A Buss Bag for Fall

Fall is my favorite season.  The first days when the temperature goes down feel like a sigh of relief after the last hot days of summer.  The colors , the smells...I like everything about it, except the fact that it means winter isn't far off!  

No matter how long I have been out of school, I still get that 'back-to-school' energy boost.  I have to go out a buy a new box of crayons or something!!  And, usually by now, I have swapped out the pile of linen on my cutting table for a luscious pile of wool.  But this year we have had, not just warm days, but our hottest days of the summer well into October!  It just hasn't felt right to go inside.

But this week, on the first rainy day of the fall, I gathered with several of my ASG buddies and we made 'carpet bags' with the lovely, creative Rhonda Buss.  (you can read about her sewing adventures here )

If you wander around at all in my past posts you will notice that I kinda like engineering and making bags...a lot.  So the chance to see another 'bag lady' in action was perfect.

We worked with Rhonda's pattern, that she assured us would fit under the seat in front of us, and possibly, even in the bag-size-checking device at the airport!  

We cut and stitched, laughed and chatted, and eventually had a roomful of very lovely, personality plus travel bags.  There was no doubt about which bag belonged to which sewer.  Everyone was a perfect reflection of the owner's personality and style.

Rhonda's pattern was well designed and the hints and tips she shared made them go together like a breeze.  I think there may be some more of these in my future!

Rhonda helping me adjust the placement of my straps.  

I was planning to use the black cotton webbing as it came, and Rhonda asked in her best innocent voice, "Are you going to add anything to the middle of your straps?"  WELL, I guess I am!  And she was absolutely right!  The strip of contrasting cotton gave the bag some extra panache and beefed up the straps to handle the size of the bag.  Good call coach!

Finished bag with my coach!

Love the way the bird is peeking out of the pocket of this bag!

Each bag was a total reflection of the maker!

A day away sewing with friends...the perfect way to welcome in fall!


Summer Memories

The end of the summer always takes me by surprise.  As much as I love fall, I do mourn those last sultry days before Labor Day.  I know that once the days start to shorten, it isn't long before we here in Michigan are plunged into the deep freeze.  

I had a little spurt of energy in August, which produced a few sewing projects, but I have been soaking up the last warm days and haven't wanted to spend them in my studio...there is plenty of time for that once the snow flies.

One of my favorite summer activities is walking on the Lake Michigan shore.  I realized very quickly that if I saved ALL the stones I picked up on my hikes I would soon need a bigger house!  So, I have allowed myself to keep only ONE stone from any given walk.  Yes, I can carry them around in my pocket all afternoon, but when it's time to head up the hill to the house, I have to choose, and let the others go.  Sometimes this is a several minute decision!  The stones live in a pretty wooden bowl and chronicle my beach walks.  (a happy side effect of keeping only one stone that I hadn't realized!) 

I have planned since I started collecting to some day make them into something.  Maybe put little holes in them and string them like beads, maybe glue them to something... on a rainy afternoon I started playing around with my stones and some wire...I ended up with a couple of necklaces that I kind of like and think a few more rainy days might get me a little farther down the wire-wrapping skill curve.  For now I'm enjoying these little reminders of my summer beach walks.


Reversible Do-over

I made a vest last spring to take along on my trip to Wales.  I had made one in wool jersey that I took to Italy earlier in the year and really liked it.  It was comfortable, and added that extra layer of warmth that was just perfect for traveling in the changeable weather of March.  I knew that the weather in Wales would be VERY changeable, it always is, so I decided to make a spring/summer version of the same vest.  

Here is a very dark picture of the vest on an outing with friends in London.  It's difficult to see the colors, which is a good thing...I had made an orangey shirt to wear with the vest and it was really way too ORANGE for the muted colors of the silk broadcloth of the vest.  Trust me...it was not my best matching effort.  And to top it off, the shirt was not particularly comfortable.  It would ride up under the vest and bunch at my waist.  Again, it is a good thing that the photo (and the restaurant) did not have very good lighting!

I was, however, happy with the way the vest had turned out.  So I really wanted to have something that I could wear with it that was not too orange.

I have been carrying around a scrap of the silk vest fabric all summer!!!  It is an impossible color!   I am not sure that what I ended up making is the final solution, but it is much better than the first go 'round.

I will share the vest and the new shirt now, but time will tell if this will be a repeating post!

The fabric for the vest is some that I got while I was traveling in China.  It is a silk gingham, that has been over-dyed with mud so only one side of the fabric is really dyed.  I am not really sure how it works, but the end product is a lovely muted rosy-orangey color on one side and the other side looks as if there is a filter of black over the original check pattern.  It turns out to be a double faced fabric that makes it impossible to decide which side to use as the face side!  I stared at both sides and finally decided to 'not decide!'  I made the vest reversible!

Double sided fabric is really fun to work with, but requires a bit more head scratching than simply lining a garment to make it completely reversible.  

Seams and Edges...
All the seams are french seams.  This keeps one color on each side of the vest.  I finished the edges with bias that was stitched and turned like a narrow facing.  Again, keeping each side all the same color.  

There are two pockets on the vest, one breast pocket and one just below the waist.  On the dark side the pockets are cut on the bias and patched to the outside.  On the lighter side the opening is a welt-type pocket and the top stitching from the patch pocket forms the pocket on the opposite side.  Almost as difficult to describe as they were to engineer and put together!!!!  The facing of the waist pocket on the dark side is the only place where I used the contrast.  The light side is all the same side of the fabric.

I added a 'fake' pocket to the center back yoke for a bit of interest on the back of the vest.

Earlier this year I had discover, purely by accident, that if you use snaps on a reversible garment, the closing ends up being right over left on both sides of the piece. (or left over right if you prefer!)  For this garment, I used two different colors of caps.  A tarnished silver for the dark side and a taupe/brown for the lighter side.  The spacing is also unique.  (no, I didn't mess up, I did it on purpose!)

You can see that the dying process makes the colors of the silk very muted and so a solid color tends to look too intense with the vest.  I really have not found anything that I am totally happy with, BUT I want to wear the vest!  I found a dark brown, almost black t-shirt weight knit in my stash(I think it is a cotton poly blend) that looked OK with both sides.  I didn't want to make a plain brown shirt.  It needed some other interest.

I ended up adding a couple of pieced stripes to the front of the shirt, using a small amount of the orange that I had used in the first shirt, a goldish color and a tiny black and white stripe.  Kind of an odd mixture, but I really like the way they work together and give a nod to the colors in the vest.

So, here's the second version of my reversible vest and shirt....

I am very happy with the way the stripe of the shirt peeks out at the neck of the vest.  And, yes, it was intentional!  When the vest is closed, it is the only bit of the other colors that shows.

I'll give this new shirt a test drive and see if I like it any better...and I will keep a look out for the 'perfect' fabric just in case there is a round 3.


A Sneak Peek at Fall

We are having an uncharacteristic August...much cooler than the norm, and absolutely gorgeous!  It is putting me in the mood for fall.  I know we will still have those hot last days of summer before we get 'real' fall, but right now I'm loving the hint of autumn in the air.  

I decided to take advantage of the  weather and get a jump on my fall sewing. I found an upholstery end cut at the fabric store the other day that I like with a sweater that I made last summer, but really haven't worn much.  I think it's because I don't really like what I made to go with it.  

The fabric is a decorator linen.  Really quite heavy, but soft and drapy.  Even softer after a few rounds in the washer and dryer!  I had a 2 yard hunk and it was 54 inches wide.  Lots to work with.

I picked out a Sandra Betzina pattern that I got from her booth at a trade show eons ago.  I have had it on my list to try for years!!  I had the chance to try on her sample garment and loved the bias cut of the dress.  The sample had been made with a heavy linen, so I knew it would work with the decorator fabric.  

I trolled around the interweb to see if anyone had made a version of the dress sans hood.  I knew I didn't have enough fabric for the hood and it certainly would not work with the sweater...the whole point of the exercise!  I was really surprised that I couldn't find ANY versions of the pattern.  Lots of Sandra's other patterns, but nada for this one.  Curious, because I think it is a lovely style.  I was on my own to come up with the 'non-hoody' version.

I cut the front and back pieces and knew immediately that this fabric was going to have to spend a good amount of time hanging around on the dress form to let the bias relax.  So I hung it up and went to work on the new neckline.  After several rabbit holes I finally landed on a simple v-neck with a wide facing.  Given the loose weave and the bias cut, I thought the neckline would need some extra stabilizing.  

It looks like a rather simple, straight forward dress...and it is...except that I was working with bias pieces and that took some extra steps.  Directional sewing, particularly at the neckline, was a must.  The bias really shifted around and wanted to wiggle out from under the presser foot at every opportunity!  The shaped seam at the back just above the waist is a particularly nice feature of this pattern.  A full back piece on the bias always ends up bunching up around the waist.  This shaped seam acts like a set of darts to take in the extra fabric and lets the dress hug into the curve of the back.  Very flattering!

I wasn't sure whether to add the sleeves or go sleeveless, but I rather like them and they don't get in the way under the sweater, when it's on me...on the dress form it's a different story!

The sweater is very cropped and the waist-defining bias of this dress really works well.  I think it will be a nice transitional piece when we get to having 'real fall.'  


Key West Dreamin'

When I was in Key West earlier this year I packed very lightly.  I literally had 2 t-shirts for the whole month.  One to wear, one to wash!  It was really rather freeing to not have to decide what to wear.  I just put on the clean shirt everyday.  I know it is way early to be thinking about packing for January, but the weather is starting to feel a bit fall-ish and as I was gathering up my summer project pile and putting away the fabrics that didn't quite make it to the sewing machine this summer, I decided that if I wanted new t-shirts in Key West this winter, I could make them now and still get a few weeks of wearing before the weather turns.  (I know, weird, but that's where my brain went!)  

So...new stuff for Key West...

Having only a few things means that they need to work hard and work well together, so I started with a fun tropical print to set the color palette.  Gray and aqua.  I made four pieces and we'll see which ones end up in the suitcase.  It's nice to have a bit of a try-out period.

1.  Fun tropical Hawaiian shirt.

I used my tried and true camp shirt pattern to make an oversized Hawaiian style shirt.  The fabric is a cotton and rayon blend that feels very tropical.

2.  Comfy T-shirt Dress

I worked on this pattern last summer for a t-shirt style dress but never got around to making it. I kept nipping it in as I was putting it together and I think it might still be a bit too big.  The fabric is also quite soft, it feels really lovely, but I'm afraid that it may stretch out a bit too much.  I may need to take another whack at it before I decide if it makes the Key West cut.   Right now it is not an unqualified success.  (I do like the pockets!)

3.  Striped Linen T

One of my two shirts from last year was a gray linen jersey t-shirt.  I really loved it!  The linen jersey was soooo comfortable and dried much more quickly than cotton jersey...important when you only have two shirts!  I found this cute linen jersey stripe to make a new version.   Even though it was quite challenging fabric to work with, I like the way it turned out.

4.  Cropped French Terry Sweatshirt

I am hoping that I won't have to wear this one too often, but it is January...even in Key West!
A gray sweatshirt seemed kind of boring (practical, but boring!) so I put it together with the seams to the outside and stitched down the raw edges.  I think they will fray nicely as I wear it and give it a bit of character!

I'll give these pieces a 'test-drive' for the last weeks of the summer and see it I think they can handle the rigors of the Key West adventure.  Only a very few get to make the trip!


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!