2019 in the Rearview

When I was going to work everyday I actually needed things to wear.  I was making most of my 'working wardrobe' AND working, so the time I had to spend was quite limited as I think about it now.  Having the chance to slow down the process and really take some time with each project feels quite luxurious.  I don't really "need" anything to wear so my garments are really a way to keep my creative...engineering brain happy.  Being able to connect to other sewers through this venue is very special and keeps my social brain happy, too.

I was skeptical 4 years ago when my kids set up "Trial Balloons" and I was surprised when I realized that since then I have made 135 posts!  It hadn't occurred to me that I would enjoy writing about my sewing projects as much as actually doing them.  But I have really liked having this record of my work.  The way I approach my sewing has really changed since I retired and the kind of things I am enjoying making is also very different in this phase of my life.  Being able to look back over the past few years and see the progression is interesting and again, unexpected.

At the end of each year, I find myself looking back over the past year's posts and taking note of trends and lessons.  I don't necessarily notice them as the year is evolving, but taking them in all together usually points out a few trends, some new some continuing, and always uncovers some lessons to incorporate into my new year.  so....in 2019...

Keep on Knitting!
I continue to enjoy knitting projects.  This year I found myself gravitating to smaller needle sizes.  I used to never even think about anything smaller than a size 8, but one of my favorite projects this past year was knit on a size 3!!! 😳 I really enjoy the projects that happen when I have 'leftovers.'  I seem to be less worried if they turn out since the yarn is basically a 'freebee.'  I'm also getting better at getting things to fit, so I wear my knitting more than I used to.


Two for One Garments
I am totally fascinated by double faced fabrics.  I really love figuring out how to use them in reversible garments.  What kind of seam finish will work on both sides.  How to get pockets on both sides.  What to do for hems and facings and collars.  It's pretty geeky I know, but I like it.


"It sounded like a good idea at the time...."
There are always a few things that I make that just miss the mark.  They are usually sewn pretty well, they often fit OK, they just don't bring me joy at the end of the day.  I haven't figured out how to completely avoid these mishaps, but I have found that I am more willing to just let them go!  I used to hang them in my closet for several seasons waiting for them to, I don't know, get better?  Now, if something doesn't work I am grateful for the fun of making it and happy to set it free.  

Too much going on......                             Too cute for its own good......


Not really very comfortable......

Unintended Fabric Sources
I made several things last year from fabric that started out as something else.  Once again, I think it's the engineering challenge of figuring out how to make it work.  This year saw a summer top made of linen napkins, a cozy funnel neck top made out of a bedspread, a tote bag and skirt refashioned from a pair of denim overalls...and of course, a few tea towel T-shirts!


My on going love affair with Merchant and Mills 
I have a full on crush on M&M patterns, fabrics and notions.  Several of my favorite projects this year started with their patterns.  The simple, elegant silhouettes fit easily into my wardrobe and the clever details and well written instructions make them a pleasure to sew.  I will definitely need to try some more in 2020.


It's all about comfortable
The garments that become my 'go-tos' are those that feel great, and are easy to wear.  Sounds pretty obvious, but I remember lots of things that required fussing to keep them straight, or were a bit too scratchy, or didn't fit as well as I would like.  Not anymore.  If it doesn't work for my life...bu-bye!


Wow, no one is more surprised then I am about my obsession with backpacks!  If you have seen my posts about them you are probably shaking your head and thinking..."again with the backpacks already!?"  Yep!  I just keep finding new pocket ideas, goofy hardware, better strap arrangements....not sure how long it will last, but if it continues for too much longer I am going to have to figure out how to get rid of the dang things!  For now, it's all fun.

I always love to find ways to share things that are handmade....



It is always exciting to start a new year, so much potential, so much unknown.  I saw a greeting card recently that I really liked, it just said, "I like where this is going."  Yeah, that feels right.  All the best in the New Year!


Another Auld Lang Syne

Now that all the packages have been delivered and opened I can share some of the Christmas sewing that I have been doing...

I had such fun making a little linen romper for my new great niece.  I made it a few sizes bigger than she is now because I remember that when my kids were babies I received lots of things that were newborn size up to about three months and then all of a sudden....nothing!  I also figured it would be easier to work in the bigger size!!!  Luckily she lives in L.A. so I didn't have to worry about which season of the year she will end up fitting into it.

I was careful to steer clear of pink and totally fell in love with a soft aqua linen.   It's a bit hard to see, but the selvedge of the linen has a single red thread and I wanted to incorporate it in the design.  I ran it along the lower edge of the bodice.   I am very pleased with the end result. I love the way the twill tape works for the straps and the hat was just too cute to resist!

Last year I made an oiled cotton canvas jacket for my "baby" and he was very excited about it.  Living in London, it is the perfect fabric for rainy, damp days.  I decided that since I knew the pattern  (Merchant and Mills Foreman) was the right size I would try another version for this Christmas.  I chose a bonded wool thinking I would not need to line it.  About half way through I realized that a lining would make it a much nicer finished garment so I ended up basically making two coats and fitting them together.  A bit of a puzzle, but OK in the end.


I used a nice heavy weight lining and it gives the jacket a nice hang.  So glad I added it.

The trim of the coat is a really, really soft supple leather that was the perfect match for the wool.  (Oh the things that come out of my stash closet!)  I tested a bunch of different buttonholes and settled on a leather bound version.  I think I spent more time on those buttonholes than the rest of the coat!

The pockets were fun to figure out.  I don't think patch pockets are the most comfortable pockets to actually put your hands into but they are useful for 'stuff.'  I added inseam pockets for hand warming.

The under collar is a wool jersey that really worked well to help shape the leather collar.  I'm going to remember that combo.

...AND, it fit just right!  Even when I am working with a pattern that I know has worked in the past I worry about the fit.  Different fabrics can change the fit, so when I got these pictures I breathed a sigh of relief.  Yeah!

We stopped in Captiva for Christmas with lots of my family before heading to Key West for the month of January.  I wanted to figure out something that I could make a bunch of, something that was 'gender neutral' and something that I could pack and would be easy for the recipients to pack as well. I ended up making a whole passel of little fabric 'buckets.'  I have one that I use for bread and chips.  It's just the right size and it folds up nicely into a drawer when it's not full.  Again my stash was full of great choices!  I really didn't plan that it would be a stash busting project...just worked out that way!

I didn't actually count how many I ended up making.   I kept pulling out fabrics that would work and thought, "Well, just one more!"  I think I ended up with about 2 dozen.  I still have some fabrics that I like, so I may make another batch when I get home in February!

It makes me feel old when I hear myself saying, "I can't believe another year is coming to an end!"  BUT, I can't believe another year is coming to an end!!!!!!   I already have some fun sewing adventures planned for 2020, so I am looking forward to the New Year.  Sending these little notes and stories out into the universe often feels a bit self absorbed.  I'm never sure if anyone will see them...so thank you for letting me share and commenting when something catches your fancy.  I love the virtual connections.  Thanks for coming along and wishing you your own sewing adventures in 2020.


Ho,Ho, Holidays!

It's here!  Another December. 

As a kid I remember thinking that December was the longest month of the year...it felt like Christmas would never get here.  But now it just sneaks up on me and flies by before I can catch my breath.  I think this year feels even faster since Thanksgiving was so late in November.

I hosted one of my favorite holiday 'traditions' on Friday afternoon to kick off the season.  (I think it's fair to call it a tradition now that it has happened for several years.)  My sewing friends all come to my house for a 'luncheon.'  It feels a bit old fashioned and I like that.  They indulge my once a year "Martha Stewart-ish" leanings and we all enjoy a lovely afternoon together eating and chatting. This year the menu included French onion soup in bread bowls, a salad and Triple Chocolate Raspberry Trifle.  (Rule: if it's not chocolate, it's not dessert!)

I usually try to get a photo of the group but this year I was so engrossed I didn't remember until everyone was on their way home.  I did take a quick shot of the table before we started so that will have to do.

I make some kind of Christmas ornament to decorate each place setting and this year I made fabric Christmas trees.  For the table I used them to hold the utensils, but when they get done hanging on trees, they are little scissor holders that can be used to pack scissors and other sewing tools when you are off on a sewing retreat.

I did have my wits about me when I was making them and managed to take some progress photos.  Here's how I made them....

The pattern is basically and 8 X 10  rectangle with 3 bound edges and a couple of folds sewn in place.  I used my bias binding foot which makes a lovely 3/8" bound edge.  I love that thing!  I rounded the corners to make binding easier...


I left a tail of the binding to make a hanging loop....


The raw edge of the rectangle is fold to the inside so it doesn't show....


I secured the last fold by stitching-in-the-ditch next to the binding...


The "Christmas Tree Lot!"


I really love the chance to fuss over my sewing girls.  They are such a gift in my life and most of the time would not sit still for much 'fussing.'  I am grateful that they let me do it at least this one time each year!  Happy Holidays to all of them and to all of you who read along and indulge my sewing adventures!  Cheers!


P.S. More Backpacks!!!

As promised....

Back in September a group of sewing buddies got together to make backpacks.  We spent one VERY long day and finally the group mutinied, cried "uncle" and said they would come back for a second day to finish up the project.  I was super proud that they really hung in there through a whole bunch of zippers and pockets, but it really is more than a one day sew. ....to be continued....

Three of the "packers" were planning trips before the second round sewing day was scheduled, so we had an 'emergency' sewing session to get their packs ready for the road.

This color blocked version is made with nylon ripstop in bright, happy colors.  It turned out great and weighs almost nothing!

This canvas pack has a darling butterfly lining.  (and yes, the bottom of the pack did get finished!)

The maker of this pack never shies away from a challenge.  She quilted several pieces of her pack before sewing them together.  I think she only went through one package of heavy duty needles!!!

...on another fine day later in October....The Bag Ladies got back together to finish their backpacks. I am very pleased to say that everyone went home wearing a newly minted pack!  Each one was perfectly suited to its maker and ready for lots of travels.

These lovely periwinkle and purple packs are made with water proof raincoat fabric.  It's light weight and keeps everything inside nice and dry!


Two more rainwear packs...this time in tailored navy with fun aqua straps and a classic "LBP"  (little black pack!)

This pack uses the same nylon print throughout which is lovely, however!...its' owner has the dubious honor of "most unsewing during the workshop!"  Because all the pieces were the same, sometimes the wrong ones ended up getting sewn together....oops!  Note for future packs, choose different fabrics!  I am very proud that even with all the ripping, the pack turned out beautifully and the maker is recovering nicely.  
She hasn't, however, committed to making another pack at this point.😏

"Hey, did we show up at the party with the same backpack?!"

...not quite...here we have another version of the "LBP" and a great mid century modern bark cloth print with cool rose gold colored zippers.  One of our crew arranged to have all the zippers and hardware for the workshop made into kits.  We used wonderful zippers and buckles from Sallie Tomato.  If you need bag making supplies this is a great website.  The zippers, particularly are excellent and come in a wonderful selection of colors.

I also finished my workshop pack...I had one that I was using to demonstrate with and I didn't want to be the only one who didn't finish her backpack....I really love the hardware on this one.  I got it at the Farm and Family in the horse bridle department!!!!  It also has an additional side pocket for sunglasses.  I don't think the group would have sat still for one more pocket! 😵

It was a challenging couple of sewing days, but everyone stuck with it and the results are terrific!  All the packs are different, but the one thing that everyone agreed on was what fun it is to sew together.  We just don't do it often enough!  I can't wait to see where all of these packs go.....to be continued....