Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This Thing Of Beauty

Some projects are far more fun to create than others. They tend to show up unannounced; occasionally you have an inkling. These are the projects with an element of mystery and unknowing like the one I started Sunday using a 22" x 75" remnant of linen. The piece was given to me several years ago and has been waiting for the perfect moment. It's a heavier weight, opaque linen, perfect for a sleeveless top with no camisole needed.

22" is not wide enough nor long enough to cut out the full front or the full back of a blouse. I loved that. Not having enough fabric is one of my favourite starting points. I love the constraints it provides and knowing that I will be finding ways to make it work all the way through.

I chose to work with the pattern pieces from the black and white sleeveless top I made earlier this month. The original pattern was New Look 6273 only what I have now is so far from the original as to be completely original. To the changes I'd already made, I added 1" in length, a 1" full bust adjustment, and 3" in back hip width and reshaped the armholes.

In the first image, I'd folded the fabric and pinned the center front piece on fold but I didn't cut it out. I wanted to make sure I'd have enough fabric for that portion of the front and that I wouldn't accidentally use the fabric for something else. Because the fabric wasn't long enough, I knew I'd be adding a yoke.

For the back, I folded the fabric from the other end to get two pieces right sides together and folded back the top of the pattern to eliminate that section. Again, there was not enough fabric for a full piece and so the back will also have a yoke.

Rather than sew a seam down center back, I extended the edge an additional 1" to create a button band. The line is drawn with pencil. It's easy to see and washes out however...BEFORE...

... I cut out the piece, I cut off the selvage. It has a lovely frayed edge, a fine line of black thread and about a half inch of tight weaving that I cut another inch further away from. The length is rolled up and in the box with the rest of the selvages I've cut off. They're wonderful design elements.

I carefully planned my cutting path to leave as big of scraps as possible since I'd need them to piece the front and back yokes. It's just easier that way.

Linen is a wonderful fabric to work with. It presses crisply and molds easily. When I'd pressed back the button bands and top stitched them in place, I just had to stop, pat the work, and admire this thing of beauty. It's so important to celebrate our work.

Yesterday was my coaching session with Diane and we celebrated progress. I know that way back when I was a beginner seamstress, I never would have even started this project because there wasn't enough fabric. Things have changed. All through the project, the path of my learning could be tracked by when I would have quit because at that "age" that was the point at which I didn't know what to do to save the piece. At this "age" I made it to the end even though...

... just before calling Diane, I'd discovered a "mistake" and either the back armhole was too high or the front armhole was too low. It didn't bother me. It was simply another challenge to work through because although cutting the back shorter would have been a lot easier than adding to the front, both were doable with the skills and abilities I've developed. I've finished the top and will post the rest over the next few days. It turned out fabulous. YES YES - I'm very thankful to have this creative outlet in my life.

What are you celebrating?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - not enough as a starting point

Giving ourselves a license to play with a problem allows us to try different approaches. Sometimes this means removing a constraint or two. But sometimes it means doing just the opposite: I've found that an equally liberating form of play is to add constraints. Constraints can be a powerful stimulate to the creative process. 
- Roger von Oech

Monday, March 30, 2015

Make A Decision

When I'm unsure, I have a tendency to talk too much, research endlessly, and spend a lot of money. And this is exactly the counter productive path that I found myself on Friday night when I went to bed early because I was tired only to get up an hour later and spend the next two in the studio.

I was making lists, sorting fabrics, and looking through patterns while over-thinking clothes for the cruise. It's all so unknown, so exhausting, so enough. I needed to make a decision and I did. By putting together all the advice I'd received I have - finally - chosen fabrics, determined  bottoms, tops, and outerwear, and started sewing.

And stalled. Who knew - definitely not me - how much fabric it takes to make a coat. There wasn't nearly enough of the black and silver fabric but I had three meters of a gorgeous, very tightly woven, stretch dupioni in purple that I thought would work... and it would have... as a windbreaker but not as a raincoat. When I poured on water, it spread quickly and went straight through to the surface below. That won't work.

We don't have rainwear fabric in town so I ordered the Storm Black Supplex from Marcy's site. I would have ordered it in purple if I'd know the exact shade only I loved the purple I had and would have been disappointed if the colour wasn't close so I opted for black. I have never in my life owned a raincoat. This will be a new experience and - after the cruise - I can use it in the spring and fall for walking Miss Chloe.

In the spirit of moving forward - and to avoid further dithering - I also made the decision to sew favorites, to use pretested patterns, and to make decisions based on what I would normally wear around home. I chose Vogue 8934 for the raincoat because I love the shape and the tucks and because I've already sewn a muslin. I'm adding the hood from McCall's 7058 to eliminate carrying an umbrella and I'll add zippers to the pockets in the side seams for keys and other stuff. Good. Done. Decision made.

This week, I plan to spend as much time as possible sewing in the studio. I've decided on a skirt, pants, tank top, and t-shirt from a black knit and on a skirt, pants, blouse, and sleeveless top from a blue woven. I'll add prints to this mix and work toward 3 cardigans, 1 coat, 5 bottom garments, and 7 upper garments. That's 16 garments with plenty of options. I know. For sure. Because when I went back to bed, I still didn't sleep. I ran wardrobe scenarios.

THANK YOU so much for all the advice. It has been invaluable. I've calmed down. I feel focused. I have a workable plan. The fabric selections have been made. I've started sewing. It's good.

AND... since you haven't seen any pictures recently... here are a few of my adorable, energetic, and incredibly curious grandson. Hmm... I wonder where he got that from - LOL. He needs a sitter for next Monday and it's Grandma to the rescue which means by the end of the week I'll be getting sweet baby hugs in person. YES YES

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - advice, energy, curiosity

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. 
- Walt Streightiff

Friday, March 27, 2015

Crazy In The Wrong Direction

THANK YOU so much for all the helpful comments. I really appreciate the support. This new plan feels far more manageable, even exciting, and I'm trusting those of you with travelling experience to let me know if I suddenly start going crazy in the wrong direction. Right now, my focus is a collection of garments that are comfortable, wearable, and work well together. I'm lucky that upscale casual as the cruise line is suggesting is what I would normally wear.

One thing I've decided to absolutely not do is go crazy buying all sorts of things we won't use again once we get home. For instance, luggage. While our luggage does not have four twirly wheels, it does have two pull wheels and the only thing we have to do on our own is get to and from the airport in Vancouver. After that, the cruise line takes complete care of us. That's one trip into the airport and one trip out. For that, two pull wheels will do as will...

... comfortable and reasonably priced footwear which I'm already breaking in so they'll be perfect by the time we get to Europe. The closed shoes already are. I wore them all around Sew Expo and I've been wearing them to walk Ms. Chloe. It's good. There's no slipping and sliding in my shoes and they're very comfortable. I need warmer weather to wear the sandals on a longer walk but for now I'm wearing them around the house. If I can fit in another - dressier - pair of heels I will and if not, these will do. Besides - LOL - they do have stores in Europe.

One thing I would appreciate advice on is a coat. I want something light, windbreaker like, and somewhat water resistant just in case. I bought the taffeta-like reversible black and silver fabric above from Marcy and have the perfect zipper. It's black with shiny silver teeth. I'm thinking of something about knee length with a zipper front and contemplating Butterick 6141 or Marcy's Vogue 8934 or her Vogue 8876 dress pattern with sleeves. Thoughts?

Yesterday, I finished the blue linen skirt except for the waistband. There is a zipper in the back for ease of getting in and out and I think I'll add a narrow elastic casing at the waist for weight fluctuations. That would let me finish the garment now rather than waiting until closer to the date. It also ups the comfort factor. This is my favourite Burda 8213 skirt pattern. I have another sewn in a fuchsia and black print knit that would work as well if I needed it to.

The zipper is invisible. At one time, I wouldn't sew garments with zippers because I didn't know how and then I graduated to hiring someone to sew the zippers in and then I finally decided to learn how to do it myself. I mostly used lapped zippers at first but now the only time I use those are for a fly front. I almost always use an invisible zipper because...

... they are beyond easy with the right foot. The foot above is a generic one that comes with different shank heights. You pick the one that works with your machine and attach it to the bottom portion. The needle lines up with the small grove in the center and then depending which side you're sewing, you run the zipper through the groves to the right or left of center which pushes the zipper open and places the stitching exactly where it's supposed to be. When the...

... zipper is closed, the fabric folds over beautifully and the zipper is invisible. If you don't have an invisible zipper foot, this generic one was available at our Fabricland and not very expensive. And - the voice of experience - even if it was, it's worth every penny. I sewed this zipper in at 5:30 in the morning, perfect first try. It's that easy.

I stabilize the zipper opening with a strip of fusible interfacing first. Do you see a theme? That I stabilize anything that might possibly need stabilizing. Yes. It ups the accuracy rate and makes sewing so much easier.

There are enough remnants left from the linen skirt to possibly make a sleeveless top using my signature piecing method. I might need a bit more fabric and I knew there was a dress in the recycle box so I pulled it out and tried it on before chopping - that's always a good idea because... - other than shortening it, there was nothing wrong. Above, I cut off three inches and then decided it needed another two off. That's what I'm working on this morning. Chopping off two more inches and hemming.

I'm thinking of taking this dress to the Design Outside the Lines retreat and adding some painted details. Maybe. What fun that would be and I'm not sure BUT... the retreat is a great bonus for my cruise wardrobe. Like I said, I don't tend to take long holidays and for some reason I have two back to back this year. I'll be in Oregon for two and a half weeks and can trial run my Europe plan.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - packing advice

If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done. 
- unknown

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Less Clothes More Accessories

By the time we fly to Amsterdam, cruise to Budapest, take the three day extension to Prague, and fly back home, we'll be gone for almost three weeks which will be the longest holiday I've ever taken as an adult. I tend toward shorter trips more often rather than longer trips. I've never been to Europe. I've never been on a cruise. I've never been on such a long holiday. I'm starting to stress out about what to wear. Typically when I'm away, I see it as an opportunity to really dress up and to have new outfits for every day. For this trip, that's not going to work.

The information Janice puts together at The Vivienne Files is beyond fabulous both for buying or sewing a wardrobe. The plan I originally picked for the cruise collection has thirty-one garments. That's too overwhelming. I'm feeling time crunched and like I'd be packing more than I need so I've decided to simplify and focus on less clothes more accessories. I went back to the site and found a new plan.

In Building By Fours, Janice lays out a plan based on two groups of four that include two tops, a pair of pants, and a skirt. Then she adds an expansion four, a mileage four, and an integration four (accessories) which ends up with sixteen garments plus accessories. That's more doable, less overwhelming.

The plan illustrated is built around nautical red and a neutral beige neither of which is my favourite color so even though I do know how to substitute color for color in my head, I went looking for another set I could relate to better and found...

... the lavender, jade, denim and grey combination. Translate that to fuchsia, turquoise, navy/black, and grey, and that's the direction I'm heading in. Yesterday, I started on a navy blue linen skirt in my favourite trumpet style and I went through my closet to see what already exists that can be incorporated into the groups of four. I have a good start and although I know I won't stick to the plan like glue - because that's just not me - things are feeling far more manageable.

I need to think differently about packing for this holiday and focus not on outfits but on mix and match and on amazing accessories that add enough punch and interest to distract from the fact that I'm wearing the same thing I was wearing the other day just mixed up a little differently. That part - the same thing over again only slightly different - is going to be hard for me which I think is hilarious because what do I wear at home - the same thing over again only slightly different... week to week. Hmm...

And... bonus... working with the 4 x 4 outline will help me to develop a core wardrobe of "cake" pieces that I can later add "frosting" pieces to. It's good learning. I'll be intrigued to see how it comes together since "frosting" is more my usual approach. I can be different. I can. I think - LOL.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - another clean space

If you hit every time, the target's too near - or too big. 
The second assault on the same problem should come from a totally different direction. 
Don't mind approaches that transform one problem into another, that's a new chance. 
- Tom Hirschfield

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I'm Not In Love

Do you have times when you sew and sew and it seems that everything is - while not a wadder - somewhat less than wonderful? The garments are only okay. When I told my husband I was frustrated with sewing okay clothes and not wonderful ones, he asked what was wrong with okay and that's a perfectly valid question. Okay is... well... only okay. It produces completely wearable garments but not ones that feel amazing like you nailed "it" perfectly. Every once in a while, I like a shot of wonderful to keep me going.

I finished the top. It's okay. I would have liked to cut the binding with the stripes running diagonally and I couldn't but luckily there was enough fabric for continuous pieces for the neckline and both armholes.

The side seam on the longer side of Vogue 9057 is left open. Last time I sewed it closed. This time I left it open only I didn't like the way it stuck out so I used buttons to tack the edges together. I really like how that looks.

This is one of those looks good but doesn't feel good garments although I think the pattern has tremendous potential in my wardrobe. I really like the way it fits through the bodice and how it flares out in that quite flattering while giving the illusion that I'm slimmer than I actually am kind of way. What I don't like is the hemline. This is my third garment with an asymmetrical hemline and I'm not in love. I feel much better when the garment is symmetrical or when...

... the asymmetrical aspects are contained within the garment like with the wrap portion of this out of print Vogue 8390. It's a much softer look that I find more wearable. That's interesting information to add to my checklist.

My blouse still needs buttons and hopefully I'll get that done in the next few days. I bought buttons on the weekend and they looked good against the fabric at the store and too light against it at home. I want to see if I can find a darker shade that would work better. Later.  Today, I'm giving the house a good cleaning and then I'll cut out a jacket, pair of pants, or skirt. I need a break from tops.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the idea of spending an hour a day doing the things I want done but don't want to do hasn't gone anywhere. An hour a day is not my normal approach. I'd hoped to behave differently but I'm more of the get it over with kind of person and I get it over with when "it" suddenly click. Yesterday I went looking for a specific box and ended up cleaning out the storage room and under the stairs. YES YES

There is no royal, flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it. For if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.
- C.J. Walker

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Organic Creativity

Buttons and buttonholes are not something for me to do at 5:30 in the morning when my eyes are emerging from blurry mode. Since that's all that was left to do on the blouse I'm making, yesterday morning I worked on a tank top. It's the sleeveless version of Marcy's Vogue 9057 - a great pattern.

I love when creativity happens organically, when one thing connects to another and you end up engaged in a project that's far more fun than you'd anticipated. That often happens when I make a mistake or when I don't have enough fabric as with this pink and black rib. There might have been enough for a regular tank top but not for one with an asymmetric hemline and individually cut pieces.

I cut out a full back and a partial front and mimicked the angle of the hemline across the bodice and then I pieced strips of fabric to form the bodice alternating the direction of the ribbed pattern row to row.

Marcy once referred to this technique as my signature element. It's something I brought into fashion from textile art. I layer the fabrics and stitch them together with until I create a big enough piece to cut out the desired shape. I love the texture this technique creates.

Once I'd pieced a full front, I stabilized the hemline, neckline, and armholes and how I'm ready to finish sewing the top together. I have the side seams, the hemline, and binding the neck and armholes. So far, I plan to use pink binding but we'll see what really happens.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - play

If necessity is the mother of invention, then play is the father. Use it to fertilize your thinking. The next time you have a problem, play with it. If you don't have a problem, take time to play anyway. You may find some new ideas. Try adding a constraint or two to your problems as a way of stimulating your thinking. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Collaborative Painting

On Friday, I spent the day with my friend Francine. We've known each other for twenty-two years and - finally - did something we've talked about for ages: a collaborative painting. Francine is a professional painter and I, as you know, am a total amateur.

Neither of us had ever done a collaborative piece and we worked really well together. I was surprised by how often our thoughts about what should be next were the same or when I'd be watching her turn and think I hope she puts some of that there... and then she would. Francine said that's because I'm an artist and it didn't matter that I wasn't familiar with painting with acrylics because I was familiar with the art process. Hmm...

We started with this piece of mine. Back in November when I was painting my kitchen, I had jokingly covered a canvas with black paint and added three big X's. Because the paint was enamel, I primed over it  to make sure our adventure would stick. Rolling the primer left some shading as a starting point including that one bit that looked somewhat like the Eiffel Tower.

Francine started and then we kept trading turns. Above is after our first turn and below...

... is is after our second turn. At first, we didn't discuss with each other what we wanted to do and simply responded to the other's work. By the end, we were doing a lot more discussion and - again - it was fun to see how often our thoughts were along the same line.

Knowing that a well designed piece can be viewed from every position and still show solid design, we made sure to turn the canvas frequently.

Not having used paints before, I had no idea how much to pour out and I learned that the used paint cannot go back in the container in-case it is contaminated in some way. When I poured too much, we used the excess to paint the edges.

Above is the end of our third turn and below is the end of our fourth turn. I think. I started...

... to lose track because once you become engrossed in the work, it's really hard to remember to take a picture. It tends to stop the flow and when you're in the flow, the last thing you want to do is stop it.

Francine has a huge studio with all kinds of paints, toys, and tools. We experimented with stencils, and paint inks, and pens that you fill with paint to write, and with tape, lids and tubes and there was so much more we could have done. Some of the techniques I'd have liked to try weren't possible because there wasn't enough drying time. I did have to go home that night.

When we got to the point above, we decided that the design was established and it was time to start shading and adding depth to the painting.

Francine jokingly told me to listen because now she was going to be the instructor. Too funny. She taught me how to rub on and off the black paint to add shadowed edges to the shapes within the painting. It'll take me a while to develop better technique but it's HIGHLY ADDICTIVE. You start seeing shapes and edges everywhere and wanting to highlight them. Even with my lack of skill and several oops, the painting turned out not too bad.

At five o'clock, we had to call it done even though there were all kinds of lines we'd both have liked to keep exploring. It's a two and a half hour drive and I needed to go home. I brought the painting back with me and when we have time we'll add a few more finishing details and sign the piece.

The finished painting is very graffiti-like. It's a great mix of both our styles. Right now, it's hanging on the lime-green wall in my upstairs hallway and the wall color is adding even more glow to the painting's colors. It was a lot of fun to paint with Francine and it was a lot of fun to paint. It's something I'd like to do more of.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a fun day with a friend, developing new skills, safe travels

I dream my painting and then paint my dream.
- Vincent van Gogh

Friday, March 20, 2015

The T-Shirt That Became A Tank Top

It would be entirely possible to mount a successful argument that the more I know about sewing, the harder it gets HOWEVER... an equally successful argument could be made that the more I know about sewing, the easier it gets only I'm far more aware of the changes that could be made to make the garment look and fit better and completely willing to take the time to make those changes. That's what happened this past week.

Last weekend, I cut out four garments: two tank tops, a t-shirt, and one sleeveless woven blouse. I anticipated that one of the tank tops and the t-shirt would be easy sews, the woven blouse would take the most time, and the second tank top would be the most fun because I don't have enough fabric and will need to piece together a yoke. That's not what happened.

This turquoise tank is made from a remnant I bought at Sew Expo. The fabric is GORGEOUS to work with and there was barely enough to cut the top. I used my T & T pattern because the seam down center back would allow me to maximize the fabric and the pattern was already altered to fit. The only change I made was to raise the underarm.

I stitched the binding to the underarm and then decided I'd raised it too much so I picked that off and re-did it and then I fused and hemmed the bottom like I've done a million times before with this T & T only when I tried the t-shirt on, it seemed too long. This is the fabric factor. It'll get you ever time. So...

... I picked out the twin-needled hem, fused another strip of interfacing an inch higher, cut off the original hem, and pinned the new hemline in place. When I tried that on, I decided it was too short. It's a Goldilocks thing as in too hot, too cold, and just perfect which turned out to be turning up the hem 1/2" instead of the full inch. For a tank top, it took forever but not nearly as long as...

... the t-shirt that became a tank top. This fabric is heavier and has a nice hand and drape however, in retrospect, it would have been perfect for a skirt only I chose to make a t-shirt. It was to be one of the tops from my cruise collection and when I went to cut it out, I couldn't find the journal with my outline so I cut out a simple t-shirt using Marcy's Vogue 9057 that I'd pretested. It was supposed to be a wrap top. Oops.

I chose to raise the underarm an inch because I thought there was too much fabric bunching there with the other version I'd sewn. Raising the underarm affected the sleeve cap but with the significant changes to the cap I'd made on my woven blouse, I opted to pin baste the original sleeve in first. There was too much cap height. Next, I opted to pin baste in the sleeve moving the cap up 1". There was not enough cap height. Next, I redrafted the cap height to have 1/2" less height, re-cut the sleeves, inserted one, and the easing was not puckered but visible if you know what I mean. It couldn't be pressed out because of the synthetic fabric leaving the sleeve cap looking ripply SO....

... by then I was quite frustrated with sleeves and had realized this top would most likely be on the warm side so I opted for sleeveless and serged a strip around the armhole, turned it to the wrong side, and stitched it in place with a double needle. As you can see above, not at all pretty so...

... I tried it on, gauged that it could be slightly narrower, cut off the turned edge and then...

... stabilized the armholes with strips of interfacing. This is what I'd done with the turquoise tank top and the armholes turned out beautifully. I've gotten to the point now where I stabilize all the edges on a knit top that will be stitched - the neckline, the shoulder seam, the hemline, and now armholes on tanks. It just works.

I reapplied the binding using exactly the same method. The only difference between this image and the (ugly) one earlier is the stabilizing benefits of the interfacing. SOLD.

It took me almost three hours to sew in the last version of the sleeve, pick it out, sew on the binding, cut it off, stabilize the armholes, serge on the new bindings, turn and stitch them to the garment, and close up the portion of the side seam I'd opened. THREE HOURS... is a lot when it typically takes me an hour and a half to make a t-shirt. Some days - some garments - are like that and you just never can tell. The woven blouse? After three hours, all I had left was the hand stitching under the collar stand and the buttons and button holes. Go figure.

Today... I'm not sewing. I'm driving two and a half hours east to visit a friend and we're going to take turns painting an acrylic painting together. She's a professional and I'm a total amateur so I anticipate learning a lot. I hope it's fun for her too although just spending time together will be fun for both of us. I know that I'm looking forward to spending the day with a friend.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - two finished tanks and an almost finished blouse all for the cruise collection

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. 
- Thomas Edison