Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Kid Sewing With An Actual Kid

I am lucky enough to have a niece who is interested in sewing and who was scheduled to visit us here on the Central Coast for the 4th of July. She was only planning on being in town for 3 days and we had a lot of activities to fit in; the Boardwalk, Carmel, dog walks.... Time would be tight. Fortunately, she shopped in advance and brought 2 yards of a very cute blue floral jersey for us to work with. And double fortunately, I have 7 years of BurdaStyle magazines upstairs so I was pretty sure we'd be able to find a reasonable pattern to hand.

And here's the proof!

Burdastyle 05-2012-143
My niece didn't just come with the fabric, she came with a creative vision.

She drew a couple of quick sketches to get us going. She was after something with a V or wrap neckline and a sash with a bow. Sleeves were optional. Ideally we would have included a scalloped ruffle on the skirt, but time and fabric constraints worked against us on that front.

After reviewing a ton of Burdastyles, she decided that "Girl's Dress" from BurdaStyle's May, 2012 issue ticked her boxes. The pattern is designed for a woven and the largest available size was a 6, but as a jumping-off point it worked well.

Did I mention that Isabella is 8 and that she had never used a sewing machine before? Not a problem for her though. Within 10 minutes she'd threaded the machine and was practicing sewing accurate seams. She also batted out a few decorative stitches.

We really only had a few hours to sew, so Isabella wasn't able to do the hemming and final finishing, but she did have time to stitch up the bodice and skirt seams and complete the bow (which was our primary design element). She even included some decorative stitching and a button, setting that bow off to perfection.

Front view on the hanger

Back view

Bow closeup, with button and decorative stitching
I did the final hemming and mailed the dress off to her in Chicago with my fingers crossed, hoping it would fit her the way she wanted it to.

And it does! She totally rocks it.

I wasn't sure that an 8-year-old would be ready to tackle a project like this, but Isabella did great. Besides the creative vision thing, she took a lot of care with the process. She was willing to go slow to do well, so her seams were accurate, and she was super careful to trim all her threads neatly. She was also curious about the technical side of things. We watched some videos about how the sewing machine works and, thanks to a thread tangle, we had a chance to take the machine apart to clean out the bobbin area. We had a blast. If you ever have a chance to sew with a kid, grab it.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Carousel Lap Quilt, Jumbo Sized

 Behold my last quilting project for a while. Well, until I need to get working on The Man's anvil quilt. "Anvil quilt" as in "it has actual anvil shapes appliquueed on it.'" His birthday is in September.

This project was kind of a beast as it's the largest quilt I've ever completed. It's queen-sized, or about 90 by 96 inches. There were a few moments during the making when I thought we were going to have to get a bigger bed, but once the quilting and trimming and binding was done it's just about the right size.

We have family coming to visit from Chicago at the beginning of July and I really wanted to offer them something nicer than our faded navy blue duvet cover. I had an idea of what I wanted and my friend, Jessica, came with me on a fabric-hunting expedition to ramp up my supplies. Then, as is my wont, I began another project instead, leaving myself with precious little time before D-Day.

Luckily I had earmarked the Carousel Lap Quilt pattern from Cozy Modern Quilts, by Kim Schaefer. This is a great pattern to use for a rush quilting job. The squares are large (the batik bits are 6 by 8 inches), and all the pieces are rectangular. Even better, the layout has the squares offset, so you really don't  have to worry about matching corners or staying super tidy.

I finished this puppy in 10 days and I took time out to have gum surgery.

I quilted it on my Babylock, using a very useful tip I got at our recent quilting retreat in Eugene: beginning quilters should use wavy lines because that makes it look like you did it on purpose. I did a line of stitch-in-the-ditch down the sashing and then waved my way down the center of each square. Badda-bing, bad-boom.

When I finished my last quilt I decided that I preferred the look of hand stitched binding, so I planned to stick to that in future. This quilt, however, had about 7 miles of binding to apply and ain't nobody got time to hand stitch that before July 1.

So I stitched it to the front, wrapped to the back, pinned pretty carefully and used my stitch-in-the-ditch foot. And it came out pretty darn good. Gosh, I love that foot. I have a bunch of feet for my Babylock that I still don't really know what they do, but this foot is one of my all-time favorites.

Quilting is fun, but I'm ready to sew me some garments. One of our visiting family members is an 8-year-old who might want to join me. I have a pile of kid-print jersey sitting in a drawer upstairs that just might be the ticket.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Bali Buddy Quilt

One evening at our quilting retreat our hostess, Lynndi, gave us all party favors. Mine included a pack of pre-cut 2.5 inch strips of fabric known as a Bali Pop. It just so happened that the quilt on our bedroom wall, which I loved, used a pattern that Lynndi designed specifically to work with Bali Pops. So I bought that pattern and made it up when I got home.

Here is the finished quilt being modeled by The Man.

This was my first rodeo with pre-cut quilting fabrics. It sure did save a lot of cutting, but the pre-cuts don't give you any fudge factor. Lynndi's pattern tells you to sew together your strip sets with a scant quarter inch seam. On account of those strips are 2.5 inches wide and no more, so if you sew at a quarter of an inch (or possibly a hair more) your finished blocks will not be quite the 8.5 inches called for by the pattern. Ask me how I know.

But, luckily, I could fiddle with my problems within the seam allowances, so all was well.

Here's a shot of the back of the quilt. I generally piece my quilt backs because I'm too cheap to buy yardage just for that purpose. Plus, I like to use those pretty remnants when I can.

I even tried two of the techniques I learned at our retreat. For one, I applied the binding by machine.

To do this, you attach the binding to the back and wrap to the front to finish, so that you can carefully machine stitch where it will show the most. I used one of the decorative stitches on my machine to finish off the binding, so it took almost as long as it would have to finish by hand the regular way.

I think in future I'll do the hand stitching for the binding. It looks neater.  But I was in a hurry to finish this quilt up because I want to pop it into the mail to send as a gift to a cousin. Plus it was about 90 degrees yesterday evening so the idea of sitting on the couch with a quilt on my lap while I plyed my needle was not enticing.

I also did a free motion vine around the border. Here's a picture of the free motion vine from the back, where you can see the stitching better. Which isn't necessarily a good thing because it came out a bit hinky. But from the front, with matching thread, it doesn't look too bad and it was kind of fun to do.

And here's a shot of the pattern. It was fun to put together and I finished the whole shebang in about a week of sporadic effort.

You can find your very own copy of the pattern from Lynndi@thumbuddy-special.com.

I hope to cough up one more quilt this month. We have family visiting from Chicago and I really want to ditch the worn out duvet in our guest room and replace it with a quilt by the time they arrive, which will be early July.

Then it will be back to garment sewing for me!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Quilter's Road Trip

I just got back from one of the best road trips ever. My childhood friend and I packed up our sewing machines and drove north to Eugene, Oregon for a weekend quilting retreat and we had the best time.

The springboard for our trip was a weekend workshop at The Stars Aligned, which is the brain-child of Lynndi Enright. Lynndi designed the pattern for my very favorite purse, which I've been re-making every two years since 1997. She and her mother bought two run-down houses in Eugene and remodeled them into the perfect quilter's nest.

Let me take you on a little tour....

This quilt was hanging on the wall of our bedroom. Lovely quilts are scattered all about both houses, providing warmth and inspiration.

And here's our bedroom. Comfy and cozy, with french doors into the green, green back yard.  And a shower as big as that king size bed. Gosh, I loved that shower.

From our room you'd walk down the hallway to the comfortable living room.

Which was right alongside the fully appointed kitchen and dining area. Lynndi provided eggs, muffins and coffee for breakfast and arranged for deli lunches during our stay.

If you walk through that door at the end of the kitchen, you enter the quilting studio.

I think it was originally a large garage, but it's been remodeled with great lighting, large work tables, and enormous cutting mats. Oh, and also a flat-screen TV, in case anyone wants to do a video presentation.

At one end of the studio there's another door that leads to a small but perfect fabric store.

Did you forget some sewing tool you can't live without? Need a shot of fabric mojo? Want the pattern for that cute quilt hanging on the wall in your bedroom? No problem, it's here.

The delightful Lynndi cutting fabric for a happy quilter.

A small but carefully curated selection of quilting cottons, threads and tools.

And a display of great patterns, many designed by Lynndi. Including my most favorite purse pattern ever, there on the right.

The subject of the workshop was free motion quilting. There were 8 in our class; some of us were not quite sure what free motion quilting is (yep, that's me and Lisa) and others had already taken a class or two on the technique. Our teacher, Ken Casey, is a fairly recent transplant from Arizona to  Eugene. He's been a quilter since his early 20's and he also had a career as a public school teacher. So; he doesn't just know how to quilt, he knows how to teach. In 16 hours he took all of us (yep, even me and Lisa) from a cussing crowd who thought free motion quilting was too darn hard to a room full of happily humming sewers who were having fun and thinking we'd be trying this on our next project.

Looks like a nice guy, doesn't he? And he is! But he kept us on task like a room full of unruly 7th graders.

He presented each of us with a large sketchbook and a black pen. He proceeded to clearly explain each step in the process. Then he'd have us gather round to watch him demonstrate each technique.

Then he's send us to our work tables to practice making the patterns with pen and paper. This was a great exercise. You got the feel of how to make the shapes and move smoothly from spot to spot before adding in the complication of controlling your sewing machine without the help of your feed dogs.

Once you had the feel of the pattern from your paper practice, making those same motions on our quilt samplers was much easier. In fact, I think I have become a free motion fan. I'm working on a small quilt right now, using a pattern I bought from Lynndi, and I plan to do some free motion around the border. Just to get my feet wet.

We were free in the evenings to make dinner and hang out at the house, or to wander around town. Eugene is a lovely spot. The Willamette River runs through town and there are hiking and biking trails along both banks. The weather was perfect. Just a lovely weekend!

I'll end with a couple more cool quilt photos.

Lynndi offers workshops on quilting techniques and she also rents out her space on Airbnb. She will even help you arrange a quilting weekend for you and 6 to 12 of your friends.

This is another of the quilt patterns Lynndi sells. I love how those curvy lines are made; totally doable, even for me.

These last two quilts were hanging as samples for a scrappy quilt retreat that's coming up shortly.

This last scrappy quilt looks very Gustav Klimt to me. The background isn't flashy but it reads gold.

Bonn Top by Itch to Stitch

I'm always on the hunt for a good woven top. Knit fabrics are so darn comfortable that I end up wearing my tees most days. Easy to sew, don't need ironing. There's a lot to love there. But there are so many lovely woven fabrics. I get seduced by the prints and the colors. The trick is to find a few patterns that are not too finicky to sew and that give you a fit that lets you move without hulking out of your seams.

I'm thinking that the Bonn top from Itch to Stitch fits right in that category. The sleeve cap is shaped, which is probably why I have such a great range of motion in the finished top. I could row a boat to Alcatraz Island and not feel constrained.

Even though the sleeve cap has some height I was able to put the sleeves in flat. The nice drafting and the 3/8 inch seam allowances made that possible. For which I was very happy, because I do not enjoy installing sleeves in the round.

Used PDF Plotting.com to print out the pattern. I don't really mind taping and tracing PDF patterns, but I hate printing them out. Our home printer is kind of hinky, and printing out a bunch of pages is always an ordeal. PDF Plotting was easy to use and they delivered my pattern in 3 days. It added a bit to the cost of the project, but for a pattern with lots of pages it's worth it in my book.

I made the size 4 for my 35ish inch bust. I was a bit worried that the finished top might be too snug, but it's just about perfect.

Used an eggplant cotton fabric that I'm pretty sure I bought at Stone Mountain in Berkeley. I love the color, but the hand is a bit crisp, kind of like onion skin. I think it worked out fine, but next time I'll use something a bit softer.

The instructions were great and everything came together easily. The mandarin collar was the only finicky bit of sewing and the instructions walked me though that nicely.

I made the top up just as instructed. The only change I made was to do a pleat to fit the sleeve into the cuff instead of gathering. I pretty much suck at sewing even gathers and the pleat looks pretty neat.

I really like the mandarin collar and the cute V-neck. I did the 3/4 length sleeves, which ended up being more bracelet length on my short-person arms. Next time I'd shorten them by an inch or so. The pattern includes 3 other sleeve options though; maybe I'll do the short sleeves next time for a casual summer top.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Beetle Top

I didn't actually set out to make myself a beetle top. I bought this fabric at Britex last year with my grandson in mind. What could be cuter than a little set of overalls covered with beetles? I could call them his Love Bug pants.

As it turns out, though, the kid's style is more Grandpa Chic than Quirky/Cute. Even at 18 months he wears a lot of bermuda shorts and cardigans. Think Mr. Rogers, but way shorter.

So one day last week I decided, "Hey Ho, someone has to be the grandma who wears weird print tops, and it looks like I'm elected."

They look a bit like polka dots from a distance, but when you see them up close they're definitely beetles.

I only had a yard of this fabric, so I pulled out my old reliable, McCall's 8050. I think it's out of print, but it's pretty recent (1996), so it's not too hard to come by. Hmm, just realized that 1996 is 23 years ago. Time just telescopes more and more as I get older.

Anyway, this is the first time I've tried the sleeveless version of this pattern and I like it pretty well. I like the square-ish neckline and I very much like not having to set in the sleeves. The last time I made the sleeved version I swore I would never set in a sleeve again as long as I lived.

The pattern includes facings for the neck and arm scythe. I did use the neck facing, which I think gives a nice finish. I nixed the arm scythe facings in favor of a bias tape finish, which will be much easier to wear. I hate it when facings try to pop out at the underarm, as they always seem to do on sleeveless tops.

I'm thinking this top will be a hit with my grandson, though he would never wear such a thing himself. There's nothing funnier than a grandma in a novelty print top.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sapporo Coat

I was cruising through Stone Mountain fabrics when I saw it. They had a sample of the Sapporo Coat made up in linen. It was unlined, with contrasting hong kong finish inside. I wanted that coat, and I wanted it bad. I really liked the way the pockets were set into those curved front seams. I liked the swagger of the oversized, cocoon shaping. And I liked that it looked pretty straightforward to sew; no tailoring, no darts, no closures.

So I bought the pattern right then and there. And I'm glad I did, even though it's the most expensive pattern I've ever purchased.

Papercut notes that the envelope model is 5/10". That's about 8 inches taller than me, so I was expecting the finished coat to be pretty long, loose and swingy. Which it is. And I think I like it. It makes me feel jaunty and debonair. I do need to wear this coat over a slim fit under layer though, or I risk looking too much like Yoda.

There are three sizes: XXS/XS, S/M, and L/XL. I cut the smallest size.

It was a totally problem-free project. I love those. The pattern instructions are good, and everything fits together well. Even the lining went in easily for me, and this is only the second time I've ever lined anything.

I used a brushed cotton twill in a kind of a dark olive green from Hart's. I used a lighter olive green flannel for the lining. Smitten as I was with those hong kong seams, I didn't want to have to actually apply them, especially on those curved pocket pieces. Plus, I thought the twill outer shell combined with a flannel lining would give the coat enough heft to see me through our winter season. Here on the Central Coast, that means temps in the mid-50s.

The pattern calls for 3 yards of 55" wide fabric and it really does use it all, even in the smallest size. Those pieces are big and oddly shaped. I was able to cut everything out with the fabric folded though.

Green flannel lining
This pattern was so fun to sew that I really want to make another one right away. I probably don't need a stable of cocoon coats though. The Man is already slightly alarmed at how little space there is for him in our coat closet.

Maybe just one more in a large scale print. Unlined, to toss on over a sleeveless shell in the summer for a bit of sun protection.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.