Friday, December 11, 2015

Yes, Potholders

Rhonda of Rhonda's Creative Life is one of my favorite bloggers. She is creative, positive, and generous, as I'm sure you know if you too follow her.

In a recent post, she highlighted a number of gifts to make including these fun potholders:

Mary of Miss Mary's Sewing Classes gets credit for the sweet design that she calls Easter potholders, for obvious reasons.

I altered Mary's original design by finishing the edges with bias binding. The original pattern involves sewing right-sides-together and turning through a narrow opening between the pockets. I did try that with my first one but found that the turning process stressed the opening too much. It is fairly stiff due to the use of Insul Bright batting. And there are six layers. I could not make it work.

I am one of those people who really enjoys hand-finishing a bias binding, so that made the process even more fun for me.

I made two pairs to take as hostess gifts to a party a few days ago. I enjoyed making those four so much that I decided to make them as party favors for my sewing group party last night at my house:

I did run out of time with the party favors though and could not hand-finish them. I thought about trying to machine finish, but really did not even have that much time. My sewing buddies were gracious about receiving a UFO as a party favor.

Many thanks to Rhonda and Mary!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tremont Flight

In the late 50's my family moved into a rental house on Tremont Street in Dallas. Daddy had just taken a new job and we lived there during one summer season. By the time school started, my parents had found a permanent home in the suburbs where I lived until high school graduation.

As I made the Tremont jacket from the Sewing Workshop for the third time, I thought about its name. Tremont. I have no idea about the origin of its name but I have my own memories of Tremont. Tremont Street.

It was a wide street with trees. I was unused to trees, coming from a very flat, very dusty Texas panhandle town. There were sidewalks where I could ride my bike. And the house was huge of course.

But I did not know how to ride a bike. That I learned on Tremont Street. We fought about how to learn, with training wheels or not. But eventually Daddy wore me down and I learned to fly. When you ride a bike, for the first time, anytime, you are flying. I still love that feeling of flight.

And the house. Oh yes, two bedrooms, one bath. Google Earth shows Tremont Street to contain sweet little craftsman bungalows. I'll never know which one. It must have been cozy, the five of us there. And it must have been hot. I do not remember.

All of this has nothing to do with the lovely Tremont jacket pattern, But I do like that too. This third time I made no changes to it. It folds right over left as it should, creating an asymmetric closure. It has sleeves that fold back to make a shallow cuff.

I did alter the fabric, a black woven wool with texture in the form of wale-like stripes. I interlined it with a fabric called radiance - a blend of silk and cotton with a satin side and a flat side. I quilted the two layers together in vertical lines about 1.5 inches apart prior to sewing the pieces together. This added more texture and so it does not have the drape that is probably best for this pattern. But it feels lovely on my shoulders.

For closure, I sewed a short bias tube to the inside of the right front, creating a flat loop for a button. I tried a button on the left side but finally chose to tack a long bias tube to the other side. It slides through the loop on the right and can be tied together.

I am still hand-finishing the interior by pressing each seam open, folding the raw edges under and slip-stitching in place. This may be my last Tremont. I have some other patterns I'm anxious to try out. And some other ideas.

So what are you sewing now?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Whole Cloth

This piece is by Ben Hollingsworth. I was lucky enough to receive it during the 5x7 exchange with Fiber Art Fusion. I posted my piece, Namaste, in the last post. Interestingly he received my piece.

Ben's piece is a whole cloth quilt, albeit small per the challenge (5 inches by 7 inches). He created the design and then drew it on cloth. He painted it with inktense pencils and set the color. Then he quilted it and bound it in the traditional manner.

I am always amazed and inspired by his work. Can you tell he is a life-long artist? He is relatively new to fiber and quilting but he has already mastered that too.

I am delighted to own a Ben Hollingsworth original.

You may want to go check out his other work here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Gift 1

This is one of my favorite signs of the new season, the blooming of the Christmas cactus. Some of the blooms are full and some are just buds. The color is luscious. It almost makes me want to sew and wear something pink and green. Almost.

Today I deliver my first hand-made gift of the season. Each December Fiber Art Fusion has a holiday dinner party where we exchange small works of fiber art. The pieces are to be finished at 5x7 inches and we are free to use any technique or idea as long as some fiber is involved.

This year I had been sketching something that relates to how I feel during yoga.

I am not quite ready to render this in fabric so I returned to a technique I've used and enjoyed in the past - stitch and flip:

I used scraps of silk for the star-burst portion and an off-white silk noil for her face. Then I added French knots and other hand stitch to her face. The back is made from a piece of wool given to me by a friend who hates to throw away anything:

She is now wrapped in brown paper for the exchange tonight. I can't wait to see what others have made, as well as the piece that comes home with me.

So are you sewing gifts too?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Seasonal Warm-up

'Tis the season. 'Tis the season for me to anticipate making tons of wonderful gifts, all the while knowing I will make maybe a few.

This little warm-up is in response to a nephew's elopement. I first thought I'd make them silk pillowcases. Off I went to my favorite local fabric store, Gail K. Alas they have their bridal fabrics in chaos, at least for someone looking specifically for cream silk. After rifling through polyester, rayon and other fabrics, I failed to find anything appropriate.

Then I remembered. I made silk pillowcases for my daughter when she married a decade ago. I'm willing to bet those sweet pillowcases are tucked away and have never been used.

So I purchased the most lovely off-white Egyptian cotton. It feels like silk to me, sort of a satin finish on one side and more flat on the other.

Making the pillowcases was, of course, super easy. I love hand embroidery and so added some to the cuff. First I used the feather stitch in a variegated brown pearl cotton. I had to refer to this classic embroidery booklet several times until I got my rhythm going. Then it was great fun.

After completing the feather stitch in brown, I then added blue French knots to each feather stitch. This took a while but was also great fun. I became a little nervous about how this stitching would hold up in the washer and dryer, and so I added a running stitch in a darker blue to sort-of secure the feather stitch.

The cases survived the washer and dryer beautifully. I am little disappointed in the shadows produced by thread tails. So not perfect. But certainly hand-made with love.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tied up

During the past few weeks, I have been out of town more than home. This has meant way too little time in my sewing space. And my mental health depends upon time spent making. Yikes!

I always travel with hand-sewing which is a life-saver when you are spending time in airports and on interstates. But it is not the same. Last week I just started refusing to do anything until I had a little time to myself in my space.

Sometimes, after a hiatus, I jump into something complicated and make a mess. Fortunately I decided to use a pattern I have used before and I made it even simpler. 

Here is my Tremont Vest:

The Tremont Jacket pattern is the most recent of the paper patterns produced by The Sewing Workshop (TSW). I made it first in a medium weight cotton Ikat. 

I goofed and made this fold left over right. So you cannot even tell that the right front is different.

By simply omitting the sleeves, it became a fun little vest. I was surprised at how deep the armscye is. Wow. But still highly wearable, I think. It's a bit kimono-like except the sleeve head sits right at my shoulder line. I like that.

As before I used (mostly) a thrifted man's tie to make binding for the Hong Kong finishes inside. Although one tie generated more than 4 yards of 1.25 inch bias tape, it was not enough to finish every edge. So I used some silk scraps that are similar in color.

When I use a tie to make bias binding, I first take it apart and then wash it in a lingerie bag. This time I even dried it in the dryer. After a good steam press, it was ready to cut. I folded it in quarters along the bias (which is sort of the grain of any man's tie) and made my first cut right down the length-wise middle. Then I made 1.25 inch cuts on each side until I ran out of fabric to cut. Next I opened the strips up and cut off the pieces that were less than 1.25 inch in width. Lastly I stitched the pieces together to make one long 4+ yard bias piece. Tie material is so nice to work with as the fabrics tend to have a little tooth. Even though I choose only 100% silk, they are not terribly slippery.

The Tremont has different right and left fronts. For the vest I decided to cut two left fronts - the left front piece is the larger of the two front pieces. I added a little pocket because I am always reaching for a tissue this time of year.

So how about you? Holidays keeping you away from sewing? I hope not! This season is such a fun time to sew. 

PS - the fabric is a silk-linen houndstooth in black and cream. It's a remnant I picked up at my favorite local fabric shop, Gail K.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wee quilt for wee grandson

Who arrived 5+ weeks early. Still in NICU. 

Crib entertainment
Pieced, appliqué, embroidery

Monday, October 19, 2015

Very very easy Vogue 9063 - version 2

The fabric is the focus this time. Even the scraps make me happy. I believe that this is Thai Ikat silk. Purchased from Linda Lee at The Sewing Workshop, the blue piece came to me whole. That is, it was a length of fabric sewn into a tube, perhaps to be belted and worn as a skirt. The reds are scraps from Linda's scrap bins. All delicious IMO.

Vogue 9063 is the perfect pattern for interesting fabric, I think.

The back had to be pieced so I covered the seam with a bias strip. I left the finished selvage for the hem but may hem it shorter.

The sleeves had to be pieced too. I just love these colors!

The Ikat pattern seems to glow. The selvages are wide and distinctive. See the pattern transition to solid blue.

And of course I added just a little sashiko to the neckline. Just little red dots, really

The pattern includes an A line skirt and fitted pants, neither of which is interesting to me. But what a great pattern for a beginner! I'm wondering if a third version is in me. This is when sewing is so very satisfying.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Very very easy Vogue 9063

Vogue 9063 is rated Very Easy. And it is, but the rating made me wonder once again what that means. When I googled *What does very easy rating on Vogue patterns mean?*, shams Open Letter to Vogue Patterns was the first article listed. She posits that it may be related to the number of pattern pieces. I also wonder if it is related to the density of instruction.

odd angle, photographer laying down on his hammock

I've been keen to make the top that is part of Vogue 9063 ever since seeing it on BSF, Ginny (see below). Then, like many, saw the painted silk version posted by McCalls patterns. I have just completed my first version, this one made with an inexpensive Ikat cotton shirting from Gail K here in Atlanta.

My version - not too exciting. Maybe it needs sashiko.

BSF's version - so elegant

McCalls version - back

McCalls version - front

The instructions were clear, basic and brief. There was no mention of seam finishing which is a personal pet peeve. In fact the hem instructions strongly imply that you won't finish the side seam edges. But that is OK. I am fairly certain that seam finishes were not on my radar when I was learning to sew.

Changes I made:
  • Rather than hope-to-match my Ikat pattern pieces on the front, I simply omitted the lower band. This was easy because the seam between the front and the front band is strictly a design line. I just placed the band tissue over the front tissue, overlapping by 1.25 inches to account for the seam allowances.

  • Facings have their place in sewing garments, but in this case I was not excited about them. Instead I used a black bias strip to face the front and back neck lines. This was done before sewing the shoulder seams. 
Cut off the corner where the shoulder seams meet in order to use bias binding on neckline

Inside of neckline before finishing the shoulder seam

Outside of neckline

  • Seam finishes: I used a French seam on the sleeve. On the shoulder and side seams, I first sewed the seam RST, pressed open, and then folded the edge under and top-stitched. Does that have a name? And I serge-finished the armscye seams.
Such a simple top. I really like it a lot. This one needs to be in your stash. Maybe it already is? I have several silk pieces I'm considering for my next version. The McCalls version made from that detail of a butterfly wing makes me swoon.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Revisiting Vogue 9057

Vogue 9057 by Marcy Tilton came out in 2014. It is a tee shirt pattern with lots of variations to the neckline, the hem, the sleeves and interesting layering ideas. I made my first version of view D almost exactly a year ago. I've worn it quite a bit and received a number of compliments.

Fabric for the first version is rayon jersey from Five-Eighth Seams in Charleston SC. Recently I ordered and received some soft grey rayon jersey from The Sewing Workshop. So I decided to make view D again.

It has been a bit of a struggle, operator error for the most part.

First I tried to use Pam Erny's charming split cowl technique on the neckline. That failed because this gray jersey is quite fine and even a little sheer. And it's rayon - too drapey, I now realize. The raw edge was quite prominent and not pretty.

So I unstitched the cowl and cut out the band for view D.  I followed the instructions pretty closely for view D but did not realize the problem soon enough:

The neckband tissue has *extra* length. The neckline tissue measures 26.25 inches on the seam line but the neckband with extra measures 28 inches (!). Even if I had noticed the extra, there is too little difference between the shorter neckband (26 inches) and the neck (26.25 inches). Given the technique described for the neckline for view D and the view D pattern tissue, I was going to be unhappy with the result.

View D band is to be inserted in the round.
Naturally I wondered how it worked out OK in my first version. Now that I revisit that piece, I see that it is a little too large. I probably chalked it up to the different fabrics. Also I cut that neckband on the bias. It still stands a little too far away from the body. But OK.

With this fine rayon jersey, the problems were compounded. Without unsewing the neckband again and risking serious damage to the fabric, I am pretty stuck with some ripples. So next I tried some rows of topstitching:

Some steam and the clapper took out a lot of the ripples.

Still not pretty. Maybe OK.

Meanwhile I decided I really wanted a shorter tee shirt. View D is tunic length and in this fabric, it is too clingy on my hips. It is even a little clingy on the dress form!

View D before cutting off the hem

View D before cutting off the hem - you can really see that it is sheer here!
View A in Vogue 9057 is a standard tee shirt length with a pretty curved line, high over the sides, slightly longer in the back.

View A is a closer fit through the hips than view D. This would not work for me, so I kept the greater hip ease from View D, gently shaping the curve on the sides.

Still not happy, I took needle and thread (#8 pearl cotton) and started stitching the collar. I've left the knots on the outside (DH: cool collar but you missed some threads). And I added similar sashiko to the sleeve hems.

Conclusion: I still like this pattern!

Good layering piece