Thursday, February 12, 2015

Stashbusting: the olive crinkle top

Oops, the camera caught me cheating . . .

. . . trying to arrange the folds of the front pleat to hang just so, and maybe if I hold very, very still, I'll be able to get at least one photo in which this doesn't look like a maternity top.

Oh, okay, maybe not.

This is view B of Vogue 1412, a loose-fitting pullover top with some nice details.

It's all right, really, as this was one of my stashbusting exercises. I take a pattern that I think is unlikely to work well for me (no fault with the pattern usually, just not a good match for my body), and I use a fabric that I would like to see disappear from my stash. The pressure is off, and I most often learn something.

What I see here is that I could use a different fabric (I've been disenchanted with crinkle rayon since the first time I used it but already had this in my stash)—something more drapey, with some slip, that won't get hung up on whatever I'm wearing on the bottom. And, crucially, I could remove all that pleat business in the front and just make a center front seam below the buttoned section.

The back has some nice gathers where it meets the collar band.

Another thing I learned was how to insert a little placket in the sleeve opening. But if you look closely at the first photo of this post you will see that I somehow got it backwards; the cuff should wrap the other way, but I couldn't make it happen because of how I put the placket in. That's okay: I get the idea and will get it right next time.

A couple of ideas on things to watch:

Seeing the movie Boyhood recently (which I liked a lot, by the way) reminded me of a very different but also longitudinally filmed series of documentary pieces that my husband and I watched obsessively some years ago. It made us laugh, it made us tear up, it made us squirm, and I still think about it surprisingly often. If you have not seen the Seven Up series, which follows the lives of a set of British children of various backgrounds over the years, do yourself a favor and take a look.

Also British and also really interesting: Whoa, have you seen Black Mirror? It’s like a Twilight Zone about where technology might take us, with a new story and different characters every episode. We’re watching it on Netflix. It is superbly done and absolutely addictive. But it’s dark, and when I say dark, I mean it. The first episode in particular could be difficult to stomach: I will just say that it goes where TV in the U.S. would never dare to go.

And an update on my mother-in-law’s cave house, for anyone who saw that note in my last post:

Danielle has had exactly one potential buyer show up to take a look at her home. And that was . . . Kat Von D. Not to namedrop, but I couldn’t resist telling about it. Apparently the tattooist liked it a lot, but she is looking at a number of properties in southern Spain, so we’ll see. We think it would be kind of hilarious if she buys it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wiping away the cobwebs

. . . from the blog, that is. I'm still here, still sewing, and still aspiring to be a participating member of the wonderful online sewing community. I see that I took a long break from October to January last year as well, which makes me wonder a bit. Seasonal inertia?

Anyway, we had some snow yesterday.

(A potting table and a barbecue grill lurk somewhere deep beneath those humps.)

It looks impressive, but the truth is that the very cold temperatures made the snow so dry and light that it was not a disruptive storm here in seacoast New Hampshire. No trees or branches down, minimal power outages—just find a place to put all that snow and you're back in business.

So, in late fall I made a blouse and skirt that I am happy with.

The blouse is my second version of Vogue 8535, which has unusually shaped pieces that are quite gratifying to put together. Look at the line drawings, not the odd renderings on the front of the pattern package, to get the idea. Those curved seams along the bottom of the sleeves are even more extreme than in the line drawings, though, and had to be trimmed back.

My first version of this blouse is unblogged, but I did post a pattern review, and this photo featured in Me Made May last year.

The new version is in a scrumptiously soft black wool-and-Tencel blend from B&J Fabrics. The black doesn't show the details well in my photos, but I think this blouse is a good use of the fabric and will go with, um, pretty much everything I have that can be worn with a blouse.

The skirt is (another) Vogue 1247, but with something like 10 inches added to the length(!). As detailed in this post, I had to make a few changes to the skirt after I thought it was done, because of the thick, stretchy fabric I used, but eventually I got what I wanted.

Oh, I have been away too long! I can't wait to take a look at what all my many favorite bloggers have been doing . . .

A couple of notes today:

Internet: Check out This blog is a real treat for anyone who loves New York City half as much as I do.

Some family real estate for sale: My remarkable mother-in-law (or belle-mère, as she prefers, for obvious reasons), Danielle, wants to move on from her cave home in an isolated but beautiful part of Spain. A reporter from the International New York Times (formerly the International Herald Tribune) contacted her, wanting to do a feature on her home. She never asked how they found out about her, because that's just how she is. I wish they had included more photos of her really very beautiful and unusual home, but here's the piece.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Backlog and hop blog

Hmmm, it has been a while. I can't show my latest project because my progress on it is going in a negative direction. Literally. The waistband has come off, pockets have been taken apart, and I'm considering redoing the bottom of the invisible zipper to get rid of that nasty bump. Sooo . . . it's not the finished object I briefly thought it was.

But wait: Let's look a little deeper in the closet, where some unblogged pieces still lurk, for a weather-appropriate outfit that I can show. The top is Vogue 8248, a Very Easy pattern. I did post a review on Pattern Review quite a while ago. Doesn't it look like the exact same shirt as the one I'm wearing today? It's not. The fabric I used for that first version was too stiff, so I remade the top in a nice soft wool that happened to be the very same shade of deep red.

The skirt is Simplicity 9825, a set of slim and A-line skirts with yoke and front center seam. Below you can almost see, behind the unexpectedly well defined tree shadows and in front of the disaster that is our yard at this time of year, the pocket flaps that I lifted from Version B for my A-line skirt. They are fake. No actual pockets here. Not only did I choose this version of the skirt my own personal self, but I also substituted some pieces of black twill tape I had lying around for the suggested (and somewhat classier) leather strips. Fortunately, all the tops I would wear with this skirt are long enough to cover up my cheap trick.

Sue of Fadanista has kindly invited me to join the blog hop. I very much enjoy seeing Sue's elegant and oh-so-wearable makes, reading her posts that are full of insight and touches of humor, and getting to make virtual visits to other parts of the world through her photo-filled travelogues. I'm flattered that she has passed the baton to me.

Why do you write?

Honestly, I started to feel strange about how often I was lurking on other people's sewing blogs without actually interacting with them. I'm sure I could have commented bloglessly, but I somehow felt that having a blog would give me a more legitimate base from which to engage with other sewists. As in "I, too, spend some time trying to make clothing. May I be part of this community?" Looking back, this seems an awfully humble motivation, but I am an introvert who verges on downright social awkwardness, and my humble blog has been working well for me.

Of course, my posts also give me a way to keep track of what I'm sewing, reflect on which of my makes work for me and which don't, and figure out where to go next.

How is your blog different from others of the same genre?

I don't think my blog has any unusual features (except maybe that my posts are so few and far between). My usual format is quite basic: make a piece of clothing, take photos of it, and think of something to say about it. I do try to add one or two notes at the end of each post about something not related to sewing that interests me. This might be a museum exhibit I've seen, something I've cooked recently, or just an animal that has turned up in our yard here in the woods of New Hampshire.

What are you working on now?

The project mentioned above that's not going so smoothly is a midi version of Vogue 1247. I've made this skirt up before, as have many others, and aside from being excruciatingly short, my first version fit and looked pretty great, I thought. I did wonder whether adding an extra ten inches to bring the skirt well below my knees would look wrong, but I think that part works. My fabric, though--an otherwise lovely stretch wool tweed in a soft brick color from Gorgeous Fabrics--does pose a couple of problems. The extra length of the skirt combined with the stretch and the springy thickness of the fabric results in a saggy-baggy look that is not at all what I had envisioned. I'm taking it in all over the place, replacing the pocket facings with a thinner fabric, and adding a lining.

What is your writing process?

The photo taking is the hardest part of blogging for me, so once that's done I don't agonize too much over the writing. This is not to say that sparkling text comes flowing out with no effort(!) but rather that I'm content with cataloguing what I've made, describing any particular problems or insight I had, and throwing in anything else that seems appropriate.

I'd like to see how Maggie of Stitch-n-Thyme would answer these questions, so I invite her to join the blog hop. Maggie happens to live right down the road from me (in U.S. terms, anyway), and I appreciate her vintage/classic aesthetic.

The other person I'd like to invite to continue the blog hop is Cecili of Sewing and so on. Far from just down the road, she lives pretty much on the opposite side of the planet from me. I enjoy following Cecili's quirky, youthful, tropics-friendly makes.

Yet another note on food:

Are these not adorable? I should have put something in the picture for scale. The man I buy eggs from also sells these little quail eggs, and I finally caved and bought some. A big part of their charm for me is the spotted shells, so I just boiled them for us to peel at the table and eat with flavored salt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A giveaway, because my son knows how to tell it like it is

But first, let's take a look at my latest woven tee:

It's the top from Simplicity 1366 (again), but this time made from one of my treasured silk scarves. The fabric was produced by the Ban Napho Weaving Group in Thailand. I cannot say enough good things about their beautiful work. I felt okay about cutting into the scarf only because I still have a second scarf from them, in even more luscious colors, and because the top took practically every inch of the fabric. It is underlined in black habotai for a little extra strength and stability. This top ranks right up there among my favorite makes ever.

This photo is closest to the actual color of the fabric, though it doesn't show the beautiful sheen very well.

So, on to the giveaway.

Several years ago I bought 3 1/4 yards of silk chiffon from Mood Fabrics. My plan was to use it for Butterick 4978, but since that dress pattern is cut on the bias, the chiffon, with its lined-up rows and columns of cherries, was not going to work. It has been sitting in my stash ever since, and every once in a while I pull it out and try to get myself to do something with it. I thought maybe I could picture something like a longish six-gore skirt with black silk lining.

Butterick 4978: flowers, not cherries

Partly because I'm dubious about wearing this particular print, though, and partly because I have found working with chiffon to be a royal pain in the past, I always put it back on the shelf. A few days ago I had it out on the table when my teenage son came into the sewing room. Though his thing is computer programming and robotics, he also has a strong artistic streak. In a kind but matter-of-fact tone, he said: Mom. Whatever you make out of that, it's not going to look right on you.

Yikes! But I think he was right. And now I am ready to let it go. If anyone thinks they can use this fabric, I will happily send it off to them, any place in the world. It will be worth it to me to get it out of my stash and into the stash of someone who can appreciate it. You can let me know in a comment or email me at pfarr at comcast dot net if you are interested.

Silk chiffon with cherries on a black background, sheer and lightweight, 56 inches wide.

A smorgasbord of notes today because I haven't posted for a while (yes, it's a Swedish word, but close enough for my purposes):

Watching: Borgen is a surprisingly enthralling Danish political drama series on TV about a woman politician. It's hard to find in the U.S. (we ordered the DVDs from Amazon), but certainly worth watching if you have the opportunity.

Reading: The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett, is a short funny delight of a book that involves the Queen of England and the pleasures of reading.

Eating: Delicata squash! It's dense, rich, delicious, and easy to prepare. Cut into half-moon shapes and roast with some olive oil and salt; no need to peel. I can't provide my own picture here because we keep eating it before I remember to get a photo.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The woven tee for me

I have been keeping an eye out for a woven tee pattern for a while. Finding a good woven tee would be great for plenty of reasons, but my particular reason is that I have a small shelf of very special fabrics. I don't mean my single yards of Liberty lawn, or the kind of offbeat and overly pricy pieces I sometimes end up buying on impulse at B&J Fabrics in New York, though those are certainly special enough and I do hesitate to cut into them. The special fabrics I'm referring to are from when I traveled more in my younger days as a single woman and an English-as-a-second-language teacher, supplemented by the beautiful fabrics my mom continues to send me from her many travels (and she turned eighty this year). Handwoven silks from Thailand, Laos, Bhutan. So special I can hardly cut into them--but what am I going to do? Make something to wear and appreciate, or pass them on to my son who is interested only in coding for robotics? (What would you do? Seriously, I'd like to know.)

Fortunately Sara of Mixed Emotions drew my attention to this pattern with her beautiful versions of it. I have enough other favorite pattern sources that I don't usually look too closely at the Simplicity offerings, and even if I had come across Simplicity 1366, I believe that I would have been too distracted by that crazy skirt to even see the tee.

Now I have made two versions out of ordinary fabric: one out of the scraps (blue with white print; Mood Fabrics said cotton but I don't think so) left after I made a version of Colette's Jasmine, and one out of the scraps (rayon, charcoal with white print) left from an unsuccessful skirt made many years ago. So you see, this pattern doesn't require much fabric at all, especially if you don't worry about sewing the bias binding from several short lengths.

A note on what I'm watching:

Have you seen High Maintenance? It's a low-budget but well-done web series set in Brooklyn whose episodes are tied together only by the presence of a particular marijuana deliveryman. I beg you (that sounds kind of strong, but I think it's worth it) to watch the episode titled Rachel. It can easily be found online and will take only 13 minutes of your time. It features the handsome and talented Dan Stevens, and has an appearance by Rachel Comey. Warning you, though, it just might serve as your gateway episode.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stashbusting: the blue ponte pants

Sometimes I get carried away and buy a length of fabric that I later realize is not what I had hoped. (Am I alone in this?) So it was with two yards of blue ponte knit, poly/rayon blend, bought from Fabric Mart almost three years ago. I had received a swatch in the mail, so I knew exactly how very blue it was, and how poly-blend looking, and yet I tumbled. Why? I cannot answer that question.

The best I could do was to decide finally to get that fabric out from clogging up my stash by making it into something. Using a fabric I do not appreciate, with a pattern that I suspect is not going to be ideal for me, may sound like a thoroughly unrewarding enterprise, and yet there is something about moving that fabric through the pipeline and trying out that unpromising pattern that pleases me and makes me feel more free to move forward with projects I do have high hopes for.

From now on, projects of this type (yeah, this is not the only one) will carry the label "stashbusting."

The pattern is Vogue 8712, Marcy Tilton pants, view C. Nothing wrong with the pattern––it's just something that might look better on a svelter person than I am. On me these pants look a little, um, wide.

This photo shows the color of the fabric better than the ones above, and in fact it's more what the pants look like in real life:

You may be wondering: Must I keep my hands in my pockets at all times while wearing these pants? Why, yes! Yes, I must. I used the remnants of a woven fabric that I had on hand for the contrast pockets, waist facing, fly, etc., just because it was the exact same shade of blue, and it made the edges of the pockets stand out a bit from my hips. Which I can disguise by jamming my hands in my pockets.

This pattern has a fly front, which does not seem strictly necessary with knit fabric, but I went ahead and included it for the practice. It came out just fine. However, I don't get how the waist facing is supposed to interact with the zipper. A couple of reviewers on Pattern Review had mentioned this, but I didn't quite know what they were referring to until I got there. As the instructions are written, the facing would fold down over the top of the zipper. I got around it by folding the facing at an angle above the zipper top, and then using a combination of topstitching and hand slipstitching to keep everything in place. Here's how it looks on the wrong side:

Rear view:

A note on something to do in the northeastern U.S.:

Last weekend after picking our son up from a robotics engineering camp in Connecticut, we made a spontaneous visit to Mystic Seaport. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much: rainy day, tired from driving, have seen other reenactment sites, blah blah. But it was great. If you have any interest in boats, seafaring, New England life in the olden days, go and visit. Don't miss the forge or the printer's shop.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer is for easy projects

At long last, my poppy-print version of Burda 4-2014-124 is done. Let me say right here that my next few projects are going to be purposely simple. Or at least not ridiculously complicated.

I do love this poppy fabric. You can read in this post how I fell hard for it . . . but, man, was it difficult to work with. Seam allowances that frayed almost to the seamline before I could get to them, little shredded areas that materialized if the fabric so much as hung over a corner of my cutting mat—this one had me gnashing my teeth. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. Okay, enough with the qualifications.

I think I might be able to wear this dress in real life if I just sit quietly in a corner somewhere.

The pattern itself is a good one, though not a quick make. There is a complete underdress (same pattern pieces for the six-gore skirt, different pieces, including spaghetti straps, for the bodice) sewn inside the outer dress. With the French seams that I used throughout, this meant a lot of sewing and pressing. Looking at the photo above, seems I need to press that left front skirt seam a little better, ahem.

If you look closely at this next photo, you can see how the finest sewing-machine needle I have, which I changed out several times during this project by the way, still left little "bites" in the fabric.

I made a number of changes to the pattern. For one, I lengthened it by over two inches (but compare to the magazine photo; I'm sure that model is at least as tall as I am??). More important, I left off everything that I thought of as frippery. Frilly details just do not work well on me, so I substituted a simple edging for the piping, and omitted the lace on the underdress bodice, the topstitched batting under the neckband, and the shirring on the sleeves (in fact, I ended up leaving off the sleeves entirely and finishing the armholes with bias binding). I do feel that the part of the underdress bodice that peeks out looks a little plain, so maybe keeping the lace trim there would have been good.

Here's how the neckband looks up close with my changes:

Again because of the fragile nature of the fabric, I had a heck of a time figuring out a way to hem the skirt without it falling apart on me as I went. I ended up using my serger to make a rolled edge, and I'm happy enough with it.

Nature notes:

Photos are from last month, so not brand new, but I still want to give these turtle mamas a little appreciation. This sweet painted turtle was laying her eggs in our front yard one day in early June.

And she brought her sister along to lay her eggs!

The same day, as I walked down the driveway to get our mail, I came across this snapping turtle looking for a good egg-laying place. She is much bigger than the painted ones, like a large dinner plate, and can easily take off a finger if you're silly enough to present it to her.