Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spring Break for Seniors

 Normally this time of year we are returning from a  family spring break trip to some island in the Caribbean, often named after a saint.  This year son #1 is living and working in South America.  Son #2 is busy balancing  college, a job and a girl friend. I wasn’t inclined to go anywhere. But  a “use it or lose it” policy on hubby's 6 weeks of annual vacation, and emails  from Allegiant Air advertising $79 round trip fares from Richmond to FLA changed my plans.

  Off to the west coast of FLA we went.   Son #1 teased us about going  on spring break for seniors in  somewhere called St. Boca Raton (Rat's Mouth). Definitely a city in FLA, different coast, but not named for a saint.  The round trip  flight ended up costing about $200 per person because we wanted to take luggage, both carryon and checked, wanted to sit in seats with leg room for adults, etc.  Allegiant charges for every little thing, including water and cola in flight drinks. My coworker told me this airline got started with charters to casinos and is now one of the most profitable airlines. Hmmm. The  airline personnel were very outgoing and helpful. The flight was great and I would fly with them again.

The west coast of FLA certainly has a lot of islands and interesting state park. We started in Bradenton and drove down the coast  a little each day, stopping at  parks, museums, botanical gardens and beaches that looking interesting. We visited the island of Anna Maria because I had read an article in Southern Living Magazine about it.  We enjoyed the Ringling Circus Museum  and the Art Museum in  Sarasota. On to Fort Myers and  Pine Island,  where we hiked a lovely trail around huge shell mounds and learned about the Calusa Indians.

We visited Sanibel and  Captiva Islands, admired the beautiful homes and visited the shell museum. 
We spent a couple days in Naples, staying in a lovely hotel located a block from the scenic downtown area.  We visited a nearby state park that was the site of a settlement built by a group, known as the Koreshan Unity,  who believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. They lived a life of industry and abstinence until, not surprisingly, the group petered out.

We went hiking at the Bird  Rookery Swamp Trail.

The path was the bed of an old railroad used for cypress logging. The  swampy black water came right up to the edge of the path.  About 3 miles in, we began to see lots of baby alligators and a few medium sized ones.  If they were on the banks of the swamp, they slithered back into the water as we approached.  We were on the way back to the car, trying to beat a big thunderstorm blowing in, when we came across this guy laying on the path. He showed no inclination to move, so we tiptoed quickly by.


This is as close as my husband would get for a photo op.

 My favorite park was Weeki Wachi Springs. It is the site of the deepest  freshwater spring in the US.  There has been an underwater “mermaid show” performed in the spring since the 1940’s.
Ariel view of Weeki Wachi Spring

 The audience sits in front of glass windows below the surface of the water.    The mermaid show is  bit kitschy,  but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Long ago I took synchronized swimming lessons at the local swimming pool. I know how much effort and skill it takes to turn graceful flips in water without flailing and thrashing. I found  I was holding my breath as I watched the ‘mermaids” enact the Little Mermaid story for us.

  I was even more impressed  with their performance when I found out the water was about 75 degrees and has a 5 mile per hour current because there is 112 million gallons a day bubbling up through a 20 by 3 foot opening in the sandstone below the performers.  After I got home, I discovered via  YouTube  that they have be a mermaid training camp where ordinary people can be fitted for one of the tails and try mermaid moves in the spring. Mermaid Camp Training  I would so like to do that!

A couple days before we left for our trip,  I sewed a jumpsuit.   New Look pattern 6413. My pattern  is  marked S0264 bin 19 so I suspect I bought my pattern at a Wal-Mart.

This pattern includes dresses and jumpsuit with V-neck, front zips and two  sleeve length options. There is also a pattern for an optional belt. I made view A jumpsuit with the short sleeves. The front is closed with an invisible zipper and there is elastic at the waist.  The fabric I used is a Tie Dyed 100% rayon, crepe weave from  Jo Ann Fabrics.

It has been many years since I have sewn or worn a jumpsuit.  And at the time, I did not have a lot of fitting knowledge.  Both pants and tops sewn straight from a pattern fit well so I just assumed a jumpsuit would fit fine.  It did not, because it was too short in the torso.  This pattern is loosely fitted with an elastic waist and I needed no torso alterations.  Comparing the neckline of the bodice to my sloper showed me the neck opening was a bit wide for my narrow shoulders. I added ¾" to the inside neck at the shoulders blending in to the front V and the back neckline curve.  It is still a bit wide for my taste. I probably should have made a smaller size top blending it to the next larger size bottom. I will  look for a “statement necklace” to fill the V neck.  The jumpsuit is comfortable to wear, and easy to get on and off. I wore it out to dinner in Naples.  
New Look 6413

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Not a New Look for me

I have seen the question "What is the inspiration for your next sewing project?" posted on blogs. 

It varies for me. Sometime the inspiration for my next sewing project is the piece of fabric lying on the top of the  nearest pile.  Is this the  LIFO (last in first out) inventory method? Probably not when that piece  recently came from the depths of my stash.

  Our ASG group recently did some community sewing. Duffle bags for foster children  with the local chapter of  Catholic Charities. A group of teenage boys.  So the bags had to be in boy type fabrics. I dug deep into my stash of denims and cotton twills, from the pre lycra era, and pulled out a large piece of sueded, dusty purple colored cotton.  It yielded a couple  of duffle bags, but there was still a big piece left over. On its way back to the depths of my stash it happened to take a rest stop  by a piece of  rayon gauze print. An unfamiliar fabric in non typical colors. A "Why did I order this?" Internet purchase. But they coordinated. So I decided to make a jacket out of the cotton and a top out of the gauze.  I wanted to make a short jacket to go over a longer top. Like the multi layer, cascading look of this HP pattern, which I order, printed, taped together, compared to my sloper and decided the required alterations were not worth the effort.

 I chose New Look 6633 for the jacket because it had simple neckline and princess seams for fitting.    I created facings instead of lining it to the edge and did channel stitching around the front and sleeve edges.
I chose New Look 6213 for the top  because it was long and had the drapey tie in the front.  I decided to make view A with the flutter, cut out shoulder sleeves because the cold shoulder fad is quite big now in RTW.

New Look 6213
New Look 6213

My final feelings on this combo.


Stiff cotton fabrics do not make flattering jackets.
One piece sleeves is stiff cotton fabrics quickly start to look like corrugated pipes.
Donate all old cotton denims and cotton twills to charity !

New Look jacket 6633


Rayon guaze is interesting fabric. light weight but stiff, easy to sew.
Dusty purple and pale pink are not my colors.
The cutout shoulder flutter sleeves

New Look 6213 view A
New Look 6213  - cold shoulder

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Vogue 1493 Part 1 - A Battle with Bias

I have been working on the latest Koos Van den Akker jacket from Vogue Patterns for the past 4 weekends plus some evening session when I wasn’t traveling for work.

 And I am still not done.

 Don’t underestimate the time it will take to make the version of this jacket with the embellishments and appliqu├ęs.  What takes so much time? It requires yards and yards of bias binding.

  ½ “ and 1 “  finished  width, single fold bias binding for the  embellishment on the  garment front, the front band and sleeve cuff. And on the inside, the raw edges of the seams are finished with ½ “  double fold bias binding  to prevent fraying and give  a couture look.  I wanted binding in specific colors and fabrics, which meant I had to make it before I could apply it.

The pattern instructions for forming and applying the bias trim are very clear and complete, however I chose to use some  different processes and tools for making and applying the bias on my jacket.

Embellishment Bias

My embellishment  bias binding was made using a linen  blend.  It was easy to cut  and press into shape.  

Cutting - I used the rotary cutter and a clear see through ruler to cut 1" strips from the fabric, not the pattern piece supplied. This allowed longer strips and less joins.

My method
Pattern methods
Forming  - I used a bias binding maker tool .

Applying -  I applied the  ½ inch binding to the cuffs and front  bands using a 6mm cover stitch. 

Pros – Fast!  Because  both edges are stitched down at same time sides at once.  Con – adds thread/weight to backside of sleeve cuff and neck band pieces.  If you are considering applying the bias with a cover stitch machine, you might want to narrow the binding from ½ inch to 3/8 “otherwise there is a lot of space between the edge of the binding and the stitching.

Inside seam finish bias.  

I always admire the work of sewing bloggers who finish the  inside of their garment with couture level techniques.  But I also think they must have a lot of time on their hands.  No day job or kids etc.  I ignored the "just serge the seam raw edges" thoughts going through my head. and followed the instruction to finish the inside seam edges with bias.  Did I feel accomplishment and self satisfaction? Nope, overwhelming boredom and frustration. The fabric I chose for the bias was difficult to work with and extended this "prep" step. I really wanted to get to the construction of the jacket.

 I used a jacquard acetate/rayon lining fabric to finish the edges of the seams and hems.   Argh! This fabric was horrible to work with because it slithered and stretched at will.

The instructions have you finish the raw edge after you sew the seams.  Essentially you are sewing the length of each seam 5 times if you finish the raw edge with bias binding as the pattern instructs. I decided to make the double fold bias using the bias maker tool.  The fabric I had chosen stretched out of shape so badly the when  I tried using the bias biding maker, it became too narrow to cover the edge of the fabric. My next strategy was to use the bias binder pressure foot for my sewing machine.

 It allows you to feed an unfolded bias strip into a cone shaped opening that folds the binding around the edge of the fabric while sewing it at the same time.  This foot is difficult to use on the edges of fabric  that have already been seamed.  So I marked the seam lines on the wrong side of my fabric and bound the raw edges with the bias binding before I sewed the seams. The binding adds a bit of width to the edge so the seam lines I marked in the earlier step were essential for accurate seaming.

This jacket is described as very loose fitting.  I made a size Small (8-10). My measurements put me squarely in a Vogue size 16 so in theory I should have made the size L/G(16-18). I have slightly narrower than average shoulders and the shoulder seams of this jacket are designed to fall beyond the shoulder. I felt I would swim in a L/G size. 

There are no finished  garment measurements printed on the pattern pieces, so I measured the  width of the  pattern pieces at the hip area and compared it to my hip measurement  The size S finished garment circumference at the hips was 49”, 8 inches over my hip measurement. Plenty of style ease for a  loose fitting garment. The main jacket  fabric is a tencel twill purchased from Denver Fabrics.  it has a sueded surface and a nice weight and drape.

Now I can start the fun  process of  creating the applique.  but unfortunately  it will  have to wait  until  I get back from this week's business trip. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Marfy Make - Blouse 3888

I pre-ordered the spring summer 2016  Marfy pattern catalog back in Jan. and it arrived in my mailbox a couple weeks ago. I have about 7 issues of this catalog, some purchased as far back as 2002  Each issue comes with a couple of  "free" traceable patterns on an insert,  in sizes 42 to 50  ( US equivalent 6-14).   The insert patterns are usually simple tops, blouses and the occasional pants and jackets. While browsing through my latest issue, I realized l have never made one of the 'free' Marfy patterns.

Free Patterns Marfy Spring Summer 2016

 And that became my next sewing project.  I have been seeing lots of black blouses lately, in BurdaSyle, on the Internet fashion sites, and this one caught my eye. Blouse pattern 3888, with a stand collar, shaped lapel,  3/4 sleeves with contrast trim on the cuffs and center front, and armhole princess seams in both the back and front.

Marfy 3888

Near the top of the fabric piles that threaten to topple onto my work space, were a couple of fabrics that were perfect for the blouse. A light weight black, machine washed, silk dupioni, and for the trim a burgundy and black, cross woven, linen metallic. My measurements matched Marfy size 48 in the bust and a size 50 in the waist and hips. I checked the finished garment measurements and there was plenty of ease in the waist and hips of the size 48, so that is the size I chose. I did check the pattern against my sloper. I had to make the same upper back and shoulder alterations I make on any other commercial pattern. I am 5’ 8” tall which is usually a couple inches taller than pattern companies draft patterns for. When I used the patterns in the Italian Mia Boutique magazine I had to do significant length changes. Surprisingly I did not have to lengthen any of the body or sleeve pieces of this Marfy pattern.

 There are no directions with Marfy patterns. This slows me down because I have to think about and plan for next steps while sewing. I gave a lot of thought to the contrast trim. Cutting off the seam allowance and using bias binding seemed the logical choice until I realized that would be difficult to do neatly on a cuff that had to be seamed to a gathered sleeve bottom with a placket. I also had to figure out the width of the trim I wanted. My original choice of 1/2 inch was to wide for the narrow cuff and the front extension ( distance between center front and front edge). I ended up using a version of the "Mystery Bias Binding" described in Roberta Carr's book  "Couture, The Art of Fine Sewing" and attributed to Chanel. Contrast bias binding is attached to the top layer of cuff and lapel. Bottom cuff and lapel facing is cut from same contrast fabric and when sewn together looks like under cuff/facing wraps around to upper piece. Except I didn't use the contrast fabric for the lapel or cuff facings.
Marfy blouse 3888

Neckline Marfy 3888
Cuff Marfy 3888
 Marfy supplies an upper collar, lower collar and  front facing pattern pieces, but no back facing pattern. So I drafted one myself. I like back facings because they nicely cover the neckline seaming and provide a great place to attach a label.

  I am very happy with the fit of the finished blouse and am considering sewing  some of the other free blouse patterns.

After spending so much time on the blouse, it was fun to whip up a TNT( tried and true) skirt  from Pamela's Pattern The Magic Pencil Skirt  in little over an hour. The fabric is a stretch suiting from Vogue. One side is a tweed, the other is a tweed with blotches of a black shiny substance. I don't know what the black coating is,but I pressed it with the iron on high heat with no change or melting. Cool looking fabric.



Marfy 3888

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Keeping Warm - Wool Tunic Vogue 1456

I spent 3 wonderful days at a sewing retreat a couple weeks ago.  One of my project was Vogue 1456, a Sandra Betzina tunic, semi fitted top with front princess seams, zipper closure and artful draping with hidden pockets at the side hip. There is a vest and a tunic in the pattern. The front of the vest has different draping than the tunic.  For some reason, the line drawing does not include the 4 darts in the tunic lower back hem. 

I am a big Sandra fan , and always attend her workshops or seminars when they are offered locally. I was saddened to learn that she is retiring and will not be traveling after next year.  But given her age 70’s ( which surprised me)  I totally understand. I also hope I look as good, and dress as creatively as she does,  as I get older. 

The fabric used for the tunic on the front the pattern was a wool challis, mentioned by Sandra in a video (link below) , but not listed as a recommended fabric on the pattern envelope.  I just happened to have the same wool challis print in my stash, in two color ways; gray and black and green and black. Vogue Fabrics had the blue and black version for a while, but it is sold out.

My green challis print was a bright Kelly green, a “Yikes!  Not what I expected.”  online fabric purchase (FMF) surprise.   I had never dyed wool fabric before, always concerned that the required hot dye bath and slight agitation would change the texture (felt)  of the wool fabric .  But with this fabric I  had nothing to lose,  so  I simmered the fabric in a pot of  grey blue dye.  It successfully darkened the Kelly green somewhat and did not affect the fabric feel and drape.  The pattern calls for a 24 inch separating zipper.  Because only heavy jacket zippers were available locally, I  had to ordered a  light weight separating zipper from SewTrue
 The tunic was a fun sew, in that there is some unique seaming and the  draping is different and not something I had done before.  The directions are fine, but I did refer to the illustrations a lot.  I also practiced the pleats on the pattern paper before doing it in the fabric.  There is a 2.5 minute preview of the tunic pattern available on Sandra’s Power Sewing site.  And a link to a full length  tunic construction video which is available to watch free for a limited time. Power Sewing Tunic Vogue 1456  She emphasizes interfacing the center front opening  to support the zipper and give tips on how to place the drapes if more room is needed in the hip area. Well worth watching.

Many of the retreat attendees that wandered by to see what I was working on expressed concern on the location of the drapes in the hip area, and that the silhouette would be unflattering.  The informal consensus at the ‘what do you think” modeling session; the semi fitted top nicely offsets the flare below the bust.  Drapey fabric is key to a successful version of this garment. Unless you are slim hipped, then you have the option to use fabric with more body.  The style is a bit too “different “for my casual business work environment, but is perfect  for wearing around the house on a weekend or for a outing with  kindred "creatives". It is fricken cold outside and very windy so unfortunately the photos were taken inside.

Vogue 1456

Vogue 1456 side

Vogue 1456 hidden pocket

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Crossover Cape Collar - McCall's 7243

A quick post on a quick to sew dress.  My husband recently passed  his  30th year anniversary with his current employer, and  one of his coworkers had reached 35 years. So there was a celebration dinner, with spouses, at a local restaurant. I jumped at the opportunity  to sew a dress to wear to the dinner, because I don't have many activities these days where I can wear a dress.   I chose McCall’s 7243, a close fitting pullover style with  what I would describe as a "cape collar".


 My thoughts were that  the collar would bring attention  up to the wearer's face, and create a more hourglass silhouette if the wearer has wider hips (comme moi).   The  fabric  I chose is a stable sweater  knit, in a poly/acrylic blend, purchased at Jo Ann Fabrics.  My like of the fabric color and pattern overruled my aversion to the fact it had acrylic in it.

McCall's 7243 Front

McCall's 7243 Back

 Some of you may notice that my dress's collar overlaps in the opposite direction than the pattern picture. I was cutting out the dress on the kitchen table, between meal times, when my workspace got invaded by hungry humans. The room got very hectic and I lost my concentration, forgetting to place the pattern pieces that needed to be cut out of a single layer fabric (fronts) with the correct side up.  Once I realized I had done that, I had to do the same thing with the collar pattern piece. so that all pieces had the right side of fabric in the mirror image of the pattern.  Also I did a poor job of checking the finished dress length before cutting out the pattern pieces.    I held the front pattern piece up to my body,  looked down and decided to add  an inch to the bottom edge. Yes I know, not the best way to check hem length, looking down combined with bifocals. Next time I will use a mirror. When I did the first try on of the dress, I was dismayed to find I needed about 3 inches more to cover my knees.  I had very little fabric left. Barely enough for a 3 inch wide hem band. So I faced the band with tricot to maximize the width. The seam where I attached the band to the dress looks very much like the topstitched hem, recommended by the pattern directions, would have.

Faced Hem Band

   I will probably wear this dress to work one more time and then cut it off at sweater length.  It will get more wear as a sweater.  I think View B, the sleeveless version would make a really cute summer dress.

McCall's 7243