Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Visions of Sugar Plums

Since I have two sons, I need a "little girl fix" every so often and Christmas sewing for little girls is just the answer for me. I have so much fun planning and sewing for them.

I have three nieces to fill my needs. They are all cousins and not sisters so they are special to each family. The first one is 15 and totally into fashion, so I shop for her these days. (Are you reading this, Mollie?) In the past I have made doll clothes, dresses for her and when she was eleven I made her a purple quilt. These days I feel safer buying clothes for her along with a gift receipt, just in case. I will say that she dresses quite appropriately, but very chic for her age.

The next one is my great niece who is also totally into fashion. Sydni just turned 5. This young lady was picking out her clothes at one years old. It's just in her. Her mother is lovely, dresses very nicely, but is not a shopaholic or fashionista so we don't know where her daughter got this need for fashion. Miss Syd prefers dresses to pants, and knows how to coordinate her clothes. She loves to tell you what she is wearing and why she picked out that day's clothes. She also enjoys dressing her dolls and is quite the young mother to them all. For Christmas I bought Miss Syd a hot pink Ralph Lauren dress, a Fancy Nancy book and made a pink & white apron from Simplicity 3949. This pattern comes with adult and children sizes, so I think I will make one for myself, too. She loves making cookies with her Grammie Steph, so now she will be able to protect her dresses while she cooks.

Then there is the youngest great niece, Maggie, who is 2. Her Grammie Carole gave her a Bitty Baby for Christmas, so this gave me the opportunity to sew a wardrobe for this doll. Three years ago I sewed the same patterns for Miss Syd and she still dresses her Bitty Baby in them (I wish I had pictures to show). I sewed a purple dressy-dress, two sundress/jumpers, a pantie to wear under the three dresses and a pair of overalls with a knit top which can be worn with the jumpers. These were made from McCalls 4338. The bodice on the dress is lined and the jumpers and overalls have substantial facings. I used batiste for the lining and facings since it did the job without creating bulk in the tiny seams. All clothes have velcro closures in the back, so no little loose buttons will create any problems. These dresses and overalls take about two hours each to make, so this is not a quick gift, but is fun to sew.

I also sewed a polar fleece bunting so that Bitty Baby can go outside in the winter. The bunting was made from the same pattern as the diaper bag I created.

And I just love this bag! I used Amy Butler fabric for the outside and polka dot flannel for the lining. This pattern is a discontinued Simplicity Sewing for Dummies pattern. The instructions could have been better, but the pattern is so cute. The outside has two large pockets on one side and the other side has a fold out changing pad. With the left over flannel fabric I made a pillow and blanket for naps. The clothes, bunting, blanket and pillow store very nicely in the bag so it will be easy to keep everything together.

I purchased all my fabrics from E-quilter. The service was extraordinary. I placed my order on Cyber Monday, December 1, and had them by December 5. The really great feature of the site is that after you place items in the shopping basket, you can go to the design board to see how they coordinate. If you don't like any of the choices together, just remove them from the basket and add more.

One of my nephews, Scott, is engaged and his fiance is now part of the family. We draw names for the adults in the family, so each of us is responsible for a gift to one other adult. My husband drew Ashely, Scott's fiance. She loves to cook, so I made her an apron which I drafted myself. I like these fabrics very much and they look quite contemporary to me. We will also include in her gift The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper which I just love and want a copy for myself, along with a silicone spatula. I just hope she likes everything since I am still trying to figure out her style.

After I finished the doll clothes and Miss Syd's apron, my serger broke. Great timing! This forced me to make Ashley's apron with all enclosed seams, so the finishing on this apron is really thought out. I brought my serger in for repairs, but it appears that the motor may need to be replaced. The cost for fixing would be around $400, so I brought it home and my husband will take a look at it when he gets a chance. Looks like I may be in the market for a new one instead. This happened just a little too late for a Christmas present, darn!

I also hope to make pincushions today for my two sister-in-laws and my sister. Now I am off to make my Christmas cookies.

To everyone, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and may your New Year be filled with nothing but joy!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Just because I have been lax in posting lately doesn't mean that I haven't been sewing. In fact, I have sewn a lot since mid July, and much more than usual. I just hope I can keep up the pace which will help reduce the stash and increase the wardrobe which desperately needs updating. With one exception, all fabrics came directly from my stash and have been residing there for at least a year and some are four years old. Here's a quick rundown.

In July I made a couple short-sleeved shirts from Cecelia Podolak's The Classics Fearless Shirt #106 making one from cotton and another from a silk print using the convertible collar view for both. I was pleased with the results of these two shirts and made a couple more during October using the two-piece band collar and the long sleeves with cuffs. I realize that the two long-sleeve shirts appear to have different length sleeves, but both were cut from the same sleeve pattern on the same day no less. The white is a very drapey rayon and the light sage is a pima oxford cotton. Different fabrics just react differently which I will keep in mind the next time I sew up this shirt. I also cut down the size of the oxford cloth shirt cuff by an inch and will do this to all other versions of this pattern.

Next up the Loes Hinse Sweater Set. I have sewn the cardigan at least five times before. This is a quick pattern. I added vintage metal buttons which came from my aunt's button stash and may also have even belonged to my grandmother. These buttons could be anywhere from 50 to 100 years old. This set goes well with the La Fred Iris skirt below and the shell looks nice under the La Fred Maia Jacket. The fabric is a rayon speckled knit that was easy to sew.

In August, Pattern Review had a Lined Jacket contest. I had made the La Fred Maia Jacket three years ago, but mistakenly over fitted it. It looked great on me as long a I did not move. Also, the fusible interfacing bubbled and did not look right. I so wanted to wear that jacket since I loved the style. Well, by entering the contest, I got the motivation to plug away at this jacket again, made a new muslin to refit it, made several fitting changes, including lowering the bust which evidently had fallen in the last couple years. But I am so pleased with the end result and then went on to make a matching skirt from the La Fred Iris Skirt pattern in the a-line view. This skirt was so easy to fit. The suit is made in a herringbone weave linen. I used fusible interfacing in the jacket and underlined the skirt with silk organza. I spent August on these two items and other than cutting out other projects, sewed nothing else.

Since I had such success with the suit, in September I decided to make another one, but in wool. I had bought this wool a couple years ago from Michael's, however, this suit was not what I had originally intended to make with it. But I am so pleased with it and have worn it as a suit or just the jacket with a pair of dark grey pants several times already. Again, I underlined the jacket with fusible weft and the skirt with silk organza. This time I made the pencil skirt version of the Iris Skirt. When I went to the PR event at Sawyer Brook, I picked up Bemberg lining and buttons to go with this suit.

Next up, a couple of Loes Hinse Bianca Sweater tops. I had originally made one from another fabric for my trip to Paris last spring. I really liked the way this top looked on me and it is so comfortable. So I made one top from a speckled dark brown knit from my stash (which is not showing up as dark in the picture) and the other from a lovely black rayon knit I purchase at the PR/Sawyer Brook event. Both tops have seen a lot a wearing in the past month. I wore the speckled one to Sawyer Brook and the black top looks great under the grey suit.

Then on to two more blouses. I had originally made the Loes Hinse Italian Blouse when it first came out about eight years ago using a rayon jacquard. I loved this blouse and actually wore it out. Last year I came upon a similar rayon jacquard and purchased it with the intention of duplicating that blouse which I did do in September. This blouse is not fitted, but has a lovely neckline and looks great under suit jackets. Now to find another drapey fabric in different color to make another one. There must be something in my stash.

The second blouse is a silk georgette I purchased at least four years ago at a sewing expo. It has a lovely drape, but was not the easiest fabric to cut and mark. I ended up using spray starch to stabilize it and that worked out quite well. I had actually run the fabric through the gentile cycle of my washing machine and even machine dried it to get the shrink factor out, so water spotting was not an issue. I will definitely use the spray starch again when I have a wiggly fabric such as silk georgette. The pattern I used for this blouse was Vogue 7063 which I had purchased with this fabric in mind. The front has a hidden placket. I used more decorative buttons on the sleeve cuffs and flat black buttons which are hidden under the placket. I cut down the size of the cuffs by an inch which I think looks better with a drapey, sheer fabric. This blouse also looks great under the grey wool suit.

Last of all, I finished one of the coats for the Great Coat Sew Along. I spent June and July fitting this pattern and cut out the fabric in August along with the fabric for the other coat I plan to make. In September I started and finished this coat which went together in less than a week. The only changes I made to the design were I shortened the length and made single welt pockets rather than welts with flaps which looked too dated for my taste. This jacket has only a single button, so I needed to find something that made a statement. I found a two color carved horn button which gives the jacket a little pizazz and I love my choice.

So what's up next? I plan to make another suit, this time in black double crepe using a Vogue Claire Shaffer jacket pattern. I'm not sure about the skirt yet, but it could be another Iris skirt. I plan to line the jacket in a silk animal print I bought at Metro textiles last year and use buttons I bought at Tender Buttons that same weekend. First I need to fit the jacket, so that is I how I will probably be spending my time this week.

Tomorrow, I plan to meet with a couple sewing buddies to fit pants using Palmer/Pletsch patterns. I have been reading the book, watching the video and preparing my pattern all week. Hopefully, by the afternoon tomorrow I'll have a pants pattern ready to be cut out in fabric.

Last weekend we attended an ASG convention in Hartford where Pati Pletsch was the speaker. She was an inspiration and such a nice person. She truly wants to help people sew well fitting clothes. Recognize the jacket?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkin People

The first weekend of this month my husband and I along with his sister, Nadine, and her boyfriend, Victor, spent three days up in North Conway, NH taking in the foliage, sites and enjoying some great food. We have done this every October for the past five years. Nadine and Vic travel from Phoenix, so this is a real treat for them--a dramatic change of scenery. As for me, I grew up in New Hampshire and went to college in the White Mountains, but I'm always happy to go back and enjoy the area.

We spent the better part of a Sunday in Jackson, which is just up the road from North Conway. Jackson is a very small, but upscale town which appears to have had a pumpkin contest. I took pictures of all the pumpkin people we found.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back to the Blog

I know I've been negligent of my blog, but I'm back. I have been sewing and promise that I will post my new projects.

Yesterday I attended the PR event at Sawyer Brook which is located in an old factory building in Clinton, Mass. I drove there with AnnB and TrishW from PR. What a lovely time we had. The morning started with everyone checking each other out as we walked in ("I wonder if she made that"). It was great to see members I had not seen since last year at the PR New York weekend, but there were many more people I had never met than there were those I knew. Barb Blom, the owner of Sawyer Brook had set up a refreshment table to welcome us and Deepika was as enthusiastic as always in greeting everyone.

Barb started with a truck show featuring various current fabrics, talking about fibre content, origin, and care. She would pass around the sample to us after telling us about each one. This took at least a half hour and I learned a few new things from Barb who is incredibly knowledgeable.

After the trunk show, we all scrambled to the retail room to search for additions to our stashes. Besides Barb, there where four other Sawyer Brook ladies, Judy, Sue, Dixie and Carol to help us. The store is set up with all the current fabrics on one end along with linings and interfacings, buttons and dress/blouse weight silks are in the middle and the back room was loaded with remnants. Barb personally helped me pick out some terrific buttons for a suit I want to make, then helped me find lining in Ambiance and thread. I also bought a lovely rayon knit to make a top, hopefully, in the next week or so. I really love fabric, but managed to refrain from overdoing it for myself as far as my purchases went. I witnessed a couple PR members creating wardrobes which is very easy to do at Sawyer Brook since Barb purchases all her fabrics with the idea of coordination. In the past, I've been known to do the same thing.

After about an hour or so of browsing & purchasing, we had a show & tell. Deepika had asked us all to bring in the oldest item we had made. I brought an old apron I made in 1973 with Marimeko fabric I had purchase from the old Fabrications which was a store in Boston in the 1970s. I also showed a shirt I made in 1994 for my youngest son who had picked out the fabric himself (think dinosaurs) and my latest project which is the LaFred Maia jacket which I entered in the PR Lined Jacket contest (yes, I will post about the jacket). It was fun to see what others had made over the years. I am estimating that there were 30 of us at this event.

After show & tell, the majority of us headed over to Meadowbrook Orchards for lunch which was about a 5 minute drive from Sawyer Brook. We managed to take over a large portion of the restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company trading knowledge and ideas.

It was a great day, lovely weather and wonderful company.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I have been noticing that several sewing bloggers have been making new covers for their ironing boards. I have had my board for twenty years and had always bought covers for it, but lately I wanted something prettier than the ready-made ones. Since I had bought fabric last year specifically for a cover, I thought now was a good time to make a new one since I couldn't stand looking at the old one.

I first marked the edged of the surface on the old cover while still on the ironing board. This was so I could make my pattern from it. I then took the cover off the board and cut along the marked line. This line was only to indicate the shape of the board and not take any other dimensions into account.

I then made a pattern by first marking the center of the cover on a long piece of paper, and placed the old cut cover folded in half on the paper along the center line. I then marked reference lines along the edge of the cover to get the board shape on half the paper, removed the cover and then marked the surface lines and added 2.5 inches all around the pattern for lapping over the edge of the board. Then I folded the paper in half along the center line (which is also the grainline) and cut my pattern.

Since I was using a stripe for the new cover, it was easy to line up the center grainline with a stripe. I used 1 1/2 yards of fabric for the cover. Since the fabric was 54" wide, I have enough for another cover.

My board also needed new padding. I had some very old wool blankets which I have been saving and had hoped to use to make a large pressing surface. Since such a surface is not in my near future, I placed one of the blankets over my ironing board, marked the surface with a water soluble marking pen and cut around it leaving about 1 1/2 inches to cover over the edges of the board. I still have one whole blanket left plus half of the one I used, so someday a larger pressing surface will happen.

I had purchased two packages of double fold bias tape to finish the edges of the cover. Since one edge of the tape is wider than the other, I placed the wider edge underneath the cover fabric edge and the smaller edge on top and sewed in place using my top-stitching foot.

Past covers have had a tendency to move and one side the finished edge of the cover ended up at the edge of the board and not underneath the board where it belonged. I decided to add a couple ties to hold the cover in place underneath the board. I used the leftover bias tape, sewing the tape closed, cut four ties from it and attached them to the cover at the point just after where the curve of the narrower end of board ended and again about 10 inches from the square end of the board.

I marked the points where I wanted the ties, sewed them down, the folded them over and sewed them again, covering the unfinished edge and securing them in place.

I then took a bodkin and ran a cord through the casing created by the bias tape around the edge of the cover.
Then I adjusted the cording by tightening it around the board and tied the ties under the board.

Voila! Now I have a new cover and my only regret is that I didn't make one sooner.

By the way, the new SewStylish came today. I do like it and many of the clothes are based on Simplicity 2816. I think the styles are aimed at sewers in their 20's, but there is a lot of good, basic information in this issue. There are loads of ideas and inspiration along with a pull-out section on draping. Amber Eden also stated that this will be the last issue which she is editor, but there will be other issues. I just hope she stays with Threads since there has been so much improvement since she came to the magazine.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

One Pattern, Two Jackets

I am amazed at the people who are constantly sewing and reviewing their latest creations. I barely have time to sew, but envy those that churn out new pieces on a regular basis. Rather than dream about creating new clothes, I decided I just need to do it. One thing that holds me back is the fitting process. Once that is out of the way, things usually move along at a good pace. I guess I'm much more motived once I have a pattern I am comfortable sewing.

Last year I made Burda 8433 for the PR 2007 SWAP in black linen. I really liked the way this jacket looked and sewed up. My present wardrobe needed a casual jacket other than my denim one and this pattern was just what I needed to fill in the gap. This time I added the collar and cuffs which were not included on my jacket last year. In both cases, I left off the front faux pockets since I think the design is busy enough. Since I am not allowing myself to purchase any more fabric for now (we'll see if I stick with this plan) I shopped my stash and came up with a bottom weight cotton in burnt orange. This color is a great contrast to many of my tops and bottoms in my summer wardrobe. I decided to emphasize the top-stitching by using a white thread and adding white buttons from the button stash to give the jacket more of a summer feel. Since I had fitted this jacket last year, the construction time went much faster than if I had never used this pattern. I finished this jacket last week and have already worn it three times. Something tells me that I will be using this pattern again when the right fabric in my stash speaks to me again.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

True Confessions

I haven't been upfront with my fabric purchases. I know I signed up for the PR fabric fast and vowed to only buy fabric when I went to Paris (or other cities I may travel to), but I have to confess that I have added some non-foreign bought fabrics into my stash.

In March, Emma One Sock had added to her site this marvelous black sueded silk that doesn't easily wrinkle. I tried not to buy any, but the pull was just too great. Besides this stuff didn't wrinkle, how perfect for travel. So I bought eight yards and plan create my next travel wardrobe around this lovely staple.

Then in April I went to the Sewing Expo in Worcester, MA. I usually go for at least two days, but this year I only signed up for one day since there weren't that many classes that interested me this time. I think that this is the fifth year I have gone. In past years, I have taken a lot of classes and did not want to repeat any, therefore, that shrunk my class options. So that gave me more time to shop--which was dangerous. I had gone with the intention of only looking, but the temptation was just too great.

First of all, Cynthia Guffey had brought a truck load of silk this time and Cynthia, herself, helped me pick out a couple pieces that she felt suited me. How could I refuse her? I bought four yards of dark purple and two more of brick red. I plan to make a suit in the purple and a jacket with the red. I was tempted to buy more, but stopped with these. After all, I really wasn't supposed to be fabric shopping anyway.

Then I came upon Wool House who I have bought from in the past. They carry truly lovely fabrics. Actually, I circled around this vendor a few times, left to look at other goodies at the Expo, but couldn't help being drawn back to this particular place. In my stash there is a great piece of brown wool/mohair blend I bought from Michael's Fabrics last year and was looking for coordinates to go with it for a future swap. That's when I spotted a brown and grey tweed which would make a great jacket. Then there was a large selection of this fantastic wool/silk/bamboo blend and wouldn't you know, some of them coordinated with the tweed. This is another one of those fabrics that doesn't wrinkle and has a wonderful drape to it. Well there was a taupe that just worked great. There were lots more colors to choose from, but I was trying to keep with my fast (really, I was). And I couldn't overlook all the lovely pima cotton shirtings, especially the grey & brown stripe and the grey shirting which felt more like silk than cotton. So I walked away with another nine yards of fabric. When I went to Paris in April, I found another piece to go with this group. I am hoping to start sewing this swap by the end of summer.

And I can't leave out Vogue Fabrics. Their selection this year was not as good as in the past, but I found a few pieces of silk twill which would make great linings and they were priced the same a Ambiance. So another eight yards (in brown, green and butter) found their way into my bag. But lining doesn't count, does it?

So let's see, eight yards from Emma One Sock, six yards from Cynthia Guffey, nine yards from Wool House and another eight yards from Vogue Fabrics. That's 31 yards added to the stash along with another 15 bought in Paris.

I also bought another six yards of lining fabrics for the Great Coat Sew Along (but honestly, there wasn't anything in my stash that went with my coat fabrics). Since the linings won't be around long enough to age, I don't think they should count anyway.

I know I have a problem, but I was good in May and only bought needed lining in June. No excuses in July, I promise. Anyway, I've actually bought less fabric than this time last year and have had no regrets so far. Is there a 12 step program for fabric addicts?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What I Wore Today

T-shirt: Ann Taylor
Capris: J Jill
Denim Jacket: Jalie 2320
Hardhat: Case International Construction
Camera Case: Ritz Camera

Marilyn and Goliath

No, I don't slay giants. But thanks to my husband, I had the opportunity to go to the top of the highest structure in our city which is a crane built by General Dynamics in the 1970's. It is located in the former shipyard, stands 20 stories high, 400 ft across and is appropriately named Goliath. (A word about the former shipyard--this is the place which originated the saying "Kilroy was here"! During WWII, there was an inspector named Kilroy who left the saying on whatever he had inspected.) The picture at the top shows only half the structure since I was too close to fit it all in a frame. This giant once was the largest crane in North America. Since the shipyard no longer exists, the crane has been sold to Daewoo and will be transported to a shipyard in Romania. To build a new crane would cost $45-60 Million. The Korean company bought it from it's current owner for approximately $650,000 and it will cost $16 Million to dismantle it, ship it and then reassemble it in Romania. Recycling at its best!

Ken, our son, Kenny, and I arrived at 8 a.m. and met Mike, the project manager/engineer for the dismantling. Ken has been dealing with Mike for a while and it turns out that they both earned their undergraduate engineering degrees from the University of Illinois.

We were all given hardhats, then took an elevator (thank goodness!) up 15 floors to the first level. What a great view we had. Just a little hazy, but still panoramic. We managed to get inside the center beam which was dark, but walked the entire length once we were on top of it outside. We climbed five flights of stairs to get to that point.

We wanted to go to the highest point, but once we arrived there, a couple falcons were determined to keep us from doing that. One of them started swooping around us, just missing our heads several times. We appropriately changed our minds about going to the top. It turns out that the falcons had a nest there, but the babies had already hatched. The entire family was removed and placed in a new home a few days ago, but it appears they found their way back to the crane.

The structure to remove the crane should be finished in a week or so and it will take only two to three days to bring it down.

This was certainly a different way to spend the morning.