has been marinating in my stash for years.  The colors are perfect for a travel wardrobe and this dress is exactly what I want for an upcoming trip.  It packs like a dream (translation: balls up in a suitcase and shakes out without wrinkles.)  But it is a fabric hog with Medium using almost three yards of 60" fabric.  Thanks goodness a) for Fabric Mart sales and b) for a great result.
I didn't make the pleat on the extremely large pocket but just pulled it up in the center and added a heavy glass button to hold it in place.  That button was so heavy that I used a flat lightweight wooden button as a backer button to support it on this lightweight knit.

The pattern uses the old fashioned way of creating those front bodice gathers...zig zag over a length of pearl cotton.  It does let you adjust the width of the panel and I found that I wanted it narrowed to five inches.  Now that I know the finished measurement I suppose I could use a narrow elastic application in the future...and there will be future versions.

Pleat that I didn't use on the first version
When I tried the dress on at the retreat, it was much too big across my upper body.  Since it is a cut on sleeve I merely took that underarm seam down by almost an inch....which I think easily puts me into the Small or maybe even Extra-small version. 

I was so happy with the result at the retreat that in the following week I cut out another one and easily finished it in a day of sewing from another Fabric Mart knit with a slightly heavier hand.  Don't you love those fun, easy, palate cleansing sewing projects?
Vogue 8813

When I looked for the two buttons for this set of pockets, of course I had too many choices.  If you hoard save collect buttons then you'll understand...

The winner
But all my sewing projects are certainly not as successful.  I was inspired earlier this year to consider a jewelry refashioning project. My jewelry Pinterest board Turns out those wonderful Pinterest ideas are much harder to execute than I assumed.  Without buying many more supplies in my already extensive jewelry making materials, I was only able to put together one small project successfully, this old faux pearl necklace with a vintage pin added.  Conclusion: support those artisans who produce these delightful items;-)
My one jewelry refashioning project

Mr. Lucky and I are heading out for another walking excursion next month and this dress will be both useful and a way to share my passion for sewing with new travel friends.  It's our 31st anniversary and we are celebrating 35 years together by going to...

Next post I will share the new jacket that will also be making the trip and of course I welcome any fabric shopping suggestions.  Here's hoping that your sewing adventures are leading you to new patterns and new experiences.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

My Right Not to Bare Arms

I've always been self-conscious about my upper arms and age hasn't changed that.  Fortunately I must have the metabolism of an amphibian since 3/4 sleeves generally don't bother me in the summer heat.  However I'm always on the lookout for new and inventive ways to keep cooler while covering my upper arms.  Here's my latest solution:

Asymmetrical lace overlay attached to sleeveless tank

I bought this dress eighteen months ago for a family wedding and made some adjustments to it RTW or Sew It Yourself post  Right away I knew it would be the basis for a selection of sleeveless tops so here are the directions and my process.  

I'm no pattern drafting person by any means so I need to start with copying what I like most about a RTW garment, in this case the overlay attached to the sleeveless knit dress.  I was in Florida at the time without tracing paper so newspaper would have to do to copy the dimensions.  At first glance I just assumed this was a square of fabric with a neckline cut in the center but I was wrong.  (Yes, a D in high school geometry😞)  

Next, retrace it onto pattern paper and make some notes: where the neckline area is, how wide the coordinating finished band is.
Basic dimensions of the pattern:  24" by 36" by 42" which includes the 2" finished band along the outer edges

Next, try it out in spare fabric and see if I like the scale.
This mock up has the 2 inch band included in this size
Now select a tank top to go underneath as the base and a fabric to be the overlay.  For my first version I used a textured lightweight black double knit from Fabric Mart and a non stretchy black cotton blend geometric open lace fabric.  With their bargain prices I could easily sacrifice this fabric to test my construction technique and the overlay design.  For my second version I also used a black knit but a bit heavier, almost athletic wear and have some conclusions about that when I show you that result.
The construction is relatively simple.
Sew the selected tank top without hemming the neckline.  
Sew the shoulder line of the overlay on the left and right's asymmetrical so one is shorter than the other.  Each time I make it I use a slightly different neckline so I just leave that space open on the overlay and will baste it to my desired neckline while it is on my dress form.
One my TNT tank tops, in this case Vogue 8699
That's the second version, metal sequin fabric, also Fabric Mart, with just the shoulders sewn and slipped over my dress form to mark the neckline.
Next I sew the binding strips.  Once again, there's probably an easier way to do this but I am just recreating how that RTW dress overlay was constructed.
I cut 2/12 inch strips to bind all three sides, first section right side to right of the overlay.  On the long side I have to piece the strip and do that at the shoulder seam.  
At the three corners I miter the corner.  They are not perfect miters but I take my time, pin and mark and they work.

Turn and press the 1/4 seam allowance toward the overlay.
Next I repeat that same process by pinning the 2/1/2 strips to the right side of the attached binding, sew at 1/4 inch, miter the underside corners. Sometimes my miters match exactly at those corners and sometimes they don't but since it is on the back, I don't care about perfection.  And that's another reason why I used black!
Bottom binding strip has been sewn to the upper strip, turned and seam mitered.
Hooray, the miters happen to match on the top and bottom

Now press that edge seam open, turn it to meet the top side, wrong sides together and pin three layers together....the fashion overlay fabric and the two binding layers.  Sew all three layers together.
Sew fashion fabric and two binding layers together

Serge that small seam allowance to finish it (I serge the three seams separately and don't try to serge that sharp corner) and press the small hem toward the fashion fabric to make the overlay and binding as flat as possible.
Now is when I bind my neckline.  I place it over my top sitting on my dress form and pin then hand baste it to the neckline.  The two versions I have made so far both have scoop necks although the sequin one is a little more open since I will wear it to some dressier casual events this holiday season.
Pin basted to the neckline underneath...then hand basted followed by cutting it even with the neckline.
Use your favorite neckline binding method.  Me, I want about a 1/4 visible edge so I cut my neckline binding at 1 3/4 inches, fold it in half then sew my neckline with a 1/2 seam.  I sew it from the front 1/8 inch from the edge with my edgstitch foot and serge off the inside to finish it.  Depending on the amount of stretch in my binding fabric I use a formula of 87 or 85% of the finished neckline circumference plus the seam allowance I use to join the binding.

I like the finished holiday top but have two lessons from it.  This is not a stretch sequined lace so it is a bit heavier and has less drape than the original one.  I'm fine with that slightly wider profile because I'm not a small person but that fabric decision might not be for someone slighter or who wanted more drape.  Next is the use of that slightly heavier black fabric.  I only wanted to use stash fabric but if I were to do this version again I would not do the double binding. It's a little too bulky for my taste.  I would simply create a 2 inch edge but probably just serge that outer edge to make it look finished.  

I have already gotten a lot of wear out of the first version and was flattered that my non-sewing book group friends were impressed that I had made it and not purchased it.  It came with my this past weekend when we had a terrific three day trip with friends to Music City, Nashville, Tennessee.  
Just an Opryland memory this time with a RTW top
Oh my gosh, surprise guests legendary John Prine and Bill Murray (yes, THAT Bill Murray) joining bluegrass band  Steeldrivers
I have another one planned for the spring using lace that I bought in Amsterdam (in that case I will follow the original size of the fashion fabric which is two inches smaller at the edges) and will make a red sequin one for a Christmas dance this December.  

This is not as elaborate as many RTW copies but versatile enough as a design that I will make it a another TNT pattern in my collection.  Here's hoping that you too have patterns that you can enjoy over and over again in some wonderful fabric.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Summer Vacation2018 Finale

Our friends and family have wondered why we rave about our walking trips, particularly in countries where we speak the language.  When we were working, Mr. Lucky and I enjoyed a yearly vacation to reconnect and we planned these trips on our own...back in the day when I would write on blue airmail paper to make a b&B reservation. (No, youngsters, we didn't have to take a masted schooner across the ocean to get there.)  Now we are both retired so we are "connecting" all day long and need a different holiday style. We love meeting other active travelers from all sorts of backgrounds while enjoying panoramic vistas and interesting history.  And hiking on the South Downs and in the Scottish Highlands provided all of that and more. 

Mr. Lucky and I discovered HF Holidays HF Holidays UK three years ago and only wish it had been sooner. This year we selected a warm up week at Abingworth for guided walks along the South Downs before heading to the Highlands at Glen Coe  As in London, the weather was spectacular.  And the South Downs area is full of gentle rolling hills as well as the chalk cliffs that make up the Seven Sisters coastal hike.  

There were approximately 24 guests and we had three leaders who described the daily walk options each evening before dinner via a power point-like animation. 

Level 1 averaged six to seven miles per day and perhaps 400 feet of elevation.  Level 2 eight to ten miles, perhaps 1200 feet up and Level 3 8 to 12 miles, perhaps up to 1600 feet of elevation.  Mr. Lucky and I could do any of the levels of walking on this itinerary so we made our choices on some days depending on who we wanted as our leader or as walking companions.  Some random pictures from our five walks:

Food is very good and very plentiful and despite eating everything and anything I wanted I lost a pound by the time I got home.  Breakfast at the country house included fresh and canned fruit, juice, cereals and anything you wanted for a cooked breakfast. 
Whoops, already ate my salad so just sausage pie, cheese and crackers  and the orange left to share with you.
Then pick up the lunch you had ordered the night before, (sandwiches to order or in my case salad with protein such a smoked salmon) add packaged snacks of trail mix, crisps, candy bars, fill your water bottle and take the bus to your respective start points.  You select dinner from the menu on the night before and here are two typical choices:

The leaders are actually HF members themselves who have ordinance maps and notes of natural and historic interest along the way.  That is one difference from more commercially oriented, for-profit walking trips that we have taken who use more full time professional guides.  Some HF leaders are more geared to sharing those historic and nature notes and others are more the rugged outdoor walking types.  So Mr. Lucky and I know that we'll have to do our own local research sometimes or just enjoy the walk and don't worry about understanding that Iron Age fort on the hill, just admire its location and marvel at its longevity.
The one misty morning was when he took the hike to Chanctonbury Ring
We were the only Americans and one of the questions we get was why we would come over to England when we have marvelous trails and hikes all through the US.  That is so very true, we have gorgeous national and state parks, some far away from us in Maryland and some very near by.  But because we are a younger, larger country, many, many, many miles of those trails are through forests.  Now I'm a tree hugger and we probably picked our house because of the old growth trees in the neighborhood.  But walking in England, a country that has lost those trees over centuries of habitation, means that I get many of what I call my "Sound of Music" moments....or if you just happen to be young person reading all the way through this, I feel like singing the Imagine Dragons' song.  Yes, "I'm on top of the world..."

The week long trips have a free day and Mr. Lucky and I drove into the nearby town of Chichester.  We walked the walls of the city, had a fabulous cathedral tour Chichester Cathedral from a deacon who covered everything from its wonderful Norman roots and unique bell tower to the Roman ruins underneath it and the more modern Marc Chagall stained glass window.  

Chagall window which of course reminded me of a quilt
Then we headed over to the even more amazing Roman ruins at Fishbourne Palace Fishbourne Roman Palace  The mosaics were only discovered in 1960 and they turned out to be part of the largest residential Roman building in England.  It was even more interesting than I ever anticipated and I know my high school Latin teacher, Miss Dvorak, would be so proud of me for getting there.  The original palace was so enormous that even today whenever a nearby home does any home or garden improvements they are first asked if the archeology experts can look around for more info.  

The evenings on an HF Holiday include optional activities after dinner.  There was quiz night, a night of skittles, which Mr. Lucky won, to the surprise of all of us 

a talk from a local naturalist and even a fun night of British fete games out in the lovely gardens.  

I did promise sewing so you'll laugh to see that I had Amazon UK deliver this book to Abingworth Hall right before our arrival.  Just some light reading on a hiking trip.

I have hardly looked at it yet but it seems like a scrumptiously detailed look at high end embellishing details.  Perfect to cozy up with and try this winter.  And it became a fun topic of interest with several of the women on the hikes when we discussed sewing in our lives.  We can find our kindred spirits anywhere.

After this wonderful week we took a flight to Glasgow where we slept hard (so hard that we slept through the enormous fire two blocks from our hotel that burned the Glasgow Arts center that was under reconstruction.)  Our day in Glasgow was our first heavy rain day and it poured on us...and the wedding party here.

 We took the on-off bus tour of the city but didn't get off and saw the sights through rain streaked windows.  Nice but what else to do in the rain?  Eat and shop!  We headed to Glasgow's central district where we spotted this All Saints clothing store window display with old sewing machines along two window fronts and piled inside too.
I'm not the only one impressed by this sight.  There are plenty of Pinterest and Google images pictures of these also.  Sadly, those of us who know sewing machines know that there's really not much that has changed mechanically but a few bells and whistles over the years which made these "obsolete."  
I didn't want to shop at the store but I did want to visit the beautiful House of Fraser store on Buchanan street for some snoop shopping
Clever stripes idea to imitate
 and an actual purchase
It was on sale, I want to copy the seams and drape and a wearable souvenir
Then it was time to visit The Willow Tea Rooms, Willow Tea Rooms first designed by the famous architect Charles Rennie MacIntosh.  We indulged ourselves in the upstairs Chinese Blue Room

That afternoon we got the shuttle for the two hour drive to the HF Holiday house at Glen Coe and our introduction to the Highlands.  The weather wasn't as warm and sunny as it had been in the previous month but our three long walks never had anything more than heavy mist and were challenging and as spectacular as you would imagine.  My favorite was the walk on the Isle of Lismore because it was so remote and historic with a Bronze age "broch" and then Celtic and Scandinavian settlements. 

Once again, cheers to HF Holidays, our leaders, and our new travel companions for these three days.  

This was as active a trip as we have ever taken and it worked our better than we could have anticipated

We flew back to London and had one long day before our flight yes, more fabric to pack from a quick excursion back to Misan on Goldhawk Road:
Something sheer for summer
Something understated for my next stitch and flip "French jacket"
Something cheery for cold winter days ahead
Some Liberty cotton for a shirt for Mr. Lucky
No, no, I don't want to go home
Last stop, Heathrow for a mid-afternoon flight.  We got nervous when we couldn't check our bags at the self-service kiosk.  "See an attendant" is not the message you want to see at the airport.  But yikes, we were upgraded to first class!!!  What the heck.  I kept saying, "Are you sure it's us?" to the counter person.  But yes, whatever algorithm in British Air's system selected us for those vacant seats, we're grateful.
Thanks, British Air
And thanks to anyone still reading this far.  I really needed to write this post to put some of our memories "on paper."  And now I need to put some of that fabric on the cutting table within the next year to keep these memories even more vivid.