Thursday, October 22, 2020


It is always such fun for me to open and make up a new pattern. I so enjoy the puzzle. The Bristol top (or dress) is not a new pattern from the Sewing Workshop, as it has a 2015 copyright but it is new to me. It took me a while to warm up to it.  

This is an interesting knits-only shirt pattern with a yoke that extends across the shoulders into the sleeve area. The sleeves are made much like raglan sleeves. There are deep cuffs. There are no side seams as the front piece wraps around to the back. The back is narrow at the bottom which can be flattering, I think. Then there are bands attached to the angled front hemline. So this is definitely a little different from an ordinary tee shirt pattern.

It has mixed reviews over on Pattern Review. And I was uncertain about the fact that the back hem is higher than the front. Ultimately I decided it would be a good layering piece, and I always need those. And, as I said, I do love digging into a new pattern.

The mixed reviews on PR are more about the shoulders. They may droop a bit unless the shoulder fit is spot-on. In fact, mine are not perfect. You can see in the line drawing that the yoke hem is to curve down in the front/back and up at the shoulders. This is hard to achieve with a very soft and drapey knit fabric. 

My selected fabric is one of those Alabama Chanin organic cotton knits. It is a stable knit and firm, with not a lot of stretch. The pattern does not include a stretch guide and so I was actually a bit lucky that it did not end up too small. A few pounds ago, it would have been a wadder, for sure.

So I traced the pattern tissue and cut out the shirt. Then it just sat on my cutting table. After months and months, we are still waiting for our bathroom make-over to be finished. I don't like to work in my sewing room when workers are here because we share the guest bath in my room. And I was wanting more hand-work. 

One day I pulled out an older tank I had made in AC knit to wear and noticed how droopy the neckline looked. It looked like an old sweat shirt to me. The neckline was constructed following TSW instructions for knits, with a slightly smaller circle of fabric attached to the neck opening, and then top-stitched to hold the SA under. This works really well on most knits.

I searched my stash for some kind of woven fabric to use to replace the neckline. My idea was to cut it on the bias and attach a bias binding to draw the neck in a bit. I found a few possible pieces but nothing that I loved. As I unstitched the band, I decided I might like it better if I just reattached the original band using an old Stretch-And-Sew technique. This technique involves sewing one layer of the band to the neckline and then wrapping it around the SA and stitching in the ditch. Do you remember that?

I hand-stitched it in the *ditch* using a beautiful variegated pearl cotton. Then I added feather stitch to the surface. I'm think that, because the pearl cotton shrinks a bit in the wash, this will draw it up even more as I use it. In any case, it was satisfying to add this stitch. Sewing zen, for me.

So that motivated me to finish the Bristol, just so that I would have another opportunity to add the feather stitch. And I was lucky to find another variegated pearl cotton to match this gorgeous burnt orange knit. 

I think the fit is pretty good. I was surprised at how long the sleeves were though. My arms are not short, relative to my body. Then I noticed that in all the pictures online, and on the front of the pattern envelope, the cuffs are rolled up. I like the deep cuffs showing. So I removed the cuffs and cut off an inch. They are still pretty long, but they feel cozy when the mornings are chilly here.

I was going to make this up again in a rayon knit from stash, but after noting the problems people have with droopy shoulders, I've decided against that. I really think this pattern works best in a very stable knit fabric. All in all, I count this as a success and recommend it.

On another note, I recently came across a reference to ball-pointed pins. For me, ball-pointed needles are essential to sewing knits like this, and sometimes, it's hard to push pins through knits so I thought these might be helpful. 

They are not, at least not with this project. My ordinary pins are easier to use because they are longer and they are sharper and slide into the fabric much more easily. 

Go figure!

Sunday, October 18, 2020


(drum roll, please) I have finally finished hand-quilting a quilt for my niece and her new husband. I started it about 2-3 weeks before their wedding on August 21 and finished it last night. I haven't worked on it continuously, of course, but it has been a fairly constant companion.

It's now in the wash, so fingers crossed, it doesn't turn into a massive wad.

It started with this inspiration board on her pinterest page. It is so charming, I think. I did not mimic it particularly but did use the same colors. For me, it is hard to capture the difference textures, shapes and finishes. I am particularly drawn to those little smooth shiny turquoise tiles.

But I came close enough. I hope. I see now that my color choices are more blue and hers are more green.

The design and the size evolved based on my desire to make a bunch of appliqued circles. After I grew tired of appliqued circles, I left many squares blank, knowing I could pick up the theme with the quilting. It finished at about 65" x 65". This is why I can never follow a quilt pattern. I get bored too easily.

Piecing the top and a back was not fast, as I hand appliqued each of the circles to the front, and the interlocking circles on the back. But then I decided to hand-quilt it. And, really, I'm glad I did. It was so satisfying.

I am not an exquisite hand-quilter like some I know. Their tiny stitches are so precise it's hard to believe it is done by hand. My style is sashiko, or big stitch, and I'm totally fine with the inconsistencies and wonky stitches. I used number 12 pearl cotton for the whole thing. It required 2 plus balls of it!

So, now, many hours, many podcasts, many newscasts later, I am done. Last night I added a little hand-stitched label to a back corner

I'm going to miss this companion. So what next? Maybe some clothes for me, though of course, there is no place to wear them during these covid times. So maybe more hand-stitching, like this sketch book cover and pin cushion from an online class with India Flint.

Happy sewing to you!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Good Cheer

This was a fun and quick make. I needed that. 

I spend hours happily hand-quilting the wedding quilt described in my previous post. But sometimes, I need a quick maker's hit. Does that every happen to you?

This fabric is a cheerful design from Sarah Campbell who taught the last workshop I attended before covid. It was at the Sewing Workshop in Topeka KS and was a blast. Linda Lee had acquired about 3 bolts of Sarah's designs for Michael Miller fabrics. In honor of her teaching I did my duty and bought some yardage from two bolts. This is the second of those two pieces.

Here it is before sleeves. A fairly simple but cute sleeveless tunic too, I think.

Technically it's quilt cotton and that carries with it less *give* than cotton shirting and other cotton fabrics intended for clothing. But it's super easy to cut and sew and feels pretty good on me.

Rather than get twisted around, trying to match a pattern that reads random anyway, I just cut it out. I only had 1.5 yards (44 inches wide) so it was sort of close. That way, I had enough left over for pockets.

And a mask.

As I often do, I cut the neckline facing from another fabric, a light weight striped linen piece I've used a number of times. It's such a good fabric to have on hand.

I have no idea when I purchased this book by Lotta Jansdotter. I follow her on IG and see her patterns proudly reviewed on Each time, I think I should get that book out and make something from it. One time I got as far as measuring and preparing the pattern pieces for the Esme top/tunic/dress. 

No technical drawings, but the directions and pattern pieces make its structure fairly clear.

The book contains maybe a dozen very simple garments, enough for a wardrobe of sorts. The book is also chocked full of inspiring pictures of her designing fabrics with block prints, as well as versions of the garments. Given all that she has attempted to include, the instructions are not bad at all.

The Esme could not be much simpler and provide any fit at all. It does have set-in sleeves and bust darts, and I generally like those features in any top. 

The seam allowances require that I pay attention since they are only 0.5 inch. And that doesn't give you a lot of insurance. With the firm cotton, I feel the sleeves are just a tiny bit snug. 

I chose the length based on the fabric I had. It is tunic length. Rather than cutting it straight across, I curved the hem into a shirt tail style. 

I had a bit of trouble with her pocket markings and so just figured out where I wanted the two patch pockets. I really like the result quite a lot.

So do you have this book in your stash? If so, I recommend that you use it. It is really quite lovely.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Still Making

As August slips away, I'm wondering where it went. Nothing new there, especially during covid times, just very little in the creative arena to account for my time. 

My excuses are many. We've had workers in and out of the house renovating our master bathroom, which is progressing beautifully. I've spent a fair amount of time selecting tile, cabinet styles, fixtures, etc. And we've had to move into the other end of our house. I'm very grateful to have such options.

And we've had family in and out, as we gradually expand our contacts to include irregular meet-ups with the kids and grandkids. Two grandsons stayed with us, each one for a week. Even though my husband took the lead with these two, I still prepared constant meals, accompanied them on hikes, gave baths (to the little one) and played and read with them. I've very grateful for this time with them.

Although I've made a few masks, on request, my primary sewing activity has focused on a quilt for my niece. I mentioned Chelsea in a previous post about my grandmother's wedding dress. More on that below.

I found this cool inspiration board on her pinterest feed to guide me.

I took the picture to a sweet little quilt shop in my home town, the Cotton Farm. I was the only one there, other than the owner, and so felt safe as we were both masked. She was delightful and seemed to enjoy helping me find fabrics to meet the spirit of Chelsea's pinterest piece.

When I'm making a quilt for a specific person, my left brain interferes with the creative process. When it's just for my creative pleasure, I feel more free. I guess that makes sense but it's frustrating.

As is my usual sewing practice I allowed the piece to evolve. I enjoy circles and started there with some 5.5 inch blocks containing appliqued circles. I let it grow, round-robin style. It finished at 65 inches square.

I returned to the Cotton Farm for the backing. Lacking anything similar in the wide quilt cottons, I chose to buy more of the front fabrics to piece into a back. 

Because both sides are geometric and symmetrical, I took extra time when basting the layers together to make sure the top and bottom layers weren't askew. I threaded and knotted two needles with a double strand of thread. Then I guided them through two intersections with the knots on the right side of the backing piece. Then I carefully arranged the batting and guided the two needles through it. Lastly I placed the top over the batting, once again threading the two needles through two intersections. Then I tied off the threads. I think it's pretty straight.

With workers in and out, I sewed everywhere but my sewing room. I sewed in the basement on my featherweight.

And I sewed on my mother's cabinet style 1950 Singer. That is always such a pleasure. As I sew I remember her and our fun times shopping for fabric and sewing together.

I did return to my sewing room to baste the quilt together, using my cutting table and a folding table on risers. This quilt is really much larger than I expected it would be.

And now I'm hand-quilting it. I feel a need for hand-stitching comfort. And Chelsea got married Friday, so there's really no rush at this point. I'll have it handy to fill (many!) happy hours.

Chelsea did use a portion of my grandmother's gown. My sister-in-law and I, almost simultaneously, came up with the idea of using the skirt for her veil. I was thrilled. SIL carefully removed it and attached it to a comb. I think it's lovely. This is a very quick shot by my brother. I look forward to seeing more soon!

And no real harm was done to the dress. I love that! The skirt was sewn on by hand and I can easily return it to its original state. AND the next brides have this option too. I am so grateful.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Covid Comfort Clothing

These have become some favorite pieces this summer - another Cottage shirt and another Picasso pant.

This cottage shirt is made with a light-weight, slightly textured linen in an icy blue. It's from Gail K in Atlanta. It was so great to sew, as linen always is, I think. As a nod to the heat and humidity in my little corner of the world, I omitted the collar and the sleeve cuffs.

I very fond of the yoke and deep hem of the Cottage shirt.

Truthfully, I do generally prefer to keep just the collar stand. It gives it a little polish without the bother of a collar when it's so miserable outside. 

The sleeves of the Cottage shirt are finished with wide cuffs which can be very nice. This time, I omitted them and simply finished the armscye edge with self-bias binding. It changes the look a bit and, again, suits me right now.

I added some top-stitching and thought about adding sashiko. In the end, I was happy with simply outlining the collar stand with sashiko stitch. 

I used simple off-white buttons typical of a man's shirt.

My go-to super comfortable pants are the Picasso pants. They have an interesting shape and, though I know they are not particularly slimming, I really like them. And they are so, so comfortable.

The fabric for the pants is an olive silk-linen blend, and really the best of both worlds. It seems fairly durable and doesn't wrinkle too much.

I added pockets to the side panels by creating a two-piece panel. This is something I did once when I ran out of fabric and had to piece the side panel. Now I like to add these pockets to every pair of Picasso pants. It means that this takes a little longer to make but it's worth it, I think.

I like the flat front and the front pleats.

I am interested in interesting shapes and comfort right now. This ensemble is just right for covid times, in my opinion.