Tuesday, March 29, 2016

12 X 12

Each year, local organization SEFAA issues a challenge to local fiber artists. It is easy and fun. The only requirement is that it be no larger than 12 inches X 12 inches and easy to hang on the wall. No jury, no pressure. I like that.

This is a good way to learn what I like and what I do not. This piece, for example, is way too busy for me. I much prefer simple designs. 

This one came about when I used linen remnants from clothing projects. I decided to go with the shapes in the scraps, butting here and there. Then I used needle-turn applique to attach them. After that I machine-quilted it to wool batting and added embroidery, as well as beads.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Olive Again

Olive Top, Sewing Workshop knit top, back zipper top

First attempt with Olive, from The Sewing Workshop

Olive, a pattern from The Sewing Workshop (TSW) has haunted me for 5 years. That's the last time I tried it out. It was too small and I gave it to my DD who probably waited a while and then donated it. Her style is subtle with a strong preference for neutral, light colors. This one was decidedly not understated.

So I graded up to M/L and tried it with this tissue knit. IMO, knits are cantankerous, unpredictable yet forgiving. I think it's my strong need to control things that gets me in trouble with knits. That, and my impatience.

Because I wanted to highlight the interesting twisted seams, I decided to insert a narrow strip of striped fabric into each vertical seam. That worked OK. As I was sewing the last vertical seam, I figured out what I should have done. That worked great.

What I should have done: Sew a 1 inch strip of striped jersey to one raw edge, right sides together. On this first pass, I could establish to final position of the strip with a outside width of 3/8 inch, allowing for a 5/8 seam allowance. Lastly I sewed the regular seam with the basting stitches on top. I stitched right on top of the basting line. Hope that makes sense.

The pattern calls for a zipper that is purely decorative, so I omitted it.
The fabric is a tissue-weight rayon jersey from House of Fabrics in Asheville NC. It did not roll and was fairly easy to cut out single layer, as was necessary with this fabric design, and also with the pattern design.

The sleeve has a vented detail.

Sewing was another matter. This tissue knit feels like I'm sewing jello onto air. I kept changing feet and adjusting stitch width until it was finally done. Hooray for done. I have decided that I need to stop buying these tissue weight knits. Too much woo-woo for me.

This one is entirely wearable and I won't be foisting it on DD.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Eileen Fisher Social and Environmental Inspiration

Recently I went to the mall with DDIL, something I do very rarely. While she was in the dressing room, I spotted an Eileen Fisher collection. What inspiration! Although I make almost all of my clothes, I am sorely tempted.

I love her minimalist approach. It is chic, comfortable, and just beautiful.

These knits feel soft yet durable. 

This jacket is made of silk. Details include sleeve vents and a deep vent in the back.

And it is not cheap fashion. 

This is a wonderful spring linen with great pocket details and a pretty shawl collar.

This rain coat is very light-weight and sophisticated, not at all ordinary rain gear.

Such a lovely collar

And Eileen Fisher is a maker with a social conscience: use of organic fibers, sustainable fibers, dyeing without hazardous chemicals, investments in local producer communities, tips on how best to maintain your clothing, and 20% of their clothing is made in the USA.

I have them beat on the percentage of my clothes made in the USA, of course, but I cannot say much about the rest. For the most part, my fabric is NOT carefully curated with respect to social and environmental impacts. In fact, except for the occasional purchase from Alabama Chanin and a few upcycled garments, I have no clue as to how to move in that direction.

Do you?

Alabama Chanin light-weight organic cotton jersey

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fillmore Duster

About half way through making this, I was not happy. Now I am unsure why. I rather like it. Maybe a sugar dive.

Is it a vest? or a dress? or a duster? And just what is a duster? The Fillmore created by The Sewing Workshop (TSW) could be any of these. The sleeves are extended and not too deep, so it could be a spring dress, though I don't usually show that much skin. I'll take that under advisement.

It has interesting lines and was great fun to make.

Fabric: I purchased this Brussels washer from Waechter's right before they went out of business. As you may know, Brussels washer is a linen-rayon blend, with the best of each, IMO. I had buried this in the stash waiting for just the right pattern.

Cutting: Only the collar, center front panels, and front circular pieces could be cut from folded fabric. Every piece in the back is different, requiring single layer cutting. With just about 2.5 yards, I had to be careful cutting it out.

Sewing: It was pretty straight-forward though I had to double-check some of the markings to make sure I did not invert any of the pieces. The instructions were required reading.

I was surprised about the extended cap sleeves, even though it is clearly stated in the pattern description. When I tried it on before attaching the arm binding, I was worried. It was anything but flattering! Sewing the binding on made a huge difference - it increased the circumference and placed the edge at a more flattering spot.

And I love this collar:

Oh, and check out the pockets hidden behind the circular pieces on the fronts:

Of course, this would be very attractive with stripes and coordinating fabrics, as seen on TSW website, especially the back. In this solid color, the interesting design lines are lost.

As I was making it, I could not imagine making another but, after wearing it, I'm thinking it might be a good travel vest out of something that does not wrinkle. There are some handy places to hide pockets.

All in all, this is a winner, I think.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Birthday Sewing

It is fun to sew for granddaughters, especially if you do so before they become too opinionated and too dependent on cheap fashion. Three times a year I have an opportunity to sew for my sweet girls on their birthdays. It is great fun for me and I love seeing them in my makes. But they are all old enough now to have clothing opinions and I have to respect that.

Can you tell I've been burned a few times?

This time I chose Butterick 5877, a sweet and somewhat modern pattern, appropriate for a 10-year-old. This is an age-group with few options in the Big 4 pattern companies. Most styles are too young and too small, or too old and too curvy.

I guess I have become spoiled with great instructions from independent pattern makers like The Sewing Workshop and Cutting Line Designs. And Vogue typically has pretty good instructions. I was disappointed in this set of instructions. It is labeled Easy and it could be easy with better instructions. It did not slow me down but I wondered how it might affect a new sewer.

The skirt is completely circular (love that!) and the bodice is pretty straight across the high waistline, so you have to sew a curve to a straight line. My first make was in a woven printed cotton, nice stable stuff, really easy to sew. The instructions are these:

Pin upper edge of skirt to lower edge of bodice matching seams and centers. Stitch.

Can we say just a little more, Butterick Patterns? Perhaps this: Stay-stitch along the seam line of the skirt and clip so that it will fit the bodice seam. Then match notches, seams and centers, pin and stitch.

They even define stay-stitching in their plug-in glossary but never, ever use it in the instructions. OK. Enough whining. I actually had a blast making this.

The print is a piece Hannah selected a year or so ago. It has little gold flecks in it and I was not crazy about it. But I like now.

The pattern calls for a buttons in the back of the bodice. Knowing how chaotic DD's life is and how difficult it is button yourself up in the back, I opted for a zipper instead.

The cropped leggings are a cotton knit, super easy to make. I can visualize Hannah running around the neighborhood in this ensemble, with her skirt flying. She does this.

She loves these buttons!

The second one is very plain. I used the longer skirt so that it is a dress, rather than a tunic. Because the jersey knit was wide, I was able to cut the skirt without any seams - just a circle with a little waistline hole. I used a striped cotton shirting to add a bit of weight to the hem.

Because it is so plain, I have asked Hannah to come up with some ways to take it up a notch. This is something we've done with other plain dresses. She likes to sketch and I'm hoping she'll come up with some applique ideas.

And now, it's back to selfish sewing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Station 8, Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, is a quilt. I used fabric that was tea and rust dyed, as well as commercial fabrics. Quilts are typically bound on the edges but this piece is faced to keep the focus on the cross. Most of it is sewn on a sewing machine but there is some hand-stitching.

This station is based on Luke 23:28-31. It is a difficult passage, fitting into the sad narrative of the stations. Jesus is disappointed in the women who, like the disciples, do not understand the meaning of his life and approaching death. He says, "Weep not for me; weep for yourselves."

I depicted two (or three?) women, perhaps with Christ, carrying the cross. I purposely left it a bit ambiguous. There are shadows of other women in the quilted background. I think of them as the women who came before Christ, as well as those of us who have come after Christ. 

I still do not understand the meaning of Christ's life and death but this project has brought me closer. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Little Alabama Chanin

In a recent issue of Sew Confident, there was an article on sewing with tissue knits. The pattern used was the Hudson top from The Sewing Workshop. Their tissue knit was light-weight cotton jersey from Alabama Chanin. Lovely stuff - 100% organic cotton made in the USA. I already had some in the stash!

The Hudson is a nice basic, a canvas for great fabric or a special technique. I have been wanting to try my hand with the AC reverse-applique technique for a while. In fact, I've made two samples and tested them in the washer and dryer. This knit behaves beautifully. 

Both the black and the red knits are considered light-weight, but there is some noticeable difference in the weight. The red is a bit lighter. I found them to be close enough for this technique.

These knits are stable and not very stretchy. They like to curl on the edges so I played around with that but let it go. They also like to stick together and to my high hip fluff. A-hem. 

Because I had already made up TSW's Ivy tunic with my cut of black knit, I had only small remnants to use in this shirt. 

After sewing the shoulder seams, I opened it out on my sewing surface wrong side up. Then I placed some pieces of the black on the shirt, also wrong side up. After pinning each piece in place, I hand-basted around each remnant.

Next I flipped the pieces over and used my quilter's pounce and a hexie stencil to transfer the design to the right side of the shirt. The real AC technique involves paint and so a lot more effort, IMO. I stitched around each chalked hexie using a running stitch and size 8 perle cotton thread. It's quite a lot like sashiko, so I loved this part.

Lastly I cut out some of the hexies, allowing the black backing to show. This is where the tendency to curl really shines. It provides a nice finish to the raw edge.

wrong side of shirt after completing it

I tried playing with the curling action to create a cuff but ultimately cut it off. I stitched plain hems and push up the sleeves for comfort. No need to try everything in one garment!

Now I want to apply this technique to a full garment. This was a fun make.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Expo 2016

The Sewing Workshop Fashion show

Alex in the new Fillmore Duster introduces her mother, Linda Lee.
Linda wore orange Helix pants and the Tremont jacket, seen in photo above and those that follow.

Models included this family - three generations:

Grandmother in cityscapes dress

Granddaughter in peony vest, plaza pants

Mother in eJacket and eDress

Soho coat

Florence shirt, eTee, Quincy pants

Chicago jacket, Trio t-shirt
Ikina jacket, mimosa top
New cityscapes dress (updated)

Student model in Pearl jacket or Ann's cardigan

Katrina in salsa top and eskirt

Student model in Ivy top

Student model in Balboa topper

Katrina in corona shirt and west end pants

Trio top, Trio T-shirt, Trio pants 
Era jacket , plaza pants

Icon vest over Icon shirt
Laura Murray was sporting this inspiring jacket - great details to add to any jacket. She purchased it at a craft show.

My last class was with Joe of Fashion Supplies, Inc., vendor for European dress forms. Joe was demonstrating draping and converting the draped pattern into a flat pattern. Excellent class. And, yes, I bought a dress form from him. I cannot wait to receive it!

I still love going to Expo. I hope you have something similar in your sewing world.