Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Winter Begone

Spring is officially here in North America so that means it is most likely time for me to wrap up my posts for the small amount of winter sewing I did this year. Yes, it might just be that I have a procrastination contrarian dominant gene in my lineage since my blog posts don't seem to be matching the seasonal sewing schedule.
Back in last season I accepted a FB sewing group challenge to sew a winter coat.  Then several weeks later I ended up buying two gorgeous vintage wool coats at a hospital charity sale and my enthusiasm for a tailored winter coat project died but my desire to sew up some interesting fabric in my stash did not.  I had purchased a double sided faux suede polar fleece combo fabric, Fabric Mart, of course, for a few dollars a yard thinking that it could serve as a coat mock up if nothing else.  Since I no longer needed a heavy wool coat I dug out the fabric and found a pattern that would suit it perfectly...New Look 6536.  I had been doing some tedious and un-photogenic work with Sarah Veblen at the same time so I took the mock up for this coat and we both agreed that this pattern has terrific bones. 
 I was reluctant to give it a try since normally I don't like raglan sleeves.  They usually have folds of fabric along my arm and an unflattering uni-boob look.  But after Sarah made some minor tweaks...a little more room on the armhole seam which is where the bust shaping happens and a large wedge of fabric in the sleeve armscye area.  (Silly me, I didn't realize that yes, raglan sleeves have a sleeve cap and I just needed more sleeve cap height to get rid of those ugly folds.)  
Mock up with sleeve wedge added 
The fabric was relatively easy to sew.  I used a microtex needle and of course did not press the fabric with my iron, since it is polar fleece, merely steamed it, finger pressed it open and let it dry in place.  
New Look 6536
I forgot to take pictures of my topstitching....there's so much of it that I was glad it was DONE.  But I did use two threads in that same needle and was happy with the result.  

Since the fabric wouldn't press totally flat, I did stitch down the seam allowances in two area, along the top arm seam and along that mid-body seam.  I really wanted those seams to be flat and not curl.

New Look 6536
It is the perfect warm but lightweight coat that I need and will wear a great deal in Maryland.  Easy topper to throw over a tunic and jeans and those pockets mean I can run errands and walk the dog without worrying about a purse.  No, it's not the elaborately tailored coat that I imagined appearing on these pages back in the early autumn months.  But it is perfect for my climate and my life and that's what sewing lets us do.
The rest of my winter sewing was a variation on more TNT patterns.  Burda 6809 is one of several tunic patterns that I simply love.  It's got a retro sixties vibe to it and so far my versions have been summery ones.  This winter I wanted to use some bright emerald green embroidered silk dupioni that I picked up on the giveaway table from last year's sewing retreat.  I wanted to make the front collar opening and the cuff have some contrast.  Sarah Veblen helped me by looking for a darker forest green scrap that I could possibly use but that was too much green happening, even at the holiday time of year.  As she I spoke I looked again at the fabric and realized that it was just chain stitched contrast thread on that at home I unpicked about 18 inches of the fabric (sorry again, I was sure I had pictures but no luck finding them.)  There were holes in the dupioni that sewing people would notice but once I lightly interfaced those pattern pieces and pressed them, they simply looked as textured as the silk.  Now I had a perfectly matched coordinating fabric.  I used it for the front collar opening and then made a sleeve cuff pattern with a wedge to mimic that front point.  I was quite happy with the final result and planned to wear it to my book group holiday party.
Burda 6809

Testing the sleeve cuff
But my plans changed when we had a polar vortex hit us in early January.  Suddenly this silk tunic and skinny pants outfit was totally inappropriate for a winter party in the even colder hills of Pennsylvania.  TNT pattern to the rescue.  Here's Pamela's Pattern draped front cardigan in a Fabric Mart  hitachi print knit with a vintage mink scarf added for some extra warmth.  This cardigan just takes a few hours to complete and felt cozy and comfortable.
Pamela's Patterns Draped Front Cardigan
The rest of my winter sewing happened at our winter sewing retreat.  Since I already had the pattern out I decided to bring along another cardigan for which I had another vintage fur collar.

I used a Lisette Butterick 6244 pattern for this waterfall jacket.  I especially like this pattern because it has a neckline dart under the waterfall collar.  That gives some bust space and also a slight lift to the collar area which I find more flattering that the previous waterfall patterns I have used.  I changed the waterfall drape itself by copying an Eileen Fisher silk jacket that I have loved for years.  This is my first version in a very sheer poly from Fabric Mart and still needs to have the edges serged with a rolled hem. One of the nice things about the Eileen Fisher one is the doubled hem on the bottom and the sleeves which gives the silk a nice weight.  I have been saving some Anna Sui silks and think this will do them justice.

Eileen Fisher jacket
Well, Mr. Lucky and I are still enjoying our Florida winter sojourn.  We have friends from church staying in our Maryland house this month while they have a renovation in the works and they sent snow covered back deck pictures yesterday.  We have white stuff on the ground, too...
 but in another ten days we will be driving north, back to gardening, back to pick up my sewing machine from its repair visit and back to fun in my sewing room.  I still have some snoop shopping to do here before I leave so I will report what catches my eye.  Here's hoping your seasonal sewing is going well in your part of the world.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Beachwear and Books

Hello from warm, sunny southwest Florida where I am sitting in a library courtyard with flowering trees, a splashing fountain and fluffy white clouds drifting across the blue skies.  We left Baltimore more than a month ago and are enjoying all the pleasures of a winter vacation in a tropical environment.  So I thought I should share some tropical clothing that I've sewn for this trip.   
Mr. Lucky and I are in two rentals this season (too long a story but it all worked out in the end) and our February rental was a fantastic surprise.  The VRBO house was available last minute and was just magnificent with a heated pool and spa in the back courtyard.  It also included access to the resort pool and spa and all the amenities...tiki bar with music three nights, outdoor dining, gym, multiple pools, waterfalls, just glorious.  So to finally make this about some sewing, here's a purse I customized with leftover fabric from the guest room curtains and pillows I sewed many years ago 
  and here I am wearing my most pinned sewing project, a pullover poncho that seems timeless since it continues to get plenty of hits from searches.

I have sewn versions in silk, rayon and this very "hole-y" open weave knit which I made longer as a swimwear coverup which might be my current favorite.  I think even Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns just did a youtube video on something very similar that she saw while doing her upscale snoop shopping.   
I wrote that original post almost eight (eight?!) years ago when we owned a condo here in Naples.  Turns out I am much better at renting someone's great place than owning a second property.  Now we get to enjoy time with northern friends who come visit while also catching up with FL friends who are happy to see us again each season but I don't have the worry when I leave (nor the nasty mean-spirited emails from absentee owners when I was on our little eight unit condo board.)

Cheers to friendships near and far.
This tunic is another tried and true pattern, New Look 6110, one of my very favorite done in a lightweight silk tissue crepe.  I am happy there's a print (of NYC and its landmarks) because my placket looks terrible on this version.  Must refine that process since I love the pattern and have lots of other plans for it this year.
Jalie Elenore jeans #3461
It's Florida so there must be flowers....even on my pants.  These are the ever popular Jalie 3461 Elenore in a Fabric Mart stretch woven.  All of these summery garments were done at this year's winter Northern Virginia ASG Winchester retreat, our 8th year at the lovely George Washington Wyndham hotel.  And this year the cocktail of the night, specially designed for our group, was the "Berry Bobbin."  Cheers again!

Let's move on to the other sub-head for this blog, my reading selections.  One of the friends who I am looking forward to seeing in person in a few days always asks me what I have been reading.  Hmmm, I have been reading at a greater pace than usual this past year but I still had to go back to my library reading history to recall titles and my opinions about them.  My blogging has slowed down so much that my book reviews dropped off the to-do list.  However, just like in sewing, it's fun to read over these pages and recall the books I have been enjoying.  
First up is a series that will be largely unknown to an American audience.  In June of 2016 when we were on our Wales walking trip (look here if you want to see those sewing projects and my bragging about my mountain hikes Wales sewing and hiking) I spent a lot of time talking with a particular couple at several meals.  He was an avid reader and we discussed  so many books, mostly by American authors.  His partner, however, was only focusing on one author, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, and her Morland Dynasty series.  Several months after the trip I read the first one and now I am totally addicted.  Morland Dynasty series  
I was an English major for my undergraduate degree so of course had English history in my studies.  But these novels have me understanding that history in new and interesting ways. I am on book 19 (and these are long books, 500-600 pages at least) and have to pace myself because there are only 35 in the series.  One of the libraries in Maryland carries her books so I inter-library request them and savor each one.  Bravo to her for being so prolific and so consistently enjoyable with characters that are unique and compelling. 

I am a member of two book groups, one at my church and one up in PA where a long time friend lives.  That book group has adopted me over the years and I am fortunate to be included in their homes and their group.  This year Mr. Lucky and I were able to attend the holiday party and gift exchange.  One the delights (after the yummy food and funny re-gifting) was a special book group tree that our hostess had decorated with min-frames holding pictures of the covers of books we had read.  I thought I had a picture of the ornament but seems to be just us women celebrating good times and good friends.  (I think I will steal her idea in the future and put an ornament on my tree for my favorite book of the year.)

We did vote on our favorite book from the past year and the top two were my top two as well:

Since we are talking about rating books, here are my five and four star selections from the last year or so of reading.  Most of these are novels and many of them are books that I read, and  so enjoyed, only because someone in my book group selected it that month.  I love my book groups just as much as I do my sewing girlfriends and groups and for the same reasons.  They introduce me to new things, inspire me with their breadth of experience and keep me laughing and sometimes crying together.  Here's hoping you have good books and good friends to do the same.
My five star, don't miss if you love books selections:

My four star selections....books I recommend but maybe with some minor reservations but I thoroughly enjoyed.

Three stars....I wanted to really enjoy these but ultimately found them readable but disappointing.

Right now I am awaiting book 19 in the Morland Dynasty to arrive and have two books "in process."  Sunny afternoons and beach sunsets are perfect for escaping into other worlds and other minds.  I will let you know what I think of them and hope you share some of your favorite reads, too.  Sew grateful to have the time for such pleasures.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sewing for Others, Blogging for You and Me

This is a post that I have been writing in my head for several months now and it has taken this long for me to sit still and type.  Nothing that dramatic, I promise, but the dual topic got me thinking.  So let's start with the sewing projects and leave the ruminating for the end when you can move along as you like.  
Back in the autumn months I spent my sewing time doing some "sewing for others."  Nothing dramatic like so many quilters and charity sewing people do.  (Aside:  I always loved that Nancy Zieman featured so many sewing for charity groups and projects on her show Nancy Zieman Sew to Give and in her book "Creative Kindness")  But I like the sewing process and since I was doing some very tedious fitting and pattern work at the same time, it was nice to have sewing machine time that actually produced a finished project.  

My blogging is my own memory jogger so here from the fall are the dozen pet mats  I sewed after the first of numerous natural disasters had US animal shelters struggling with new arrivals from those devastated areas...floods in Houston, the hurricane in Florida/Puerto Rico and fires in CA.  Mr. Lucky and I seem to be the harbingers of natural disasters since we have intimate connections with all of those places.  My 12 pet mats were returned from one shelter so I sent them out again and haven't heard back so I assume they were put to good use.  Quilt Pattern Magazine Kennel Quilts
Kennel Quilts

I am also part of a Baltimore team who sews for "Days for Girls" each month.  I have been traveling a great deal so I haven't made many of the scheduled meetings this past year but once again, when I do it is nice to have productive sewing projects and in this case fun sewing time with other local women.  

Not directly sewing related but it did involve sharing what I had been taught.  The year before last a multi-talented, creative woman in my Maryland sewing group taught us how to do eco-dyeing with natural materials.  I loved the results and offered it as an afternoon workshop for my church auction in the fall.  Four wonderful friends paid for it and  a small lunch that I made and we had a fun afternoon selecting materials, rolling them onto purchased silk scarves and waiting for them to reveal themselves after an hour boiling in their mordant and water combination.  What was funny for me was seeing their exact same reactions as I had the prior year..."So, what leaves and petals produce what colors and designs?"  Me: "Sorry, there are people who understand the science of all the possible combinations but I am more an impressionist.  We will have to see what happens."  Turns out accomplished people can struggle with that the work and turn over the result...(ask me how I know) but I think all four of them liked their first result and learned something, too.
Eco-dyed silk scarves
Last completed sewing for others project was a gift for our 30th wedding anniversary this fall.  I had bought a luscious cotton, from Fabric Mart, of course, and thought it would be a nice preview of our winter Florida trip.  I don't know my clothing brands but when FM advertised a Tori Richards cotton for $6.99 a yard I had to google the designer and saw these wonderful tropical prints Tori Richard Shirts....and then when I felt the soft, high thread count, silk like fabric I knew I had to make one of these for Mr. Lucky.  

I've made this Kwik Sew 3422 pattern many times now but used a slightly different technique to get those collar points nice and sharp in this thin fabric.  Worked like a charm.  
Here's one of the nice videos that Jamie Kemp made to show the process. 
And here's the shirt without Mr. Lucky:

And yes, I will share our quiet local celebration.  We have had so many trips this year, anything big on our actual day would definitely have been overkill.  He gets handsomer and more wonderful each year.
So now let me ruminate out loud a bit.  These are pics and projects from months ago and quite simple ones at that.  The blogging world has grown exponentially since I finally joined in about seven plus years ago.  Other social networks have arrived on the scene and I even gave one of them a try.  In November I participated in Bimble & Pimble's Sewvember 2017 Sewvember prompts  I participated actively for about half the month.  I enjoyed connecting through Instagram since my younger cousins and their children are active participants.  I liked the idea of learning something new since I can be a Luddite when it comes to my smart phone and computer.  But I gave in around halfway through the month.  My "old" iPhone is too tiny to enjoy reading and seeing pictures and definitely a PITA for me to use for posting.  Let's face it, I am a woman of words (my close friends and family are howling with laughter as they read this)...I use them, I love to read them and I admire people who do the same.  I appreciate the power of images and in some ways respect their power so much that I want to keep some distance from too many images so that I can absorb and think more than just react.  So yes, blogging is now considered so old school.  And yes, my blogging is old school old school.  But I was touched that three non-sewing friends asked me in January about my blogging status.  And even a few sewing friends remarked on my long dry spell.  That shows me that my blogging does what I want it to do...create links with people whom I don't get to see in person often enough.  I started blogging to give back in my little way to a very generous community of early technology adopters who shared so much free, useful, encouraging info and inspiration.  I'm continuing, albeit at a far, far slower rate for my own accountability and for deepening those relationships that I have developed.  Thanks, sweet readers, for coming along.   
Next up I will share what some of that pattern work lead to in the winter.