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."


Between the Lines

My sewing has been in fits and starts since I returned from Ashland and my Design Outside the Lines retreat.  I guess the same is true for writing about my sewing as well...so this will be a quick post 'between the lines.'

I did finish the dress that I cut out in Ashland.  I used Carol Lee Shank's 'unpattern.'  Carol uses a series of measurements based on the garment shape and the dimensions of the fabric she is working with.  The designs are very economical and use as much of the fabric as possible.  

On the advise of several of my fellow DOL's I cut the shapes on the bias of my fabric.  When I started to work with it I realized that the weave of the linen I was using was going to really release once I cut it.  I wasn't going to have time to hang out the bias and I also wanted to secure the cut edges with my serger.  So I packed it up for finishing when I got home.

Unlike several workshop projects that get lost in the depths of the 'unfinished object' cupboard, I actually completed this one!  Yeah!

The fabric really is beautiful on the bias so I am glad I went in that direction.  And once it had a chance to hang for a bit, it was surprisingly easy to work with.  

Keeping with Carol's 'no waste' program, I used the pieces that were cut out to make the armholes as the collar.  I left edges raw and let the shape of the pieces dictate the organic form of the finished collar.

When I tried it on it was a wee bit short for an 'old lady' (let me qualify that, for my old lady legs!!), so I added a bias hem, again leaving the edges raw.  It breaks up the length, which works well for the 'vertically enhanced,' and is kind of a non-ruffle ruffle.  

Our theme for the workshop was "Three Easy Pieces."  The idea was to make pieces that would layer and work together in different ways.  I think this little dress hits the mark and will be a great layer...but for now it will have to work on it's own, until I get a few more spurts of time to make some other layers to keep it company!

The piece of fabric hanging behind the dress form is a fabulous piece of silk jersey that was 'eco-dyed' by one of our fellow DOL's.  She uses different leaves wrapped in the fabric to transfer the color and shapes.  She has been experimenting with all kinds of foliage and has some amazingly gorgeous pieces.  I am torn between simply wearing it as a scarf (it is a tube and looks great just bunched up around my neck) or actually making something else out of it.  For now it hangs around my studio inspiring me and reminding me of my new friend in Oregon.


Button Band "How To"

My last installment included a grey linen camp shirt with buttonholes that were created by piecing a band to the center front.  It is a little tricky to figure out how that happens just looking at the finished product.  So here is how that happened....

I am using some 'loud' contrasty fabrics to make it easier to see what's going on...I hope it works!

Pretend that the blue is the front of the shirt, the pink is the buttonhole band and the check is the binding.  The buttons here are 3/4 inch, so I wanted a 3/4" finished band.  You can decide what proportion looks best for your buttons and fabrics.

I serged the edge of the blue because it will be turned to the inside to form the front facing.

To get a 3/4" band with a bound edge I cut a strip 
1 1/2" wide (if you are going to finish the edge with a slip stitch, add a 1/4" seam allowance...1/2" total... to the strip)  

If you are making the band a different size, double your finished width for the bound version and add 1/2" for seam allowances for the slip stitched version.

Mark a center line on the strip, leaving spaces for the buttonholes.  In this example the spaces are 7/8" long.

Pin your strip to the shirt front matching the center marking with the center front of the shirt.  Adjust the strip up or down to get the buttonholes where you want them!

In this case I assumed a 2" facing would be turned back on the shirt front.

Stitch the band to the shirt, leaving the spaces for the buttonholes unstitched.  It's easier to see this from the back side of the shirt.  Make sure to secure your stitching really well on either side of the buttonholes so it doesn't pull out when you button and unbutton your shirt!

Now turn the 'facing' to the inside of the shirt and fold the band in half lengthwise along your stitching line.  This is what makes the buttonhole.

At this point you have a couple of finishing options...  

For this example I am using a 1/4" bound edge to finish the buttonhole band.  I "stitched in the ditch" to catch the backside of my bias tape and finish the binding.

On my grey shirt, I turned the raw edges of the band to the inside and slip stitched the edge.

Sew your buttons to the other shirt front and you are in business!

Obviously, this finish can be quite subtle as on the grey camp shirt... or fun and colorful as my little sample.  Whichever version you pick, it does make a really clean buttonhole.

Hope this is helpful! 😊