Christmas Coat Number One

I feel like it has been a really long time since my last installment....I could haul out all the tired excuses, but the truth is, I have been procrastinating, big time, on my oiled canvas coats.  The stuff is really scary!😱

I received my heavy package from Merchant and Mills back in October!  I figured I had plenty of time to whip up three (maybe four) oiled canvas jackets before Christmas.  Oh silly naive Pollyanna!

Well, the first wrinkle came when we decided to go back to London the first week of December for an early Christmas with my now London based offspring.  Very fun, but that meant one coat had to be completed before the end of November! (and I would be in London for a week which would definitely eat into my sewing schedule for the other coats!)  AND I was still terrified of my pile of oiled canvas!

The 'last minute' always has a way of motivating me, so I jumped in.

My oldest son had chosen the Foreman jacket pattern in black oiled canvas.  I got the pattern ready...lots of additional inches for long torso and long arms...I was crossing my fingers that I had measured everything correctly.

When I started I had visions of maybe lining the sleeves and maybe a half back lining....I got the first pocket in place and realized that if I got the bare minimum of seaming completed I would be very lucky!  Because of the waxy finish there was no ironing allowed and, like leather, if you have to pull out any stitching, it leaves a lovely perforated line in the fabric.  So, no mistakes!!! 😳  I also discovered that I had to take a lot of breaks while working with this fabric.  I was literally sweating at times wrestling the weight through my sewing machine. 😰  I haven't had a challenge like this in a long time.  I love it!

 I used the recommended heavy jeans needle and heavy duty thread and still went through 4 needles for one jacket!!!  Like I said...this is tough stuff!  By the time I got ready to make the buttonholes I knew that that was never going to happen...plan B...big 'o snaps.


I packed it up along with a really cute wool version of the Francine sailor top for his girlfriend and hoped like heck that they would fit!


We got to London on Wednesday and were planning to have our Christmas celebration on Sunday.  I was a nervous wreck waiting to see if I had gotten everything right.  Whew!  The Christmas angels were watching over me!  Both pieces fit and looked great!


My models were a bit self conscious about being photographed...so I did the best I could!  I think they look pretty darn cute!

OK...one down...two to go!  🎄🎅  Ho, Ho, Ho!


Coat Season

I am really excited to share my progress with the Merchant and Mills patterns and oiled canvas....BUT....it will have to wait!

Santa (nudge nudge wink wink) can't give away any secrets just yet!

Suffice it to say that I will not need to do much weight training while I am working on these coats!!!  It is heavy duty stuff.  I work up a sweat and I don't even have my iron on!  (no ironing on oiled fabric!)

I was rolling right along and ready to dive into coat number two over the weekend, but...I went through my entire supply of heavy duty jeans needles and had to stop!  However, my sewing mojo was still cranking away.  Not wanting to lose that momentum I pulled out another project that has been hanging around for awhile.

I figured since I was in coat mode...
I have been looking for a pattern/style to go with a heavy coat weight wool jersey.  It is fairly dense stuff and I wanted to do something that I wouldn't have to put a lining in because I like the heavy sweater feel of the fabric.  The Casey Coat from Style Arc looked like just the ticket.  It is an unlined, cocoon shaped coat, and has some nice style lines.

I knew the dropped shoulder seam would need some changing to make it work for my broad shoulders.  It took some head scratching to get it figured out, but I got something that I like.  
The front of the coat has a facing and separating zipper.  There was no way my heavy knit was going to work for facings.  I found a lighter wool jersey that looked great and had the right weight to hold up to the coat weight fabric, but not add so much bulk.

I also decided that a half lining in the back would make it easier to get the coat on and off, and would help stabilize the neckline and armholes.  (My simple unlined sweater coat was getting a bit more involved!)

Not having the coat totally lined meant the finish on the seams was going to show.  I started sampling...

A simple flat felled seam looked rather blah...so I decided to incorporate some of the lighter weight jersey to add a bit of pizazz to the seams....

Once I had a seam finish that I liked I had to rethink the whole in-seam pocket thing...

Soooo...this was supposed to be a quick diversion until I could get to the store for more jeans needles!  Oh well, good thing I'm retired!

The whole thing took me several days, but it turned out really well.  The fit is great.  My shoulder engineering was just what I needed.  The back lining was also just enough to ease the coat on and off without hanging up on my clothes, and it did provided a little break from my oiled canvas workouts!

Oh...and somewhere in the midst of it all, I did get to the fabric store and load up on heavy duty jeans needles!



Francine and Heroine

We just returned from a week in the Hudson River Valley, where every time you turn around there is a more magnificent view than the last!  It's not hard to see why the rich and famous of the "Gilded Age" built their mansions there!  It certainly made me wish I were a better photographer!  The week was filled with history and amazing architecture and absolutely gorgeous scenery...everywhere!  The only regret is that I arrived in Rhinebeck the day AFTER the Rhinebeck Wool and Sheep Festival! (missed it by that much!) I will just have to go back.

When I wandered into my sewing room all my Merchant and Mills patterns and fabrics were waiting patiently.  It was so much fun to have them there, ready to go....

I decided to start with the Francine sailor top and the Heroine jeans.  Because I had tried them on at the shop I had a bit of a head start, but I wasn't ready to commit "real fabric" before sending up a few trial balloons to test the fit.


I have a box of fabric that has been designated for donation.  This means that basically it is not 'real' anymore, at least to me.  I have effectively let it go and so using pieces from this box for trial balloons makes it easy to just cut with abandon.  No emotional attachments.  The beauty is if they work out I can actually wear them...bonus!

My first whack at francine ended up being the dress version.  The pattern piece fit exactly on the length of fabric so I went with it.  The only change I made was to lengthen the sleeves, of course.  What I learned is that I have broader shoulders than the Merchant and Mills models.  The dress is wearable as long as I don't want to raise my arms!  Once I added an inch or so across the chest, I was ready for trial balloon number 2.

This time I picked a scrap of ottoman wool that was the weight of the fabric that I would like to use for the 'real' version.  I spent WAY too much time monkeying around with little leather button tabs for a mock up garment...but hey, it's all fun!  And I think I'll wear this one...

I didn't have enough of my scrap to make the facing so I used a piece of cotton jersey, which actually worked out well and reduced the weight around the neck.  I used the reverse side of the ottoman for the collar.  Why not!?  I think Francine is ready for the real world.

Next I moved on to Heroine.  (that sounds kind of weird....) ...the jeans pattern.  I had a piece of advise that makes a lot of sense.  I was told that you should never wear the same style more than once in a lifetime.  This pattern flies directly in the face of that sound counsel.  It is right out of my high school yearbook...high waist, full legged jeans!  Can I pull it off? (Please don't tell me if it's "no," I have already worn them in public! 😳)

I actually had some leftover denim so that was the choice for the first round. I had tried on the shop pair and they weren't bad so I knew what size to start with.  I made my standard pants adjustments...move the lower legs toward the inseam, make an 'L' shaped crotch curve and lengthen the heck out of them.  I have to say that I love these pants!  The instructions are really great, particularly for the zipper.  And they make me feel like a teenager, even if I don't look like one!

So far I am really enjoying the Merchant and Mills patterns.  I will be moving on to the jackets and parkas next and then climbing the learning curve for working with waxed canvas!  Should be fun!

Stay tuned.....


Slipping into Halloween

....Looks pretty harmless doesn't it?  A simple slip...no big deal...just whip it up in no time!  HA!!!!!!

A couple of ideas collided this morning and the resulting thought seemed like a great solution! 

Idea 1:  I have a Clavin Klein slip that is forever old, but I love it.  It is a simple knit, single layer, nothing fancy, but it works.  I have tried to replace it on several occasions, but everything I find has some kind of heavy duty spandex body shaper thing going on...I just want a plain ol' slip, thank you.

Idea 2:  We are heading out on another adventure next week and there are several 'schmancy' dinners that will require, well something schmancy!  Because whatever I take will be folded up in a suitcase I decided a simple sweater with a lace skirt would be appropriate and wouldn't require too much besides a couple of shakes and maybe a few minutes in a steamy bathroom.

Solution!!!  Make a lace skirt (already have a piece of black chunky lace that will do nicely) AND a neutral slip to wear under it, which will act like a lining for both the skirt and the sweater.  I thought it was brilliant!

I started with the slip....

Making a copy of the CK slip was really simple, like making paper doll clothes.  I'm thinking I'll have this project wrapped up and packed by noon!  A few seam samples, yep going to need that stretch needle, here we go.  First up finish the front and back necklines.  I'll just use my handy dandy Steam a Seam and turn the edges with a twin needle, Bingo....or not....every stitch wedged the fabric further and deeper into my bobbin case.  Plan B.  How about a sheer ribbon edge, perfect...or not...the ribbon went onto the edge just fine, pressed it, ouch, the steam shriveled the ribbon to about half it's original length.  Plan C.  Use better ribbon.  Way to heavy!  Plan D.  A folded edge of the slip fabric...Ahhhhhh, but wait, did I just sew the front on the wrong way!????  Arrrg! 

I finally got the necklines finished, the right way around, and went on to tackle the straps.  I'll just skip to Plan F....1/2" tube with a twin needle stitch down the middle.  It's now 4:15 in the afternoon!!

My simple little, innocent looking slip had turned into an early Halloween scare fest!  I did every single step not just twice, but three or more times.  I had more thread in the trash than in the slip!  At some point it just became me or the slip!  It was sheer stubborn determination that finished the #@$##@! thing.  BUT, I am glad that I persevered because in the end I really am happy to finally have a simple little slip with no spandex.  AND, I have to say that I simply adore the 'bug mounting' pins from Merchant and Mills.  They were lifesaving working with slimy knits and sheer ribbons. 

By 6 pm I called it a day and decided the 'simple black lace skirt' will have to wait for another day. 🙀


Fabric on Rye

I'm back from my UK travels and, gratefully back to full health!!  I was overwhelmed with the well-wishes you sent and know they played a major role in my speedy recovery.  Thank you!

I have renewed gratitude for the miracle of good health.  I know my experience was minor on the scale of health crises, but it did serve to remind me that we can't take our health for granted.  I am so happy to be enjoying mine again and just in time for my favorite autumn season.

One of the favorite things that happened on my recent journey was the conspiracy of events that took me to Rye and my new favorite fabric store...Merchant and Mills!

Before I left for the UK I had come across (on Pinterest of course) a great rumply linen jacket that screamed, "make me for fall!"  I tucked it away with a note to find out more about it when I got home...

The second nudge came when I stopped in at Liberty of London.  (always my first stop when I visit...fabric and cream tea in the same place...duh...of course it's my first stop!) 

While trolling around in the fabric and yarn departments I noticed a series of patterns that I'd not seen before.  They are based on simple working garments, but with a contemporary edge to them.  Hmmmm....another 'note to self.'

We ended our travels with a stay in Brighton where we visited with my son, his girlfriend and her family who live there.  We decided to take a day trip to Rye, an old medieval village just a bit east of Brighton.  Knowing that I like to sew, our host recommended a stop at a place she had heard of but hadn't yet visited.  Our Google map took us straight to, yep,  Merchant and Mills!!!!  It is the actual first and only store...they sell their patterns in other fabric retailers, but the fabrics and notions are only available at the store (and a few things on line...but you can't touch them on line!).

Not being a teenager, I don't often use the term, "OMG"...but...OMG!!!!!!  I was in love!!!  All the patterns, incredible hardware for bags and jackets, vintage notions (I got the finest of fine black steel pins with little gold heads, they are used to mount bug collections!) and the fabric is to die for!  Before I could even pull my drooling self together my son and my husband had both picked out patterns and fabric that they wanted and asked if I could make them.  (can you say Merry Christmas?!)   We spent the next hour and a half trying on the sample garments, picking out which colors of oiled canvas to buy and collecting a huge pile...of course they can ship to the US!

Michelle, who was a bit taken a back by our exuberance, did an excellent job keeping track of us and all the yardages (meters!).  She even agreed to a photo before we headed out to explore the rest of Rye.  (which, btw, is charming!)

I was really thrilled that our package arrived within two days of returning, I don't think I could have waited any longer.  I'm so excited to dig into the patterns and projects, especially knowing that my boys are excited about them as well.  They always appreciate when I sew for them, but the fact that they actually picked out the projects means a lot.  I have a pile of work this fall!

Seeing the store was amazing, but when I opened the DHL box the experience kept getting better...just look at the darling packages...so English!

...And of course all the wonderful treasures inside.

I have no idea how to sew oiled canvas, but stay tuned, I'm sure I can call Michelle if I get into trouble!  Cheerio!


Easing into Fall

I've been laying low for the past few weeks trying to get my strength back frollowing my bout with pneumonia 😟 before we head out again for another adventure.  This time we are heading to England and renting a houseboat on the Thames River.  We have been assured that it will be easy and even with no boating experience we should do just fine.  I'm imagining an episode of Gilligan's Island!!!!  We'll see!  

While I was trying not to do very much I had some quiet days in my sewing room.  I'm not advocating a major illness, but it was a bit of a silver lining to have time to sew.  I thought I would share a quick post before I head out...

I have been eyeing a piece of decorator linen at my local Hobby Lobby.  I would check it out whenever I went in, trying to decide if it would soften up enough to make a dress.  Last week all the decorator fabrics were on sale (30% off!!! Yeah!) So I bought a couple of yards to see what would happen.  The first time in the washer and dryer a bit of the sizing washed out, a couple more rounds and it softened up really nicely and got that wonderful linen rumpled feel that I adore.

Since I had just spent a month honing my T-shirt pattern with Rhonda, I kept the ball rolling and used my favorite woven T pattern as the starting point.  When I decided that I wanted to add the collar, I measured the neckline and then measured the only piece of fabric I had left, and...it was meant to be.  It was exactly the right size, I didn't even cut it!  

Here's my first fall feeling project...I'm looking forward to a few more when I get back at the end of the month!

Bon Voyage!


Week Four: A T for All!

WOW!  What a whirlwind August has been!  Not only trying to keep up with the flurry of T-shirt projects, but life took off on a bit of a tear as well!

Since the beginning of the month  I have enjoyed an "Outstanding in the Field" dinner at a fruit farm in southwest Michigan...(you can read more about this amazing event HERE.)

...Traveled to Eastern Washington State to join my nephew's wedding celebration, which took place in the small community of Mazama, that was surrounded by wildfires!  Everything was enveloped in an eerie cloud of smoke and ash.  Quite dramatic...

...Spent a short day and a half in Seattle, which was also experiencing smokey air, so we opted for the Pike Place Market and the Chihuly Gardens rather than the Space needle...


...went to Chicago to pick up my sister-in--law who is visiting from Italy and took in a performance of Hamilton...

...AND...contracted pneumonia, just in case I wasn't convinced that I needed to slow it down a bit!!!!

Fortunately, because I knew I had a packed up schedule at the end of the month, I worked on my final T-shirt project before the pneumonia part of the program kicked in. (and kicked my butt!)  So I do have some things to share for our final week of the woven T challenge.

A few observations about the Woven T project before I share my final week's work... Each week I have had literally dozens of ideas rolling around in my head and scribbled on scraps of paper.  I had trouble narrowing down to just one or two.  It was great!!!!  I had been in the "idea doldrums" for most of the summer so having the challenge has been a true jump start.  A boost in creative energy is always a good thing, I'm sure it will carry me right into fall sewing projects.

Rhonda's gift box of fabric was such a treat and catalyst.  It also elicited a reaction that was a total and wonderful surprise.  Each of the gifted fabrics held emotions and memories and price tags and possible projects....but not for me!  They came to me totally unencumbered!  When I pull a fabric from my own stash it comes with all the years of baggage that it has been collecting while waiting patiently for me to decide.  Often these attachments make it difficult to actually use a piece of fabric.  "It was sooo expensive...it was going to be for a wedding in 2002...my grandma gave it to me...and on, and on...."  But, the fabrics that came to me from Rhonda had no little voices whispering to me, they came as pure potential.  I could cut and stitch with abandon!  It was incredibly freeing and fun!  It made me realize how many pieces I have that could get passed along and be freed of their emotional chains and become a catalyst for someone else.  Hmmmmmm...

Thank you Rhonda for all the amazing fabrics, the reintroduction to raglan sleeves and your generous spirit.  It has been such a fun month and seeing your creations continues to inspire new possibilities.

So, on to week four, with abandon!...a "T-for-all!"  We decided we would each do whatever took our fancy for our last week.  😳  Cue the dozens of ideas!

One of the ideas that was inspired by the raglan sleeve pattern was to 'outline' all the seams.

I love using my bias binding foot because it makes a small (3/8") tidy bound edge that can actually be used for seaming.  I also had a tea towel with black and white bikes on it that had been a contender for week 1.  I toyed with adding other colors, but in the end stuck with a black and white theme. 


To use the binding foot, I cut 1" bias strips of black cotton that were fed through the bias binding foot along with the "edge" getting the binding.  I put the wrong-sides of the pattern pieces together and bound them together so the black binding was on the outside of my garment.  The foot folds and stitches the binding all at one time.  It's pretty slick!


The tricky part is figuring out which seams to do first so that all the joins get covered in binding.


I extended the pattern to make a T-shirt dress (since I have 3 new shirts already this month!) and added some pockets.

It's cute, it fits...and, maybe it's because I'm recovering from pneumonia, but it feels a lot like a hospital gown!  We'll see....I think it was better in my head than on the dress form.

Number two idea was way more successful in my book!  Again, the starting point was a tea towel.  A gorgeous tea towel that Rhonda had made from one of her paintings.   It was included in my fun gift box.  I apologize for the miserable color in the pictures, it was difficult to photograph, just imagine the palest of greens and vibrant purples!

I realized that I have been lusting after a Susan Eastman style T all summer and hadn't actually made one for myself.  Rhonda's painting, Susan's style...

The towel needed to be extended and the fabric had quite a bit of body, so I decided to slice it up and add linen strips to soften the hand and create the extra yardage needed for a shirt.  The purple fabric is actually over-dyed kimono fabric (echo week 2), the hand dyed colors are just perfect with the painting on the towel.

I was worried about just chopping into the towel so I made a photo copy and cut that up to try out my idea before whacking into Rhonda's lovely towel.


The striped result makes me think of seeing a flower garden through a picket fence.

And finally, when my sister-in-law saw the blue cotton lawn print that was also part of the infamous gift box, she loved it!  She had asked if I would be able to make her a dress like one she has that is getting a bit worn.  She continues wearing it because it is made of very light weight cotton and is perfect for sweltering late summer days.  The blue print was just the type of fabric she had been looking for...so we whipped it up!  It will definitely be comfortable when the temperatures hit 90 this week!

I used the Chelsea Raglan pattern again with selvedge edges on the sleeves and a facing at the neckline topstitched to the outside.  It's so light and easy, I may need to have one for myself.

My final 'tea recipe' is one that I learned from a friend who practices and teaches ayruvedic yoga methodologies.  Whenever things get a little too crazy this simple warm drink soothes and calms me inside and out.  This week as I have been struggling to regain my strength and rebalance after my mega-dose of antibiotics, it has been the perfect remedy.

Juice a lemon or a lime, it ends up being about 1/4 cup of juice.  Add the juice to about 2 cups of hot water along with several slices of fresh ginger.  Let it cool slightly before adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey, finally add a very small pinch of coconut oil.  Namaste! 🙏