Monday, May 18, 2015

Letting Go

We all have orphans in our closet. Well maybe some people do not. But I do. There is a reason I keep these orphans.

In this case, it is a sentimental reason. Shortly before my mother died, I went to live with her. She had liver cancer and was living independently but on hospice.

She loved to shop for clothes and beautiful fabric. And she seemed to enjoy encouraging my pursuit of same. Plus she taught me great patience while teaching me to sew.

Soon after I arrived at her home, I told her she needed a new pick-me-up ensemble. She agreed but was unable to go anywhere by that time. So I shopped for her.

I found this pretty ensemble at one of her fave dress shops. It included a shell, a casual shirt jacket, and pull-on pants. Some pieces were in turquoise, others in royal blue, all washed linen.

She looked lovely in it. I think she wore it once. I took it home with me.

A few years later I decided to cut it up and make something to wear in her honor. I used the Sewing Workshop Ikina jacket and barely had enough. You can see lots of piecing with bias piping here:

Each spring I pull it out again and attempt to make something that matches it. In the above picture you can see my first attempt for Spring 2015. A shell from CLD and a pull-on skirt from the left-over linen. It is not me. And the match is not quite right either.

So I decided I needed something that would blend, rather than trying to match the two colors in the jacket:

The fabric is cotton batik from a quilt store; the pattern is Cutting Line Designs Simplify Your Life view A. It was a blast to make. I always enjoy the CLD patterns, especially my first time through one.

When I finished it, I thought it might work to just wear it with jeans and toss the jacket over it all.

The more it hung from my dress form, the more I knew. This is a PJ top.

I pulled out a piece of rayon challis I had dyed years ago and made some Japanese Field pants with it. And now I have PJs I rather like:

Fun new PJs are a good thing. The colors are cheerful. It should be comfy. And I need a pick-me-up right now.

But I'm not letting go of that jacket.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Travel clothing

Must contain (at least) one pocket:

And as Susan Brubaker Knapp pointed out in a recent Quilting Arts article, it is even better if you can continue to stitch it during your trip. Wear it; stitch it; wear it; stitch it. What a great formula.

Here is Susan's denim jacket:

hand embroidered art to wear brubaker knapp

Susan started with a thrift store jeans jacket that she embellished into an entirely unique piece, mostly using intense stitch. This traveling project took two years! I think it is just beautiful.

My travel vest started with a remnant of denim from my Sandra Betzina pants plus the Sewing Workshop's Peony vest. BTW, I see that TSW has it on sale for $12 right now. The current rendition of the pattern contains only the one vest. My version contained two, the Poppy and the Peony.

Line Drawing

As you can probably see, the Peony is composed of just a few main pattern pieces - back, left front and right front. Because I was short of fabric, I cut two left fronts. I also extended the left fronts by about 2.5 inches down the center front, just because I had enough fabric to do so. I figured I could always cut it off later. I also raised the arm hole because it is very deep. It is still pretty deep.

Looking at the scraps remaining I decided to add a collar and a pocket. The collar had to be pieced front 3 pieces but it was fairly easy to line one seam up with the center back, and line the other up with my front top-stitching.

At this point it is ready to pack. It has one pocket, but I'll add more. It is finished and can be worn. It can even be worn after I start the decorative stitch. What fun. Thanks to Susan for a very clever idea.

Friday, April 17, 2015

V9081 LBD

Marcy Tilton calls Vogue 9081 her Block Dress. It contains a cropped cardigan for knits and a dress for woven fabrics. The dress has two views. One is sleeveless and the other has 3/4 length sleeves. They also have slightly different *blocks* so you have several options.

The cover photos show view C in a subtle and sophisticated combination of linen in three solid colors. I messed around with my stash, hoping for a pretty combination in linen. Linen is my hands-down favorite fabric to sew, especially during the spring season when I've become tired of winter fabrics.

Instead I realized that I have a lot of black cotton in my stash so I harvested two. Each is Japanese, one from Waechter's in Asheville, NC, and the other from Josephine's in Portland, OR. Each is a different weave, with dominant black and smaller amounts of white. Each piece has an interesting (and different) front and back. They are approximately the same weight and drape though one is much denser.

Back with a little square from the other fabric.

During the preparation of the pattern tissue, I confused the measurements on the outside of the envelope with the measurements on the pattern tissue. Yikes! What was I thinking? Of course, the measurements on the outside are body measurements suggested for each size. And the measurements on the pattern tissue are finished garment measurements. So I attempted mid-course to convert a size 12 to a size 14.

This was a good time to remind myself that I sew for fun and that this is only fabric.

Now that it is completed, I'm pretty jazzed about it. It is a dress that I will feel good in. And I look forward to making it again, perhaps using the right size. I am pretty sure the size 14 would have been just right with no adjustments.

Inset pocket
Some notes:
  • In her blog, Marcy described this as tapered at the hem. My bottom panel is a rectangle and not tapered. But I did have to ease it onto the upper part of the dress so that creates a taper starting mid-thigh. Probably I just misunderstood what was meant by a tapered hem.
  • The unique pocket construction was challenging and it seemed the instructions were a little light here. You have to insert a concave right angle into a convex right angle, much like a Y seam. I was glad I had done similar things before.
  • Marcy's blog mentioned something about the pocket being cut on the bias, but the pattern tissue for each pocket piece shows straight of grain. It probably made very little difference because the pocket is small.
  • The pocket is adorable and worth the effort!
  • As Marcy points out in her blog, this is also a great tunic pattern if you just leave off the bottom panel (or make it more narrow).
Here it is before adding the lower panel. I like this tunic too.
Another very cool design from Marcy Tilton!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Variations on a Theme

Recently I attended the American Craft Council show in Atlanta. It was chocked full of fiber art, and lots of it was wearable. I always leave over-stimulated with ideas that I will try some day. (I also left with a few purchased objects that I could not resist.)

I kept coming back to the idea of a single pocket in a garment. Now that's not much of a grand idea, is it? But seeing these gorgeous garments with a single pocket gave me permission.

When I made my Tabula Rasa jacket, I gave it one pocket. This was a simple patch pocket. I just followed Louise Cutting's approach to patch pockets for shirts. Easy. Sort of an after-thought.

Since then I've been working on variations to an old favorite - the Hearts A Flutter (HAF) shell from Cutting Line Designs. I have made this so many times, I've lost count. The design of the top includes the lower band - a nice spot for an inseam pocket.

I made this first one more difficult than it needed to be.

Linen HAF Shell with pocket

Green linen pocket detail

On the next version, I stream-lined the pocket construction. And I added sleeves.

Finished pocket

1. Stitched pocket bottom from the outside following the previous hem stitching.

2. Folded it into place on the wrong side and cut off excess length.

3. Pinned and stitched the pocket sides in place.

4. Stitched to top of the pocket from the RS following the previous line of stitching created when I stitched top stitched the raw edges of the SA under.

I added 3/4 length sleeves using a pattern piece from a Marcy Tilton design. I recut the the armcye on the the shell after completing the bust darts so that it would conform to the dress pattern. I forgot that her sleeves are sometimes too snug for me. So I got to unsew the sleeves and add a bias strip to the underarm seam. 

I rather like this little shell with sleeves.

These are low-risk, high-fun projects. I think I'm ready to do something more complicated now.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Day

For me, this is a happy Easter day. I hope it is happy for you whether you celebrate Easter or not. Here is my small contribution to Easter festivities: two shrugs for one of my darling grandgirls:

This little shrug challenged my patience as it was like sewing a cobweb. I managed to sew seams by putting silk noil bias binding next to the feed-dogs, and pattern tissue directly under the foot. After removing the tissue I wrapped the bias binding around the edges and hand-stitched it in place, completely covering raw edges. 

The machine sewing was a nail-biter, as was all the cutting and fabric manipulation until raw edges were tamed. The hand-sewing was zen. And the sweet smile makes it all worthwhile. Even though she has it on inside out.

Because our weather is still so cool, I made her another long-sleeved shrug:

I don't think she likes it quite as much. 

Happy day to you!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's Hard to Say No.

It all started when I made the Odette from Sewing Workshop. I had enough fabric left over to make something else. Not pants. OK. A skirt. 

Even though I usually feel frumpy in skirts. Even though skirts require special undergarments. Even though this fabric is one of those cheap pontes - the kind with lots of polyester, instead of rayon. 

Yep, this piece was snake bit from the get-go.

Finally I sewed it up. It's a fun pattern because Katherine Tilton gives instructions for overlapping side seams continuing into the machine stitched hem with a double needle.

But then I tried it on and I did not feel fun.

I really, really wanted this to be successful.

DH and I decided it was too long. So I cut it off and nipped it in. For a knits-only pattern, it has a lot of ease.

Lessons learned: I can ruin good fabric but I cannot fix bad fabric. See those puckered seams? I tried everything to create straight vertical lines: new needle, slight zig-zag stitch, cotton thread, steam pressing with a press cloth so the ponte would not melt.

Such a dis-a-ponte-ment. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sew Ready for Spring

Waves of springtime color are starting to cascade through my habitat here in the southeastern US. The temps still dip near freezing some nights. But in my sewing space, I am getting ready for spring with some cheery colors and fun patterns.

Today I finished a top designed by Louise Cutting called Relax A Little (RAL). I've seen so many pretty versions of this on friends, in the blogosphere, on Flickr and on But this is my first.

My fabric is a turquoise linen that has aged nicely in my stash. I do love linen, especially for spring and summer. I had already prepared it using Sandra Betzina's technique - press unwashed linen on high heat, then wash and dry on hot. After that it is soft. The inevitable wrinkles are also soft and pretty, IMO.

I made very few changes to the pattern's original design. I did add about 2 inches to the hem and then used a bias strip to hem it so that it is really more like 2.5 inches longer than the original. I'm glad I did not make it as short as intended. My tummy needs to be under wraps, or at least in the shadows.

Since this is intended for hot weather, I decided to omit the collar, going with just the collar band. I have always been drawn to a mandarin-style collar and it makes for a cooler hot-weather top.

Speaking of an Asian look, I love Chinese knots as buttons but I rarely find a good place to use them. This would have been perfect.

I pulled out my favorite knot instructions from a wonderful Sandra Betzina book, created the tiniest bias tubes I could manage with the linen fabric. Then I made the buttons as tight (that is, small) as I could manage:

Aren't they sweet?

Sadly they did not work for this garment. The top has cut-on front facings that are too narrow for the buttonholes these knots required. Next time I'll remember and make the facings wide enough. I hope.

The mother-of-pearl buttons seem to fit well with this design and I like them too. And of course, I added a little sashiko stitching.

I really like the instructions for patch pockets. These CLD patterns always provide opportunities for neat and attractive results, don't they?