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.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Wedding Dresses

Recently I've been thinking about weddings and wedding dresses. My niece became engaged in February with the hope that they would be married this year. Chelsea has been a bride's maid for probably twenty friends or more, so I'm thinking she visualized a large wedding with a good size wedding party.

But I was not totally surprised when she announced this past weekend that they are having a super small wedding rather than waiting for the virus to go away. I am sad that I cannot be there, really sad. But this gave me an excuse to pull out my maternal grandmother's wedding dress and send it to Chelsea, in case she can incorporate it in some way.

After I had been married a number of years, my mother mentioned to me that she had her mother's wedding dress. I was very surprised because I had made my own wedding dress. I wondered if I would have used it in any way, had I known she had it.


My mother married toward the end of World War II and so had a very small wedding. I don't think she ever thought about keeping something from her wedding. She wore a pink wool suit. I expect, given the war times, she probably needed to wear it, and she wore it out.


I never knew my maternal grandmother. She was pregnant with my mother during the great influenza outbreak and died from flu-related pneumonia a few days after Mother was born, December 31, 1918.

My maternal grandmother (light hair) with her older sister.

As we experience another world-wide pandemic, I continue to wonder about my grandmother. I've never really sorted out the design of her dress. There are no wedding pictures, and my own mother had no knowledge of her parents' wedding.

Grandmother with my uncle Ed, who was a few years older than my mother.

It is made of either cotton or silk organza, edged in lace. It is all very sheer, so I imagine she wore a full slip, and even white stockings underneath it all. I believe it is what is called tea length.

I think the waistline is slightly raised. The bodice has a V neck and snaps up the front. It has a blouson effect at the waistline. The back of the bodice is solid and extremely sheer with a double layer across the shoulder blades. The back neckline also has a little pleated lacy flounce attached. The set-in sleeves appear to be 3/4 length with a lace edging on the organza. 

The skirt was gathered onto Petersham that is about 1.25 inch wide. The Petersham is turned down. The skirt has an opening at the back that is about 6 inches long. Like the front, it closes with snaps.

There are two layers to the skirt. The upper skirt is wider and has a lace border that is most intense near its hem. The under skirt is about 6-8 inches longer than the upper skirt. The lining is more narrow and has pin tucks near the hem. The hem is finished with a row of lace like that on the sleeve hems.

Then there is a sheer sleeveless bolero or vest that I assume slips over the bodice with the back neckline flounce pulled to the right side. It has V neckline that is deeper than the bodice and closes in the front with a large covered button and snap.

The skirt was only half attached to the bodice so, in order to get a better understanding of it, I basted the rest together. 

It looks like the Petersham, and the skirt, and the bodice are only basted together. The entire garment appears to be stitched by hand, so it's hard to be sure if it was basting or permanent.

This brings me to the mysterious part. You may have noticed that the bodice opens in the front and the skirt opens in the back. So, unless she was sewn into it, I cannot figure how she put it on.

Probably about 1916 with my grandfather and uncle Ed.

She married June 21, 1915 in Ellis County, Texas (USA), probably in or near Maypearl. I have a few pictures of her, as you can see. After writing most of this post, I uncovered an additional picture of my grandmother. As I look closely, I'm quite certain that she is wearing the dress we thought to be her wedding dress. She is pictured again with my uncle, so some years after her wedding. 

All these decades, we have thought this was her wedding dress. Now I'm pretty sure we were wrong. I'm still glad we kept it. It is a sweet example of sewing from more than 100 years ago.

From the front with the bolero/vest over the bodice
Maybe she wearing her wedding dress here. It does look like a wedding portrait.