Thursday, January 13, 2022

Now Sewing!

Happy New Year and hooray for 2022! 

DH helped reconfigure my sewing room to make sewing a possibility. It's still a bit challenging to maneuver knee scooter, crutches and/or a boot, but I'm feeling good about it all. And I'm making real progress on the healing of the ankle I fractured over Thanksgiving. Life is good.

My first make of the year was constructed using the Sewing Workshop's Quincy jacket. I made it when it was first published in a light weight linen, I think. It was the wrong fabric and moved into the donate pile pretty quickly. 

During her regular Tuesday FB live broadcasts, right before Thanksgiving, Linda Lee of TSW showed the first garment for her 2022 Sew Confident series. This is her extremely successful subscription program that I've been participating in for a number of years now. The new pattern is called the Sterling jacket and is a riff on the old Quincy. There are enough changes that I'm glad I purchased the new one.

While waiting on the publication of the Sterling, I decided to revisit the Quincy, using this cotton fabric that looks like it's quilted. It is not quilted exactly, but woven to look like it, a jacquard, I believe. The back side of this fabric is not pretty at all, kind of like a loose weave terry cloth, so I definitely had to line it. The lining I chose was one gifted to me by BSF. I think it is silk. I just love the way it looks peeking out.

I cut the Quincy out before Thanksgiving and cut out part of the lining. When I returned to it this month, I somehow forgot that I must have lengthened the Quincy, as my lining was too short for the outer pieces. I shortened the fashion fabric and actually like the result quite a lot. It reminds me of a cross between a bed jacket and Chinese peasant jacket. It's cozy but not too warm.

I added patch pockets but then realized I did not line them up correctly, so I removed them. I may add some smaller patch pockets later, as I do like something for a tissue or two.

I also added a simple placket to the left side so that when I close it, right over left, there is not a gap. I created bias tubes for button closures and used some fun buttons that read "Sewing Workshop." That must have been a party favor during Sew Kansas. Except for needing to add pockets back, I like it a lot.

Then the Sterling came out last week. It's a PDF download pattern, not a printed pattern. There are a number of options for printing these PDF patterns. I was stuck on the couch anyway, so I printed it at home and taped it together. 

I had seen Linda's Sterling mock-up at a sewing retreat - several of us there encouraged her to publish it. It is based on the Quincy but shortened, and a bias flange has been added to the hem. It also has a more narrow collar, extended center fronts for buttons, and appliqued front plackets. All edges have a 5/8" seam allowance with instructions to finish with a 3-thread serged rolled hem.

Kits were also made available last week. I had seen a preview of the kits and the various color choices. I knew I really, really wanted to make up the navy fabric. Ordinarily I resist kits, but this was just too good to pass up. And I'm so glad I did not. This navy fabric is just lovely with great drape for this pattern. Unlike the gray Jaquard, this one is pretty on both sides, with that positive-negative light-dark effect. I had trouble determining which side to use and marked it very carefully!

This is how it looked prior to adding the flange - cute, I think!

The kit included 4 spools of cotton thread, 3 for the serged edges, and one for regular sewing. I tested my serger with the fabric and thread, along with some edge finishes I like. The rolled hem was better than I expected, probably because the cotton thread is more beefy than typical serger thread. I was tempted but, in the end, I chose my more conventional finishing methods. This is an unlined garment, so I also spent time thinking about how I wanted seams finished, as well as the collar.

Seam finishes:

For the shoulders I used a mock fell seam. For the long sleeve seams, I used a French seam. I knew I'd like that best when rolling the sleeves. For other seams, I finished with a serger and then top-stitched so it has the outer appearance of a felled seam too.

Hem finishes:

For both sleeves and the lower edge of the flange, I created 3" bias strips from a light weight silk in stash. I folded the strips wrong sides together so that one edge was a fold. Then I attached the raw edges of the bias strips to the raw edges on my hemlines, graded the seams, and turned the bias tape completely to the wrong side. It looks similar to a narrow facing. 

For the lower front corners, I followed the excellent instructions in Linda Lee's old pamphlet on miters. It worked beautifully. I am very happy with the result.


Here I followed very traditional techniques used in shirt making. I sewed upper and lower collars right sides together along 3 sides, graded the seam allowances, turned and pressed. I machine sewed one collar to the jacket and invisibly stitched the other collar to the neckline, enclosing the raw neck edge.

All in all, the Sterling was a fun make and I think I'll wear it a lot. It works well as a shirt. It also works well as a jacket. I put my blue-black silk Now shirt under it and like that looks a lot. Unfortunately I do not think the photos show that as I see it IRL. 

I may add another button to collar so that it can be buttoned up higher. And I may add a patch pocket or two. I do like a pocket in a jacket.

This is really a good pattern with lots of possibilities. For this first one, I used size M. I added a little length to the back pattern to manage my rounded back (I did not want a CB seam  with this particular fabric). I also added a forward shoulder adjustment. Lastly I rotated the grainline on the side panels just slightly, as I noticed in the Quincy that there is a tendency for it to flare out too much in the back. 

I hope to explore this pattern quite a bit more. It is similar to the patterns from Fit for Art. Both are similar to a much older jacket designed by Jean Cacicedo, now published by Diane Ericson. I' hope to explore that one from Jean Cacicedo soon too. The square armhole is holding my interest for now.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Not Sewing

The past 2 months has been busy and challenging. There has been virtually no sewing. Instead, lots of knitting.

I get such a sense of grounding and satisfaction from stepping into my sewing room and stitching. Even if I'm just repairing a terry bath towel that has come unstitched, I find pleasure. Of course, making a garment from start to finish is my preference, but even the necessary sewing is helpful at times.

During this time, we've traveled to visit grandchildren in 3 different locations, we had a sudden death in the family that necessitated a trip to TX to be with family, we had Thanksgiving plans to meet some of the grands on Fripp Island in SC. 

Then I missed a step, twisted my ankle, and had surgery. Recovery is slow. I know, in my heart and mind, that I should not complain. After all, this episode of temporary disability has given me a tiny glimmer of what it would be like to suffer a permanent disability. And compassion is a good thing, no matter its source.

Then Covid Omicron visited our family and upended Christmas plans. So many people have suffered from this, many in ways so much harder than mine. But I miss seeing some local grands and their parents. It is still rolling through them and we have evidently dodged that particular bullet for now. Thank goodness for vaccines and boosters.

It is not impossible to sew with a cast from the knee down, nor is it impossible with the boot I now wear. I did manage to make a silk pillow case for DD at her request. I was lucky to have a piece in stash that was just right. And she seemed pleased.

I alternate between crutches and a knee scooter, neither of which works well moving between my ironing board and sewing machine. Maybe DH will help me re-order my sewing room to accommodate me better. He's been my hero during all of this.

Knitting, well, it turns out you can do that almost upside down. And I have been doing a lot of that, foot above heart. Talk about slow sewing. It does not get much slower than when I knit. Therefore, it is not terribly expensive and keeps me occupied.

I first learned to knit (crochet, needlepoint, embroidery, etc) as a child but it did not stick. Then when I was living in Princeton NJ in the 1980s, and desperate for the company of ladies who make, I took a knitting class. I acquired some tools and some yarn but never made anything I really loved. And life took different turns requiring my attention to career, marriage and raising kids.

There is a sweet little knit shop in the town next to my son in NH. I first learned of it because she originally had a rather large store in Nashua that was half sewing fabric and half knitting. The knitting has survived her down-sizing and move to the tiny town.

I have sewing friends who knit. They made these cool hats that you knit really large and then full in the washing machine. One friend gave me some yarn, a hat pattern, and encouragement. And I was off to learn knitting again.

That endeavor is now serving me well, though I do miss sewing garments so very much. I've learned not only how to KNIT but how to TINK (un-knit). I am fearless in the tinking. Thank goodness for youtube, my constant teacher.

Before tinking

I had almost finished a sweater, took it to NH to finish, and it was attacked by my son's cat. He evidently just loved to dig into that texture and lanoline. He managed to bite significant holes in it before being caught. I took it to that sweet knit shop in the next town over and asked for expert advice. She said without hesitation, rip it out. 

BTW, son feels horrible about this, but I wish he did not. After all Mao was just being a cat. And I think the results are going to be so much better that the original as I improve my skills and spot major errors I made the first time around. As I un-knitted and re-knitted, I realized the large number of mistakes I had made!

Since then I've finished that wool sweater up to the sleeves and decided that I'll leave it as a vest. That yarn is unforgiving and the results are not stellar. I need to block it and maybe that'll help a little, but I don't want to invest any more time trying to save it. But I've learned so much. And I have to give credit to the author of this video for all the detailed guidance on knitting the Weekender.

I hope to make it again with a higher quality of yarn. I am realizing that, much like with sewing garments, quality in yarn makes a huge difference in the result. I love knitting merino wool, but even merino wools vary quite a lot. For this sweater I plan to use a lovely wool that has been treated to prevent shrinkage when hand-washing. 

Making the classic World War II watch caps has been much more satisfying. This is primarily because I invested in some better yarn. I managed to eek out 7 of them for Christmas presents. 

Since then I decided to use the yarn left over from my sweater to try a purse that will be fulled in the washer. Maybe it will work. Either way is actually OK right now.

So I wish you a very happy 2022. May it be full of creativity and love and good health! I have so many sewing projects in my head right now!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Sewing with Love

As a grandma of 11, I have sewn items for all the grands - one quilt each plus the occasional PJ pants and other items. That activity has dropped away as they've grown older and more aware of their own styles and wishes. I used to go nuts around the holidays, trying to make something special for each one. Now I'm a bit more selective.

The youngest grandson just had his 6th birthday and made a special request - a Paw Patrol shirt. How could I refuse? The only down side is that I had to buy that fabric from the big box store that I do not like. They have exclusive licensing to fabrics of that sort. It was not too painful, though.

For children's clothes, I have an nice collection of Ottobre magazines. When the grands were coming fast and furious, I invested in subscriptions for several years and kept them. 

I'm glad I did. I also kept some of the pattern tissues cut out for an older cousin of approximately the same age, allowing me to make an educated guess as to the size for this 6 year old.

One time, I made a grandboy a darling plaid shirt in his team's colors complete with plackets, collar, collar band. He outgrew it in about 10 minutes. That made me sad. I wanted to avoid that this time so aimed a little larger than needed.

These Ottobre patterns are a good starting place for me. The instructions are extremely brief and they sometimes employ non-traditional construction. I chose a sort-of camp shirt, thinking to avoid all the messy (but fun) details of a dress shirt. 

For this shirt, the raw edges between the collar and the body of the shirt were to be covered with a bias binding. I knew I would not like that for a camp shirt because the neckline is kept open, so the binding would show, as would the wrong side of this printed fabric. 

I pulled out one of my husband's guayabera shirts, a lovely silk twill camp shirt. Based on this shirt, I drafted a front facing to enclose the raw edge where the collar is sewn to the shirt. In the back, I was able to enclose all the raw edges by rolling the outer collar edge under and slip stitching it in place. That probably makes no sense, but it worked!

And the shirt is too big. That is a win! Perhaps he will still be able to wear it when the weather once again returns to spring-summer. I think he looks adorable in it!

I'm wearing my fave Peony vest in cashmere-silk

At the same time, I had been visiting with my local grandgirl who was planning a Halloween party with friends around the pirate theme. She had a vision of the costume she wanted to create and began to shop the thrift stores for a vest. She is quite petite and that proved futile. So, of course, grandma to the rescue. And I had just the right pattern, one that I had never opened. I don't remember buying it even - might have been something someone gave me. It is one of those classic Folkwear patterns.

Even though she is local - only a mile away from me - I worried the whole time I was making it that it would not fit. Her mother is also petite and I never had much luck making fitted garments for her due to the need to shorten the torsos of everything. This pattern was just right without those kinds of adjustments. Hooray!

From my stash, she selected the outer fabric and the lining. I did not have enough of the print lining but was able to squeeze two fronts from it. This vest traditionally has a back constructed of two layers of lining, but that wasn't the pirate look she was seeking. 

I basted the shoulders and side seams together and ran over to her house. It was so tiny I could not imagine that it was right even though I had taken careful measurements. But it was very close. I had to let out the back and the side seams at the bustline. I also needed to scoop out the armscye but otherwise it was just right.

This basting led me to screw up the actual sewing of the vest. I came home and made all the adjustments I noted above, and then made duplicate adjustments to the vest lining. That's when I actually consulted the instructions. Oops. The lining was supposed to be attached to the vest while the side seams were still open. My fabric was fraying a bit and I did not dare take it apart again.

Instead, I attached the lining to the vest all around the outer edge (hemline, center front seams, neckline), leaving an opening for turning on the back hem. I carefully stay-stitched the armholes for both the lining and the vest and trimmed the SAs down to about 1/4-3/8". Then I rolled both SAs to the inside and slip-stitched them together. All good!

Then I realized I had omitted the back belt. Dang! Sometimes I just need to slow down but Halloween was looming. To fix that I partially opened the side-seams and slipped the ends into the seam, restitching securely. Whew.

The vest pattern includes 4 welt pockets, each big enough for a quarter. I marked these with tailors tacks and pondered whether to make them, or maybe just the pocket flaps. In the end I omitted them and I'm glad I did. No need to press my already frazzled luck, really. And welt pockets are dicey in the best of times for me. 

Making 7 perfect buttonholes reminded me how much I love my now old Bernina machine. It really came through for me. I returned to the big box and bought D rings for the back belt and the vest was complete. 

And it fits her perfectly. She says she'll wear it in the future too. She looks adorable in it. I am maybe a little biased but not much.

This Victorian pattern from Folkwear was gratifying to sew. It made me wonder if I would wear a fitted vest like this one. Nah. 

But these makes were very satisfying.