Sunday, February 14, 2021

Crazy Legs

A dependable pattern for leggings has been on my to-do list for a while. I've made them for the grandgirls but never for me. And I like to wear them with dresses. Someone (wish I could remember who) on IG recommended the Avery leggings by Helen's Closet  I finally purchased the pattern.

Unfortunately it is a PDF pattern. So it sat in unexamined on my tablet for a bit.

I've also intended to try sending PDF patterns out for printing for a while. I don't mind printing on my home computer and taping together. Much. But DH reminded me that is not exactly free. So now I'm a veteran (5 downloaded patterns) of

It is reasonably priced though not instantly gratifying. It takes about a week to arrive, so not too bad. I have found that I optimize the shipping costs with 2-3 patterns. It depends on the number of pages needed.

It arrives in a triangular cardboard tube that protects the pages. The pages are sturdy and easier to manage than taped pages, I think.

I am impressed with this pattern. The instructions for sewing the waistband and waistband facing include a slight off-set to cut down on bulk. The waistband is very wide, with elastic attached to the seam allowance between the waistband and facing. It calls for 1/2" elastic. I had 3/8" and 5/8" on hand so I tried both. Both were fine.

The pattern has no side seam and it has a crotch gusset. The only ever-so-slightly tricky part is to remember to mark the dots so that the gusset installation doesn't end up with a wad in the wrong place. You can barely see my tailors tacks above. Notches are fairly important too so that you don't install the waistband upside-down. 

The front waist is way lower than the back and yet fits surprisingly well.

There are two views in the pattern. I prefer the one with the lower waistband and shorter length. I started out with the high-waisted version and found that it was way too high on me, almost to my bra band. For reference, I'm almost 5'5" and shrinking. I removed this waistband and replace it with another knit in stash, the mustard color. It was almost too tight then. That's when I got serious about measuring the amount of stretch in a knit before cutting it.

The Avery instructions are precise with stern cautions to choose fabrics with 70% stretch in all directions. Wow - 70% is a lot, it turns out. Almost like swimsuit fabric. Nothing in stash came close. But it makes sense - negative ease in leggings is fairly important. Otherwise they look baggy.

I knew my knit fabrics had nowhere near 70% stretch in any direction and so traced the next size up from my measurements. None of my knit fabric is precious so I figured, why not? Frankly, I'm not sure how those prints came to be in stash! And it only takes a yard.

I found 3 pieces of knit in stash to try. Two were rayon jersey. The striped one is 95% cotton and 5% elastane. They each measured about 30-40% in all directions. And they were fine, given that I went up a size. I'm sure they would have been too tight otherwise.

I'm quite pleased with these. They will likely spend more time as PJ pants than as leggings to wear outside. That's primarily because I need PJ pants.

The directions also make it clear that a narrow zigzag is necessary. I used polyester thread and they are very secure and stretch enough.

DH actually thought I purchased the first pair, so that was nice. He noted that some ladies wear these as pants. Well, not me.

After making 3, I think I'm over leggings for a while. But maybe not. Comfort is still high priority during the great pause.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Vestments - One more new stole

This one is for my petite deacon friend. Deacons in the Episcopal Church are directed by the Bishop who manages multiple churches or parishes. Deacons are sent to a church for a few years and then sent to another church. Their assignments are very unlike those of priests who are selected by the parishioners. 

Often they are unpaid. Ours is unpaid. Another deacon friend is quick to remind that deacons are not required to work for free. But, in my experience, they do. So it is a real commitment, often accompanied by a paid *day job,* to keep the family afloat.

A bias tube from the blue wool creates a way to connect the two halves of the stole at the deacon's hip.

When a deacon arrives at a new church, she (or he) may have her own vestments, but given that abysmal pay situation, they typically rely on the vestments on hand at the assigned church. Those vestments have to serve a variety of shapes and sizes over the years. So a very petite deacon faces a challenge.

Our stoles dragged on the ground. Initially I tried to take them up for her. But I decided that this was more difficult than making her one to keep. It is not easy to make such a fine piece convertible from one size to another. And our next deacon may be 6 foot 6!

She already had her own stole for *ordinary* times, a green one worn for most of the liturgical year, as well as a white one for special holidays like Christmas, Easter and baptisms. I offered to make her one for advent, traditionally a beautiful clear blue worn during the month of December.

The easy part was the pattern. I just traced one of her existing stoles onto pattern tissue and added seam allowances. There were 3 challenges for me: finding the right fabric in the right color, creating the motif(s) on the stole, and matching fringe at the bottom.

Gail K in Atlanta is my go-to store for most planned projects. I imagined I could find some beautiful blue silk to use, maybe dupioni. Of course they had a zillion silks in shades of blue but nothing in a clear true blue.

I found a very expensive wool fabric in the perfect shade. I kept circling the store avoiding it until finally, I picked it up and took it to the cutting table. After all, I only needed a yard. The guy cutting it loudly called out the price TWICE before he cut into it. I know, I know. As I think about it though, the fine silk brocade and embroidered fabrics I've used in years past for church vestments were way more expensive.

With beautiful blue fabric in hand, I was ready to design, my favorite part. There was just one request. The dove is a very important symbol to her. There is one on her white stole and she wanted another on the blue one, if possible. 

finished applique with embroidered leaves.

I fretted about the dove a bit. The one on her white stole looks like a professional embroidery system produced it. But I did not want to farm out this part of the project, and did not know where to do so anyway. I wanted a way to create an applique using off-white silk shantung.

First I spent some time sketching doves until I was satisfied with two simple shapes to reproduce in fabric. I am enamored of the kind of sketching that simplifies realistic sketches until they just barely communicate the item depicted. Picasso was a master at this kind of abstraction or simplification.

Sewing friends suggested a variety of techniques for the dove applique. I've done a fair amount of needle-turn applique in quilt cottons, but I was not up to needle-turn applique with my silk shantung. I knew it would never make me happy.

One possibility was to apply fusible web to the back of the white silk, cut out the dove, and use my machine to stitch around it with a satin stitch. But I've never enjoyed working with that fusible stuff. The result can be lovely but the process has no lure to me.

Another possible technique was to use a light weight fusible interfacing, sewing it right-sides-together on the dove shapes. Then a small hole is cut in the interfacing and it is turned right-side-out so that the glue ends up inside the dove pieces. Then it is pressed to hold the edges down. This was a failure for me. The interfacing fell apart as I struggled to neatly turn and press the edges.

Next I tried the same technique with cotton batiste backing. After a few tries, this worked! I used a smaller stitch-length (2.0), trimmed the seams allowances to 1/8 inch, and used lots of steam when turning it right-side-out.

Then I realized that my dove was facing backwards, or it seemed so to me. Flipping it proved to be more challenging that I imagined, so I have a couple of backwards doves now in stash!

My next challenge was fringe. Where, oh where, would I ever find matching fringe? And then I realized that I could make my own with the blue wool. Really, duh.

I did learn that fringing the wool produced very different looks depending on whether the weft or the warp was removed. I cannot say which one actually worked but I knew it when I saw it!

I constructed this stole quite differently from the previous one I made. The outer fabric is the blue wool and the lining is a lighter blue rayon lining. I sewed one long edge of the wool to the lining fabric. Then I used a stiff cotton canvas to interface it, sewing it inside the long seam allowance. 

Next I pressed the other long seam allowance down and hand-stitched the canvas to it. Lastly, I hand-stitched the lining to the wool. I was once again amazed by how much control you have with hand-stitching. And it was a time to spend thinking about my deacon friend and her calling. A very sweet time, indeed.

I hand stitched the fringe to each end and pressed it carefully. Then I invisibly stitched the dove parts to the stole, as well as a small cross to the shoulder. Joy, for me. And isn't she lovely?

Monday, February 1, 2021


In 1937, Roosevelt was sworn in for a second term. Amelia Earhart disappeared in her attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. And Zora Neale Hurston published her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. 

Unknown women all over the country were making quilts to keep their families warm during the depression. I have one from my namesake, a frail Sun Bonnet Sue quilt. My father's Aunt Mattie gave it to me when I met her once in the late 50s or early 60s. In one corner, there is a simple embroidery that reads 1937.

A number of years ago, maybe 10, a friend in my book club was downsizing and brought in several old quilts to give to anyone who would have them. She had no idea who made them, but someone in her husband's family, probably. 

The Poppy quilt came home with me. It was frayed around the edges like mice had gotten into it. The binding was sheer in most places, missing in others. And there were stains, of course. 

With four large applique designs arranged symmetrically along the axes of the quilt, the colors seemed bright, though not the original colors. The applique work was lovely, accented with French knots and other embroidery stitches. I now know that it was made entirely by hand. Even the binding was applied completely by hand. The quilting outlined the applique and, in between, she used diagonal lines to create a kind of lattice work.

I've washed it a number of times and worked on the stains without any success. I purchased some orange-red Kona cotton that I could have used to repair, or replace the binding. I hung it on a bedroom wall for a while. I put it on the guest bed for a while. And then I folded it up and put it away again.

When someone in my Fiber Art Fusion group asked for a class on making quilted jackets, I decided to make the leap and cut into this quilt. And I've convinced myself it was the right thing to do. In fact, I really love the jacket. 

The Tamarack jacket from Grainline Studio is very popular and a perfect silhouette for transforming an old quilt. With only 3 main pattern pieces - front, back and sleeve - it could not be simpler and still be pretty, IMO. The pattern includes pieces for welt pockets, as well as instructions for quilting the pieces as you go along.

I spent quite a lot of time deciding how to position the pattern pieces, wanting to avoid stains, yet show off the beautiful workmanship effectively. I placed one large applique motif down the front, but off-center in order to extend the design into the shoulder. Another large applique was placed on the back along the fold line. I was able to connect the two at the side seams.

There were 2 major motifs remaining. I placed one along a sleeve and left the second sleeve mostly white, a place to rest the eyes in this busy design.

The yard of Kona cotton worked out great for bias binding along the edges, as well as Hong Kong finishes to the interior raw edges. I have enough left over to create little appliques to cover the remaining stains, if they bother me. So far, they don't.

The side seams were a bit challenging. The instructions are non-existent vague on that juncture where the hem binding and the side seams meet. My hems are covered with 1/2 inch binding, and most interior seams have the HK finish. All seam allowances are 1/2". I chose to press the seams to the back, as instructed, and then graded them a bit. Then I applied a quasi-HK finish to the one exposed edge. Unlike standard HK finishing, I hand-stitched mine to the back of the garment. It is still a wee bit lumpy there.

While cutting it out, I noticed that there was one small *signature* on the corner, much like the one on my great-aunt's quilt. That corner became an interior pocket with new binding. I may add some embroidery here clarifying that the quilt was made in 1937 and the jacket in 2021. 

Honestly I became a little emotional as I added the pocket. I could not help wondering about the woman (or women) who made this beautiful quilt. What were their hopes when they gifted it to my friend or to someone else in her husband's family? And how many hours of loving stitching did they invest?

I have convinced myself - and please don't dissuade me - that this jacket honors the maker, whoever she was, whatever her story. I will think of her each time I wear it. I love it.