That was Easy...NOT!

Looks like a pretty straight forward polo shirt doesn't it?!  Ha!  Not so fast!  Literally, not so fast!  It may look all cute and innocent, but this was one of those 'challenge-at-every-turn' projects.

It started innocently enough, with a lovely remnant of Liberty cotton lawn that I got on my trip to London this spring.  It was just under a yard...plenty of fabric...but Liberty prints are a bit narrower than quilting cottons, so that was the fist challenge.  How to get the pieces for the desired top to fit the amount of fabric.

 I had in my head a sweet little cotton shirt, buttons up the front, short sleeves and a Peter Pan collar.  It just felt like the right thing to do for the fabric.

I cut out the fronts and the back (no pleats of course!) using the barest one inch to fold over for the front closure.  I could manage the collar if I cut the under collar on the bias and pieced it, no problem, I like that anyway.  The sleeves...???  OK, if they are extremely short and cut in the opposite direction of the main pieces.  (look closely, the print on the sleeves is 'upside down.')  Not my usual OCD approach to pattern matching, but OK, I could get over it.

So that took WAY longer to figure out than normal!

I started assembling...the one inch fold on the fronts...not so much.  Or should I say, not enough.  The fineness of the fabric and the weight of buttons just wasn't going to cut it.
Plan B.  How about using twill tape to beef up the front placket?  Good, but it didn't really look that great at the hem.  Plan C.  Let's make a polo type opening at the center front!  Yeah!
I'm pretty proud of the job I did matching the center front seam...yes there is a seam from the hem to the bottom of the placket!  Awesome! (kind of makes up for the sleeves being upside down!)

So the center front detail went from a full buttoned up look to a polo, half open look.

Continuing to the shoulder seams...

It turns out when you hack your t-shirt pattern to make a center front opening and forget to adjust the back of the pattern you end up with a really crazy shoulder seam....Notice how much longer the back of the seam is than the front....ooops!  Not too much of a problem that can't be handled with a sharp pair of scissors, BUT....

...That cute little Peter Pan collar that was based on the T-shirt neck opening...Yeah, that...way to short!

Plan D.  No collar?  But I really wanted a collar (can you hear the whine in my voice?).  Recut the Peter Pan collar?  Not a chance!  How about a knit collar?  Kinda works with the polo idea...OK...find a scrap of cotton knit.  

All good...no Peter Pan collar, but a nice knit polo collar.

Next up, the upside down sleeves.  Another interesting thing about using a pattern designed for knits to make a woven top is, you can't stretch the sleeve head to fit the armhole opening.  Drat!  Fortunately this was an oops in the right direction.  I could recut the sleeve head to make it work...which in turn meant that the extremely short sleeves got to be EXTRA extremely short!

Plan E!  Maybe it could be a sleeveless polo-ish top?  Aw come on!!!  A wee little serged edge turned up hem?  Pretty cheap looking for classy Liberty fabric!  Any more of that knit scrap around?  Bingo!  Knit bands on the sleeves!

Let's talk about the hem.  The 'try-on' with the side seams finished revealed that the length was darn near perfect...without a hem!  Plan F!  A cropped polo style top?  (How old am I?)  More knit scraps...nope.  If I cut apart the cute little Peter Pan collar would I be able to make a hem facing?  Yes, if it's pieced and going across the grain!  (at this point...) I love it!

Finally, buttons!  I had picked out really nice mother of pearl buttons that looked so perfect with the original style...now, with the evolving polo style...meh.  Plan G!  What is more polo-ish than snaps?  And way easier than button holes on a placket opening!

Now you might think that I would set those pesky snaps and call it good!  But no, I just couldn't leave well enough alone.  The hem just didn't do it.  It needed side splits!
Plan H!  Even with the facing there was not enough hem depth for decent splits.  Hmmmm...
Those two little knit ends that got cut off the collar?  Perfect! (and check out that matched side seam! Sweet!)


So there you have it, my cute little Liberty cotton polo shirt, dirty secrets and all!


Hot Times, Cool Sewing

I have been working away on a project that is taking it's own sweet time!  I'll share it when it's ready for prime-time...but it has been consuming my sewing room time, so I haven't got much to write about at the moment.

Before I headed off to Costa Rica last month, I wanted a cool something to travel in.  I knew I would have a long shuttle ride when I got there, so my usual "dress for the air-conditioned planes and airports" wouldn't be very comfortable on arrival!  

This very summery linen cotton blend was just the ticket.  It is almost gauze-like and definitely feels like summer.

I made my favorite shift pattern and narrow-hemmed a bias strip to wrap up in on the AC portions of the trip. (I also had a sweater just in case!)  

I love the colors and the airy feel of the fabric.  And the loose fit was perfect for folding up into an airplane seat!

I needed a little break from my 'big' project, so I spent a few hours on another non-t-shirt.  This time I had 3/4 of a yard of what I think might be drapery fabric.  It's rather loosely woven, looks a bit like linen, but drapes like rayon...not really sure what it is, where I got it or what it's made of.  BUT, I liked it!

It was supposed to be a break from the 'fussy' work of my other project, but the fabric raveled like crazy and the twill tape detail at the neck turned into a bit more fussing than I bargained for ...still, a pretty easy sew.  Two squares (literally 24" X 24"), serged edges and hems and a V neck with twill tape trim.

The drape of the fabric gives it more shape than the cut of the garment, not sure the square approach would work without it. 

It was a needed break and the shirt is perfect for the hot days we have been having.

If I ever figure out what it is I may have to make another one!


"T" Time

OK...so is this a sewing blog or not!?  

Recently I have been wondering that myself.  I haven't been home long enough to do laundry let alone make anything!  But I finally snagged a few minutes this week and spent some time in my sewing room.  It really felt great!

Remember this pile of stuff?  I have been collecting fabric from my travels but haven't stayed home long enough to actually sew any of it up.

I am not really a 't-shirt' person, but I like little shirts that act like t-shirts.  Loose, easy to wear, cool and casual.

I thought several of the silk pieces that I have gathered this year would make perfect summer T's.

The first one I made was really, really straight forward.  I was glad that I had opted for a simple style, because the silk was super 'swishy' which made construction a bit tricky.  In the end I am happy with the t shape and softness of the shirt.  I think the simplicity makes it a good all 'rounder and I have been wearing it quite a bit.  It also has ALL of my favorite mud colors!

The second T was a bit more involved.  Before heading off on my last trip I had an idea for combining three of the silks that I had gotten on my trip to NYC.  I draped the fabrics on my dress form so I would remember when I got home.  I think the marinading time helped.  When I started working on it, it was like I had already made the shirt.  I must have been engineering it in my head while I was in Costa Rica.

The idea was to use the green and grey silks for the body and the sheer stipe on the bias for some kind of open collar.

The final product also has small cap sleeves in the stripe fabric.

I really like the buttons up the back!  I made the facing out of the stripe and turned it back leaving a 1/4 inch 'piping' to add a little extra detail.  I think I will use that idea again sometime.

Both tops are cool and comfortable and I think I will enjoy them as we head into the lazy, hot, dog days of summer.


Leader of the Pack

I think I am getting the hang of this retirement gig.  At least this year it seems to be all about going to cool places!  So far this year I have been 'on the road' for 10 of the 24 weeks and in five different directions!  It's fun, but involves lots of packing!

My first thought was to have a 'travel wardrobe.'  You know, a well curated, small set of items that fit perfectly into a carry on and allows me to be ready for anything from climbing Mt. Hood to the Met Gala!  OK, so maybe my travels have taken a left turn into 'Fantasyland.'  BUT, wouldn't it be loverly!

(note:  Why when you Google "travel wardrobe" do only women's clothes show up?  Don't men travel?!)

I realized that the first problem with my imagined wardrobe was that I have not been traveling to places with the same seasons.  Nor has the weather been just one season when I get to said destination.  This of course confounds the packing problem....must pack for climbing Mt. Hood, the Met Gala, and a 60 degree temperature range. 

Before each outing I have been agonizing about what makes the cut.  Can I actually get away with only one pair of shoes?  Can my yoga pants count as 'formalwear?'  Will I really need both a sunhat AND a parka?   

I make lists and piles and imagine all the possible combinations and circumstances...like I said...agonizing! (definition: adj. causing great physical or mental pain!)  

Is this really fun?!  Is this really how I want to start a trip? ...Actually, the answer surprised me.  YES!  💡

Solving problems is what I like to do.  So if I have to create a, so called, problem, as in "what the heck do I pack," so be it!  

The question of 'what to pack' isn't just about 'the white t-shirt or the grey one.'  It's the chance to prepare mentally to travel, to think about what it will be like, the kinds of things there will be to see and do...it's the trip before the trip!  Two trips for the price of one, how cool is that?!  By thinking of the 'what to pack' question as agony, I was giving away half the fun!  

So after a bit of 'reframing' I am embracing the "what to pack?" part of the experience and feeling much more at ease with the process.  I also realized that the dream of a single travel wardrobe was really a pipe-dream and letting that go has taken a lot of pressure off the decisions about what makes the cut and what stays at home.  

There are some guidelines that have developed after several trips that seem to make sense, regardless of the place or the season I am packing for...

-  Minimize the shoe count!  Those rascals take up huge real estate in the suitcase.  I try to get away with one or maybe two pair of shoes.  Sometimes this means my hiking boots also double as my 'dressy' shoes....but if the trip is more about hiking than fancy dinners, it works just fine.

-  Wear the big stuff.  If I'm coming and going from different climates this looks a little strange at one end or the other.  Example:  might not need the raincoat getting on the plane or even getting off, but wearing it is a better use of suitcase space than packing it.  or...wear the parka, pack the flip flops!

-  Limit the 'one-offs.'  I play a little game as I collect the items for a trip.  "If this were the only thing I had, would it be OK?"  So far I haven't actually found the single garment that covers all possible travel situations, but by asking the question I usually figure out several options for said garment, and can eliminate a few 'extras.'  But sometimes you just have to take the Darth Vader helmet...that's all there is to it.

-  Little stuff adds up!  So how much space does an extra pair of socks really take?  Not much, but there isn't that much space to begin with!  Example:  I have my 'travel panties.'  They are light weight, they wick beautifully, they dry overnight...I only need 2 or 3 pair for any length trip.

-  Don't pack packaging!  This one is particularly helpful when it comes to toiletries.

And finally...

-  How far will I actually be from a Target?  That's right...if all else fails a Target and a credit card will usually do the trick!

On my last trip as I checked in at the airline counter and assured the representative that my small carry-on suitcase was all I had, she said with obvious admiration in her voice, "My you travel light!"  I smiled, politely and accepted her observation and didn't bother to mention that it only took me three weeks to pack!  I'm sure if my travel year continues I can get that down to, I don't know, two weeks??  Bon Voyage!


I'm Baaaaack!

WOW!  I have been home for less than 2 weeks since the middle of May!  It has been such a wonderful whirlwind of fun travels...not much sewing to share, but lots of 'fibery-inspirey' fun stuff.

My first adventure was for my birthday/Mother's Day (happened on the same day this year!) I visited with my boys in NYC.  Despite the very rainy weather (you will see a weather theme in this spring's travels!) we had a blast!

The only people in Central Park!

Obligatory trip to Mood Fabrics!  Lots of great stuff, now I just need to stay put and sew some of it!


I have been wanting to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see their Spring Costume Exhibit for several years now.  This year it was a retrospective show of Rei Kawakubo's work, called "Art of the In-Betweens". It was a bit jarring and unusual, but very thought provoking.   Kawakubo really challenges the traditional ideas we have about how to clothe our figures.
The trip also included wonderful food experiences, and time to enjoy my kiddos!  

My next adventure was in Britain.  My husband was attending his ### high school class reunion in Wales.  We started the trip in London and then spent some time exploring different parts of Wales.  I have been several times but usually end up in the living rooms of my in-laws, which is lovely, but doesn't give me much of a sense of the country.  This time we traveled from one side of the country to the other!

We stayed in the Soho neighborhood of London and to my surprise and delight, it is also the center of the fabric district!  It is right near the West End theaters so there are lots of gorgeous fabrics for costumers...and me!!!

First stop, Liberty of London!  Not only do they have amazing fabrics, they have the best Afternoon Cream Tea ever!!!!!

The walls were filled with these "trophies" covered in Liberty of London cotton lawns.  Just delightful!

We stopped by the Victoria and Albert to see their costume exhibit.  They had a few pieces from different time periods...I loved the 1920's tennis dress and the 1940's suit.  Such great lines and details.

...a wander down Savile Row.  The street level shops had the amazing bespoke tailored suits, and just below the sidewalk level you could see the workrooms.  My favorite part of course.

At the Tower of London they were redoing one of the bedrooms.  The entire wall was being hand stenciled!!!

On to Wales!  The views from the Brecon Beacons (the mountains in south-central Wales) were perfect patchwork quilts!!!

A highlight for me was visiting a bespoke shoemaker in northern Wales.  Ruth Emily Davey apprenticed for several years with a master shoemaker and is now making her own shoes in a darling shop/workshop in Machynlleth, Wales.  (I still can't pronounce the name of the place!)  And yes,I will be receiving my shoes in time for Christmas!!

My most recent adventure took me to Costa Rica on a meditation retreat.  The rain forest was so alive and peaceful at the same time.  It is hard not to be inspired by the lushness of the foliage and the amazing colors everywhere!

Home again, home again, jiggity jog!

Whew!  I am filled to the brim with ideas and fabrics from my whirlwind spring, and  ready to dig into some projects, before I head off again this fall!  
It seems to be the year of going places.
...as they say in Costa Rica...
Pura Vida!!


My 49'er

**WARNING**  Long post ahead!

Last fall a group of ASG sewing pals decided that we would all work with the same pattern.  A few of the women had seen the Tabula Rasa jacket at the ASG conference in the summer and wanted to give it a go.  

We met several times to compare fabric choices, to get style and fitting advise and basic moral support! (the meetings involved lots of laughing and chatting as well, duh!)  The target date was to have our jackets completed for the annual spring luncheon and fashion show and tell.  It seemed very far away last fall! 😬  
(Apparently I was misinformed...more likely, not paying attention!...our actual target date was our June chapter meeting!  I'm early!!!!)

The pattern by "Fit for Art" Patterns is a very well designed kimono-ish style.   The pattern pieces are designed to be 'blank slates' (which is what Tabula Rasa actually means!) for adding embellishments and details.  The way the side panels and sleeves are drafted makes putting the jacket together a breeze!  There are also very clever fitting/adjusting points that make it adaptable to many body types.   There are some additional patterns available that allow the design to morph into a blouse or a dress with a couple different neckline options.  All together a nice choice for our challenge.

When I saw the pattern the first thing that came to mind was my grandma.  My grandma had a closetful of wonderful wool Pendleton 49'er jackets.  Even as a kid I loved those things.  She always looked sharp and sporty and, well, cool!  I have wanted one forever.  Obviously, I could just go buy one, but that would be way too easy now wouldn't it!
I figured with a little bit of alteration to the neckline, a collar and a couple of patch pockets the Tabula Rasa would make a very reasonable 49'er.

I wanted to send up a trial balloon of my idea so with the help of my favorite "pattern weight" I picked out a plaid suiting fabric from my stash.  I also wanted my finished jacket to be more of a "swacket."  You know a jacket that feels kind of like a sweater when you wear it.  So I chose a ponte knit for the sleeves.

Bingo! I was pretty darned happy with my 
Pendleton-esque swacket.  Maybe a bit smaller on the collar, but not bad at all.

OK, pattern, check. 👍  
If this was going to be a 49'er it had to be wool.  AND it had to be wool that looked like it could have been hanging in my grandma's closet.  Off to the thrift store!  

I came home with a wool jumper and some corduroy pants.  Not quite the haul I was hoping for.  A little stash diving turned up a nice calvary twill and some great rayon lining.  But still not a whole jacket's worth of fabric.  And nothing for the sweater-like sleeves.  Off to the yarn shop!

I chose two yarns to work as one so the finished fabric would be about the same weight as the wool jumper and the colors had a nice tweedy feel.  Another thrift store rendered a pair of very bell-bottomed herringbone trousers that made me much happier than the cordurouys.

I decided to tackle the sleeves first.  I drafted a knitting pattern using the jacket sleeve patterns and my gauge swatch.  Working with the two yarns made it a very fast project.  I left the stitches 'live' rather than binding them off to make sewing them to the jacket easier and the seam less bulky.

Sweater sleeves. Check! 👍

I pulled the pants apart and because of the big bells had plenty of fabric to work with. 

The plaid jumper was just enough to get the front and back panels and the collar pieces (matching the plaid of course!)  I used the herringbone for the side panels, the front facings and the under collar.  The pockets came straight off the jumper, linings and all.  Picking up the live knit stitches worked great.  The way the pattern is designed makes putting the sleeves in very easy as well.

I had used a tiny red rick-rack to jazz up the front facing/lining seam and continued with a red dupioni silk for the Hong Kong finishes on the rest of the seams.  I did only a half lining on the back because I wanted the sweater feel, it does make it easier to slip the jacket on and off.  The buttons are cool leather with brass edges that I got on my recent trip to NYC.  (my "pattern weight" again, inspecting the final product!)

You might think that is the end of my 49'er jacket story...BUT...I really like the pattern and decided it would be great for the taupe linen that I brought back from Italy. 

On this version I made the collar even narrower, added cuffs, lined the sleeves and the front with a silk crepe de chine and used a funky cotton stripe to line the back shoulders, cuffs and seams.

 It layers well with my bias linen dress...that's number two of my "Three Easy Pieces."