Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three's a Charm

It is a warm, sunny last day of September and I am sitting on my deck with the laptop, a cup of coffee and so many things to say.  I had gotten out of the blogging habit this summer but thankfully not the sewing habit.  Since that's what most of you come here for, let's start with one of my new favorite patterns, New Look 6110.  Back in July I wanted to continue on my summer boho theme.  Turns out that I have two RTW blouses already in my closet with these exact same lines so perhaps this pattern would work out for me.  I am thrilled with the results and have a few more ideas to make this one well loved TNT pattern.  Here are my three recent versions and the adjustments that I made:

New Look 6110
This first version is from a silk georgette, long aging in my resource center.  I think it came from the Jomar store in Lansdale, PA.  I did make a mock up of this pattern  and discovered (to no one's surprise) that I needed a slight FBA, a center back seam and 1 inch added to the sleeve length...not the 2 inches that I anticipated and I narrowed the sleeve band by 1 inch.  I never regret making a mock up....but I have regretted not making one.  

When I cut out the georgette, I placed newspaper on my cutting table and then pinned the fabric and the pattern pieces to the newspaper before cutting out the georgette.  I just needed a little more stability to keep everything steady and on grain.  
Newspaper, then fashion fabirc, then pattern pieces
I sewed the vertical sleeve and body seams with french seams.  First pass, wrong sides together,  I used my 1/4" foot which also has just a single hole for the needle, making it precise all along those seams.  I trimmed the seam allowance with my sharp Ginger craft scissors and used the presser foot to hold the fabric taut for closing trimming:
The presser foot is just holding the fabric in place so I can trim the seam neatly with scissors.
Press and then stitch right sides together for a wonderful seam that is strong but totally finished inside.  Around the raglan armholes I did use my serger instead to finish that curved armscye seam.
Since I needed a FBA on the front, I transferred the side dart into more gathers along the top edge.  But that meant I had to be extra careful about making those gathers relatively even at the neckline.  I hand basted the neckline pieces onto the entire garment.  Yes, it's a bit tedious but it ensures that I don't sew and rip when I make mistakes at the machine.  Sewing my mockup taught me that I could easily get lumps and bumps along that area when I just used my machine:
Whoops, front neckline on the mockup would not be satisfactory in finished garment
Using silk thread means that it will be easy to remove.  I also used my stiletto when sewing in that area to keep those gathers even and spaced:
Basted gathers
Stiletto used at the machine
Finished neckline and shoulder gathers
I did not make functional buttonholes since this top nicely slips on over my head.  But I like the button closure so I used my handy spacing tool to decide how many buttons to add and where to sew them.  Do you have one of these tools?

Once I get a pattern to fit, then it's time to do some customizing.  My next version was from a Fabric Mart fabric.  I initially remembered it as a cotton voile but instead it was a very lightweight polished cotton.  Hmmmm, I knew it would not drape as nicely as that silk georgette so I made a change to the hemline by modifying it into a shirt hem, using a template from Louise Cutting's Perfect Shirt pattern (which I have never sewn but of course I own!)  It's a little deeper than I would have liked but still wearable.  I looked too much "mutton dressed as lamb" in this version so I needed to give it a glam it up to take it to a more designer version.  I had just merged my two bead collections from our Baltimore and former Florida home so I pulled out a variety of beads with colors from the fabric and hand beaded it like crazy.  Just random all over the neckline edge to give it a subtle but heavy bling factor.  I am thrilled with the result.  I'll be able to wash it on delicate and any beads that don't make it over time can easily be replaced since there's no special design to it.  
Beading in process....plain neckline on the left, beads started on the right.
Full beading front to back 
New look 6110, version #2
So one of these in July, one in August and I decided to do one more for the slightly cooler but still warm late summer/early fall days.  This version is from a fabulous silk cotton blend from Fabric Mart.  When I felt it, I just had to buy it.  I avoid grey but I loved the gold tone in this fabric which I think means I get to enjoy it with my blonde hair.  The drape on this one is right between the two.  Thin enough to be lightweight and yet with some body so that it doesn't cling to my no longer 1970's body.  
New Look 6110 with gold in the fabric and goldfinch feeder in the background
Auditioning the buttons for version #3
Last picture for this long overdue post will show you version #2 in action....and give you a clue as to what else I have been doing this summer.  Lucky the rescue dog and I are now certified as Pets on Wheels visitors.  We've started making visits to a nearby assisted facility and a local library branch where young readers can sign up to "read to a dog" for practice.  He's a friendly, frisky guy and puts a smile on every one's face.  Next post, some more new garments and more late (not late-breaking) news about summer at our place.  
We both passed!  Lucky and I are Pets on Wheels visitors.
Waiting for someone to read this book to me.
Here to bring some cheer....

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vogue 8953 Surprise

There are simply some patterns that I skip right over in the pattern books.  Most of the time it's because the style is too bare/youthful for me Vogue 1342 too kitschy/vintage Vogue 8789 or too what the heck why would I want to wear that in public Vogue 1372
Vogue 8953 fell into that last category.  I actually like some of the new boho looks with the more current skinny jeans and pants in my wardrobe but this tunic looked like the old shapeless sack with a belt when I saw the line drawing.  I zoomed right past that page when it came out in the catalog. Vogue 8953  But surprise.....not really a sack after all.
Vogue 8953, version #1

Vogue 8953 with flared bottom peplum, not the sack like drawing

This is where sewing friends are the bestest!!  I was at the June meeting of my "neighborhood" ASG sewing group (my "neighborhood group is about 50+ miles away in Northern VA but what's distance between friends) and one of the group had sewn this pattern for her daughter.  She didn't love the directions but I loved the look of it for one significant reason.  Turns out that the bottom section is actually two separate pattern pieces in a lovely flattering circle skirt design so it drapes nicely as a peplum rather than merely being bunched up fabric below the belt.  She let me try on her daughter's top and it fit almost perfectly....or at least enough for me to know that it was worth pursuing on my own.  I bought it at the next Vogue sale and worked on my mock up by the end of June.  The mock up showed me that I still needed a few adjustments. I was hoping against hope but no, I still needed a FBA even in this full a top because the front was pulling forward to I added a 3/4 inch FBA and moved it to the top pleats.  
FBA moved to the top gathers
I also had to do my usual swayback and added a center back seam so I could take out 1" in length in the back above the waist.  I lengthened the sleeves 1 1/2 inches.  I made some small changes to the front and back neckline.  I lowered the front neckline by 1" and raised the back neckline by 1" tapering to nothing by the shoulder seams.  That meant that I had to make three separate facing patterns to create the interior band.  
Three facing top band pattern pieces

I also liked the neckline ruffle to be a little wider since I frames the face nicely.  I stitched the top seam at 3/8" not 5/8 and also moved the gathering stitching lines right down to the edge so my ruffle is about 1/2 " wider" than the pattern calls for. 
Finished ruffle width is wider than Vogue designed it.
My friend had a valid complaint that the Vogue patterns presume you don't have a serger so there's a lot of fussing with turning 1/4" and stitching in order to finish raw edges.  Grrrrr, I wish they would make the opposite assumption....."serge those edges or you don't have a serger, finish them like this...."
Serged on the inside ...and a view of my zig zag understitching
The boho look is not my most flattering look and I have to be careful of treading too close to the "mutton dressed as lamb" ledge.  But I have been wanting some very lightweight woven tops for our humid summer days and this is one of the patterns that fits the bill.  I have a medium blue denim pencil skirt that I think will be cool and comfortable with this first version sewn up in Fabric Mart voile that has been aging for a few years. 

Another instruction change is that I used the famous Steam a Seam to "seal" the seam allowances inside the seams where the drawstrings are attached.  That way no matter what tool you use (I use a safety pin) the drawstring won't get caught as you try to ease it through the casing.
1/4 " Steam a Seam applied to edge of seam allowance for the width of the casing seam
Ironed and sealed in place so that it will let the safety pin glide over it inside the casing.
Next time I used the Steam a Seam 2 Lite version....just as strong but less stiff
I liked that gathered neckline of this Vogue pattern so much that I went right ahead and tried out a straight tunic for version #2, merely lengthening the top pattern pieces from the bust area for about 14 more inches.  Here it is in a very wrinkly cotton cheap voile.  Very wearable for this summer but I think I'll add an inch or so of side seam ease before I make it up in a lightweight silk or rayon.  
Vogue 8953 Version #2 straight tunic
A little longer with more ease back there next time...Lucky agrees.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tabula Rasa Jacket into Bathrobe

I am not really a fashion follower but sometimes fashion trends creep into my consciousness and I find myself up to date without even realizing it. (This happens about as often as a full moon total eclipse.)  So I noticed that one of my June sewing projects is actually very au courant per this New York Times article on the kimono resurgence this summer Kimonos Shift from Runways to Music Festivals
Tabula Rasa Jacket from Fit for Art Patterns....as a bathrobe
Yes, I'm fashionable just because I re-visited the Tabula Rasa jacket pattern from Fit for Art Patterns recently. Fit for Art Patterns I am fortunate enough to be friends and neighbors with Rae Cumbie and she had asked several sewing friends, amateur and professionals to help test the pattern and directions for her newest version, a tunic, t-shirt and blouse based on the same design lines. The new pattern and a terrific trunk show will be debuting in a few weeks at the national American Sewing Guild meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.  I won't be there this year but I encourage anyone who is attending to check out the latest version.  Rae is an artist with fabric and also understands how we want casual, comfortable designs with a flair.  
So after the test sewing day I was inspired to head home and work on another version of the Tabula Rasa jacket, this time lengthened so that I can wear it as a summer lightweight bathrobe.  I have had yards and yards of this Asian inspired design fabric which I think is a mid-weight rayon.  My camp shirt days are gone with the '90s but I love the feel of this fabric and the designs.  I lengthened the jacket pattern 15 inches, used the flared side panel and the original sleeve shortened to 3/4 length.  With some fitting advice from Rae I raised the back neckline and added shoulder darts so I could keep the fabric on the fold for center back.  I sewed a size S with the C/D front which has two small side darts in the woven version. 
The square armhole with almost invisible small side seam darts in the jacket body
I added flat piping from some denim tencel in my resource center and a belt trim with the same tencel.  I love it.  It is heavy enough that I can sit outside on our deck early on summer mornings without feeling overly exposed to the elements.  And gosh, if I attend on of those trendy summer music festivals in the Hamptons or Berkshires I guess I could also wear it as a kimono jacket.  And Mr. Lucky likes the print tremendously so won't he be surprised to see a Kwik Sew shirt for him in the future.  
Watch this space for some more woven and then knit versions coming this summer.  That test sewing day really helped restart some of my sewing mojo.
On a more personal note, I've been putting off writing this blog post for sad (not tragic, just sad) reasons of my own.  My blog is an informal way to communicate with my family members around the country and one my most loyal readers was my dear aunt and godmother who died just a month ago at age 84.  Mags lead a wonderful life and her death was not painful nor sudden, just sad for those of us mourning.  My aunt was an inspiration to me from an early age and I have so many wonderful memories.  She was truly a feminist who had it all....just didn't have it all at the same time.  She attended college and graduate school and taught abroad before marrying and starting a family.  She and my uncle had five children and they put together the most wonderful tributes to her at the funeral service. My two remaining uncles, aunts and cousins from all the families flew in for a joyous celebration. She was a woman of faith, humility and humor.  She was an avid reader and we often compared books over the phone or on my visits.  She had an amazing memory for all the people she had ever met and was always making connections and linkages.  On a cruise about twelve years ago she met Judy Barlup and was so pleased to tell her that she had a niece who loved to sew and wanted to know if perhaps we had ever met.  Sewing, however, was a foreign language to her and my cousins recall great family get togethers which always included outsiders that she would invite so they wouldn't be alone....but didn't include homemade cookies because she was just too busy.  She had an intellectual curiosity and open mind all her life.  When I left the church that I had been raised in, she wasn't critical, just wanted to know more about the quirky new to her religion that I had chosen....and wanted to make sure that my selected religion and I were involved in charitable activities and causes.  She wasn't afraid of the computer and kept up with grandchildren that way as well as read my blog and Facebook postings.  I miss her terribly already but am happy to have had so many great times with her.  Just wanted to share some fun pictures from the past:
My aunt's eigth grade graduation along with my mother looking snazzy...in the Bronx, NY
My aunt and godmother.  I don't seem to be enjoying the moment as much as she is.
With her first car.  Mags was definitely a modern woman.
Here's hoping you have happy memories of an important person in your life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not Sew Genius

Aphorisms certainly have some truth behind them.  "If you knew better, you would do better."  That
sounds hopeful and positive doesn't it?  Well, sometimes I know better and I still proceed ahead full speed to my next wadder....or ex-boyfriend....or bad meal....the list goes on.  This time it was my jeans project from last month and the Craftsy jeans class.  In early May I earnestly followed Kenneth King's very explicit directions to copy a pair of jeans that fit well. Then I even stitched two sample pairs, just for fitting purposes and I was pretty darn pleased happy thrilled.  Wow, this system works!!!  I deliberately made one in the non-stretch recommended fabric and the other in a stretch woven, but with very little cross grain stretch.  There seemed to be only a little difference in the fit of either.  My pictures aren't terrific but here they are:
Mock up jeans in woven with very little stretch

Mock up in non-stretch denim
I wore them both around my sewing room and made the smallest adjustment to my pattern.  Maybe my first mistake was that I put aside this project for a few weeks and was: busy in the garden....we were on our little neighborhood garden tour in early June and I was also co-chair of the project....reading up a storm....books to follow further down....or on some lovely trips....the Winterthur Downton Abbey Costume exhibit, Longwood Gardens visit with concert and nighttime fountain display and A Prairie Home Companion broadcast at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts.  Maybe all those things distracted me so much that when I returned to the jeans project I forgot all that I know about sewing the right fabric for the project.  I did exactly what Kenneth King said not to do and I pulled out a verrrrry stretchy but gorgeous deep chocolate brown micro cord that was almost like stretch velvet.  I ignored the early warning bells and then the later ones that told me to interface the zipper in such a stretchy fabric.  Ugh, they were awful.  They didn't fit like my favorite jeans or my mock up because the fabric was so very different.  Ripples and baggy, yuck.  By then I was so annoyed that I tossed them into the trash and took a break from my sewing room.  I'll return to the jeans project after getting my hands on some non stretch denim.  I'll return to that beautiful chocolate brown micro cord fabric and make myself a pair of Elle Style Arc pants later in the fall and they will be a much better pairing of fabric and pattern.  So, no successful sewing project to see here (Judy, your jeans are inspiring and are keeping me moving forward.)  I'll close with some pics from those trips and the books that kept me distracted late into several warm spring nights.  Here's hoping that your projects are working out better for you.....and that I listen better to experience and advice.
Rustic gardens at Winterthur Museum
Pictures to follow in the future
Pulled out several beds for replanting and reconfiguring
Not the new flower beds at our place.....but the old ones at Longwood Gardens
Our third visit to hear Garrison Keillor's radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion
We sat and picnicked on the lawn at Wolf Trap in Virginia
Four out of five stars from me
Three out of five
Five out of five and especially relevant to the sewists amongst us.
Two painful book group selections....this one and...

Three and a stars
Four out of five stars
Five out of five
Four out of five