Bags, Hats and Transitions

 I have been "blogging" here since 2016.  It was the year I retired and my clever sons helped me start "Trial Balloons" to keep me out of trouble as I navigated the transition from working stiff to retiree.  I have shared my sewing room adventures and my journey to full fledged retired person, which was not always a smooth ride.  But, as with all my life transitions, sewing has been the steady rock that keeps me connected to my creativity and often to my sanity!  I have been surprised at how much I have enjoyed writing and sharing my projects here and with Threads Magazine.  I wasn't sure if I would like it or be any good at it...I have confirmed that I like it...I'll have to let you all decide if I am actually any good at it!  

Recently I have been sharing my projects on an instagram feed. (I think that is the right name for it?)  You can find it at @beckysewsalot.  I am finding that by the time I have posted something on instagram and maybe written a post for the Threads site that another post here feels quite repetitive!  I do try to share different things in different places but, it's a lot of sharing and I need time to actually sew!  I am liking the instagram format and how quick and easy it is to post something.  I find that I am using it much more often than I have been posting here...you may have noticed the lengthening intervals between my blog posts..... I have noticed that many of the blogs that I have followed along with are making the same observations and some have completely moved from the blog format to the instagram platform.  While I haven't decided yet if I will wrap things up here and move completely to instagram for my sharing, I do want to recognize that I am not here as often as I used to be and hope that those of you who have been following along on this adventure with me will be willing to come on over and see how instagram works.  For now I will keep both, but may not be as active here as before.

...alright...now for some sewing!

You all know I am a total "Bag Lady."  I love making me a bag!  This past year I think I may have added a new accessory to my list.  HATS!  Yup, I have been making hats.  Mainly, bucket hats.  My son likes to wear them for working outside and has asked for some.  And I love making the cute little ones as baby gifts.  I finally got around to making one for myself which I love.  It's not a bucket, but I really enjoyed using the same techniques from the buckets to make a sunny hat version.  As with my bags, I think there may be lots of tweaking and prototyping to get to the "perfect" hat...but that's the fun!  

Here is the last batch of buckets for my son...

Here is the latest baby version...I have a little pea head, but this is even too small for me!  

Just so you don't think I have completely abandoned my bag fetish...here is the latest bag adventure...my sewing buddy wanted to make her own version of my convertible back-pack...she was a trooper!  I can figure it out but writing the instructions is a whole other skill set...maybe some day!  But she hung in and got a great little bag.  

....And my sunny hat!  

I am also having a moment with a new pattern that I made for using jersey and woven fabrics together.  The dress in the picture with my new red bag is the long version and the shirt in the sunny hat picture is a short version.  It has cut-on sleeves, is finished with ribbing at the neck, hem and cuffs, and takes about a half hour to make!!!!!  There will definitely be more of these down the pike!

Please also check out the Threads Magazine site for the series I have been doing this year, "Riffs on a Tried and True Pattern."  I don't post those projects here until Threads posts them so that's the best way to see them right away.  

I am very grateful for the comments and thoughts that have been shared here and hope we can continue to share here (though not as often) at Threads and on @beckysewsalot!  Thanks for coming along!


Two Special Dresses for Special Memories

 A friend called me that other day and asked if I was OK?  I'm fine!  She said, "Well, you haven't updated your blog in a while, and I wondered if you were still around."   

Ooops!  I guess it has been a while...

My sewing challenge this year is to make a garment each month starting with the Tabula Rasa Jacket pattern from Fit For Art patterns.  It is going very well.  I am really enjoying the different things I have made and still have some ideas that I am excited to sew.  The tricky part is, that I asked Threads Magazine if they would like to follow along and they did.  Great!  BUT...they ask that I not post something that will be on their site before they post it.  That means, by the time they get the monthly challenge garment posted, I am a month or two ahead of them.  By that time I have moved on and forget to go back and post the garments here!  ANYWAY....it's all good and I will try to remember to share them here.

My April project was an Easter dress.  I can't remember the last time I actually got a new Easter dress.  Growing up it was a huge spring ritual.  The dress, new shoes, the hat, the gloves and the coat.  All very proper.  Many of my projects are inspired by a particular fabric and the minty green linen that had been languishing in my stash, called out to be an Easter dress.  

Truth be told, it was basically a shirt dress. Pretty darn simple.  But the collar that I chose and the ceramic buttons really made the simple lines seem very special.

I spent most of an afternoon drafting a cut on facing that would hold the collar only to realize that there was no way I would have enough fabric to do a facing.  Plan B....

I found a really lovely cotton batik that looked just great with my linen.  Not only did I get the facings that I needed, I was able to add pockets to the dress as well....yeah for plan B's. 

I am really pleased with the final dress...Easter Parade here I come!

...so that was April...My May creation has just been posted on the Threads site so I can share that one as well....

In May I made another dress.  This time it was an homage to my birthday.  I decided I would make a dress that  referenced my birth year.  195? ahem.....OK, yes, I am old!  It would have a fitted bodice with a cut-on wing collar and a full 'twirly' skirt.  It was a bit of a breech of protocol, because I started with the design before I had the fabric.  This usually does not end well.  

I figured that cotton broadcloth would be a great choice for the given idea, and that I would have no trouble finding something I liked in one of several quilt shops in my area.  Hmmmm...think again!
I just couldn't come up with anything that had the 1950's color vibe that was in my head.  Another Plan B...

I ended up finding a lovely tablecloth with just the right color quality and even came up with vintage buttons and a belt buckle to complete the dress!  The Tabula Rasa pattern worked really well to make the fitted bodice.  I was worried that the large scale print would be hard to match, but it turned out just perfectly...I think!

I have no idea if I will ever have an occasion to wear my birthday dress, but it was so much fun to create.  

An homage to the 1950's would not be complete without a hula-hoop...so I will leave you with this...

Happy Birthday to me!!!!


Home is Where the Cat is!

 Yes!  I did make it back to Michigan!   I am still feeling my way through this snowbird life that we are living.  I get my notes out to remind me how to hook up the outside shower and call the garbage service to let them know we will be making garbage for them again....I know I will figure it out, but it's still pretty new and I have to remember that I am on a steep learning curve!  Like....running out of white thread!!!  I didn't even know that was a thing!?  This unlikely situation happens when you are quite sure that you bought two spools of white thread recently, BUT they happen to have been purchased in the OTHER state! ...and please, know that I am immensely grateful for all of these non problems that pop up in my very blessed life.  I do know how truly lucky I am.

The one member of this snowbirdy group who seems to take it all in stride is our amazing 22 year old cat! (I also didn't know that 22 year old cats were a thing?!)  She has learned to tolerate riding in the car, not always her favorite thing, and while she does have a cozy felted basket to ride in, her preferred spot is right under my feet.  

...and she has no objections to hotel stays, as long as there is a king sized bed to curl up on....

We're not sure but we think she might be immortal!

I have done a bit of sewing but some of it is for my Threads online series, "Riffs on a Tried and True Pattern."  I am making a garment each month starting with The Fit For Art Tabula Rasa pattern.  Threads is posting them on their website, but while I have just finished my May project, they are just getting ready to post the April installment.  I'll share more of them once they are posted at Threads.

I have been surprised at how much time I am spending on these projects.  It has been really fun, but also means I don't have a lot of other sewing projects to share.  I did make a new shirt to wear on our trip north.  I have been trying to figure out how to use a cotton jersey panel that I got from Marcy Tilton's website.  It looks like a Matisse painting...I'm not even sure if I have it the right way up!  I used my Merchant and Mills Fielder Dress hack and combined the panel with a turquoise jersey and a grey and white striped jersey to make the seam inserts.  It's a bit 'festive' but I like it!  It was the final project of the Southernmost season...

My first project of the Northernmost season was a trial balloon of a skort.  I have a few skorts that I wear ALL the time and have had trouble finding new ones.  I decided I could probably figure out how to make one...I devised a gored skirt with a wide stretchy waist band and hooked a pair of leggings to the inside.  This go is a bit rough around the edges, but I think it is a definite proof of concept.  I'll try again with a few tweaks, but I think this one is actually wearable.

...and I couldn't have done it without my favorite assistant....

I am patiently waiting for the rainy weather to give way to the lovely Michigan summer that I know is right around the corner.  I will be happily rooting around in my Michigan fabric stash for a few more summer projects....I might need to make a few notes so I remember where the white thread is!


A Few Projects for the Road

 It's that time for snowbirds to migrate north.  I'm not sure I'll get used to how quickly the time in each locale seems to fly by.  We are busy doing all the things that we could have done for the last 5 months and are cramming them into the last week!!!  So much would not get done if not for the last minute!

I have been sewing, but several of the projects are slated for the Threads series I am doing this year and I have to wait until they are posted on the Threads site before I share them here.  I am a couple of months ahead on the projects so it feels a bit like backing up...anyway...the latest challenge project is up on the Threads page with all the gory details.  

My first Tabula Rasa garment was a beach cover up made out of towels.  It was a pretty straight up version of the pattern other than the giant pockets!  Which I love!  The next installment I am calling my "bowling shirt."  I had a piece of rayon printed with flamingos and stripes and for some unknown reason it just looked like a bowling shirt to me.  You know, the ones with panels and piping and rolled up sleeves.

I chose a flamingo colored cotton jersey for the piping.  It was a little fussy to put in, but I really like the way it turned out.  Getting all the different pieces I needed out of the appropriate stripes in the fabric was definitely a head scratching exercise, but all came together nicely in the end.

Just rent me some shoes and I'm ready to roll!!!!

This is a lovely mural on the outside wall of one of my favorite restaurants.  It's a little "matchy-matchy" but I love it.

Another project I worked on here in KW was a dress for a charity gala that we attended.  I have had the sparkly fabric for awhile and wasn't sure I would ever have an occasion to use it...but it was perfect!  I did, as is my norm, have to wiggle the pattern around a bit...a lot!...to get the dress that I wanted!  

...is that my husband pinching my bottom??!!!  Can't take him anywhere!!!

Turns out that the gala was the coldest night I have ever seen in Key West!  Notice the 'bike friendly' knot that keeps my dress from getting completely wound up in my bake change...😂  Other than the shivering, it was a lovely event and a fun evening.  It is nice to finally be getting to know our new town!

The last project for the season was another charity project.  The Oldest House in Key West has been turned into a museum and garden and they are freshening up some of the rooms.  The parlor is getting new soft furnishing...recovered couch, window treatments, rugs...and I helped make the window valances.  I had fun researching the period and "engineering" the hanging apparatus.  I also loved learning more about the women who owned and lived in the house.  They were a bunch of strong, resilient ladies who were instrumental in starting and growing many of the institutions here in Key West (think, libraries, churches...) It is an honor to be helping preserve and recreate their home.  These are definitely not my taste, but, apparently I nailed the period according to the curator!  Cha-ching!

...So, next stop....Michigan.  The snowbirds take wing....see you next fall Key West!


Theme and Variations: My 2022 Challenge

 I can share!

I mentioned that I will be working on another challenge in 2022 and even thought it is 3 months into the year, I couldn't share it until now.  Last year I challenged myself to make a white shirt every month.  It was just enough of a challenge to keep me interested, and have something for my problem solving brain to look forward to each month.  This year I will again be making a new garment each month, but this time my starting point will be using the same pattern.  Each month I will make a version of the Fit For Art Tabula Rasa Jacket.  Spoiler alert!!!...They will not all be jackets!

I asked Threads Magazine if they would like to follow along and they said "yes."  So the posts for each month will be up on the Threads site first and then I can share them here.  Threads will probably be a lot more diligent about posting than I am....so maybe check in there if you can't wait!

I chose the TRJ (aka Tabula Rasa Jacket, but much shorter to type!) because it has been a TNT (tried and true) pattern for me for a long time.  If you have read many of my blog posts you have probably heard me gush all over this pattern any number of times.  It's just one that works for me.  The idea of starting with the same pattern each month was kind of a riff on classical composers.  They all have something called "theme and variations" so this is my version of that!  It will be a bit strange to talk about my January project in March, but now that we are on the way, it will just be whatever month is next.  So here is my first 2022 challenge project.  

The TRJ pattern that I have been using for decades...yes...decades, is just a wee bit tattered as you can imagine.  I thought I would treat myself to a brand new pattern and see how much I have strayed over the years.  Because it was well into January when I decided on the challenge, I opted for the print and tape version and spent an afternoon trimming and taping my new pattern together.

One thing I realized in the process was I would need to start with a different size than the one I did eons ago.  Already I was learning new things!  I decided I wanted to make a "straight-out-of-the-envelop" version as my first garment.  I did make a few minor fitting adjustments and length and width adjustments, but the basic kimono style jacket is pretty much intact.

Once I had my pattern the next step was fabric.  Here in Key West there is a lovely quilting/upholstery shop, but not much in the way of garment fabrics. (news flash...Mood is opening a store in Miami!!!!! Yikes)  I opted for a couple of Turkish towels that are all over the farmers' market here.  They would be perfect for the beach cover up I had in mind.

I had two towels and that was perfect to get all the pieces I needed AND match the stripes.  I did jog the stripes for the front band on purpose....just a bit of fun.  I love the side/shoulder seams of this pattern for many reasons, not least of all for how easy they are to make into french seams.  My towels were a bit ravelly and french seams kept everything tidy and together!

I am very pleased with my new beach garb.  It is light enough weight fabric to not be too warm and crazy absorbent after a dip.  I'll get some good beach use from it!  I just have to be careful not to get the fringe caught in my bike chain!!!🚲

On to February!  Here's a hint...another sport inspired the February version.


Some new Bottoms

 I made something!!!

Yes indeed I actually went to my sewing room and sewed!!!

However, I can't share it yet.

Last year I made white shirts every month.  I really enjoyed the challenge of making each one different and doing it every month.  This year I decided to do another challenge and asked Threads Magazine if they would like to follow along on my little journey.  They did!  So, my 2022 monthly challenge garments will be posted on the Threads website.  I'm not sure when it will all start, but once they are up on the Threads site I can share them here.  So for now here is what I will be doing for my monthly sewing challenge.

I will be starting each month with the same pattern.  I love a TNT pattern and particularly when I can keep it fresh.  I will be using the Fit For Art Tabula Rasa Jacket pattern and figuring out a new way to morph it each month.  I have finished the January version and I'll share it as soon as it goes live on Threads!

Until then...I have also made a couple of pair of pants that I can share.

I have a pair of Target boxers that I wear for PJ's and love.  They are simple little shorts.  I keep thinking that I would like some that might be more for public consumption.  I finally did it!  Here are my ready for prime time boxers....

I'm pretty pleased with them, but of course there are a few tweaks that will make the next ones soooo much better!  I just can't seem to leave well enough alone.  They are pretty square and basic, but I think they will be just right for the warm days here in Key West.  I also think it will be fun to find some goofy prints to make them in.  ...what was I saying about 'public consumption????

The other pants that I made are white jeans.  I was trying to remember if I have ever had a pair of white jeans.  If I have, it totally escapes my memory.  I'm going with the notion that I probably couldn't keep white pants white.  But I had a really lovely piece of stretch linen that was perfect for a pair of Closet Core Ginger Jeans.  Did I mention that I love this pattern!?!  They fit so well, and the instructions are really well done.  It is so much fun to make them!

I will have to see if I can keep these things white, but for now I am in love! <3  I can't believe I waited so long to try them!  Also, my sweater is almost finished!  If you look closely you can see the needle hanging on the left sleeve.  I have a 3" cuff to add and then I am finished.  I can't believe I started this when I got here in December and it's that close.  I usually lose interest after the first sleeve and then it gets sidelined for a few years before I get it finished.  I suppose it could still happen, but I'm liking it with the white pants so I think I will get it done.  

Next week we are getting a daybed for our living room.  I have a pile-o-pillow fabric that will be getting all my attention for awhile.  The last home dec project I did was a duvet cover...for a king bed...😱a batch of throw pillows should be easy peasy!  Famous last words...