Merry Christmas and Coats for Everyone!

Whew!  I think Christmas may be over for this year?  There is nothing left in the 'pile-o-gifts' that has been taking up the end of my sewing room counter, so I think we may be done.  The last celebration was with my youngest son who spent a lovely holiday in San Fransisco and left his busy little rescued pup with us for four days.  When he returned this weekend we had a lovely brunch and had to send little Gizmo home... along with the last of the gift pile.

Taking care of Gizmo was really fun and really tiring!  I had forgotten how busy a pup can be, particularly one that is discovering a new place.  She was really efficient at finding all the things that are NOT for dogs!  But I also loved that she needed to go for walks!  Just the motivation I needed to get my over indulged holiday self outside!

As part of our 'puppy instructions' we learned that Gizmo sometimes gets cold and shivers when she is outside for too long.  Well, that won't do!  I figured I could do something about that.  I had made coats for everyone else this year...why not the little dog, too.

Believe it or not, I do not happen to have a dog coat pattern in my stash, which meant that I had to come up with one.  It is not so easy to measure a dog.  She thought I was trying to play and kept trying to 'tug of war' with my tape measure!  Eventually I got the two measurements I needed and made a quick Trial Balloon to see if my idea would actually work.  ...it did!

Here is my first try...


I used the scraps from the Francine top that I had made for my son's girlfriend.  It is a soft almost blanket like fabric and made an excellent doggy coat as well.

For the 'real' version I fished a coat that my husband was planning to donate out of the Goodwill box and went to town!



I'm not sure Gizmo is as pleased as I am with the result, but she is a very good sport and wears her coats without a fuss.  In fact, she seems to quite like them, and we had no shivers, even on our longer walks!

It was much easier to tell that my husband and son were pleased with their respective Merchant and Mills Landgate jackets.  They both picked the same pattern and the same fabric.  After setting the sleeves in my older son's Foreman jacket I was glad that they had chosen the raglan sleeve coat, until I started wrestling with the hood and the sheer volume of the pattern.  Oiled canvas is a workout no matter what pattern you use!


I continue to be impressed with the Merchant and Mills patterns.  The instructions for the zipper and hood are really great, and the results are so professional.  


I have enough fabric to make a coat for myself....I think I will take a bit of a break before another round with oiled canvas...my sewing machine needs a break as well!

Here's my son giving me his best 'high fashion model' pout....


With sooooo much Christmas this year I haven't even thought about my upcoming Key West adventure!  😳  Happy New Year...and here we go again!


Christmas and more Christmas

Christmas this year is coming in installments.  We had the first installment with our son and his friends in London at the beginning of December.  It was great timing!  We could enjoy all the fun London holiday decorations without being caught up in the major crowds that happen later in the month.

Not sure if this little guy counts as "Christmas decor," but I thought he was pretty cute anyway!

The next installment was the 3rd (I guess you could call it annual at this point) Sewing Friends Holiday Luncheon...at my place!  My co-conspirator hosts our monthly gatherings throughout the year because her place is more central and more easily accessible for most of the group.  But, once a year the group makes the trek to my house, which is no small feat.  Country roads, an impossible driveway and no parking!  I am very grateful that they make the journey and let me get all Martha Stewart-y once a year.  I have fun thinking up a fun table arrangement with some kind of fabric/sewing theme, and planning a meal with all the recipes I've been wanting to try.  

This year the menu included selections from my new Ina Garten cookbook...I know that her recipes will turn out and be delicious, and she didn't let me down.  I also had fun making little bird tree ornaments with scraps of wool.  They are so simple, but, IMHO really cute!



I was having so much fun with all my buds that I completely forgot to get a group picture....but I did take a quick snap before they arrived!

The next X-mas gathering will be on the 25th...imagine that...with the 'local' clan.  We have had a long tradition of making our holiday gifts.  There were several years when we made gifts for each family member and the kids all helped with gifts for each other...it was pretty daunting, but so worth it when we were all sharing homemade treats and treasures.  With even more folks as kids have started getting married and having more kids, we have toned it down a bit.  We have a fun white elephant game and anyone who feels the need to "get their crafty on" makes simple gifts.  I think that the tradition of making our presents for each other has kept the spirit without so much attention on the $$.  

This year I wanted to try a project that has been on my 'to-do' list.  On our two trips to England this past year, I was very aware of the 'single use plastic' problem.  We hear about in the US, but in Britain it has really gone crazy.  Finding alternatives is a very big deal.  I was seeing waxed cotton used to wrap food instead of plastic bags.  Sooooo....

I collected several Batik fabrics...I figured they had already been waxed once!

I scattered beeswax beads....

Put a second piece of fabric on top...covered both with parchment paper and 'pressed' them until the beeswax had saturated the fabrics...

Hung them to dry....

And folded them into little bundles.

I made some for wrapping sandwiches or cheese, some round ones to cover bowls or jars...the warmth of your hands molds the wax and helps make a seal.

They are supposed to last for about a year, and then you can re-wax them.  We'll see.

Our other son will be spending the holiday with friends in San Fransisco, so we will be having Gizmo here for Christmas....she is a rescue dog and hasn't been without her boy before...I hope she does OK....

We will have our final Christmas celebration when Gizmo's boy returns next week...I'm excited to share some other Christmas sewing then.

This is the never ending Christmas....
Ho, Ho, Ho!



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.....