Legendary Linen

On one of the two spring days we have had, I wore my new denim dress (Story here) and decided that I would like a few more comfortable, easy dresses for summer.  The kind that don't really touch your body other than where they hang from your shoulders.  

I've lived in Michigan long enough to know that there will be 90 degree days with 96% humidity at some point in the next few months and those are the days that require a 'no touch' wardrobe.  (am I over sharing here?)  Anyway, I pulled out the linen box! 

I am usually about 3 linen projects in by this time in the year!  But between the dreary weather and my clingy bug, I have gotten a slow start on "linen season."   I love linen season and always have lots of fun trolling through my collection and deciding which precious pieces will actually get turned into clothing.  

Some how when fabric has been 'marinating' for a long time (years in some cases!) it gets more valuable.  It's the same yardage every time it comes out of the box, but it takes on a patina and an aura of grandeur that is way out of proportion!  Some times I take it all out, fold it neatly, put it all back and go to the fabric store for a piece that hasn't taken on legendary status!

One such storied piece, is a mill-end of Eileen Fisher, bird's eye woven, charcoal grey, 100% linen.  (see what I mean about legendary status!?)  I can't recall when I got, where it came from, how much I paid for it, but, I have been hoarding this treasure for a very long time, waiting for the perfect project.  Obviously there is no such thing as the perfect project so, at some point you just have to say "What the H---!" and cut into the darned thing!  

A loose, airy, linen dress made from yummy textured fabric...pretty close to perfect in my book.

I started with my woven T-shirt pattern.  I have been using and tweaking this pattern for years (possibly as long as the Eileen Fisher linen has been aging!)  It is a great place to start and I know I will be happy with the fit.  I lengthened it, added the 'must-have' pockets, draped a funky, asymmetrical collar, played around with the hems and decided one linen just wasn't enough...and there you have it...my 'no touch' summer linen dress.

I used a rustic woven cotton to make the accent pocket facings...one in the waist seam and one in the side seam.  I also used the same cotton to face the bottom hem, the sleeve hems and the inside of the collar.

The sleeve and the hem have pleats to create a bit of a 'bubble' look. 

 The collar was draped after the dress was made.  It is cut on the bias to create a soft standing shape.

I was very reluctant to cut into my precious linen and commit to just one version of the many I have imagined over the years.  But I am very happy and can't wait for a 90 degree/96% humidity day to give it a test drive!


Buggin' Out

It is slowly starting to be spring like...it has been a very long drawn out winter which may be part of why I am 'sick and tired!

I have been struggling with an 'end of winter' bug.  It doesn't seem to want to move on and I am really for it to clear out!  I have so many fun projects that I want to get to, but have no energy to tackle them.  

I did want to support my local ASG chapter (that's American Sewing Guild!) so I rallied for a few hours over the weekend to create a few pieces for a special competition.

The deal is, the National ASG organization sponsored a competition to create a fabric featuring the ASG logo.  The second part of the challenge is for local ASG members to use the fabric to create whatever they want, and the guild who sends in the most items based on how many members you have, is the winner.  The prize is that National ASG will send a national sewing educator to your local guild to do a program!  Kind of a cool deal for our little chapter.  I wanted to help boost our chances, so I took my 1/2 yard of logo fabric and tried to get as many things as possible!  I still have a tiny piece left, but I think I stretched it about as far as I could.  Here are my pieces....

These little pouches are made with Lazy Girl Patterns' Sweetpea Pods pattern.  They are great or little things that always end up in the bottom of your pocketbook!

I made one of my little earring envelopes for traveling.  The logo fit just right.

I used another Lazy Girl Pattern, The Becca Bag for this piece.  I love these for collecting my projects.  I have several with my 'in progress' knitting that I take on my trips.

This is my own pattern.  I think it will be great for sewing retreats, but would also be a good toiletry bag for traveling.  I like the clear pockets.

I couldn't not make some kind of garment... I used my favorite woven T-shirt pattern to make this color blocked shirt.  I wasn't sure when I was making it if I would actually want to wear it, but it turned out pretty cute.  The blue is so not in my normal color palette, so I'm not sure what I will wear with it....we'll see.

I think this may be my favorite little piece.  So simple and yet so useful!  I'd make a bunch more, but it was actually kind of a lot of work!!!!

...And finally....another useful item....

So there you have it!  My 1/2 yard of ASG logo fabric.  It would be really fun to win, but even so, it was a nice distraction from my 'ugly bug' and I have several things that I think will actually be used.  Already a winner!


Knitting Homework

Every so often I have to catch up on my knitting.  I take my knitting on trips because it's portable, easy to pick up and put down and keeps me occupied while waiting, riding, training, planing.  But there comes a time in the life of each project that makes it no longer a travel project.  Sometimes it gets too big, sometimes there are fussy bits that require counting or some other version of paying attention, that are not conducive for airport lounges.  When that happens the project gets moved into 'The Pile' and another project gets started.  You can probably see what happens after awhile.  I have to take care of The Pile before I forget what I was doing.  Sometimes finishing a project becomes 'frogging' a project because I can't figure out where I left off, or I just don't care anymore!  

Last week I tackled The Pile, which had two mostly finished summer weight sweaters in it.  

The first project was a 'leftovers' sweater.  I had several skeins of linen and cotton yarns in various shades of natural and off white that were leftover from other projects or purchased because they were just too lovely to pass up.  I decided to make them into a stripy oversized T-shirt.  

I am happy with the resulting T-shirt, it has a very drapy hand and hangs close to the body so it doesn't look too oversized when it's worn...but, I now have several 'nibbins' (as a knitting friend calls them) of various linen and cotton yarns.  I think I will call it good!

The other project was one that I started while I was in Key West this winter.  There is a cute little fabric/yarn shop that really needed me to patronize it and I obliged by buying a yarn that was lengths of several different yarns strung together.  When it is worked it makes blocks of the different textures and colors.

The plan was to knit two long pieces about 12 inches wide and sew them together to make a V-neck top.  Pretty simple idea.  I realized after knitting the first ball (I had 2) that it was going to be a wee bit on the short side.  Of course there wasn't a third ball of yarn, and the yarn was several different yarns anyway so I picked another yarn and added it into the mix to get the length I needed.  I also used it to finish the edges and sew the pieces together.  It ended up being way more complicated than I planned, but it worked out in the end.

I still have an alpaca sweater that has become way too big for traveling and have started a cotton cardigan that has jumped the queue because I am way more excited about cotton right now than alpaca, so it won't be too long before The Pile will need tending again.  Until then, I'll be looking for some fun destinations to get my knitting done!


Stress Busting Shirtdress

Last week was very stressful.  Since retiring I haven't had a lot of 'very stressful' to contend with, so it really wiped me out!   As I have done all my life, I headed to my sewing room.  Sewing has always been my version of therapy.  A good project completely takes over my thoughts and pushes other stuff out of the way for a minute.  It's like a little vacation for my brain.  And last week I needed a really consuming project!!!!

I have been seeing shirt dresses and in particular, denim shirt dresses all over the place this spring.  They look cool (temperature and otherwise) and easy to wear and I want one!  I had hunted up a light weight very dark washed denim with a hint of stretch to make my version of a denim shirt dress.   I decided it would be the perfect 'therapy project' for last week.

I knew I wanted lots of fun topstitching on the dress.  A bunch of precise topstitching seemed like just the ticket for distracting my monkey brain for awhile!  It requires full focus and engineering the order of seaming to get the right overlaps is a thought consuming puzzle.  Excellent!

I started with my current favorite vest pattern, see it here and here.  I like the shape and it works well with more structured fabrics.  I washed the heck out of the denim to soften it up a bit and to avoid turning my fingers blue as I worked with it.

I had been clipping pages from the gazillion catalogues that show up in my mailbox, of denim and shirt dresses as inspiration.  Plenty of decisions to keep me focused!

I decided:
  • sleeveless
  • back shoulder yoke with center pleat
  • waist seam on the front
  • side pockets
  • collar with collar band 
  • shirttail hem in front, straight in back
  • and snaps

There would be more deciding along the way, but these got me started.

When I got the side pockets sewn, with 3 rows of topstitching and was ready to sew the front skirt to the front bodice...I realized that the dress needed to come down in size by about 2 inches!!  Arg!  

Normally that would be a simple fix by taking bigger side seams.  I decided that taking out the pockets was NOT an option, so the front skirt got a nice little center pleat!  

I knew there would be more decisions along the way!

As predicted, the topstitching was excellent therapy and actually got a bit out of control!

I used a scrap of a Liberty of London fabric that my husband had gotten for me on a trip to the UK, for the inside back yoke.  The light cotton lawn kept the yoke from getting too heavy and added a little surprise on the inside.

I like to use double thread to add heft to topstitching.  I had almost two full spools of thread when I started which I thought would be plenty.  This is what I had left when I finished!  Whew!

The week didn't get noticeably less stressful, but the dress did the trick!  As I worked on it I felt the familiar sense of calm that sewing can give me and the sense of losing track of time.  I know some people go for a run, or eat a package of Oreos, or hit pillows with wiffle bats...for me it's getting lost in a place where I feel confident, and creative and safe.  AND...I get a new dress!  I'm looking forward to wearing it on a lovely, stress-free summer afternoon.  Ohmmmmmmmmmm..........



Down Dog Dress

I have been working on a project for the last year that was supposed to be wrapped up this past week.  Putting the finishing touches together has been consuming my time for the past several weeks and I was so glad that it would be off my 'to do' list.  But...it is still going on and I am a bit weary. (OK...really, really weary with a dose of frustration!) ...and haven't had time to do any sewing.  Which of course is a second dose of frustration!

Just before things heated up, I had made a new dress.  It is supposed to be my yoga dress, but I haven't had time to even go to a yoga class since I made it.  

It started because I don't like wearing just my yoga pants and a top around town to and from class...I know it is fashionable, but my yoga pants are very comfortable (aka old and getting older) and not really in the fashionable category any longer.  You might be asking...why don't you just get a new pair of pants?!  Definitely a good thought, but there is still the problem of feeling like I am walking about with my tights on that makes me feel as if I've forgotten something...like a skirt!!!  

I had seen a tunic/dress made out of a cozy knit with a nice drapy collar that I thought would be nice to just throw over my exercise clothes and go.  So that is how I ended up with my new yoga dress...which has yet to see the inside of a yoga studio!

The front seam is a bit to the right of center, curving down across the front from the deep U-neckline into the stepped hem.  The collar is a big rectangle that is sewn between a 'dickie' that fills the neckline, and the dress.  I flipped the fabric to the other side so the inset is black.  Since the collar is a single layer with a raw edge, you see both the gray side and the black side of the fabric as it drapes around the neck.  I have big scoopy in-seam pockets and sleeves that I can pull down to keep my hands warm.  The fabric is a cotton/poly textured knit a little heavier than a t-shirt, with a lot of nice drape to it.  

...so until I have the chance to get to my next 'down dog' session...it makes a very comfortable 'walking the dog' dress as well!  Namaste!


Looking for My Mojo

My sewing mojo has been stubbornly elusive lately.  I think an author might call it 'writer's block.'  Maybe it's the gloomy late winter weather, or just busy with life...whatever it is I can't seem to find a sewing project that captures my attention.  

Usually around this time of year I get all wound up in a spring creation that always ends up 'too-cute-for-its-own-good.'  Think pastels, ruffles, matching hat....right down the rabbit hole!  There's still plenty of spring ahead so it might happen, but not today.

Today I decided to do something that didn't require too much decision making, and would be a gentle nudge in the direction of my sewing room.  A bit of instant sewing gratification.

I have an alpaca sweater that has been looking for an outfit for a couple of years.  It is a cropped style that fits close around the middle.  I thought I would like it with jeans and a long shirt tail, but not so much...and I have tried several versions with no joy.  I was just about to give up but just couldn't bring myself to put it in the Goodwill box, not yet.  I thought maybe I would try it with a dress of some sort. 

I thought a dress that fit fairly close with a high waist so it would't compete with the cropped length of the sweater.  Not wanting to mess around making my T-shirt into a straight dress (remember the 'no decision' rule!) I found a pattern in my stash that looked like it would work.  I hadn't used the pattern before so I did make a trial balloon to see how it would fit...and...pleasant surprise...the only change I made was to drop the bust dart!  

I had pulled a piece of wool jersey that I liked with the sweater a while ago so that decision was already made.  It is a lovely Smartwool mill end, one of my favorite fabrics.  And just because it was feeling almost too simple, I decided a scarf would be nice.  For that I found a scrap of sheer silk and a goldish crepe de chine  that looked awful with the wool and the sweater until they were layered together...then they worked quite nicely.

The whole thing took about an hour...so about as close to instant gratification as it gets.  

AND I actually like the dress and sweater combo...finally, so I guess the sweater will dodge the Goodwill box this time!  


Pinball Wizard!

I've had a bit of trouble getting back into my studio.  I thought the 'envelop' tutorial would ease me back, but, not so much....I have ventured into the room a few times but mostly I bounce around like a pinball and end up remembering some very important business, like unloading the dishwasher!!!!

What I realized is, this pinballing feeling is actually a familiar state for me.  It usually shows up around the time that the seasons are going to change.  I'm over whatever I was thinking and planning for the current season, but not quite prepared for the next one.  It feels a bit early in Michigan to be thinking about spring and summer, but the fashion industry is already talking about next fall so I guess it's not to early to start piling up my linen projects!

In the spirit of more intentional sewing, I decided to 'watch myself' as I make the shift from winter to spring this year.  I know there must be a process, because it happens every year, so what is it? I think the "pinball feeling" is the initial step!

My brain has been busy collecting for awhile.  Images, colors, fabrics, techniques, patterns, ideas....all of this collecting is spinning around and creating that bouncing behavior.  I pick up a pattern, but am not sure what fabric I want...I find a cool shirt on Pinterest, but need to figure out the pattern, I read about a great technique in my Threads Magazine (wink, wink) and go trolling about for the right project...I'm like a dragonfly stopping for a few seconds here and there and then off on another mission.  So today I decided to look at my collection and see if there was enough stuff to start making a plan.

I have been aware that I'm being drawn to a little different color palette.  Of course, it's still very much in the 'mud colors' range, but I have noticed a pinkish-brownish-grayish color wiggling into the picture.  It's as good a place as any to start...

This color, which I'll call pinkish-gray for lack of a better name, started making an appearance in my yarn choices.  In December I started working on an alpaca cardigan (center) that was leaning in the pinkish-gray direction.  I carted a pile of linen and cotton yarns to Florida and back (left) but ended up working on a yarn that I picked up while I was there (right).

I also went to an artisans' fair while I was in Key West and bought a really cool eco-dyed linen dress...and guess what?....Yep, it's pretty much pinkish-gray. (there are a few blotches of gold, which come from tumeric!)

OK...a new color...

I next went hunting around in my closet to see if there were other hints of this color.  Obviously, it is not a total departure from my go-to palette and sure enough I came up with a cotton cardigan that I love but haven't really worn in awhile.  Excellent!

Let's take a wander in the ol' stash...

...a nice gray (with a hint of pink) stretch denim...a double sided gray/print ponte knit...how about something to give a bit of contrast...like a nice dark washed denim to round out the group.

I left that pile to marinade and moved on to another challenge that has been sitting on my table this fall and winter.

I have a gorgeous alpaca cardigan that keeps looking for an outfit.  Let's see...
I know that it is not hiding in my closet, been there, so how about the stash?  I'm liking the brown wool jersey, it has a hint of green that really blends with the heather of the sweater.

AND it looks fab with the tweed sweater I knitted last fall!  How about a gray (greenish) stretch twill, a cool novelty knit with velvet stripes and maybe that dark washed denim from the first pile ...

Whew! That's starting to feel like a couple of piles of potential....how about some pattern ideas...I hauled out the clipping file.  This is a folder that collects pictures, little sketches, catalog pages, etc. that catch my eye.  I started looking for themes...it appears that I am wanting a denim style dress (maybe that's the reason the dark denim ended up in the fabric pile?)...

...and there is also a group of tops that are conspiring...hmmm?

...how about the yarn stash...any potential there...????

The pinball feeling is starting to dwindle...I'm feeling the stirrings of a real plan...on to the pattern stash...

I think the wool jersey and the double faced ponte would be great dresses, and the cardigan needs a short waisted style....where's my journal...?

So THAT'S how I do it!  From pinball to plan!  
The collecting is fun and necessary, but working the ideas into a plan helps me focus and actually get to making stuff.  Of course you will notice that I always work in pencil!  There will be significant edits, about faces, total deletions and curveballs before the end of the season.  But, for now, I can head into my studio and instead of bouncing I can start pouncing (sorry, I couldn't help it)...😝