Sewing Lessons

As I sit outside enjoying the warm breeze and gorgeous sunshine of Key West, I am thinking about next week when I will be plunged back into the reality of Michigan winteršŸ˜«....the saving grace is that I will have plenty of studio time!  

One of the things that I have enjoyed about keeping my blog is that I have a record of my sewing projects and can look back over the year and evaluate what has been successful and what was...well...not all that great.  As I have been wanting to be more intentional about sewing things that I actually enjoy wearing, I have found this review to be very helpful.  So what have I learned in 2017....

My fascination with bags continues...

I really enjoy figuring out all the pockets and the straps and hunting down the notions that go into making bags.  The broken needles and pins imbedded into my fingers are not so much fun, but part of the process working with heavier fabrics and sewing over 8 layers at a time!!!  Even with all of the different bags I have played around with, what do I take when I go traveling?  Yep, the ratty ol' nylon, fold up backpack!!  Hmmmm...a lesson?

Knitting has also been more part of my creating in the past few years.  I think as I have been traveling more often and spending weeks at a time away from my sewing studio, I have found the portability of knitting a great asset.  I do have to spend time 'finishing' when I am at home.  As projects near completion it is more difficult to take them along, so I seem to end up with several almost finished projects at some point in the year.

I am getting better at figuring out how to read a pattern and actually alter it to fit me...but I think my most successful (measured by how often they come out of the closet) knitted garments are those that I make with my own patterns.  And often the ones that start in one direction and take several twists and turns along the way...like my current project, which has morphed at least twice since I started it. 

I think the biggest "wake up call" this year was realizing that, just because I can doesn't mean I should!  Working with Carol Lee Shanks in Ashland this past spring I found myself working on a project that felt comfortable and familiar to me and ended up being exactly what I didn't want to be doing!  Carol's intriguingly simple shapes out of luscious fabrics really captured my imagination and sent me in a new direction...I am still trying to figure out where Carol ends and Becky begins and how to blend the ideas into an authentic voice.  I am planning another DOL adventure in Taos this summer and will have another chance to work with Carol.  Hmmmm....more lessons?

One of my favorite garments this past summer was the simple striped cotton dress that I made using Carol's ideas.  I wear it often and always feel just right when I have it on.  I think there will be more exploration in this neighborhood in 2018.

When I look at travel photos I realize that what I am most often wearing is a Smartwool 1/4 zip, long sleeved shirt, or some version of a "T" shaped garment!  These are my 'go-to' garments.  So it's no surprise that two of my favorite garments of 2017 are the boiled wool vest and the 1/4 zip dress.  

Hmmmm....more lessons?

As I bid goodbye to lovely Key West and make the transition back to winter I am looking forward to incorporating some of the lessons from 2017...

- More bags...maybe in nylon!
- Keep on knitting!
- K.I.S.S.  (keep it simple, stupid!)

Thanks for indulging my habit and sending your thoughts.  Let's see what we can create in 2018!!!


What I did on my Summer Vacation...

Last summer I mentioned that I was working on a project that I couldn't share...well, I can now fill you in on it.  I was working on a garment for an article that is in the current issue of Threads Magazine.  

My idea is something that I have used often in my designs.  I look to one
fabric for inspiration when creating an embellishment for another fabric.  I often have fabrics that I want to use together because I like the color or the drape or the weight, but they don't necessarily coordinate with each other.  I will use some detail of one of the fabrics as the spark for embellishing the second one.  I also use this idea when I want to tie a piece together that might have several fabrics in it.  I call it "Echoing."  

(THIS older post has a good example of how I used the idea of echoing)

I don't usually copy the exact motif or texture or color to the fabric I am embellishing, but I take a silhouette or some aspect of the inspiration fabric and use that to create a surface design.  I'm not looking for 'matchy-matchy' fabrics, just something that makes them work together...an element of synergy.

In the piece I did for Threads I started with a piece of gold colored melton weight wool.  Now you may have noticed in my other posts that gold is not a color that I use very often...and you would be correct! 

It was interesting for me to find out that the editors of Threads have a color palette for each issue.(you can see the one for the February/March 2018 issue on the left of the photo)   I don't know how they decide on the combinations, but as I started working on the article they sent me the palette for the February/March 2018 issue so that my choice of fabrics would fit in with the rest of the colors throughout the issue.  It was a challenging palette for me and just the kind of thing that would have me trolling around for ways to fit gold into my 'normal' color choices.  A perfect opportunity for 'echoing!'

I bought the gold wool and went about finding fabrics in my stash that might give me a spark of inspiration to create an embellishment for the wool, AND fit within the colors of the issue. 

 The article gives a good idea of the different things I tried.  Some of them were more literal than others and some were definitely more successful than others.  I often find that there are ideas that my head comes up with that my artistic skills just can't live up to!  Painted embellishments quite frequently live in this category.  But whether the idea works out or not, it is always fun to experiment and get a bit messy.  Usually the testing takes  way longer than actually making the piece.

The brown and gold combo didn't even make the first cut of being in the color palette.  But I did find the rick-rack interesting with the Malaysian print rayon...might have to play some more with that combo.

I played for quite a while.  Trying different media and different techniques.  Part of the decision is how it looks and part of the choice is how well I can execute it! 

I had to go back and forth between writing about the work and doing the work.  It was definitely the case that I was creating the path as I walked it.  It was interesting to put my process into words, particularly words that would make sense to someone else.  I worked with a wonderfully patient and insightful editor, who took my thoughts and really wove them into a coherent piece.  When I would get something from her I would always think, "Yeah, that's what I meant!"  She made the process very accessible and fun.  I hope I will be able to do some more in the future.

It took a good chunk of my studio time this summer and fall so I am glad to be able to share it here, I really wasn't being lazy, just had to keep it under wraps until it was published.  The pictures that Threads took are obviously professional and really make the idea come to life...I did take a few pics as I was working that are not part of the article.  They are definitely in a different league than the Threads shots.

Because I was under a deadline and really didn't have time to create a new pattern as well as finish the surface design, I chose to use my favorite long vest pattern.  I knew it would work in the wool fabric and I could use the 'inspiration' fabric to make a top to go with it.

I used several of my 'raw edge' tricks...Petersham ribbon to stabilize the button holes and button band, top stitching around the armholes, lapped seams with more top stitching.  The collar is made of a wool jersey, and again the edges are left raw.  I also used the jersey to make the pockets.

I finally settled on a pretty simple stitched design to 'echo' the stripes in the inspiration fabric.  I used double thread to beef up the stitching.  It only took a couple of color changes to realize that I needed a better way to move through the colors...voila!...chopsticks stuck into thread spools did the trick.

I pulled each thread end to the back and tied them off by hand to secure them so there were no 'back-stitched' areas on the front of the garment.  

I used the multi-colored top stitching design to sew the lapped seams.

The top is a riff on my favorite T pattern.  I draped the fronts and attached them to the back and sleeves of my T-shirt pattern.

At the end of the day, I am pretty pleased with the outfit.  I might need to rethink the idea of using gold!  

I am also pleased and grateful to the team at Threads for helping me and producing such a wonderful resource for those of us addicted to sewing.  


3 Soft Shirts, 2 Tailored Vests and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

It's after Christmas and, as promised, I can now share the things I've been sewing and won't spoil any surprises!

I have been sewing vests for my eldest son (ES) for several years and always felt a bit guilty that I didn't have something for my youngest son (YS).  But this year YS asked if I could make him some T-shirts that were narrow, but long...and, of course, really, really soft.  He loaned me one of his favorite shirts (not long enough, but OK otherwise) so I could make a pattern.  Since this was the first version of the pattern I only made three shirts to make sure they were going to work for him.  

I hunted my favorite fabric haunts for the softest cotton knits I could find.  It seems that the really soft stuff is made for babies!  I gave in and decided that since we were going to be in Florida for Christmas the shark fabric would be appropriate for the place, if not altogether age appropriate.  Turned out...he loved it!!

The purple shirt was actually my 'trial balloon' and fashioned from an old jersey knit bed sheet.  It turned out so well I thought I may as well wrap it up too.  He liked that one as well.

The gray shirt was also going to be a plain, straight forward T, but at a 'Buy Local' Arts and Crafts Fair I found wonderful vegetable mandalas that the artist had printed on squares of muslin.  I couldn't resist and the garlic one ended up on the back yoke of the gray T-shirt.  I used two colors of thread in my twin needle to jazz up the top stitching.

The top right is carrots...moving clockwise...the garlic, then radishes and finally pears.  I am not sure where the other three are going to end up...I just love 'em.

Over the summer ES had been in town and had picked out a couple of vest combinations.  I finished one right away and sent it home with him, but never quite got around to the second one.  So, even though it wasn't a surprise, I put the brown linen vest together for him.  When I was trolling around for soft t-shirt knits I came across a goofy mustache print that I had to do something with.  It ended up as the lining for a black denim vest.

I used my new favorite button application for the black vest.  ES likes the backs of his vests to be kind of jazzy so the brown linen got a paisley print and and the black denim sports a plaid back.

I mentioned that we were going to be spending Christmas in Florida...it was a family reunion of sorts and involved 37 members of my extended family!!!!  Yep, just a quiet island Christmas...NOT!  It was exhausting, and awesome and I will be eating kale for the month of January to undo all the amazing meals that we consumed.

I had worked on a pattern at our ASG retreat for a little envelop contraption to keep jewelry in for traveling.  

I decided that I would make a few more and give them to all the girls for Christmas.  They are not entirely self-explanatory, so I collected up all the earrings that I don't wear anymore, and the ones that I have been saving to take apart and turn into something else, and filled each envelop with a pair of earrings.  It felt much better to send them off to a new home to be worn, than to keep them hiding in my stash.

...And finally, because it ain't Christmas without stockings, I made some tropical socks to hang by our palm tree with care!

So as you can see I was getting in some sewing room time, but had to wait until all the gifts had been delivered before sharing them here.  

That kind of wraps up (no pun intended) my 2017 sewing...all ready for 2018!