Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pattern Pyramid: Perseverance Pays Off

It looks like persistence and patience are working for the lucky name drawn in this go round of the Pattern Pyramid. And the winner is . . . Amity Originals, who said this might be her seventh entry. Lucky 7 it is. Taking a peek around her blog I think she is in the Los Angeles area so the Pattern Pyramid stays in the Golden State for a while.


I used one of my favorite sewing tools to draw the winner, which are forceps that I got ages from a friend who had samples at work. I have 3 of these scattered around the sewing room and while they may seem weird to use for sewing they are perfect for pulling out basting threads, tailor's tacks etc. Plus they have the little locking feature to get a really good grip. They also work for fishing out the tail of elastic in a channel when it escapes from you. 

You all know I am obsessed with the weather (family trait) despite the fact that I live in practically perfect N. California. We do have the occasional dusting of snow here, to our great shock. But for the most part our snow is on the mountains, where it should be and not on our driveways. Kind of weird to go out for an early morning walk and see this faraway white stuff which was mostly gone by the afternoon. And if you are shivering due to a February blizzard note that the lovely green on the lower hills will be crispy brown by early summer. 

snow on peak

Onward to spring sewing, Beth

Friday, February 15, 2013

So nice I made it twice: Simplicity 2455 Jacket

Since I am trying to stick with my goal of making useful separates instead of more dresses, I did some reflecting on that idea, thinking about garments that are useful...not utilitarian.  Evaluating which were the items that were both most frequently and most comfortably worn since I started this blog. Without question it is the blue corduroy jacket I made in December 2010. I wear this all the time. That blog post also ranks as one of the most popular - I think everyone wants a jacket that can go with jeans and mix with lots of different tops. Plus that was the post where I mentioned the velvet board (or often called the needle board) one of the top google search terms that seems to bring seekers of sewing info here. More on the needle board to follow.
I had a piece of olive green stretch corduroy in my stash, a meager piece of 1 and 1/3 yards (60"wide). The pattern (S2455) calls for 1 and 7/8 plus the dreaded "more fabric needed for one-way design and to match plaids". Corduroy falls into that category, all pieces needing to go one way. I stared at it a few times and one day I thought ... tweedy-boucle-ish sleeves.

Olive cord jacket front
I think this is a little sleeper of a pattern, Simplicity 2455.  Looks kind of serious and businesslike in the pattern images but has nice princess seams, easy to make lapels and a hint of peplum. Here is the first one I made, in blue uncut corduroy. 
    2455Blue cord jacket front
In the post for the first version, I have some notes on how to get that inside corner of the collar/lapel intersection nice and smooth. 
I used the needle board again for pressing this jacket, and if you go to the other post you can see some photos showing why/how to use it. It is kind of a pain to remember, but this olive green fabric is cotton corduroy with a bit of lycra, so once a seam is pressed things are good to go, not that much pressing to do, and the important thing to remember is NOT to put the iron down on that right side of the fabric!

Velvet board closeup
Needle board
Here is a look at the collar close up and the back. I didn't intend to put the wool on the under collar but had no choice as I was down to shreds after cutting out the body of the jacket.

olive cord collarolive cord jacket back
Now stop staring at that undercollar. Or am I drawing your attention to it? See the stripes, horizontal on one side, vertical on the other.  Also no choice. After all, the undercollar has to go on the bias. So here is a look at the wool fabric, the selvedge is on the left. See the devious problem? As I did not see when I bought it. Diagonal stripes. But I did have a brainwave right before I cut out these sleeves, and did some draping on the dress form. If I had cut it out on the straight of grain, then while both sleeves would have had diagonal stripes but since the sleeves are mirror images the stripes would have been oriented in opposite directions. Hard to explain but take it from me, it looked weird. So the answer is - breaking all kinds of sewing rules, cut the sleeves out on the bias.  Turned the diagonal stripes into vertical ones. Result - worked very well on this loosely woven fabric and gives them a sweater-ish quality that is perfect.
Olive sleeve fabric

Other inside details. You know I am a fanatic about trimming the inside of a garment. Banish all possible lumpy bits. Here is how I do the hem on the facing, it looks a bit rough as it is a very casual corduroy garment, no pretence at all to being a well tailored jacket. On the facing I did press it directly so there is the mark from the iron, however the needle board was under it so the outer side is still all plushy and smooth.

Hem and facingOlive cord jacket front hem inside

My usual motley crew of assorted linings. I did happen to have this piece that matched so I used that for the parts near the front. To make it neater I wrapped the lining around the bottom of the facing, enclosing all those ravely bits of corduroy. When I do a lining I most always put that little pleat at the bottom, it just gives the lining a little more "breathing space" letting it hang inside the garment and not pull at the outer fabric. I can't remember if this pattern calls for a lining, I just cut out the main pattern pieces and then wing it on the dress form with the jacket inside out, pinning and stitch on by hand.
Olive jacket hem lining
As with the previous jacket version, I did a bound buttonhole because the machine button hole maker would have marked up the front. Another find from the button jar. Do you have one of these goofy little tools? No idea what it is called, the "button raiser-upper" "button height adjuster" ? Anyway if it is a BIG button and buttonhole I use a pencil, but for anything less than that I use this gizmo. Which would be more useful if one had 3 hands, but it works once you get the first few stitches in. Kind of a weird photo, though, but I wanted to show how it is used. 

Olive jacket button
Our weather has turned warm, tomorrow's plan is a hike, maybe wearing shorts ! Woohoo! (we are enjoying the temps but I fear one of our drought summers is a possibility) and I am planning to be outside and away from the sewing machine this weekend to soak up some sun. The Pattern Pyramid drawing from my last post is coming up, so make a comment if you are interested. I appreciate the interest in recent comments about fit and pattern alteration so I will start some posts on that next.

Happy Is it Spring Yet? Sewing, Beth

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pattern Pyramid arrives in Northern California


Talk about six degrees of separation.  Today we have two degrees of separation, in that I put my name in the mix to win the Pattern Pyramid drawing held by Winnie, aka the ScruffyBadger. Winnie happens to be a pal of Karen, who originated the Pattern Pyramid. The same Karen who was my sewing student last spring here in California (and who recently sighed, if e-mails could sigh, that she should have been born a Californian based on what I told her was happening here, weather-wise while she was dealing with dog-walking in the snow).

So thank you Winnie for sending this suprisingly big package of pattern goodness. And keep up your tradition of great poses and action shots for your various creations, they are great! Check out her recent Jungle January post to see what I mean.

Now you want to see what is in store for you if  your name is drawn in this latest Pattern Pyramid.
First up, some vintage goodness.  Love that outfit on the left, perfectly Mad Men so get out your opera gloves. The Simplicity on the right has potential, but I think also has a hint of housecoat about it. The jumpsuit is just plain fun and as it says designed for Easy Living, and I really wish someone would make that.
Vintage Goodness, Pattern Pyramid
Next up, how about some undies. Or the Simplicity retro re-issue. I have made that dress and it is a good one. 
Undies and Vintage repro, Pattern Pyramid

For the two here, below left,  I think we are talking costume only. It may be time to cull the herd as that hideous overall pattern seems to be lingering since the original shipment.  The two on the right are junior sizes and are giving me flashbacks. I know I had tops like those in junior high.
Costumes, Pattern PyramidJunior Patterns, Pattern Pyramid
How about something that evokes Working Girl? I mean the movie with Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith not whatever you were thinking.  Despite the 80's or 90's styling the blouse on the Butterick is very pretty and the Simplicity dress has great lines in the sleeveless version,  it reminds me of this coral color Vogue I made ages ago.

80's and 90's choices, Pattern Pyramid

And what am I contributing?  After having a little chat with myself on the unlikelihood of ever sewing some of these I am dipping into my stash of vintage patterns for you.  Wedding season is approaching and someone may just be searching for a lovely retro look. I think the skirt on that dress is so pretty. The Simplicity on the right is really charming and is vintage size 18 which means bust size 36.

My contributions, Pattern Pyramid

Also going in the package are a few more modern patterns that I will never get to, unopened. 

Pattern Pyramid: my additions

What am I keeping from the package I received? A cute skirt pattern and this Butterick with the drawstring neckline. I forsee making this one as soon as the weather turns hot, even though I am trying not to make any more cotton summer dresses (and wear the many I already have).

what I'm keeping, Pattern Pyramid
I find it hard to resist an interesting vintage pattern and this one seems to have a bonus included. It is McCall 4634, in slightly sad condition but seems to be all there. I have included a view of the back in this photo, it is actually a 3 piece outfit, skirt, blouse and jerkin.  They had me at jerkin, which I presume is what we Yankees call a vest ( ages ago in a small town in the west of Ireland I had just requested two pints from the bartender. The rather handsome fellow sitting next to me turned and said, "you're a Yank, aren't you?"  I confess it gave me a little thrill to hear that word. I suppose in some instances it can be a bit pejorative but it was his opening line to chat me up. All I thought of were all those moody 1940's wartime in Britain movies.) 
This is one of those patterns with no markings on the pattern pieces, just plain white tissue with some perforations. I would love to know what year it is, note that it says McCall not McCalls plus with the pattern number it appears somewhere between 1941-1943 and it is printed in England. Wouldn't it be great to know how this pattern spent those years?
Mc4634 Front+back

I find it interesting that they could get the entire instructions with illustrations for 3 pieces on one small sheet of paper. Am I the only one who thinks the pattern instruction sheets are excessive these days?
I am not promising to make this outfit but I think the blouse looks nice. The bonus in this pattern was the following tucked inside the other pattern:  a Weldon's # 403 pattern for 2-piece Evening and Day Frock. With no illustration so now I am intrigued and want to see if I can figure it out. From the scrap of the instructions (all that was in the package) I can see a bit of the bodice and it looks very pretty.  I think this is just the type of vintage challenge I will  be unable to resist. 

Weldons pattern

So time to enter by leaving a comment below.  Let’s recap. remember this is the brainchild of Karen at Didyoumakethat & here are the rules (lifted from the original post ) to remind you:
  • No way am I going through 30 patterns, ensuring that every pattern piece is there. This is pot luck!
  • Please don’t email me for specifics on these patterns. Take your chance!
  • Your selection of patterns will be picked at random, though I do promise to attempt a good variety of makes. Please don’t contact me asking for specific patterns.
  • If you’re a winner, I would love it if you could make a small contribution to The Brooke. This is a charity close to the heart of Catherine, who so generously provided these patterns.
All Karen asks of participants is to engage in a timely fashion, launching their own giveaways soon after receiving a parcel. you must also be happy to post patterns worldwide – we really want to spread the love!
Let's give it a week, so next Tuesday morning I will draw from those who leave a comment. Happy almost spring sewing, Beth
and some tiny Tete-a-Tete daffodils have made an appearance. What next?  thinking about  what tomatoes to plant, of course :)
Daffodills Tete-a-tete Feb 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sneak Peek, corduroy and wool

Lots of sewing is happening here, not much writing about it and that is as it should be. I have quite a few projects in progess and hope to complete at least one this weekend.

Here is a little peek at the project referred to in the title of this post.  A bit outside my usual color palette. Even I can have only so much clothing in blue or turquoise, sometimes a girl just has to try an earth tone. Or what gets closest to earth tone in my world. Plus it was in my stash. Bonus points for dipping into the pile, right?

Corduroy sneak peak

A big thank you to everyone who has left such nice comments on my recent projects, from the Lekala dress to the knit tops to the kid's coat etc. I really appreciate every one.  And to answer Carolyn, who asked me after my last post if I was getting a new sewing machine, not likely!  Yes, it would be lovely to have a super new machine (and to have some of that happy new toy feeling as when I bought a new Mac laptop after years of corporate PC purgatory).  But no, a new machine is not on the horizon. I am one of those people who cannot replace something for the sake of getting a new one - whatever it is must be beyond repair. And my lovely old Singers are humming along nicely (fingers crossed they stay that way).  

Meanwhile I am working on a few garments that pose an interesting fit challenge.  Some of the features of this figure are; shorter than average, very full bust, relatively narrow shoulders, plus size.  I have completed a few dresses and am now starting a coat based on a very cute J.Crew style.  Are you interested in some blog posts on these projects?  When it comes to sewing, fit and technique go hand in hand. Technique can be learned through practice - a hidden hem, a smooth zipper, perfect seams.  But garment fit - for me the learning never ends since there are as many fit challenges as there are people on the planet.  

Happy weekend sewing, Beth

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Random threads # 1

A few sewing bloggers do posts rounding up various topics that have been on their minds. I really enjoy those so I have been jotting down some of mine in a notebook to write about. Victoria of 10,000 Hours of Sewing does this periodically and I like to see what she is thinking about.

Random Threads will be my catch-all posts and here is the first for 2013.
V pattern

New Projects:  I am working on a corduroy jacket and just bought this pattern V8865, to make the jacket with the 2nd piece of fuschia wool seen in my previous post as a skirt. I like the version with the stand up collar but the zipper detail bugs me, will probably turn that into pockets. And not wear it with the skirt, thinking black slim pants.

Marfy Patterns:  Did you see the article in the latest Vogue Patterns magazine about Marfy patterns? Very interesting and I am always attracted to anything Italian. I have been looking at the Marfy patterns website for the last couple of years and really want to try one, it looks like a fun challenge for me. But so far I have not because I just can't get excited about any of their patterns.  They have some very pretty looks but until something jumps out at me as a "must have" I think I will skip the cost and work involved.

New Vogues:  speaking of patterns, some hilarious comments on various blogs on the new Vogues. Is it becoming a bit of a sport to make fun of the patterns and poses?  If so I enjoy reading them, two of the best practioners of this form of criticism are my pal Shams and the very funny Lladybird, although neither of them found much to like among the new patterns. I did see a few that I really liked and am planning to make the little trenchcoat V8884 in a bright colored stretch cotton poplin. Perfect coat for summer in San Francisco. Yes - you can need a coat in summertime in San Francisco. I had to laugh last week when Tasia of Sewaholic wrote about visiting on a recent weekend and seeing people in shorts. California - we can and do have every possible microclimate.


Project Runway:  Still watching and probably always will but it is becoming a litte rote. The same challenges, the same bitchy people in the workroom. Thank goodness for Tivo - fast forward to the good stuff.  Spoiler Alert - I thought Uli was robbed in the recently completed Project Runway All-Stars.  (All-Stars, who are they kidding, rather the most-likely to create tv drama-stars).  This new season with the team challenges is interesting although it seems a bit artificially constructed to create more conflict.  I watch it for the design and sewing and wish they would show the clothes a bit more. If I see one more dress with back cutouts and an exposed zipper I will scream. Get some original ideas, people. And I miss Michael Kors - seemed like the voice of fashion reason sometimes. But I will stick with the show.

2 dressesPants:  Still working on making the perfect pants.  Do they even exist?  I did the Craftsy Pants-Fitting class taught by Sandra Betzina. Very good and lots of helpful information. I think the Craftsy classes are very well done and the feature that lets you look at the videos forever is really great. I have gone back and looked at a couple of quick things several times. I am so happy with the Sewaholic Thurlow Pattern and now am doing a few adjustments based on the Craftsy class.  Hopefully that will result in the best possible version. A girl can dream.

Spring is approaching so time for some new dresses on Etsy: Yes, since the holidays ended I have made a few new prototypes. My style is more suited to summertime wear and after a couple of years and some very nice repeat customers I am sticking with what I enjoy, mostly sleeveless dresses in bright colors or florals. The one on the left is a one of a kind - some fabric my friend Alice gave me which is a hard to describe gold-bronze-brown abstract floral with slight shimmer.  It has suprised me how much fun the whole process is, to make something for someone very far away, get to know them a little bit during the correspondence and then create a dress they love.

Sewing machine envy: Is it the time of year?  After Christmas sales? new resolutions? There are a lot of new sewing machines out there and I have a bit of jealousy. Sometimes I go through a phase of wanting a new machine, but the idea of actually choosing one is soooo much more trouble than I want to go through. Car, no problem, a month or two of research, some comparisons, done. A house, knew just what was wanted, chose the 5th one seen on the first day of searching and have never looked back, perfect fit.  A sewing machine, the agony.  How much to spend?  what features are necessary and which are useless?  A long way of saying that I will not be buying a new machine any time soon. Particularly since my current machines work so well.  I am often asked what I use.  Here is my very first post with my faithful sidekick. And now I have another, the lovely Rocketeer.

Threads Magazine DVDs:  This year I won 2nd place in two different Pattern Review contests, and the prize for the ReFashion contest was a set of Fitting DVDs from Threads Magazine. They just arrived last week which was perfect as I had a lot of time on my hands.  Why, you might ask? Because I had a tooth that went crazy, required several trips to the dentist and specialist, an agonizing 5 days including the weekend waiting to determine exactly which tooth was the culprit (really?  modern dentistry - still you only have the option to tap and freeze and other low-tech tests)  So on Friday night (doesn't that figure) it was horrible. Saturday and Sunday were spent on the couch watching everything on the Tivo recorder and then remembering that these DVD's had arrived. Perfect. So I actually watched all 4 of them in a row.  My review - they are really great.  Being at the advanced level perhaps I am not the best judge as everything makes sense but I think for any level they are really informative. After all, fit is the number one issue that everyone seems to wrestle with, myself included. They do go through things quickly but cover a lot of adjustments andof course you can rewatch and take notes.

Dvd fitting

As for my tooth - all is now well after a root canal on Tuesday, which I will spare you the details. But like many things, horrendous while in process but wonderful once it was finished. Time to get out for some exercise and enjoy the sunshine, maybe even wear shorts, he he. And be back in time to see our San Francisco 49ers win the Super Bowl.  What a sports year here in N. California. Let's all do it again next year !

Happy Super Bowl Sewing, Beth  

and the first of the camelias is blooming, 49er Red and Gold.