Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Easy Hand-Stitching

This falls in the mindless category. It is the kind of sewing that does not stretch my skills. Rather it is like comfort food. It makes me happy.

This vest is based on an out-of-print Cutting Line Designs, titled Pure and Simple. While I've made the shell in the envelope many, many times, this is the first time I've tried the jacket.

It's not exactly a wearable muslin because I ended up spending way more time on it than I would have if I were simply testing for fit. First I cut the 3 pieces out of corduroy and then out of a silk-cotton blend called Radiance. The next step was to quilt the two layers together using my favorite sashiko stitch in a simple vertical stripe. The thread is a variegated pearl cotton that ranges from light silver to deep charcoal.

After assembling the three quilted pieces into a vest, I began the next phase of hand-stitch. I trimmed excess lining away from each seam allowance, folded the raw edge of the corduroy SA under and slip-stitched it in place, attaching it only to the lining. Yep, that took a while too. I enjoyed every stitch.

The stripes do not match at the shoulders, so I covered the jarring shoulder seam with a bias tube in linen. I bound the armholes, the neckline and the front edges with the same linen. Evidently I really love that cinnamon color. The linen and pin-whale corduroy of the garment are almost exactly the same shade.

To finish the hem, I added a bias strip made from some gray tone-on-tone shirting, and once again secured it to the lining with a slip stitch.

Right now, this vest is a nice work horse for me. Light but warm, wash and wear, comfortable. Yet I think I want to add something else to it. I have this pretty silver and cinnamon tie from the thrift store, purchased for $0.25. Hmmm...

And I have more plans for this basic jacket pattern.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Contemplative Sewing

Atlanta-based designer Marie de George recently had a studio sale. Evidently she does this to clear the studio for the coming year. It was fun to see her studio and hear about her adventures in couture. She makes commissioned pieces for her clients, traveling to NYC for appointments with fabric merchants to select fabric for a specific commission. And so she has remnants.
before pulling the thread to roll it

One remnant I bought is a silk chiffon in a tortoise shell print. It is so beautifully printed that it is nearly impossible to tell the front from the back. And I just love those colors.

My purchase included one remnant that was about 2 yards long and about 54 inches wide, plus what looks like a discarded skirt lining. Right now I am in the process of converting the large piece into a scarf.

First up was straightening the end where she had cut out her garment pieces. That proved more challenging than I expected because the pulled threads seemed to evaporate into the design.

True confession: I have never used a hand-rolled hem to finish anything. I've practiced that clever little hand-stitch in several group classes but I have never used it. It is high time I learn this skill, I think!
After tightening the thread, causing it to roll

So after squaring the unsquare end, I removed the selvages and machine stitched all the way around it, about 1/4" away from the raw edge. I now know that it is not necessary, but it's proving to be helpful to me in this very clumsy stage of learning.

Next I starched it with Mary Ellen's Best Press starch. It made the piece less slippery and now it smells like lavender.

Then I read the hand-outs I had so carefully saved. Several different hand-outs, actually. And then I read them again. huh?

Yes, it is much easier when someone is showing you how to do this. Too bad I didn't take on a serious project right after one of the sewing sessions!

I lucked out, finding a youtube video that proved to be very helpful. Though Ami Simms on the video is mostly a quilter, she knows how to demonstrate a hand-rolled hem. She's a lefty, and I'm not, but her narrative combined with her sewing made it very easy to follow.

The 1/4 inch machine stitching is making it easier for me to turn the fabric with my thumb. As shown in the video, I trim it down to about 1/8 inch for a few inches at a time. 

I've learned that I can only make a pretty stitch if it's day time, and if I'm sitting next to the window, and if I have a white table top supporting the silk. Oh, I have to have my Ott light pointed directly at the silk. Am I going blind?

I'm not happy with corners yet, so I my need to add a bead.

When I need a little break, I work on this small project involving the split back-stitch. This stitch is not nearly so challenging. I like it better than the stem stitch for outlining.

And when I get bored with both of these (or have too little light), I will go back to this vest project:

So, what are you up to?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Plain and Fancy

My sweet son gave me a cookbook titled Plain and Fancy, many years ago now. He thought I just needed encouragement. Back then I hated cooking. I was doing good to get everyone to sit down together to eat once a day, and sometimes that failed. Plain was all I could manage. No fancy.

Plain is a good description of my latest project - pants from CLD's one-seams and a shell from her Hearts A Flutter pattern. The result is a column of dark navy. 

The fancy part was the fabric - one of those Super 120 wools. I was shopping with several sewing friends when I bought it and, therefore, under the influence. It was worth it though. This fabric is light and yet buttery, warm when you want warm, and cool when you want cool. And lovely to sew.

But now I want details. And just in time, Vogue announces new spring patterns. There are some fabulous details to be found there:

in-seam pocket and a gorgeous cuff. Oh. My.
Ralph Rucci does it again in Vogue 1437. I don't even care what the rest of the pattern contains. I am swooning over the in-seam pockets and the amazing cuff. Actually it reminds me of an amazing sleeve that Diane Ericson created in one of her patterns. I must pull that out and try it again. Sadly, my first try must be labeled a lemon.

Look at the use of piping and those crafty bound button holes. Oh. My. Goodness.
Vogue 1443 by Sandra Betzina did not seem interesting at first, though it includes unusual sleeves. This close-up of the button holes and a glimpse of her use of piping has me rethinking this one. Details are what made her TV show such fun.

And this is just so sweet. I have the perfect fabric for it.
Vogue 1436 is a design by Anne Klein. It is just the right combination of plain and fancy. I love it in this pretty blue-purple but I have a printed piece recently purchased from Marcy Tilton that will be just right, I think.

Speaking of Marcy Tilton, she came through with two terrific and totally wearable patterns too. I am particularly happy to see that the pieces do not require knits. Though I love knits, details really require more stable fabrics, I think. 

Vogue 9081. I am intrigued by the dress with its slight bell shape. 

It's time to try fancy. I might even try a fancy recipe but tonight we're going out to eat.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Lemons. We all make them, I think. And, then if you're like me, you try to save them. Turn them into something sweet.

I have added a *lemon* label for my blog. I could do a *lemon of the month.*

It all started with such promise. I fell in love with this skyline idea. I believed it would make a lovely layered art piece with the skyline as the base.

In fact I loved the skyline above the skyline. So I appliqued it down. And I used a bleach pen to create subtle little windows in the buildings.

Then things changed. I began to see the problems but I continued. After all, I was still a little in love. And painting is quite exhilarating. Oh, that shiny, shiny gold and that silver! I wanted more, more, more.

The quilting was terrific fun and the quilterly effects were vaguely pleasing. Also nearly invisible.

Eventually I admitted that something was off.

interesting in a dark way

I liked the back better than the front.

calmer, lighter

I photographed it and printed lots of pictures to cut and re-arrange. I added a large old-fashioned Texas wind mill. And removed it. I put it aside.
  • I drew in my sketchbook.
  • I made a jacket from a pattern that I love.
  • I made and ate brownies.
I began to chop on it. Now I have...
  • a purse with a covered snap

  • a new glasses case
  • a case for my rotary cutter
  • a case for my shears
  • a phone case to wear around my neck *

  • and finally a piece I like:
33 x 23 quilts on a quilt

I learned some things about my preferences for color, balance, simplicity and composition. And though learning is fun, here's hoping I can stay away from lemons, at least for a little while.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Revisiting Butterick 5891, the Jacket

After reading Dixie's review on Pattern Review, as well as her blog, I knew I wanted to make Butterick 5891 again. It is an inventive and lovely design from Katherine Tilton for Butterick.

The first 2 (!) times I used this pattern, I made a top, and then a vest. Then I made the jacket. Then I updated the jacket. I just love the jacket portion of this pattern - both making and wearing. And the other views are just plain fun to make.

The fabric:

This jacket is made from a wool double knit I purchased from Louise Cutting at a sewing expo a while back. It is an unusual double knit with big dot contours woven into the design. And I think it has just a hint of something other than wool in it. Something that makes black smoke when my iron touches it. Learned that early on and did not ruin anything. Whew!

The sewing:

The only thing difficult about making this jacket was that the fabric is very, very black and it is mid-winter here. Even with two Ott lights I struggle from time to time.

An early fitting indicated that I was headed towards droopy shoulders so I shaved some off the shoulder width. The sleeves still fit in easily and I am pleased with where the shoulder seam is now.

This large button is attached to the seam between the collar and the shirt front. I added a silk dupioni loop to the other side as a closure. I also added a French knot button lower on the front. I wore it this morning and discovered that I will probably use the lower closure most and ignore the upper button. It hides under the collar anyway. But it is a cool button.

As an aside, in my last post, I showed pictures of an art piece I am working on, part of a challenge from my fiber art group. The title of the challenge is *There is no place like home.* For some reason, I have struggled with it. I'm still struggling with it. Finally I put it away and made this jacket.

And I love wearing this little jacket.

Monday, January 5, 2015