Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Day Of Slow Sewing With Katherine

To me, winter is the perfect time to get a lot done in the studio so I don't mind the changing of the seasons except for that - seemingly - one weekend a winter when we get snow overload. Last year, on "the" snow weekend, a friend was visiting and she ended up taking another four days to get home between interruptions and cancellations. She's coming tomorrow so hopefully that won't happen again this year although I've borrowed Howard's all wheel drive vehicle just in case.

When I woke up Saturday morning, it was lightly snowing and then it came down heavier and heavier as the day went on. It snowed all day Saturday, all night, all day Sunday, all night, and then warmed up on Monday and started melting and freezing alternately. Two perfect studio days was fabulous. Icy road and sidewalks not so much.

This is the view from my studio window underneath the porch. Howard and I plan to build roofs over our front and back porches so that as we age, we don't have to shovel the snow off them. The snow is heavy. Shoveling is a lot of work and not for the ancient old ones we plan to be. I have two neighbours with snow blowers who have decided to do the driveways around them so thankfully they took care of mine over the weekend along with the heavy snow berm from the plow. I'm very grateful... especially since...


... that left me lots of time in the studio. On Friday, I laid out all the parts and pieces of the outfit project and determined what was staying, what was going, and what still needed to be sewn. In the picture above left, the purple dress, the black pants, and the print skirt (shown in the picture above right) were still fabric. I cut the patterns out in the morning and sewed the garments together over the next three days. Normally, I wouldn't cut out more than one garment at a time but I knew for sure these would work which has been interesting learning with this project. What works. What doesn't. Sometimes it's more a feeling than anything else.

I'll show individual pictures of each outfit in another post but missing from the wardrobe picture above is the black t-shirt in this image. This is a classic Myrna outfit with a black t-shirt, a printed lower garment, and a statement necklace. The skirt is Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8499 which is one of my most worn and favourite styles. The t-shirt is a self drafted mixing up the parts and pieces of two other favourites. The shoes, which you can't see very well, have a Victorian button-up overtone and the necklace-to-be is the knit pieces I showed in an earlier post. It's isn't complete. The strands are there just to see how it'll look with the t-shirt. The shoes will be painted the same lime. .

One of the things I've learned - or reconfirmed - yet still again - is my comfort spot with clothing. I like medium to dark tones. I like one accent piece. I like a solid coloured upper garment and a printed lower garment. I love Love LOVE a statement necklace. I like comfortable but interesting shoes and just the right number of pieces to be balanced. I was trying to add a topper to every garment and that doesn't work with every combination - just some - and - of course - the right topper.

Another thing I learned is to not buy or make the accessories first. I bought a pair of handpainted shoes in December that just arrived and no longer go with any of these outfits and I struggled to make the knot necklace fit in after eliminating the gold/turquoise/purple outfit that it was perfect with. And since I made it twice, I was determined it would fit. I'm glad I waited on the purses because now I can match them up better.

I'm looking forward to making this knit necklace. It's vastly different from anything I've made before and I'm excited to see how it looks when I add the beaded details. I took this picture of The Nuremberg Combo for my  friend Alex because I purchased the printed skirt fabric while shopping with her in Nuremberg. I thik she went into shock when she realized I was actually going to buy it.

Howard and I were in Nurenberg in July 2015 as part of our cruise. He went off on an optional World War II tour and Alex and I went shopping. She'd driven down from three hours north to spend the day with me. It was our first in-person meeting and we had a blast together, have stayed in touch since, and are hoping to get together again this summer. I really appreciate how the Internet connects us with those who love what we love.

I have one and a half garments left to sew. I've cut out Katherine Tilton's Butterick 5891 vest in a turquoise raw silk to go with the hand painted pants and turquoise t-shirt. It's also a souvenir fabric bought the last time I went to Sew Expo. I've sewn this vest before in a black linen and it gets worn ALL THE TIME, in fact, it gets worn so often that the black is severely faded and needs over-dyeing or I need to sew another black one. It's flattering and goes with everything.

The half garment is the other half of Katherine's Butterick 6325 in this grey print. I added a plain grey button band and cut the collar from the same fabric. It's ready to sew in. Once that's done, I'll debate the sleeves and the peplum. Right now, it looks like a chunk on my hip instead of an interesting element.

I've sewn this pattern before (in blue) and the peplum looked better tone-on-tone. Looking at the pattern photo, it appears to move further toward center back/front than the instructions indicate. I'll play with the positioning and may create a layered peplum by adding a smaller one of the print fabric so there is less solid grey showing. First the collar, then the peplum, then debate if any grey is needed on the sleeves, then add buttons and it's done. And then the vest. And then I'm done all the garments and ready for the jewelry, handbags, and shoes. I also have two pairs of pajamas cut out ready and I'd like to sew a coat which looks doable at this point since I'm not leaving until the second week of March. I'm stopping at a friend's house for four days on the way to Ashland so I can also sew those there.

I spent a day of slow sewing with Katherine yesterday while working on the top and will spend another today finishing it. Several of Katherine's patterns are favourites. What I like about both the vest and this top is that the pieces are cut individually, layered on top of each other, with tucks and turns and hems that need to be neatly turned and pressed. These patterns are not sew-by-number and take a degree of accuracy. I really enjoy measuring and turning and pressing the hems neat and crisp, and the seams, and arranging the parts just so. I find it soothing, a great play day, as opposed to fast-food-ish-sewing. I'm not a huge fan of the make it tonight, wear it tomorrow type of sewing. I prefer to be in the moment.

Of the many designers, I purchase more patterns designed by Sandra Betzina, Marcy Tilton, and Katherine Tilton than any other. I rarely sew Sandra's patterns since they are designed more for her body type than mine. What I like are her design details which are transferable and are also what attracted me to her work the first time I heard her speak in the 80s.

The skirt shown earlier, as well as a pant and a t-shirt pattern designed by Marcy are sewn-many-times-over favourites along with two shirts of Katherine's and her Vogue 8691 t-shirt that is by and far my most sewn pattern. The outfit project has shown me that it would be oh so easy to get in a rut and stay there but it's also shown me where to push the edges comfortably. I have more than a few patterns by Marcy and Katherine that I haven't even tried yet but I know they have great potential to also be favourites and that's fun.

Talk soon - Myrna

- snow blowers

Friday, January 26, 2018

Swapping Partners

Most of you will be familiar with the concept of a SWAP or capsule wardrobe and the advantages they offer toward a co-ordinated and interchangeable wardrobe. I've started them with great enthusiasm before but once the planning is all done, I lose interest because for me part of the fun is the mystery of the unfolding. The outfit project that I'm working on now is the closest I've ever come to either of those options and it is proving a point for me - that if I buy what I like for my stash and I sew what I like from my stash, what I like is going to, more often than not, work together.

Some of the garments I've already sewn are swapping partners - as I sit and sew I get ideas for mixing them up and sometimes the new combination is even better than the previous one so - LOL - nothing is final, not even my selections.

Considering how little time I have, I probably should have stuck to shapes and patterns I'd already tested but that's not my nature. I have enough clothes in my closet to dress myself for five days so instead, I've been trying out new ideas and not all of them work as in I wouldn't wear that or some of them work - like the orange top - but not for this event. And that's okay. It's interesting and informative and the fabric is never lost.

Yesterday, I sewed Vogue 1297, a Sandra Betzina pattern with very few pieces. I thought it'd be a quick and easy sew since I've made this pattern several times, have enjoyed wearing it with no issues, and love the compliments it gets only this time it didn't go together as planned. How strange. So much for T & T.

Both dresses are from the exact same pattern. The earlier picture was sewn about four or five years ago and I used the same pieces, no changes, when I sewed this blue check version. This time, I found a mistake with my alterations making the front piece about an inch longer than the back - which leads me to think it may have to do with the full bust adjustment - and to wonder why I never noticed before. Definitely, I sewed this version more carefully, slow sewing, and enjoying stitching and pressing each seam and growing the garment seam-by-seam. And yet - another strange thing - it feels too short. I'd like it to be about 2-3" longer.

How does this happen? I've sewn the dress before, several times, and worn it before, for years, and now the exact same length is too short! I know for sure that I didn't grow. Experiences like this amuse me especially when I've been wearing a garment or combination of garments for years and then suddenly look in the mirror and think oh, yuck, how could you wear that? What changed? Was it me... or the garment... or.... ? ? ? Do you have that experience too?

I chose the blue check fabric because it went well with the navy topper that I just finished knitting. I don't have the earlier dress any longer so I couldn't try them together and when I did, the shapes don't - IMHO - work well together on my body. Perhaps if I had a longer waist, it would be great but there's a string's width between the bottom of my rib cage and the top of my hip bones. It's easy to lose my waist and once that happens I look like a big triangle.

Since I have another short topper that I love wearing and thought this one was an easy in, I was curious about what would look together. I think that while the topper/dress combo looks heavy, the topper/skirt combo is a more flattering match. Again, isn't that interesting?

A short cardigan/bolero/topper is a new shape for me that I'm having mixed success with. Sometimes it works but not always. What I like about a new shape is the ability to play dress-up in my own closet and see how things look together. What I'm discovering is that as much as I might think I want to push the edges, there are certain combinations that always feel more natural and comfortable. One is a defined waist and the other is low contrast.

I really like the dress and it's very comfortable to wear. Last night, I tried it on with different cardigan shapes and I'm debating using the fabric scraps to make a bolero. I'm not sure about lengthening the dress mostly because I'm not sure how to do that well. I'll wait to try it on with proper undergarments, shoes and jewelry before deciding.

I had planned to wear the lime necklace with the blue garments only this particular shade of blue looks fabulous with fuchsia and the piece I made in September could work great. LOL - it is entirely possible that until  I actually get to the workshop and put on the outfit and take the picture that day, everything is open to change... including what I do next.

I started knitting a turquoise sweater to wear with the hand painted pants in the "orange" outfit only the shape is similar to this topper so I'll try those two on together first to make sure the combo works before continuing. I'm only part way through one sleeve so there is time to change the style.

I just finished reading Small Move, Big Change by Caroline L. Arnold. It's a book about microresolutions which are resolutions so small that you can't help but succeed. They take on average about four to five weeks to become habit and working with two at a time, you can accomplish about twenty microresolutions a year.

The author talks about attaching your microresolution to something that will prompt you to success. For example, several years ago, I wanted to remember to take a multi-vitamin so I put the bottle with my toothbrush and when I brush my teeth in the morning, I take my vitamin. That works for me just like adding walking to journalling is working. There are lots of  examples in the book through a variety of life situations in the section called microresolutions in action. For me, the phrase it's way more fun to pay cash reminds me of my financial goals. I have it taped to my wallet and my computer screen and see it any time I'm thinking of buying something.

Great things can come through small changes. Yesterday, I realized that if I were to lose half a pound a week, that I would lose twenty-six pounds by the end of the year. Half a pound seems entirely doable, a slow and permanent weight loss plan. To that end, I've made a zero-tolerance policy of no eating after 8:00 pm.

I also realized that if I switched from a tall to a short coffee at Starbucks, I would save $145 a year and if I got one free refill instead of going home and making an instant Starbucks, I would save another $365 dollars - the instant is about a dollar a pouch.  Although saving $510 a year sounded great, going to a short felt cheap so I'm having the tall and the refill and still saving.

The important thing about my resolutions is that they match my personality and are doable in the long run. I can go for coffee instead of lunch with friends but I can't stop going out because relationships are important to me, they are what I think life is about.

I have no idea what I'm working on today. Depending on how trying on clothes went last night, I'll decide what I'm sewing or knitting or jewelry making next. LOL - more on Wednesday.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - new shapes, new learning

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What To Do With The Orange Top And Other Options

Today is a knitting day. This morning, I took my broken serger and all of my very dull scissors to the shop to be repaired and sharpened which leaves me with virtually no way to sew. Which is fine. I can debate what to do next with a few of the garments I'm working on and - hopefully - come up with answers.

I just finished an orange top supposedly for outfit three and although I'm really happy with how the piece came together, I'm not happy with it as part of the outfit. In stash, I have a bright turquoise knit and a very well co-ordinated yarn so I'll start by knitting a cardigan while I think about what to do with the orange top and other options.

It started with a sleeveless, linen dress that I bought at the thrift store a year or so ago. After I cut off the length, it fit on me but barely - tight with no room to breathe.

I opened the shoulder seams, removed the facing, and matched all the edges and then used an already altered pattern to shape the neckline and armholes.

The original dress was ankle length which provided extra fabric for making matching bias tape to use around the armholes and under the collar. If you've never used a bias tape press, they come in a variety of sizes and are wonderful for making bias from the fashion fabric.

The collar was formed from the cut off hem pieces and sewn right to wrong side on the inside of the neckline and then folded up and over to the front. The seam is visible if you lift up the collar. The bias helped to finish that edge nicely especially as my serger was broken and I couldn't use that option.

Once the center back seam was opened and the tension of the too-tighted-ness taken away, I needed a good 4" of additional ease through the hip which I created with a triangle shaped tuck before adding random patches up the back seam.

Working on the top took most of the weekend and - as I said - I'm quite pleased with how it transformed itself from the original dress into this garment. However... it's not a typical colour for me and with the painted pants shown in the earlier image, it feels overpowering - both the colour and the collar. It's unusual for me to wear a statement collar because they don't allow for a cardigan or a necklace, both of which are part of my signature look.

I may over-dye the orange with pink to see if I can get more of a rosy tone... or give the top to a friend who would look perfect in this colour. I could also take off the collar off and finish the neck edge with bias which would make it easier to wear with a turquoise cardigan toning the outfit down. I'm knitting. I'm debating.

The same tension issue is happening with the print cardigan I'm refashioning from the original skirt of outfit 1. It needs more room through the front. I like how it's coming together and just need to figure out how to finish center front and the neckline. The back has come a bit further since this picture. I added some applique to break up the black expanse and draw the eye up. Hopefully it will be done soon for you to see.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - trying something new

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Story of Outfit One

Once a month, I meet with three other women to knit before they go to work and I head to the studio. I met them through one of the groups I attended and when that group ended, this was a fun option for still getting together. I told the story of Outfit 1 to them yesterday and one of the women commented that she was tired just listening. It isn't exhausting; it's exhilarating. And even though I've been smack dab up against resistance all the way through this project, it's going to be fabulous in the end.

The outfit started with the inspiration of the hemline and the skirt above. I sewed it in six panels with a six panel lining that is 2" shorter than the finished skirt to create the bubble. The elastic hem band brings the bottom width in from 107" to 44" and is 2" wide. When I cut out the fabric, I was so concerned about having enough that I forgot to watch for pattern twinning and it didn't go well. There were big blobs of colour all around the hips. I resolved that by sewing patches in place to disguise the blobs but was never completely comfortable with wearing it.

So, I started over. First, I took all the learning from the first skirt and altered the lining and fashion fabric patterns and measured the elastic and casing and gathered all the measurements I needed and then I bought a velour fabric with the same colour scheme and a smaller print and cut out the fashion pieces as well as the lining pieces in a light-weight blue cotton. Sewing the pieces together, I discovered an alteration error on one section of both the fashion and the lining pattern pieces. Sigh. I re-cut those, sewed the lining together, sewed the fashion fabric together, and was about to add the waist and hem casings when I noticed that I had completely forgotten about nap... and it wasn't good... it was really ugly... and I couldn't wear this version either.

SO, I started over... again... only by this time I had committed to a spending fast and to using only what I have in my studio. The entire outfit was developed around a triadic colour scheme of gold, turquoise, and purple - especially after I found the prefect gold leather shoes at the thrift store - and I wanted to maintain that theme. There wasn't a print in stash that would work and black seemed the best choice so I chose a black taffeta with an eyelet border which would have been...

... absolutely perfect if I had had a purple fabric in stash for the lining. Bits of purple showing through to go with the necklace was a fabulous idea. But I didn't have any. And I already had a lining sewn. And it seemed wasteful not to use it.. So I opted for an entirely black skirt with a blue lining which is rather pretty stepping in... and I sewed it... and the pattern pieces all fit together... and the math worked out... and the seams pressed beautifully... and there is no nap so there are no nap problems... and there is no print so there are no twinning problems... and I love it. A black skirt, a turquoise t-shirt, a purple necklace, and gold shoes still worked so I thought I was happy only....

... at the same time, I was finishing the knotted button necklace. When it was at the stage above, I added black shadows in the groves which looked fabulous and then brushed on a metallic silver to highlight the edges which did not look fabulous. My knot was wrecked. So I mixed together purple and black paint to match the background colour, added a slight bit of metallic to blend the ugly highlights in, and painted one coat. It look fabulous. My knot was saved. And then I added a second coat and it looked horrible. My knot was wrecked so I threw it in the washing machine just to see what would happen since washing it had rescued an earlier project and it did nothing. My knot was dead.

In stash, I had larger or smaller upholstery cording but none the same size. The bigger knot was way too big and the smaller one turned out great so I went with it and and this time I knew what not to do. I painted the grooves, added the beads, and stayed away from metallic paint. And my knot was saved or is almost saved. It still needs a good cleaning to get the lint off and then a coat of clear finish. The black in the grooves doesn't show as much in real life as it does in the pictures but I'll see about cleaning that up a bit too... carefully... so I don't have to make a third one - VBG.

The turquoise t-shirt I'd started was getting to be a whole lot more work to finish than starting over. The hemline was too long, the sleeve cap needed adjustments, and yet... still... again... for the third time... I needed to lower the neckline. Sigh, sigh. Since I had more fabric, I cut another version using an already altered Vogue 9057 and now it's done and ready and good and enough. I'll use the first t-shirt for a refashion.

But the first skirt wouldn't leave me alone. It kept chatting away about how perfect the colours were and how it brought the outfit together and how surely couldn't I do something with it. I decided to make a cardigan and redrafted the t-shirt pattern to add slightly more width to the shoulders and lower the armhole a half inch for greater comport and then divided the pieces into sections so the fabric print would get chopped up and seamed together.

There wasn't enough fabric in the skirt for the whole cardigan so the front pieces and the lower back sections are cut from the skirt and the sleeves were removed from an 80s, complete with shoulder pads, black velour jacket I found at the thrift store (prior to the spending fast and now in stash) and the upper back was cut from the back of the jacket. When I sew them together, I can figure out if more is need on the upper back. We'll see.

HOW FUN... that the fabric that started this outfit is also the fabric ending the outfit. And what a great creative journey.

Although I did finish a purse to go with outfit one, I'm waiting on the rest of them until I've finished all the clothing and necklaces. I'd rather use one black purse for all then not complete the outfits.

Tonight is the opening reception of the 18 exhibit at the art gallery. I ended up finishing two piece - one the more realistic flat houses and the other an abstract. Both are 18" x 18" as is the whole show - hung in tiles. I'm looking forward to seeing that.

These are the first textile wall art pieces I've done in almost ten years so I'm pleased that I finished them and that I entered them in the exhibit since my skills are rusty AND I'm pleased to realize that they were fun to do for this exhibit and even so, I have no desire to return to textile wall art. I'm really enjoying exploring creative clothing. It does give me a way of participating though and that's good.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - nearing the finish with outfit one.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Practice & Progress

I am having SO MUCH FUN in my studio right now. I love this time of the year between the holidays and spring with so much opportunity for creativity. It's especially exciting to have The Outfit Project to work although not everything is going smoothly. I am having some major battles with Resistance but for the most part, I'm winning. YES YES!

I'm pretty sure I mentioned earlier that I'm feeling more confident and finding my way of incorporating some of the learning I experienced at my first Design Outside The Lines Workshop in June 2012. While I wanted to work with stencils and paint right away, it took a while to realize that I prefer more of an all over design than a specific statement moment because I prefer my moments to be necklaces. Knowing that, it's easier to develop these skills in a way that works for me. In the time since, I've done some surface design work here and there but I'm nowhere near competent in the way that I'd like to be. I need practice.

For Outfit 2's dress, I used three floral stencils ranging from small to a grouping and created floral motifs that fell into larger shapes and clusters as they moved down the dress. Before making the dress, I'd already knit the bolero and knew that it would cover most of the upper front. I left the bodice stencil-free in order to draw attention upward toward the necklace and my face. The dress is sewn from an Ikea curtain panel. The results are only okay and I don't love it enough to fix it so it'll be a day dress - worn for a day - and then turned into a bag of some kind. I am thankful for the opportunity to play with several ideas like the tied on hemline, stencils, and what can be done with a curtain.

I do love the statement necklace I created to go with this outfit. I started by isolating a section of my hand painted fabric using the shape of the pendant from a necklace I'd bought to recycle from the thrift store. I traced the pendant shape onto paper, cut it out, and then used the viewing hole to find the section I liked most.

I traced the section with chalk and it was layered with batting and embellished with hand and machine stitching and then wrapped around the purchased pendant. The position shifted somewhat but with chalk, it's easy to erase the lines. It's a tool I use frequently.

The beads were from a set of three wooden bracelets that was marked down for clearance. I'd been wondering what I'd use for the chain because nothing in my collection was quite right and then, there they were. Synchronicity. I love when that happens and I am really happy with the results. Ever since I first saw Diane's textile jewelry in 2012, I've wanted to discover how to create my version and I've had some really ugly trial pieces and only one other that I wear regularly. I can see with this piece that I'm making progress. . Diane prefers pins and bracelets and I prefer necklaces. I like the way that also influences finding my voice - I'm inspired by but nowhere near copying. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a textile pendant I love.