Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sewing for family

Most of us who sew have had periods in and out of family sewing.

 Note I do not say sewing for other people. I decided a long time ago, around the time a girl heard I sewed and phoned me up to ask if I would "run up" a wedding dress for, her that I would only sew for those related to me by blood or marriage.

When my kids were small I sewed for them a lot. They still laugh at the clothes, my various experiments in decorative sewing, big in the '90s, in particular. They were good sports though and wore everything.

Of course at some point they grew up and into their own taste and ability to buy their own clothes. At this point it is fair to say that they also grew into having better taste than their mother. I have always had an eye for the bright shiny object and restraint is not one of my defining characteristics. The term a "classic Mom outfit" is not to be confused around here with a classic outfit.

As adults I have continued to do some sewing for them at specific request, shirts for the boys, and dressy dresses for my daughter. I have done very little sewing up to now for the little girls however - they have 4 female cousins in Boston a couple of years older and regularly receive massive amounts of hardly worn hand me downs from them.

Lately though that's changed. 

My grandson Billy is obviously not getting anything passed down to him and he and the girls have their own ideas of clothing that is not unlike my own. I have a window of opportunity here until those guys develop good taste and stop having their heads turned by everything that sparkles.

I have also decided to make most of what I give everyone whenever I can for life events. Even though there is probably as many misses as hits with this system, my reasons for making gifts are this:

  • Amazon doesn't love you like your mother
  • I enjoy the dialogue in planning projects
  • It feels I am still doing something useful for my big grown up kids, and they indulge me in this
  • When I meet their friends they tell me they love what I have made the kids and I enjoy the head swelling effects on my own head
  • If there are some mistakes or something bombs, it's family and they don't mind
  • Often because this is someone else's idea I have to learn something new or stretch my creativity
I sort of space a project for me with something for someone else and that is a good balance for me.

Right now I am making a Batman costume, and owl costume, and trying to persuade someone else to wear a red, not pink, rabbit suit because I have a pile of cheap polar fleece I would like to move out of here.

I am also pondering my answer to the question "Well Babsie what are you going to be?" 

I guess something.

Now I have a question for you.

What do you sew, or not sew, for other people in your life? What have been your biggest successes and failures. I am of course interested in the failures because I have a fairly impressive section there in my own portfolio.

I always love the listening I get to do in the blog.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Flypaper thoughts almost home edition

  • The best thing about being at home will be seeing Daisy and the kids
  •  The second best thing is I will no longer have to use those useless hand air dryer things
  •  I am totally convinced that nobody in human history has ever actually got their hands even remotely drier using those things
  • Walked around Target while my husband picked up the only brand of Levis that he says fit him
  • Tried on a long bomber jacket
  • Fingertip length and not very gathered at the bottom
  • Light went on
  • This is my next sewing project
  • Have been wrestling with casual jacket ideas
  • But I want one that covers longer tops
  • Bingo we have a winner
  • Was going to clean the house when I got back
  • Might not do that so quickly once I start unpacking fabric
  • So glad we made this road trip
  • Every winter we drive south through grey and ice and I do not enjoy New Brunswick and Maine
  • Tree, house, tree, tree house
  • This time the leaves were out and the sky was blue
  • What a difference a season makes
  • Showed you the pillows my DIL’s grandmother made
  • At nearly 97 she still irons her son’s shirts
  • Told me she does just one a day but she gets them done
  • Worth it because this way she knows he will be dropping by twice a week even when he is busy
  •  Crafty in many ways that one
  • A model for us all
  • First husband’s partner has a cool idea for wedding wear
  • She has one pattern and had five suits made up in Dupioni in different colours
  • She just rotates them through the events
  • Actually an interesting idea if you think about it, always looks nice
  • Just remembered I have Hallowe’en costumes to start too
  • They are changing their minds twice a day so I need an update
  • Once my youngest son wanted to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • I spent a week making a costume what was split down the middle, hat included, different clothes
  • My best work
  • He came home from school
  • All the kids are being robbers
  • Do you have an old T shirt and a pillow case?
  • Motherhood 001
  • You know why I sew?
  • It makes me happy
  • That’s all
  •  On my way home to get back at it

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Stylearc Marilyn dress and another sewer

We are on our way home from a very nice family wedding in Washington DC. 

My son's brother-in-law got married and since we have become not just the outlaws, but friends, with my daughter-in-law's parents, we were invited.

The wedding was in the backyard of the house and really lovely. As an event it also gave us a chance to connect again with people and family we don't see often enough and that alone was worth any trip.

Here is my Marilyn dress by Stylearc in silk charmeuse in a sort of teal, and because I ran out of fabric, the sleeves are lined in navy. 

I wasn't crazy about sewing with this fabric, something that pressed better might have made nicer ties, and although I lined the body of the dress in Bemberg lining and the dress had enough structure, the hem should have been bound or something to add more weight. I did a far bit of fussing over this fabric until I finally realized that what was really bothering me was that I felt this was immoral yardage.

I had originally bought this fabric for my youngest son's former girlfriend to wear to a wedding, but when he broke up with her, I was left with the fabric. She's a very nice girl, clearly they didn't have enough in common, I get that, but she was a nice girl, and this fabric has been looking at me for a while now. So here, a couple of years later I decided to make use of it but it didn't feel entirely right to me. 

Maybe that made it hard to press. What do you think?

Anyway this ended up a two-toned project and I handled this with a navy necklace bag and shoes. Yes I know it is entirely inappropriate to go so matchy but since I had to pinch hit in the navy, this made me feel better about that:

Not the best picture again, taken in the hotel room, and it did crease when I sat down. I also cropped out my bare legs. I don't care what anyone says about never wearing stockings but I think my well travelled legs are not looking as smooth as they used to. From now on we are dressing up with stockings.

Back to the pattern. 

Really this is as easy a dress as you can whip up in a hurry for an event and easy to make. I am not sure I will ever wear it again, suspect the sleeves will date pretty quickly, but it was super comfortable for an in-house wedding.

Now onto the people.

My son from San Francisco was there of course with my nice daughter-in-law, and  also my DIL's grandmother who is nearly 97.

This lady lives on her own, always brings wonderful cooking with her when she visits, and pretty much is the life of the party.

She also sewed a lot in her life, ran a dress shop and did custom work in Philly for many years, and we always talk sewing. 

These days she doesn't use her machine much but she still does hand embroidery, particularly pillows of members of the family and their pets.

Here is an arrangement of some she made of the family on a bench at the front door:

Pretty cool eh?

Now the party is over I am anxious to get home to see Miss Daisy and the rest of the family and to start planning some Christmas sewing. There is some rumour going around I am making the grandchildren matching flannelette nightgowns and PJs for Christmas eve.

Some planning to do.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Car knitting

 I have a funny relationship with knitting.

I actually really enjoy the process of knitting itself but hate the process of sewing up, always looks so messy to me no matter how hard I try, and I have trouble getting gauge and keeping it there.

Very few of my sweaters over the years have been happy projects, which is turned me to sock knitting more than anything else, which has frustrated me because, let's face it, I am a garment sort of person.

So finally inspired by Ann Budd's excellent book on top-down knitting, where she gives more formulas than patterns, I brought some hanging-around-the-house yarn and tried to knit without a real pattern, just a sense of the starting formula. (Because someone always asks, there are never any affiliate links on this blog btw).

The beauty of top down seamless sweaters is, you guessed it, no seams to sew, and you can keep trying it on as you go to see if it fits, and if not you can self-correct.

I did just that with this wearable muslin of a sweater, ripped back the sleeves for example and made them wider once I realized my first attempt was too tight.

I had a lot of fun doing this sweater as we zoomed along the roads and finished it today - hence the lovely pose in front of the back of a hotel door with the sign of what to do if there is a fire.

I am excited to try to knit another one this way now - it's just too easy. If you look at the book I used the modified drop shoulder version as my starting point.

This picture reminds me of some travelling advice a friend of mine once told me.

This fellow travels a lot for work and he once told us to always make sure to pack decent nightwear. He was once in an actual hotel fire and had to evacuate down to the lobby. He said he was amazed at how everyone looked in what they had worn to bed under the bright lights of the hotel main entrance - obviously many people had packed under the assumption that no one would ever see them after hours on the road.

Anyway it's something interesting to think about, and the reason why I bought new slippers for this trip.

Wedding tomorrow, more later.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Grey basics for the suitcase

You know I like bright colours and quirky projects, I have been particularly quirky lately. However getting ready for a little road trip this last week down to a wedding in DC I remembered that packable basics have their place.

I also gave the colour grey some thought - it's a basic but not too dark - so check trans-seasonal. It goes with other basics, namely navy and black, and it's also a low key backdrop for bright pastels, which I love.

I also figure that with all the visiting and road trips I do, knits are my only option.

Since I did all this serious thinking only a few days before I was due to fill up the suitcase, I decided that TNT patterns were my only option.

Since I have made the little girls both velour Helene cardigans in the last few weeks, they loved them and I thought they looked cozy too, I decided to just go ahead and make myself a big girl version.

I used a grey version of the cotton mix knit velour I got at Fabricville for the little girls. It has a sort of silvery cast to it which I think is useful in case I go out to a restaurant or something in my travels and want to look smoother than a person who spends most of her time walking dogs and sewing.

My assistant has to be in every picture

To wear under this I made a pair of pull-on pants from the Jalie woven pull-on pants pattern, just cut a size smaller since I was working with a stretch crepe knit.  I really like the leg of these pants, straight leg and sort of wide but not overwhelmingly so, unlike so many similar patterns.

This left me with a top pattern to come up with and here I went for a new to me pattern but an easy one.

This is the pattern I used, a sort of athletic looking top I have passed over for a few years now:

It turns out that you don't have to have a zipper in this top and you don't need to carry a bike helmet. This is good because I am going by car this trip.

It also turns out this is a super pattern, the front is made from two folds seamed up only half way making a facing/lining along the neck edge. The whole thing cut to finish only took me under an hour which is about all the time I had to pull the last part of this little outfit together. I made it from the same crepe knit as the pants to make a sort of ensemble which is handy when you travel.

Here are my shots, the whole project, done with one eye on the clock. I am pretty happy with how this outfit turned out because I know it is going to be so useful.

A fun sew and not the last time I use these patterns.

I have to say that I am beginning to really appreciate the multi-sizedness of Jalie's patterns. My pants here are the same pattern I used to make little Billy's size 3 PJs, and the cardigan has now been made for four members of the family sized 6- 40.

BTW Daisy is not on this trip. Too quick and we will be at a wedding etc. most of the time. We really miss her but she is at home with my niece who is the midst of major studying this week.

They are spending most of their time right now reading in Daisy's favourite chair - and we got this update today:

I think she will survive the week without us.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Quarter note clutch

To add to the list of things that I am guilty of (this is not a finite list) would be to get so busy sewing that I neglect the blog posts about my sewing.

This is not my intention but one day leads to the next some times.

Also I have been in a minor slump for a while now, my boys moving far away, the end of my summer school term and releasing another crop of students, my husband coming to the end of five months working away from home only back for a bit on the weekends, thinking about Nancy Zeiman, the grandchildren back at school, the leaves turning. The usual.

Now I have to say that getting down, which I absolutely believes runs in families, does not run in mine. I also believe every family has their theme and we run pretty busy and intense instead. More burn out that worn out. Truth is we are probably more likely to cause depression than suffer it ourselves. That said for about a couple of weeks I felt like I was at loose ends, knocking around in my own head a bit, so I decided to put all the ruminating aside and just sew.

I have my wonderful niece living with me and as she passed by she laughed at me, you're just not stopping are you?

Got that right.

I made the bed and swept the floors and cooked things I could eat for two days every two days and I took care of the dog and did the babysitting I could.

But apart from that I just sewed my brains out.

Like  always I picked right up, more or less right away. Life got back to looking exciting and the changes, like opportunities.

Not exactly sure how this works but something about giving myself over to sewing completely always fixes me up and gets me back to normal.

I have a theory that there is something fundamental about creativity that not just resets but outlets. 

There is a direct flow out of yourself into the world when you make something that just has to happen. In fact I would go even further and say that when that ability to be just making something gets blocked, which in my case occurred because I had a long period of being too overbooked to sew, something backs up inside you and makes you off kilter or, if it goes on too long, actually some kind of sick.

Does any of this make any sense to you?

So getting to some of the things I made during this mighty restorative couple of weeks I will start with my out of my comfort zone project, a leather clutch purse with a detachable chain strap.

First, because it's about time there were pictures, here they are:

I used my regular machine, a long stitch length and a leather needle no problem but the last step of topstitching the flap to the bag opening was too many layers to get under the presser foot. As a result I used Chicago screws instead for this step

Closed up and ready to wear

As a bag maker I am a newbee.

This was a great pattern however, very easy to do, from the wonderful Janelle Mackay at Emmaline Bags

I have read a lot of sewing instructions in my day and I have to tell you Janelle's are the best, really, really clear and thoughtful with all the handy hints built in.

The hardware, the large flip lock and the chain with hooks attached also came from Emmaline bags. Hardware is key of course to making a first time home made project just a lot less so.

Because this was a completely experimental project I used scraps - in this case some Liberty of London lawn left over from a blouse project and some leather from a thrift store coat.

With a 4.0 stitch length, a leather needle and walking foot I had no problem at all sewing the leather except for the multiple layers at the top of the bag front where the flap folds up to meet the bag opening. The issue there wasn't so much stitching as I couldn't raise the presser foot high enough to get it all under to sew.

Since attaching the front flap (actually this is just a long clutch that you fold up to make the folded look) mattered I resorted to rivets, or in this case Chicago screws. I used a Clover punch I bought years ago to insert garment snaps to make the holes and unlike rivets, which have to be sort of hammered on, the Chicago screws just screw together- I like them a lot, far less traumatic.

I interfaced the lining with a woven fusible. I fused some fusible fleece to a sew-on interfacing (minus the seam allowances in the fleece of course) and stuck that to the wrong side of the leather with fusible tape.

I used fusible tape, the sticky kind you unpeel the paper from (anyone have a source for this in big rolls BTW?) a lot for this project, to attach the lining to the leather before stitching for instance.

Leather isn't hard to sew but it does stretch, like a knit, and you do need to stabilize the stitching area. I found the fusible tape helped with that a lot too.

If I did it again the only thing I would do next time is use a firmer interfacing like a foam. Didn't have any on hand or available locally for this project and was sewing too quickly and randomly to order it in (I needed a 20 minute delivery time once I decided to start making this bag).

Next week we are headed off to the US for a fall road trip with a destination at a wedding in DC next weekend (my son's brother-in-law) and we will certainly be hitting a few fabric stores en route- although I doubt if we will have time to get into NYC and the garment district this trip, as much as that breaks my heart.

As always I will be crossing the border with a supply list.

More project photos to follow in the next few days.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stylerc's Besharl jacket

I am guilty of many things.

Eating all the chocolate chips in the cupboard before I make the cookies and then surprising myself because the bag is empty.

That's one.

Going in a business trip with a computer case that actually contained a small sewing machine, rather than my laptop which I had left at the office. A prop for escaping after dinner events - because I had "work" to do.

Another one I did a lot when I worked for politicians.

Leaving clothes to be mended untouched for years even when I really, really loved the person who was waiting for that zipper to be replaced.

I am doing that one right now but would rather not think about it.

But most of all I am guilty of delusions of sewing grandeur.

Case in point is some raw silk I got some time ago to make a jacket. 

My intention was to underline it for stability and line it for practicality and do bound buttonholes because that was what would work best.

The problem is that increasingly, structured clothes, although a worthy use of a good sewer's time. make little sense for my increasingly unstructured life.

So I decided to do something unusual for me and be realistic about what this fabric should become. I decided to go with the silk's characteristics - drapey and mobile - rather than tactically trying to counteract it.

I decided to save time.

I decided to sew easy.

Which led me to consider this pattern, part of my current quest for a multi-purpose over everything type jacket pattern (if you have any leads for this campaign please let me know):

This is Stylearc's Besharl jacket and apparently can be made in wovens and knits. 

Of course my fabric was woven so I widened the arm bands about an inch, in case I needed the ease in a non stretchy fabric. I also straightened out the shoulder slope a bit because my own shoulders are very square but apart from that made it as is.

During construction I also sewed tape along the front edges where the bands attach, just along the seam lines. I wanted to balance the baggy look I know this jacket will acquire pretty soon because that's what this fabric wants to do. I thought taping would help the front hold the line.

I also interfaced the sleeve bands and the hem with fusible knit interfacing but did not interface the band, which is doubled, because I could tell it would have to gather around the neck a bit and I wanted to let that happen.

Here are the shots.

Of course I have to say I am aware that my photography is never optimum.

We try but our photographic department fits these pictures in around other jobs. Today that included bashing a hole in the tile in the bathroom wall as part of a get the hot water tap to stop dripping job.

I have to tell you when you pull a man out of the bathroom when he has a hammer to a wall, your first pictures look like this:

Moving on here are better shots taken after a marital consult, with various attempts at lighting:

Of course this fabric is going to droop pretty quickly, and I am going to snag it even sooner, but I have to say I am really pleased with this pattern and with the jacket overall.

One post first wearing change I made though was to go back in and sew a chain to the top of the hem allowance to help keep the whole thing from riding up and to help it hang. This technique really works and is something I often do in unlined and knit jackets if they are longer.

You can thank Coco Chanel for this little trick:

So that's one interesting project done this week, several more on the production line as we speak, or at least I write.

In the near future however I am definitely going to come back to this pattern, next time as specified in a knit.

There is real potential here.