Home dec sewing

With all that red from the previous post, I thought I would stick with red for a while longer. But then I sat down with some polymer clay and that was the end of sewing for a while. Partly because the polymer work was hours and hours of fun, but also because I didn’t have a specific sewing project lined up. I realized the other day that I don’t sew if I don’t have a plan for what to sew next. So I’ll have to come up with a sewing plan.

For now, let me show you what I made for our dining table:

Placemats and napkins

On Saturday, while out and about with my husband, I found these cool placemat inserts at the local Bernina dealer. The inserts are precut, with rounded corners, and fusible. Awesome!

My set of four also came with some applique/embroidery designs but I didn’t use those. I thought about it at first but then I remembered these pretty fabrics that were a travel souvenir from a trip in 2014. I had a yard of each, which was just enough for these four placemats and four napkins, using a yard of a different fabric for backing. That’s 3 yards for this project, bringing my running total to 23 yds. I’m not counting the solid Kona cotton that I cut up for the bias binding – it was a remnant from a 2013 project.

The fusible inserts made the job easy. The whole project was very enjoyable and provided hours of Zen-like peace. I might make placemats more often, hehe. I cut the napkins 18″x18″ and hemmed them with a half-inch double-turn hem, mitered at the corners. Easy-peasy.

And that’s all I have right now. Next time I’ll show you some polymer earrings I made last week.

See you soon!

Yes, red! And finished!

So I was all ready to cut the black wool suiting for a dress. Only I didn’t. Again. I don’t know what the problem is. I had a theory that I was lazy except I am not because I spent hours drafting a whole new dress pattern, combining three different existing drafts. Then I thought maybe it’s because it’s a woven and I got so used to sewing knits. Except that’s not the problem either because I made two pairs of flannel lounge pants just a few weeks ago. And then I thought, maybe it’s the color. I need red. Maybe I could sew something red. And so I did. A red denim dress. That turned out to be a wadder. I’m counting the 1.25yds though. And the dress is not in the trash can because I’m hoping to salvage at least some of the fabric. Maybe for a skirt or something.

Red PJs and lounge pants

But what started out as a meh week ended on a very productive note. Because since the machines were already threaded with red, I thought I’d continue the red theme. My favorite pair of PJs needed to be replaced and I had just enough red Kona cotton in the fabric collection to make a new pair. And I could also use a new pair of warm lounge pants so I bought this fabulous waffle-weave flannel at Suzzie’s Quilt Shop in Manassas when my sister and I stopped there on Thursday. It is absolutely wonderful – thick, warm, and soft. Here’s a closeup:

Red flannel closeup

The two pairs of pants together used up 6yds of fabric. (I think this is the secret to winning a stash busting contest – use narrow fabric. The narrower, the better. Because only the linear yards count. Hmmm… how narrow can a fabric go before it’s a ribbon? Hehe) The pants pattern is my TNT, originally for pleated trousers in an old Burda magazine. Obviously, it went through a few iterations to get to the PJs stage.

Speaking of TNTs, I used another one – Jalie Dolman Top to make the next item. I like plain necklines on my winter tops because scarves are my signature accessory. But summer temperatures rarely allow for scarves and then plain necklines look, well… plain. So I figured I’d try this roll collar style – there’s something vaguely 60’s about it and that usually works well for me. It’s just a rectangle the length of the neckline by 8″ plus seam allowances. Easy-peasy. The fabric is a cotton interlock from Nancy’s Notions. I had ordered a yard last year to try it and now that I finally got around to sewing it, I think I’ll order more. It’s soft and smooth, easy to cut and sew, and feels wonderful on the skin. That brings the total sewn so far to 20yds. Not too shabby.

08 - Jalie dolman top

On a more social note, I went to a sewing meetup in D.C. today. That was a lot of fun. It was organized by Nikki whom I haven’t seen since 2003. I got to meet Meredith, Adrianne, two Sara(h?)s, and one other sewing soul whose name escapes me right now. For the fabric swap, I contributed a bagful of fabrics in need of a new home – all but three were adopted. Yay!

Fabrics for swap

I brought home three new fabrics and two patterns but it didn’t occur to me to take a picture while there was decent light (not that there was much of it on this dreary rainy day) so a verbal description will have to do: one is a purple sweater knit, another a drapey lightweight knit in a beautiful shade of orange, and the third a very cool eyelash fabric in black. I have no idea what to do with this third piece but it had my name all over it so we’ll see.

And that’s all I have today. Happy sewing!

Muslin and silver polymer

I’ve spent quite a bit of time sewing up muslin lately. First I dug out a dress pattern I drafted back in 2011 when we lived in Wyoming. It fit perfectly. Back then. Last week I could zip up the dress but didn’t have the courage to sit down, hehe. So I mocked it up in muslin, with wide seam allowances for the side seams, to see how much it needed to be adjusted. Not much, as it turned out – adding ½” at each side seam gave me enough room to sit down comfortably. Well, comfortably… for a woven. Now that I’ve been living in knits for years, I have apparently developed a new definition of comfortable. That new definition includes a stretchy hem. I don’t know how I’m going to get that in a woven dress.

I was all set to cut some fabric for that dress when I thought hmm, what if I could make a dress without a zipper? Back to the drawing board – this time using my SFD Shirt Kit blueprint as in the black dress I made last year. I drew in a jewel neckline and copied the side seam shape from hip to hem from the adjusted 2011 draft. It fits quite nicely once belted, and I now have a couple of narrow elastic belts thanks to Ruthie’s comment about them on Stitcher’s Guild.  I like the stretchy belts much more than the regular unforgiving leather kind. So now I’m ready to cut the wool suiting. It’s been washed and dried, needs to be ironed. I’ll iron it today.

Next up was supposed to be a jacket to match the dress but I’m finding myself dreaming about all kinds of other jackets. Something in red, maybe. Or maybe not. It’s just that I’ve been sewing black and dark gray (muslin doesn’t count) these last few weeks and I’m ready for a break.

Mica shift beads

Even with polymer, I’ve been working mainly with gray. Well, silver. But that’s really a shade of gray. Like these mica shift beads. They’re the right size for earrings and a pendant necklace. They might even get finished soon.

And that’s all I have for now.

See you soon!

Progress note – week 1

One week down and what a nice week it’s been! I’ve realized that making the commitment to spend at least two hours in the studio on my days off means I’m prioritizing sewing and claying over other things. It’s a good thing. It feels very luxurious somehow.

Sewing
I’ve sewn up 3.25yds this week (running total 9.25yds), adding two dresses and a skirt to my tiny work wardrobe.

Dresses

The dresses are from my TNT sleeveless sheath (M6355). They take me three hours from flat fabric to finished dress. The skirt pattern is also a TNT one, adapted from M6355 to approximate the idea of Pamela’s Magic Pencil Skirt. It is not an A-line skirt, despite looking like one in this picture. From the hip down, it’s cut exactly the same as the two dresses. I think it’s the elastic that’s distorting the look on the hanger.

Skirt

Please excuse the hanger pictures. I won’t even entertain taking pictures of these pieces on me until the outdoor temperatures are in a reasonable range (below freezing for days on end does not qualify in my book).

Both fabrics are ponte. The black one came from Michael’s Fabrics and the heathered dark gray from Emmaonesock. It’s hard to tell the difference in this picture but in real life the difference is obvious. I didn’t make a skirt in the gray because I thought the fabric might make a nice jacket too. So I’m keeping the remaining 1.75yds for that. I hope these fabrics wear well and don’t seat out. They are wonderful to sew and the perfect weight – not too light, not too heavy.

Polymer
I recently moved my clay table into the sewing studio so now my hobbies share one space. This is a good thing. Having two separate spaces wasn’t working well for me. I still have some work to do with reorganizing storage to accommodate clay supplies, tools, and binders full of tutorials. This week I tackled scrap clay and organized it nicely in a plastic box. Then I made four bracelet bases using up some of it. I’ll sand them tonight. The plan for the next few weeks is to work on the techniques in Dan Cormier’s online class Single Slice Mokume – probably lots of samples, different color combinations, and maybe even a finished piece here and there. We’ll see how that goes.

And that’s all I have right now.

See you soon!

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018!

Happy New Year and may it be filled with beautiful fabrics, soft yarns that never tangle, and pliable polymer clay!

Last year, taking on a full-time job meant limited creative time/energy. With a part-time schedule, this year should be more relaxed and I have several goals/intentions for it.

  • I plan to average at least an hour a day in the studio – so on my days off I will spend at least an hour sewing and at least an hour working with polymer.
  • I’d like to sew up at least 50 yds of fabric this year. New purchases count in this so it won’t be all existing stash.
  • I need dresses and jackets and a lot more red in my wardrobe. I also have a pretty decent SWAP plan, not quite finished but getting there. So I intend to fill those holes and follow the plan, and make coordinating jewelry to go with the new pieces, and share it all here with you.
  • I have some fabrics that I really like but am reluctant to cut. I’m not sure why. But the point is, I’m going to make an effort to push through the block and sew up at least a few of them.

Winter PJs

I have decided that my creative year starts Dec 26 and runs through next Christmas Day. I have made a good first step in the 50yd challenge already with these two pairs of PJs (lounge pants, really) in two different cotton flannels from the same collection. Snowflakes are for DH, snowmen are mine. We’re wearing them right now, in happily coordinated bliss.

See you soon!

Fitting the Tabula Rasa Jacket

Right after posting my preliminary SWAP plan last time, I discovered the Tabula Rasa Jacket by Fit for Art Patterns. It had been on my radar since earlier this year but only when I came across some neckline variations did I start seeing this pattern as something I could actually wear. I immediately ordered the main pattern, the Rain or Shine variations, and the Band and Pockets variations directly from the company. The package arrived in two days and I got to work on fitting it. Following the fitting instructions in the pattern, I used size Small, with the AB front. Knowing that I prefer a jewel neckline, I used the jewel neck template from the Rain or Shine variations right off the bat.

Tabula Rasa Jacket

Flat pattern alteration:
On comparison with a well-fitting top, I adjusted the shoulder slope first. The front was fine out of the envelope, the back needed a ¾” low neck base alteration – this corrects the shoulder slope and starts shortening the back (mine is very short and erect). Then I cut the muslin and sewed it using the included ⅝” seam allowances and 1½” hem allowances.

Alterations in the muslin stage:

  1. cut off ½” from FRONT hem only to correct the original patternwork (on walking out the pattern, the front is ½” longer below the notch and there is no reason to ease this in so I just cut it off).
  2. shorten FRONT, BACK, and SIDE 3″ at the hem to bring the jacket to the high hip, which is my best jacket length.
  3. shorten BACK 2″ evenly across the at the upper HBL to correct the balance, continuing the alteration into the SLEEVE, tapering to nothing at the hem (in patternwork, this was actually done as 1⅜” alteration at the back and ⅝” alteration at the front, both tapering to nothing at the hem – the split is because I ended up moving the shoulder seam forward).
  4. shorten SLEEVE 1½” at the hem to bring it to my preferred wrist length.
  5. take in FRONT, BACK, and SIDE ¼” at the waist, tapering to nothing at bust and lower HBL. This takes out 2″ total from the waist circumference.
  6. move up bust dart ¾”.
  7. move shoulder seam ⅝” forward, move notch on the sleeve accordingly.
  8. raise neckline 2″ at CB, lower neckline ⅝” at CF, redraw pleasing curve (the jewel neckline out of the envelope is more of a closely-fitting slightly curve V-neck, and much too deep in the back so I knew this would need attention).

Adding a bust dart:
At this point, I got as far as I could with the muslin and it was time to cut regular fabric. I could have made another muslin but I wanted to wear this to work to see if it would be comfortable all day. I knew there would likely be other alterations but I figured they’d be minor. I used a long-time resident of the fabric stash – a dark fuchsia wool/poly crepe with a lovely drape. No lining as I wanted this to be quick. This wearable prototype was quite comfortable, but showed that the CF needed another ½” of length. I compared the original AB and CD fronts and didn’t like the discrepancies so I figured I’d adjust the pattern piece I already knew – so I added a ½” of length to it and darted it out in a second dart. The bust dart of the AB front is meant to point at the bust apex, in the two-dart CD front the darts are just below and just above the bust line. I angled both of mine a ¼” toward the bust line.

Narrowing the waist:
Then I made another muslin because I thought I could narrow the waist a little bit more and I didn’t want to guess. I took in the FRONT, BACK, and SIDE ¼” at the waist and hem, tapering to nothing at bust HBL. This reduced the waist circumference another 2″ for a really lovely and comfortable fit.

Fixing the sleeve:
When I was sewing this second muslin, I decided to take out the bit of ease in the sleeve. On walking out the sleeve cap/armhole seam, there was ½” of ease. I took that out ¼” at each notch, taking the alteration all the way down to the hem for a very slightly narrower sleeve.

I have not had time to take pictures of the muslins or the wearable prototype so those might come later. For now, I wanted a record of the changes I made, in case I lose the piece of paper where I wrote them all as I went.

See you soon!

SWAP 2018 – planning

I wasn’t going to participate in SWAP (Sewing with a Plan) this season. Between too much going on, sewing mojo on vacation, and inspiration pictures pulling me in too many different directions at once, I didn’t feel like planning a wardrobe to fit arbitrary rules that may not fit my lifestyle.

And then the rules came out. They are delightfully simple and they sent my sewing imagination soaring. This is the gist:

You’re making a collection of 11 garments to be worn as outfits of at least two pieces that work for your personal style.

  1. Choose two neutral colors (at least 3 garments each)
  2. Add one accent color and two prints OR two accent colors and one print (at least 1 garment each)
  3. Remaining two garments may be made from any one or combination of your neutrals, accent(s) and/or print(s)
  4. Each garment must work with a minimum of two outfits

Here is my preliminary plan:

Wardrobe plan - WIP

It’s not quite finished – it’s missing a piece. Something in light gray. I’m not sure if this will be a dress or another top. We’ll see.

*****

Here’s something that caught my eye now as I was looking at the rules: “Multiple styles of pants, tops, jacket/cardigan, dresses, accessories, etc are made from the limited color/print palette. New seasons bring new items that work with some of the garments from prior seasons. Your goal is to create a collection that looks like it belongs together and that you can easily add new pieces to in the future.” When I sewed a SWAP wardrobe in early 2016, I used just three patterns and a bunch of different fabrics. I think the idea here is the opposite – choose just a few fabrics and go to town on patterns. Hmm, something to chew on. I may rethink the whole thing yet.

And that’s all I have today. See you soon!

Back on track

Between dropping down to a part-time schedule at work and my husband’s return from the year-long assignment in Korea, my life has finally gotten back to a normal, reasonable pace. And I got back to running. And cooking. And all the other fun things that come with normal life. Like planning a SWAP, hehe. These are my SWAP fabrics. Full plan to come.

SWAP colors/fabrics

These last few months have been a bit of a hell on wheels because spending a year apart is tough, and the stressful job and crazy traffic didn’t help things. So now I’m taking care of myself, slowly easing into my creative groove. In the polymer studio, it’s mostly about rearranging tools and looking at previously made pieces. It feels like forever ago that I touched raw clay. Here is a look at the bracelets I made this year:

Polymer clay bracelets - 2017

And here is a yellow and black set I made to go with this gorgeous scarf. I also dyed the cardigan to match because I thought it would be easier than trying to find matching RTW. The dye is Rit Lemon Yellow, the kind that comes in a bottle. I followed the instructions on Rit’s website, including adding the salt in the dye bath and then following up with dye fixative afterwards. I found the dyeing process surprisingly easy and the resulting color nice and even.

Yellow and black jewelry set

Somewhere along the line this summer I decided to experiment with mica shift. It’s an interesting technique that I’d like to explore further. First, I tried it with Kato and I have this set to show you:

Red jewelry set - mica shift

And some samples of other colors, this time in Premo:

Mica shift samples

And that’s all I have for now. Actually, not quite because I do have a knitting WIP but no picture of it right now so that will come later. See you soon!

Checking in again

Hi again!

So I haven’t been posting in the last few months because what was supposed to be a part-time job turned into a full-time one just a few days after I started. It was a lot of information to take in and a major lifestyle change, and the stress of all that coupled with the long daily drive back and forth meant that I’ve had very little time or energy left for creating, let alone blogging. I am still here though, and while my posts will likely be sporadic in the next two months, they will get more regular once I go part-time in October.

All that housekeeping out of the way, let’s look at what I’ve been making. Because I wasn’t exactly idle, as it turns out (to my own surprise). I have made a bunch of bracelets and experimented with fun techniques – I have yet to take pictures of them so those will come later. Also, I joined the summer 6-PAC and made a bunch of things: 5 tops, a dress, and a cardigan jacket. And two pieces I didn’t think to photograph, mostly because I’ve been wearing them to work a lot and they completely slipped my mind.

Summer 6-PAC - tops

All of these tops are cut from Jalie 3352, the dolman top. The red ones in 11oz. rayon jersey from Emmaonesock have the original neckline without changes (I think). The light gray is a cotton knit from Nancy Erickson and has the most wonderful hand. The darker gray is a mostly-cotton jersey from Fabricmart – that one will be given away because it was doing some shrinking as I sewed it, and I only noticed it at the end. Both of these gray tops have a 3/4″ neckband, which was my attempt to see if I like the closer neckline (yes!) and if I like the neckband finish (not really). The cute polka dot is a cotton jersey from Marcy Tilton and it’s such a happy, smile-inducing fabric. For this top, I just closed up the neckline by the same 3/4″ and then clean-finished it by turning the allowance under and coverstitching. I like this neckline the best. Next time, I want to try a boat neckline to bring it up closer to the collar bone – I had accidentally put on one top the wrong way, with the back in front, and I liked the effect.

Summer 6-PAC - dress and cardigan

The dress is drafted from Sure-Fit Designs Shirt Kit. I just lengthened it to dress length, took in the side seams some to accommodate the sleeveless design and the curve of my waist, and added the bias-cut collar. Oh, and the hemline goes in a slight A-line, which is comfortable, but I think I prefer a straighter silhouette. I made it in a lovely black Brussels Washer from Fabric.com – it is such a pleasure to sew and wear. Warning: it does seat out some so not your best bet for a formal anything. I cut the neckline fairly wide and the collar doesn’t play well with most of my cardigans but I do have a few RTW ones that work so the dress is not an orphan.

The cardigan jacket is from my old PMB pattern (from 2002 or 2003, yikes!). I narrowed the shoulder slightly with a corresponding sleeve cap adjustment, curved the front neckline where it meets center front, and added 8″ to the length. There is no closure and the front edges meet but do not overlap. The fabric is an acrylic/wool/poly boucle bought from Fabricmart several years ago. It’s nicely warm, and super easy to sew. I enjoy wearing it and there’s more in the stash for another, shorter version.

And that’s pretty much all I have right now. Thank you if you’re still reading, and see you soon!

New year, new direction?

I hope you are all off to a good start in this new year, sewing up the stash and thinking up cool new things to make.

Here we are just two weeks into January and I’m in a completely different space creatively than back in December. I had been thinking about sewing a wardrobe of separates, as part of the annual SWAP contest on Stitcher’s Guild. But this month, I started a new job that comes with a uniform requirement – a dark gray jacket. Scrub jacket, to be clear, so it’s not like I can just sew up some of my beautiful gray wools and call it good.

Color wheel

I’ve decided that if I have to wear a dark neutral cut-as-unisex jacket, everything else should be bright colored and feminine. So I’ll be wearing, and making, bright colored dresses with a matching scarf and bracelet. I’ll be working with the colors above with the aim of creating a capsule of two dresses (one long-sleeved and one sleeveless), one or two scarves, and a couple of bracelets, in each color family. Because the jacket is fairly dark, the dress colors will mostly be on the lighter end of the spectrum for contrast. This should also be a good time to experiment with various trim ideas and color-blocking.

The sewing plan then is to work with a couple of TNT dress patterns all year and refine my preferences in terms of fabrics, trims, and style details. On the polymer front, I’m planning to make bracelets to go with the dresses, and because I want to perfect the process, I’m going to make a new bracelet every two weeks.

I’ll be back soon with a finished knitting project. See you then!

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