Close But No Cigar...Yet!


I have had a pile of fabrics with accompanying patterns queued up on my cutting table all summer.  They are all ready for me to make into a new Key West-ish wardrobe.  I have decided that my 'mud colored' closet just won't cut it in Florida so I have been collecting some other colors to try out.  I'm not sure I have moved significantly away from the mud, but I have added some hints of turquoise and coral and a dash or two of pink and yellow.  OK, baby steps!  I am really liking them but the problem is they just sit there.  I think I am so worried that with the virus hanging about we won't actually get to go to KW this fall.  If I make a bunch of new things to wear it will be even more disappointing if we end up in Michigan.  So I keep shying away from the pile.  Maybe next week....

In the meantime, in another part of the sewing room...I actually have made a few things!  These are definitely going to stay in the muddy Michigan closet!

There is a wearable art artist in Oakland who makes lovely, elegant garments using salvaged kimono fabrics and other Japanese textiles.  I have lusted after her work for literally years!  They are simple T-shaped tops made by patchworking the kimono scraps together.  To look at them you would think they wouldn't be that difficult to make.  But they have been deceivingly elusive.  I'm not sure if it's the fabric, the pattern shapes, the proportions....but some how I have not gotten there in my attempts.

Here are some of the pieces that have been inspiring my forays...

(You can see more of Susan Eastman's work HERE)

 As I said, deceptively simple!  

Here is a top that I made when Rhonda from "Rhonda's Creative Life" and I did several posts together last summer.  Rhonda had sent me several kimono pieces to work with and I immediately thought of the Susan Eastman tops that I had been wanting to try.

I knew it was going to be for Rhonda and she is lovely in blues.  I can definitely say that it was "inspired" by the Eastman tops, but it isn't quite there.

More attempts...

A few years ago I had a funky brown linen tunic that I wasn't wearing anymore, but still loved the soft, worn fabric.  I decided it might work as a skirt and a top...

I don't have a picture of the original tunic, but it looked something like this...

It had a high waist seam and a "breast pocket," which hung rather low even for me.😉 I cut through the seam and ended up with a "skirt" and a very short "top."

I finished the skirt with a simple drawstring and I have worn it often.  The top was a conundrum.  Too short on its own, big wide sleeves, I did like the V-neckline...I collected some scraps to add to it and ended up shoving them all into a "project bag" for another day.

When I came across them last week I again thought about the Eastman tops.  Another go...

The top is still a bit short, but when I put a band around the hem to add some length, it only made it stick out like I was in a hula hoop!  For now it will just be a bit short.  If I wear it with the skirt it blends enough to make it OK.  

Still not quite...

Round 3!

I had a small pile of Japanese scraps that my husband had brought back with him from a business trip eons ago.  I also had a pile of men's suiting sample swatches that my sister-in-law had sent even more eons ago.  I thought they would have the right Eastman 'vibe.'  I also had a few scrap of a bark cloth that I thought would work...the suiting samples ended up determining the size of the patches since they were all cut to the same size.   I mixed them all together...and...it started to look like a top.

I kept fussing and piecing and finally called it 'done.'  I had to scratch my head a bit on the neckline.  The suiting piece that ended up at the center front had a very definite windowpane check.  Because of the way it was cut, the center of the top did not match up with the windowpane pattern.  I just couldn't ignore.  A scooped or V-neckline would really point out the 'almost but no cigar' placement of the design.  I ended up creating an asymmetrical scoop, which I think works OK.


I feel like I am almost there...

I think my next go should probably be with some Key West colors!  We'll see.  Maybe it's time to dig into the KW pile?!

Note:  The stenciled leaf pieces in the brown linen top were done when I went to a Diane Ericson, Design Outside the Lines workshop several years ago.  It is a bit eerie and I didn't know it at the time, but as I was working on this project, Ashland, OR, where Diane lives, was being engulfed in a wildfire.  Diane actually lost her home and workshop in the fire.  It makes me incredibly sad that Diane has lost everything.  She has been such a huge inspiration for me and so many others in the sewing community.  She has always been unbelievably generous with her talent and her spirit.  I am holding a gentle space in my heart for Diane right now and wearing my "leaf" shirt makes me feel closer.  There is a GoFundMe effort underway to help Diane through this tragedy.  It is amazing to see the sewing community rally.  



Things are Getting Baggy...Again!

 There was a time not so long ago that every time I sat down to write a post I was talking about a bag!  I was truly on a mission and just kept making version after version trying to nail the perfect travel backpack!  Not sure I am done with it, but for now I am pretty happy with the version that I have been using. (Although the travel has been severely cut back! 😒)  BUT...the other day I got another bee in my bonnet about a "new" backpack idea.  I probably should have ignored it and let it buzz off into the distance, but no, I ran right into my sewing room and started tinkering.

The basic idea is a version of a fold over style messenger bag.  It has a lot of the same features that I was trying to incorporate into my travel backpack...zippered pockets that are concealed or inaccessible when worn as a backpack, some open pockets for quick "in and out" stuff (think sunglasses), a large compartment for big stuff that is out of the way most of the time and magically appears as needed.

So let me introduce you to my 'new' backpack....

The back side that rests against my back when worn has my favorite sideways phone pocket with a zipper of course.

The front side, or the side that is facing the public when worn, has another zipper pocket and two open pockets.  These are concealed by the fold over of the top of the bag.

The top third of the bag folds over to keep it more compact most of the time...but a zipper across the top opens into a compartment that is the full depth of the bag.  Lots of room for fabric shopping!!!

The handles are just long enough to slip comfortably over one shoulder if I don't want a backpack...example...there have been a few occasions that I have had to check my backpack at museums because it was not allowed.  If it had looked more like a shoulder bag it would have been permitted to go with me. 

The first round of my messenger cum backpack bag turned out pretty well.  I like the size, although it is a bit larger than my first pack.  There is a certain opening length to bag depth ratio that makes the inside compartment useable.  I am not sure what it is exactly, but I recognize it when it is wrong!!!  This one is workable.  I am not completely happy with the 'bound buttonhole' type zipper installation, but I have some thoughts....I guess I will be making a few more versions! 😉 Here we go again!


Summer of the White Shirts

I can't explain it, but I have been on a white shirt kick.  I haven't actually owned a white shirt for years and I can't remember the last time I wore one, so this white shirt spree is curious.  Not wearing white has mostly been a practical matter.  If I'm going to spill something on myself it's going to be when I'm wearing white!  (this by the way does not mean I don't spill things, it's just not as obvious on a grey or olive green shirt!)  

Since March I have made 3 white shirts, a white dress for me and one for my sister-in-law.  AND, I have two more teed up on my cutting table!  What the ....?  The other theme seems to be antique-ish linens.  All but one has been made from 'old' fabric or other table linens.   I really do like the lovely edges and open worked details of antique linens.  The quality of the fabrics is also wonderful, particularly when they have been washed umpteen times.

My latest white creation started as a dresser scarf.  It has an amazing lace border along one of the long edges.

My woven T shirt pattern fit absolutely perfectly on the piece!  What are the odds?!

I decided to use the finished side edges as my center back.  

Like I said....it fit perfectly!

I did have to find a piece of bias white linen to finish the neckline....hmmm I wonder if I have any scraps of white linen around?😆😜  Since I used the finished edges for the center back opening and the lace edge for the hems, this was a very quick shirt to put together.  I did do french seams so that took a bit of time.  Neck binding and buttonholes...bam! 


I used some porcelain buttons that have been inventoried for a very long time!  I wasn't sure if they would wash well, and we already discussed the need for me to be able to launder any white garments in my closet!  So, I made a thread loop on each button and pinned them to the back so I can remove them when I wash the shirt.


I'm not sure how many white shirts a person needs, but for now I am having fun and if I spill too much I can always dye them other colors!  Like "pasta sauce red" or "blueberry pie" 😂

Note:  If you subscribe to Threads Insider you can read about the shirt in the bottom lefthand corner of the picture.  I wrote about how to turn beautiful collar points!  check it out HERE


Provence with no Jet Lag!

...so...my husband and I had been planning a trip to Provence.  We have traveled with Yale Educational Travel Group in the past and have been eyeing the French immersion seminar for several years.  It is a month in Aix en Provence living in an apartment, taking language, cooking and art classes.  Visiting wineries, farmers' markets, and historical sites.  They only offer the trip every few years and this was it!  The last time they offered it some of us (i.e. my husband) were still working, this year with both of us gainfully unemployed, we were planning to go.   We would have been in the south of France for the end of June and the first part of July.  I have been thinking about this for years, but something has always caused it to be put off.  2020 was the year...NOT!

I was trying really hard not to be too disappointed.  Our adventure in France had been hijacked, yet again!  As the summer of isolation approached July I decided that we should go to France, regardless.  The trip had been cancelled and getting on a plane was not going to happen, so I put together an itinerary for a virtual trip to Provence.  I know, pretty lame, but it kept my mind off the reality of still being in Michigan.  I have to say, it has been really fun!  Obviously not the same as being there, but it made cooking dinner...AGAIN...a bit more entertaining.

Here is a recap of our "Virtual Stay in Provence..."

Day 1
Today in virtual Provence we made macaron.  I had taken a class at SurLaTable a few years ago and learned to make these finicky little treats.  I had made a batch of ice cream base a few days before which left me with 8 egg whites!  What else do you do with that many egg whites...make macaron, of course!  It takes the whole dang day!  I made lemon with lemon curd and blackberry jam filling, pistachio with dark chocolate ganache filling, coconut with chocolate filling and an almond edge, and my favorite, Earl Grey Tea with honey butter cream filling.  Mine turned out a bit 'rustic' but they tasted great!

For dinner we had:
Provencal Roasted Chicken
Roasted Potatoes and Fennel
and course, Rose!

Day 2
Today in virtual Provence we made bread.  There is a particular flatbread that is made in Provence called Fougasse.  I saw lots of versions for it on the interweb, but decided to go with the traditional that is filled with black olives.  I am not sure when French people find time to do anything but bake!  Again I spent the whole day fussing with flour!  

In preparation for our trip I had ordered several French cheeses and olives to sample.  So for dinner...

A cheese platter with four cheeses (the Roquefort was my favorite)
Olives and olive spread
Fig and blackberry jams
Apples and pears
Butter dipped radishes with sea salt
and of course wine (this time white!)

Day 3
Today in virtual Provence we visited a lavender farm.  For real!!  There is a lovely lavender farm about a 20 minute drive from our house (in Michigan, shhh)  We donned our masks and headed out to enjoy the amazing smell of rows and rows of lavender.  

...not quite as never ending as in real Provence.....


....but still pretty fragrant!  The farm has a U-Pick option that let me spend all the time I wanted wandering along the gravel paths and clipping and inhaling!  Sigh!

Dinner tonight, which did not include spending most of the day slinging flour....was a summer vegetable gratin and wine, duh!

Day 4
Today in virtual Provence was a bit rainy.  For inside fun, we made lavender wands.  It's a bit like making a tiny basket that surrounds the flowers so when they dry they make a sachet.  So pretty.



We also made cheese!  Now I only know how to make one kind of cheese and it happens to be ricotta.  But I decided to go with it!  The south of France is really pretty close to Italy!  

It cleared up later in the day so we could enjoy our Provencal soup outside.  I think this was my favorite dinner of the week.  The soup is loaded with vegetables and broken spaghetti noodles.  It doesn't have much seasoning as it's cooking, but you make something called "pistou" which is kind of like a pesto with tomato paste, basil, parmesan cheese and loads of garlic, which is stirred into the soup just before it is served.  It gives it such an amazing fresh, herby flavor.  ...and more rose!

Day 5
Today was our last day in virtual Provence and we tried to find some sunflowers, but the closest we got were the daisies along the fence.  Still pretty happy!

I'm not sure it is strictly Provencal, but one of my favorite dishes from France is Cassoulet.  Basically, French baked beans.  This time the wine was red!

Dessert was an amazing Roquefort and pear tart.  Salty, sweet, luscious!  The perfect final note for our trip!

Bonus!!!!  What fun, we decided to stay in Provence for a couple of more days!  (Translation:  we had several batches of leftovers that needed to be used up!)

Bonus Day 1
I always have a knitting project when I travel.  It is perfect to have along for long plane rides.  My project this trip was a cardigan using two different linen yarns so it has a tweedy look to it.  I finished it on our trip, with assistance from my favorite knitting helper...

Who was also eyeing le fromage at dinner....

Bonus Day 2
This really was our last day in France, and it was rainy again, so back to the kitchen.  The fougasse was finally finished and we had been in France for 6 days with nary a single baguette!  Mon Dieu!

I don't think you forget your first real French baguette.  It's hard to imagine that it is simply flour, water and yeast!  Crispy crust, tender inside, ahhhhhhhhhh.  It was 1989 when I had my first baguette.  When I got home from that trip I decided I was going to learn to make french bread.  I tried a whole bunch of recipes and learned that the right pans can make a huge difference in the quality of the bread.  For several years I made it quite often.  At some point it became easier to find good bread and I got busy with kids and work so it's been a while since I have made it.  I pulled out my Henri Emile baking pan and my favorite recipe and again spent the day immersed in flour!


I wish I could share the smell in the kitchen when this stuff is baking...heavenly!

On a rainy day in virtual Provence leftover cassoulet with fresh french bread and more wine!  Perfect ending.

...and a new knitting project for the plane ride home! 😉