Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ramblings and Road Trips

Wow, 6 weeks has flown by with very little sewing. People are asking what I am doing.  Here is an update. But I'll warn you, though it has sewing related info, it is a bit rambling.

The annual beach vacation has come and gone – As in years past, the girls planned a group sewing project.  But we never seemed to get around to it. Good thing patterns and fabrics age well.

Project for Beach Week 2015
My sons are back at their respective universities. One had to be moved into an apartment. Of course it poured rain that day. Horrible weather for moving boxes and furniture like couches and mattresses, especially when parking was not adjacent to the building. I wore a large green garbage bag over my t-shirt and shorts to keep dry  With my hair soaking wet and plastered to my head, it was not a good look. I found these pictures on the Internet.  Looks like I missed an opportunity to rock the look. All I need was a   kickin' pair of booties and rain scarf. Next time!

garbage bag chic _ Jeremy Scott

Jeremy Scott
DH has been on a weekend road trip kick.  The man love to drive. We pick a destination, a variety  of things to do and see, and go for it. The first one was to Pennsylvania. A 7 hour trip that I insisted be broken up by a visit to    the source of a huge amount of my fabric stash.  The selection is much smaller now than it was back in the 80’s, when I worked as an engineer at a glass fabrication factory (car windows) just down the road, and spent many a lunch hour digging through piles of fabric for treasures.  I purchased a couple of bottom weight wool blends. The trip included a visit to the University where DH and I met, many years ago, at a dormitory party. We walked around campus and had dinner at a favorite restaurant. A couple more hours of driving to visit DH parents’ graves and then on to his 40th high school reunion. The reunion was a very small casual affair held  around a classmate's backyard pool, in rural Pennsylvania where he grew up. How rural? There were cows in the adjacent field. It was fun for me to listen to the stories that were told as sun went down and the stars came up.  Three of the attendees, including my husband, were teachers’ kids. Imagine having your father as a teacher in High School. Mortifying!  But now that I think of it, my grandfather was a high school teacher too. So my father had the same situation. Below is my grandfather when he was coach of the championship woman's basketball team at Kingsville High School, Ashtabula County (Ohio). This photo fascinates me. They all seem to have the same  hair style, which is not flattering to any of them, and I'll bet those uniform were made of wool.

Kingsville High School, Ashtabula County, Ohio

Another weekend we visited the Fredericksburg, VA civil war battlefield where DH’s great grandfather fought for the union side. DH  descended from the offspring of the man and his 30 year younger, 2nd wife in case you did the math and were a bit puzzled.  There is a great Austrian restaurant,   Bavarian Chef in the Fredericksburg train station where we had lunch.

And we spent one weekend in the Shenandoah Valley, delivering left behind items to DS #1, who lives in a town that has a delightful independent fabric store   Ragtime Fabrics   They have a cute store tour video. If you ever traveling in I81, Harrisonburg, VA  is the exit to take to visit this store.  We also stopped at  the local farmers' market and  one of the big caverns in the area.

I made a quick top from Kwik Sew 3032 pattern.

Kwik Sew 3032
View A has a fold over hem around the neckline edge. I decided to make the back neckline a V shape like the front, rather than deal with alterations to the upper back seam for my back curves.  I cut before thinking. This meant I did not have the seam shaping for mitering the "V" in the back neck edge, like I did in the front.

center front seam

Front neckline hem

 I was browsing my Japanese pattern books and found a technique for dealing with the situation.  It is from  a book called Simple and Cute, which has a lot of tops with various forms of ruffles.

Simple and Cute

I like the instruction pictures in  Japanese sewing  books. They are easy to understand without reading any text. They remind me of the Wordless Workbench feature in the Popular Science magazines that were bathroom reading material ( along with Readers' Digest) in my childhood home. Isn’t it funny what you remember sometimes?

Wordless Workbench - Roy Doty

Here are the instructions for finishing a V neckline with a  fold over hem, when you don't have center seams with built in miters.

V neck with fold over hem

A small piece of interfaced fabric, essentially a mini facing just for the V area, is sewn along the neckline seam at the V.

Clip just to the stitching  in the center of the V. Turn mini facing  and the hem allowance on the rest of the neckline to the  inside, and topstitched in place. The technique worked very well.



What else am I doing? I am currently thinking about copying this Dior dress. The Burda pattern is traced and the material pulled from the stash. But I am afraid if I start it the momentum will die, because  I have absolutely nowhere to wear it.
Dior inspiration dress

I am weaving bands on an inkle loom, inspired by the  Oct/Nov 2014 Threads Magazine article "How to Weave Custom Trims" by blogger and weaver Daryl Lancaster. The woven bands may be used to trim a vest I am making for a local ASG group vest challenge.

And I read this book while riding in the car on the weekend trips. I am testing some of the patterns in the book.

This weekend's plans include the NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia Beach. Nothing like sitting on the sand, the sight and sound of the  Blue Angels flying in formation overhead, and the lingering scent of jet fuel.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tucked Away

I had a business trip to Chicago  a couple weeks ago,  while the polar vortex was influencing the  weather in that area.  I thought the breezy cool weather with no humidity  was wonderful. The locals were complaining about wearing sweaters in July.  The  weather  cooled my stalled, overheated sewing engine, and I was able to restart it and finish one of the jackets in sewing limbo.

I had  approximately  1  1/3 yard of  60" wide piece of an off white woven with slubbed  navy stripes.  The fabric actually had a bit of stretch to it.  I am not sure where I got it.   It insisted on being a jacket. The pattern is Simplicity 2728, a jacket with many variations.  Though it came out in 2009, there are still reviews popping up on the PR site.

Simplicity 2728

 I made the collarless view with elbow length sleeves.  There was no extra fabric to spare. The back, front and shortened sleeve patterns barely fit on the fabric. The neckline and hem facings are in a contrasting navy fabric.

Barely enough fabric
The jacket is lined in navy Bemberg rayon.  No surprises on this jacket except that I should have checked ease over body measurement before cutting. It is a bit looser in the bust  than I like. Because there are no side seams; the front extends into the side back, it is a bit hard to tweak the fit. 

Close up of jacket fabric

Simplicity 2728 Jacket front

Simplicity 2728 Jacket Back

Simplicity 2728

 I also sewed the blouse worn with the jacket. The fabric is a pink cotton chambray.  I searched my pattern stash for a  blouse pattern with  a collar that could be worn with a V neck jacket.   The pattern I chose was an older Vogue Anne Klein blouse pattern, 2789 - view A with pin tucks in the waist area for shaping and sleeves with tie bands

Vogue 2789
  I love the look of tucks,  but  I had forgotten how much time and effort they require until I had completed about 5 and realized I had 35 more to sew. A pin tuck is basically just topstitching near the fold of a garment. They can be done with a special pin tuck foot and double needles or a regular pressure foot  and single needle. I use a edge stitch foot with a single needle positioned 2.5 to the left of center.

Stitching Tuck with Edge Stitching Foot

Finished Sample Tucks

Vogue 2789 

Tucks take up fabric in the area where they are sewn. Very few patterns with pin tucks tell you how wide they should be. The patterns typically have the marking for the tuck fold line and that is it.    My waist is a bit thicker than the typical pattern waist measurement,  so I was very careful to make small, even tucks.  While I was sewing them, I thought about other garments that I have made with tucks.  I have been sewing since before internet info sources, sew-alongs,  blogs, and even local sewing organizations.  I would tackle project that tested my sewing skills. Some of them were successful and some were learning experiences.  Back in 2002, Vogue 2621 was a learning experience where tucks and lack of fitting expertise (checking my measurements against the pattern) resulted in a UFO (UnFinished Object). 
Vogue 2621
The jacket has tucks along the hem and the sleeves. The skirt has them in the yoke.    I cut the two garments out of treasured eggplant wool crepe, sewed the tucks using a randomly chosen width, and constructed the garment.  I tried them on and they were both too small. I  wondered what became of those garments. On a whim I checked in my UFO closet.   Cue hysterical laughing. OMG! Look what I found.  With two sets of possible buttons pinned to the front shoulder. It is definitely time for a clean out. What is in your closet?

12 year old UFO

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Did someone say “Contest”?

If you have read my blog for any length of time you know that I participate in sewing contests.  Sewing with a Plan (SWAP) contests, internet fabric vendor sponsored contests, and the wide variety (Pantone color, accessory, vintage garment, etc.)  of contests found on  Pattern Review.   I participate more for the challenge than the prizes, which are usually minimal.  

 The American Sewing Guild  (ASG) announced an Anyone Can Win Contest in early June.

 Every ASG member who entered a garment had a chance to win, regardless of their sewing expertise or experience, because the winners were chosen at random.  The only requirement was that the entries had to be made with one of ASG's Simplicity patterns.  I had Simplicity 1621 in my stash, purchased for the jacket which has a interesting collar that can be adjusted by pulling a drawstring.

This contest was all the incentive I needed to sew the jacket.  In addition to the jacket, the pattern includes a sleeveless tunic/dress with a fitted top, with  flaring below the bust on  all seams; side, center front and back.  It also has a Hi (in front)  Lo ( in back) hem. I decided to sew the dress too, so I would have two garments to submit to the contest and have a complete outfit to wear.
The jacket is made out of very lightweight open weave linen with a dégradé from rusty orange to dusty purple.

 I should call this my” rusty, dusty” outfit.  The fabric was horribly ravely and shifty. I  used French seams, but instead of sewing the first 1/4 inch seam using a straight stitch, I used a 1/4 " wide serger stitch to stop the fraying and sew the seam in one operations .  While I wouldn’t use this technique on finer fabric, because of the weight the serger threads adds in the seam, it did not adversely  impact the side and sleeve seams of this jacket. I added 2 inches to the length of the jacket, because I thought it looked a bit too short on the real women in the review pictures on PR, and  I needed the extra length in the jacket to get the full range of colors in the fabric.

Simplicity 1621 Jacket
 The dress shown on the front of the envelope, which I think is made of a woven fabric, has a unattractive bell like silhouette. I decided to make it out of a knit, hoping the weight and drape of the knit would improve the appearance.  My dress is made out of an inexpensive  T-shirt type knit. The cut edge of this knit curled like a spring. It was sooo annoying to work with.  Rather than finish the neck and armhole edges with bias trim as the pattern instructs,  I cut  facing pieces using the dress pattern.  I cut the facings off at the under bust  elastic casing line (for the view B top).  I added elastic, cut to my under bust measurement, to the bottom of the facing piece which added a shelf bra to the dress. The finished dress was sort of boring. While I was trying it on DS2 passed through the room, en route to forage food in the kitchen, and he asked me "Are you going to bed?" I was really puzzled about his question until I realized I don't usually make or wear this style of dress, but I do wear straight hanging garments in T shirt knits as nightwear.   To liven up the dress,   I hand overcast the seams on the outside  in contrasting rust colored  embroidery floss.    I knew the overcasting  would  create a raised ridge, taking up about 1/8" of the fabric on each side of the seam.  So I sewed the seam allowance corresponding smaller,  at 1/2" so as not affect the fit. I also cover stitched the hem and around the neck and armholes in the same color thread.

Simplicity 1621 dress
overcast seams and cover stitch hem

Simplicity 1621 dress and jacket

 The contest entries were due on July 1st. No announcement of winners or pictures of the garments submitted are on the ASG website at the time of this post. I do like the jacket and was actually surprised to find I like the look of the jacket worn with the dress. I am not so sure I would wear the dress by itself. It echo's my body shape a little to closely, small on top, lots of volume below the waist. Maybe with a killer statement necklace to draw attention up.   I am also not sure this is a work outfit. The jacket with a coordinating tank top ( where did I toss those scraps?) and slacks would be great though.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pretty in Pink - Burda Style 5 2015 130

I love stripes and I was attracted to the casual look of this striped top.

Burda 5 2014 top 130

 I wasn't sure the style would be good for me though.  There is a lot of fabric in the waist area.   I felt the strip was critical to the top not looking like a baggy mess at the waist, confirmed with the only other version I could find on the internet, at site, which was  made in a solid color knit.  I decided to sew this top if I could find a semi sheer, drapey, woven fabric in a wide black and white stripe, preferably silk. I'll bet some of you are probably chuckling and thinking "Good luck with that"  Yes, the only black and white fabric I could find  was poly. Buy right next to it was a pink and white strip. Looking at the two choices, the black and white said "same old, same old", the pink and white  said "pretty!, pretty!". The pink came home with me.

The most time consuming part of making this top is the cutting out. Making sure the  front edge of the garment and all the yoke edges fall on the bottom of a dark stripe, and careful matching of stripes for the bias cut back. The sleeves are very slim fitting all the way to the wrist. I checked the sleeve width before cutting to make sure they would fit my arms.  The sleeve length is below the wrist as shown on the model. And because they are so fitted, the sleeves cannot be pushed up the arm for a 3/4 length casual look, which I  had considered doing. Before sewing the button/buttonhole bands of the ends of the draped pieces, I tried on the top and played with the draping to make sure the length was enough to lay nicely on my hips and maintain the low "V" in front.  I cut off about an inch on each tie to achieve this. If the ties are too long the draping at the hips drops below the bottom of the top and looks weird. A comment to this effect,  made by the sewer, alerted me to check this.

Front before draping

Back before draping

Front draping step 1


requisite back view 

with white jeans
I am very pleased with this top.  I can wear it with blue and white jeans and grey slacks.

  What I have not shared with you yet is that the dress code in my work place changed about a month ago.   Jeans are now permitted, with a lot of conditional criteria for client facing personnel (like me).   In a nut shell, you can dress at the level of your client or above, but not below. Since most of my clients are in a manufacturing facility, it can be jeans 90 % of the time.  I am completely perplexed with what to wear to work these days. For comfort and professionalism, I prefer slacks.  Still I don’t want to be overdressed. The males in my department embraced this change with enthusiasm. My boss, a male in his  mid 40’s promptly started wearing, baggy blue jeans. It startles me every time I look at him.  His superior is a woman about the same age as I am.  We have always dressed very similar and often in the same colors on the same day, which we joke about.  She has continued to wear professional looking clothes.  Complicating matters  further is my new office, which has all glass on an east facing wall.  Even with sun shades drawn against the morning sun, it is quite warm until about 3:00 PM every day, when for some inexplicable reason, a blower starts up and icy cold air pours out of the ceiling vent. I can‘t wear the beloved jackets I like to sew, but for 2 hours per day.  I have three partially completed jackets in sewing limbo  until I can get my wardrobe compass steady.  In the meantime I will continue to sew tops.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wearing Literature

For some reason I only want to sew tops.   A recent one is Vogue 8906, a very easy pattern for a loose fitting top with neck line variations and front and back pleats.   I  made view C with the front opening, but used the slightly shorter sleeve length of view B. I shopped my stash and used a teal colored linen/cotton blend, printed with  Italian phrases in different fonts. 

Vogue 8906 pattern
I have no recollection of when I purchased this fabric, and  I was curious what the Italian phrases said. Typing one of phrases in a translator wasn’t very enlightening. References to Peter and the Nazarenes made me think they were related to the bible, but the mention of the Pope ruled that out.  A Google search on one of the phrases turned up as an exact match to lines in Dante’s Divine Comedy, an epic poem describing his travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Interesting, well at least I know, if someone should ask what is written on my blouse.

Vogue  8906

Vogue 8906

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Vogue 9004 - Armani tops

I decided to make the Vogue top 9004, view C. Described as a fitted top with front seam detail and back zipper.

Vogue 9004
I shopped my stash and used navy and pale lilac silk georgette ( from,  8 yard remnants purchase many years ago).  Cutting silk fabrics is a stressful  for me. When I finished, I took a break and sat down to sort through a pile of inspiration pictures I had torn from magazines.  Lo and behold, buried in the stack, was a picture of the sleeveless version of this top on a young actress with a designer name mentioned.

inspiration photo
 Doing a little Internet research, I found that the  tops in this pattern look to be very similar to two featured in Giorgio Armani’s spring 2013 line.  Here are the runway pictures ( courtesy

The pattern is rated “easy”.  View C  top is not easy.  The inset corner on the front,  the offset neckline, and the mitering needed to get the angular hem line are all intermediate level or higher sewing tasks.  I made my normal shoulder /back alterations to the pattern.   I did not use a zipper in the back. I am not terrifically busty/wide shouldered and the wearing ease in the garment plus the open neckline made it easy to pull over my head.

I liked the way view C fit so much that I decided to make view A as well. View A top is easy and goes together much faster than view C.  My version is made with more of navy silk georgette and a remnant of bright blue silk from another project.  This top finishes out at a length that I call "cover my hips” (widest part of hip) .  A popular length with women who think they can hide wider hips and bottom under fabric, when in actuality the length makes legs look munchkin short.  The vertical lines of the color blocking detract the eye from this, but if I were drafting the pattern from scratch for me, it would be shorter. These two tops use the same back pattern piece. You can see how the asymmetrical front makes the legs look longer compared to the horizontal front. Again no zipper needed and this time I did do the bias trim finish on the armhole.

I liked the way the actress Emma Robert wore the asymmetrical top. So I am on the lookout for slacks or a pattern similar to the ones she wore.  In the mean time you get to see the tops worn with jeans. The styling of these tops in the Armani fashion show was not inspiring.  But I did notice the view  A top can be worn under a jacket and only the inset shows, looking like a shell. Making it  a versatile, multi look, top for travel.  And I have more business travel coming up. A trip to Franklin Park, IL (anyone know of any good fabric stores in this area) and another trip to Nashville.  It is project Go Live time (one company, two different locations).  In reality I will probably have no time to shop, but one can dream.

On the family front, the sons are home from college for the summer. One has a job; the other does not, but is actively looking.   While I enjoy having them home,  I do not enjoy the mess that comes with them.  The mini microwaves, refrigerators and TV's from their dorm rooms are cluttering up my house.  DS1 has a new found enthusiasm. Brewing his own beer.  He takes over my kitchen and makes the house smell like hops, a very unique smell that I don’t care for.  Carboys of amber liquids, topped with bubbling scum, line the cool dark stairway to the lower level of house.  He asks me to taste test the final brews. Not being a beer enthusiast, I find it hard to find “nice” descriptive words for what I taste.  His last batch is pumpkin oatmeal stout. Pumpkin pie in a beer.  I can’t wait to taste that.

 This young lady is my niece in her prom dress. 

During the family Easter holiday get together, Auntie Audrey was enlisted to alter the bust area of the dress, reducing it by 2”. My suggestion to do it by removing the clear insert in the front was ignored. See all those had pretty crystals and sequins in a  mirror image pattern on the bodice.   Yes, I had to remove a significant amount of them around the seams where I took in the excess fabric.  Boned seams plus underlining and lining.  The final step was to sew crystals back on to cover the seams.  Fortunately there were faint white dotted lines printed on the fabric, showing the size, shape and orientation of the crystal to be sewn in that spot.  My sister had an equally fun job of shortening the length of the dress and hemming  both the voluminous chiffon over skirt and the under skirt.  But it was all worth it to see how beautiful my niece looked in her dress.

 A long holiday weekend stretches before me with no specific plans. Heaven.