3 Soft Shirts, 2 Tailored Vests and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

It's after Christmas and, as promised, I can now share the things I've been sewing and won't spoil any surprises!

I have been sewing vests for my eldest son (ES) for several years and always felt a bit guilty that I didn't have something for my youngest son (YS).  But this year YS asked if I could make him some T-shirts that were narrow, but long...and, of course, really, really soft.  He loaned me one of his favorite shirts (not long enough, but OK otherwise) so I could make a pattern.  Since this was the first version of the pattern I only made three shirts to make sure they were going to work for him.  

I hunted my favorite fabric haunts for the softest cotton knits I could find.  It seems that the really soft stuff is made for babies!  I gave in and decided that since we were going to be in Florida for Christmas the shark fabric would be appropriate for the place, if not altogether age appropriate.  Turned out...he loved it!!

The purple shirt was actually my 'trial balloon' and fashioned from an old jersey knit bed sheet.  It turned out so well I thought I may as well wrap it up too.  He liked that one as well.

The gray shirt was also going to be a plain, straight forward T, but at a 'Buy Local' Arts and Crafts Fair I found wonderful vegetable mandalas that the artist had printed on squares of muslin.  I couldn't resist and the garlic one ended up on the back yoke of the gray T-shirt.  I used two colors of thread in my twin needle to jazz up the top stitching.

The top right is carrots...moving clockwise...the garlic, then radishes and finally pears.  I am not sure where the other three are going to end up...I just love 'em.

Over the summer ES had been in town and had picked out a couple of vest combinations.  I finished one right away and sent it home with him, but never quite got around to the second one.  So, even though it wasn't a surprise, I put the brown linen vest together for him.  When I was trolling around for soft t-shirt knits I came across a goofy mustache print that I had to do something with.  It ended up as the lining for a black denim vest.

I used my new favorite button application for the black vest.  ES likes the backs of his vests to be kind of jazzy so the brown linen got a paisley print and and the black denim sports a plaid back.

I mentioned that we were going to be spending Christmas in Florida...it was a family reunion of sorts and involved 37 members of my extended family!!!!  Yep, just a quiet island Christmas...NOT!  It was exhausting, and awesome and I will be eating kale for the month of January to undo all the amazing meals that we consumed.

I had worked on a pattern at our ASG retreat for a little envelop contraption to keep jewelry in for traveling.  

I decided that I would make a few more and give them to all the girls for Christmas.  They are not entirely self-explanatory, so I collected up all the earrings that I don't wear anymore, and the ones that I have been saving to take apart and turn into something else, and filled each envelop with a pair of earrings.  It felt much better to send them off to a new home to be worn, than to keep them hiding in my stash.

...And finally, because it ain't Christmas without stockings, I made some tropical socks to hang by our palm tree with care!

So as you can see I was getting in some sewing room time, but had to wait until all the gifts had been delivered before sharing them here.  

That kind of wraps up (no pun intended) my 2017 sewing...all ready for 2018!


Corny Poetry and Good Friends


'Twas nine days until Christmas but the spirit had hit,
The decorations were up and the tree was all lit.

I was busily planning and getting prepared, 
For the second annual Holiday Luncheon affair!

The menu included a soup made of squash,
A tart of tomato, and champagne, by gosh!

The guests were arriving all ready for dinner,
When the FedEx truck showed up to deliver.

Down the driveway the truck backed with great skill,
Until...ooops...there was just too much ice on the hill!

Out to the lawn I went with a dash,
Hoping like heck this didn't end in a crash!

With the guests looking down from the windows above,
the driver and I gave the snow a great shove.

Then on to the next stop the truck went with a beep,
And our luncheon continued without missing a beat!

We ate and we laughed and we had sew much fun, 
Sharing stories and memories and when we were done,
With warm hearts and new memories we all felt just right,

Merry Christmas to all!
And to all a good night!

I have so much fun hosting my sewing friends for lunch this time of year.  They all brave my impossible driveway and indulge my 'Martha Stewart-ing' for the afternoon.  We have been gathering for over ten years!  It began as an ASG neighborhood group, but has grown into a sisterhood that I feel incredibly lucky to be part of....sometimes we even talk about sewing!!!

I have been doing some sewing, but I can't share it until after Christmas....😏 !

Happy Holidays...'till next year...


New Jeans and a Little Wine!

In my last installment (A New Perspective) I shared the flannel shirt that I made to wear with my OSKA sweater vest.  The rest of the plan was to make a pair of pants out of a woven stretch blend with a cool jacquard weave in taupe and denim blue.  The overall effect of the weave and the colors ends up looking kind of like...gray...but livelier...sort of.

It's impossible to see in this photo, but trust me, there's a pattern in the fabric! (more pictures to come)

With the fullness of the vest and the gathers in the shirt, I knew the pants had to fit more like leggings or slim pants.  I ran up a 'trial balloon' of a pattern that I did for knit pants and....let's just say that balloon did not get much lift!  I put the fabric aside to wait for some inspiration.

I had plenty of mulling time while I was visiting with my Mom and one of my sisters in Sonoma, CA for a long girls' weekend.  

We were concerned that the trip might not happen when the fires started, but by the time we arrived, things were getting back to normal.  It was scary to see some of the burned structures, or what was left of them, but the land actually knows what to do about fire.  The old Live Oaks have been dealing with fires for 100's of years, vineyards, it turns out, are so high in moisture content that they act as a natural fire break.  By next spring the dark charred land will be sprouting new, fire nourished green and the cycle will continue.  AND, the grapes were already bubbling away in their tanks turning into lovely Sonoma Valley wine!   We took several opportunities to bolster the economy and add to our cellars!😏

Me and Mom! ...and the gorgeous fall colors of the vineyards!

 It was actually a pair of my sister's 'skinny jeans' (which looked fabulous on her!) that provided the inspiration I needed.  As soon as I got home I hunted up a pattern that I had worked on a few years ago and haven't done much with recently, but thought it would be perfect for my fabric.  It requires a very stretchy woven and that's just what I had.

I made the pattern several times to get the fit and the details the way I wanted them.  Because of the way you construct the jeans, it is difficult to do any fitting once the pants are finished.  The seams are stitched and top stitched as you go so you put the last seam in and hope like heck that you got it right.  

The amount of stretch in the fabric also makes a big difference in the final fit, and I was pretty sure from my earlier experiments with the pattern that my fabric would work with the adjustments that I had made. Some of the changes I did...I raised the rise!  I am OK with my jeans sitting a bit lower than my waist, but these were more extreme on me than I was comfortable with.  I straightened out the boot-cut legs.  And I added my own pocket logo stitching (that was fun to design).

There are not many times that I just cut and stitch without fitting or draping as I go, it made me a bit nervous but I just cut, sewed, finished and hoped like heck that I got it right. 

Pretty happy with the results!

I added some squares of interfacing to the inside to help stabilize the fabric where the belt loops are attached....I did a riff on my initials (BF) to make the pocket logo stitching.  You can see the pattern in the fabric better in these pictures.  

Making jeans is one of those things that most people put on the 'mission impossible' list, which is where I had put it until I came across this Jalie pattern.  The instructions are very well done, the fit (with a bit of tweaking) is very jean-like, rather than pants with jean details.  All in all a satisfying sew!

It has definitely turned the corner here from summer to fall and we may even be looking at some wintery stuff in the next week!  Actually finishing a fall project in time for fall... Bonus!


A New Perspective

The last few weeks in my sewing room have been a bit all over the place.  I have great intentions at the beginning of the day and then...well...I'm not sure what happens?  I start out in one direction and end up careening off into the first 'shiny' thing that crosses my path.  I was feeling like I hadn't really accomplished much and had nothing to share, and then I attended a talk last evening at our local arts center and got a whole new perspective on my week!

The talk was entitled "Hodgepodge."  Such a great word...and an even better concept!

Nancy Crow, 'rockstar' quilter from Ohio, shared a series of random stories about her work, her travels, her amazing barn studio, her relationship with her husband...when she started I wasn't sure what might happen, but as I left I felt I had spent an intimate evening with an incredible woman.  Had she simply shared thoughts about the 'Circular Abstractions' exhibit (currently residing in the Kalamazoo Institute for the Arts) it would have been lovely and I would have left feeling satisfied, but the peak into her world, the things that matter to her, the people and places that inspire her, the pictures of her lovely farm in Ohio...such a rich glimpse into the artist, so much more than I had imagined when I walked into the auditorium.

The exhibit: "Circular Abstractions" was curated from work that Nancy's students have done.  She invited students whom she felt were developing their own 'voice.'  They had progressed beyond 'following the instructions' and were creating work from their artists' hearts.  One of the requirements was that the pieces be at least 80 inches square!  Seeing them all together was very impressive and inspiring, even for a non-quilter!

Although not quite as exotic or worldly as Nancy's, the hodgepodge that is my life seemed to make sense and feel connected in ways that had been eluding me lately.  Thank you Nancy!

So...here are a few of the random bits of hodgepodge that have been going on in my world...

I can't seem to get enough of the amazing colors that are happening in my Hydrangeas!!  Every few days they add another color to the palette.  Thank goodness I have a bunch of them, 'cuz I keep snipping them off to bring into the house.  I keep thinking that THIS must be the final coloration, but they just keep going.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to make something to wear with a favorite sweater vest...I collected up a fabric that I thought would work, I scrounged around in the old pattern box and found a pattern that I could hack, I .... got distracted by Halloween and my Anniversary (November 1)...

I had made a Pippi Longstockings costume several years ago to wear for a party that we had at work.  All I could find was the crazy yarn pigtails that I had fashioned onto a red knit hat.  So the wig is old, but the rest of my outfit I literally whipped up in the afternoon so I could join my son at our local pub for their Halloween party. (and the gloves?...my other son crocheted those for me a few years ago as a Christmas gift!  Such clever boys!)

OK, whew...back to the shirt...

One of the patterns that I have been making and liking is the Tabula Rasa jacket by Fit For Art patterns.  The kicker for me is the sleeve.  It is a square set in sleeve which gives great room for movement, but doesn't look 'dolman-like' under the arm.  For my broad shoulders it is extremely comfortable.  I found an OLD pattern, can't even begin to remember when I got it, that has the same sleeve configuration.

 View B was the starting point for my shirt.  I did make several changes...
-I did tighten up the underarm volume a bit, so I could fit it under jackets or the sweater that it is intended to go with!!!
-I made the front opening only halfway down and put a few gathers in the center front
- I did a high/low shirttail hem
-I added a yoke to the back (I didn't have enough fabric to cut the full back, 😁 .  So I added some gathers there as well, why not?

As I was cutting the very swishy, very plaid fabric I decided that I needed to stabilize the shoulders to carry the weight of the garment.  Turning up nothing in my stash I headed to the local quilting establishment to find a nice stable quilting cotton....oh, shiny...

I have recently returned from a sewing retreat so was very aware of the equipment hauling stuff that I have been using...for years!  I have a placemat, yes, a placemat that my sister in law reworked into a carryall of sorts.  It has been way too long ago for me to remember, but the sage green color of the placemat makes me think of 1990something...

 It simply has Ziplock bags stitched into the middle so you can load it up with all sorts of sewing notions (in my case!).  I have tried other, newer, organizing options, but seem to always reach for this one...so when I saw the Beatle Bag pattern at the quilt shop, oh, yeah!

My one half yard yoke fabric turned into a two hour troll through the store to find just the right combination for my Beatle Bag, after all if it is around as long as my placemat I better like it!!

The Beatle Bag Pattern by Abbey Lane Quilts  comes with several very hefty zipper type bags that insert into the finished contraption.  Not being particularly good with directions, I thought about all the ways I could 'improve' the pattern...but in the end I did exactly what the pattern said...except...(I just had to make it my own!) I don't use a pincushion so I substituted a glasses pocket instead.  

The tab goes through the ring and fastens under the bag to the back.  The Velcro makes it adjustable so it can really get loaded up with stuff!  The padded pockets on the inside are just great for scissors.  Several of the bags in my placemat version have holes from the scissors poking through...oops!

Ok...back at the cutting table...

Having matched, as much as possible and found the perfect yoke lining, the shirt started coming together.  It really felt like I had been working on it forever...

It's made with a rayon plaid flannel.  It is very, VERY swishy and almost impossible to keep lined up, but I'm pretty satisfied with the plaids.  There were just some places that defied matching!

The rayon feels quite luxurious for a flannel shirt and I like the shirt vest combo...however, this is maybe the third try, so I will reserve judgement until I wear it!

I have been collecting old cards of buttons forever.  It's fun to find them at antiques places.  These were just waiting for this shirt!

So there you have it...my hodgepodge.  ...and somehow, somewhere it all makes sense!


Retreating with Bags

I just returned from our ASG Chapter's fall sewing retreat.  

A few times a year we gather with our projects and sew together.  I can't really explain how therapeutic this ritual is.  I think it must be the 'quilting bee' tradition that we are tapping into.  Yes, we sew, a bit...but mainly we just spend time with each other, solving the problems of the world...or at least our little corner of it!

There are always a few quilts that get pieced together, often long forgotten 'back of the closet' projects that need the distraction-free zone of a retreat to get to the finish line, lots of stories and laughing...and the snack alter!!  Laden with every version of chocolate and the random apple...just for show of course...no self-respecting 'retreater' would leave the chocolate in favor of a healthy snack!

One of our crew, who is famous for taking full advantage of the 11th hour, (she will back me up in that statement!), finished a gorgeous baby quilt Saturday morning in time for the 12:30 baby shower that afternoon!!!  AND, she did all the quilting herself!

I'm never sure what to take along for retreat sewing.  Many of my projects require the help of my dress form and access to my stash, for all the bits and pieces that I don't plan on needing.  Packing an entire project, with all the right notions is tough for me.  I usually don't have a plan that gets me to the end of a project, so I never really know what I'm going to want along the way.

This year I was inspired by Rhonda Buss, who shared her travel bag pattern with us a few weeks ago. (you can see and read about mine here).  I made the large 'carpet bag', but didn't get to the smaller accessory bags that she showed us.  I decided to keep the theme going and work on a toiletry bag that I have been planning for several years now!

I have a totally shredded toiletry tote that was actually the packaging for a bubble bath kit that I got as a door prize somewhere in time.  It is clear vinyl with a zipper on three sides that is the perfect size and because it is clear, I can use it for my liquids without having to pack two bags.

I know it doesn't look like much, but my husband and I argue about who gets to take it when we travel...there is just something about it that works.  So I decided to use it as the model for a new toiletry bag.
I will spare you the prototypes, of which there were several. (one was actually nice enough to share with my husband, so he now has a bag of his own!)  I eventually got to a pattern that I liked, gathered up the materials and sewed it up at the retreat.

The fabric choices started with a quilting cotton that had a vinyl coating on it.  It reminded me of the oil cloth that my grandma used to cover her picnic table in the summer.  I thought it would make a perfect lining for my bag.  

I found several fun coordinates, colorful zippers, bits of ribbon and some clear vinyl to make the outside pockets.
After making so many prototypes, the bag went together pretty quickly, leaving me with lots of retreat time to play with other bags.  

I like the Lazy Girl Design patterns and made a couple of small accessory bags.

My favorite little bag was the one I engineered for taking my earrings along.  I used the idea of a credit-card wallet as the inspiration, just making it a bit smaller.  I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.  It actually has seven little pockets.

I had lots of fun taking 'glamor shots' of my little collection of travel bags.

I am going to be sooo dang coordinated when I take my next trip...TSA will surely be impressed!

(oh, and the title of this post refers to my projects of course, not my fellow retreaters! 😝  ) 

Now that I am back in my own studio I do have some fall sewing projects lined up.  The first one being some kind of shirt to wear with a sweater vest that I got last winter.  I love it, and have tried a few different things with it, but haven't found one I really like yet.  After that...we'll see...😉