3.31.2020

Feeling Boxed in, but it's OK!


Thinking about the day I received my box from Merchant and Mills at this point in time is quite different than my thoughts on the day.  I was so excited and rarin' to go, now I'm thinking about savoring and slow sew projects.  I'm so glad to have the new patterns and fabrics to keep me entertained while I'm hiding out. 

When it arrived in Michigan it had been almost 2 weeks from the time I was picking out stuff to ship home and I really couldn't remember exactly what was inside.  I had picked out a lot of things and then had to narrow it down a bit ($$$$$😲).   And the way they pack things...each piece in its own little parcel, tied up in strings, with little notes.  It really is like a Christmas package. 





What a haul!  Of course the things that I had made at the retreat were there....

My shortened, hooded version of the Parka


My Indian cotton Fielder dress


...And my linen Eve pants.


I couldn't resist a few other patterns.  And I also got the Workbook which includes a whole bunch of the original patterns.  


I checked out several of their bags while I was at the shop and brought home some hardware and straps to try the Costermonger bag.  


I had seen the Whittaker jumper (called a dress in England because a 'jumper' is a sweater.) on one of the shop helpers at Liberty when I was in London.  It was really cute.  She had made it in a small hounds tooth linen instead of the denim that is shown on the pattern envelop.  It was much softer and hung closer to the body.  I wanted to try it, so I got the pattern and a stripy linen.


I found a really huge waffle weave linen.  By huge I mean that the texture of the fabric was very pronounced.  Thick and spongy.  (And even more so after a wash and dry!)  I have no idea what to make with it, but it came home in the box.


...And of course a few lengths of miscellaneous linen...


As I mentioned, I had visited Liberty of London on the trip and, guess what?  They have fabric!!!😏
The series of fabrics for 2020 were done by artists all over the world and were supposed to represent a 'Love Story.'  The prints are more contemporary than the older Liberty prints, but still just as luscious.  I chose a silk and two cotton jerseys.  If you look closely you'll see that the silk and one of the jerseys are the same print just in different color ways.  These came home in my suitcase.


I have made a couple of things, which I'll share, but as I said at the beginning of the post, sewing right now is about savoring...making a project last for days instead of hours.  This is different for me, but OK.  As we talk about the "new normal" in our world, slow luxurious sewing may just be part of my new normal.




3.27.2020

Today I Will Sew

Hello From Lockdown in Michigan
I know I don't need to say it, but surreal.  I came home from my week in Rye all inspired and ready to revamp my wardrobe and sew up the beautiful fabrics from Merchant and Mills and, wow, did everything go sideways.  For most of the last couple of weeks I haven't felt much like sewing.  You would think with all the time in the world, hanging around the house, but somehow it felt superfluous.  Like, who even knows if I have pants on in the first place!? 

But last week, I realized that, "I sew!" That's what I do.  It is how I meditate if you will.  I think we are all looking for things to help us stay calm and grounded in some way.  Some people have a long standing yoga or meditation practice to keep them centered.  Others may exercise or turn to their faith.  I sew.  It comes from a deep place inside me.  I like to think that it is my creative center.  The place that everything good in my life springs from.  When my center is calm and nourished, I can handle the craziness of the world.  I have turned to my sewing at other stressful times in my life, when things are out of my control and spiraling around me.  Making something, going through the process that I have done thousands of times, letting go of whatever else is going on and focusing on my work...meditating...

I have never sewn because I need to clothe myself.  I have clothes.  I sew because I need it for my spirit, to feed my soul.  And to stop now when my spirit is having such a struggle...well, it doesn't make sense.

So I have been going into my sewing room.  I have been working very, very slowly.  I have been noticing each seam, each dart.  Choosing patterns intentionally for their rhythm rather than their challenge.  Just trying to feel the flow of the process.  Allowing myself to be in the warmth of the creative moment.


Part of me has always felt like I need to 'apologize' for my 'trivial' hobby.  Somehow if I were painting or writing poetry it would be more meaningful, more 'soul-felt.'  But sewing is what I got!  It may seem trivial to the outside world, but it fills me in ways that keep me whole.  So I will unapologetically sew my way through this.  I will make things that I may never wear.  I will keep going to my sewing room and letting the touch of the fabrics calm me down.  I will watch winter turn into spring from the window behind my ironing table and be grateful for the work.

I am also grateful if you have been following this journey and have gotten a few moments of inspiration or calm or fun along the way.  To be able to connect with other sewers who get all geeky about perfect crotch curves or low bust adjustments brings me joy.  Even though I am sewing by myself in my room, I feel the collective hearts who have taught me, who have encouraged me, who appreciate the making, who have 'straightened my grain' when I needed it.

Please be well, and safe and go often to your place of solace...whether that is your yoga mat, your easel, your journal...or your sewing room.

 

3.24.2020

Rye Dreamin'


Did I mention that Rye is the headquarters of Adorableness?  If you need a movie set for a quaint English village look no farther!  Cobblestone streets, moss encrusted roofs with a bazillion chimneys, totally darling pub on the corner...Rye even has a castle!  


Yes, that is clotted cream and a cucumber sandwich with my tea. (English Breakfast of course!)


So you may be asking, "When the heck did you have time to sew with all the tea drinking and quaintness gawking?"  "And what, if anything did you make?!"  So glad you asked!

As I mentioned in my last post, the retreat that I attended was a whole week and we got to pick whatever we wanted from the Merchant and Mills portfolio.  Actually, 3 of their patterns were included as part of the workshop.  

Before I left for Britain I packed the M&M patterns that I have altered so I would have them to work with when I got there.  I didn't want to spend too much time altering and fitting if I had already done it.  I never even unpacked them!

At the studio they had all of the patterns made up and in most of the sizes, so you are able to try on the ones you want to figure out style and fit.  I ended up making three different garments that I never would have picked just from looking at them on line.  It was a total surprise and so much fun to find things that are different for me and new!


My first "make" was The Parka.  I liked the pattern but it seemed much more suitable to the weather in England than the weather in Michigan, so I hadn't really considered it.  A great rainy day coat!  But, when I saw it made in a shorter length in their cotton jacquard fabric, I fell in love.  The fabric is woven but has the feel of a French Terry.  I thought it would be the perfect weight for spring and summer evenings by the lake. I chose an Indian block print to line the hood which is an additional pattern that was added to the portfolio after the original pattern was introduced.  You might not realize that it is the Parka by looking at my jacket.  I am really excited about how it turned out!

          


All of the staff at the shop wear their M&M clothes everyday.  It's like a fashion show!  It is also great to see the different styles on different bodies.  Several people had on the Eve pants.  They looked great on everyone!  I decided I would try them for my second project.  When I tried them on in my size, I was skeptical because I usually have to make several changes to a pants pattern.  They fit and felt great so I forged ahead with the pattern right out of the envelop.

Eureka!!  My new favorite pants!  (at least my new favorite woven pants!)  What a great pattern.  I made them in a linen that was turquoise in one direction and brown in the other direction.  I really like the drape of the linen.  They sit right at the waist and remind me of the pants I wore in high school, I even broke my own 'no short pants' rule and hemmed them at ankle length.   I think these will be great for summer. 

          

The last thing I worked on was the real surprise.  It's called the Fielder.  It's their version of a raglan sleeve sweatshirt style top.  They show it made up as a top with ribbing at the hem but also as a dress.  I never ever would have picked this one.  Raglan sleeves are usually a total disaster for me.  They never hang right on my broad shoulders.  Again, I tried it on and decided to go straight out of the envelop.


I really had summer on my mind so I chose a very light weight Indian cotton print.  Merchant and Mills stocks really great ribbings so I had a hard time picking one.  I wanted a bit of weight at the hem to help it hang better so I added a great big pocket across the front.  The little "inside" pink pocket was a scrap from one of my sewing buddies.

          

All of us went home with three finished garments (one person finished 4!), AND plenty of fabric to keep sewing in our own studios back home....I'll share my amazing box of stuff in another post!








3.16.2020

Sew British





What a wild winter this has been!  

I'll start with the elephant in the room...like most people I am trying to stay positive and calm amidst the crazy media circus, and most days I do OK.  But I have to admit to more than a few freak out moments, and terribly sad moments, and I'm learning to "social distance" (is that a verb?) and trying to understand the whole toilet paper hoarding thing (????), and how to live in a constant state of worry about the people I love.  On my best days I know we will get to a 'new normal' at some point and life will continue, on my worst days, I melt into a puddle of despair.  

I've been thinking that writing about my sewing adventures seems a bit trivial in our current world.  Then I realized that I have been gobbling up the other sewing blogs that I read.  I am desperate for the connection they provide.  Hearing about how other sewing folks are using their hobby to bring a sense of normalcy has been very reassuring.  So I write this today hoping that as you read it you are doing everything to keep yourself safe and your spirits lifted.  And maybe my sewing stories will be a bit of a break from the heaviness that surrounds us right now.

So, with that said....
What have I been up to on the sewing front? 

I mentioned in my last post that I have been working hard to create some pieces that will be part of a Threads Magazine story sometime in the fall.  I really enjoy doing these because they are usually a bit out of my normal sewing.  There is of course a theme involved and there are often a few garments, each with a little bit different take on the theme.  I sent them off for their photo shoot last week so now I will wait to be surprised.  It's fun to see the models and how the editors style the clothes.

I wanted to get the Threads garments finished before I headed to Britain at the end of February.  My oldest son, who lives in London, was having a major birthday (the kind that end in zero!) and I also, finally got myself signed up for a week long workshop at my latest crush, Merchant and Mills!  I have been trying to sign up for one since I visited in the fall of 2018.  They only have 6 spots per class and they seem to fill up instantly!  I managed to get into a 5 day session the first week of March.


It seems fitting that I started my magical week in Rye at St. Pancras Station in London.  You may know it from Harry Potter fame as the home of Platform 9 3/4.  It was quite spectacular to see it under the full moon!  The high-speed train swept me south to Rye in just over an hour.  Such an easy trip.


The workshop included accommodations for all 5 of us (our 6th person was unable to join us because her company had already imposed a travel ban at the beginning of March) in a lovely converted fire station just across the street from the Merchant and Mills shop.  The outside still has a very 'firehouse' facade, but the inside has been turned into a comfortable modern retreat.



We had use of the wonderfully equipped kitchen and a cozy fireplace as well as our own bedrooms and baths.  It was so nice to end our busy days in such a comfortable space.


Each bed had a lovely package of goodies waiting for us when we arrived...

          

Merchant and Mills offers several different classes, workshops and retreats.  Some focus on a particular pattern or a technique, the one that I attended was a 'retreat' and each of us got to choose what we wanted to work on during the week.  I think choosing was the hardest part of the whole week!

Each morning we rolled out of our 'firehouse' and across the street to the Merchant and Mills shop and studios...


We could literally choose any of the patterns and any of the amazing fabrics....

          

There was plenty of space and light in our loft studio....


Our fearless leaders for the week, Katie and Chrissy had so much talent and huge experience with Merchant and Mills and they couldn't have been nicer people!  They helped us make fabric and pattern choices and guided us through every step of our projects....which meant they shepherded 12 different "makes." (that's Merchant and Mills speak for "projects.")  Very impressive.


Each day we gathered around the dining table at the end of the studio for an excellent locally prepared lunch.  (i.e.  someone else cooked and all we had to do was eat!)  Oh, and I have decided that the next addition to my sewing room is going to be a lovely person who will ask me every couple of hours if I would like a "nice cup of tea."


By the end of the week we all had three or four 'makes' under our belts, along with the delicious lunches and afternoon cake with our tea.  Everyone made pieces that totally reflected their style and everything fit beautifully thanks to our wonderful teachers.

As I stood on the platform, over looking the adorable town of Rye, waiting for my train back to London, I couldn't believe the week was over.  It really did feel like I was in a magical, very British, dream!


Bye Rye....for now!












2.15.2020

Back in the Saddle


Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.......yes, Key West is my happy place.  It's crazy goofy, way out in the middle of the ocean, full of chickens and iguana and I love it.  I walk or ride my bike everywhere...in fact, until I got back to Michigan at the beginning of February, I hadn't been in a car for a month.  The pace is so much different when you can only go as fast as your own body can take you.  So I can't say that "I'm glad to be back in the cold, wintery north," but here I am.  And I did start to miss my sewing room by the end of the month. 

I have been sewing like crazy since I got back, but everything I'm working on is for an upcoming Threads article and I can't share...yet.  I'll let you know.  I did spend time with my stash trolling around for fabrics that would work for the Threads things, since going out to the fabric store hasn't been an option...yes, I have been snowed in.  I turned up lots of pieces that I hadn't seen in a while and also took the opportunity to do a bit of thinning.  There are still way too many lengths of fabric that I seem to need to hang onto even though I know I will never, ever sew them up.  I think I need to wait for a day when I am in a really bad mood and then start pitching!!!!!  Most of the time I get all sentimental and just refold stuff and put it back in the boxes.  *sigh*

One of the pieces I rediscovered was a silk panel print by Hale Bob.  The fabrics are kind of wild and have a definite Boho vibe.  I decided I would either make it up or pass it on....

I tried a few different options on my dress form...


A simple sheath type dress.  Using the panel asymmetrically...


Some kind of wrap skirt paying no attention whatsoever to the pattern...


Gather it up into something....?

As I played around with the fabric I realized why it was probably sent off to a fabric "jobber" and ended up on the remnant table of my local fabric store.  First of all the panels were not printed true to grain....

Second, the print was not centered on the fabric...matching the centers of the panels left several inches dangling on both sides....


...the idea of passing it along was starting to sound like the best strategy!

I hung the piece up on the wall and stared at it for a bit.  Seeing it in one big piece I realized that the print was basically a T-shaped garment waiting to happen.  So I went with it.


I had two complete panels, so I cut them apart and used one for the front and the other for the back.  When I sewed the shoulder seam the off-grain printing really showed up.


The worst bunch of folds and creases was right in the center, of course.  I decided I would just make that the neck opening and cut the whole mess right out of the middle!



I actually had several colors of cotton jersey that would have worked for a neckband...


I chose the umber color.



It really is a big ol' "T"!   It doesn't look like much hanging on the dress form, but it feels amazing to wear!  So drapy and swishy.  The perfect end-of-a-summer-beach-day dress.  I'm pretty sure if I had tried to do anything more complicated I would have thrown in the towel.  The off-grain stripes just about drove me over the edge!  The lack of structure makes it hard to see, so I think it will work.  I used a piece that I trimmed from the hem to make a tie, it was like sewing a mobius strip!  But once I tied it around the middle, it was fine.  


I am calling this my "Back of a Galloping Horse" dress!  My friend A says, "If you can't see it from the back of a galloping horse, it's fine!"  And so it is....


Harry Truman posing at the Hemingway House in Key West! 
Check out those huge paws!