Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Stowe Bag

A few years ago, Grainline Studio and the Fringe Supply Co jointly published a pattern for the Stowe Bag. I think it was conceived as a handy bag for knitting projects. I knit from time to time but it is not a passion. I'd much rather be sewing (or drawing).

I've been meaning to make it for a while now just because it looks interesting. I finally made it because my reusable grocery bags evaporated. I keep them in the back of my station wagon and one day - poof - they were not there. DH believes I left them somewhere.

The Stowe comes in two sizes and has an interesting shape, I think. My first one was made in the smaller size. I followed the instructions carefully and learned a lot about its shape.

Version 1 with the flat pleats
The overall shape of it is the same as the ugly plastic bags handed out at my local grocery store. It has inner pleats that make the shape flat and regular when stored. In the case of the Stowe, the pleats are sewn on the same side; in the case of the plastic bag, one pleat is created on each side. The effect is identical from the outside. You can see one pleat here on my plastic grocery bag turned wrong-side-out.

I had never noticed how clever the construction of a plastic shopping bag is. It folds nice and neat and it fits on the metal hooks at the check-out stand. Cool engineering, IMO.

The instructions were straight-forward with the possible exception of steps 13 and 15. In step 13, the flat pleats are created and then in step 15, it is boxed. I *think* it is boxed on the exterior but I cannot be sure. The picture provided makes no sense. The step 15 picture is a boiler-plate picture for conventional boxed corners which is not possible after the pleats are stitched down in step 13.

Grainline Studio created a short video to illustrate step 15 but I'm still confused. I sure would love to see one of these bags in person. The only way I can see to create boxed corners after the pleats are stitched down is to top-stitch them in place from the outside of the bag. You can sort of mush it into the shape shown on the front of the pattern and top-stitch in place.

After chewing on this a bit, I decided that I did not really want pleats AND a boxed bottom anyway. It creates too many little slots for fuzz and debris. So I settled on conventional boxed corners.

Version 1 with conventional boxed bottom
I changed the order of construction on my second bag. The edges of the bag are finished with bias binding, something I enjoy doing. But the two curves on the outside of the handles are quite sharp at the lower end and it's hard to get the binding attached smoothly. I found that by applying the binding before the side seams, I was able to smooth it out more. It does create a little bulk at that seam.

I used a thrifted denim shirt for my bias binding on version 2. My goal was to use this pretty hand-woven cotton from Guatamala (Spanglish Fabrics). I did not have enough for the larger bag so I added a piece of medium weight denim to the bottom.

Right side of the bag before side seams are sewn

I also used the denim for the internal pockets. I considered omitting the pockets but it does give the bag more body and strength.

Wrong side of the bag showing the pockets on each side.

The bias binding was completed after sewing the side seams.

I am really enamored of the way the handles are formed at the top. Also I added a little hook for attaching a coin purse or keys to the inside of my bag.

Inside the bag - check out the way the handles are formed. So clever and much stronger that plain handles.
All in all I really like this pattern. But my new bag is too pretty to use for groceries.

Version 2 - also with conventional boxed bottom (you can barely see the denim peaking out of the bottom

Friday, March 9, 2018

I saw it in the window

and just couldn't resist(*).

Recently I spotted some linen curtains at a consignment shop. They are a color I like and I knew I'd have fun cutting them up to make clothes. And I have - Quincy pants, Stafford jacket (as a vest), and MixIt top. These are all patterns from the Sewing Workshop, of course.
First I made the Quincy pants and added a fun detail to the hems. We were on our way to Havana where the weather was just right for linen pants. I am still playing with the hem detail, trying to get the length just right. These are elastic-waist pants with a narrow leg that I like a lot.

The Stafford jacket is the latest pattern published by the Sewing Workshop. There is a sew-along underway on Facebook right now. Over the years, I have always enjoyed making Sewing Workshop patterns. The details are interesting and the instructions are just right. This was no exception. I hesitated a half-minute because it is quite a boxy looking jacket. And the sleeves seem a bit wide and are right at elbow length. This elbow length sleeve is also found in their previous release, the Frankie. I knew from the Frankie I would prefer longer sleeves, or in this case, no sleeves at all.
I finished the armholes with self-bias binding.

I used a 30 weight Coats and Clark cotton-covered poly for my top-stitching. My machine was not in love with that thread, but it worked.

You can just barely see the collar band in the picture above. The collar band and collar are different from any I've made. The collar band gradually tapers to nothing as it approaches the shoulder line.

I really like those faux chest pockets, as well as the real in seam pockets.

Flaps on the faux chest pockets. Fun detail: buttons that were a little party favor when I attended Sew Kansas. You cannot read it but it reads Sewing Workshop around the outer circle.
The Stafford has no side seam so the in-seam pockets sit slightly forward. I appreciate this because I find it awkward to reach back to the side seam for the pocket.

One easy change was to lengthen the Stafford by 8 inches. I think I'll wear it more than I would a short jacket. I know that the current style calls for layers showing near the hips, but I don't think it does me any favors. It is cute on the models at the Sewing Workshop though!

I made one additional change to the Stafford. The yoke attaches to the back with a small group of gathers at center back. Instead of gathers, I created an inverted pleat. The Stafford is chocked full of top-stitching opportunities and so I added some to the back pleat too.

Next I made my favorite version of the MixIt top out of the remaining linen fabric. I like to make a facing that is part of the design. Instead of flipping to the inside, it flips to the outside and is top-stitched.

This was quick and easy but I know I'll use it as a layering piece. I do not anticipate wearing any of these three garments together (aren't you relieved!?!) but I'm hoping they will fill holes in my wardrobe. Solid colored linen is great for that.

*You may recognize this line from Carol Burnett's classic sketch Went With The Wind. If you haven't seen it in a while, I recommend it for some good laughs.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Not Sewing

Not much sewing. And I feel decoupled, almost unhinged.

I just returned from a sketching-painting tour of Havana with Jane LaFazio. And in the weeks leading up to it, I was distracted by life situations, all unrelated to sewing or creating. I did manage to make one pair of linen pants from the Sewing Workshop's Quincy pattern to take with me. I had fun adding a little something to the ankle. Light-weight linen was just right for the perfect weather in Havana.

Havana was divine, so full of color, culture, and energy. Each day we visited a special location for drawing and then painting with wonderful Jane. However, my artistic attempts started out a little bumpy as I did not bring the correct supplies.

I've done a bit of doodling and sketching for quite a while now, but I had never tried water color. I thought I purchased a small water color set but soon (not soon enough) I realized I had only bought tubes of water color paints. That is, I had no palette. Oh, and I also brought cheap water brushes.

So there I was sitting with my fellow artists in Cathedral Square in Havana trying to recover from this goof. That first day, I used only pencil, permanent pen and the tombow pen. It was probably not a bad discipline. But I was certainly discombobulated and had to breathe deeply for a bit.

Luckily it had been suggested that we bring extra supplies to donate to a community art center in Havana. One of my fellow travelers gave me a brand new set of water colors from her donation pile and Jane had an extra water brush, one by Kuretake (Japanese), the good kind.

And then I was off!

The next day we visited Hemingway's favorite hotel room, as well as his home just outside of Havana where we enjoyed a tour plus more time sketching and painting. That's Jane doing a yoga-pose-in-a-public-place, one of her signature travel activities.

Another day we visited a tobacco farm. We had a fascinating tour followed by a delicious lunch in an open-air dining room there. Then we began to sketch and paint. Each time Jane provided instruction and individual guidance, showing how she draws/paints as well as making suggestions for improvement.

Of course, it was necessary to include a vintage car, this one similar to one DH owned in high school.

Another day we visited a community art center where local artists provide free lessons to the neighborhood children, as well as adults. Classes include printing, painting, singing, videography, and musical instruments. We were treated to music performances by two local groups and a great lunch too. This is where we left donated supplies.

There were a number of rusted vintage sewing machines (Singer, of course) used to decorate the arts center.

The center was decorated in an eclectic, vibrant scheme, showing the artwork of the volunteer artists. This was a great scene from which to select drawing/painting subjects. There was also a small gallery where the local artists displayed and discussed their work. I purchased one small piece from one of them.

Cheerful flowers were sculptured in the art center. Also pictured is our souvenir from the farm - an artful package of hand-rolled cigars.
We had a little homework one night. We were to create an antique-looking background for drawing beautiful but run-down buildings near the National Museum of Fine Arts. We also visited the museum but had no time to draw there.

I don't drink coffee but I spilled a little Cuban coffee on the right. I dirt-stained a bit of letterhead from our hotel too. The soil at the tabacco farm was richly pigmented.
We spent a fair amount of time on a bus but that was fun too. Havana looks like no other city I've visited. You can see my impression of the bus rides in the upper portion of the picture below.

My fellow travelers autographed my travel journal.
Our last major stop was an arts neighborhood, where there were many little shops with similar Cuban paintings, as well as a park-like area (Fusterlandia) with tiled art by a Cuban artist. The entire neighborhood was delightful and surprising.

My attempt to capture the primitive, cheerful tile art. Hearts, fish and roosters were themes.
We visited a number of local artists in their studios - a photography studio which is also a restaurant, an experimental print shop, a paper making shop, and galleries of unique Cuban artists' work. In fact we saw much, much more that I did not manage to capture in my travel journal.

Jane provided each of us with an accordion art journal measuring 4x6. Some of the experienced artists found this size to be too confining and they chose to bring larger media. For me, this size was just right. Any larger would have left me overwhelmed. And I think I'll take another like it on my next trip somewhere.

For many years I've wanted to visit Cuba. I vaguely remember my dad visiting in the late 50's when he was in the US Navy reserves. It has always intrigued me that it is so close in miles, yet gallexies away in terms style, culture, politics.

And now back to a little sewing. And a little sketching and painting.

uh-oh. I now have another hobby.