A Fun Challenge in a Year of Challenges

 I have been waiting all summer to share this...with everything that has happened this year, I had almost forgotten that I had done it. 

Last February the Editors at Threads Magazine proposed a challenge to the 3 Digital Ambassadors.  Start with a men's suit and transform it into a new garment or ensemble.  With the gauntlet thrown, we got to work.  You can see the resulting transformations on theThreads website HERE.

I did a post describing the transformation that I did on the Threads site, so I won't rehash it here.  It was really fun once I finally got an idea that I liked.  It really was a challenge to come up with something a bit different.  At the end of the day, I was very pleased with my efforts.

Looking back with the perspective of the last several months makes it all the more challenging.  We returned from a visit with our son in London on March 10.  On March 11 we did a big shop with the idea that we should probably self isolate since we had been traveling through several airports.  Our plan was to do our 2 weeks and then back to normal!  Oh, how innocent that seems now.  

On the way home from the grocery store I remembered that I needed to get a suit for the Threads challenge.  We made a quick stop at a church thrift shop and bought the one suit that was on the rack, never thinking that it would be the last time I would be in an actual 'shop' for the rest of the year!  

Here are a few pics of the garments that I ended up making.  My idea came from my old gardening overalls. You can read all the gory details in the Threads article.  And they took some much nicer photos that you can also peruse.  They are having readers vote for their favorite transformation, so if you like my idea, give me a vote!  You will also be entered into a drawing for some pretty swell prizes.  

My idea was to make a pair of "business" overalls....

I started with a mock up of the bib part, from there I made a pattern and used different parts of the jacket to add the front, back and straps to my overalls....

The jacket got more and more tattered as I scavenged bits and pieces...

You can't have overalls without a hammer loop!

The lapels were the last bits I salvaged....rather than remake new pieces, I tried to use the suit details in tact but in new ways...

I added the lapels to a piece of fabric from my stash to make a cropped jacket to go with my overalls...

I think they are pretty classy...and kind of silly as well...

I do love that hammer loop!

It all seems like a lifetime ago.  2020 keeps challenging us over and over again...what I wouldn't give for an "easy" garment redo!  I hope our little exercise in recycling adds a bit of fun to your quarantine!  
Who knew?!


Win-win...but not Winter!

I love fall!  I love the cool, crisp air.  I love watching the colors move through their journey from green to yellow and gold, to crimson and rust.  I love the soups and spices that happen this time of year.  The only part that I don't love is knowing that for the next several months I will be battling icy sidewalks, snowdrifts, power outages and arctic windchills.  I know some people love the snow, but as my healing time has lengthened, I am much more worried about tumbling than I used to be.  Cold and snow are parts of the Michigan seasons that I will be glad to watch from a distance.  But for now, I am loving the weather!

Having lived with four seasons all my life, I can't quite wrap my little brain around 'no cold.'  I have been making a new summer wardrobe to have in my new place, but this time of year I am just itching to break out the wool!  To quell the urge I hauled out a cotton jersey that has a mock quilting pattern.  It's kind of a mateliasse kind of thing.  It looks warmer than it is.  I thought it would make a great sweatshirt for the few cool nights that might crop up.  But I didn't want a plain 'ol sweatshirt...I wanted a more 'designery' sweatshirt.  I did some trolling around on Pinterest (you can see some of my finds to the right ->) to see what kind of details might up the cache of my sweatshirt.

I settled on a cropped style with some kind of gathered hem.  As a starting point, I pulled out my tried and true Tabula Rasa pattern.  As I have said before, it seems to cover a huge range of styles and I know it will fit the way I like when I'm finished.  I cut out the main pieces and left them long while I pondered how to finish the hem.  This is just the kind of project I love.  No definite plan, just a sketchy idea and a few detail options to get me going.  I can always hear Diane Ericson in my head, "do the part you know!"

This is also the kind of project that I get caught up in and forget about taking photos of the process.  Ooops! 

I wanted those Kangaroo pouchy front pockets that you get on sweatshirts, but a bit more 'elegant.'  (If "elegant" is a word that you can use to describe a sweatshirt?!)  Tabula Rasa side seams are the perfect place to set in pockets and I decided to line the shirt with a very light weight bamboo knit which meant I could use it for the inside of my pockets by just stitching through from the front.  The seams of the pattern are forward from the actual side of the body so the pocket placement is really ideal for getting your hands in and out easily.

I used the side panel underarm seam as my guide and extended my topstitching to complete the pocket bag.  A little hard to see with all the quilting lines...

I cropped the front and let the back hem hang a bit longer and used the hem allowance to make a casing for a half drawstring across the front.  Again the side seam placement meant the detail was a bit forward which I like.

Serendipity prevailed again when I realized that I could leave the sleeve length and use the lining to make  cuffs.  I love extra long sleeves on cool morning walks to keep my fingers warm!  

One thought that I played with was putting a drawstring at the neck as well.  I made a casing by wrapping a strip of the lining fabric over the neck edge and leaving a 2" space at the center front.  When I got the drawstring in place it was just one thing too many, so I took it out.  When I showed my astute husband my new sweatshirt outfit his comment was, "the neck doesn't look finished."  Rats!  I thought I might be able to sneak it by, but he was right.  He also asked if I was channeling Coco Chanel...?  He thought the short quilted top and the short, straight skirt were very Chanel-esque.  Hmmm...That gave me a new idea for the neckline...thanks Honey!

I created a 1960's-ish collar using a strip of the quilted knit.  Much better.  (and the hubby thought so, too!)

The skirt was a bit of an after thought.  I had exactly a skirt length of fabric left...even the width was right.  I didn't even have to cut anything, just zip up a back seam and put in some elastic.  You can see the wide elastic top in this picture....I was trying to get a twig off the string of lights that hangs over the outside table.  Thanks again Honey!

I really wasn't thinking I was going to end up with a little Chanel Sweat-Suit, but there you go!  It may not make the Paris runways but it is very comfy, cozy and hopefully, a useful wardrobe addition.  AND, a really fun project!  Win-win!


An "Ouch" Pouch

 I saw something recently on Pinterest or Insta-thing or somewhere, and thought it would be a simple, fun little project.  Take part of an afternoon.  Something different than clothing, a bit of a distraction...And it was.  All of that!  Except the 'simple' part!  I said bad words.  And broke fingernails.  And sewing machine needles.  It looked so innocent in the picture.

...isn't it cute?!  A little "back-to-school" pencil case.  Adorable!

I like to use lots of different colored pens and pencils when I write in my journal.  It reminds me of being a kid with a new box of crayons.  I have tried lots of carrying ideas for my stash of writing implements but haven't loved any of them.  This one folds into a tidy pouch about the same size as my journal and keeps everything neat in little inside pockets.  OK!  

There were lots of different patterns, and tutorials and instructions for this particular pencil tote.  I eventually landed on one that I found at a website called "Ikatbag"  Here is the link.  I checked my stash and had all the right stuff.  Even the squishy, car headliner fabric that I had gotten for another innocent looking tote project!  (Maybe I should have been clued in at that point, but no....)

If the material list didn't put me off, maybe I should have paid a bit more attention to the note from the author of the pattern and instructions (which by the way are very good!)...

"Don't be discouraged if you don't find this pouch as easy to make as it might appear, okay? While I wouldn't for a moment consider it difficult (you can make one in a day or less), I'll be honest: it nonetheless IS fiddly. I mean, it's a 3D structure that has a lot of curves in places that are inconvenient, and it's stiff in other places that make it unwieldy to handle. And it has a zipper which, for some people, translates to Ew, Let's Just Give Up Now. I also know that some of you have been waiting for these templates so you can mass-produce them for all your kids' friends, classmates and neighbors. Bravo - mass-producing rocks. However, I'd suggest you try ONE marker pouch before committing to making a hundred. Just thought I'd set the appropriate expectations, in the hope that it will help you guys persevere if you hit a snag or two. You can do it! Many of us have already done it, and are sharing testimonies of how they're still alive after. So don't give up! I think you'll love the outcome."

And, NO, I will not be making a hundred of these as stocking stuffers!

Lest I completely put you off making one of these handy little items, it is doable.  But like she says in her note, it's fiddly and there are a whole bunch of layers to stitch through at certain points. (see needle breakage note.)  I forged ahead, that, "part of an afternoon," turned into the whole dang day!  But I got through it and actually really like my little pencil pouch!  I think the struggle makes it that much more lovable.  Anyway.. I now can tote my plethora of pretty pencils and pens in a perky pouch!

It seems strange that I will geek out on a oiled canvas raincoat with crazy complicated hardware and not think twice about it, or a backpack with a bazillion fiddly pockets...but put a cute little pencil case in front of me and, "boing" I'm a basket case!  I guess everyone has their flavor of challenge.  For now...I'm glad I tried it...and I'm glad it's done! 👍


Just Do It! Raincoat

 I have spent a lot of time during this crazy locked down year sorting and pondering my sewing room 'stuff.'  It is something that I have threatened to do for a long time, but always find something way more interesting to do.  Not only have I had the time to devote to this project, it is also necessary as we work to consolidate and move into a new life phase.  I never thought I would be in the 'snowbird' category, but here I am...and I think I will be quite content to go to snow when I want to rather than struggling through it on a daily basis.  (Although I have realized that wool is still one of my favorite fabrics!)

As I have unloaded drawers and boxes I have come across things that I have moved 4 or 5 times (and I haven't moved in 24 years!!!!)  I am awed by the 'value' that these things have taken on just by the sheer fact that I have paid to have them moved over and over again!  I wonder..."if I haven't used it in 24 years, when?"  I am uncovering long ago abandoned excursions into different 'crafts' that I can't even remember how to do or why. (e.g. wool rug hooking...?????)  Some things I find easy to let go and others touch a memory or a wish that keeps them in the 'undecided' pile a little longer.  

One of the ways that I have been 'processing' is to 'just do it!'  Rather than put something away for later, I just make it.  I have no idea if or when some of these projects will ever be worn or used, but the making seems important somehow.  It is how I am able to let something go I guess.  Sometimes I remember what I had in mind when I acquired the fabric or patten and sometimes I just go with whatever comes to mind right now.  

I came across the oiled canvas that I had gotten for myself at Merchant and Mills a few years ago.  I had gotten some for each of my 'boys' and made coats for them a few Christmases ago.  By the time I finished making theirs I was ready for a break and never made the one for myself.  I had planned to make the M&M Landgate parka.  As I looked at the fabric my practical brain said, "this is not fabric that makes sense in your upcoming summer-all-the-time lifestyle," but my just do it brain kicked in and I ...well...just did it!

I had made a Landgate for my husband and after watching him getting in and out of it, I decided that I would like something that had and easier access point!  I loved the hooded parka that I made during my workshop in Rye and thought that would be a better choice for me.  

I made several changes to the pattern to get the raincoat that I had in my head.  Having worked with the oiled canvas before I knew that 'layers' of fabric were not a good idea.  I minimized as much as possible.  I took out the facings and did simple folded edges for the center fronts.  I narrowed the sleeves so I wouldn't have to ease anything into the armscyes.  I made several changes to get the look that I was after.  I lengthened the coat as much as I could with the amount of yardage I had.  I added a pleat to the center back to give extra width at the hem.  I added way cool pockets (IMHO!) and way, WAY cool closures!  

As I worked my way through the project I completely lost track of time.  I was totally absorbed in the process.  The fabric is really heavy and takes a fair amount of arm strength to wrestle through the machine so I was physically tired at the end of the day, but my brain had had a kind of 'vacation' from 2020 that made me feel refreshed somehow.  Whether or not I actually needed an oiled canvas raincoat was beside the point.  I needed the 'get away.'  I was almost sad to finish it, but am totally in love with it!!!!  I may wear it someday, but that really isn't the goal.  It's all in the making.

So here is my oiled canvas raincoat with marine supply hardware....

I made it as long as I could get it with the fabric that I had.  The sleeves ended up just long enough with no hem allowance, so I used the flannel that I chose for the hood lining to face the cuffs.  It was a happy accident, because I really like the softness of the flannel around my wrists.

I wanted to make sure that when I lengthened the coat that I still had walking room.  I put a pleat in the center back that is sewn down at the top and opens up for hip and walking room.  I also made side slits.

My original plan was to use snaps for the closures so I wouldn't need to put buttonholes in the canvas.  But I remembered the cool clasps that I had found at a marine hardware supply store in London.  I had no idea what I would do with them, but this was the perfect garment to showcase them.  I am so pleased with how they look and they are easy to work as well.  It took a bit of head scratching to figure out how to attach them.  I ended up putting prairie points on the inside of the front bands so the clasps wouldn't be attached to a single layer of the canvas.  I think they are soooo cool!

I had this idea for really huge pockets.  With the amount of fabric that I had I was worried that I wouldn't be able to manage it.  Don't tell anyone, but I ended up putting the center piece of the hood off grain to get the pockets to fit.  It was totally worth it!!

So, this is what I have left of my piece of oiled canvas.  Whew!

Making this coat reminded me of why I sew.  It hasn't been about the clothing for a long time, it is all about the meditative, restorative feeling I get when I am consumed by a project.  Some people paint, some hike in the woods, some float down a river in a kayak...I sew.  Namaste!


A New Crop of Tops

 After my last post I realized that I have been whining and stalling all summer!  I keep making lists and refolding my pile of fabrics...definite signs of a major stall happening.  After the flurry of tops I decided I was on a roll so I should just keep it going.  So here is a whole crop of tops, but these are from the Key West pile.  

Since I was on a Susan Eastman inspired journey, I made a Michigan/Key West crossover top.  A mix of my Michigan mud colors with a few hints of my new ocean inspired colors.  I like it, but not sure if it will make the cut for Key West.  I think it landed somewhere in Tennessee!  

The pants in these pictures were the first thing I made from the pile.  The fabric came from Merchant and Mills as did the pattern.  They are my favorite Eve pants.  The fabric is a lovely teeny tiny hounds tooth check linen.  I really liked the selvedges so made them a feature on the pockets and the waistband.  I truly adore the way these pants fit and feel.  I wear them all day and they are comfy like my knit pants, but I feel so much more 'dressed' in them.

The first top from the pile is also an M&M pattern.  It is the Factory Dress pattern but made into a top by leaving off the skirt.  I think they actually have done a pattern release of a top variation, but I just make the top and "forget" to make the bottom!  The fabric is the softest aqua color I have ever seen with a twin grey thread stripe.  It just screams ocean to me.  I got it when I visited Italy a few years ago.  The stripe is actually on the cross grain, which is a bit unusual for a woven fabric.  I like this version but have decided that I prefer it without the bust darts.  It is roomy enough that I don't think I need them and the extra volume also makes the hem circumference a bit much.  I did a mock up using an old tablecloth to see if my fiendish no-dart plan would work and I think it's a winner.  The next time I make the Factory dress or top it will be dartless.

The Factory Dress from Merchant and Mills

The next top is a pattern that I got a while ago but never made up.  It's the Monty Dress and Shirt from Style Arc.  I have used several of their patterns and find them to be drafted with me in mind.  The shoulders are usually generous enough and even the sleeve lengths are closer than most patterns.  I did quite a bit of messing about with this, so you might not recognize it from the pattern envelope.  The original had a front yoke and was very cropped.  I was using a big stipe print and thought it needed more space to really show it off.  I added a dropped back yoke with gathers to add some volume at the hem.  The rayon fabric really moves well and the longer length gives it a lovely flow.  I think this is going to be a favorite.  It feels like it will be perfect for hot sunny weather.

I spent an inordinate amount of time matching the back yoke and absolutely no time on the center front.  I just got really lucky with the palm placement at the center.  Whew!

The Monty Dress and Shirt from Style Arc Patterns

OK...last top!  (did you notice how nicely they all go with my Eve pants?!  I may need to make at least one more pair of pants so I can swap them out for laundry day!)

This top is a version of my square shirt that literally doesn't touch my body when worn!  The perfect top for really sweaty days!  The loose open sides let the breeze in and the light Liberty silk absolutely floats.  

Finally, I made a maxi length T-shirt dress.  I built a bra into the top which makes it really comfy.  I think this will be just right for after the beach.

Whew!  A flurry of summery stuff.  It feels good to be making my way through the pile.  It's a bit odd that just as the weather is saying corduroy, I am hauling out the silk and linen!  I have a few more things that I'd like to do, but I am pleased with my progress.  I'm also enjoying working with some new colors.  Now that my hair is more grey than brown, I think the soft grays and aquas will be nice, and more at home in Key West than mud.  👍


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.