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!