Tag Archives: sewing

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

I’ve been thinking for a while about this post.  If you’ve been following my blog for a long time or have looked through past posts and seen a Brimfield post or two (or three), you’ll know that I love antiques.  I’m not a collector of any particular thing, but I love items from the past that I can use in my everyday life.  I like a bargain and a little patina.  Wood, metal, glass, ceramic–those are the materials I like to look for, and many of them have been pressed into service for sewing.  Thanks to some special items from  family and friends as well as flea markets and roadside finds, I have some vintage sewing tools, but I also have some great storage solutions.  That is what I want to share with you today.  Maybe it will give you some ideas or maybe you have fun vintage storage solutions of your own that you’d like to share in the comments.

Let’s take a little tour of my sewing space.  I actually cleaned it up for you.  😉

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

Here’s where I sew at one end of our living room.  Most of my tools and equipment have been gifts, freebies, or bargains.  The sewing table was my Mom’s and the chair belonged to my parents.  That cool old medical lamp was a side of the road find.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

It’s not very bright, but the head can be moved to direct light onto your project and you can make the lamp taller or shorter.

Here are a few more items I find useful.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

This is my fabric cabinet, found at a flea market.  Fabric is organized somewhat by color and somewhat by type.

Those are the big items, but I also have some very useful smaller organizers–wooden roast beef and cheese boxes.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

Patterns go in the roast beef boxes…and tools (and other items like trim) go in the cheese boxes.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

I also use cheese boxes in the drawers of my sewing table for organization.  That’s actually where I keep my box of cutting tools.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

Other great containers for storage include cigar boxes,

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

tins,

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

and really any old container that you like the look of and that will fit what you are trying to store.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

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Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

I also find old locker baskets useful, albeit somewhat pokey.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

For buttons and old, but beautiful spools of thread, I often employ glass canning jars, which look great whether they are vintage or new.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

And on my sewing table/desk, I’ve found that an old stamp holder (if it’s not too rusty) can be useful for holding thread and bobbins for your most recent projects.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

I also use this old shaving mug to hold binder clips for pattern pieces, mini clothes pins for my pattern instructions, and post-it tabs to help me keep my place in the instructions when I’m sewing.  This one features New Hampshire’s “Old Man of the Mountain” who fell off the mountain some time ago, so…I guess it’s even more special now?

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

Once you get started organizing with vintage containers, it’s not hard to follow that up with a few vintage notions.  Often people will give them to you if they are cleaning out and know you are interested.  I love having tools and notions that were loved in the past and knowing I can use and enjoy them and give them a second life.  It makes my own sewing that much more special.

Vintage Storage Solutions for Sewing

If you’re looking to add a little vintage flair to your sewing and/or your sewing organization, here are some of my sources.  I will tell you, though, that I’ve loved old things ever since I was little, so this collection of special odds and ends didn’t spring up overnight.  This is a great long-term hunt.  Patience will serve you well.

So, sources!  Number one for so many of these items has been family.  My parents and in-laws have often passed on things they weren’t using that I fell in love with.  Once I started to sew and knit, family and friends also gave me tools from family members who had passed away, which was really special.

If you are near Boston’s North Shore, my favorite flea market is Todd Farm in Rowley, MA.  It’s open every Sunday morning from approximately Easter to Thanksgiving.  I like early-morning antiquing, so I go before church sometimes.  If you are within driving distance of western Massachusetts, I highly recommend Brimfield.  The prices there are not as good (in general) as a small, local flea market like Todd Farm, but the selection is unparalleled.

For cigar boxes, you can often buy them inexpensively (or sometimes get them for free) at cigar shops.  They may not be vintage, but they often have that vintage look regardless.  And consider using any containers that you find useful and beautiful like clean jars or tubs from food or other items.

I also suggest yard sales, side-of-the-road freebies, thrift stores, and super junky bargain antique stores.

Of course all of this takes time, but I love the thrill of the hunt and the opportunity to use things with a history.  If you have any great tips for organizing or sewing with vintage items OR great sources for finding said items, tell me in the comments!

Recommendations

  • Have you seen the new “stickers” from the McCall Pattern Company for iOS?  It’s a free app with little sewing-related images that you can use on your phone (if you have an iPhone) or iPad.  They are super fun to text to your other sewing buddies.
  • So, here’s a website/blog that’s new to me, but could prove very helpful:  Shop the Garment District.  It’s about sewing and shopping for sewing goodies in New York City’s Garment District.  I heard about this site while listening to the Sew Forth Now podcast.  This is an old podcast that you can still listen to by Lori from the blog Girls in the Garden.  I’m finding some great resources through these.  Lori’s blog (which she is still posting to) is also a great source for sewing inspiration as she tries lots of different patterns and fabric.
  • Here is something I learned recently:  Everything is better with doodles.  😉

 

Refashion: Down Jacket Into Down Skirt…or…Struggle. Victory.

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Refashion:  Down Jacket Into Down Skirt…or…Struggle.  Victory.

It was a grey and stormy day when I finally cut into a project I had long been contemplating.  It was a refashion, but not just any refashion.  This one involved sewing with a material I had never tried before:  a down jacket.  I had chosen the patterns that were going to help me achieve my goal and planned a little more than half of the project, but there were still questions in my mind about how I was going to finish the rest.  Inspiration images had been pinned to my Pinterest board, but still I mulled it over…until the snow day.  It was finally time.

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

I had already been scheming about refashioning a down jacket into a scarf after seeing these ones, which was the product of a collaboration between Patagonia and Alabama Chanin, but my down-sewing plans expanded when we visited Colorado last winter and I saw a woman wearing a down skirt.  It was such a brilliant idea.

Google revealed that down skirts are actually a thing, even though the Colorado one was the only one I had seen in real life.  So, after a ton of thought, I chose New Look 6843 for the skirt portion, and the waistband from the leggings in McCall’s 7261 for my stretchy waistband.  Since I wanted this to be a pull-on skirt, a waistband and some gores/gussets/godets in the side of the skirt were in order (after seeing the skirt, you can tell me which term is the right one for what I did 😉 ).

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

I managed to turn the back skirt into a single piece and eliminate the zipper.  All of that fit onto the back of the coat, allowing me to use the bottom of the coat as my hem.  It got tricky when I came to the front because that was supposed to be one piece, too.  I really wanted to incorporate the coat zipper in a decorative way (although I planned to sew it shut), and I also wanted the pockets both for decorative and functional purposes, but in the end, it was too much of a struggle.  I realized that by opening my sleeves and sewing them together, I would have enough for my front piece.  I still had plenty of the stretchy fleece left from my Toaster Sweaters for my waistband and gores/gussets/godets.  Then it was all construction.

This is probably the point when you are asking how in the world I cut and sewed that crazy stuff.  That is a very important question.  Here is what I did:  I marked my cutting lines with a water-soluble pen and sewed with a straight stitch on either side of my cut line in the hopes that it would hold all the down in.

Do you think it worked?

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Well, it sort of did.  Not ALL of the down came out.  But some did.  Here’s how I had to sew.

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

You can’t see it in this picture, but I also had pink-eye (conjunctivitis) at the time.  Nice, huh?  (Luckily no down got in my eye.  That would have been…um…gross.)

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

I had the BRILLIANT idea of vacuuming off the edges after I cut them.  I do not recommend this.  Maybe you thought of the problem with this.  It actually dislodged things, so it was sort of like it was snowing outside and snowing inside.  That was the point at which I realized I really needed to get this finished that same day.  We had some sickness in our house that week, and I wasn’t feeling my best, but I decided to power through in the hopes that it was all in my head.  (It wasn’t all in my head, but I powered through anyway!)

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

I also realized that I needed to cover every seam on the inside if I didn’t want to perpetually shed feathers.  This was the point where things got a little…”Becky-home-ecky” (sorry if your name is Becky).  The finishing, while functional and necessary, didn’t meet the vision I had in my head, but I was sort of racing against the down and my nausea.  The good news is, when I’m wearing it, I think it looks like something I could have bought at an outdoor store.  (If you disagree, you don’t have to tell me.)  It’s only if you get up close or look inside that you see the craziness, and since people don’t do that when I’m wearing it (thank goodness!), I think I’m safe.  Want to see it?  Check it out!

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

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Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

This skirt has the added benefit of a little puffy booty enhancement up top.  It’s too high for people to think you pooped in your pants, so I like to think of it as booty enhancement.  Maybe it’s because I sewed all the darts in the skirt, even though I basically negated them with those side triangles.  I needed the triangles, though because if you’re going to eliminate the zipper, you need some way to get your skirt on!

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Skirt front (above)

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Skirt back (above)

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Side view (above). I folded the front of the skirt down at the top a bit because it was originally higher in the front and lower in the back, but that feels weird to me.  I want it the other way around.

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Inside front (above).  I covered my seams with fleece, but didn’t sew with a wide enough seam allowance, so I ended up sewing extra lines and hand-tacking things just to get all those feathery seams covered.  I also covered my top seams with wide fold-over-elastic (although I didn’t fold it), and used a zig-zag stitch to hold it down and allow for a little stretch at the waist.  That doesn’t look great, either, but again, you don’t really notice it that much when I’m wearing it, so whatever!

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Inside back (above)

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Inside side view (above).  Here’s where it started to get ugly, but I just wanted to finish at this point.  It was helpful to have the coat lining as a lining for my skirt because I could hand tack the fleece to it.

Refashion:  Down Jacket to Down Skirt

Despite any deficiencies in the finishing, I LOVE THIS SKIRT!!!!  When I wear it, I feel ready to take on winter!  The fit is great and it is so cozy that I wore it for two days straight after making it (and vacuuming my work room a.k.a. our living room…twice).  In January I made these fleece leggings and the Toaster Sweater that I’m wearing in this picture, and this outfit is pretty much winter perfection.  I love it so much.

After I finished, I contemplated making a scarf from the remnant of the jackets, but I decided to just put it away for now.  I DID NOT like sewing with all that down.  However…my husband had the brilliant idea to make a scarf from it in the summer…while sewing outside.  He’s so smart!

Recommendations

  • On Wednesday I made the Blueberry Poppyseed Snacking Cake from the Seven Spoons cookbook, and now I just want to eat that all the time.  I know this would be unwise, so I gave the last piece away before I could eat it.
  • I have some old gaiters from L.L. Bean that I just love.  They don’t sell the exact style I have anymore, so this is the closest I could find, but they are great if it’s snowy out and I don’t feel like putting snow pants on.  I can walk through several inches of snow without it getting in my shoes or on my pants.  I used them for a walk on Thursday, and it just reminded me of how much I love them.
  • Is orange the new black?  Are doughnuts the new croissants?  Do you like to say that _____ is the new ______ ?  Then check out this fun and funny website, where each time you click, you get a new ‘this is the new that’.
  • This week I found out that everything is better with doodles.  😉

2017 Make Nine

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2017 Make Nine

It may be a little late in the year to talk about 2017 Make Nine plans, since most people do that in January, but I never ended up posting about my goals for this challenge, and I’ve actually been working toward them this year, so I thought it would be fun to give an update on my progress so far.

If you haven’t heard of this idea, it’s a challenge that was started last year by Rochelle New of the blog Lucky Lucille (and owner of Home Row Fiber Co.).  You can read all about her goals for this year and ideas behind the challenge here.  It’s a fun way to challenge yourself as a sewist/sewer/seamstress/whatever by picking nine things you’d like to sew for the year.

Last year, I jumped on board, and then promptly forgot about my plans.  In the end (when I remembered), I looked back and found that I actually had made most of my 2016 Make Nine goals, but not really on purpose.  This year, I decided I would actually remember my plans and actively work to complete them.  So here we are.  I took a picture of all my patterns.  Check ’em out with notes on their current state:

2017 Make Nine Project

Top Row, left to right:

  1. Toaster Sweater #1 by Sew House Seven
  2. Coppelia by Papercut Patterns
  3. Gallery Tunic + Dress by Liesl + Co.

Middle Row, left to right:

  1. Simplicity 2255, already a favorite of mine
  2. Simplicity 1538, one of my TNT patterns
  3. Butterick 4259 (out of print)

Bottom Row, left to right:

  1. Simplicity 1696
  2. Simplicity 8014
  3. Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

I printed out a picture of my patterns so I could make notes on it and actually remember my ideas.  I’m fitting other projects in here and there, but I’ve already begun working on these.  I have each pattern traced and adjusted with the exception of a long sleeve I need to trace for Simplicity 2255.  I think I’d like to borrow the sleeve from Simplicity 1538 and see if I can meld it with the one already in Simplicity 2255.

Each of my cooler weather patterns has also been cut out (or, in the case of the Gallery Tunic and the pants on the bottom left, cut out in muslin form).  That means that the top and bottom rows are at least ready for me to sew in one form or another.  The middle row will wait until spring sewing, most likely.  Here’s where I’m at with the ones that have been cut out:

Toaster Sweater:  DONE!  (It feels good to type that.)

I made two versions in fleece, which are already blogged here.

2017 Make Nine

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2017 Make Nine Project

I have worn these sweatshirts a ton.  They’re very cozy.

Coppelia:  DONE!

I’ve made both a long and short version of the Coppelia Cardi, which is yet to be blogged (because I need more pictures of the short version).

2017 Make Nine Project

Long version, faux wrap (above).

2017 Make Nine Project

Short version (above).

Gallery Tunic:  muslined.  This one is not for me, and the recipient is at a distance, so a muslin was definitely called for.  Despite this aberration, I do not sew for other people.  This just slipped out of my machine somehow.  😉

2017 Make Nine Project

Simplicity 1696 (pants):  muslin is cut out.  I think muslins are very valuable, but I really hate doing them, so I’ve been procrastinating on this FOREVER.  I procrastinated on this one even longer than the Gallery Tunic, but it’s finally cut out so that I can procrastinate on sewing it.

2017 Make Nine

Simplicity 8014 (dress): cut out.  I cut this one from another Robert Kaufman Mammoth Plaid, and I’m attempting to underline it with Bemberg Rayon so it won’t catch on the leggings I plan to wear underneath my cozy, cozy dress.  This has a ton of pieces, especially when adding an underlining, and I was squeezing it out of the end of the bolt, so I’m really hoping the plaid matching turns out ok.  I was pretty nervous cutting it out–I had to give myself lots of pep talks.  😉

2017 Make Nine Project

And lastly, Jutland Pants:  cut out in gray canvas.  When I realized that the Jutland Pants I had made for my husband actually fit me, too, I decided I wanted a pair of my own.  I came late to the skinny jean party, but even after only a few years of wearing them, wearing straight leg pants like these is heaven!  I want to try the cargo pattern, but with patch pockets on the front and no side cargo pockets.  I’m still not sure about the knee patches, but I think the back pockets may need some fun customization.

2017 Make Nine Project

So that’s where I’m at in the challenge!  It’s pretty fun so far.  I made sure to only include things I really wanted to make and wear.  This gives me a little extra push to get through the hard stuff, like muslins and such.  I’ve also gotten fast enough that I can do other little projects (yet to be blogged) in between, so it’s both fun and flexible.  What about you?  Have you decided to come up with your own 2017 Make Nine?

 

Ahoy! Stuffed Whales from Tilda’s Seaside Ideas

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Ahoy!  Stuffed Whales from Tilda’s Seaside Ideas

Hey, everyone!  It’s been awhile!  I’ve been sick or taking care of sick people for the last month over here; hence, the silence on the blog.  I think I am mostly better at this point, so I thought I ought to write up a blog post!  Thankfully I had these photos ready to go, because I haven’t gotten to the point of taking new blog photos yet.  Hopefully soon!

This one is a little bit of a departure from my usual makes.  I sewed up some stuffed whales from the book Tilda’s Seaside Ideas by Tone Finnanger.

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Both whales were baby gifts.  I tend to find an interesting project to make as a baby gift and then make that until I’m ready for a change.  In the past, I’ve made flannel baby blankets and burp cloths, little kitty stuffed animals, etc.  This time I decided to go with whales.

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I can’t remember how I found this pattern–maybe Pinterest, but my library system had the book that the pattern was in, so I checked it out and got started.  I had some Art Gallery denim left over from my shorts, and I liked the idea of using that for the whales.

Whale Stuffed Animals

It’s a match!

For one of them, I used a little lace flower as an embellishment because I thought it fit my friend’s style.

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For the other whale, created for a family member, I made a little heart from the bridesmaid dress I wore in her wedding.

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The eyes are drawn in with a fabric marker, so I wouldn’t have to worry about them becoming choking hazards.

I am not experienced in making stuffed animals, but I thought that certain parts of the pattern seemed a little…ambitious?  In general, it’s an easy pattern, but there were some stitching lines on the tail and fins that you are supposed to push stuffing into, and since I made the medium size whales, it didn’t seem very realistic to think I could stuff those without a lot of frustration.  Just getting stuffing into the little space under the sewn mouth was tricky enough, so I left off the added tail and fin stitching.

This wasn’t a tricky project overall, and I really love how they turned out.  I think the moms liked them, and it was good to have a homemade gift to give.  I used to give handmade baby gifts almost exclusively, but I really don’t any more–just once in a while.  Now I’ll have to keep my eye out for the next baby gift project.

Recommendations

  • A great sewing blog that I have been looking through lately is A Fashionable Stitch.  Sunni hasn’t been posting much lately, but she has a few years’ worth of very informative, interesting, and inspiring posts.
  • I love Anne Bannert’s feed on Instagram (@anne_bannert).  She started following me when I first began using Instagram (although I have no idea why or even if she still follows me), but I followed her back and found the most fascinating feed.  She is a model, originally from Germany, who lives in Connecticut.  However if, when I say “model”, you picture a pretty but helpless woman, you would be completely wrong.  If Anne’s car needs new seat covers, she’ll sew them.  If her fence falls down, she cuts new posts, pours some concrete, and fixes her fence.  Maybe she’ll weld something, or play polo, or train a horse or take care of chickens.  This lady is truly impressive.  It’s so much fun to get a glimpse into her life.
  • Another cool Instagram feed to check out is Eugenia Zoloto’s (@eugenia_zoloto).  She is a paper cutting artist in Ukraine.  Her work is really stunning.
  • I don’t know why fitness can be so funny, but here’s another LEGIT workout for you!  Prancercise!!!!

Finally Just Right: McCall’s 6848 Shorts

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It may be September, but summer isn’t over until the first day of fall on September 22, so it’s been shorts-land over here lately.  Yes, Shorts-Land is a place, and that place has been my house, where I’ve been sewing up a ton of basic and not-so-basic shorts this summer.  Like many aspects of sewing, I’ve been putting shorts and pants off because I didn’t know how to fit them, but I also know that I really need to try if I’m ever going to learn.

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McCall’s 6848 is a pattern I’ve been tweaking little by little, and I think I finally have it right.  This is actually a pajama pattern, but after making my first pair of shorts from it (View D), I realized this it was going to be more of a summer staple than pajamas.

McCall's 6848

McCall's 6848

One thing I’ve found in the little bit of pants/shorts sewing I have done is that bottoms sometimes feel as though they are too high in the front and too low in the back for me.  This was definitely the case with my first pair of these shorts.  So, I got out the good ol’ Singer Sewing Reference Library books and looked up fitting, until I came up with some ideas.  For my second pair of shorts, I took a wedge out of the front and added a wedge into the back.  This got my shorts really close to what I wanted, but the front legs felt just a little…well, not tight, but not quite right–a little like they were pressing against me too much in the front of the legs.  So, for this last pair, I lengthened the back crotch point just a bit and…finally just right!!!

McCall's 6848

 

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They feel exactly like I want them to.  For this pair, due to my need for basics, I decided to try out the new Art Gallery Fabrics Denim.  I got it at Pintuck & Purl in Exeter, NH (who, by the way, I’ve started doing some social media for, which is super cool).  I was kind of skeptical about this thin fabric.  I didn’t really believe it was denim, because the weight is closer to a quilting cotton, although it’s much drapier.  When you look at the weave, though, it really is a denim weave.  All that to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it.  I managed to make these up before the road trip we went on in July, and they were perfect in the car.  I guess it’s always a good day when you can wear something designed as pajamas in your everyday life.

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I even put a little lace flower in there as my back tag.

The one extra thing I did (besides that flower) was add some long bartacks at the sides.  I know from experience that these shorts can catch on things…and rip.  It’s no fun ripping a hole in the side of your new shorts.

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The only other thing I would change if I made these again would be to add pockets.  It’s pretty annoying not to have any, but I think, at this point, I want to focus more on fit than modifying patterns with extra features.  So, I’ll save it as a future idea.

Recommendations

  • I’ve got to recommend it again–BRIMFIELD!  It’s going on now, and if you are an antique-lover anywhere near western Massachusetts, I highly recommend you go.  Brimfield is the largest outdoor antique market in the US and it’s going on this week until Sunday.  You can find all the details at the above link.
  • I tried one of the best recipes EVER on Monday.  It was Bostocks from the Seven Spoons cookbook.  It’s an amazing combination of day old brioche (like challah bread), orange simple syrup, and almond cream.  It’s totally worth the work, and you can make the various elements ahead of time.  Check your library…I bet they have it!
  • How about more learning about fabric?  Here’s a link to another of the Cotton + Steel substrate series.  This time it’s all about their cotton/linen canvas fabric!  Interesting!
  • And finally, I’ve got one more video from Cotton + Steel about how their fabric is manufactured and printed over in Japan.  It’s pretty cool to see how it’s all made:

 

The Refashioners 2016

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It’s finally time to talk about The Refashioners 2016!

Refashioners 2016

I’ve been waiting a long time to share my #jeanius project with you.

The Refashioners is a challenge created by Portia Lawrie of Makery that showcases creative ways to refashion whatever the chosen garment for that year’s challenge is.  If you’ve been following along, you already know that this year’s garment of choice is jeans (#jeanius!).  Check out what I made!

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

I’ve written about my creative process over on Makery, but if you want more details on working with the particular pattern I chose, Vogue 8750, you’ve come to the right place.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

As soon as Portia sent us our brief for this year’s Refashioners challenge, the gears in my mind started turning.  My local big box fabric store was having a pattern sale, so I went down there with notebook and pencil in hand, sat down in front of the big pattern catalogue books, and started making list.  Lists and lists of patterns that I might be able to create out of different pairs of jeans.  I decided to look for something that had multiple narrow pieces so I could cut them out of jeans legs.  I finally settled on Vogue 8750, a skirt pattern.  I chose View A, which is the shorter (but not actually short) pencil skirt.  This looked like it had a lot of possibility for color-blocking, and I was hoping to find some super-cool denim at my local thrift store.

With the help of a pattern and all the inspiration on my then-secret Denim Pinterest board, I went to my thrift store looking to find some railroad denim or…something inspiring. (I have a little railroad denim obsession at the moment).  No railroad denim.  But I did find…THIS!  Yellow denim, white, denim with hearts, and my own older pairs of dark blue.  Now it was all coming together!

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Last year’s Refashioner’s contest helped me make a move up from beginner to intermediate sewist. However, still not being super experienced, I don’t always make a muslin.  (Who am I kidding?  I skip it whenever I can.)  I know…I know…  It’s helpful, and I’m moving in that direction, but I’m not there for every project.  I actually DID make a practice garment for this one, though.  I made two, even!

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

The first showed me that I needed to size down.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

A lot of people say they find this with Big 4 sewing patterns–I typically don’t, but in this case it was necessary, so it’s a good thing I made a muslin.  I used the second muslin to try lowering where the skirt sat on my hips and practice putting it all together a bit more.  The pattern tells you to ease the top of the skirt to the ribbon facing, but I had a lot of trouble with this and didn’t really want the skirt up at my natural waist.  I found that skipping the easing and just cutting a ribbon to match the top of the skirt solved both problems.

Muslins can also be a great way to procrastinate on cutting into your final fabric while appearing busy.  😉  I finally got up my courage, though, and found that I could easily fit my pattern pieces onto the jeans I had chosen (large men’s jeans for the white and yellow).  I tried out using one pair of children’s jeans for my middle panel, but had to backtrack when I saw that it just didn’t work.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

The thing I wish I had done (and I’m still not sure how or why I didn’t after two practice garments) was think about how and when I was going to finish my seams.  I realized part way into my final draft that I really wanted to bind the edges of the seams with bias tape.  This is something best done as you go along and before you join various parts.  You can see a few places where my bias binding doesn’t go all the way to the edge of the seam.  Lesson learned.  I actually contemplated starting over when I realized that (plus, I was getting pretty good at making this pattern after a couple of versions), but it seemed to defeat the purpose of refashioning to throw an otherwise good garment-in-the-making out because of one little detail.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

The other interesting thing I discovered was that sometimes, in matching up seamlines (namely on the sides), it wasn’t about moving the pieces up or down to get them to match, but making the seam allowances the correct width for them to match. One of my sides matched immediately, and the other took several passes through the machine, taking the side in millimeter by millimeter in order to get it to match.  The skirt in-progress looked messy and crazy, but as I got things lined up, trimmed and bound my seams, and finished edges, it came together into something that looked polished.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

When I finally finished, I had a thing of beauty.  It’s certainly not perfect, but I’m proud of it.  I think the best compliment I got was when I was in Rockport, Massachusetts shooting pictures, and I stopped in an art gallery.  Rockport is famous for its artists, and one of the artists in the gallery complimented me on my outfit.  When a person who spends their life looking for beauty compliments you on your outfit, you know you’ve done something right!  😉

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

My favorite thing about this challenge is that it makes me think like an artist. You get your parameters, but within them you have freedom.  How far can you push it?  What will you do to make your garment distinctive?  Will it be simple and sleek or heavily embellished?  This is what I talk about in more depth in my post on the Makery blog.  If you haven’t already, I hope you check it out and look through all the other posts as well to get some inspiration.  What do you think?  Will you be diving in?  There’s a pretty tempting prize package!

Last, but never least, thank you to my photographers–my husband Scott and my friend Colleen.  I appreciate your help SO MUCH!

Field Trip: Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

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Hi, everyone!  I hope you had a good July.  It’s been good to have a blogging break, and it’s good to be back.  Despite my break from blogging, I haven’t taken much of a break from sewing…except for during the road trip we took out to the Midwest.  We visited family and friends in Michigan, which was really nice.  My Mom is a long-time quilter (and an apparel sewer before that), and we often make the rounds of the fabric stores where she lives.  We didn’t have quite as much time to do that this time, so instead, she took me on a little field trip to learn about Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana, where she has been helping out as a quilting mentor.  I thought I would share our trip with you.

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Sew Loved is located in downtown South Bend.  Here is what they say about themselves:  “Sew Loved welcomes all women to our Center.  Our mission is to teach sewing and quilting to underserved women and teen girls in the South Bend, IN area.  We provide a positive ‘hands on’ program for women to learn and practice a variety of life-enhancing skills, nurturing each woman’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Our sewing, quilting and other programs are offered free of charge.”

I had an opportunity to meet Vicki Miles, the director, as well as a few of the ladies who were at work organizing supplies or working on quilts.  Sew Loved is a nonprofit organization that uses sewing to empower women, teach new skills, and form community through sewing.  I was really impressed by Vicki’s dedication to the organization as well as how deeply she had thought through the best ways to serve the women who participate.

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

It was really fun to see the new space they had just moved into.  They are still organizing and sorting through donations, but what organizing they have had a chance to do is really impressive!

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

I got to look around at all the quilts, including several from “ugly fabric” challenges, and talk with Linda, a woman who has 30 years of apparel sewing experience, but has recently fallen in love with quilting (you can be sure I took the opportunity to ask her all my apparel questions!).

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

(The two quilts below are from the “ugly fabric” challenge, where two participants used the same fabrics that they thought were ugly to make two completely different quilts.)

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Linda also showed me their mid-arm quilting machine, which was really cool and something I hadn’t seen before, as well as the new lighting system that one of the ladies’ husbands had installed.  It’s amazing what a big difference a simple change like good lighting can make!

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Linda had made a number of the quilts hanging on the walls.  She also showed us some of the quilt tops she had recently finished, which were amazing.  When you talk with Linda about quilts, you hear an artist talking back to you.

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

I also met Janet who finished her very first quilt while we were there!  The women in the program make a table topper they can keep as their first project, followed by two quilts for donation.  The fourth project is a quilt of any size that they can keep if they choose to.

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

It was heartwarming to see some of the fabric donations, many sent by husbands whose fabric-loving wives had passed away.  Many people had spent large amounts of time organizing and systematizing all the donations so quilters could easily find what they were looking for to achieve their creative visions.

Next year Sew Loved will be partnering with The Crossing School for at-risk youth to teach a sewing class for girls, and they are currently writing a grant in the hopes of getting enough matching machines so that everyone will be on the same page equipment-wise. (UPDATE:  Since I began writing this, they have met their funding goal for these machines, thanks to donors and generous discounts from the company they are buying the machines from!)

My Mom (who is also a mentor at Sew Loved) showed me the Christmas Trees that they make as a fundraiser for the organization.

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Sew Loved sells the trees at various craft fairs and other events as a way to raise money for the organization.  These ones have been assembled but are still waiting to be decorated.

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

All equipment and supplies at Sew Loved are free for participants to use, which translates into a lot of hard work for Vicki tracking down donations and supplies.  She definitely seems up to the task, however.  I got the impression that Vicki was a force to be reckoned with in the best possible way–the way that means she is fiercely loyal and devoted to the ladies she works with and the organization as a whole.  She also has some seriously amazing quilting skills!  She showed me some of her quilts in progress…and they were mind-blowing!  Clearly, she knows her stuff.

Despite my trip to the Midwest being light on fabric shopping (only a visit to Field’s Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI), this trip to Sew Loved helped prevent any sewing withdrawal I was in danger of.  😉  If you find yourself cleaning out your fabric stash or sewing supplies, and want to make a donation, they accept 100% cotton quilting fabrics (fat quarter size or larger), Christmas fabrics for their annual fund-raising project, sewing machines in working order, sewing/quilting tools, or monetary (tax-deductible) donations for overhead expenses.  If you happen to be in the area, you can get involved as a participant in their sessions or as a sewing mentor and friend.

Sew Loved in South Bend, Indiana

Here is all the contact info:

Sew Loved

Women’s Center

103 W Wayne St., Suite 400

South Bend, IN 46601

 

Mailing address:

1320 De Luna Way

South Bend, IN 46614

 

Website:  www.sew-loved.org

Facebook:  facebook.com/sewlovedinc

Vicki Miles, Director:  vicki@sew-loved.org

Phone number:  574-329-2639

Vacation! And a Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

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Hey, friends!  Happy July!  I can’t believe it’s July already.  I feel like summer is just starting.  I’m going to take the rest of the month of July off from blogging (although you can still find me on Instagram @lisa.poblenz).  I’m coming off a number of complicated sewing projects (Refashioners 2016–which you’ll get to see in the not-too-distant future, bathing suit sewing, jeans, etc.), and it’s time to regroup, create some new garments, and do family stuff.  I don’t know about you, but when I finish a big batch of projects, I feel a little discombobulated for a while until I figure out what direction I’m going to pursue next and get going down that road.

I finished one wonderfully quick project on Wednesday, however–a Deer and Doe Datura Blouse.

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

I’m finding that while I am most drawn to bright colors and fun prints, I need a few neutral garments to wear with the fun and crazy stuff.  So, to test out this pattern, I chose the most basic view and made it up in a white linen-look fabric from Joann’s that I’ve had forever, and a khaki linen that a good friend gave me.  I also took the opportunity to use some vintage buttons from my mother-in-law.

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Before beginning, I measured myself to see how high the dart should sit on my body and then checked it on the flat pattern.  It seemed perfect, so other than grading up a size for the waist and hip, I used the pattern as it was.  There were a few tricky parts, mainly having to do with sewing together the shoulders, but once I weathered those, it was a quick sew.  (I used Part 1 of this sew-along to help me out, in case you are considering making this top as well.)  The only potential issue is that the neckline seems to gape just a bit, but I’m going to wash and wear the shirt a few times before I decide if I need to deal with that in any future versions.  They’ve updated the pattern since I bought this one, so maybe they fixed that.  I’m not sure.

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

(Thanks to my Instagram Husband for taking these pictures of me!)

Expect future versions of this, though.  I want to try the one with the triangle cutouts next…and in crazy fabric.  One neutral garment at a time is about all I can handle!  😉

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Do you ever wish you could sew at super speed?  I’ve never really had a handle on my summer wardrobe, but after sewing for a few years, and thinking seriously about what I actually wear (rather than just what I like to look at in fashion, which are often two very different things), I think I’m getting closer to the essence of how I like to dress in summer.  And now I want to sew it all up!!!!  I’ve been stocking up on fabric, but I can’t yet sew at lighting speed or fit garments to myself with shocking perfection.  Alas, my reach exceeds my grasp (but I think they are getting closer!).  Ah, sewing problems!  Ha!

Well, have a great July.  I look forward to more writing and talking with you in August.  We’ll find out then if I spent my time sewing or not!  😉

Recommendations

  • This Piped Floral Shirt Dress from Making It Well is amazing.  I’ll have to pick up some tips from Jo when I finally dive into the wonderful world of shirt dresses.
  • I just have to recommend The Great British Sewing Bee.  As much as I love Project Runway, sometimes it’s just so…ruthless!  The GBSB has a much kinder tone as well as an educational one.  I’ve only watched Season/Series 1 in its entirety, but Series 4 is on now!  You can look at the show’s website here.
  • If you are in the greater Boston area, I highly recommend the magazine edibleBOSTON.  If you aren’t in greater Boston, you may have an edible magazine covering an area near you.  edibleBOSTON is a fun way to learn about farmers, restaurants, small batch food makers, and other foodie things in your locale.  Magazines are free from subscribing businesses and come out quarterly.  You can also read issues online.
  • Aaannnddd…..we’re TOTALLY making this spaghetti and meatballs recipe this summer!

Bathing Suit Finished!

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It happened!  I finished my bathing suit and…I think it works!

Bathing Suit Finished!

When we last met here, I had finished the bottom, but not the top.  During this week, I worked on joining up all the pieces and adding elastic to the neckhole and armholes.  That last bit wasn’t a part of the pattern, but I really like the look it provides, and I was hoping to solve a few problems with it.

Bathing Suit Finished!

There was a small part on the front neckline where I didn’t catch my outer fabric very well when I was sewing all the layers together.  There was no invisible way (that I could think of) to fix that.  Even using clear thread, it would have been visible.

I also wanted to stabilize those openings and give them more support so that they would be stronger and hopefully not gape when wet.

Finally, I was hoping the edging would magically tighten and take in the little bit of excess under the arms.  So…that didn’t happen (which I expected, but you always hope for that happy accident!), but I’m more optimistic about the other things.

When I began to apply the elastic, I realized it was a make-or-break moment.  The suit would either be much better for the addition or it would be ruined.  I bet on the side of better and went for it.

It worked!

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

After letting go of my perfectionism, I ended up with a swimsuit that isn’t perfect, but is actually finished and is, I think, a wearable first draft.  I’ve tested it briefly.  Now to see how it does over a whole day at the beach.

If you happen to be working on your own bathing suit and want to try applying elastic like I did, check out this tutorial on the Kadiddlehopper blog.  I used the advice here on both the stitched and turned elastic for my leg holes as well as the bound edges in the top.  I actually have this blog post printed out and saved in a binder so I don’t lose it!

As for the few other details on this suit, here they are:  I fully lined both the front and back of the top and bottom.  I also used powermesh from the Imagine Gnats shop as the lining fabric in the built-in bra of the top.  I have nothing but good to say about buying from there–super fast shipping and great service.  All my elastic was 3/8″ swimwear elastic, and I used wooly nylon thread in my bobbin, with 100% polyester Güttermann thread in the top.  I used a walking foot, plus a stretch needle and Jalie’s method (found in the pattern) of sewing a long zigzag stitch first (width: 4.5, length: 0.5) and then going back and doing a straight stitch while stretching the fabric slightly (length: 2.5) at the actual seamline.  For pattern and fabric details, see my first post on this swimsuit.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me!  It means so much, and it really helped me finish well.  My neighbor’s mom, who I just love and who is an amazing seamstress herself, is now convinced that I can sew anything.  Little by little, right?

Here’s some fun for your weekend.

Recommendations:

  • I have really been loving the Instagram feed of @suzyquilts.  There is something about her bright and beautiful pictures and her patterns…and I don’t even quilt!  (Well, I do have a quilt that’s been in-progress since 2008, but I’m talking quilting as a regular practice.)  I love the stripes she uses in her Kris Kross quilt.  Tempting…  You can also find her website here.
  • If you like the crop top look, but not the idea of baring your midriff, Allie J. will show you how to “make your own (fake) crop top” in this tutorial.
  • We like thinking games in our house, and one of the games we play on the iPad is Monument Valley.  They bill it as “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness”.  It feels a little bit like trying to figure out an M.C. Escher visual puzzle with calming, completely non-scary background music.  Good for any age.
  • Explore.org has links to lots of wildlife cameras.  It’s pretty cool that you can see African wildlife, ospreys in Maine, or pandas in China any time you want.

Bathing Suit Progress…and a Breakthrough

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I think it’s time for a progress report.

Making bathing suits (year three)

But first, how about some mental anguish?  😉  As I was procrastinating and freaking out about this project, I had a breakthrough that now seems completely obvious (funny how that happens sometimes).

I expect to create the perfect suit.

Despite the fact that I rarely allow myself to be a perfectionist in my sewing, despite the fact that I understand that skills take time to build and ‘finished is better than perfectly unfinished’, I’m putting a perfectionist’s pressure on myself with this project.  Of course I’m procrastinating and freaking out!  That’s completely unrealistic!  I may have made suits before, but it takes time (and considerably more practice) to become skillful.

I guess it just goes to show that perfectionism can sneak up on anyone.

Once I realized this, I decided it was time to chill out.  So, I put on some surfing to distract me and psych me up to sew bathing suits and got going.  Now we can talk progress.

This is year three of attempting to create a bathing suit that I love.  The last two years have (sadly) been fails.  Year one was a pretty spectacular fail due to my not clueing in to some very awful print placement, forgetting to add in the necessary internal support, and the fact that it came out too big.  That suit just got cut up to become bottoms.

Making bathing suits (year three)

Making bathing suits (year three)

In year two I made every iteration of the Soma Swimsuit by Papercut Patterns.

Soma Swimsuit Test Suits

I wanted to practice and then hopefully create a tankini by hacking my favorite bikini view.  Unfortunately, I have no practice constructing bras, so I couldn’t create the desired support well.  I wore the tankini once, but by the end of the day, the structural elements started to come out of their places, so…no good.  I also decided I wanted bottoms that offered fuller coverage.

Soma Swimsuit Hack by Pattern and Branch

So here we are at year three.  I finally found a fabric that I completely love at the Fabric Fairy (she has a lot of excellent swimsuit prints), but I can’t find a tankini pattern that I’m really excited about.

Making bathing suits (year three)

I’m using the bottoms of the Jalie tankini (#3023), but I’m not jazzed about the top.  It’s good, but I wanted something a little different.  So my solution (which I realize may lead me to another fail) is to use lisette/Butterick 6295, a work-out top that I really like, and to add extra elastic to the neck and arms.

Making bathing suits (year three)

Here’s where I am as of Wednesday evening:

Making bathing suits (year three)

After putting so much time and energy into searching for a pattern I love, I’ve decided that this is what I really want:

I want a pattern designer to create a tankini pattern that has interesting details to set it apart from the crowd, offers full bottom coverage and the option for internal support up top (in the form of underwires).  I think you could (please!) also include a sports bra pattern as another view with the same optional underwire support and cool details.  That would make me so happy.  Jalie?  Fehr Trade?  Closet Case Files?  Someone?  Please?

Until then, I’m working away at this as well as several bathing suit experiments that will not be for me.  After this, I just want to make something easy for myself.  I want to return to my selfish, simple, sewing ways.  Well…until I find the next exciting challenge.

Recommendations:

  • I’ve mentioned how much I like the podcast Thread Cult and I’ve also mentioned the 3-D printing company Nervous System.  Guess what?  In episode #40, Christine interviews one of the founders of Nervous System about 3-D printed clothing, and it is FASCINATING.  The dress Nervous System made is a thing of beauty (and wonder!).
  • It’s been so much fun to discover new artists via Instagram.  One of my current favorites is Anisa Makhoul (@anisamakhoul on Instagram).  I love her saturated colors and cool style.
  • Watching surfing movies has helped me make it through the last few winters, but now it’s bleeding into other parts of life as well.  I’ve decided it’s my new figure skating–fun to watch when doing projects (as I mentioned above–good for when you are sewing bathing suits!).  If you want to start down the surfing rabbit hole, let me enable you.  The World Surf League app, which is free, lets you watch surfing live when events are on (or you can go to their website).  I follow them on Instagram (@wsl) so I always know when an event is happening.  My favorite is when I can watch the women surf.
  • I have to dedicate this video to my husband’s family.  I think they played this song a lot when he was growing up, but I doubt they did it like this.