Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Functional Art


In any case, sometimes I just have to make something. Beginning, middle, end. How about you? Do you ever have that overwhelming urge?

Last week at Fiber Art Fusion, Melinda led us in a workshop on using mystery and other non-quilt-cotton fabrics to make a needle book, or a small bag. She encouraged us to experiment with all the decorative stitches on our machines in the tradition of crazy quilts.

It was such fun. I brought my little patchwork piece home and proceeded to stitch with some rayon thread, using a variety of machine stitches. It was interesting but ultimately I was not entranced with it.

So it went in the trash.

But I was still in the mood, so I started over, using swatches from Sawyer Brook and sewing projects. This time, I used hand-stitches to embellish. I cannot say if I will ever use it, but it was satisfying to make.

Dimensions: about 5.5 x 5.5 inches
Old macrame beads
quilt cotton, wool, knits, linen, silk
embroidery with #5 DMC pearl cotton

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Lagniappe: a small gift.

I've heard it used as a synonym for serendipity. Maybe serendipity is closer to my meaning.

Today I received a small gift of time. Lagniappe? Maybe. Serendipity. Certainly. Time to spend in my workroom to nearly finish a shirt. I savored this sweet bonus time.

The shirt is not perfect, but I won't dwell on that.

There were a few challenging aspects. First the fabric is very different from anything I have sewn. It is a nice cotton shirting with just a little sheen. I purchased it at Heddy's in Las Vegas. It presses beautifully and is easy to handle in most ways. 

The color effect is unusual, composed with seemingly equal parts blue and black in a Moiré pattern. The weave pattern is hard to track. As luck would have it, I failed to notice the Moiré appearance until I had cut it out. As usual, I had very little fabric for my planned project. Had I noticed the Moiré, I might have fretted over matching it and abandoned this.

The second challenge is that this is a very dark color, much darker than it appears in the pictures. Two Ott lamps plus the regular machine light were almost not enough, especially when I had to remove not one, but two, machine stitched buttonholes!

Having seen some really cool versions of Butterick 6026 online, I've wanted to make it again. Last time I used this fabulous pattern, I created the 3/4 sleeves shown in one of the views. I've worn and enjoyed that top.

This time, I decided to graft Louise Cutting's excellent classic sleeves onto Butterick 6026. This sleeve is from her pattern titled The Blouse Perfected. I wanted classic long sleeves with a placket and cuffs to turn back. 

I left off the collar, as I really like a simple collar band. The inside of the collar band, and the inside of the cuffs are made from another cotton shirting. 

In the picture (and in reality), it almost looks faded in the areas where the light threads dominate the dark. I like that effect.

All in all, I think I will enjoy this shirt. I just need to add the buttons. I am still hopeful that real autumn weather will show up in the southeastern US, allowing me to once again wear a long sleeved shirt.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Almost Free

Remember these? 

I lived for many years in Austin TX. At the time, every woman I knew had 3-4 of these. Little girls had them too. Perfect house dresses. Brand new in bright colors, they were pretty enough for many occasions. Just right for Austin in August. You just had to go to Mexico to buy them.

This one is worn and it is tight in the shoulders and bust. I cannot get rid of it. Look at that bright embroidery. The fabric is probably a very inexpensive cotton, and it is faded to white in some places. It was made by machine. The embroidery is hand-sewn. Can you see the smocking that gathers the dress to the yoke? How much more I appreciate that now!

I remember the vendor calling out to me as I tried to walk by - "almost free, lady." I am glad I stopped and bought it. I probably paid too little.

Some years back while attending an ASG conference I had a chance to visit with the owner of I have been a big fan of folkwear patterns for a long time, especially, the Asian garments. 

I mentioned to Kate that they were missing a key piece from Mexico. It was this dress, known to me as the Mexican Wedding dress. She said that might be coming out in the future.

Recently while reading their newsletter I saw it. The Old Mexico dress, which can be made as a dress or a top. I ordered it immediately and began to think about fabrics I should use. Linen? Kona cotton? Silk dupioni. All would be gorgeous, especially with heavy-handed embroidery.

When it arrived, I showed my daughter. After all, she was born in Austin and returned to go the university there. I was certain that she would share my excitement.

She said the top would probably be OK, but the dress veered into mumu territory. Yikes! Mumu territory? That certainly punctured my little balloon trip down memory lane.

So I made it anyway.

Not a mumu. PJs. My new favorite PJs. 

Too big for a dress or a top - I'll size down when I try it again. The sleeves are not quite right. I will make it again. But not now.
wrinkled PJs

This is not my favorite pattern and it did not live up to my fantastical expectations. My daughter was right. But I used fabric I purchased for a song. And it aged in the stash quite a long time.

Almost free.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Mandy Project

One-size. This free downloadable pattern from Tessuti (Mandy) is one size. Daughter tells me that one size means the one size that does not fit you.

It is actually a great pattern, especially if you can follow directions.

There is this 4 inch square printed on the paper to help you calibrate your printer. On my printer, it was a little off. I guessed that it was still one-size. Here is the result:

So I started again. I took the PDF file to my local big-box printer and ask if they could help. They said they could print it on wide paper, which was desirable. I expressed concern about the 4 inch square, so the helpful clerk opened it on her computer and changed the display to 100%.

Then she measured the 4 inch square by placing her ruler on the screen. It measured 4.5 inches. If I had not been grouchy, I would have laughed out loud.

I printed it anyway.

The stars aligned and the printed version was only off by about 1/16 inch. Here is the result:

Whew! better.
I actually like this one quite a lot. It is made from an ITY knit purchased from Marcy Tilton. It was easy to sew and it feels good on. But it is polyester and it is in the 90s today so I'll wait until the weather cools a bit before wearing it much.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Straight Lines

11 x 14 Collage - linen, rough weave cotton, sheer papers, red tulle, bits and pieces
On Monday I put both contact lens in my left eye. And then I went to the gym and worked out. I was pleased when the lens popped back out in easy succession.

We had just hosted two of our grands for about 8 days - ages 5 and 8.

On Tuesday, my daughter called to remind me of my babysitting plan for the day. Not the plan I remembered either.

Today, after loading up my car with a sewing machine to donate to SEFAA, my car wouldn't start.

Things will improve. They always do. But just to be on the safe side I am sewing only straight lines for a while.

quilt top - about 50 x 80

Monday, August 11, 2014

Old Laredo

When I was growing up, my great-great uncle lived in Laredo. He was like a father to my mother, and my father loved him too. We saw him often.

He lived in Laredo for most of his life. He knew everyone, or at least that's the way I remember him. We would drive over to Nuevo Laredo and have enchiladas at the Cadillac Bar because Uncle Gordon once loaned the owner $50 to start the business. You couldn't drink the water so I got to order Coke.

I cannot remember much about his house, but I do remember his back yard where the grapefruit trees grew. Gorgeous yellow spheres with ruby red fruit inside. A crate of them almost always arrived at our doorway close to Christmas.

Perfect with a pinch of salt.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Butterick 5891 - the jacket

Between travel and hanging out with the grands, I've had little time for much sewing. But I always sew. And if I'm not sewing, I'm thinking about sewing. You know how it is.

So I finally had a full day to myself, just as we prepare for a vacation. It's fun to make something just for a particular trip. But it can also be a disaster. I get in a hurry, don't think about what I'll really wear, make something I don't particularly like, and then pack all the old stuff.

Not this time.

I've made the top portion of Butterick 5891 twice - once as a sleeveless top, and once as a knit vest. But I had never made the jacket portion of this Katherine Tilton design. I had seen it made up and worn by a sewing friend who always looks chic. So why did I wait over a year to make this?

It is a winner.

The fabric is allegedly Brussels washer - a rayon/linen blend. But it behaves more like a cotton/linen blend. It washed and dried with a lovely texture, behaves under the steam iron, and sews like a dream, has just the right amount of drape and body for a jacket. And it seems like it will be a great single layer jacket for many occasions. For now, it will mostly serve me on cool nights or with too-cold air conditioning.

So what is there to like about this jacket pattern?

  • Set-in sleeves that sit right at the natural shoulder
  • Princess lines in the front
  • Center back seam for little extra tweak on the fit
  • Funky collar that frames the face
  • Asymmetrical center fronts
  • Handkerchief hem

 And only a few very minor dislikes:

  • No suggestions for finishing seams. And you have to finish the seam edges, I think. I used a mock felled seam treatment throughout.
  • One of those front facings that wants to flop open unless you nail it down with buttons or something. I just tacked mine down for now. No time for buttons.
Next time, I'll definitely extend the cut-on facing to mirror the center front pieces, so that the inside edge of the facing aligns with the princess seam. Not only will it be easier to nail down the facing but it will cover some of the raw edges at the collar.

There will definitely be a next time. I think it will make a wonderful vest for cooler weather.