Sleepy time pajamas

A little chilly for this time of year.. but very comfortable!

So somehow, I’ve actually managed to rebuild a decent sized stash… which of course included some odd selections. Lots of white t-shirt knit – it’s a bit on the heavier side but at least there are no worries about seeing through the fabric. And this flora/fauna green and brown quilters cotton that I am sure came from Joann’s at some point early last summer. Tom created a new cutting table for me and I had been thinking I would cover it with a patterned fabric… but this particular one ended up clashing with pretty much every other material in the room. So away on the shelf it got stored.

Until I started to get ready for the Nashua Sew & Vac retreat! I spent the first week of January just cutting out projects and kitting them in bags with the pattern and all necessary notions. It was actually kind of nice to work that way. And in fact, I’m already sewing more since I got back since I have all these projects just ready to go.

Anyway, this particular set ended up being the first project I sewed during the retreat- partly because they were easy, and partly because they were two of the least interesting projects I brought so I wantedto get them out of the way. It also gave me a chance to tweak the settings on my serger and Bernina for the rest of the weekend – since I didn’t mind a few skipped stitches on my sleepwear!

All told, I followed the instructions exactly – made a medium top and medium pants – and they probably took me a combined 2 hours from start to finish. I haven’t worn them to bed yet… but as soon as we get closer to spring… or I find myself away for the weekend I’ll try them out!


Stash bash jeans

New jeans... still need some sanding... and a better place to take photos!

Pictures! I wore my newly finished jeans today, and aside from one minor mishap, they were great… and I even took a few pictures just a few minutes ago. (Note to self… start working out… or stop wearing sleeveless tops. It’s not currently a good look!) As for the minor mishap… I meant to topstitch the inseam but didn’t think of it until the side seams had been sewn and serged. AND I also forgot to go back stitch the crotch seam again… so there were a few ripped stitches at the first try on this morning. oops. Luckily the serging held and I survived until getting them back under the machine for a row of reinforcement stitches. And I added that step to my directions for next time.

Once again these are made from the J. Stern Designs pattern #37. I’ve used the pattern successfully before and still love those jeans but they are getting a bit worn out and were meant for flip-flops… so they end up a tad short when I want to wear my boots. Or any other shoes for that matter! Sadly, I’ve put back on a bit of weight (about 15 pounds) so the new pair are ‘curvier’ in the hip area (or rather my hips are curvier – ugh) than I would like but nothing a little new year’s healthy resolution can’t help with.

So – any major changes this time around? Here’s what I noted:

  • Fabric… purchased directly from Jennifer Stern at the Worcester Expo last April – excellent denim to work with although washing & drying it 4 times was a pain.
  • Topstitching… set up a second sewing machine just for top-stitching so I didn’t have to keep re-threading. Definitely saved time. Also used YLI jeans stitch thread. Great end result.
  • Fussy detail – pocket fabric is much sturdier this go round. And it was stitched three times for reinforcement. (I got a hole in a pocket in the first pair.)
  • The standard length was just right – I simply unfolded what I had tucked up from cutting the flip-flop length last time.
  • Back seat – still not perfect but that’s due to some faulty drafting on my end. I just need to straighten out the center back seam with a french curve – no biggie.
  • Must remember to topstitch inseam. It would have added strength and a nice detail that is found on nearly every other pair of jeans I own. I did topstitch the side seams from the waist to the base of the pocket – another detail found on many jeans and I like the look.
  • I’m still not shortening the zipper enough. Next time I need to shorten it to the length of the placket or just order some 4″ zippers and be done with it!
  • I’d like to try the YLI jeans stitch thread in beige next time. I think it would make for more subtle detailing on the next pair.
  • I add some decorative stitching on the pocket – just extra-long stitches mimicking the design shown on the envelope. I’m thinking I need to start a file on pocket embellishment ideas. Or keep saving for an embroidery machine!

Not bad for a first pocket attempt... just chalked a design and sewed!

Sewing Retreat Report

It’s  hard to believe that a week ago I was in Meredith NH for a three day sewing retreat run by Nashua Sew & Vac. I brought scads of projects and got nearly that much done while I was there

Friday was the first day of sewing and we were set up with machines running by 11am. I started off slow with a white knit racer back pajama tank top and then a draped neck sleeveless top. Both were made from the same white tee shirt knit from my stash. Neither are incredible but both were easy and gave me a chance to work out issues with my bernina and the serger. About 1.75 yards went into those two projects.

Next in  line was a pair of pajama pants… your basic full leg, elastic waist, printed cotton. The cotton in this case was an odd green and brown floral/animal print that I had intended to use as a cover for my cutting table. Unfortunately it really clashed… but who cares when it’s jammie fabric!! 2ish yards went into the making of those pants.

Somewhere along the way was a pizza break for dinner and then I got started on one of the dresses I brought – the green boucle sheath with tan bemberg lining. It went together pretty easily and I enjoyed taking my time and doing everything by the book. Lots of serging along the way on that one since the fabric frayed like crazy. I had it finished except for the hem when I tried it on for the first time on Saturday afternoon. Eek…. my hips are even wider than I admitted to myself when  cutting everything out. Luckily there was just enough room to let the skirt out a tad. Stockings would have helped too.

Anyway, that dressmaking lasted well in to Friday night and then most of the day on Saturday. However, in the end, the fit was great and having spent so much time hand finishing the details was worth it. And  chalk up 2.25 more yards sewn up from my stash!

The rest of the report will have to wait… I made a pair of jeans today and now my brain is tired! Photos and the rest of the report tomorrow!






Embarrassed… But still sewing!

Apparently the name should have been “and she forgets to sew” based on the evidence in this blog! 2011 was a tough year… Mom was sick and diagnosed with cancer in March, work was beyond stressful, and sewing fell by the wayside in a big way. Not that I stopped entirely, but the occasions were few and far between.

Thankfully my friends Lorrie and Sharon kept me sewing a bit during our Tuesday sewing nights and I was occasionally able to attend ASG meetings to gain some inspiration. I’m sure I’ll catch up on some pattern reviews but for now I’m focused on the sewing to come in 2012!

Next weekend I’ll be attending the Nashua Sew & Vac retreat and I’ve cut out six projects this week – all in preparation for 3 lovely days of nothing but sewing. (big yay!)

And what do I have planned, you ask? Here’s the list as of Friday:

nook cover
draped neckline linen sheath
green  tweed sheath dress
orange and fuchsia border print dress
pink sundress and kerchief for niece
whimsical retro-ish apron
drab grey raincoat (previously cut)
yellow wool one shoulder dress (UFO)

Will I get them all done? Highly unlikely but I’ll have fun trying 😉 I also laundered some white knit and a green floral for pajama pants, a tank and a draped neck tee. We’ll see if I get those cut tomorrow…

a jazzy new laptop bag, finis!

It’s done, it’s done!

Well, we had our usual Tuesday night sewing time and all three of us completed our professional totes. Sharon and Lorrie’s turned out fantastic – the leather really looks great and they even added feet to the bottom to keep the bags from wearing too easily. Mine doesn’t look too different from the partial finished photo in the last post. The big difference is the center zipper that closes it all up and of course the zillion pockets on the inside. Okay, maybe it’s only 7 pockets – but it seems like a lot more when sewing them all together. Final tally: about 19 hours. Not too bad for my first bag. Now I’ll have to take it to work tomorrow… just because!

A pink partial petticoat! Only the dust ruffle was attached in this photo. There's a 12" flounce that gets added on top, too.

Over the weekend I also finished my 1911 chemise and drawers as well as a pink sateen underpetticoat, except for one button and button hole. I have a corset in the works, too but am waiting on some boning to arrive before that can be wrapped up. Unfortunately the underpetticoat can’t get fitted until the corset is tried on again and I know my final waist size!

There’s another sewing night planned for tomorrow at work which will entail more 1911 sewing. At this point I have almost enough photos for a complete tutorial on 1911 drawers, chemises and petticoats. If only I could find the time to sit down and do it!

a jazzy new laptop bag, part deux

The end is in sight… and I have photos to prove it!

So close to being a bag, and yet... still more to do!

So… for the most part the outside of the bag is done! Well, except for the top zipper section that holds the whole thing closed.  I should be up to about 17 hours on this one since I put in a some time on Super Bowl Sunday and then another hour earlier tonight at my weekly sewing get together. Lorrie and Sharon are even closer to being done with their bags – they have nothing left to but to attach the top zipper section, which combines the outside and lining all-in-one. As a result – I was tasked with getting my bag to same step so that we could all finish our bags together next week.

I am so excited! I actually love the combination of fabrics much more than I thought I would and it really will be the perfect size for my laptop. Which is good because I keep leaving it lying around and never seem to have the cords near it. It will be great to give it a home!

Three styles to choose from... 2 weeks to decide!

With finishing this bag next week, that means we’ll get to start our next group project: The Mandarin Jacket from Favorite Things. We were chatting tonight about what to make it from. Lorrie and I had seen it made up in some great Asian fabrics and I was also partial to the linen version shown on the envelope. But then Sharon suggested silk… and now the idea of it in a silk dupioni is very appealing!

But what color? I already have four brown jackets… I think it’s time for a change! What goes with the jeans and scarves I have? Or would this just be a fantastic new excuse for more scarves…. Uh-oh. Now I’m just thinking of the gorgeous embroidered scarf my dad brought back from Hong Kong. It has some very hot pink flowers on black. I bet a jacket made in one of the embroidery shades would be perfect!

A jazzy new laptop bag

So among my resolutions was to accept sewing plans whenever they come up. Unfortunately snowmagedon worked against me this week as our house is in danger of roof damages and basement flooding. Ugh – my arms have never been so tired of shoveling! And falling on the ice this afternoon didn’t help either. What’s worse is that due to all the at-home issues, I had to miss the ASG chapter meeting and I had been looking forward to it for months. Damn. Damn. Damn.

But back to sewing plans – I have been fortunate to have two friends to sew with on Tuesday evenings. They have been working on the Creative Thimble Professional Tote Bag pattern and they are making their bags in leather. As this is their second go round and I need a bag from my lovely 17.3″ new laptop, they offered to help me re-work the pattern to fit my computer. It’s been a blast getting together every week and having some girl time along with serious sewing.

Since I didn’t have any leather handy, and I kind of liked the idea of a washable bag – I went with all cotton quilting fabrics from Joann’s. Mostly because it was on the way to my friend’s house! If I am remembering correctly, I’m probably at about 12 hours on the bag, since two nights were devoted to cutting and fusing, and two nights have been devoted to sewing. I *almost” have a bag shell at this point!

With all the snow/rain/nastiness and needing to be home to keep an eye on things, I did get out my old machine (the Bernina is in the shop getting repaired after being dropped) and started work at home on the swag for the living room curtains. It’s just a piece of simple velveteen, dark brown, but the darn thing is nearly 36 feet long and needs hemming on two sides. Ugh. I managed to get one long side hemmed and then I broke three needles on the other side so I gave up and put the machine away. Who knew I had such little patience today?

Anyway, camera is still MIA so photos delayed yet again. And there are so many fun things to take pictures of!! Maybe it will turn up tomorrow…

a whole new year

And so much time to break resolutions! Writing has been on the back burner for months (clearly) but I have managed to get in the occasional sewing project. Currently I’m working on the Professional Bag from Creative Thimble and am thoroughly enjoying spending my Tuesday nights with two friends making a bit more progress each week. Unfortunately my camera has gone missing… at least since sometime in December so I’ve been horrible about taking any pictures. well, except the ones I take on my iphone – and let’s face it – those aren’t so great!

But moving on – let’s if I can even recall what I’ve worked on since the grand peacock party dress!

  • November – a butterfly-print quilting cotton tree skirt for a specialty Christmas tree
  • November – lined curtain panels for the living room – though they still need hemming, they are up
  • December – A red satin & velveteen cocktail dress – mostly from stash fabrics
  • December – aprons, neck wraps, eye masks, stockings, and oven mitts – all for christmas presents
  • January – partially constucted laptop bag – great Tuesday night project
  • January – 1911 drawers and chemise – part of Titanic Wardrobe project

Hmm… that doesn’t seem like so much now that I look it at it all together! However, I do have an increasing stash of fun fabrics including some gorgeous green and burgundy/green boucles. Perfect for chanel jackets or even a suit. Not that I wear suits… but I like the idea. A long coat is another idea… time to look at patterns!

I actually do have some resolutions for 2011 – So far I haven’t had to break them yet. Well – at least not the sewing resolutions!!

  1. To make, re-style, or otherwise re-purpose old clothes, rather than buying any new garments. Accessories may or may not be included in that – I haven’t decided yet!
  2. To accept any invitation to sew that I receive. I was feeling out of sorts and missed one ASG meeting… but I’ve decided to forgive myself for that one!

So now… to see what else happens in 2011! And maybe even keep track this time around…. ;o)

a peacock dress

Yes, peacocks! When I first described this fabric to friends – apparently they were picture peacock-colored fabric. So needless to say they were surprised to find actual peacocks all over me!

Anyway, this dress was a labor of love – following both couture techniques included in the pattern, as well as others I have picked up along the way on other classes and looking at historical garments. Basically, during my August vacation, I visited the newly opened Silk Road Fabrics in Auburndale, MA… and was simply blown away by this cut silk/rayon velvet patterned with roses, vines and yes, peacocks. The sheer black background was tried over a number of different colors of silk charmeuse… but ultimately this bright lime green won out. With the addition of some black silk organza for interlining, I was ready to get started… and this was the winning dress pattern:

Interestingly, this pattern is based on a vintage bias-cut dress from the 1930s – one of my favorite decades for fashion! All of the fitting is done through a pair of three darts:  one diagonal front dart, one back vertical dart, and one horizontal dart. And of course, it says right on the pattern “no allowance made for above waist adjustment” (or something like that… you get the idea!) So basically no easy way to do a full bust adjustment (FBA.)

Would I let this deter me? Well – for a few days, yes. I made an initial muslin (with no adjustments) and tried on and debated for about a week about whether or not the bias cut would allow me to get away with skipping the FBA. Ultimately I decided it it was worth the extra effort (math, redrafting, additional muslins, etc) and invented my own bias-cut FBA. (I’m sure others have done this before but I couldn’t find any online tutorials – or suggestions in any of my dozen fitting books.)

First of all – I should mention that this dress is a single pattern piece with a center back seam. However, other than the zipper place at the left side, the pattern is a mirror image at the center front. (i.e. it could be placed on a fold if it weren’t for the bias grainline)

So for my bias FBA – I only worked on redrafting the left side of the pattern. I split the pattern lengthwise from neck to hem, running through the bust apex marked on the pattern. I spread the pattern apart about 1.25.” Normally it would be between 1.5 and 2″ but I did want to allow for the extra ease provided by the bias grainline.

You can just see the extra space from widening the pattern at the center bottom of the photo.  To get the shaping I needed for the FBA, you can see how much I widened the main front dart. It starts just below the bust apex and curves back, ending at the lower hip. This made for a VERY wide dart – but it worked perfectly during the subsequent muslin fittings. The dark lines on the right side of the image are the final darts – the paler lines and everything on the left side of the photo are the original markings.

I didn’t add any extra length to the pattern pieces – normally I would add 1/2″ to 1″ but again I figured the bias drape would weigh the dress down and stretch out the fabric.  Fortunately I guessed right! It took three muslin fittings to perfect this –  but hopefully you’ll agree it was worth it!

Wrong side of the charmeuse is up... the velvet layer is below it, also with wrong side up.

With the muslin perfected, it was time to transfer all the cutting lines and markings to silk charmeuse. I decided to baste the velvet and charmeuse layers together to work them as one so that meant basting all the darts, zipper markings, and matching dots & notches. As both fabrics were incredibly slippery, I used weights to keep everything in place and basted everything while it was flat on a table. Difficult to see – but most of the dart markings have been basted in the photo above. Around the cut edges I used pins since the sewing time was nearly constant – there wasn’t much worry about losing pins or layers separating.

Following the traditional couture methods, all the darts were basted together by hand and then machine stitched. This was especially effective since I was working with velvet which has tendency to creep while sewing. (One of these days I’ll buy a walking foot!) From that point on I pretty much followed the instructions, working the two fabrics as one throughout the process. For the facings and zipper placket, I also used the two fabrics to keep the finishes consistent. The zipper placket, which is inserted into a cut slit at the left side, was a new technique for me but not too bad when following the pattern instructions. I did have to hand-sew the actual zipper in several times as the drape of the fabric kept fighting against it as soon as I tried on – but finally on the third attempt it was laying properly.

After not too much more time, the dress was finished except for hem and armhole trim. I lucked out on some great red beaded velvet trim which worked for the armholes. It was a bit wider than I hoped for, but the rich red color really helped the roses in the dress to pop. Lorrie at Unique Boutique Boston was kind enough to mark the hem for me (and be the first one to ‘wow’ at the gown which was very gratifying!!) and after a bit more hand-sewing… all was finally finished!

I don’t dress up very often… but as I was the guest of honor at the party I wore it to – I must say it felt fabulous to be wearing such a stunning dress!

a puppy love quilt

puppy love quilt

Awfully sweet, isn't it?

So what’s worse? The fact that I probably started this quilt for my niece’s 1st birthday and that she just turned 2 in july? Or that even though I finally finished it, I have managed to bring it over to give to her?

In any case, I picked up this quilt kit on sale at Joann’s long enough ago that I can’t remember the details… However, over the last x number of months, I’ve been working on it with the idea of giving it my niece. (Well, technically she’s my fiance’s niece, but does that detail really matter?) I can’t recall if the kit pieces were cut out or not, but I do have vague recollections of doing some cutting so I’m going to guess not.

I really don’t enjoy quilting which I think is why I bought a kit so I didn’t have to put much thought into it.  I did end up sewing the entire thing by hand, including the piecing. The quilting itself probably took the longest – mostly I just kept getting bored with it.  Each of the outside squares is quilted 1/4″ away from the seams, as is the large center panel. Then in the large panel I also quilted around each bunch of large flowers to help hold the layers together. Although you can’t see it in the picture, the backing is the all-over pink and white printed flannel – the same as some of the small squares.

Very fuzzy, but if you squint and try real hard, you can see the stitches around the large bunch of flowers!

A basic store-bought quilt binding in bright pink was also handsewn along the edges to finish the quilt. I must say, all in all, it turned out quite charming… but I am NOT in a rush to make any more quilts. (But I am happy to have one gift to store away until Christmas!)

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