The Big Blog Post

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Have any of you promised to make something for a fashion show and sale? If you have, you know how it can strike fear, excitement, and designer’s block! Last January, 8 local sewers were asked to donate their talents to design and sew clothes for the benefit show ArtWear in Fort Collins. We were given beautiful Kantha quilts that had been hand stitched by women who were saved from sexual slavery in India. The clothes that will be modeled at the October 20th fashion show (tickets at lactix.com) and sold October 20th-28th will benefit both these women and the visual arts in town.

Meeting these other sewers was absolutely delightful. The cool ideas were flying every time we met, and I have learned so much from them. I hope to take some photos at the fashion show and show you the diversity of designs that were produced. Each quilt was only about 36″ x 80″ and most items were made with only one piece. In addition the quilts are reversible so we tried to make the pieces reverse whenever possible. I had the task of making an entire outfit for the finale so I did get to play with 3 coordinating quilts  for the whole ensemble.

Thank goodness, my BSF Debra was one of the other sewists so we could bounce ideas off of each other. We bought a few quilts from ETSY to practice on first. I made a pair of palazzo pants, and Debra made this fabulous jacket. Did I mention that these quilts feel great on?IMG_0215

My first two items were fairly simple, but with these fabrics sometimes that’s best. This vest is a whole cloth with the arm openings placed asymmetrically.IMG_0113

This piece is an almost no waste kimono jacket. At the end of the post I’ll show some of the accessories we made with the few scraps left.
IMG_0111This next piece I may buy for myself! I just love the colors and the fun polka dots on the reverse. We used the finished edges of the quilts when possible, but sometimes used binding when needed. Most of the seams are flat-felled.IMG_1136

 

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I also found this matching ribbon for the back seam.
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The final piece has palazzo pants, a bustier (my first) and a wild reversible jacket.

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This is the jacket reversed. You can see that the back tail has buttons and can be removed for a more casual cropped jacket. I might like this side even more than the matching one.

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The jacket with the tail removed.

IMG_1187Finally here are a few of the accessories made from the scraps and they are all reversible.

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Synchronicity

Motorcycle-Coat3I always find it interesting when coincidences keep popping up in a project. First, I suddenly decided that NOW was the time to sew up this cool panel denim fabric from Marcy Tilton.  I’m not the only one who pulled this from their stash this month. Marcy sent an email picturing a short jacket the day after I wore mine for the first time. The second coincidence is the other sewer also decided on black sleeves. I was also going to make mine in black denim, but couldn’t find the right fabric.

Third, I looked through my patterns and settled on the perfect pattern, Vogue 1356. While researching this pattern on Pattern Review I discovered Shams had made this same pattern a few years ago with a similar panel fabric. The good news is her project looked fantastic, but the bad news is that this pattern needed 4 yards of fabric because of 2-piece bias cut sleeves. The long straight coat is a favorite profile and I discovered no less than 5 similar patterns in my library! I finally choose a 1997 jacket pattern, McCall’s 8681 because it has optional darts and they always help with the fit on my body type.Motorcycle-Coat2

I altered the pattern quite a bit. It was an old pattern calling for shoulder pads. While a light shoulder pad could still be added, I took them out and then needed to adjust the shoulder and sleeve to accommodate a more natural shoulder. 8” was needed in length to make the jacket more like the original pattern Vogue 1356 and allow me to use the full length of the print. In addition, my BSF insisted (and was totally right) that the collar was too plain. I cut a V-neck and added a collar like the bomber jacket I made last year. That decision led to a zipper closure, which is a cool look for a biker print. Of course then I needed zipper pockets to match!Motorcycle-Coat

Soft Coat

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I had bought this fabulous woven ombre stripe from The Smuggler’s Daughter. It’s attractive on both sides so an unlined jacket seemed a good fit.

I think most of us looked right past Butterick B6244 with the incredibly plain dress, but the coat caught my eye. There are many similar patterns out there, but I liked that the shoulders were fit and despite all of the fabric it looked slimming on the model. The bonus is when you find that there is actually a dart under the draped collar. There are just 3 pattern pieces, which made matching stripes easy, however I had only ordered 4 repeats (less than 4 yards) of the fabric. After close inspection I discovered that there was absolutely no nap and the stripes were symmetrical so the back is cut one direction and the front is opposite! After laying out the front and back pattern pieces and matching the stripes I still had some fabric left, but the sleeve stripes wouldn’t match, or they would be too short.

b6244-jacket-orange-stripe_2Knowing that there is always a solution I cut out and stitched together the body of the coat. Then I draped the fabric at the arms and decided that it looks even better with the stripe running down the arm. I love that the inside seam is orange against tan. I’m so glad I didn’t have enough fabric! By cutting the sleeves cross grain I gained enough scraps to make two perfectly matched patch pockets lined in a different fabric.b6244-jacket-orange-stripe

The best part of this project is how well it fits into my existing wardrobe. Buying fabric I love and then finding the perfect pattern seems to be a good way for me to sew. The patterns are out there or you can alter them, but finding fabric you love is much more difficult.b6244-jacket-orange-stripe_3

The One with the Built-in Scarf

 

scarf-topI’ve been sewing but in such small periods of time that I never had time to photograph and blog. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished with an hour or two here and there, but I find it very inefficient. Each time I have to review what last happened with the project before proceeding to the next step. The holidays are coming up and I need to switch gears to gift giving projects, but for now I’ll try and catch up on what has been on my sewing machine for the last month, and it’s going to take a few photo sessions and blogs to cover it!scarf-top_2

I fell for view B from V1516 by Tom and Linda Platt. I call it “the one with the built-in scarf”. With all of those edges there’s a lot of finishing, but I think it is very pretty and dressy, but still comfortable. I can’t remember where I bought the main fabric (money’s on MarcyTilton.com), but it’s probably a rayon crepe. It pre-washed beautifully, but I will be gentle with it now that it’s sewn up. The wool and silk floral layer is from a beautiful scarf I bought during the Taos retreat, with the intention of cutting it up for yardage.

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I’m pretty proud of the edge finishes. I buy bias ribbon from Dharmatrading.com and then throw it in the batch whenever I’m dyeing fabric. It comes in handy for anything from wrapping presents for special people to using it for edges like a Hong Kong seam or the hem finish.

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I’m wearing pants that don’t quite match, but I have enough fabric left to make a pair of pants as soon as I decide which pattern to use. I’m thinking of going back to my pants sloper to make a classic trouser pattern. The Craftsy class covers the modifications, but I need to get the sloper out and follow that chapter. Sounds simple, but we’ll see when I get time to do that. The top and soft pants would make a lovely holiday outfit.

Last Shirt of Summer

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This is a pattern with a surprise in the back! When will they learn to use the front of the envelope to show us all the features of a pattern? Imagine my surprise when looking at the line drawing and discovering this cool back option. This is McCalls 7094 and I love wearing it!Split-back-shirt-M7094_1

Wearing this is light and breezy, but with enough of an overlap so that skin never shows. There was already a plan to use two different prints of rayon crepe from Marcy Tilton. I didn’t have enough fabric to make this back option, but adding a bit of rayon batik from my stash for the smaller elements, and simplifying the sleeve, solved the problem.Split-back-shirt-M7094_3I’m ready to start making fall clothes, my favorite time of the year, but next summer I think I will come back to this pattern with a light linen and maybe some hand stitched details, or some machine embroidery along the placket. It’s nice to think that around March I may already have a project!

BTW My cat Ichi is proud to be on the 2017 Calendar of Fort Collins Cat Rescue. Thanks for your votes!

Vote for my Cat!

Zatoichi-FranzenI entered my cat Zatoichi (Ichi for short) for a spot in the calendar of Fort Collins Cat Rescue our wonderful local cat shelter where she came from. She’s now one of the 30 finalists and would dearly love to be a Miss September (or January…) and help the shelter. Please go to www.fccrsnc.org and vote for my cat before September 12th!

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Back to sewing. Here is my version of the new Marcy Tilton top from Vogue 9193. My every day dressing consists of a pair of knit pants and a top. If I go out of the house I like to add a cool jacket/coat or poncho. Most pants are fairly neutral so that leaves the tops to carry the interesting details. This pattern has lots of promise for both dressy, and an everyday wear piece that has some style. The addition of a pocket makes it function even better than most patterns.

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The sample photos are sewn with a single fabric, but the line drawings inspired me to try multiple fabrics. After cutting it out in three colors it just didn’t look balanced. The additional gold bands and neck seemed to pull the whole piece together. After sewing it all up I decided to add the stencil pattern to the front.

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I’m already wearing this a lot, but I do think I will make another design change in the future. The top has a subtle angled bottom band, and sometimes it simply feels odd. The change could be to make the angle steeper and more obvious. However, if I continue with the Mondrian styled piecing it’s possible the top would look better being simpler and straight. Or should I leave it alone?

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It’s a great top and I’ll try the pants some time and let you know how they fit. I’m at Diane Ericson’s Design Outside the Lines in Taos this week having a wonderful sewing adventure with my BSF. Don’t forget to vote for my cat Zatoichi!

Poppy Embroideries

My spring coat is finally finished! While it’s too late for spring, I hope that by wearing it in fall the feeling of summer will be extended a bit. This was a big project!     2016-07-03-11.53.22-8I decided to copy an old favorite unlined coat. I always pull it out between seasons because the single ply of wool is the perfect weight, but it’s grey and looks a little blah in spring. However, the oversized fit gives enough room for anything from dolman sleeves to another layer beneath. To celebrate spring, I wanted embroidered poppies around the hem of the coat. I looked all over for the set of embroideries I evisioned in my mind, but to no avail. Just as I was giving up, my neighbor’s poppies began to bloom! I have software. I can draw. YES, I can do this!

The first step was to take some snapshots of her poppies. I wanted red poppies and some were golden, but as long as the values are there you can change the color later.PoppyBThe second step was to simplify the photograph into a line drawn cartoon. This needed to be done since the number of embroidery threads used should be kept down to a reasonable number. I have a single thread embroidery machine, so I need to rethread for each color and the final embroideries have about 14 colors.   drawing-webThe third step is to scan the freehand cartoon and open it up as a layer in a drawing program like Adobe Illustrator, then complete a vector drawing. The embroidery software I purchased from Husqvarna Viking has a drawing module that is fairly simple to use, but I’m used to the feature rich Illustrator. This part takes awhile, at least for me. I spent time fussing around with the composition by moving the flowers, changing their sizes and even moving flowers from one photo to another to balance. There are three separate embroideries on the coat plus some small designs for the buttons and the collar.      poppies1_042316 I make all of this sound very straightforward but the truth is I’d never attempted such a complex project, and most steps had to be done more than once. The good thing is that I continued to find faster ways to accomplish my goals. Next time should be much more efficient!

After the drawing is done the embroidery software takes over. The basics of the software are incredibly easy. Just point your mouse to an area and the software will fill that area with the embroidery pattern of your choice! Of course, that wasn’t good enough for me…I wanted shading, and the stitches to change direction on the petals, and satin stitch on the stems, and different weights of black outline. You get the picture, I basically nerded out for hours, and here are the final stitch outs before I put them on my coat.

I didn’t want the back of the embroidery to show inside the coat, and I was running out of fabric! I found a length that was uneven along the top and almost the width of the bottom hem. I then let this found shape lead me to the placement of the embroideries and the curve of the pocket. I like letting the fabric make decisions for me, and I think the pockets came out better than the straight ones that I’d planned. If you look closely you can see the bottom hem is actually two layers.2016-07-03-11.55.24-19

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I also designed matching embroidered buttons!2016-07-03-11.50.53-2

For the asymmetrical collar, I copied a few of the previously designed poppies and had them land in the corners. Now all I have to do is wait for some cooler weather!

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Caftan to Beat the Heat

A number of months ago I promised to spend more time on explaining process of making a new piece. Well, admittedly I had a lot going on, but it took months to finish this caftan! The linen Moulin Rouge fabric from Marcy Tilton was the initial inspiration and it just got crazy from there. How difficult can it be to make a caftan? Who needs a pattern? Or so I thought when beginning this piece that turned out quite complex.
Moulin-Rouge-Caftan_3The other linen pieces come from my stash and were made into a rectangle of pieced fabric that I then draped on Roxanne. Cool, this is going to be easy! caftan-drapingThe back panel also needed to have a mix of fabrics so I decided to make a diagonal slice on the patchwork piece to make a wedge for the back. This seemed like a great idea and here is the back panel on the floor. However, all the angles started getting confusing on such a large project. caftan-fabric-pieceA shirt would have been much easier to manipulate, but I persevered adding more black linen until I had back and front rectangles to form the caftan. After sewing the shoulders it was time to look at the neck. It’s difficult to see, but I’m intrigued with this idea of a turned rectangle to form an asymmetrical neck. The shoulder seam is the black to black seam starting on the lower left hand side of the photo. The other shoulder continues diagonally across the rectangle to the upper the right hand side of the photo. Unfortunately, in the end the neck was too big, and I’m not a big fan of my bra straps showing. I played around with the neck later and came up with a solution, but I would love to perfect this idea in another project.

caftan-neck-detailSo at this point the project looks cool on Roxanne so I try it on. It looks terrible on me!!! Too much fabric…we’re talking full size tent, and it’s heavy! Time to start chopping! Moulin-Rouge-CaftanI decide that instead of a classic rectangular caftan that I will just cut into the sides forming sleeves as you can see in this photo of the back.caftan-pocket-detailThis reduced the bulk by about half so I decided to focus on a pocket. I’m very fond of how the pocket came out. However at that point the caftan still fit poorly. The photo below is after all the tweaking, and you can see I lost a little of the pocket opening when I took more out of the sides.Moulin-Rouge-Caftan_1

Finally, I start gathering up the front to give the garment some definition at my waist. It’s starting to look much better, so I take it over to my BSF to help me perfect the final folds while wearing the piece. I found a nice little fabric bit in my stash painted by Miles Frode and used it to integrate the intersections of the folds. Moulin-Rouge-Caftan_2You can also see how I resolved the neck. Hopefully it looks intentional…The outfit is fun, I will wear it and most of all I enjoyed the process and learned a lot!

I hope to finish my summer coat this week now that the temperatures are in the 80’s to 90’s and I don’t need it! Early fall will also be perfect for a light wool coat, so no harm done. I’m starting to catch up with my UFO projects and hope to start something completely new next week.

 

Summer Top

First of all, let me thank all of you for the kind words about my dad. The sewing community is so thoughtful and encouraging, and you all cheered me up more than you imagine.BlueGreen-LawnI’m back to sewing and blogging! Summer always poses wardrobe difficulties since fall is my favorite season in both colors and weight of fabrics. I’m determined to have a summer wardrobe one of these years, but while I started planning summer sewing in February, life got in the way. I have a spring coat that I’m still working on, but it’s a long slow project that I’m savoring so it’ll get done sometime soon. Hint: machine embroidery is involved.

In the meantime I made this self-drafted (from RTW) pattern that has promise for the second iteration. Not that this is a wadder, but the cotton lawn I used doesn’t have the right weight or drape. The shirt needs something like a rayon that is less airy. In addition I will make the shirt about 2″ longer next time.

BlueGreen-Lawn_2Isn’t this an interesting idea? The front basically ends up on the bias at the placket. Drafting this pattern was difficult, since the original shirt kept shifting around. This front idea is what I wanted to capture and beyond that, I made quite a few detail changes from the original.BlueGreen-Lawn_1 I may add some false buttons on the placket. I usually sew plackets up even on RTW that I’ve purchased. I’m just more comfortable knowing I don’t have to watch out for gaposis at the bust!The back pleat adds to the airiness of this top, which you barely feel while wearing. I find it slightly disconcerting and as I said before a little more weight to the fabric will feel better. I am wearing this “muslin” but I think there is great potential in the future. The body pattern is only two pieces so there is room for fabric play. Hope I have time this summer to make another!
BlueGreen-Lawn_3The back pleat adds to the airiness of this top, which you barely feel while wearing. I find it slightly disconcerting and as I said before a little more weight to the fabric will feel and look better. I’m wearing this “muslin” but there is great potential future iterations. The body pattern is only two pieces so there is room for fabric play. Hope I have time this summer to make another!

Paris Velvet-Project One

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I’ve been so excited about my two luscious pieces of silk/rayon velvet that I purchased in Paris. By the way, I washed and dried both pieces as soon as I got home, and they came out of the dryer in perfect condition. Now the search for what to do with them…

After looking around Pinterest and with memories of a beloved rust bomber jacket from years ago I decided that the rust colored velvet should become a Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns in New Zealand. While waiting for the pattern to arrive (It took almost 3 weeks!), I decided to try a bit of snow dying to have a few coordinates for the velvet.

I’ve done most types of dying, but something about scooping up a bunch of snow outside my studio door and dumping it on my fabric was a novel approach. The basic process involves first soaking the fabric in soda ash diluted with water. The second step is folding or scrunching your fabric in a flat plastic container and dumping a bucket of snow (or ice) on top. The third step is to simply scatter dry fiber reactive dye on top and let the whole thing melt and process for 24 hours. There are plenty of detailed instructions on the Internet if you want to know more, but this was the easiest dying ever!

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Here are the results with my two pieces of Paris velvet. I loved the simplicity of the process including the surprise results the next day. I processed one piece of PFD (prepared for dying) white Kaufman Radiance fabric, and one piece of PFD rayon/silk velvet from Dharma Trading each in their own tubs. Now I have a hip lining and a coordinating piece of velvet that I hope to use with the purple velvet.

One thing about the Rigel Bomber is the lack of a lining. Almost all of the sewists out there are drafting their own lining pattern, and that is what I did. I also cut the interfacing out of the velvet, but had nothing but problems with it. Velvet is a VERY difficult fabric to sew with and with the zipper I just couldn’t get it to work out for me. Instead I recut the interfacing pieces out of the lining fabric. I could have made this one piece, but unfortunately by this point I didn’t have enough fabric to cut a second one-piece lining.

For all the velvet seams I used ¼” Lite Steam-A-Seam to keep the fabric from slipping while I sewed the jacket parts together. It worked like a charm and I would recommend the extra step to save one’s sanity while sewing velvet. The cuffs, collar, and waist ribbing all came from The Rain Shed. There is a website, but you still need to call them, and they are super helpful on the phone. The cuffs are ready made so have no seams and they even have colors, but I still decided to go with black.

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The runways have shown plenty of embroidered bombers for a season or two and I thought it would be fun to do a bit of embroidery with my new machine. I purchased the Parisian themed designs from Urban Threads. While I’m developing my skills at designing my own embroidery, I think this set is perfect for this project. I tried the back embroidery once and wasn’t happy with the outcome, but luckily we had a Husqvarna Viking sewing expert, Alix Graham-Michel, give a class last week and my second embroidery came out perfect. Thanks Alix!

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Au Revoir!