Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Finite Number

Only a small amount of sewing occurred here last week when I closed up the loops on these 18 infinity scarves.  
infinity scarves for sale at the community yard sale

Back in February I did a big fabric cleaning out and sold more than 100 yards of my beautiful knits, silks, woolens and linens to a young woman who saw them on craigslist for $50.  She's a social worker in Baltimore (which automatically means hard work for little pay) and part time yoga instructor.  I think she was happy with the variety and quality and I was happy to make a dent in my two home merged conglomeration.  But as part of that fabric cleansing I found several of these silk or poly fabrics that I had planned for infinity scarves.  I quickly stitched up three for myself and then was on a roll and kept sewing for a day.  Last week I had only enough sewing time to stitch together the 2 inch turning seam. I'll see if I can sell these at our upcoming neighborhood yard sale in early May.  
My flower embellished sweater and Mr. Lucky chose to wear one of his Kwik Sew shirts
I did want to share how my flower embellished sweater turned out.  The Sunday before Easter Mr. Lucky and I braved the record crowds and visited the cherry blossoms in Washington DC's Tidal basin area by the Thomas Jefferson memorial.  
Since I had been obsessing about making these flowers all week, we couldn't resist this shot.

Then in mid-week I headed up to Pennsylvania for a book group discussion on one of my top 10 books of all time, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.  Since my girlfriend lives only moments from Fabric Mart I did stop by and indulge myself.  I have a major project in mind for the next few weeks involving one of my Craftsy classes and I'll show you more soon.  But geez, remind me that I do not need more fabric....just more sewing time.
Back from that trip and it was a hectic few days getting ready for my Downton Abbey tea for 10 ladies from my church on Saturday.  I had so much fun at the tea that I don't have any people pictures but here are the two tables and the food display.  
Pistachio shortbread, raspberry bars, lemon bars, wedding cookies, chocolate cake, cucumber dill, ham and tomato ginger jam and crab avocado sandwiches, asparagus quiche, scones
We had to sit at two different tables so I had them choose a number and then assigned each person a Downton Abbey identity.  When it came time to sit and eat, some people ate "upstairs" in our dining room with my Royal Worcester china and grandmother's silver service and some people ate in our family room, downstairs.  
I handed out a quiz, had Dowager Countess quotes to share and also a clever person's Downton Abbey bingo card.  (I love the bingo card so much that I will edit it and have a premiere party for the next season and use it.)

It certainly was not as elaborate as some of the parties I saw when I checked out Pinterest last week but the food was good and plentiful and so were the smiles and laughs. I will definitely offer it next year for our church auction and relax a little with some experience under my belt.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Blossoms and Books

Spring is here in Baltimore and my newly embellished sweater is in bloom....and a few of the flowers are blooming in my yard and neighborhood as well.  Yes, thanks to keeping my efforts focused this week I was able to complete this project and will be wearing it tomorrow to visit the Washington DC cherry blossoms themselves.  

Spring in bloom
Flowers were stitched to knit base then basted to the sweater neckline....looks like I won the Kentucky Derby, doesn't it?
Flower laden piece pinned to sweater before trimming and basting
Back is just as embellished as the front.
This project took longer than I anticipated.  I wanted this full, over-the-top look and that required a lot of flowers.  One of the lessons for me is to probably double how long I think any particular project will take.  I gave myself the week to work on this one but it took probably 18 hours of work to create all of these flowers, stitch them in place and baste the neckline.... and that was definitely more time than I had anticipated on Monday.  
Here are the flowers I made on the third and fourth days:
....and I still needed to make half a dozen more to fill in some gaps during assembly.

For this batch I used some wool roving that I needle felted onto a fabric base.  I used a hand needle felting tool from Clover and then my Viking needle felting machine.  Not much of a difference in the results for this project.  I love the texture and subtle color shifts from the needle felted roving, something that may not show up too well in my photographs.  
Wool roving placed on top of silk chiffon
Hand needle felting the wool roving
A new "fabric" to cut into a flower shape
Needle felting by machine onto a polyester base
Wool roving needle felted onto the pale pink polyester base fabric
After creating several needle felted bases I cut out flowers freehand and also with two of my Sizzix dies then added beads for some sparkle and contrast again.

I am happy to have this project work out as I had imagined it...and to have it out of my head and into my wardrobe.  I think it will be wonderfully festive for the start of spring.

Since I am catching up with projects that have been in my head for a while, I'd also like to catch up with my reading for the last month or so.  Our March vacation meant I had lots of time to just enjoy warm weather and great books.  In order of preference, here are the books that caught my attention:

Every bit as good as the reviews and word of mouth have said.  Can hardly wait for the book group discussion on this one in a few months.
I enjoyed this one tremendously and even did a phone in call to my March book group while I was out of town to hear what others thought.  Very touching story and quite interesting that he writes exclusively for young adults.  
So short but so enjoyable.  I have Anna Quindlen's latest book on reserve at the library but came across this little gem.  If you a reader you will probably just enjoy hearing another kindred spirit share the love of getting lost in good books.

Yes, yes, highly readable and I can understand all the hype.  Perfect vacation book.

I just love Bill Bryson's books and this was no exception.  Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, the Mississippi flood....how could he make me care about all of these topics and more?  Another winner from a wonderful non-fiction author.

Another light vacation diversion.  I read it when I was laid up for the last few days of our Florida trip with a terrible cold.  Thank you, Amy, for an entertaining read.
Oh, I so wanted to love this book.  After all, I love Jane Austen, I love Joanna Trollope....but I just have never loved the original Sense and Sensibility and a modern re-telling was even more annoying.  I may not go as far as one Amazon reviewer... I'm delighted to say I got this book free - and even then it was too expensive...but I did wonder why she wanted to update this particular novel.  I'm just annoyed that I will have to wait a while longer for her next "regular" novel.
Right now I am in the midst of Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone.  I somehow missed the news that this summer will be the start of the Outlander television series but a friend filled me in last night.  Oh, might have to re-read that one just to enjoy the whole experience again.
Speaking of television, thank you Nancy and Alison, for your suggestions about Firefox and the Acorn TV subscription idea.  I might just stop my Netflix account and change to Acorn.  We had to take one of our Apple laptops in to the Apple store yesterday.  Turns out that I put a CD into the drive and it is stuck there.  Nothing worked on our end nor could Apple people remove it....from our "vintage machine."  So we can't even download Firefox unless we buy a new computer.  But to get Hola I'm thinking that might be a good purchase this year.  As for British television, one of the terrific benefits of being back in Baltimore is access to the 24hour a day WETA UK channel which is broadcasting so many wonderful shows all the time.  Two of my very favorites are New Tricks and Hustle.  But now to get busy with an entirely different project for next week.  Mr. Lucky and I are hosting a Downton Abbey tea at our home next Saturday.  It was our church auction offering and we have a dozen guests coming that afternoon.  I am not sewing any costumes but I will be baking up many treats and will share pictures after the event....as well as some surprises along the way.  
Here's hoping you have something fun up your sleeve in or out of your sewing room.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Still More Flowers....

Yesterday's crop of flowers took me a long time for a smaller result than day one's curled edge poppies.  I did new three varieties but after pinning them in place on my sweater, I still need some more varieties to make it as full and extravagant as I want.  I have an idea but it will mean a trip to Joann's this evening.  Stay tuned to see the next pink flower variation.  In the meantime, here's where the sweater stands so far and some details about the flowers.
Flower extravaganza in progress but plenty of gaps to fill
These wrapped flowers looked so easy and they probably are when made with a strip of quilting cotton.  But this rayon crepe was so slippery to handle that each one took me fifteen minutes.
Make a knot, then twist, pin, wrap and repeat....and keep re-wrapping the slippery fabric......then sew in place from the back
Silk organza from this month's Vogue pattern magazine instructions
My silk organza flowers don't resemble the picture because I used three layers and didn't paint mine....but I did use the cutting instructions:
The unpictured silk chiffon flowers were the easiest but still a little fiddly.  They were just 14 or 18" bias strips 1 1/2 wide, doubled over then hand gathered so they rolled into a flower shape.  I used pale, pale pink pearls to make them sparkle.  
I have enjoyed watching episodes five and six of The Great British Sewing Bee on youtube while working on this project.  We are an Apple computer household (although a very old operating system of theirs) and I wasn't able to download the Hola system.  I am waiting anxiously until that great system is available to MAC or ipad people since we happen to love, love love British television.  I get annoyed that the so called BBC America channel seems to only broadcast about a half dozen shows....and the GBSB is not one of them!!  I do love Gordon Ramsey and the episode today just happens to be a repeat about a local Baltimore restaurant.  But really, I want British television.  I am grateful that have been able to watch episodes one, two, five and six so far but would gladly pay to see the whole series.  I've heard about the American casting call and know that there are so many wonderful people out there in sewing world who would do a marvelous job.  But what I love about the GBSB is its gentility and fairness and I am less than hopeful that American producers can (or would want to) translate that touch to a US show.  OK, enough of my soapbox.  I have my daily walk, gardening, phone calls, emails, a cauliflower curry for dinner and then that run to Joann's.  I can see a final project at the end of the tunnel.....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Flower Power in Progress

Yesterday was a darn productive two hours in my sewing space.  My flower sweater embellishing is well on its way to completion so let me share the progress so far.  
First I had to decide how to support the embellishments in this knit sweater.  It's meant to be worn as a single layer sweater and is such a pale color that I know I will want to wash it more frequently than my previously embellished cardigans. This is a pale medium weight cotton poly knit remnant that I draped around the sweater, hacked off then created a rounded shape which I lightly interfaced.  I'll stitch all the flowers to the knit then hand baste it on to the sweater base so I can remove it when washing the sweater.

These first flowers are cut from a half yard of crinkly poly from Joanns in a similar pale pink.  I cut five circles in descending sizes, from 3 1/4" in diameter to  1 3/4".  I cut 11 sets of circles then curled the edges by holding them above the candle flame.  Keep a bowl of water next to you just in case....  Stack the five layers, stitch together and in this case I used some buttons and have pinned them in place on that knit base.  I like the look so far.  

In a sewing room related question, one of my friends wanted to know about the cutting surfaces in your sewing rooms.  I have a large cutting mat that is supported in a piece of plywood that rests on three large old greeting store card storage drawers that I use for pattern storage.  The whole thing is mounted on large wheels so I have some flexibility in moving it around my room.  Here's how I fancied it up the summer before last:  Sewing room makeover  I love having a permanent cutting set up and appreciate the space I have for it.  As we consider downsizing in our future, that part of my sewing space would be the greatest sacrifice and one that I hope I don't have to make for many years.  How do you cut out garments?
Next, more flower variations and a finished project to celebrate being back in Baltimore.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Focusing My Attention

Going away from home gives me a chance to clear my head and examine my habits from a different perspective.  Since we drove not quite three thousand miles in the last six weeks I've had plenty of re-thinking time.  It's useful for me to stop and re-evaluate, especially when I am at a distance.  I am definitely a person easily distracted and my sewing projects this fall and winter have reflected that scattered approach.  I didn't have any show and tell for yesterday's ASG meeting but I did make a public commitment that I was really going to make "focus" the theme for the next month and see what I think about my efforts.  I am doing the program for May and am going to present the various forms of fabric flowers that I have used to embellish my clothes over the last few years.  Seemed like an appropriate early May topic and it will also make me finish a project that has been simmering in my head for at least two years now.  
I bought this simple pale pink sweater at Chicos and when I got it home saw that it almost perfectly matched some silk chiffon in my resource center.  I've pulled out all the pale pink fabrics I can find along with a collection of buttons and this week I'm going to get this project out of head and done.

I wanted to make some floral embellishments but just never sat myself down to test alternative ideas....after all, there's always another Pinterest picture to look at which sends me to that new website which has such interesting links and look it's almost time for lunch...oh that reminds me, what are we having for dinner?  Isn't there a recipe should I try from all those other bookmarks and wow, it's probably time to walk Lucky again and why haven't I adjusted the harness that I tried to make him but wait I also wanted to make a small cross body bag for my phone when I walk and where's that Pinterest picture of the bag that I liked so much?  Oh, look, doesn't what she's wearing resemble the tunic that Sarah Veblen helped me fit....wonder where I put those pattern pieces? And so it goes....
Is it any wonder that I have a million ideas, a scrambled brain and not so many results?  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, focus...
I am heading to my sewing space just testing fabric flowers for the next two hours.  More to come....

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ottobre Top

A lot of vacation but very little sewing happened on our fabulous Florida and southern state trip.  I packed my machine and plenty of projects but we had such terrific weather that I only stayed inside to stitch up this knit Ottobre twist top (an old TNT pattern from maybe five years ago) 
We have already booked our place for next March.  Not sure if I will pack my machine and so many projects.  Perhaps I will actually design one of those wonderful Alabama Chanin garments with its hours of hand sewing and have that to work on in case of less than lovely weather.  11 months to make that decision.....

Sewing readers can stop and move on since I also wanted to post some more photos of our carefree stay in Florida and our slow trip back to Baltimore this week.  The best part of the trip was reconnecting with Florida friends....just two of them from our daily dogpark morning visits.

Mr. Lucky and I left our rental house on Monday
 and mapped out and interesting sightseeing trip while heading north.  We stopped in Macon, GA to see its huge cherry blossom display throughout the town.  There are more than 300,000 trees amidst its restored downtown area and beautiful suburbs.
Some Macon GA cherry blossoms
Outside of town we visited one of the most interesting sites I have seen in North America.  This is a prehistoric site with many mounds from a village of more than 2000 people a few thousand years ago.  Unlike area of Europe, these sites are frequently forgotten in the US and this was a terrific visit and so educational.

from the sublime to the ridiculous....We headed out to a large lake outside of Macon and had dinner at this fun spot
Wow, we love southern cooking:

From Macon we drove to Augusta, GA where Mr. Lucky played a round of golf at a lovely municipal course and I rode about 12 miles on the local greenway trail along the Savannah River

Now we are in Virginia and I am heading out to the my local ASG meeting while Mr. Lucky plays golf nearby.  Then it's back home and time to unpack.  See you back in my regular sewing room soon.....