Shifting Geers

Ashland 2.0!

That's right...I went back to Ashland,OR to spend another week with Diane Ericson, Carol Lee Shanks and 20 other eager DOL'ers (Design Outside the Lines).  It really is like 'camp for grown ups.'  Several of the women (yes, it was all women), including me, have been to a DOL retreat before.  I was excited to attend the workshop this time because I really like Carol Lee Shanks work and philosophy about making.  

I also fell in love with Ashland last spring and was really geeked to be there again this spring.  Lithia Park in downtown Ashland is worth the whole trip for me!  It is amazingly gorgeous.

I am not exactly sure if I can adequately describe my experience this time around....it was not the week that I was expecting.

The first day we all got introduced to Diane and Carol's work and design approaches.  I love Diane's work and it is incredibly inspiring, as is Carol's.  For me, the pared down simplicity of Carol's work was especially attractive.  She creates her garments with simple shapes that take full advantage of the fabric.  Her 'zero waste' philosophy is admirable and I love the ways that she incorporates even the selvedges into her final pieces.  I wanted to try working with her ideas.

I cut out two different garments...one shift type dress and a t-shaped shrug...I realized very quickly that the equipment I was using was going to make either project a frustrating experience.  Not wanting to go there I put them back in the suitcase to finish at home.

The next day was "Pants Day."  Most of us tried and liked!!! Diane's Capitola Pants pattern. It is a one seam design and the fitting is done from the waist.  The final waist line does not follow a straight line like most patterns, but it really is a slick way to adjust for all different body types.  I am definitely going to make some more of them.

The next day I decided to take another whack at the shift dress, this time with fabric that was better suited to the basic sewing machine that I was using.  I found a really cute cotton dish towel at the local department store with bicycles on it and some fabrics at the quilt shop that were really great with it.  I started cutting and draping and piecing and painting and sewing and....

the more I worked, the more I realized... 

that the piece I was creating... 

was everything that I DON'T want to be!  

I left it on the dress form and almost ran out of the room.  I didn't know what to think or do.  I felt lost and scared...like I was losing a long time friend.  It sounds kind of 'drama queen' when I write about it now, but it was a real whack on the side of my emotional head.  My sewing and creating has always been the place I go when I need to feel centered and competent and confident.  All of a sudden it felt like that was gone.

After a good cry and some fresh Oregon air, I realized that this past year (since retiring) I have been 'hiding out' in my sewing room.  I have been making safe things.  Things that are well designed, beautifully executed, technically superb...and completely soul-less!  AND most of them I have never worn!  My sewing room has turned into a place to hide instead of a place to grow.  OK, whack in the head number two!

I was pretty shaken and thinking about just going home (the problem with that plan was that my husband was joining me for a trip to wine country and Portland later in the week.  I had to stay!)  On the way to dinner one of my fellow retreaters asked about my dress.  When I said that I hated it she asked what I wanted to do.  I said, "I want to make a rectangle!"  

I am so grateful to the "Rectangle Gang."  After dinner, and a lot of wine, they hauled me back to the sewing room and we all made rectangles!!!  It was just what I needed.  Like getting back on the horse.  I finally made the simple shift dress that I had been trying to make all week.  We laughed and sewed and made rectangles.

I know it doesn't look like that big a deal, but this little dress is exactly what I needed to make.  I am not sure what the next step in my sewing life is going to look like, but I know I want it to "feel" more like my little shift dress.  

As I said before...

I'm not sure this was the retreat that I was expecting, but I think it was the one that I needed.


A Twofer Hoodie

  I really like the lines of Marcy's new hoodie pattern.  As she describes it... My new hoodie pattern keeps the functionality with a feminine dash of sophistication.  

I decided to give it a go!

I did have to make a few changes...
-I lengthened the sleeves, of course
-I dropped the waist so it lined up with mine
-Marcy had the pockets follow the line from the back waist seam around to the front, which is a nice design detail. But I found the opening a bit awkward to get my hand in comfortably, so I changed the angle of the opening to be more like a traditional hoodie pocket.
-I took a bit of fullness out of the lower back section

I made a few more changes when I selected the fabric that I wanted to use from my stash.  As usual, I was a bit shy of the required yardage. (go figure!)

-I shortened the hood just a tad to conserve yardage.
-I cut the sleeves in two pieces...the main sleeve with the grain going the 'right' direction, and a cuff with the grain going in the other direction.  Again, to conserve yardage.
-I cut all the seam allowances to 3/8 inch
-I made the front facings a bit narrower...and was able to get all the pieces I needed. Whew!

The fabric that I chose is a stable, wool jersey (think ponte in weight), that was a lighter taupe/gray on one side and a darker version of the same color on the reverse side.  I couldn't decide which one I liked better so I decided to make the hoodie completely reversible.  (Which of course would be a great thing to know BEFORE cutting out the pattern!!!!!)  

Most of the details worked just fine for a reversible jacket.  

I decided to finish the lighter side by opening and stitching down the seam allowances.  Since I had already cut them to 3/8" I had to be careful to keep the seam allowances straight, no trimming allowed!  I used a thread that matched the darker side so if my stitching was a bit crookity it wouldn't be obvious.  I used a zigzag stitch to sew down the seam allowances.  

To reduce bulk, I used raw edge construction with zigzag stitching on the pockets and facings.  Figuring out how to place the interfacing for the front edges was a bit of a challenge.  I pressed it onto the light side and folded it so the dark side formed the front facing.  The hems were done the same way.

I really don't like the "standard" reversible button and buttonhole configuration, with a button sewn right next to the buttonhole.  I find it clumsy and not very attractive, and difficult to use.

I decided that snaps would be a more aesthetic solution.  I use Snapsource snaps.  Not only are they a great product, they are made by an inventor right here in Michigan!  Snap!

Instead of using the plain silver ring on one side of the snaps, I used the decorative head on both sides. I didn't realize it until I tried the hoodie on, but doing the snaps this way means the closing is right over left on both sides!  Sweet!

 The pockets were probably the most challenging design detail of the project.  

I had cut the 'patch pocket' for the original pattern before I decide to go completely reversible.  I didn't have enough in the scrap pile to make a second set of patch pockets for the reverse side, so, I made the patch pocket an inch taller by adding a binding to finish the top and I made a large "bound buttonhole" that is just a bit lower than the top of the patch pocket so it doesn't show from the other side.  I do have to be careful to get my hand into the pocket and not drop my tissue through the other pocket opening!

It was quite an engineering challenge, but fun to figure how to make both sides of the hoodie work.  

No worries about what to do with the leftovers!

And, I still don't have a favorite side!


Tried and True

 One of my wardrobe staples has become my Smartwool 1/4 zip tops.  They are pretty much a three season (and even a summer option for cool evenings!) item for me.  I have been collecting them for several years and now have a pretty respectable selection. (Yes, I own the gray and white striped one in the picture!) 

The weight is comfortable, the fabric is great...it wicks, it washes, it hangs dry without a wrinkle...I can wear them alone or under sweaters and jackets, the sleeves are extra long.  They are pretty much the perfect top for me.

Since they are already a 'Tried and true' option, I figured I couldn't go wrong using them as inspiration for a dress version.

The fabric I wanted to use was not wool jersey, but the weight was similar and the knit was a bit more stable which I thought would be nice for a longer, dress style.  I used my 'favorite T' pattern and added several inches to the hem, made a stand up collar band and added the zipper to the center front.

 To give the zipper a bit more 'flare' I added some wide twill tape over the zipper tape.  The tape came from an unlikely source...when you get something at Eileen Fisher you take it home in a lovely shopping bag with, you guessed it, wide, gray twill tape handles!  I don't keep the bags, but the twill tape is just too good to let go.  

I also used it to stabilize and face the edge of the pocket openings.  I sewed the twill tape to the edges and turned it to the inside and stitched it down, then just applied the pockets like patch pockets, lining up the edges with the side seams of the dress.  It makes them look like 'in-seam' pockets.

The twill tape makes another appearance as the facings for a walking split at the center back hem.

I am totally psyched about my new 1/4 zip dress!  It is all the things I love about the Smartwool tops...in a dress.  I think I may have a new wardrobe staple!