Saturday, May 14, 2022

Slow Quilting for My Sweet Niece

My 35 year old niece Jessica bought her first home last summer, I think. At the time, I asked her about her planned decorating scheme. She sent me a picture of her family room rug and I began to think about a quilt for her.

It did not take me long to organize stash and purchase the additional fabrics I needed. Then I began to think about pattern. I do love circles and so settled on a kind-of quarter circle theme. It was fun to construct the blocks.

I do not enjoy making identical blocks and so I knew that would never happen. The quarter circles created a loose theme for the quilt but I didn't let that get in the way of working in the moment. Or running out of fabric. There is always more fabric.

The top came together finally. I purchased the batting, and added a back in a fairly loose-weave cotton.

I basted it all together and began a very, very slow quilting process. 

At first there was a little structure. I traced circles with chalk from kitchen objects and then echo stitched around and around. But that got boring. 

So I switched gears and chose to go with curved loopy stitching to simply fill the spaces. That appeals to me - no tracing of stitching lines, just free motion, slow stitching. I used pearl cotton thread, primarily in 12 weight.

It still took months and months, because I kept working on other projects, you know, like clothes. That's what I really love making. 

Once finished, I photographed it and then washed it. That way, if everything goes south in the washer or dryer, I have evidence of a finished project. It washed and dried beautifully. It has a soft hand.

Now it's finished and winging its way to Jessica. I hope she hasn't changed her color scheme by now.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Red Noto Tee and White Jeans


When spring rolls around, I feel like I need white pants. And the previous versions of white pants just won't do. It's a fiction that I allow myself, imagining I'll look better this year!

Fiction aside, I have been wanting some white jeans. A jeans fit is of course quite different from other pants styles. These are extra comfortable due to the elastic across the back. Otherwise they are classic jeans with a couple of odd darts near the front inseam. You can barely see them in the line drawing.

It is tricky to get the proper fit through the stride and I'm still working on it with this pattern. 

Somehow a couple of yards of white stretch denim came to be in stash. I know that I do not like stretch wovens, so I'm not sure why I made that mistake. Again.

But I was optimistic making these Getaway Jeans from the Sewing Workshop. For one thing, I have a pair of black Getaways in 100% cotton denim and I think they fit great.

So I cut out and constructed a pair with this part-lycra stuff. All was well until I reached the buttonhole. The jeans call for lots of lovely topstitching and I really like that. Inserting the fly zipper was smooth sailing. In my previous pair, I somehow got the right and left waistbands reversed, so I was extra careful this time.

Boy, do I wish I had cut the waistband so that the length-wise grain would run around my waist. The pattern calls for it to be cut on the cross-grain. No problem with nice stable 100% denim. But with this stretch, the buttonhole was difficult. After a number of samples, I determined that a buttonhole made with my automatic feature on my Bernina was never going to work. So I made one using the manual settings. 

I tried them on. They feel great. And they look good from the front, I think. Here I'm wearing them with last year's bias cut Emerald top published by Made By Rae in red linen. I do love that shade of red.

And here I'm wearing them with my recent Berwick Street tunic (the Sewing Workshop) hack. I rather like the navy contrast with the white.

Now the back needs some tweaking. I'm not going to show a picture, but I sure do hope I remember to extend the horizontal crotch a bit next time. Also I will avoid stretch wovens like this one. I feel like I'm pulling the pants up constantly. It might be my imagination, but the black version in 100% cotton denim feels much more secure.

Here with the Bristol top in Alabama Chanin organic cotton knit

I also finished my first and last Noto tee from the Sewing Workshop. It is a simple t-shirt with an inverted V shape to it. I hesitated to make one before losing some weight. Now my measurements fit into a size M so I gave it a try.

Super easy-to-make Tee Shirt, the Noto

I used a luscious red rayon jersey with nice drape. It was relatively easy to sew, not much rolling. And I so love this shade of red. 

I did struggle some on the neckline. Initially I tried navy and white striped rayon jersey, thinking the stripe would be pretty. I cut it on the lengthwise grain so that the stripe would have the desired effect. This failed. By the time I made it large enough in circumference, it simply flopped around looking sloppy.

So I used the standard signature t-shirt neckline suggested by the Sewing Workshop. It does not look great flat, but the puckers disappear when I wear it. And doesn't it look fun with this Fillmore Duster in the same shade of red?

My first try-on made it clear that this length, combined with this shape is not that great for me. I cut off about 2" and like it much better. Here is the BEFORE:

And here is the AFTER:

This is not the best shape for me. The color makes it feel successful but I'm not loving the shape. My hips are just slightly larger than my bust measurement and I think this silhouette highlights it some. Maybe I'll wear it and learn to love it. 

It is RED, after all.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

A Return to the School of Making

This past week I once again entered the nirvana of hand-sewing goodness, attending a workshop at Alabama Chanin. I attended my first workshop last year and was absolutely delighted to be able to attend again. I still learned a good deal this year, but was less worried about where I was going. I think I enjoyed it more this year. 

The facility is very low key in a warehouse district of Florence AL. You would not even see it if you weren't looking for it. The front half of the facility is a store with mostly garments for sale ($$$$$), as well as beautiful Heath pottery. 

To one side, they have positioned items for the School of Making - patterns, trims, thread, bundles, and racks of samples in various sizes for participants to try. All is displayed in a functional but curated Alabama Chanin style. 

The first morning goes fast with introductions and an explanation of the kit each participants selects as part of the price of admission. We have until about noon (!) to make our decisions. This year I chose the Fractal dress. I was surprised by how much I liked the sample, as I was expecting to go with the Factory dress, one I had tried on last year.

Everyone fell in love with this stencil design and color combination on a Peacoat.  I think many went home with exactly that kit - the Peacoat in two layers of Earth cotton knit, gray stencil paint, and Abbie's Flower stencil. Here is a shot of the work on the store sample:

I chose the Peacoat pattern for my kit last year.  I made it in Peacock-colored knit for both layers, black stencil paint, and the New Leaves stencil. It was fun to sew, though parts were a little challenging. This year, because so many people chose the Peacoat, they offered a tutorial on some of the unusual aspects of its construction.

I always feel good when I wear it. Their organic cotton feels very cozy, but not sloppy. I so like the way the two layers of knit meld to one another, as you embroider each section.

Since a 20% discount is offered on all purchases made while attending a workshop, I of course purchased a second kit last year. I chose the Alabama sweater pattern modified to bring the neckline up a bit. The outer layer is gray (Dove) and the under layer is red (Carmine). The stencil is called something like Text. I did not see it in the offerings this year and I understand why. It does not provide much space for cutting away the top layer to reveal the bottom layer, a typical technique used in AC garments. 

My selection this year is the Fractal dress with two layers of brown (Earth) knit, Abbie's Flower stencil, and the blue-gray stencil paint. 

I'm using a light gray floss for the embroidery part. Brown is just about my favorite color and I love wearing silver jewelry. I think this combination has a kind of southwestern feel to it, a good combo for this Texas girl.

First piece embroidered at home

My beautiful kit was delivered the second morning. They work hard over a short period of time to deliver kits to us all. The kit contains each of the pieces of knit cut out and stenciled, ready to start layering and stitching. It also contains tons of embroidery floss and button craft thread for the seams. Instructions are photocopied from the pattern and included. It is packaged in an organic cotton case and tied like a gift. A double layered sample is included so you can try out the techniques before started the kit. Here is mine completed during the drive home. 

As I did last year, I chose not to actually start my kit during the workshop. Throughout the rest of the our time, the excellent teacher provides short tutorials on each of the AC techniques for applique, embroidery, and construction. A lovely lady came out and demonstrated her beautifully crocheted snap covers. I gave that a brief try and decided to simply admire hers!

There are 5" square samples available, some with stencil designs, some plain, so that we can try out all of the techniques and see what we like in terms of technique and color. That is what I spent most of my time exploring. 

And did I mention that they feed us and dote on us for the three days? The ladies running the workshop are deeply southern in the most positive sense of that word, always cheerful, encouraging and responsive. Natalie Chanin stopped by briefly the last afternoon after many of the participants had left but it is really the young employees' show. It's like a spa for sewists.

I am now back home enjoying the first hand work on my new Alabama Chanin kit, getting a feel for how much I will cut away and what I will retain of the stencil. I will savor the process and look forward to the finished piece. 

And, yes, I did select a second kit. After all, there was a discount so I had to, right? It arrived today: 

I may need to start it now and not next...

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Carpe Diem

When Rae from Fit for Art reached out to me about participation in a fashion show at the local Expo, I gladly said yes. They are such nice people and I like their system of garment construction. I have each of their base patterns plus a few of the pattern variations.

Their first pattern was the Tabula Rasa, or blank slate. It is an easy-to-sew and fit pattern with a narrow front, a narrow back and a side panel. The sleeves are inserted in an interesting fashion that I cannot adequately describe. I've made both jackets and vests from this pattern.

Tabula Rasa jacket in handwoven cotton from Guatemala and Eureka pants in cross-dyed linen.

Their next pattern was the Eureka pants pattern. These are fitted pants with darts in the front and back for proper fitting. When this was issued I was fortunate enough to go to the Expo where they set up a little booth and fit me perfectly. Then I lost weight. But because the fit was correct to start, lost weight did not change the overall fit. I simply took in the side seams and they seem to still fit nicely elsewhere. 

Their most recent pattern is the Carpe Diem dress pattern. Here they have created another *blank slate* modeled after the original jacket pattern. Of course I ordered it right away. But I had not made one yet.

I used the invitation to model as a reason to make my first Carpe Diem dress. It was fun to sew and I will enjoy wearing it. I chose cotton pinwale corduroy from stash in a gorgeous royal blue. It was an easy fabric to manipulate though I was careful to iron from the back side of the fabric. 

It is a little larger and a little shorter than I expected. I fit into size M according to the measurement chart. I wasn't sure about whether to make straight side panels or angled ones but decided on the wider angled ones to make certain this corduroy did not get stuck on my hips. I think I could take it in but, for now, I'm leaving it alone.

The pattern includes a long dress hemline, as well as a *medium* dress length, and a tunic length. I cut mine along the medium line. I'm not all that tall at 5'5" (and shrinking) but I notice the ladies at Fit for Art are petite. As long as I wear leggings or tights, I think it's OK. 

To ensure the longest length possible (yes, I should have checked finished back length first), I cut 3" bias strips in a remnant of cotton striped fabric. This allowed me to take it up only 1/4" when I hemmed it.

Just for fun, I also used the striped fabric for the neck facings. This part of the construction is nice, as the facings get caught in the vertical princess seams. 

I finished it the day before the fashion show. Whew! 

After the show, I went back and inserted pockets in the side panels and added a striped facing to the sleeve hem too so that I can roll the sleeves. I found the sleeves to be just a bit short too.

It was a pleasure to make this up and I hope to make some blouse versions next. I might go down a size but I'll take finished measurements before cutting fabric. What a good idea, right?

The Carpe Diem dress can be finished with a zipper in the back or a key-hole opening. I wanted my version to be V-neck and I wanted it to slip over my head. To accomplish this, I simply drew a straight line from the shoulder to the center front on my fabric. I measured to make sure it would slip over my head.

Then I made the same change to the front facing.

The only other change was a slight forward shoulder and rounded back adjustment. Once again, Fit for Art has created a super versatile pattern, I think! Nice work, ladies.

Today I woke up and just needed to make something. So I pulled out some quilt cotton that was gifted to me and constructed a little bag. It fits my new phone or sunglasses. Some days I just need a little taste of sewing, nothing serious.