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Monday, May 6, 2013

Alternatives to Long Underwear

 I made a few tops while I was recovering hoping that warm weather would arrive!

 This is a greyish/taupe linen/cotton blend with a very subtle pincord weave. The instructions on the bolt said to dry clean only.... so of course I brought it home, serged the raw edges, and threw it in the washed and dryer! It softened beautifully.
 I cut bias strips and then sewed them into tubes. Next I pressed them and used them to embellish the collar and little cap sleeves on a summer top. I also made my old standby, piping to finish the collar. I had some beautiful tiny abalone buttons that I sewed at regular intervals to embellish the collar.

I made another top of the same style, but this time I cut a "frill" to finish the neck.  For embellishment I used some wonderful orangey/red cotton twill tape that I bought at Britex  http://www.britexfabrics.com/  on a trip to San Fransisco a few years ago. I found a funky vintage button in my stash so I put that front and center.
This is a piece of  iridescent silk jacquard that I bought at SR Harris http://www.srharrisfabric.com/
 As usual I "abused" the silk by sending it on a  trip through the washer/dryer.
 I am not a huge fan of ruffles, but I do like frills!

Sniffle, sniffle

The items in this photo tell it all! A virus made itself at home inside of me for over two weeks and my desire to blog....or do anything else has been greatly diminished.
 I put all of this stuff away as I am finally feeling well....AND spring finally arrived today! Hurray it was 64 degrees!!!! I celebrated by taking my doggies for a walk.  The road was full of other people who ventured out into the world again after the longest winter ever! We Minnesotans rejoice when spring arrives.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Treasure from Emma One Sock

Here is an interesting knit fabric that I ordered from Emma One Sock http://www.emmaonesock.com/
 It is a poly/spandex knit. I am planning on using it for a tunic similar to this:

 I will cut the hem straight on this next tunic to take advantage of the amazing border print!

Pre-washing Fabric

 More and more I wash fabrics prior to cutting out a garment. Actually, I frequently wash them before adding them to my stash. As clothing has become more relaxed and less "buttoned up" fabric that doesn't look brand new is more stylish and comfortable.
Here is a photo of some linen yardage.The piece on the left is unwashed and the piece on the right has been washed. The picture may not show the contrast very well, but I much prefer the look and feel of the fabric on the right.

  I serge the cut edges so that the fabric doesn't fray, and then I throw it in the washer and the dryer.
If after the first round the fabric still hasn't softened to my liking I will repeat the process.
 I have washed all types of fabrics including silk and wool. A hard finished wool that looks like it needs to be made into a very tailored garment can soften and get a little "fuzzy" making it suitable for a more relaxed styled garment.
 It is no surprise that this process will frequently shorten the yardage, sometimes significantly, but the surprises that emerge from the dryer are often very exciting!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Helping the Economy

We have a new shoe store in town. Today I stopped by to check it out. It is really cool, and carries many brands of shoes that I have never seen before. The fellow who waited on me has been selling shoes for 40 years and really knows how to choose the right shoe for each customer.  He had me try on a lot of shoes. I chose a really comfortable pair of black flats to help me cope with the hardwood and tile floors in our house, and then he said wait for a minute and be brought out these shoes.

 These shoes are unbelievable comfortable and quite chic with the aged "platinum" leather and the nickle studs. I love, love these shoes!!

 There was a 20% discount on purses so I also bought a Baggalini purse.

  This purse is great! It has many pockets and it is light weight and sort of  sporty and sophisticated at the same time.
 Two pair of shoes and a purse "set me back" a fair amount, and then I came home and wanted to shoot some blog photos, but discovered that my camera had finally conked out, so I went back out and bought a new point-and-shoot camera.
 Gee, that was a big day!  I am glad that I helped some local retailers and had a lot of fun, too!!!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Covered Button Tool

Here are some photos of a fantastic tool that I bought about 14 years ago at an estate sale. It is one of my favorite tools. I don't use it really frequently, but when I need it I am always SO happy that I have it available!

 This is a button covering machine. It produces the beautiful covered buttons that I used to have to order by mail. This thing is very heavy!!

                     Covered buttons used to be very popular for "The Woman of Fashion"!

       The machine came with a die cutter set for each of the many sized buttons it can make.

                                     Here are button fronts and backs for one of the styles...a half ball button.          
      I love having the ability to make covered buttons in my shop! All of the original paperwork was included with the machine. It is even older than I am, but with the way it is built it is sure to out last me!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Style Arc Patterns

                 I just ordered my first Style Arc patterns: http://www.stylearc.com.au/stylearc/

Lizzie Wrap

Gina Tucked Top

                  There are quite a few patterns in the collection that call to me, but I am going to
                   start with these two. There is a bonus of this free pattern during the month of April!

Friday, April 12, 2013


 This is a cape that I made a few months ago. It is a rayon/poly knit. I used Vogue Pattern  8776.

Vogue 8776

 The blue/grey knit fabric drapes beautifully and looks good with my grey hair! I wore this to a surprise anniversary party over a black turtleneck sweater, narrow black pants and knee high black boots. I felt quite chic!
 I looked for buttons in my giant button stash, and also at the fabric store but couldn't find any buttons that seemed right, so I got out my button covering tool, and made my own buttons. Now that I am writing this I think that I will do a blog post about that tool. It is fantastic!!!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sewing Weather!

                       This photo shows why today will be a day devoted to sewing!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thoughts on Fitting

 I have been thinking a lot about garment fit lately. It is one of the most important aspects of sewing, and one of the most challenging to master. I had a class of new students this week, and I thought of a way to describe the importance of learning pattern alterations.
  If a sewist puts together a garment without checking for fit prior to cutting, then essentially she is investing a lot of time and money to discover that the garment does not fit. At least when shopping for ready-to-wear we learn of poor fit the minute that we see ourselves in the mirror in the fitting room. Making a garment that fits poorly takes a lot of time!
 For people new to sewing the discord between the size they wear in ready-to-wear and the correct  size pattern  is often the first hurdle. I am sure that there are many people who enthusiastically choose a pattern without  comparing their own measurements to that of the pattern. In fact it is likely that the majority of novice sewists don't even know their own measurements.
  A reasonable person would feel safe cutting a size 12 pattern if they usually wear a size 12 in ready-to-wear. I actually usually wear a size 8 in purchased clothing, but I use a size 12 pattern. This is not a huge problem unless we don't understand this discord.
 One of my favorite fitting books is "The Perfect Fit" from the Singer Reference Library.

 The copyright on my copy of this book is 1987, so it is far from current. That however doesn't mean that it isn't a very useful book! The photographs of real women in ill fitting garments accompanied by very clear photographs and written descriptions of flat pattern alterations are the most user friendly of any fitting book I have ever read.

 The dated 1980's  styles should be overlooked as the information is so valuable. Actually for those of us who sewed in the 1980's it is really sort of fun to revisit those styles!
 I have recommended this book for years, and find that it is always available at half.com www.half.com   or from Amazon. I have ordered copies for as little as $.75 plus shipping at half.com.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Silk top with Abalone Buttons

  Here are a few photos of a silk top that I made. I washed the silk jacquard to soften the fabric and then I designed a sleeveless top to feature some of my gorgeous antique abalone buttons.

                   Narrow knotted bias ties  embellish the placket on each side of the buttons.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Gravity Feed Iron

                               One of the very favorite tools  is a gravity feed iron.

Gravity Feed Iron
 This type of iron is  heavy (approx 4 1/2 lbs). This weight improves the iron's  pressing capabilities.
Gravity feed irons are fitted with a water tank that is suspended approximately 3 feet above the ironing surface.

Water tank with filter crystals

There is a valve and plastic tubing that carries the water from the tank into the iron's steam chamber.
There are filter crystals (they are dark blue in the photo) that are an added insurance that there is no sediment that can build up on the inside of the iron even with the use of distilled water.
 This iron puts out beautiful, even steam, and never "spits". The steam flow is controlled with a button on the handle. I set the temperature carefully at a low enough temperature to ensure that fabrics don't melt, and high enough that the combination of the steam, heat, and weight of the iron conquer any wrinkle.
 The Namoto iron that I have is very high quality. It is turned on in my sewing studio at least 10 hours a day. It sits on a rubber pad as opposed to sitting on it's end like a household iron.
 This brand of iron is about $400 but lasts for years. I purchased a less expensive gravity feed iron for my daughter, and at $120 it is fine for her purposes. I have students who also run out and buy this type of iron after using mine.
 These irons can also be used vertically to steam wedding gowns, etc.
 Once you have tried a gravity feed iron you may wonder how you can sew without one.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back From Vacation

There is nothing more invigorating than getting away from dirty snow for a week in the sun! Here are a few photos of my trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my family.

Beautiful street in Puerto Vallarta with actual blooming flowers!

One of MANY delicious meals

Yum! Fresh coconut and a vendor who was very deft with a machete!

Me on a horse! We took a wonderful  ride across a river, and up and down a trail to see petroglyphs!

According to our guide these petroglyphs  were etched into the rock about 1200 years ago using rattle snake venom!

View from the balcony at our hotel

  We spent quite a bit of time touring different areas of the city. There were many opportunities to shop, but in all of our travels I never saw a place to purchase fabric.
 I am happy to be home and looking forward to sewing. My sewing machines had a nice rest, and so did I!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Travel Tunic

There has been the usual whirlwind as I have finished sewing projects for clients in preparation for a week in the Mexican sun. I did take a few hours to make myself a tunic to take on the trip.
 I had a piece of rayon/spandex knit from Emma One Sock  http://www.emmaonesock.com/fabrics/knitprints.asp  
 There is always a selection of knit prints on this site. I love the rayon knits as they drape beautifully and are really comfortable to wear.

I used McCall's 6571 http://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m6571-products-22762.php?page_id=528&search_control=display&list=search 
 I used view B with the boat neck. The diagonal print on this knit begged to be accentuated, so I cut the top longer, and angled the hem to follow the print.  I will wear this with narrow black capris and a chunky silver necklace.
 I am so happy that I took the time to make one new piece for our trip!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Day of Opposites!

 My resident snow blower/dog feeder/laundry folder/chef/husband is out of town. This meant that I did all of those chores that he so faithfully does, plus I had to shovel the long sidewalk from the street to my sewing studio entrance.  If I had had someone  shoot a video it could have conveyed the rigors of this task. The wind was blowing so hard that as I tossed the snow up on to the 4 1/2 foot bank on the right  strong gusts were filling it back in off of the banks on the left.  Perhaps you have heard about "light, fluffy snow"...well this wasn't it!

  After that effort I came back into my studio and my twin sister called. I was whining a bit about the shoveling, and then I told her that my most dreaded task of the day was that I had to go shopping for a swimsuit!!!!!! She lives in Canada, so she suggested that if I found a suit I should post it on my blog so that she could see it.
 Anyway, my husband and I are blessed to be traveling to Mexico with kids, and grand kids at the end of the week, and grandma will have to don a swimsuit.
 On the rare occasions that I have had to shop for a swim suit I have always wished that there were candle lit fitting rooms. Florescent lights are good for seeing details...and that is why they are hell in a fitting room!
 Anyway, all of this anxiety was pointless as the designers of swim suits have done us a real favor lately by creating suits that cover up things that are best left to the imagination while still looking a bit zippy.

 Zippy is a relative term...I may ask my fifteen year old grand daughter if she thinks her grandma's swimsuit is zippy. She will undoubtedly agree as she is a kind and diplomatic girl.
 Once in my youth I sewed a swimsuit. It was made from a stretch terry sort of fabric, and the teeny top had cups that were extremely hard. When the fabric got wet, and sucked around those cups it was really quite amazing! Nothing about that experience has ever made me feel like tackling another swimsuit.

 I read a blog the other day where a clever young woman had a remote control thingy that allowed her to shoot photos of herself. I feel really lucky that I don't have that technology so that I have an excuse to show my new bathing suit on my dress form.
 My dress form is at least 25 years old and despite that her breasts are at just about the same level as they were when I first bought her.  I cannot not say the same about mine....
 I made myself a "beach burka" cover-up to wear at all times when not is the water...We are staying at an all inclusive resort, and the round-the-clock buffets assure that the suit will be the most flattering on the day of arrival...
 Thoughts of Mexico made today's shoveling bearable as I expect that thoughts of shoveling will make every moment in Mexico precious!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Perfect Sign

             Here is a sign that I have hanging in my sewing studio.

Were truer words ever said????

Thursday, March 14, 2013


 An organization that does work that is very important to me is having a fund raiser on Saturday evening. They put out a call to artists in the community to donate items for the silent auction.
 I had very little time to make something to donate so I used the new Kathrine Tilton  pattern (#5891) to make a jacket.  http://butterick.mccall.com/b5891-products-44968.php?page_id=369

 The front right panel is cut from a wonderful piece of vintage fabric that looks great with the green canvas. I made bound buttonholes to fit the fantastic vintage buttons that match the pink in the vintage fabric.

I used aqua china silk to bind all of the inside jacket seams. The silk is the same color as the aqua in the vintage print fabric on the front of the jacket.
This was a fun jacket to sew!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sewing Library

Now that most of us have computers the need for good sewing books has diminished. I have a computer in my sewing room and I use it frequently to access specific sewing information, but there is no denying the value of sewing books.
  I have purchased books at estate sales, or tag sales and used book stores. These older books are very charming, and I have learned some valuable techniques from them.



1948                                      1943

 Decorative Dressmaking by Sue Thompson is one of my favorite sewing books! It is packed with instructions for creating fashion details.

Why is this woman so happy?

Some of the photos are charmingly dated!

Ooooops, Fashion Faux Pas! ala 1985

But, there are numerous pages of  explanations on how to recreate details from era's past.

This book has given me many creative ideas over the years!

This Vogue Sewing Book is from 1980. It is very useful on those occasions when I can't remember how to cover a hook with thread.

Actually it has been a long time since I have felt compelled to cover a hook with thread, but should the occasion arise I will have directions right at hand! It also has many more practical instructions.

I frequently acquaint my students with  www.half.com  This is a web site that consistently has books that I am looking for at unbelievably low prices! It is a good place to start a search for sewing books.

For some of us happiness is a nice little sewing library!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Little Shoe Pin Cushions

While cleaning out my mother-in-law's house after her passing my husband found his baby shoes. I took a piece of doupioni silk and some polyester fiber fill and stuffed the little shoes to make pin cushions.

 They will look great on my sewing room shelves!