Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's Hard to Say No.

It all started when I made the Odette from Sewing Workshop. I had enough fabric left over to make something else. Not pants. OK. A skirt. 

Even though I usually feel frumpy in skirts. Even though skirts require special undergarments. Even though this fabric is one of those cheap pontes - the kind with lots of polyester, instead of rayon. 

Yep, this piece was snake-bit from the get-go.

Finally I sewed it up. It's a fun pattern because Katherine Tilton gives instructions for overlapping side seams continuing into the machine stitched hem with a double needle.

But then I tried it on and I did not feel fun.

I really, really wanted this to be successful.

DH and I decided it was too long. So I cut it off and nipped it in. For a knits-only pattern, it has a lot of ease.

Lessons learned: I can ruin good fabric but I cannot fix bad fabric. See those puckered seams? I tried everything to create straight vertical lines: new needle, slight zig-zag stitch, cotton thread, steam pressing with a press cloth so the ponte would not melt.

Such a dis-a-ponte-ment. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sew Ready for Spring

Waves of springtime color are starting to cascade through my habitat here in the southeastern US. The temps still dip near freezing some nights. But in my sewing space, I am getting ready for spring with some cheery colors and fun patterns.

Today I finished a top designed by Louise Cutting called Relax A Little (RAL). I've seen so many pretty versions of this on friends, in the blogosphere, on Flickr and on patternreview.com. But this is my first.

My fabric is a turquoise linen that has aged nicely in my stash. I do love linen, especially for spring and summer. I had already prepared it using Sandra Betzina's technique - press unwashed linen on high heat, then wash and dry on hot. After that it is soft. The inevitable wrinkles are also soft and pretty, IMO.

I made very few changes to the pattern's original design. I did add about 2 inches to the hem and then used a bias strip to hem it so that it is really more like 2.5 inches longer than the original. I'm glad I did not make it as short as intended. My tummy needs to be under wraps, or at least in the shadows.

Since this is intended for hot weather, I decided to omit the collar, going with just the collar band. I have always been drawn to a mandarin-style collar and it makes for a cooler hot-weather top.

Speaking of an Asian look, I love Chinese knots as buttons but I rarely find a good place to use them. This would have been perfect.

I pulled out my favorite knot instructions from a wonderful Sandra Betzina book, created the tiniest bias tubes I could manage with the linen fabric. Then I made the buttons as tight (that is, small) as I could manage:

Aren't they sweet?

Sadly they did not work for this garment. The top has cut-on front facings that are too narrow for the buttonholes these knots required. Next time I'll remember and make the facings wide enough. I hope.

The mother-of-pearl buttons seem to fit well with this design and I like them too. And of course, I added a little sashiko stitching.

I really like the instructions for patch pockets. These CLD patterns always provide opportunities for neat and attractive results, don't they?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Amo Tabula Rasa

Definition of TABULA RASA

:  the mind in its hypothetical primary blank or empty state before receiving outside impressions
:  something existing in its original pristine state
My new favorite jacket pattern is the Tabula Rasa Jacket from Fit for Art.

I first learned about this pattern from BSF Ginny who made a beautiful vest from this pattern. She had taken a class from Rae of Fit For Art at a recent American Sewing Guild conference. Her Tabula Rasa vest is classic, subtly artistic and great looking on her. I knew immediately I wanted to copy her!

After seeing a few more beautiful versions at the blog Unzipped here and here, I finally ordered the pattern. And set it aside. I am a keen and successful collector of cool patterns so it joined many other patterns with high potential.

Then I learned that the Fit For Art gang would be at the 2015 Atlanta Expo. So I took a class with Rae and got fitted for the Tabula Rasa jacket by Carrie at their booth.

Rae's class was on quilted and artful jackets using the Tabula Rasa. She provided sewing tips, lining tips, and tips for artistic composition. Her examples were so pretty and inspiring.

These are not those quilted jackets that end up looking like you just folded cardboard over your shoulders. No, these are nicely fitted and easy to wear, quilted or not. Mary Ray style.

You can see the basic design in the line drawing from the Fit For Art website. It is a princess seamed jacket with cut-on sleeves and a side panel (no side seams) and a kimono-style collar/band. I think there is a bit more shape than is visible in the line drawing due to the angular side panels and the use of bust darts. I love its simple feminine lines.

My first version does not vary much from the original pattern. The fabric is a very cooperative periwinkle linen, interfaced with some super-light-weight fusible interfacing in the front band and in the hems.

I shortened the sleeves to bracelet length because this is a spring time jacket and the full length sleeves looked hot to me. I also added a patch pocket, a couple of Chinese knots, and sashiko to emphasize the lines of the jacket. Because it is unlined, I hand-finished the raw edges on the inside.

I am quite taken with this little jacket pattern and recommend it to you if you have not purchased or made it yet. I'm now cutting out version 2!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Scream Cleaning

There is something about the first of spring that moves us to clean, sort, and purge. Usually I resist the urge but this year, I am snared in the web of spring cleaning, a web of my own making. What an embarrassment of riches and crap.

 You know the drill. Three piles: keep, toss, give away. Probably I am still holding on to too much. But I do have good sized piles to give away and some to throw away. And a whole box of UFO's I'm not ready to toss yet. But at least they are contained and duly noted. Oops - that's four piles.

It is hard to toss textiles. But what are you going to do with old thread? Old experiments, many too ugly to consider keeping. Old muslins/toiles?

Anyway I'm starting to feel a little lighter now. 

Stash closet at its best.

Now I have to  move everything back into the closet in order to actually finish this first Tabula Rasa jacket.

So, what about you? Are you spring cleaning too? Or do you have your stash under control?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pants Fitting with Sandra Betzina

Sewers know. It's the Holy Grail of fitting. That pair of pants that fits just right. Pants that look good while standing and feel good while sitting.

This time around I chose a pants pattern with princess seams in the front and back. It is designed for woven materials. There are no darts, just 4 vertical seams and a center back zip. No waistband.

Vogue 7179 - Sandra Betzina's Today's Fit OOP

This pattern had particular appeal to me for two reasons. First my increasingly flat behind is hard to fit. I cannot see it properly. And having a seam right over the problem area had some potential for a fix. The second reason is that I had the opportunity to be fitted by Sandra Betzina and so I wanted to use one of her patterns.

The workshop started with Sandra determining the best size for each of us based on the pattern block used for her patterns for Vogue. This was accomplished with basic measurements she took plus samples made up in each of the following patterns.

Vogue 1165 - top pattern for wovens

Vogue 1411 - pants pattern for knits
We tried on samples of each pattern until she identified the size to use. She also noted changes that would need to be made in the sizes indicated. For example, I need one size in the waist and another in the hips. The samples gave us all a good starting place.

After this initial fitting, I went back to the hotel, prepared Vogue 7179 above and cut it out in a medium weight denim. The next day I basted it together so that Sandra could tweak this specific pants pattern. After adjusting as she suggested, I was pretty close to a good fit.

At that point I decided to postpone completion of the first pair of Vogue 7179 until I could go back and adjust the pattern tissue. After returning home, I did that and started a second pair of pants. My thinking was that I probably screwed something up and so I wanted to keep the first pair easy to study until I was sure.

That second pair was too darned tight. I let out the side seams and they are ok. This second pair really is a muslin. The fabric is a very cheap, very firm, very light gray cotton canvas. They look a little institutional because of the color and they are really too firm to be comfortable. The lesson? select fabric that feels good! I now have a pair of pants that will be fun to dye, print, paint, screen and mess around in.

After this second pair though, I gained confidence in my pattern tissue and finished that first pair - the denim ones. They feel great!

And so I made a third pair. This time I used a purple (!) bottom weight Japanese cotton purchased from Louise Cutting at the recent Atlanta Expo. On the bolt it had a slightly slick appearance. After washing and drying, they have more of a soft denim feel and look.

They feel great too!

Now about that purple. I was a little worried about purple pants. I wondered if they would become closet orphans with no toppers. But today I started pulling out my spring clothes and, Voila!

Purple pants are my new neutral. I have more purple left in the stash!

By Sarah Veblen's definition, these pants are slacks as opposed to trousers (looser) or jeans (tighter). I like that right now, especially in a fabric that has very little drape. For drapey fabrics, I tend toward the trouser look. For that look, I like tapered one-seams from Cutting Line Designs or Sewing Workshop plaza pants:

Cutting Line Designs One-Seams

Sewing Workshop Plaza Pants
I did mock up a pair of those stretch pants of Sandra's, Vogue 1411, during the workshop too. I made a test pair in a teal ponte purchased in the shop where the workshop took place. Sandra also tweaked the fit on those. I have low expectations for that pattern though, as they are too close fitting. I might like them in black but this teal color will allow me to see if they are at all appropriate for my shape even with a tunic.

Because Sandra brought a lot of samples, I was also able to try on this pattern:

Vogue 1234

I was surprised at how much I liked it. I looked at it in the store mirror, but you know how mirrors lie. I sure wish I had ask someone to take a picture of me in it. 

If I make that Sandra pattern, I'll probably extend the cap sleeves into elbow length. It might have real possibilities with sufficient coverage.

In any event, I finished the Sandra Betzina workshop with much greater respect and admiration for her patterns and her styling. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Back  in 2009 I made the Liberty shirt, one of the prettiest patterns from The Sewing Workshop. It was my first one with this pattern and I love it still. I reviewed it here on Pattern Review.

I had this interesting cotton fabric at InTown Quilters in Atlanta. It was in a new shipment of fine Japanese cottons and a little pricey for a cotton. But I loved it so I bought a small piece, maybe less than 2 yards.

When I received the Liberty shirt pattern from The Sewing Workshop I decided to make it with this lovely fine cotton. Of course, I did not have enough. So I used some similar silk dupioni for one front and one sleeve. And I added lots of tiny piping to separate the disparate pieces. Finally I added pearl buttons and spaced them in pairs.

Today I attended the Sewing Expo here in Atlanta and was delighted to get to attend a fashion show from The Sewing Workshop. Oh, the garments were so, so pretty and I wanted to run home and sew.

Imagine my surprise when this appeared:

I was so amazed that I forgot to take a picture of the back. The above shirt is also from the Liberty pattern, though she has the neckline open and the collar folded back, Peter Pan style. The back is almost identical to mine.

I did go by their booth and look at the runway version again. So, so close to my 2009 version, though they used only one fabric and the model is tall.

I did mention it to Linda Lee thinking that maybe, just maybe I inspired her version. I would have been thrilled.

Maybe it was subliminal.

Anyway I like mine better, I think. I still love the Liberty pattern. What can I say?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sewing with Sandra Betzina

For the past two days I have been in a Sandra Betzina workshop. What fun!

I've longed for a class with this super star since the days of her excellent TV show. I watched those shows over and over again. So when I met her yesterday it was like seeing an old friend. For me anyway.

And you know how these classes go. Interesting and cheerful classmates surround me. Sewers are the best. 

Saturday started with a trunk show. Nothing like it to get your sewing mojo pumped up. Then she measured and fitted us for her Vogue pattern block. 

Day 2, I've made a denim toile of narrow leg pants with princess seams. After a couple of Sandra tweaks, I'm very happy. Now I need to transfer the changes to the pattern tissue. 

Tonight I cut out a toile for stable knit pants. I get one more day with Sandra so I'm anxious to baste these together. Here's hoping I can finish this workshop with two great pants patterns. 

But it doesn't matter much what happens tomorrow. I'm already thoroughly happy and grateful for this opportunity. Sandra like so many sewing teachers is generous and encouraging. 

I'll post better pictures and pattern details very soon.