Monday, July 29, 2013

Jacket Love.

"I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!" - Will Ferrell in "Elf"

So somehow during a surfing session, I clicked on a link, which led to the amazing Craftsy site, which led to creating an account, which led to an inbox message, which led to the impulsive purchase of the online course Sew Better Sew Faster. I have been wanting to make a red canvas jacket forever, there it was, sitting in my email, a better, faster one. Proceed to check out. 

The course included a "free" paper pattern for Jacket Express which comes via mail, and 8 online lessons with the lovely Janet Pray and promised to reveal sewing industry secrets for streamlined construction methods and eliminating pins. 

I definitely came away with a few new tricks, but primarily I came away with a bad case of equipment envy because Janet has one tricked out sewing room. Starting with a fabulous straight stitch machine with a large flat bed. And I believe she could bend wood with her iron. 

Janet recommended a jacket weight cotton, and most of her samples appeared to be made out of duck. Janet herself used 8 oz. denim to teach the class. My canvas, prewashed and dried, was super heavy and stiff, and required a size 18 needle. 

The pattern has a million pieces, which is why the finished product looks so professional. Janet calmly leads you through the unconventional steps that have you breaking the different jobs like sewing, serging and top stitching into batches to save time. My poor serger is an aging diva and flat out refused to deal with more than two layers of the canvas and forced me to bind some of my seams and edges. 


I'm not gonna lie, this jacket took me over a week, working in chunks of 1-3 hours in the evening and a goodly number of swear words were uttered. This had nothing to do with the pattern or Janet's skillful instruction, and everything to do with my determination to make this jacket out of such a heavy material. In the end, I can say unequivocally that it was worth it. This is a garment that I will wear and enjoy for years. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013


The ribbon skirt is finished!

click on the picture to see a close up

I am over the moon with this project. Now, in my mind, a ribbon skirt is one of those southern belle, "ladies who lunch" sort of items that while just so darn adorable, is more special occasion  than wardrobe workhorse. An anniversary dinner is on the horizon- possibly in St. Michaels (?) and you can bet that I will be sporting my new skirt!

See how nicely the side seams match up? 

Click on the picture to see a close up

I'm wearing it here with a plain tank top, but it looks a little dressier with the halter top that I made last month.

I'm anxious to see the others from the sew- along at Goodbye Valentino. Mine isn't all that pencil-y, as far as the design goes.  This is one of my favorite skirt patterns and the rows of ribbon don't have any give, so I am happy with a little more room at the bottom.

The ribbon choice, which is 180 degrees from my original plan, turned out to be so much fun. Certainly no one would suspect that it is $1/yd ribbon from Hobby Lobby. I think this technique would be spectacular on a wedding dress with ivory silk grosgrain. 

My sincere thanks to Sarah and Julie for the sew-along. Sewing is so much more fun when you have like-minds to share the experience. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ribbon Skirt Therapy

My husband has been away all week with his mother at Johns Hopkins hospital while she undergoes testing and hopefully treatment for some serious health issues. Being home alone, waiting for news and just worrying in general has been my lot, and I looked forward to spending some time in the sewing room most nights, pinning away on my ribbon skirt and watching it take shape. 

Now I wasn't in love with the ribbon options offered by my local retail outlets, but made the best of it with a patterned ribbon in citrus colors. The original plan had turquoise on the bottom, but it just didn't work for me. 

So is started over with orange on the bottom and went for three wider bands of equal size.

The inspiration skirt, as well as the sample in Sarah's tutorial was solid with a nice gradient of dark to light pastel colors.  Mine is color blocked with a lattice design, and guess what? I love it! 

The colors look a little grayer in the picture than in person. Matching up the lattice design was a little tedious, but well worth the effort.

The side is only basted since I'm determined to stick with the sew-along and wait patiently for further instructions on Monday. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sew Along!

As Anne, my favorite sewer from the Great British Sewing Bee would say, "Geronimo!"

I'm participating in my very first Sew Along! Two sewers whom I greatly admire from their Pattern Review entries have teamed up to lead a sew along of a charming skirt made out of ribbon.  Julie Starr and Sarah from the sewing blog Goodbye Valentino have mad sewing skills and excellent taste. If ever there was a time for me to jump in the pool, this is it!

The skirt is inspired by this J McLaughlin one:

I wasn't familiar with this brand until I saw Julie's version in one of her reviews and remember thinking it was just adorable. And I'm not the only one. So, many thanks to Sarah for hosting the "party!"

Ribbon shopping in this podunk town of mine is pathetic. I ended up at Hobby Lobby, and spent the better part of an hour with spools spread out on the floor of the ribbon aisle. There simply weren't enough colors of solid 1 1/2" ribbon to make a nice gradient so I totally switched gears and went with a pattern in what I hope will be complementary colors. 

This could end up being a hot mess, but for now I will think of these as "sherbet" colors and carry on with the project. Random stripes may end up being more pleasing than the blocks of colors... We'll see.  The actual skirt is now on sale for less than $50, so this is a labor of love, to be sure. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Yes, Mother.

When my mom asked a few months back if I would slipcover two parsons chairs for her, I obviously replied "sure!"  I mean she did give birth to me, and teach me to sew,  so a couple of slipcovers really wasn't too much to ask.

I've covered many a parson's chair in my day. Many. In fact, when it comes to home dec sewing, they are just about as simple as it gets. So, yep, no problem...until she dropped off the fabric.

Chenille upholstery fabric. Ugh. It's fine for pillows, but for slipcovers, I'm not a fan.

Pinning was a breeze because the heavy weight of the material doesn't slip and slide too much.


I usually pin slipcovers wrong side out, but since I wanted to make sure I had the flower design placement just right, and because I would be making a pattern for the second slipcover from these pieces, I pinned this one right side out.

My machine was a trooper and handled the cording like a champ. But when it came time to attach the skirt and  I tried to shove eight layers of that sh#* under the presser foot, it was not a happy camper.

We had a little wine and worked our way through it slowly. I ended up having to hand sew the corner flaps on the skirt,  but there were ONLY EIGHT of them, so it wasn't too bad.

Here's one of the finished chairs. 

My mom is thrilled with her "new" chairs, and they look fabulous in her dining room.
I gave my  machine a good cleaning and a nice little rest after the ordeal of sewing them and I'm pretty sure all is forgiven. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Baby it's hot outside

One of the benefits of being female is being able to wear very little in the hottest months and still look somewhat professional.  I work in a mostly business casual atmosphere, but even that requires long pants and a button down or polo for men. We girls, on the other hand, just need to keep the cleavage covered and hemlines near the knee and we are good to go. 

Enter Vogue 8784- View B.  This little slip of summertime awesomeness is my hands down favorite thing to put on when it's broiling outside. It's a true wrap dress. It is particularly flattering for us smaller busted girls because the stitched down pleats in the bodice open up to  add a little umph where it is most useful. More endowed sewers may have to adjust this pattern for cleavage control. I also love the 3 piece bodice back, which makes it easy to adjust for my narrow back. 

Here's a close up:

The straight skirt version has a subtle trumpet shape with well placed pleats that suggest more of a waist than there may actually be. 

This fabric is a light weight, no wrinkle poly/rayon blend and I self-lined the bodice. It is my favorite version of the pattern. I also made it in linen, and used a narrow bias facing for the neck edge and armholes instead of lining the bodice. Future versions will have the 3/4 sleeves for fall, and probably the collar- maybe navy/white polka dot...

Some people don't like making the same thing over and over. I love the challenge of a new pattern, but I also a good ol' basic that fits well and looks great. 

There's some slipcovering going on in the sewing room right now. Which means upholstery weight fabric, which means a little swearing. Results to be posted soon.

LATE BREAKING NEWS!! OMG! I just received an email from Pattern Review telling me that I am the featured reviewer today. 
Well holy mother of pearl- what a cool surprise. Obviously that is a random selection process, but I still feel pretty special.  Thanks Pattern Review- for the "honor" and also for the 20% discount!