Sunday, March 16, 2014

What every dangerously crafty person needs

I've been AWOL for a while; lots of stuff going on and none of it involves me in the sewing room (darn it!). But I had to get up there to make a gift for our annual PatternMaster Users Group gift exchange, which was supposed to happen in February but weather delayed our meeting until today. Not that I had a gift ready in February, of course... I didn't decide on what to make until yesterday.
When I did drapery work, one of my vital tools was my work apron. I made my original one from a pattern I got from Kitty Stein, one of the luminaries of the drapery world. She has since discontinued her pattern, but I still have my copy and continue to make them for myself (yes, they do wear out) and as gifts.
Everything from the apron came out of my stash, including the embroidery design from Urban Threads, which I've had since 2011 but hadn't yet used it on anything.

The pockets are made from a scrap of painter's dropcloth that I had trimmed a few months ago. The bias binding is from the aprons I made at the ASG Retreat in January and ended up not using.

The back side of the apron. The original pattern didn't call for lining or anything like that, but I felt that having an extra layer between the wearer and the drop cloth would be more comfortable. So I lined all three layers with drapery lining. The polyester webbing was stitched on with three lines of stitching, and I used a parachute buckle to fasten the belt. Since I didn't know who would be getting the apron, I made the belting 60" long so the recipient could trim it to length.
The apron is really simple to make, but it's such a handy thing to wear to hold thread snips, measuring tapes, chalk markers, scissors, and other sewing tools. I made one for myself to hold my home inspection tools too!
At today's meeting, I also picked up a lot of fabric that was donated to our local ASG chapter by the husband of a member who passed away. So now I have some luscious wools to add to my stash, and I really want to turn them into some wonderful garments.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When a Retreat is a Recharge!

Last weekend I had the good fortune to spend three days with nothing on my agenda but sewing, sewing, sewing. I was at the Northern Virginia ASG Sewing Retreat in Winchester, VA, at the lovely George Washington Hotel. This is the same retreat I attended last year. But this time I decided to check in to the hotel the night before, so I could get started with my sewing bright and early!
I had intended to spend part of Thursday afternoon wandering through the lovely town of Winchester, but the bitterly cold weather prevented me from staying out for more than about ten minutes. And, being a home inspector, I was spending a lot of that time looking at the old houses, admiring the construction, and spotting ice dams.

(The icicles coming from behind the gutters is a dead giveaway... These folks are probably going to see some pretty bad leaking along that wall)

Friday morning I unloaded all my supplies at my chosen sewing spot.
It may not look like a lot, but I had two boxes of fabric, four bags of supplies, and three machines with me (the third -- my coverstitch -- stayed in my room with the intent of bringing it down when I got to working on knits. Which I never got to).
I wanted to start the weekend off with a quick project, so I whipped up this little basket out of two fat quarters and some Decor Bond stiffener.
I used it to keep some M&Ms handy for myself (and for anyone who passed by).

Then it was time to get some serious sewing done. The first project I really wanted to get done during this weekend was a set of two aprons for an online apron swap I'm participating in. I made one adult and one child sized apron, using Butterick 5506.

These aprons are now making their way down to the recipient's house, and I hope she and her daughter enjoy them.

Welcome to the world's most glamorous sweatshop!

My next project was the barn jacket I wrote about in my previous post.
Here I am working on the muslin.

And here it is, done!

Once I had finished the coat, I only had a few hours left before it was time to pack up, so I made a few quick scarves from a pattern that was published in Threads magazine back in 1995 (issue #60).
Doesn't it drape nicely? But what if I don't like the blue?

I can turn it inside-out! This was a piece of polyester from Joanns that had a gradient print, so the two sides of the scarf were completely different.

Here's what the scarf looks like flat.
Since it's cut on the bias, it drapes beautifully. I also made one out of a single layer of polar fleece to wear as sort of a balaclava. I'm sure I'll be making more.

But here was the best part...

Rather than eat breakfast at the hotel on Friday, I decided to try out a little diner across the street called "Just Like Grandma's." And boy, am I glad I did! By the end of the weekend, I think every one of the retreat attendees had eaten at least one meal there.
It was a tiny place... maybe 15 seats. The gentleman in the plaid shirt is Perry, the owner and cook, and next to him is Boots, his helper. The food that came out of this little shoebox kitchen was simply amazing!!! And he kept giving us samples of things: eggnog poundcake, buttermilk pie, jerk chicken omelet, curried chicken salad... It's amazing I didn't gain ten pounds over the weekend.
As I was leaving the restaurant after lunch on Friday, I noticed a white hoodie hanging on a hook on the wall, and asked whether it had been left by one of the retreat attendees. No, Perry told me, it had been hanging there for a few weeks, and they didn't know who it belonged to. I was struck with an idea: I took the hoodie back to the hotel with me and invited all the attendees to embellish it in some way. And they did! I presented the hoodie to Perry and Boots on Sunday afternoon (after finishing an awesome lunch).

Same time, next year...
I've already got next year's retreat on my calendar!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Barn Jacket finished!

This weekend I was in Winchester, VA, at a sewing retreat organized by the Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG). I've been on these retreats before, most recently last January, and really enjoy them for the burst of inspiration and productivity I get. More about the retreat itself in another post; right now I want to share one of the projects I made on the retreat: my Barn Jacket.
I had intended to make a muslin before leaving on the retreat, to save time, but a nasty head cold sapped my energy in the week prior, so I ended up doing the whole thing at the retreat. And I'm actually pretty glad I did, because it gave me the opportunity to tap some really smart brains (thanks, Monica!!) to analyze the muslin and help me improve the fit.
There were three issues with the muslin:
  • The sleeves were too tight at the bicep
  • The armhole was too high
  • It was too tight across the upper back
Now, if I were home with access to the computer and my printer, I would have just pressed a few buttons, made the adjustments, and printed out a new pattern. But that wasn't an option, so I had to figure out how to do it manually. Monica was a tremendous help, suggesting how to make the changes to the sleeves and bodice. Then I started cutting and assembling. I got most of it done by Saturday night, and on Sunday finished inserting the lining and adding the snaps.

Yeah, I was happy to get it done. Now that I'm home, I was able to take some more pictures and show some details.

There's only a bust dart in the front bodice, and a shoulder dart in the back.

The pockets. These were copied from inspired by the Green Pepper Frenchglen Barn Jacket, and someone with the pattern was kind enough to tell me how they were assembled. And it turned out to be very simple.

I love the "handwarmer" pocket feature. I used polar fleece on the back side of the pocket, so this makes the pockets extra cozy. Both front pockets have this feature.

The back of the jacket. See the ridge along the center back seam? That's where I made the adjustment for extra room across the back. The original pattern had a straight back, cut on the fold. Instead, I made it a shaped back seam, with a little more room right between the arms, where I needed it.

Here's the pattern piece, showing how I added the curved seam, along with about 1/2" more the rest of the way down. The neckline stayed the same. You can also see where I dropped the armhole about an inch. I made the changes because I was going to be using a quilted lining, and the added bulk would have pinched the arms and armhole otherwise.

The interior is a pre-quilted polyester fabric. I used the same fabric to make pockets for both inside flaps: open ones at the top, and zippered ones at the bottom.

For the collar, I used fleece for the upper rather than canvas, to keep it more comfortable around my neck. I didn't use any interfacing in the collar at all.

The best part about the coat is that it was all done at the machine, even inserting the lining. The lining was attached at the neck edge first, then at the hem. The sleeves were pulled out through the front openings and machine-stitched (it still feels like I'm sewing a Kline bottle when I do this... it all aligns properly but it always feels like magic!). Then the front edges were stitched (you can see the stitching line in the last picture).

All in all, I am extremely happy with how the coat turned out. It's my first official "Make a Garment a Month Challenge" garment, and I'm happy that I knocked it out of the park. Of course, the only issue is that now Bob wants one as well. But now that I've made one, I'm more confident making one for him.

For the PatternMaster crowd, here are the settings I used:
  • Classic jacket
  • Button placket
  • Jewel neck
  • Fitted side seam
  • Straight back
  • Straight hem
  • Armhole depth 1 (manually lowered to 2)
  • Set-in sleeve
  • Tapered
  • Pleated cuff
  • Convertible collar, 2.5 inch width
  • Ease: Chest 5, waist 2, hip 5

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jumping into January with a bold plan!

Happy new year!! Yeah, yeah, I'm late to the party...
I don't feel like I actually sewed very much in the past year. Sure, I had some big projects, but it all felt like I was focused on special-event stuff (costumes, Smithson gown, etc.). This year, I want to work on regular sewing, with an emphasis on stretching my skill set and challenging myself to make more of my clothing.
To that end, I've signed up for two separate challenges this year. The first is a "Ready to Wear Fast" for all of 2014: I have pledged not to purchase any RTW garments (except socks and undergarments). If I need an article of clothing, I will have to make it. How's that for a challenge!
The second is that I have joined a Make a Garment A Month challenge(MAGAMC). I've intended to do this before, but this time I'm joining a group to hold me accountable. Not that I'll be punished or anything for failing to keep up, but just knowing I'll be expected to post about my projects should be enough to inspire me!
My January Project
I've never had a warm winter coat that I was entirely happy with. Either the fit isn't right, or the sleeves don't sit in the right place, or the collar pokes my chin, or it's too long or too short. So it's time to make my own!
My husband had a Barn Coat from LL Bean that he adored, and it had some great features: toasty lining, big pockets, and it wore like iron. He's been after me to duplicate it, so I'm going to make one for myself to test the pattern before I make one for him.
I found a pattern that was pretty close to what I wanted: Green Pepper's Frenchglen Barn Jacket.

Unfortunately, my local Joanns doesn't carry this pattern. And besides, I was planning on using PatternMaster to draft the pattern. I'm pretty confident I can figure out how those pockets are done by looking at the drawing.

Here's the fabric and pattern, all ready to go. I'm going to make a muslin first, though, to make sure the fit is good. And if I like how the jacket looks, I will be making another one for my husband!
I'll be working on this jacket as my main project at the Virginia ASG Retreat in three weeks!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Lovely Christmas, nice and warm now!

A very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! We've always done the day in a very low-key way: sleeping late, making a big breakfast (this year it was eggs, sausage, bacon, and waffles), then spending a few hours opening presents. Then we all get to spend a few hours playing with our gifts before we assemble to order take-out Chinese food for dinner (a tradition we started a few years ago).
This afternoon I decided to spend some time in the sewing room, finishing up a project that's been languishing for a few weeks. It wasn't a difficult project, yet I had a hard time staying with it. But now it's done, and I can start thinking about what is next on the project list.
A few years ago I had made a fleece jumpsuit (using a pattern from PatternMaster, of course), and it had gotten a lot of wear every winter. However, two things about it had always bugged me: the sleeve cuffs were a bit too lose, and there were no pockets. So this year I decided to make a new one and fix those issues.
No, it's not a terribly flattering garment, but it's not supposed to be! It is, however, very comfortable.

Pockets!! I borrowed a method I saw used in some fleece sleepers I spotted at Target. Instead of the traditional inseam pocket with two layers, there's only one piece of fleece, sewn onto the inside of the front section. The front pocket opening is turned and stitched, and the pocket piece is sewn to the side seam of the back section. This gives much less bulk, and the pocket is always facing the right way!

Booties!! I drafted a pair of booties using the free Wild Things program, and grafted them onto the legs of the jumpsuit. I had made a casing in the tops of the booties for elastic, but it turns out I don't need it; they stay in place just fine.

And to keep me safe on the wood floors, the bottom of the booties are done with Jiffy Grip, with a layer of fleece on the inside for comfort. In retrospect, I should have used either another layer of fleece for padding, or a thin piece of foam. But hey, I'm not planning on taking any long hikes in this anyway.

A Sewing-Related Gift

My son gave me an amazing book for Christmas that I was not familiar with at all and am totally in love with already:
This book is big, heavy and gorgeous. The photography is outstanding and they have lots of close-ups for details. The accompanying text is wonderful as well: there's a lot of historical context that helps you understand why fashions evolved the way they did.

It was a wonderful gift, all the more so because he chose it himself and not because it was something on my wish list.

On the Horizon

I've signed up to go to the Northern Virginia ASG Chapter Retreat next month. I had such a good time last year that I just had to do it again. Now I have to come up with a sewing plan and decide what will be the best use of three days of uninterrupted sewing. Suggestions welcomed!

Friday, November 29, 2013

And now, on to Christmas!

Thanksgiving was fabulous at Redwall. We had 27 people for dinner, and there was much laughter, sharing stories, playing games, music, and general merriment. And food. Lots of food. We capped the evening by lighting and releasing some Sky Lanterns. Here's Bob sending up a big smile:

These lanterns are tissue paper with a framework of metal wire, and are held aloft by a small piece of waxy material that is ignited by a match. We used our gas firepit to "prewarm" the lanterns so they would rise better (and not land on our cedar shake roof!).

Today my daughter and I dragged the Christmas decorations out of the basement and got the tree set up. She and her fiancee, Alex, live in the apartment over our garage, and since he's now living with us, I figured he needed a stocking to hang on the mantle. He is in the army, so I decided to make one to honor his service.

I didn't use any kind of pattern; the size was determined by the other family members' stockings so they would all be about the same size. I freehanded the boot shape and used some bottom-weight digital camo from Joanns, along with some cream-colored felt for the top band and some black felt for the boot sole. The sole is just glued onto the bottom of the front of the stocking. The stocking is lined with a pre-quilted jacket lining from my stash.

Rather than have his name on the top band, I digitized a dog tag with his name and embroidered it onto a piece of gray felt. This was then glued onto the front of the stocking, along with some ball chain from the scrapbooking aisle.
He saw it for the first time when he got home from work today, and he was tickled pink. I don't think he was expecting to have a stocking on our mantle!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Winter Skirt for Diana

I am very fortunate that my lovely daughter can be patient when it comes to waiting for me to finish a project for her. Case in point: I made this skirt muslin for her last year, but dragged my feet on making a wearable skirt. She encouraged me to make this interim version out of corduroy, and it she liked it a lot (and still wears it often). But I was loathe to cut into the $40-per-yard wool cashmere I had bought to make the final skirt for her.
Fine, she said. I'll buy another test fabric and you can make a wearable muslin out of that. So she bought some feels-a-lot-like-wool cotton flannel, and I rummaged in my stash for some suitable lining. And, at last, I finished the skirt last night.
Just in time, too: the temperature is starting to drop and she really wanted a warm winter skirt!

It's a pretty difficult fabric to photograph, but it looks like a very fine blue and black herringbone.

Of course, it needed pockets.
The original skirt idea called for large applied patch pockets, but she decided she preferred inseam pockets instead.

It's got a nice twirl to it.

The buttons are from Joanns. And can you see my mistake?

I'll give you a minute.

See it yet?

I'll tell you about a little mnemonic I learned from Jim Suzio when I took one of his classes at the ASG Conference in Philadelphia back in 2012. "Women are always right, and men are always left over."

When I put the skirt together, I accidentally put the buttonholes on the left skirt front, rather than the right, so it overlaps "wrong." To which Diana replied, "Big whoop."

Here's why it's not such a big deal:
Only the bottom two buttons are functional! The rest of the button placket is sewn shut, and the buttons and buttonholes are just for show. The real closure for the skirt is a back zipper!

Overall, I'm happy with how the skirt came out. However, I am now worried that I don't have enough fabric to make the cashmere version as flared as this one is. For this skirt, I ended up having to cut out the gores in both directions in order to get it to fit on the fabric. Fortunately the fabric didn't have a distinct nap or direction! I'll have to see how many yards of the cashmere I bought... but I fear it won't be enough. We shall see.

And it looks like my prediction of finishing the final skirt by Christmas might be a bit optimistic. Still, there's always hope (and a bit of nagging from Diana...).