14 November 2017

New Things & Thoughts on Being A Country Mouse

Once again time has slipped by since my last update. I wish I knew why I lapse so...but it is what it is.

I have found a few new treasures, made a couple of new clothes and had a wonderful time with friends...so here are few of the highlights of my recent ramblings and musings...

New books that I love:

Yikes ...could not find a larger image...
but it is a wonderful, beautiful book!
This is a block that I made in a class with Patricia
a few days before the book was released.

New duds made:

PJ's made from a a fitted queen sheet that developed a hole...better than wasting fabric. I made them just to see if I could..

...and a new dress/tunic made from some
luscious brushed stretch cotton twill fabric (cinnabar color).
Showing my usual "match-the-pattern-on-the-pocket" play.

New tools and gadgets:

Coats and Clark's. I imagine that most of us who sew know about Coats and Clark's...especially their dual duty thread. Not many us use it anymore though...as our tastes for fine quality all cotton threads have been spurred along by the likes of Aurifil, Sulky and Superior (hummmmm they all begin with the letter 's'!).

As a history buff I tend to love and respect companies that have been in business for a long time. After 262 years Coats and Clark's fits that bill, but I have been a bit sad that many of us seem to have a perception that their thread is somewhat lower quality than the more modern brands we seem to gravitate to. I was so excited to hear that they have come out with a couple of new and unique threads that I just have to share!

Coats "Secure" thread is for using on buttons. Good enough. The big news is that this thread is specially made to be heat set. Setting the thread with the heat from your iron locks the thread making it unlikely that the thread will come undone....making your buttons more secure and less likely to fall off!


Their other new thread is called "Eloflex" and is made specifically for sewing with knit fabrics. When I bought a spool I was so curious to see what made this thread special...and Shazam! It flexes and stretches and is a great new choice using with the plethora of knit fabrics we all love so much!


Another new-to-me tool is one I was introduced to is a Precision Point Turner. Before I saw it in action my thought was "I am happy with my bamboo, custom-ground-by-me point tool". Then I tried this little gem..
The rounded top makes inadvertent "poke through" a thing of the past. This "Precision Point Turner" is made by RTC and it appears that Floriani of stabilizer and thread fame is the sewing market distributor. I purchased mine through Quality Sewing...but if you Google "Precision Turning Tool" you will find a lot of options.
As with all tools and gadgets that I mention...no affiliation etc etc...
Last week was our quilt groups annual "camp". Over the years we have tried several places with varying degrees of comfort (or not) and amenities (or not!). This year was the second that the group has gone to "The Firs" in Bellingham, Washington. It is by far the best one yet. Bellingham is a doable trip for us islanders. It still requires the ferry and a 45 minute drive north, but it is not bad. Last year, after my fall from the ladder I had been unable to go, but had heard only great reviews. I was happy to be there for an unusual (for me) 4 day stay. It was an exhausting but happy time for 32 island gals.

We had some high winds as we headed for the ferry home, but first we were enchanted by a rainbow to guide us.
and then a stormy ferry crossing
Of course camp entailed some retail therapy. On our island we are rather starved for fabric so we all get rather glassy eyed and overwhelmed when we hit a fabric shop, let along browsing through places like Trader Joe's (I had never been in one before), Joann's, supermarkets etc. I was reminded how much living on an island has changed my point of view.
I grew up in New York City and the surrounding metro area and I often felt like a country bumpkin in the big city. Now that I am a certified country mouse any city-sized location makes me feel overwhelmed with all of their myriad choices and I easily become frazzled by the constant rushing and tremendous energy of more densely populated places. I guess that I have always preferred the slow lane!
Which brings me to this wonderful article that I read on the ferry as we rocked and rolled our way home on the ferry....


It really impressed me. Maya Angelou (the author of the original article) always does. It made me realize how truly grateful I am to live is a small, supportive, community where we DO look each other in the eye, wave to each other on the road and greatly enjoy our slower life on a rural rocky outcrop in the sea. My father always admired people who were "big fish in a big pond", and, perhaps understandable, he wanted that for me. I was always happier being a tiny fish in a very small pond! I found my way home when I landed here many years ago.

Until I write again...be grateful, be happy and be creative...every day


12 September 2017

Recent Finishes

Just a quick update since it has been awhile....


These are just what they look like; a not very remarkable pair of flannel pajamas made from Kwik Sew's pattern 3553. In shopping for flannel fabrics I have found that the price per yard, as for all fabrics, keeps going up. I had often wondered if I could get a pair of pajamas from a sheet since I often see sheets in patterns that I like on sale for reasonable prices. My wondering had never gone very far until the bottom queen sized fitted from a set developed a very large, un-repairable, hole. The top sheet was fine and can easily be paired with a solid color fitted sheet, but the the bottom sheet was headed for the rag pile until I wondered again....would a set of pj's be possible to make from a queen sized fitted sheet that had a very large hole?


I didn't have anything to lose and so I tried. Cutting pattern pieces out to avoid the ripped area was challenging; I barely made it work. Since I made a mistake cutting the collar and because there no remnants available, I had to find a suitable, reasonably coordinating, fabric for the collar and in searching my stash I unearthed a quarter yard of brown flannel that I have had since 2004. Of course, the brown color needed to tie in somewhere else so I added cuffs on the sleeves. It a perfect solution but do-able. Now, I can continue to enjoy this simple flannel pattern for awhile longer as a pair of pajamas and I did answer my question...yes, I can easily use flannel sheets to make pajamas.

This week I also finished a lightweight small summer shawl. A friend gave me a gift certificate to Fidalgo Artisan Yarn Company for my birthday this past year and I bought 2 skeins of this lovely "Silk Naturelle". The pattern is from Woolenberry and was purchased through Ravelry. It's called "Interlude" and is seriously easy, gratifying shawlette to knit.

I have also been spending time in the kitchen...which has become a much more rare event lately. I have been happily experimenting with Artisan round loaf recipes....my banneton arrived today and some dough is rising in it....now in the oven.

More fresh bread tonight...not great for my gluten issues, but oh! so tasty if I don't eat much! I still have problems getting the loaves to rise to a nice rounded dome...they spread more to the sides than at the top. I know that using a cloche would help at lot, but they are pricey...at least if you want the cast iron enameled one. For now I experiment. It tastes great...just not as great for sandwiches etc.

Cloche suggestions?

Enjoy the rest of your week!


13 August 2017

Lessons Learned By Sewing


See this pattern envelope? It says that the pattern is "Easy". It was and it wasn't. In my continuing quest to integrate some v-necks into my wardrobe I decided to give this New Look 6340 a try. I liked the slightly floaty bottom section, a bit more fitted top and I like the side pockets a lot. Since the summer is waning I wanted to give this try while I still had some summery weather to enjoy wearing it.

I used this lawn fabric from Cotton and Steel designed by Rashida Coleman -Hale and called "Mochi Floral". I purchased it on sale last April from an ETSY shop called Chateau Sew & Sew. I had a difficult time getting the colors right in the pictures that I took outdoors, but the image above is close to correct and shows the blues to advantage, while they seem to fade in the photos taken in sunlight and shade.

I have not seen many patterns from New Look and I decided that it would be prudent to make a muslin of the top part. I am glad that I did....in fact I ended up making FOUR muslins of the bodice sections until I got right. My shoulders remain fairly small in comparison to my "mature" bodice and waist measurements these days and I always find that I need to grade between sizes. I also chose this pattern to teach myself to how to construct and sew an FBA (full bust adjustment). It is something that I knew I had to learn to do sooner rather than later. Since most commercial patterns are designs for a B bust, doing an FBA can help garments hang better when you are off that size bra cup. Now, of course, I wonder why I hesitated to do it sooner. It wasn't at all difficult. Of course, because I made the FBA adjustment. I also ended up having to raiseand lengthen the bust darts.

The other major challenge for me was that I raised the neckline by 2.5". Which meant that I had to re-draft the neck facings. Raising a neckline is generally quite simple and straightforward, but because I raised it so much it was a bit more of a challenge to get the proportions where I wanted them. I have never considered myself to be a prude, but I am not happy when I wear a v-neck that displays way too much when I bend over even a little bit. I just am not comfortable with it....and never have been even as a much younger woman. Yes, I would call myself modest when it comes to clothes!

After the fourth muslin it all fell into place. Unfortunately, since I was not able to wear the dress and get photos, you cannot see the fullness of the skirt section...in this view it looks much like my trip and true patterns. In reality, I suppose it is similar though.

I cut out a new pattern that had all of my changes and adjustments from Pellon 830 "Easy Pattern" and cut the fabric. I had bought a mini bolt of the Pellon to try as a less expensive alternative to Swedish Tracing Paper ( though WAWAK offers the lowest price anywhere for it and I happy to say that it is quite comparable...slightly thinner perhaps, but it works well.

When I sew my projects seem to "talk" to me at times. Of course some would say that means I am crazy, while others may feel that it is the "voices" of creative play. I prefer that idea. Anyway, as I was sewing up this pattern I decided that the neckline was perfect for some "big stitch" embellishment. I started with a line of stitches 1-2" in from the neckline using a variegated blue-white Caron "Wildflowers thread. Then I decided it needed to be two lines instead. When that was done I looked for some beads to add. I had these lovely triangle beads from Beyond Beadery...they are white lined with a silver AB (aurora borealis) effect in size 11/0 (I also had 8/0 but preferred the smaller size) that twinkle nicely. I added them in between the big stitch gaps...just a bit of summer bling.

This simple pattern took me WAY more time than it should have, but I did learn a lot from it.

1. I am now comfortable with making an FBA. I had good results raising and lengthening the darts.

2. I successfully raised a neckline quite a lot and also had success in re-shaping the neck and re-drafting the facings.

3. I got to enjoy making multiple muslins of the top. I generally have only needed to make one muslin. I found making multiple muslins, although a bit tedious, teaches you a lot. It shows you how changing one piece of a pattern will require making other changes necessary...invaluable information in the long run. It saves a lot but not wasting more expensive fabric. I simply do not like using tissue paper patterns....especially for fitting issues.

4. I enjoyed the simple neckline embellishments.

Inquiring minds want to know:

Are you a person who dislikes trying and trying until you get the "puzzle" worked out or are you a 'one time only' kind of sewer?

Do you enjoy fitting challenges or does it really turn you off to making clothes?

Do you have a favorite pattern company? Which one(s) and why???

Thanks so much for stopping by as I now return to my appliqué block adventures!


23 July 2017

Quilting & Sewing in 2117? What Will It Be?

Thoughts wanted!
Just a very quick post because the future of
quilting and sewing was on my mind today

As I work to finally finish the backing for my 1876 Centennial Quilt (why did I choose to piece rather than simply use a 'fat back' ?!....I know I wanted to use up ALL of the fabrics that I had purchased for the quilt). I began to ruminate on the future of quilting. Perhaps the future of sewing in general as a valued skill.

The original maker of the 1876 Quilt may well have wondered how and where her quirky quilt would be in a hundred years (which, ironically, just happened to be 1976 when the 'great quilting revival' was in full bloom and was also when a I began to make quilts ).

Where, I wonder, will our quilts end up. Well loved and in pride of place at a family member's home? Ragged and torn in a basement?

What do you envision 'quilters and quilting' in 2117?

Will people still be making and using quilts? Will sewing still be a viable art form and avocation ? Will families still cherish 'hand made with love'?

I would love to hear your thoughts and prognostications for the future!


15 July 2017

Summery Frocks & Sweet Surrender Update

Most often I seem to wear clothes with rounded necks, and I wanted to switch up and sew some v-necks. I find that many RTW (ready to wear) v-necks styles are cut too low for my taste, so I decided that it was time to try a pattern with a v-neck. This is a 2003 Vogue pattern (7724) designed by Koko Beall. A "very easy" at that. Since I have not used a Vogue pattern in years and since I needed to grade between sizes I had planned to make a muslin of the pattern.
I am a fan of soft Indian cottons and last April I ordered 5 yards of a border print from an EBay vendor. I decided to use some of that fabric to make what I hoped would become a 'wearable muslin'. Hoping, I suppose, that my first try would work, and it did, but not without a few ups and downs.
I graded between sizes in several areas and, thankfully, it worked outfairly well. The finished dress fit well enough, but I felt that a summer dress would benefit by being a bit looser. After 'sleeping on it' I decided that if I made this dress a bit looser I would probably wear it more frequently than I would leaving it the way it was. So yes, I did end up un-sewing almost all of it. Since I had used French seams throughout and the fabric is quite lightweight, the process of un-sewing caused the fabric to become frayed. I needed to straighten the grain a bit and trim the seams down. To simplify the re-sewing and account for the reduced seam allowances I decided to remove the inseam pockets. I added a patch pocket to the finished dress just because I wanted some sort of pocket ...for my next version of this dress the inseam pockets will be a useful feature. It is not an ideal, the inseam pockets would have been better on this dress, but it works and it is a very comfortable dress now!
I enjoyed the process of lining up the border print at the seams and matching the pattern to the added pocket. The buttons are vintage and were culled from my stash. I added an extra button because of a slight miscalculation...but at least I had four buttons!
I bought this lovely, somewhat unusual, double gauze from Emma One Sock a month or two ago. It was the last of the bolt. I have learned that if you find a fabric you like it is advisable to buy it right away. I have lost the opportunity to buy several beautiful fabrics just by taking too long 'to think about it'. With this fabric I waited until I got a sample of it in the mail...and just those few days made the difference in my being able to buy as much as I wanted and being happy that I was able to buy any at all.
This was my first time working with double gauze. It seems that there are a variety of fabrics called double gauze....some are more gauzy than others, and some are softer than others? I think that buying double gauze fabric is one fabric that proves the "you get what you pay for adage. This fabric was like sewing two pieces of cheesecloth together, but it feels like wearing a cloud ...so amazingly soft and cool for a hot summer day. I cannot think of any material that is better for warm weather casual clothes.
Many double gauze fabrics seem to be two patterns. I actually preferred the bolder pattern (in the photo below the bolder pattern is the one on the bottom), but I did not have enough yardage to be able to match the pattern and it would have looks more obviously mis-matched - so I used the smaller pattern for the "right" side.
The two layers are obvious in the photo below.
They do resemble cheesecloth!
Thanks to nature of double gauze the neckline proved to be a bit too low so a bit of big stitch and beading solved that problem by slightly pulling in the neck
As luck would have it a recent issue of Threads magazine had an excellent article i it about sewing with double gauze.
  • Simple pattern. Check
  • Iron fabric. Check (but I preferred the soft puckers so I wear it un-ironed)
  • Stay stitch or tape seam lines. Check
  • Stabilize when needed. Check
  • Finish seam allowances. Check. French seams are a dream
I finally discovered the magic of Wonder Tape! It's brilliant
and made sewing this simple dress so much easier!
This dress was a great introduction to sewing with double gauze for me. I have some other yardage that will soon be used in a similar way. Wearing double gauze is unbelievably comfortable and will make my aversion to heat that much more bearable this summer.
My other recent sewing adventures have included finishing the last few half floral appliqués and the last of the English Paper Pieced half triangles. I also have some embroidery to add to some of the blocks, but I am close to whipping out the border and I say "whipping out" with tongue in check! I am thoroughly enjoying taking my time with this quilt designed by Sue Cody.
Below are the full sized English Paper Pieced triangle units.
I have only four more half units to make

So that's been my sewing summer this far.

What's been on your agenda? Have you tried any "new-to-you" techniques or patterns?

Do you sew year-round? I know some folks sail, go on vacations, garden, tackle big projects or just plain relax in the summer, but for me the luxury is being able to enjoy sewing on the deck sometimes!

Until next time...


07 June 2017

Summer Dresses


Many people who sew clothes have what are called TNT (tried'n'true) patterns. They are patterns that you know well, can be adjusted easily and that you like to make and wear. Thy tend to be comfortable, easy-to-make in a variety of fabrics and easy-to-love. Ever since I found this pattern from Sonya Philip of 100 Acts of Sewing, her Dress No.2 has been my TNT. I make one of them when I need some instant gratification.

I had purchased two yards of a lovely batiste-like cotton fabric from Stevie Saint Fabrics a year or more ago. It's a bit odd that I ordered so little of it but I had probably planned to make a simple shirt originally. These days I usually buy 3.5 yards or more of fabrics that I like so that, when I decide to use it, I have more pattern choices. I loved the flowers on this cloth, but also though that the fabric looked a bit "curtain-ish" or "50's housedress-ish", plus the pale green is not a great color on me but oh! I love those rich flowers! It seemed to be very high quality and a little gold thread on the beautifully made selvedge edge.(photo below)

I like to challenge myself to match the fabric's pattern when I add a pocket to this dress pattern, but I did not have quite enough extra fabric to to do it in one piece, so I decided to piece the pocket fabric together and see how close I could get . Perhaps not perfect, but good enough to use. Can you see the near half of the pocket that I pieced together? (See photo below)

It was overcast outside hen I took the pictures of the finished dress- so the colors looked best in the photo that I took inside.

My next project was Grainline Studios Farrow Dress which I have wanted to make since last year. The pattern features some quirky looking pattern pieces - so I took the time to sew a muslin to make sure that I understood how it all went together. This is a very slick, fairly easy pattern that I enjoy wearing and will make many more times I think. The only tiny thing that I did not love about this pattern is that the pattern calls for an opening on the top of the back that is closed with a small button. I lowered the neckline and adjusted the back neckline to make this into a perfect "pull over the head" version, eliminating to need for a back closure. I should note that this is the first time that I wanted/needed to lower a neckline...I almost always want/need to raise them!

About two years ago, I bought two yards of this lovely, medium-weight, linen from fabrics-store.com. It is their IL 019 (5.3 ounce) softened linen in Crown Blue (not sure if it is a current color). I could not remember why I bought only two yards, but I might have planned to make pants at the time. The Farrow Dress pattern calls for considerably more fabric, so I was very careful when I cut out the pattern pieces; making the sleeves as long as I had fabric far. I like the length that they turned out to be though...especially for summertime. The amount of fabric that I had left over after cutting fit in my hand! Phew!

It's been either too rainy or too sunny lately for outdoor photos, but at least you can get the idea.

Below...topstitching detail on top of the front pockets.

The pattern includes pattern pieces that, at first glance, made no sense to me. They become two very useable front pockets that form slightly diagonal lines that are mirrored on the back. I am still considering adding some decorative hand embroidery to this dress, but have not yet found any ideas that I think would work. Do you have any suggestions?!

It was the first time that I used my new Babylock Imagine serger for sewing non-knits. Although I wanted to use French seams, which is almost always my preference, I felt that they might make the seams a bit too bulky. I am not sure if I was right about it or not, but the serger worked well and I enjoyed using it

I have a feeling that the Farrow Dress will become another TNT pattern for me, and am looking forward to making it for Fall and Winter wear next.

So now I am onto making the back for my 1876 Quilt that will be sent out for it's quilting adventure soon. I am working on finishing my applique and "potato-chip" quilt....plus I have two dresses that are calling to me.. one will be made of cotton lawn and another of cotton double gauze.

Do you have any summer plans?

What's on your summer sewing list?,