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 concept...do 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.  

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Paris, Dior and Travel Memories, Part 2

Are you a fashion maven?  Do you watch the runway shows or grab the latest fashion magazine to see what's in style?  Do you send your clothes to a consignment store after a year or two so you can sew or buy more current ones?  Are you planning a gown for a black tie event you will be attending or your luxury cruise wardrobe?  Yes?...you might enjoy some of the visuals in this post.  No?  Neither do I nor am I a person who pursues the latest styles.  But, despite a life filled with more outdoorsy pursuits hiking, dog walking, kayaking, outdoor concerts or picnics and sewing in my underwear (oh wait, that's indoors), I do enjoy seeing costume and fashion exhibits.  They are simply eye candy for me.  I love textiles, I love colors, I love the artistry and the engineering.  Some sewing friends attend and come away inspired recreate a detail or design in their own way.  Me, I just come away fulfilled with the sheer beauty of it...and that's exactly how I felt when Mr. Lucky and I took a one day trip to Paris while we were in London last month.  
Once again our timing was sheer luck.  Since my friend Amy had invited us over to England in mid-September it just happened to coincide with the extravagant, fabulous, over-the-top Dior 70th anniversary exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Since we were only a Chunnel train ride away....not our usual 3,000 miles...we splurged on a day trip and had a fabulous time gawking and lunching.  I won't try to write up a fashion review since others have done that so well but am just sharing these photos so I can recall their brilliance and stunning artistry on dreary winter days and nights.  Dior fashions are so over the top, extravagant and magical and the displays honored that spirit over and over.  There were rooms of garments but also of accessories and perfumes and make up all displayed with grandeur.  It was one of those exhibits that makes me understand how important an industry fashion is in France, sort of like a world's fair for fashion.  Enough words, here are some of my cell phone pics....and links to blog writers who have done a much more marvelous job of highlighting this exhibit.  Picture time:

Since I had just done a program on fabric flower embellishments I was taken with the flower detail everywhere:

Of course there are the classic silhouettes and designs that are immediately recognizable:

 The displays were jaw-dropping:

Other writers have done terrific posts about the fashion significance of the exhibit so let me share those that I particularly enjoyed reading before visiting this exhibit.  Heather Lou's wonderful site
Closet Case Patterns, Alicia at Marquise Electrique does translate this exhibit into ideas for those of us who sew garments.  And the Dior celebration is international this year which I learned when I read this post on Inside Out Style
  Let's also pay tribute to the people who made these marvelous garments...because we know the effort and precision that go into this process firsthand.

It's all art, isn't it?  Fun, oh my gosh yes.  Exhausting, oh my gosh yes.  Worth every penny, oh my gosh yes.  Lucky, more than I could ever dream.
Here's hoping you have something happening in your world that makes you smile and feel the excitement of creating.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Travel Memories, Part 1

It was hard to board the plane back to the US last week after 13 fabulous days in England.  However I promised to share the Great British Sewing Bee Live experience in a little more detail and am happy to keep that commitment.  Most Americans wouldn't know that an amateur sewing competition was aired in the UK for four seasons by the BBC since you had to sneak viewing it through youtube videos or a VPN link.  I learned about it through our wonderful sewing discussion boards and loved the civility, creativity and charm of it.  So when our trip plans coincided I was happier than imagined to buy a ticket for the expo itself and to take a class....and then to meet up with the talented moderator of one of the private Facebook sewing groups I have joined.  When Sue made that offer I was again touched and grateful at the friendliness of people who create and dream of fabric, fit and fashion, just as I had been when Sigrid did the same earlier this summer in Amsterdam. 
Thanks to the the easy to navigate London transportation system (oh, I know locals everywhere like to complain but it is marvelous) I took the tube from our hotel near Hyde Park, connected to the Docklands Railway (like Baltimore's above ground light rail system) and arrived at the enormous ExCel convention center.  

I dressed with some thought that morning since one of my expo complaints here in the US is that too few attendees wear something they have made.  My most recent stitch and flip jacket was the answer since it packs like a sweatshirt but looks "citified." (Another aside....at a sewing expo luncheon some years ago the lunch presenter asked us to raise our hands if we were wearing something we had sewn.  About half the room did which was a good sign.  She made us keep our hand in the air and swear not to explain to someone the mistake we had made somewhere, however, in sewing it;-)

Certainly the GBSB expo looked like American ones, those put on by our national organization, the American Sewing Guild and by for profit convention companies such as the regional Original Sewing & Quilt Expos or Sew Expo at Puyallup, WA.  There are booths (whoops, "stands") of vendors with fabric, notions, patterns, sewing machines, sewing furniture, dress forms, all the things that make our hearts go pitter patter and our credid cards go ka'ching.
Friday early morning expo traffic....four times as crowded over the weekend
Since this show is related to the GBSB there was a fun exhibit of some of the garments made over those four seasons...most of which came from seasons two onward.  (I am sentimentally attached to season one since Ann Rowley won and her beautiful creations and helpful sewing tips were already familiar to me from her postings through the years on Stitchers'Guild.)  The challenge for the contestants is, of course, to create these fashions under a time crunch as well as on camera so I am "gobsmacked" by what they accomplish in those circumstances....while keeping a civil tongue and good relationships with fellow contestants.  
Great British Sewing Bee contestant garments on display
I am thrilled that there are sewing bloggers who have made a name and now career for themselves over the last decade and one of my favorites has always been Melissa of Fehr Trade.  As an old seventies TV trope says, she has "spunk" and I have read and admired her creations since she started blogging.  So I was particularly happy to see her stand, her garments and order her new book on sewing activewear.  She graciously agreed to pose for a picture....probably thinking who is this crazy American lady who doesn't look like she runs too many marathons and what is she doing at my stand.
Melissa of Fehr Trade smiles for American tourist
I wandered more of the aisles and noted the stand for the McCalls/Vogue/Butterick pattern trio (usually referred to now as BMV but I still like McVutterick)  There were two women trying on a gorgeous yellow wool coat and I almost stopped dead in my tracks first at the beautiful lines of the coat and second that those design lines were exactly what I was describing to Mr. Lucky at the train station to Paris the previous morning.  I was noting the trend to more cocoon shaped dropped shoulder coat designs, not my best look, and pointed out a picture of a gorgeous version that was flattering and current looking....here's my poor snapshot...
Dropped shoulder but with cocoon coat seaming that made it less overwhelming
And there at the sewing show was the perfect pattern that I could use to work out my version for this winter's coat sewing project.  The sample is of course not my size but look closely at the line drawings for this pattern and I think you see what a hidden gem it is.  The shawl collar is just a wonderful additional detail but what makes it work, IMNHO, are the princess seams and the two piece sleeve panel with easy gusset.  Look at the grey drawing on the pattern envelope and you will see what I missed when this pattern came out...wonderful fit in those design lines.  Thank you, Liesl, loved meeting you and loved seeing this coat in person.  
Happily contemplating how I will make Butterick 6423 mine, mine, mine!

Butterick 6423 on Liesl's blog

From here I slipped over to watch the fashion show and enjoyed seeing the independent designers as well as the BMV garments.  I'm a poor photographer to start and trying to capture moving models made it almost impossible to get respectable pictures.  I did like seeing this Vogue dress in action, Vogue 1532, with the beautiful overlay and sparkly cuffs.
Vogue 1532
The Seam Detail Dress as a top
The unlined Raw Edged Coat in leather
Striking in their simplicity are the designs from Frances Tobin and The Makers Atelier which have a modern deconstructed look to them.  Since the samples at the stand were in cool tones they drew me in but in reality I can't carry this look off without looking sloppy and frumpy, not the look I am going for....usually;-) Sewing pattern gallery But I felt mildly sophisticated for the moment being in London after all so the designs were calling me....and there were plenty of pockets for the inevitable return to dog walking and errands.  However none of the patterns came home with me and that's just fine.

By now I wanted to share my excitement with a sewing friend and was struggling like the dickens with my phone and the ExCel wifi service...finally was able to catch up with Sue and yes, after the  nanosecond "Hmmmm, wonder if this new sewing friend and I will like one another, why did I offer to meet up, could I just slip on by..." we were laughing, comparing notes, enjoying all that comes with finding another person as passionate and involved with the art and craft of making clothing come to life.  And then you, dear Audrey, came up and took up my challenge to add a sweet, thoughtful and fun greeting to this lonely sewing person and made it all a wonderful gathering of sewing aficionados.
Jane, Audrey and Sue, strangers no more
Sue and I had tickets for the afternoon theater show starring the GBSB judges and some of the former contestants.  Again, so sorry for the poor pics but it was so much fun hearing Patrick Grant and Esme Young share info about their backgrounds and their show experiences.  Three former contestants were introduced and had an onstage refashioning 45 minute challenge.  They were paired with an expo attendee, given a thrift garment (in our case, a long gown) and told to make it over into something new...while on the other side of the stage the interviews were going on, another previous contestant gave a sew demo and there was general hilarity.  Talk about focus.  I can't even get my lowly projects done with only Lucky the dog at home to interrupt me.  All good fun and so in the spirit of the show.
Patrick and Esme chatting with Jenny Eclair
The refashioning challenge being critiqued
Sue and I had the loveliest chat afterward, sharing our enjoyment of the show and personal backgrounds that got us to this common place.  But those of you who know me personally are wondering, Jane, you haven't bought anything yet, could this be true?  You know me too well, dear friends and readers.  I could not resist two pieces of wool, my favorite this tweed herringbone with colors that reminded me of our beautiful previous week in Cornwall...
Pure wool, 15 pounds sterling or under $20 per yard
from Fabworks Fabworks online 
I know others envy the US and its great fabric resources like Mood, Elliott Berman or Britx but for pure wool fabrics in wide array of colors and fabrications at reasonable prices, wow, this was a goldmine.  
Then Sue helped me enabled me select a remnant from the Savile Row company Holland and Sherry.  very heavy 100% wool home dec fabric...two yards a little over $25 total.  I see it as a long winter vest over a cozy turtleneck.

All of this in day one of the sewing expo.  I had to battle rush hour that evening but Mr. Lucky and I had fun sharing stories of our days on the town.  While I was in sewing heaven, he took public transportation out to a golf course near Wimbledon, rented clubs and enjoyed the glorious weather with new golf buddies on the local course.  Happy times for both of us.  
Next morning I repeated the journey for more fun and some hilarious laughs...you'll see why I say that in a moment, I promise.
First priority was to visit the exhibit of Libery garments to honor their 140th anniversary.  I have always loved their prints and the feel of those fabrics but never felt I could afford them or do them justice.  I was in my glory getting to examine the details and stitching on the garments, some home made and others sewn my a professional dressmaker and all with that Liberty look.  

About a half dozen or more were dresses and tunics from the '70s which is when I first came to London on the wave of American backpackers touring Europe on $5 a day.  When I saw these beautiful dresses I immediately thought of this picture with my two girlfriends who toured with me the summer of "72. 

I have laughed to see the maxi-dress return in its boho splendor in recent years....fashion just keeps reinventing itself, right?

Ok, that wasn't the humorous part of the day...but my class experience was.  
When I saw the weekend class list I was happy to see that the classes focused on garment sewing, fitting, draping, all thoroughly useful techniques but usually those that I could do already, albeit half-baked, or had limited use for...so I decided to take a class totally out of my box and out of my skill set....and it turned out  to be totally out of my reach.  Tambour beading.  Yes, I the American on a hiking holiday week was going to try her hand at this exquisitely delicate and refined technique for adding luxury touches to couture garments.  What could go wrong with that idea?  

Oh, wait, are you thinking any of those results are mine?  Very funny.  These are just some samples of the exquisite work done by the lovely instructor, Charlotte Appleby, The English Tailoress  She could not have been clearer, more patient or kind to this hopeless, hapless student.  It took me 1 1/2 hours of the three hour class just to learn how to set up our beading frame with its roller arrangement, woven tape and silk organza base.  Then I struggled with the tambour hook, with my new eyeglasses and trying to see the hook and finally just laughed and enjoyed watching Sue and the other women in the class learn to do this amazing craft.  To give you an idea of the delicacy and finesse in tambour beading, that beautiful seahorse is what you would make after a three day class with Charlotte.  Hmmm, much like my pottery throwing and mosaic classes, it's good to get it out of my system and move on.  Move on I did and so enjoyed a free demo given by Jamie Kemp on making hand made looking buttonholes.  he has the tutorial on his blog as well:  Male Devon Sewing 

Jamie Kemp and very good demo set up 
if you have stayed with me this far, thank you.  I will share one dramatic difference in American sewing expos and this one in London....in the US we would not see this sign...

Since Patrick Grant shared that the sale of new sewing machines has multiplied dramatically in recent years (from maybe 50,000 to 100,000 per year to 1.2 million machines sold in three or four years) I believe this might have something to do with it.  So cheers to the Great British Sewing Bee, to Sue, Audrey and all my sewing friends and to you, lovely readers.  May your sewing projects keep you challenged and bubbly.