Home for the Holidays with My December White Shirt

 I actually made my December white shirt early in the month.  I figured that things would just get busier and busier as the month progressed and I figured correctly!  It took until now to get a photo (albeit not a great one) and a post written (albeit a scatterbrained one!).

We arrived in Key West for the winter season just before Thanksgiving and had a lovely warm holiday after several weeks of Michigan snowy, late fall.  It's amazing what a bit of sunshine does for my mood. 

Just after the holiday our eldest son arrived from London for a visit.  It was the first time we had seen him since everything shutdown in 2020!  We were so glad that he was willing to do all the extra testing and paperwork that it takes to travel right now.  Having him here was a lovely early Christmas present.  

His Christmas list included a 'shop coat.'  He brought one that he likes with him for me to check out.  When he asked about it I was a bit worried that it was going to be complicated and I wouldn't be able to get it done while he was here. Turned out that it was pretty straight forward and having a sample that fit him in person was a great help!  I really enjoyed making it so ended up making a second!   I may alter the pattern a bit and make one for myself!  Getting him to "pose" for pictures was the hardest part of the project!

This version of the 'shop coat' is made with a brown, heavy cotton twill.  My son says that, "it will wear in nicely!"  Apparently the more worn the better.  It's dang tough so I think it will hold up to the wear and tear.

The second version is made with a really heavy decorator linen.  I love the charcoal color!  My son liked the metal buttons, but it took a bit of head scratching to figure out how to attach them.  I was trying to conceal the ends of the fabric strip in the lapel and facing seams, but in the end I opted to stop the top of the strip at the collar roll line.  I think it works just fine.  They do look pretty cool!

...and here is my final white shirt of 2021.  It is a version of the Merchant and Mills Heron Top.  The pattern is part of their Workbook and, like all the M&M patterns I have tried, it's great.  I think I must be the right size and shape for their patterns.  I really don't have to do too much besides adding some length for them to work.  After all these years of sewing I finally found a pattern company that makes patterns for me!!!  😁

The fabric is a soft cotton lawn with white on white embroidery all over it.  The weight of the fabric is nice for the cross over style of the pattern.  I think heavier fabrics might be a bit bulky and warm.  Although, I have seen it made up in a linen that was very lovely.  It feels very "lady like" with the little back 'peplum' and the side bow.  I think I might make a soft, floaty skirt to wear with it.  

So that is the last white shirt!  I will collect all of the photos and do a review of the "Year of the White Shirt" once things calm down in the new year.  I do have to say that I am pretty proud of myself for getting them all done.  With all the moving and resettling that we did last year I wasn't sure I would even find my sewing machines, let alone use them!  

On our way to Florida in November we ran into the actual house where they filmed "A Christmas Story"...one of my favorite holiday movies... in Cleveland! Who knew!  It felt very familiar and reminded me, as does the film, of what Christmases were like for me growing up in Michigan.  

As we settle in for our second winter in our Key West house I am starting to feel like this whole crazy snowbird idea might just work out!  Christmas looks a little different, but it's still home.  
Happy Holidays....see you in the New Year!


November's White Shirt and a Quilty Coat

 It is still gloriously Fall, but it has gotten colder.  I was really loving the long lingering finish on this summer, the warm sunny days seemed to just keep coming.  So as I was thinking about my November white shirt I was definitely thinking long sleeves and cozy.  

When I got the grey sweater knit earlier this summer I also picked up the last little bit of the same fabric in a creamy off white.  Duh!  I am still fawning over it.  I didn't have a huge piece, but I had enough to get a very comfy long sleeved top with a mock turtle neck that is cut in one with the yoke.  I had seen the neckline on a sleeveless top at some point in time, and decided to try and recreate it and add sleeves.  I am very happy with the outcome and the sweater knit is just the right weight for the collar.  

I went back and forth about whether to run the 'cables' across the yoke.  In the end I didn't have a choice...I didn't have enough fabric to do otherwise...but I really like the way it turned out and the cables help keep the collar fold neat and tidy.

November white shirt...Bam!  I can't believe I'm almost finished with my year of white shirts.  I might extend to January since I actually didn't start the challenge until February.  We'll see...

I also made a new coat this month.  I wasn't thinking that I would be making many coats going forward, but this idea was nagging away at me so I just had to do it.

I have been seeing lots of quilted jackets on social media.  Some in solid colors with designs stitched into the quilting pattern.  Some that use traditional quilt blocks, some random and patchy...I thought it would be interesting to make the outside in something "quilt-like" and stitch it to a sweatshirt fleece instead of batting to provide the structure and warmth.  I found a nice heavy fleece and then started rummaging around in my boxes to see what kind of 'quilt' I could come up with.

Once again I defaulted to my box of linen scraps.  It seems that this is the year of the linen scrap pile.  I chose a palette of grays and naturals.  As I started to play around with my pile-o-linen, I realized that I would only have enough if I did a random pattern.  I started by cutting a bunch of 4" squares and sewing them together in pairs.

I didn't want to end up with the same fabric next to its self so I laid out each section of the jacket to make sure I wasn't doubling up anywhere...

Once I had all the pairs laid out I stitched them in rows and then stitched the rows together.  Finally I stitched them to the fleece using a twin needle and following the seam lines.  Nothing fancy, but I liked the affect.  The project did remind me of why I don't make quilts 😝!!!!  It seemed to take forever to get to actually making the coat.  I used the fuzzy side of the fleece to make cuffs and a collar.  I tried a bazillion different ideas and in the end I did a simple cuff and band collar.  I think I just got worn down!

I used some cool tortoise shell snaps for the closures.  The thought of putting button holes in quilted sweatshirt fleece made me kind of squeamish...the snaps are really lovely and keep the front from getting too busy with buttons and plackets....

When I finished I told my husband that I wasn't sure I liked it.  I think it was kind of like when you cook something all day and by the time it's ready to eat, it doesn't even taste good.  I worn it out a few days later and actually had two different people comment about how 'elegant' it was.  Elegant was not what I was thinking when I started making a quilted coat...crafty maybe, or cutesy...but elegant is much better...I'll take it!

It has started to grow on me and I really like the weight for the weather we are having right now.  It is just the right level of cozy!  We'll see how I feel about it next May when I get back to Michigan.  Maybe a winter away will make the heart grow fonder!

...it seemed to fit right in with the sculpture at the Shiojiri Japanese Garden in Mishawaka, Indiana.  We visit this garden each fall to see the Japanese Maples in all their autumn glory!  The sculpture was a gift from the school children in Japan who were the pen pals of the Mishawaka kids when the garden was made.  It is a really sweet place.



An October "T"

 What an ammmmmazing fall we are having!!!!  I have said this before, but it bares repeating....I am a huge fall fan!  It is my favorite time of the year, especially here on the west coast of Michigan.  The orchards are full of apples, the wineries are busy putting up the next vintage, the days are warm and sunny and the nights are cool and perfect for sleeping.  Ahhhhhhhhhh!  This fall has been exceptionally warm.  I am trying to decide if this is always how it is here and I have just never been around for it, or if indeed it is actually warmer than usual.  I guess I will have to experience a few more falls to really figure it out.  Anyway, it is glorious!

I was thinking my October white shirt would be something wooly and cozy, but it has been very summery and a new white T-shirt seemed much more appropriate.  So out came the linen...again!  I also grabbed some of the lace that I did not use for my Isabel Marant project.  I am not sure when I will use it all up!

The shirt is really simple but figuring out how to insert the lace between the lower linen and the upper sheer linen was just enough of a challenge to keep it interesting.  I am pleased with the outcome and know it will be in heavy rotation until the cold weather finally settles in.

I also tried a new pattern from Merchant and Mills this month.  It's called The Ellsworth Shirt.  A sewing buddy and I made it together and it was such a fun day.  It ended up being a looong day, but there was a lot of chatting along the way.  We are going to have to call each other before showing up at the same party!

I liked the way the pattern came out so much that I immediately made another one.  I love the Japanese cotton I used from Marcy Tilton's website and I think it looks great in the pattern...but...it doesn't have the weight of the polk-a-dot linen so it doesn't hang quite as well.  The sleeve length is also and inch shorter which puts the sleeve placket right at my elbow.  I'm not quite sure how that happened because I cut it the same as the first one.  It might be that the linen is just enough stretchier that it hangs longer.  In any case I like that length better.   It is always interesting how much the fabric influences the outcome. You would think these two shirts would be pretty much identical, but I know I will reach for the first one more often.

The fabric for the second round was only 45" wide so I ended up putting a center back seam to get the pattern to work.  I also used a coordinating cotton to line the cuffs, collar, placket and hem facings.  I might have been able to squeak out a few of those pieces, but I thought it looked more "intentional" if I did all of them with the second fabric.  I like the way it turned out.  

As I finished my October white shirt I pulled out all the shirts for the months I have been in Michigan.  I have a couple others in Florida that will add to the total.  It was kind of amazing to see them all together and realize how different they are from each other.  It is getting harder and harder to pick a favorite.  When I picked this challenge for myself I thought I might end up with a couple of shirts that I liked and the rest would be fun exercises, but not necessarily wardrobe staples.  I think I was mistaken!  I love them all!  I will have to decide whether my November shirt will be a Michigan shirt or a Florida shirt, since we will be heading out around Thanksgiving time.  


A Double Dog Dare!

 Yes, I have been stalling on my September white shirt post.  I made my September shirt as part of our Threads Digital Ambassadors' Challenge this year.  Threads invited us to make an outfit/garment using a designer of our choice as the inspiration.  Now that the articles have been posted on the Threads website, I can share my shirt here.

We were asked to write three different posts about 1. the designer we chose, 2. the way we interpreted the designer in our design and 3. a technique that we used in making the garment.  I will send you to those posts on the Threads site rather than redo them here.  The four inspirations are very different, but very much reflective of their authors.  It is really fun to see them as a group.

I chose Isabel Marant for my designer and this was my inspiration image.

Marant's designs are often dripping in lace and layers...very different from the things I make and wear.  I am intrigued by her use of textures and mixing of different materials to create her garments.  It was definitely a challenge to use her as my inspiration.

I chose Isabel Marant because she seems to strike a balance between very feminine, and surprisingly masculine elements in her work.  Her garments are over-the-top lacy, yet they are anchored in strength with broad, exaggerated shoulder lines and wide leather belts.  I had a really tough time figuring out how to make a garment that was inspired by the very lacy Marant garments, without using lace!   I had a huge collection of lace but just couldn't get it to feel like me.  I ended up doing a faggot stitched vest worn over a layered tunic with raw edge details.  I wrote much more about the inspiration and the final design in the Threads posts, so please take a look over there for more of the gory details!

Here is my final design.  The folks over at Threads took some lovely pictures that they sent for me to show here.  (They always make my things look so good.) 

So this is my September white shirt.  I knew that it would take a bit more time than some of the other months and that is why I wanted to figure out a way to make a twofer.  Something that would be part of the Threads challenge and also part of my monthly white shirt challenge.  

I also made a little video of me dancing around on my new deck with my Isabel Marant outfit....kind of corny, but you can see that over at Threads as well.  HERE is a link to the Threads article.

So now I move on to October.  It has been quite warm this month so far, so I may not be moving into fall quite yet...we'll see.  


Apples and Bunny Soft Sweater Knit

 Fall has arrived in Michigan!  It is my absolute favorite season.  I love the cool, crisp air even when the late summer sunshine is still warming up the afternoons.  I have been to the apple orchard at least three times already and will no doubt be making a few more trips before the last fruit is picked.  I'm not exactly sure what it is about the fall...maybe the memories of new school shoes and the box of crayons with all the points still in tact.  It just gives me a boost of energy and gets my creative juices flowing.

I used my mandolin to slice up the apples for this galette...and I still have all my fingers!

Now that we are 'snowbirding' I don't really need 'real' winter clothes, but a few fall-ish pieces can't hurt.  I came across an absolutely scrumptious sweater knit this summer.  I found it at JoAnn's of all places.  I don't usually find the fabrics at JoAnn's to be all that inspiring, so I was pleasantly surprised to find such a gem.  I am also a bit skeptical of sweater knits as well.  They are often made from mysterious blends of synthetic fibers that lose their appeal and shape after only a few trips through the washing machine.  This piece, however, was really nice.  First of all it was rayon which meant that it had a bit of weight and great drape.  There was enough spandex to give it wonderful recovery.  And it was soft, soft, soft.....dreamy, baby bunny ears soft!!!!!  I wasn't sure what I was going to make so I got a whole bunch of it.  Adding to its list of attributes is totally washable and dryable!!!!  It went through the laundry like a champ!  As soon as I felt the first hint of fall I knew it was the fabric I wanted to start my fall sewing with.

Earlier this year I made a couple pair of joggers with the Closet Core Plateau pattern.  I am almost embarrassed by how often I pull them on.  They are so comfortable and I like the fit...a lot!  I also made a cropped cardigan that has been in heavy rotation.  I decided rather than experiment with unknown patterns and possibly "ruining"  my soft, soft, cozy sweater knit, I would pull out these tried and true patterns.

As I was laying them out I realized that if I was very stingy I might be able to get a tee shirt as well.  I am nothing if not 'stingy' when it comes to pattern layouts!  I ended up doing some fancy piecing with a grey jersey knit on the insides of the cardigan pockets, but it was worth it.  (I am not going to tell you how long I played around with pattern pieces and layout options😳)  

Not much left of my yardage...

I was fully prepared for a fierce battle.  Most sweater knits required a heavy dose of coercion to get them to behave, but this one was not only beautiful, but behaved beautifully as well.  Even the buttonholes turned out perfectly.

I am so glad that I went with patterns that I know and love.  I'm not sure I will wear them all at the same time.  I feel a little like an old guy in a track suit.  But I know I will be cozying up in each piece often this fall.  


Not A White Shirt

 My September white shirt was planned way back in February when Threads presented the Digital Ambassadors with the 2021 Challenge Project.  Just a little hint...we were asked to pick a designer to use as inspiration for a garment/ensemble.  Stay tuned and once the challenge has been posted on the Threads website, I will share my September white shirt.  

For now, I did make an 'almost white shirt' at the end of August.  So maybe it can be the "late summer" white shirt.  I say 'almost' because it does have a few colorful accents that keeps it from being a totally white shirt.

I started with a square linen (I think, it could be a cotton linen blend) tablecloth with cute little yellow tulips embroidered in the corners.  I can't remember where it came from.  It could have been another piece from the things I got from my mother-in-law. Or I could have picked it up while trolling around in an antique shop at some point.  Regardless, it is probably 1950ish vintage and has a nice open stitched hem around the edges along with the tulips.  

I have played around with it forever.  I thought about a skirt, I tried several patterns using the tulips in strategic ways as pockets or collars, I even thought about pillow cases at some point.  I would pull it out at the beginning of the summer and put it back in the stash in September...until now.....

While I was packing up my sewing room at the end of May I came across several 1940/50ish cotton prints.  They were in those wonderful colors that I remember from my grandma's kitchen.  Just a bit off primary with pink added in for fun.  I was making piles for different quilting friends and I just couldn't figure out where they should go.   When I pulled out the tablecloth...again...this year those prints popped right to the front of my mind.  The yellows in the prints were perfect with the tulips so I started once again to play around with ideas.  It took the whole summer but I finally came up with something that I really like.  It ended up being really, really simple and kept the tablecloth mainly intact.  Maybe the simplicity is why I like so much.  Anyway, I used the prints and the tablecloth and made a "white-ish shirt."

I cut the tablecloth into thirds and used the pieces with the finished edges for the sides/sleeves of my shirt and the middle third for a vee shaped inset to hold them together.  I used the cotton quilting prints to bind the cut edges of the 'sleeve' pieces and that's it!  No hemming, no fitting, loose and flow-y, perfect for end of summer heat...I love it!

The binding on this shirt is just enough 'quilting' to remind me why I run for the hills when someone asks if I make quilts.  I love that there are people out there who do amazing, gorgeous quilts that I can admire and fawn over, but I am pretty much a one square and out gal.  Real quilters should not look too closely at my wobbly seams it will illicit scoffing and tutting!

Tablecloths from the middle of the last century are so lovely and drapey.  They seem to form around whatever you put them on...a table...shoulders!  I really enjoy reimagining them for my tablecloth-free life style.  It will get much more wear on me than it would on a table!