Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Navidad is the holiday greeting used here in Puerto Rico,  where my  family and my sister's family are for our holidays. 

The latest garment out of my sewing room was one  for the trip.  Yes, it is a two piece bathing suit. Yes, it is for me, Yes, my age is closer to 60 than 50. A two piece? yes! Why? Because I can.  Because I am not dead yet!

The fabric is a snakeskin print swimwear fabric from   Quality, adult themed printed swimwear is one of the hardest fabrics to find, even from online vendors.  When I saw this, I hit the Buy Now button even though shipping from the west coast is not cheap. The top is  Butterick pattern 6578, a OOP pattern from 2000. It has halter straps extending into princess seaming on the cup.

  The pattern had pieces for A/B cups and C/D/ cups.    The suit is lined with a skin colored knit swim suit lining. I used the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to apply the elastic to the inside of the suit edges so I would have control over the stretch of the elastic in key areas of the suit  that have to be snug fitting.  I used my  cover stitch machine for the final finish, turning the elasticized edge to the inside and top stitching with the coverstitch . It was the first time I had used coverstitch for this purpose.  I was impressed by how quick and easy it was .

 The suit bottom is copied from a RTW bottom that fits me well.  I have sewn exercise and swim wear for over 30 years.  I have the same problems with swimwear bottoms that I have with slacks.  Typical pattern drafts  assume that someone with my hip measurement has a booty. Nope, my caboose is wide and flat.   The patterns have too much fabric in the center back and not enough width to cover the assets. When I found this RTW bottom at an end of summer sale, I was delighted and have made a pattern from it.

How did we come to be in Puerto Rico?

My niece’s boyfriend S. is from PR and he suggested we visit and he offered to show us around.  We jumped at the opportunity.  We  rented a lovely modern house  in the town of  Luquilla through the website VRBO (vacation rental by owner).

   Puerto Rico is a US territory.  I won't go into the difference between state and territory, but what it means is Caribbean island passport required. While the cars and road infrastructure are very American, the language is definitely Spanish, and there is a district culture.  We did all the touristy things, like visiting Old San Juan,  and hiking through El Yunque tropical rain forest.

San Juan

Waterfall - El Yunque Rainforest
We took the ferry over to the island of Calebra for a day trip. It has beautiful beaches and snorkeling. It made me angry to read that  the US Army used the island for target practice military exercises until 1975.  As a result there are abandoned tanks scattered about the island which the locals have painted in interesting designs, prettying up the eyesores.

Tank on  Calebra
 In the central part of the island, the cousins zip lined from mountain top to mountain top, 680 ft over the trees . Sis and I watched, taking pictures with the 300x lens of her camera and still only catching small dots moving across the spaces between landing spaces.
Ready for Zip Lining

The guys went deep sea fishing, and caught mahi-mahi, which made a tasty dinner.  Though anyone who has paid for a fishing charter trip, knows that is the most expensive fish they will ever eat.  We also ate at the local barbecue places like Bebo's below,  waiting in long lines for roasted ribs and chicken, rice and (crowder) peas, yucca with onions, and  blood sausage.

 Every morning we visit a local  neighborhood bakery for fresh pastries.   S's family really made us feel welcome. His mother cooked special snacks for us. We ate at his cousin's restaurant, visited his brother at work in Old San Juan, where his boss insisted on giving us free drinks. And yesterday, S’s extended family invited us to their  Christmas Eve party. It was held in a residential neighborhood at the home of his great uncle.

 The meal featured  lechon asados,  roasted suckling pig.

 Some of my family made the trip to the pig farm  the day before to pick out our dinner.  I did not. The party was wonderful, everyone was very friendly despite the language barrier (I speak some French, DS1 is studying Italian, but  no Spanish). There was lots of food, drinks, loud music and lively dancing by people of all ages. It was a lot of fun.

We are already talking about coming back to this lovely island, with its friendly people, and lots to see and do.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

UFO no mo'

I am so proud of myself. I sewed up two UFO’s.

 A pair of pants that I had pre cut and planned to  sew during a sewing retreat this past Jan.   The arrival of the sign up sheet for the 2015 retreat guilted me into finishing  them.  The fabric is off white wool, the pattern a copy of a favorite pair of RTW.  I added hidden pockets in the seam of the waist yoke.

  Pockets just big enough for a few dollars or a charge card. Located in the hollow between my tummy and hip.  That got  me thinking about pockets in women's' pants.  Locating a pocket can be problematic, what with all those curves in the waist to hip area.  Where to find a place for multiple layers of fabric to lay flat.  Not many places on my body.     As I hung the finished pants on the sewing room doorknob, the staging place for garments on their way to my closet, my eye fell on a partially finished jacket I made at the same retreat, using the pattern from  Burda 2/2013 jacket 107

The fabric is a cotton poly jacquard geometric strip.  Just a note: I have decided if the fabric I have used for the garments I blog about was not purchased from Fabric Mart Fabric, I will tell you. Otherwise just assume that is where it was purchased. The jacket pattern has a wide V neck,  and the side  panel  extends from side front to side back.  No side seam.  One less seam to match the stripe on. I took a tuck in the front so that the center front met but did not overlap.


 I hadn’t been able to find the perfect trim for the jacket yet, but there was a 2nd choice trim pinned in place since Jan.  At the rate I was going on finding the perfect trim, I thought I might as well wear the jacket with trim #2 til then.  In 45 minutes the trim was hand tacked in place and the jacket was ready to wear.   Why didn’t I do that sooner???

Close up of Trim

Burda Jacket 2/2013 107


And I finished a basic shirt,  New Look 6266, with  front and back yokes and  side bust darts.

 The fabric, a brown cream animal print, was from a free fabric bundle. A poly rayon challis blend by the feel of it.  The blouse fits well, but the extra fabric in the waist area reminded me of why I prefer blouse patterns with waist fitting, using either darts or princess seams.

New Look 6466 Blouse


But a jacket  hides the extra fabric at the waist.


Since I had a mini coordinated wardrobe going, I went stash diving  and found some other  fabrics that could be used to continue the color scheme. More to come

Friday, November 7, 2014

Autumn Activities

This post has been in draft mode for almost two weeks waiting for better pictures, links to instructional info and more witty prose. Those are never going to happen so here it is, short and sweet.

This time of year my husband would have us road tripping about the countryside every weekend. I convinced him to do one day trips so I could have the other day for sewing. And he would have a day for his "honey do" list. I warned him if I didn't sew, I would be grouchy and compensate by buying more fabric. He knows that is not an idle threat.

This past weekend we visited the Shenandoah National Park and hiked the same trail we did 35 years ago on our honeymoon. The weather and autumn leaf color were great, but the trails and roads in the park were packed with people. I guess everyone had the same idea for a weekend outing. On the way home, we stopped at an orchard and bought a variety of apples. Virginia has an apple growing region. When I was a kid and our family vacations took us through Virginia during apple harvest time, we always stopped at an apple orchard where my mom would buy a couple bushels to take home. The problem was the only place for the apples, in our overcrowded car, was on the floor in front of the back seat; where my brother, sister and I sat.. The last four hours of the trip home were spent trying to find a place to rest our feet comfortably among the baskets of apples, and  whining and complaining loudly. We were allowed to eat as many apples as we wanted, probably to keep us quiet.  The memory of the taste of those just picked apples is one of the reasons I can always be talked into a trip to an orchard.

Thorton Valley Orchard, Sperryville, VA

 My latest makes are a blouse, Vogue  pattern 1412,  in an animal print silk spandex, and pants in an irregular pinstripe cotton poly bottom weight. Both fabrics are from Fabric Mart Fabrics.

The blouse is a tunic style with faced V neck, shirttail hem and gathers at the shoulder and back neck. The button closure on this blouse is fake. And while I am always up for unique details, I am not sure all the effort to mark and press the pleats that make this closure were worth it. The back neck gathers meant I did not have to do my normal alteration for the high back curvature. Not that you can see any of these style details in the print fabric I used, but I think they would be very flattering in a solid color fabric. The blouse can be worn out or tucked into pants or skirt under a jacket. The V neckline is fine on me, but I have no cleavage so I  rarely have the issues with low necklines on Vogue and Burda patterns which seem to bother other sewers. To check neckline depth, be sure and fold out the tuck on the pattern and hold pattern to your body. The front pleat's sides overlap, making the lowest point of the V about 1" above the bottom of the finished neckline opening .

The pants were a copy of a favorite pair of RTW pants. The RTW brand is FOCUS which is a rather inexpensive line. I try on many different RTW brands, both inexpensive and high end, to find brands whose pants fit me well. I have found good fit at both ends of the cost spectrum. The original pants were made from a poly rayon crepe type fabric and had none of the excess fabric in the back beneath my butt, where I normally have it. When they got ratty from wear, I took them apart to make a pattern. I found that the front crotch extension was very short and the back crotch extension very long and tapered sharply from the inside leg. From reading drafting books, this draft is used to snug in the back crotch area to the body and is more typical of jeans than slacks. I still had to tweak the copied pattern a bit. My butt is so flat and wide; I shorten the center back seam 5/8 at the top tapered to nothing at the side seam, and remove the back waistline darts. The small amount of shaping I need when going from the widest part of my hip to my waist can be done in the center back seam and side seam darts. I would have never thought to do this, but when I had a professional fitter help me tweaked a pant muslin years ago, she made these changes and explained why they worked for my shape.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Tats So Cool!

How do you like my new arm tat? I think it looks pretty cool. I am sitting on the deck watching the leaves fall, and procrastinating about raking them up. Raking is a thankless task, more leaves will fall every day until the trees are bare. I might as well wait until that happens.

 I am drinking a seasonal brew,  Legend Brewery's Punkin Ale,  while admiring the lone pumpkin my garden produced this year.  DS#1 was going to brew his own pumpkin ale using small sugar pie pumpkins from our garden. As you can guess, we had to change our plans. We bought already brewed  beer to enjoy in the pleasant fall weather. 

The tattoo is fake. It is a nylon sleeve printed with a tattoo, which I bought to freak out my kids, impersonate certain sewing bloggers, or wear for Halloween.

I found some printed mesh fabric at Fabric Mart that reminded me of  arm tattoos of the type shown below.

Tatoo by Nazareno Tubaro
 I wondered if it was sheer enough to look like my fake tattoo sleeve.  So I put a yard in my shopping cart. It was printed on a white background and wasn't quite as sheer as I would have liked. But I went ahead with plans and  used it as the sleeves in T shirt pattern  123 from BurdaStyle 9/2012.

Burda Sept 2012 123
The pattern  included front shoulder  panels, which I made out of  leftover suede scraps.  I did not use the neck facings or make the slit at the back neckline as shown in the pattern. The neck is bound in self fabric and fits over my head with no problems.

 I  also sewed a pair of pants from  Burda 7746, an out of print  envelope pattern. The fabric is dark brown poly, rayon, lycra  also from Fabric Mart. The pants are okay. A bit looser in the hip and crotch area than I like.  This is not a criticism of the pattern, more my body shape and the pattern design. Other reviews were very positive.

Burda 7746
I took a couple days off work this week. They were compensatory “comp” days for working 3 of the 4 days of the labor Day weekend. We won’t talk about how jealous I was of bloggers who sewed that weekend. I  wore the T shirt and pants to a Sewing Expo. I took the classes below with some of my  favorite instructors, and made a couple of fabric purchases from the Vogue Fabrics booth.

  •  Cutting In...Cutting Out: The Latest One-Seam© Pants  Instructor: Louise Cutting
  • Guide to Modern Tailoring: Pre-Construction Prep  Instructor: Cynthia Guffey
  • Essential Tips for Fitting Instructor: Sarah Veblen
  • Iconic American Sportswear  Instructor: Sandy Miller
  • Guide to Modern Tailoring: Finishing for Fashion  Instructor: Cynthia Guffey

  I  ran into several sewing friends I had met originally at other events;  Pattern Review  Weekend in  Phila.  ASG sewing retreats,  ETM, DC.  It is so fun to make new friends and then see and talk to  them again at other sewing related events.  I also got to meet Meigan from Get My Stitch On  when she came up and  introduced herself.  I was glad she did. I was disappointed I did not get to meet her when she was in town for the Hollywood costume exhibit earlier this year. I had a great time.
I should be raking
Hiding behind the wood pile

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ramblings and Road Trips

Wow, 6 weeks has flown by with very little sewing. People are asking what I am doing.  Here is an update. But I'll warn you, though it has sewing related info, it is a bit rambling.

The annual beach vacation has come and gone – As in years past, the girls planned a group sewing project.  But we never seemed to get around to it. Good thing patterns and fabrics age well.

Project for Beach Week 2015
My sons are back at their respective universities. One had to be moved into an apartment. Of course it poured rain that day. Horrible weather for moving boxes and furniture like couches and mattresses, especially when parking was not adjacent to the building. I wore a large green garbage bag over my t-shirt and shorts to keep dry  With my hair soaking wet and plastered to my head, it was not a good look. I found these pictures on the Internet.  Looks like I missed an opportunity to rock the look. All I need was a   kickin' pair of booties and rain scarf. Next time!

garbage bag chic _ Jeremy Scott

Jeremy Scott
DH has been on a weekend road trip kick.  The man love to drive. We pick a destination, a variety  of things to do and see, and go for it. The first one was to Pennsylvania. A 7 hour trip that I insisted be broken up by a visit to    the source of a huge amount of my fabric stash.  The selection is much smaller now than it was back in the 80’s, when I worked as an engineer at a glass fabrication factory (car windows) just down the road, and spent many a lunch hour digging through piles of fabric for treasures.  I purchased a couple of bottom weight wool blends. The trip included a visit to the University where DH and I met, many years ago, at a dormitory party. We walked around campus and had dinner at a favorite restaurant. A couple more hours of driving to visit DH parents’ graves and then on to his 40th high school reunion. The reunion was a very small casual affair held  around a classmate's backyard pool, in rural Pennsylvania where he grew up. How rural? There were cows in the adjacent field. It was fun for me to listen to the stories that were told as sun went down and the stars came up.  Three of the attendees, including my husband, were teachers’ kids. Imagine having your father as a teacher in High School. Mortifying!  But now that I think of it, my grandfather was a high school teacher too. So my father had the same situation. Below is my grandfather when he was coach of the championship woman's basketball team at Kingsville High School, Ashtabula County (Ohio). This photo fascinates me. They all seem to have the same  hair style, which is not flattering to any of them, and I'll bet those uniform were made of wool.

Kingsville High School, Ashtabula County, Ohio

Another weekend we visited the Fredericksburg, VA civil war battlefield where DH’s great grandfather fought for the union side. DH  descended from the offspring of the man and his 30 year younger, 2nd wife in case you did the math and were a bit puzzled.  There is a great Austrian restaurant,   Bavarian Chef in the Fredericksburg train station where we had lunch.

And we spent one weekend in the Shenandoah Valley, delivering left behind items to DS #1, who lives in a town that has a delightful independent fabric store   Ragtime Fabrics   They have a cute store tour video. If you ever traveling in I81, Harrisonburg, VA  is the exit to take to visit this store.  We also stopped at  the local farmers' market and  one of the big caverns in the area.

I made a quick top from Kwik Sew 3032 pattern.

Kwik Sew 3032
View A has a fold over hem around the neckline edge. I decided to make the back neckline a V shape like the front, rather than deal with alterations to the upper back seam for my back curves.  I cut before thinking. This meant I did not have the seam shaping for mitering the "V" in the back neck edge, like I did in the front.

center front seam

Front neckline hem

 I was browsing my Japanese pattern books and found a technique for dealing with the situation.  It is from  a book called Simple and Cute, which has a lot of tops with various forms of ruffles.

Simple and Cute

I like the instruction pictures in  Japanese sewing  books. They are easy to understand without reading any text. They remind me of the Wordless Workbench feature in the Popular Science magazines that were bathroom reading material ( along with Readers' Digest) in my childhood home. Isn’t it funny what you remember sometimes?

Wordless Workbench - Roy Doty

Here are the instructions for finishing a V neckline with a  fold over hem, when you don't have center seams with built in miters.

V neck with fold over hem

A small piece of interfaced fabric, essentially a mini facing just for the V area, is sewn along the neckline seam at the V.

Clip just to the stitching  in the center of the V. Turn mini facing  and the hem allowance on the rest of the neckline to the  inside, and topstitched in place. The technique worked very well.



What else am I doing? I am currently thinking about copying this Dior dress. The Burda pattern is traced and the material pulled from the stash. But I am afraid if I start it the momentum will die, because  I have absolutely nowhere to wear it.
Dior inspiration dress

I am weaving bands on an inkle loom, inspired by the  Oct/Nov 2014 Threads Magazine article "How to Weave Custom Trims" by blogger and weaver Daryl Lancaster. The woven bands may be used to trim a vest I am making for a local ASG group vest challenge.

And I read this book while riding in the car on the weekend trips. I am testing some of the patterns in the book.

This weekend's plans include the NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia Beach. Nothing like sitting on the sand, the sight and sound of the  Blue Angels flying in formation overhead, and the lingering scent of jet fuel.