Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Review

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my sewing lately, and how I want to change it for next year. That will come in another post. I'm looking back and the things I've made this year and recounted them to find that I've made 45 things! Now, one of them was a quilt, a couple were handbags, a couple were gifts, and most of them were garments for myself. You would think that I have an endless supply of clothes, and though I don't regret making any of them, there is a lot that either don't fit right or really aren't "me". Next year I will do things a little differently, and I have already started making a list. But for now, here are some of my favorites:

At the left - black wool skirt. I like it because of the fabric and the style. I used the Nancy Erickson pattern, but I also have anther pencil skirt pattern that I really like too.

This blue, gray and black top. This is a New Look pattern and I love the neckline. The fabric also drapes really nicely on this one and it goes great with skirts or jeans. This is the other skirt pattern and actually, I made this skirt in 2007, but it is still a favorite.

This BWOF blouse is probably my favorite thing that I made all year. It is really comfortable fabric and I love the style and the details. I really should make another one of these. I like the fabric in these pants, but they are too tight in the waist so I never wear them. I think I am tending to "over-fit" some of my garments.

There are a few other things that made my favorites list because they are most worn/used. They include
Metropolitan handbag
My Quilt
Marcy Tilton Pants, and
the Little Brown Jacket

And of course, my new coat. I wore it today and I love it!

Now for the not so good.

This BWOF blouse was a lot of work and has a lot of details. I only wore it once or twice and it was a little tight and uncomfortable in the sleeves. Also, the cuffs were heavy with all the big buttons. I eventually gave it away.

These pants went straight into the trash. They were just too big and baggy.

This is a beautiful BWOF blouse, but I rarely wear it because the fabric is a poly chiffon and it is not that soft. Also, I always have to remember to wear a cami underneath it. I do wear it occassionally, but it's not something I would wear to work on on the weekends, so I don't wear it that much

This cardigan I have never liked. THe main thing I don't like about it is the fabric. It is not soft at all and the first time I washed it it pilled terribly. It was not inexpensive fabric either. Oh well, win some, lose some. Also, this, like several other tops I have tends to slide down in the back at the neck. I think this means I need a forward shoulder, or rounded back adjustment.

So, as I stated before, I'm hoping to sew "smarter" next year and have more things that I totally love. If you'd like to see a quick review of all that I made this year, here is the link to the photo album.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A New Coat

I am absolutely in love with my new coat. I took some pictures this morning to show my progress, but I ended up working on it all day long and finishing it! Except for the collar/ neckline, this was a super simple coat. Raglan sleeves - so no set in sleeves or fussy fitting there. In seam pockets, so no welts or even patch pockets to worry about. The directions for bagging the lining are very clear, so the only hand sewing is hemming the sleeves and bottom hem and a tiny bit of catch stitching here and there. This is a Sandra Betzina pattern from Vogue, number 1024. I used a great wool coating from Gorgeous Fabrics, and the collar is "Veloba" which is a fairly flat faux fur. The lining is polyester crepe backed satin. I'll need to get a picture of that tomorrow and post it, because it is a beautiful lining.

As I said, the coat was very easy EXCEPT for the collar. I don't know if I didn't get may marking or cutting right, but I had the hardest time lining everything up at the neck edge to attach the collar to the edge. I had the same problem with the lining. I made it work, but it doesn't look as perfect as it should. Fortunately, I'm not turning this in anywhere to be examined by the sewing police! I did mark my notches and dots and squares with tailor's tacks, so I'm not sure what went wrong. There is one small error in the pattern, and that is that the notches on the upper sleeve do not line up. Mine were about 1.5" off, so I walked the pattern and found that they were mis-marked, so I fixed that on the pattern. I don't know why I had so much trouble with the neck.

The collar is interfaced on this jacket and so are the hems of the sleeves and the bottom hem. I used Patti Palmer's Perfect Fuse Medium for this and I really like the way it worked out. I had used the lighter weight Perfect Fuse before, but this is the first time I used the Medium. The facing is cut on grain and the strips for the hems are cut on the bias.

If you have never made a coat before, this is a good one to try. She gives very clear directions, and even gives you tips on hemming and hand stitching.

I would like to make this again in a shorter version, and I recently purchased some brushed wool melton from Fabric.com that I would like to use. Either that, or I have some really nice looking woven suede that I picked up at Hancocks that would give it a totally different look.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The making of a (new) quilt

Well, wouldn't you know that I would start this one week before Christmas! Will I finish it in time? No. I think I better move on to another project and come back to this after Christmas. I am making this quilt for my daughter, and I picked the easiest, fastest pattern I could find. But even still, once I started it, I realized I would not finish it in time. this pattern is from the book Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! which we used when I took the quilting class. It is a great book with a wealth of information. For the quilt I am making, everything is cut into 2" strips. I'm making the twin size, and for the version I am making, you need twice as many dark as light strips. I ended up buying almost all of the fabric for this quilt, but I bought some of it from the clearance rack at Beverly's and the rest I got from a quilt shop in the town where I work. As a rule, I don't really like the quilting fabric at JoAnns, because it just doesn't feel as good. I always pre wash all my fabrics, although most quilters do not.
The first evening I worked on this, I cut all the fabric into strips.
Then I pulled darks and lights that I thought would go together and put them in piles. Now I am working on sewing all of those strips into strip sets.

After the strip sets are made, you cut each into a 5" square. I'm doing this as I go. Right now I only have about half of the strip sets made. maybe not even that much. Why did I start this project right now? I really want to make my coat instead. DH and I are leaving for San Francisco the day after Christmas and I really wanted to have my coat to take with me. Looking at my schedule, I really only have one day I can sew between now and Christmas, so it doesn't look like the quilt will get done, nor will the coat make it to SF. I also had planned on making DD a clutch purse, so maybe I can get that done in time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Videos and Coat

Many of you may know about Smart flix, but it is new to me. They have tons of "how to" videos available for rent. Also, they have something called "universities" where you pay a flat monthly fee, they send you 3 videos and you can keep them as long, or short as you want. When you return one, two, or all three of them, they send you new ones. And yes, they have a sewing university with videos from names like Nancy Zieman, Sandra Betzina, Margaret Islander, Peggy Sagers, Marta Alto, and others. I thought I'd give it a shot. The list of titles sounds interesting. You can check out the universities here.

No sewing yesterday or today, but I did make a trip to the local JoAnns and got some great things. Wool in a khaki color to make another pair of the Marcy Tilton pants, a black brocade to make a clutch for DD for Christmas, thread, and fabric for lining and collar for a coat. Last week I got this Sandra Betzina pattern(in addition to the clutch pattern)
in the mail from club BMV.

I don't know if I'll renew the club BMV because I can get the great $3.99 sales on Vogue from JoAnns, but the problem is that they usually do not have the latest patterns in stock when they have their sales. They also are often missing at least 1 or 2 patterns on my list when ever they have their great sales, no matter what the pattern company. So, I may or may not keep it. This is the first time I've ordered from Club BMV.

I'm using the wool coating shown here from Gorgeous Fabrics, the crepe back satin for the lining, and the veloba "fur" for the collar facing. I'm excited to make this coat, and hope I can get it done before Christmas. There is not a lot of fitting to the pattern, and I'm basically going to make it just like the directions in the envelope. I recently saw this pattern featured in one of the magazines, but I can't remember which one. Can any of you help me out? I looked in the last 3 issues of VoguePatterns, but it wasn't there. I know I saw a 2 or 3 page spread on variations of this coat. I saw the pictures on the Sandra Betzina website under "Sandra's Closet", but I'd like find the article again.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Gingerbread and Crochet

Last week DD Grace made an unprecedented trip with me to JoAnns. Now, I can never get this girl anywhere near a fabric store, but for some reason, she went with me that day. Of course, when she saw the kit for the gingerbread house, she wanted to try it! We bought the kit and brought it home.

That evening, her friend came over and they worked and put the whole thing together. (Grace is the one on the right.) We've had it on our table all week. In fact, when Grace came over the day before yesterday, we noticed that there was a big LICK MARK off the frosting on the roof.

Apparently, Dobby (more frequently called "Dobbo" has penchant for sugar... He also loves our new kitten, Romeo. He loves him so much, he's kind of like Lenny in Of Mice and Men.

"I'm innocent!"

I've been working on some black wool pants, but I'm afraid they may be a big snug. The fabric has enough give/ stretch, but I am lining them. Today I managed to accidentally cut the lining in the middle of the leg with my serger, so I figured today was NOT a good sewing day. Also, I had to cut 60 pieces of fabric for a sewing project I am going to do with my students. Last year we made stuffed birds, and it looks like I'm going to do it again this year. The kids got so much out of it.

I've been kind of sick this week, so haven't felt like doing much. I've been trying to do some crochet. I really like the bolero pattern in the Happy Hooker crochet book and I got the whole back finished. Then I realized I wasn't supposed to finish the whole back, but only the first 10 rows, go back and work on the front, and then join the 2 before finishing the back. I had to rip out a couple of evenings worth of work. This is the first thing I've ever tried to crochet from a pattern other than a hat. I like how it's coming out, but I'm worried that it may be a little tight in the armhole. I'm making this out of Lion Brand Wool Ease, which is a wool blend yarn. It's pretty easy to work with, but what do I know? I haven't really done this before! My mother was a fabulous knitter when she was alive. I just don't have the patience for it. For some reason, I like crochet better.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

G is for

Gloves. For 2 years now, I have been coveting some long (opera length) leather gloves in black. I never see them in stores, but a recent internet search took me to this cool web site, Shop Style. I found quite an array of gloves at all pricepoints and styles. I may finally have to get some long leather gloves!

This pair of gloves is for sale at Bluefly.com for $87.00.  

I also purchased this pattern last year, but have yet to make it. I did buy some stretch microsuede fabric, which I think will be perfect for the gloves. I have it in a dark jade green and also a silvery gray.   I want the ones that go all the way to the elbow.  Great fabric, great pattern, still no gloves.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Endless Combinations

I'm still working on the Endless Combinations, but this is what I have so far. I'm still hoping to complete the following items before the end of the month, but we'll see. I still have some Christmas sewing to do. (I'm thinking of making those cute pjs in this months BWOF for DD.)

black wool pants
eggplant colored twin set
taupe dress -OR
gray pants and jacket.

Hi hopes, low time. We'll see what happens

Friday, November 28, 2008

Two Tops

I keep saying that I'm going to do this, but I never do. I always admire people who make a pattern, and then make it again immediately. It is such a smart thing to do. First of all, you already have everything out (pattern pieces, notions, etc.)and all of the directions are fresh in your mind. If there are any fit issues, it is easy to tweak them, since you just made it and you know what needs to be changed. But do I do this? No, well, not until today. I started out making the off-white top because I needed a basic top that would go with just about everything. I wear a lot of white and off-white tops, but I never seem to have enough of them. I had this acrylic sweater knit from fabric.com and made up the top from McCalls 4517.

I also knew that I wanted to make another knit top out of this purple and black fabric. Since I already had everything out, I just cut and made another one. It took about half the time of the first, because I already knew what I was doing. I really like how the second one came out. It is from a poly lycra knit that reminds me of chrysanthemums, so I'm calling this top my "chrysanthemum top".

I did make a couple of changes on the second version. First of all, I made it about 1.5 inches longer. Next, I lengthened the dart in the front. The gathers in the front are done by taking a dart in the CF, and then gathering it up with elastic. I really like how this works, and the sleeves are done the same way.

We're going to be gone most of the day tomorrow, but I would like to get the black wool pants cut out this weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

FSG 1960 Cardigan

I finished the cardigan to my "twin set" this morning. I had orignally decided to make these sleeves long with cuffs, but after realizing how little stretch the fabric had, I changed them to 3/4 length. I'm always pushing my sleeves up, and the cuffs would have been too tight to do that.

This is what it looks like on the inside. The fabric looks like it is "bonded" so the back is solid black.

In the picture above, I am wearing it with the matching top underneath, which was made from the Christine Johnson Basewear 2 pattern. The more I wear these "Razor Sharp" pants, the more I don't like them. I just don't like pants that are baggy in the back of the leg, unless they are full all over. I bought some wool yesterday, and am going to try to make a different pair of pants. One of my favorite pair of pants seems to be a pair of Simplicity pants I made about a year ago. I don't have a good picture of them, but I think I'll try those again.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Survey Fun

Here’s what I want you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Mark any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred: (I have to admit that I don't know what some of these are.)

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos Rancheros
4. Steak tartare – tasted it, but wouldn’t eat it
5. Crocodile -
6. Black pudding - if this is like blood pudding, no thanks
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp -
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush.-
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans - I live in Central California - what do you expect??
25. Brawn or head cheese - no, I don't think so
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi - I think I've had this, but not sure
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - I don't smoke
37. Clotted cream tea - this sounds disgusting
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat – no, but I saw cabeza Del Chivo served to my x-mother in law. Not a pretty sight - they serve it in the skull
42. Whole insects – I’m not eating them – whole or parts
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk – only when a baby, but I love goat’s cheese
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu-
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel - only in sushi (unagi)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin – and I didn’t like it
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi -
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst - no, but we were brought up on liverwurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis -
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini - I don't eat caviar
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill - not eating it
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail - did I mention that I'm becoming a vegetarian?
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse - it was served to me in Paris. I didn't know what it was until after
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake –

OK, It wasn’t’ on the list, but I’ve also eaten buffalo

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I just realized that my "D" post did not ever get published. So, here it is

(Be sure to click on the link that says "here" to get to the D page!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

HP Razor Sharp - I started all over

I was not happy with the direction my HP Razor Sharp pants were going. Friday night, I was reading Nancy Zieman's Fitting Finesse book, and she has a whole chapter on fitting pants. I woke up at 4:00 Saturday morning and couldn't sleep, so I got up and started taking measurements. I went over to my cutting table and started retracing the pattern, using the pivot and slide method. This time I started with a 12 and made adjustments from there.

The directions in the pattern were very confusing, and because I did not understand their facing/fly front directions, the facing pattern did not fit. I had to re-cut a front facing, and then I used bias tape to finish the edges of the fly facing so that I would not cover up the zipper. I know there has to be a better way to do a fly front with no waistband, but I haven't found good directions yet (or maybe I just don't understand them) I tried to get a good picture of the fly front, but black just doesn't photograph well. This picture is of the inside of the fly with the extension sewn in place.

Here is the inside views of the fly front.

From Endless Combinations
From Endless Combinations

This time I used Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing book for the order of construction, and disregarded the HP directions completely. The only problem with this, again, was the fact that there was no waistband.

The whole time I was making these I was thinking, "These are turning out pretty good. I sure hope they fit!" Now that I've tried them on, I think the fit is pretty good, but the legs are still a lot fuller than I would like, and the shape of them is nothing at all like the front of the pattern. Now that I'm in my 50's, I can see that I've acquired the "low butt, high tummy" syndrome. Damn... I guess I really should start going to the gym. You can also see in this picture that the pockets kind of stick out at the top, and I'm really hoping these don't stretch out in the waist. The lining is showing a bit on this side, but it doesn't on the other side. I think if I would have top-stitched the pockets, that would have eliminated that. The fabric is a triacetate that I got from Fabric Mart last year, and I've never worked with it before.

Overall, I think the fit is good on these. I'm really glad I used N.Z.'s method of getting the fit right. It worked for me on these, and I will try it again on a different pattern. I won't make this pattern again. Even though the fit is right, I don't like the way the waist is and I don't like the shape of the legs that much. I don't think they look as "modern" as I thought they would (but maybe I'm disillusioning myself and need to be thinking about how to get a more "modern" body to put the pants on! LOL. I'm glad to have a good pair of black pants, but the fly, fly facingings, and doubled fly back flap make for a really heavy front of the pants. Also, the pockets add to this. The one thing I DO like about this pattern is the extra wide waist facings. You need them because of all the weight of the pants.

Next up, I'd like to make a couple of quick and easy things. I am going to make a twin set using this black and brown knit.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Razor Sharp Pants are cutting me to shreds!

Why, oh why do I keep buying HotPatterns? Answer: I love their styles, hate their patterns! Every time I make a Hot Patterns pattern (admittedly, I've only made a few) they give me fits. I've heard so much about the HP pants's infamous L-shaped crotch curve, I thought I'd give them a try.

First of all , let me say, the pattern piece is nothing like you'd expect. There is no fly extension/facing on the front piece, but it is a separate pattern piece that is added on. Their directions are very confusing, and they have you add the waist facing to the fly facing before you attach it to the center front. That was about all I could get from their instructions (no illustrations, of course,) After reading this several times, and then trying to play with the pattern pieces, I still couldn't get it. I found a similar application in the Readers' Digest Sewing boook, but it did not include the facing instructions. I tried looking at a couple of tutorials on line, but ended up kind of using a combination of everything to figure it out on the muslin.

The next problem is, that in the picture and the line drawing, the pockets look like they are at an angle. In reality, they line up almost exactly with the seam line. You have to be really careful not to catch them in the seam and now they kind of stick out funny. I read some information in Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing Step byStep book that I think will help me with this.

Next, the crotch curve. The muslin is made and I try them on. I have already raised the waist by one inch, and overall, the fit is pretty good. However, the back of the legs is super full. I get out my Pants for Real People book, and see that I need to not only reduce the lower part of the L by about 1/2", but I also end up lowering the crotch curve in the back an additional inch! Now, some of these adjustments I was able to make on the muslin and some I just made on the pattern pieces. I guess I'll have to cut them out with wide seam allowances and hope for the best. Oh, and yes, as I'm wearing the muslin right now, I squatted down to get out my black fabric from the cabinet, and the back seam split on the pants. Hmmm.... guess I need to add a little more fabric there too!

Friday, November 07, 2008

F is For

F is for FUR! If you watched even one episode of the Rachel Zoe Project, you know this woman lives her life in fur. But catch any winter runway show, style magazine, or fashion website, and you’ll be seeing or hearing about fur. Fur can be real or faux. But, as I’ve said before (obviously, I’m no animal rights activist), there’s nothing like the real thing for warmth. Now granted, even If I could go out and buy the real thing, I wouldn’t buy a new fur coat. But a vintage fur coat? I’d be all over that.

Fortunately for me, when we were cleaning out my father’s house ( a job still unfinished) I was able to get my great aunts fur coat. I don’t know what kind of fur it was, but I’m sure it was gorgeous when new. This had been stored in a back room with garage access out in the country for probably 20 years. Yes the garment bag came complete with a few dead mice (well, just their skeletons) and lots of crumbled up leather at the bottom. Fortunately, there is a lot of good fur there, and I’m hoping one day to tear it apart and make something of it.

And, as any good fashionista or seamstress knows, F is really about FIT. It doesn’t matter how well-made your garment is, how beautiful the fabric, how expensive the outfit, if it doesn’t fit right, it won’t look good. If you sew, invest in some good fit books or take a class or two on fit. There are lots of great fit books out there, and you just have to find one or two that work for you. My personal favorites are Sandra Betzinas Fast Fit, and Nancy Zeiman's Fitting Finesse. I have many others, but these are always the first I grab when I have a fit issue to resolve.

And If you don’t sew, or even if you do, try the option of taking something to a tailor. Now, I have never done this because we have not had tailors in my town. I have taken things to an “alterations lady” and had sleeves taken in or shortened. We do now have 1 “couture” sewing shop (not sure what her training is)and boutique, and a couple of “tailors” who work from their homes (don’t know anything about them either.) I still think I’d like to get a great pair of pants and take them to a tailor and see what they can do. What about you? What have your experiences with a tailor been? (and does anyone remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry goes to the tailor?)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

EC Blouse- S2938

I finished my second garment in the EC (Endless Combinations) contest. It is Simplicity 2938 made from a polyester charmeuse. This fabric wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be to work with. I probably would have gotten this done in about half the time if I wouldn't have made so many mistakes. Mostly I had problems when stitching on the bias tape and not catching it on the underside. Other than that, everything went pretty well. Yes, the best thing about making something you've made before is that the fitting part is already done! I do like the blouse, but it kind of poofs out in the center front. There are more pictures here. If I ever do make this again, I will probably try it as a dress.

Next up? I think I'm going to try some black pants from the Hot Patterns Razor Sharp pattern. I know Nancy K has had great success with these and I've had the pattern for a long time, but not tried it yet. Pants can be a scarey thing sometimes. I'd really like to get this pattern to fit well so that I can have a good TNT pants pattern.
Now, looking at this pattern illustration, take that model, cut her legs off just below the knee, and add feet. Yep, that's about what they'll look like on me. Oh, and add some width at the hip and thigh, that ought to do it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Oh, how could I forget to add ACCESSORIES to the list of A's? I will add this to the post

Accessories are a must. You can make or break an outfit with the accessories. Now, I’m no expert on accessories, and I can’t affort to hire Rachel Zoe, so it’s the trial and error or “practice makes perfect” theories you want to put into effect here. Think of this, vibrant green satin blouse, black skirt, and clogs. Just doesn’t work, does it? Or how about that beautiful evening dress and a big black leather hobo purse? I think not. If you’re iffy on what’s “hot” as far as accessories go, check out any number of style magazines, and pay attention to jewelry, shoes, bags,