Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SWAP 2013 - The Purple SIlk Blouse, or "Get Back Up On That Horse!"

I grew up on a small ranch -- a "gentleman's farm" -- as my father called it.    My horse "Blaze" was a beautiful American Quarter Horse palomino, named for the white streak on her nose by my Uncle George who gave her to me.  She was gorgeous, but particularly high-strung, showing me the quick way down whenever she was spooked, which was often. 

My dad always insisted that I climb right back into the saddle -- bad advice in my opinion -- especially if you're still nervous and shaky with possible internal bleeding after a super-sensitive 1,200 pound animal just ran 50 mph and threw you in the dirt (or pavement).  But I do understand where he was coming from.  Nonetheless, I followed my best instincts and gave my finger a couple of days rest before I sat at my Bernina and finished the purple blouse.  No need to rush things. 

I think it is so beautiful in this fabric that I've left it on my dress form so that I can admire it every time I walk by.  It's technically not finished, since I haven't decided whether or not to insert shoulder pads.  I skipped them with the rayon version, as I liked it better without.  I haven't tried them on the silk version yet, but am leaning toward leaving them off here also.

Vogue 9771 in silk crepe de chine.
Now that I have three blouses from this pattern, I'm not completely sold on making a fourth.  The sleeve caps have a little too much ease for my taste.  Perhaps they were meant to be on the shirred side, but I would just prefer a smoother finish.  I did my best to shrink the ease out before stitching them in.  I suppose if I made it again, I would reduce the sleeve cap ease in the pattern by 1/2 to 3/4 inch. 

What I do love is the gentle drape of the cowl.  It's not too deep -- I prefer a higher neckline, since this is for the office -- and it's not too heavy.  Just right for me.  I also like the 3/4 length sleeves -- an adjustment I made, also just right for me.  And I would DEFINITELY sew with this fabric again.  Gorgeous!  By the way, Ann is having a 24-hour sale and this fabric is included. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prom 2013, The Preliminaries

After gleefully announcing my SWAP ideas to my family a couple of weeks ago, my daughter quickly burst my balloon, declaring "Prom is in April.  I guess I will have to buy a dress!"  [We often remind her that she channels Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka: "I want a trained squirrel, Daddy!"]

It has been our tradition that I make her fancy dresses, so I was disappointed. On the other hand, she can be a tough customer, so I was also a little bit relieved.  The "pros" definitely out-numbered the "cons" (which was limited to only one -- our mutual disappointment that the tradition would end).

1. No treasure hunt for fabric.  We have only chain fabric stores locally, so are limited to polyester chiffon and satin (last year's prom dress), or searching over the internet. 
2. No special fitting, FBA, etc. 
3. No messing with the organza, chiffon, satin.  It's so slippery and fussy, especially when you're dealing with yards and yards of it.
4. No hand-beading.  Refer to item #1, above. 
5. No modifications to include a corsellette or built-in bra, a must-have for her.

Prom 2012 - the dress could stand on its own with the built-in foundation.

She found something she liked on Etsy.  Made-to-order. After reading the description (which included a requirement for customer's "brust" measurements), and not being able to decipher the fabric content, we concluded that she may end paying for a dress made of crappy fabric and by the time it arrived at our doorstep, it would be too late to get something else.  So maybe I can "fit it in" with my other April deadline.  The red dress looks too low cut for my daughter anyway.  

Etsy: Lvs Fashion

I think it was part of her devious plan to find something on Etsy where it's more likely I can copy it.  So the search has begun.  I told her we needed a little less cleavage, and maybe a little less red.  The more I look at this picture, the less I like the way the silver waistband breaks up the front of the dress...maybe too much contrast?

What is my attraction to OOP patterns?

We looked around online and found a close cousin.  Unfortunately, it is soon to be OOP and it is already out-of-stock at  I will have to figure out the sparkly midriff, and do the FBA with a built-in bra, and of course find some nice fabric...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More broken needles!

While happily sewing my purple crepe de chine blouse on Tuesday I broke another needle -- this time while straight-stitching -- but it wasn't my Bernina's fault.

Our two little dogs were fighting and playing nearby.  They are litter-mates and they fight as loudly and as often as my kids do.  They fight until the two become one big ball of black fur that sounds like a badger fighting a bear. That's what happened yesterday -- a big ball of hissing and growling fur rolled into my leg as I sat at the machine.  I must have looked away for a split-second, and before I knew it, my left index finger followed the fabric under the needle.  The point of the needle was nowhere to be found, and I became more and more convinced it was still in my finger.

"I am SO sorry!" - Oliver
 The urgent care clinic was so busy they suggested the ER.  We decided that it wasn't worth waiting for three hours in a room full of really sick, possibly infectious people.  Steve was confident he could pull it out.  He brought out the rubbing alcohol and tweezers thinking it would be like a splinter, but we couldn't see it.  I tried a big magnet, hoping it would pull the needle close to the skin where we could see it, but that didn't work either.  I considered an exacto knife, but quickly reconsidered.

So Wednesday I visited my doctor.  I think he enjoys these sort of things.  An x-ray confirmed it was in there and it seemed very close to the surface.  "I should be able to insert a sterile needle into the entrance wound and push the fragment right out" he told me.  It seemed reasonable that it would be a quick project -- the sure mark that it won't be.  90 minutes and several x-rays later he finally found it (after cutting my finger open). He sent it home with me in a little specimen container, suggesting I make a necklace out of it. 

Even though I've slashed myself with a rotary blade here or poked myself with a needle there, I never fully respected the danger that comes with this hobby -- the shears, the hot irons, the pins and needles.  Be careful out there!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vogue 9771 (2013 SWAP)

Vogue 9771 in rayon/acetate
bias-cut bodice with 3/4 sleeves
I have one completed piece in my 2013 SWAP -- Vogue 9771.  It's the second time I've sewn this pattern; the first time I whipped up the sleeveless version (below) in green silk crepe de chine for a color-specific fundraiser.  I assumed this was a TNT for me -- and thus a quick sew -- in that I would just add sleeves to a pattern I'd already graded for myself, but the sleeved views actually have different bodices with a lower armscye, probably to account for shoulder pad height. 

With my guys (Aug-12), in Vogue 9771
in green crepe de chine (also Gorgeous Fabrics). 
My plans are to make two versions of this pattern -- one with the rayon/acetate and one with purplish silk crepe de chine -- adjusting the sleeves to 3/4 length for both.  The pattern is simple, although as with the green version, I had trouble properly sewing the back to the front at the shoulder and facing.  I fiddled with it for more than an hour on Saturday morning, before becoming frustrated enough to walk away.  After a brief time out, it made perfect sense to me.  I love the fabric, regardless of its proclivity to fraying (it is rayon), but I found it a bit difficult to sew due to the dark, camouflage-like pattern.  My eyes are getting old!  
[pcd7324] rayon/acetate; Gorgeous Fabrics
The misguided asssumption that the already graded sleeveless version would fit the same as the sleeved versions caused a bit of trouble.  My heart sank during the first fitting with basted side seams when I realized that it was going to be too tight to get over my shoulders with a 5/8" seam allowance (not to mention too tight around the hips).  Maybe it was the differences in the pattern or maybe it was the difference between the rayon and the silk.  But the fabric was already cut, and what could I do? 

I considered putting an invisible zipper in one of the side seams, but settled on using my machine's overlock stitch instead of the French seams I had originally planned.  Unfortunately, that seam allowance appeared too small to keep the rayon from fraying so I sewed a second seam 1/4" inside the overlocking.  In effect, this became a "wearable muslin" for me.  It does fit, I do like it, and I will wear it, but I realized that larger seam allowances are needed, so the next blouse will get a bit more width.  Lucky for me that I can learn from my mistake without ruining this lovely fabric!

To add to the mess, I broke 4 needles in the overlocking process.  I think my workhorse Bernina is overdue for service!  Everything is fine with a straight stitch and zig-zag, but the needle doesn't appear to be aligned properly with the overlock and blind hem.  As soon as I finish the silk version I will take her to the Bernina dealer.  Without a machine, perhaps I will be forced to work on my jacket.  Most of what I have left is all hand work anyway, and I could use some extra practice on my buttonhole stitch before cutting into my sleeves. 

I was so energized by completing the first blouse, I've already cut out the purple silk (with wider seam allowances), and can't wait to get started sewing!

back view, Vogue 9771

This is fuzzy, but a better view of the cowl.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

That Touch of Mink(y)

We've all had those sewing projects that we hate to walk away from.  The ones that we just can't wait to get back to work on again -- we think about them when we're cooking dinner or shopping for groceries, or even when sitting at our day jobs trying to pay attention in a meeting.  We dream about them and get up a little early in the morning or run home at lunch to steal a few minutes in front of the sewing machine. 

That's exactly what "The Slankie*" has become for me.  Although it took me quite some time to bring myself to start it, once underway, I used every spare minute available to me to work on it because the thought of that blue fuzz floating around the house and sticking to my clothes was unbearable.  I dreamed of the day that I could drag out the vacuum to clean it all up and put this messy pile of fleece behind me.  I have to admit that the project became more palatable as I seamed the raw edges and hid them under the lining.  I have made several small projects using the Minky Dimple Dots and do not recall being bothered by the extra lint.  Maybe it's just this particular variety of Minky.

Seeing the joy on my daughter's face when I draped it on her made all that mess almost worthwhile.  Okay, completely worthwhile.  I am looking forward to moving on to my silk blouse, nonetheless. 

Seeing her in it reminds me of a little bath bag we had for her when she was a newborn.  
Slankie: A sleeved-blankie

Princess Sparkle's Slankie (to replace her decrepit blankie):
PatternFree Snuglet PDF by the genius and generous Wilmoed Sisson, who blogs here.  Only one page of instructions with measurements, no ream of paper required.  Very simple instructions and easy to follow.
Fabric: Minky Vine Cuddle in Marina (blue/green) as the outer fabric.  Since it is a one-sided, lighter-weight fleece, I chose to line it in a coordinating flannel -- Bliss Birds Paisley in Turquoise.  The fabrics are cheery colors and I really love the bird print, something about it reminded me of my childhood.  Both were from
Flannel lining -- so cheery it makes me smile
Adjustments to pattern: 
(1) Since I lined it, there were a few minor/easy adjustments, including sewing the Minky to the flannel and piecing the flannel to get it to a 60" width. 
(2) I made the overall length (chin-to-toe) slightly shorter than the pattern.  At 6'6" it is still long enough to envelope her toes while reclined.
Will I make it again?  Hmmm...only if someone begs me.  The pattern is very simple and it is nice to have an occasional sewing project that doesn't require too much thinking.  I'd use a double-sided fleece, or at least not line it with flannel.  Although very cute and soft, it added a lot of weight. 

*I am changing the name of our creation to Slankie. I didn't realize Slanket was a real product -- I thought it was a made-up term that the 30 Rock writers invented.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the Siamese Slanket! 

Siamese Slanket (sadly, it's currently sold out)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pyjama, Pajama

I am woefully behind in my sewing -- haven't even started my SWAP!  My theory is that the flannel and fleece extravaganza has broken my spirit. 

My husband's pajama pants are finished, and he says they are the best pajama pants he has ever owned.  That's not saying much, because a 6'6" man who is under 200 pounds has a hard time finding any well fitting clothes, let alone pajamas long enough to cover his ankles comfortably, while not being completely baggy everywhere else.  So these are probably only the third pair of pjs he has owned as an adult that actually fit him comfortably.  I made the first two pairs, also. 

They were a quick, easy project -- as most pajama pants are -- but not at all exciting or challenging.  The flannel is a very nice, thick, soft fabric with just enough stiffness that they hang nicely. 

Steve's holly-jolly pjs
Steve has worn his new green "holiday" pjs almost constantly.  He has rewarded my effort by spending nearly every minute at home wearing them and telling me how much he loves them.  Almost immediately after counting the ways in which he loved them on Sunday morning, he caught the pocket on a door knob, ripping the pocket bag open, while also tearing a long slash along the cross-grain of the leg.  I was so hurt that he would allow the most wonderful pajama pants in the world get damaged, that I told him they were unfixable.  "Unsalvagable, I say! They will be hideous if I have to patch them!"  Until last night.  Then I felt guilty and fixed them.  Other than the tiny patch, it's hard to see where it is and they are just pajamas after all. 


I Spy a Patch?
With school back in session and me back at work, it just seems that there is no time for sewing.  I'm back to the 15-minutes-at-a-time thing, which can be frustrating, but if that's all the time I have, then I will take it!  Report cards came out last week and the family was thrilled to see that our son's grades were considerably higher in the second quarter, with very respectable semester averages.  School is hard for him, and after seeing his 1st quarter grades I devoted many evenings and weekends to tutoring him.  Although I didn't get much time for sewing, the time spent with him clearly paid off for both of us.

I started the minky "slanket" for my daughter and it's just aggravating working with that stuff.  It is cut out and laying on my table, bleeding minky fleece particles everywhere.  It makes much more of a mess than any other fleece I've worked with.  I neglected to buy thread to match the robins egg blue, so I am at a standstill with that until I get to the store to buy thread.  Although I am considering just using something complementary, or something that clashes, just to get it off my table. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

Every once in a while it gets a cleaning and dusting.  We pull out the vacuums (large and small), the coats and hats and mis-matched mittens, the boxes of light bulbs and old picture frames and the dozens of empty bags stuffed inside one another.  For a few months, we are able to see open floor space and step inside to find the coat or scarf we need, but before you know it, the ironing board is once again falling on us and there is not a matching glove to be found. 

Ours has never housed a wizard, though my daughter and I once spent a fairly comfortable over-night on the floor during a tornado warning.  That was early in our home's history, before we began accumulating "stuff" that needed to be hidden.  For the last year, the star resident has been my "Chanel" jacket, who is patiently waiting to have her sleeve vent buttonholes finished, patch pockets, trim and (finally) the chain hand-stitched in place.  I pretend not to see her, unless she has been accidentally knocked to the floor, in which case I gently place her back on the dress form and close the door.

On New Year's day, I found my way over to the Stitcher's Guild forum and learned about SWAP.  It seemed so simple -- finish the jacket and just sew ten other garments for myself between now and April.  Maybe because I'd been on vacation for almost two weeks it seemed so simple to complete.  TEN OTHER GARMENTS?!

For someone who rarely sews for herself, this is a very lofty goal, but I'm taking it on anyway.  At the very least, I will be thrilled to finish the collection by the end of 2013 and will be completely shocked if I finish by the April deadline.

In my state of hyper excitement I ordered three fabrics from Gorgeous Fabrics:
 1) purple silk crepe de chine (I've made myself a green blouse with it before and it is heaven to sew),
 2) rayon/acetate brown leafy print for a second blouse and
 3) brown RPL for slacks. 

Including the jacket, that's only four pieces, leaving me with another SEVEN to plan out, let alone sew!  Nonetheless, I have a more-than-vague plan and I'm going to start it.  I am going to start it as soon as I finish the fleece and flannel extravaganza that is lined up ahead of my wardrobe.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Settling in for Winter

Sam's latest addition to his Minky collection (in red)
It seems that our sunny, 60-degree days are gone and Winter is sewing room reflects our chill with stacks of flannel and fleece.  My daughter has had an ongoing request for a Minky snuggi/slanket/blanket-with-sleeves, and that sort of sewing is just not all that interesting to me, so I've put it off for nearly two years.  Last year, after waiting until November, I ordered some periwinkle "double-faced" minky on ebay, and it didn't arrive until January (I neglected to notice it was shipping from Korea when I placed the order).  When it did arrive, it was nothing more than purple, rough fleece, even after several washes.  I donated it to Goodwill because no one in our house was willing to wear it. 

This Christmas, I ordered fabric that should have at least arrived in time to wrap it up unmade for Christmas, but the heavy snow in Little Rock and Memphis delayed its arrival by several days.  My daughter didn't even get to see it before leaving town on the 26th.  She will be back this evening after a week in New York and I haven't done anything with it.  Well, I did wash it and dry it twice.
Minky for a "slanket" and Flannel to line
On our way out of town for a weekend trip last Saturday, we stopped at the Rabbit's Lair to pick up some flannel for PJs for my husband and son.  The guys are rarely the recipients of my sewing.  I even packed my sewing machine along on the trip with the intention of whipping up a couple of pairs of pants for them. The Rabbit's Lair is such a lovely quilt shop, and they carry a beautiful selection of quilting cottons and wools. It makes me want to start quilting again whenever I visit.  The flannel was nearly out of stock, but what was left was half price.  Sam picked out a vibrant lime green and Steve grabbed some Christmasy holly print for his. 

Steve's "Christmas" PJs
Sam loves to shop.  Even for fabric.  He talked me into stopping at Hobby Lobby as well and grabbed some red Minky "for a blanket".  So we have that too.  I never even unpacked my machine all weekend!  But I did wash/dry the flannel several times to shrink it completely. 

Sam's selection for pajama pants

I am hoping that these are quick projects, because I have committed to sew for myself in 2013!  I even have a plan for Stitcher's Guild SWAP (for me).  My goal is to at least get the 11 pieces finished in 2013 even if I miss the SWAP April deadline.  At the very least, I am trying to use it to push myself to finish my "Chanel" jacket that I started over a year ago.