Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Archer Hits the Bullseye

Just under the wire, here's my MAGM offering for April; the Archer Button Up Shirt by Grainline Studio. The pattern comes as a PDF, which you tape together and then trace. The actual pattern pieces run to 36 pages, but slapping them together really went pretty quickly, and all the little markers lined up very nicely.

Being the brick that I am, I traced a size 6 up top and graded down to a size 2 in the hips.

This is the most precise garment I've ever tried sewing. It's a real shirt, with a collar stand and cuffs and a button band and everything.

What they say is true though: this pattern is very nicely drafted and the instructions, plus sew-along, were so detailed and logical that I feel like I did a pretty good job!

Front view, worn here with a pair of Clovers from pre-blog days
You know how you notice things in photos that you don't see when you look in the mirror? The sleeves look too long here, but they feel good in real life. In any case, I usually wear my sleeves stylishly rolled up when I'm out and about.

Side view
I really like the fit everywhere else though. It's slim enough not to look sloppy but generous enough to look casual, maybe even a bit raffish. The perfect boyfriend shirt.

Back view
I used a cotton shirting (Italian!) that I got at Stone Mountain & Daughter while on a recent weekend in the Bay Area with The Man and his brother. Brother was sweet as pie. He accompanied me to the store and gave me advice on fabric weight and color. He was a lawyer in Chicago before he retired and is still quite the snappy dresser. He knows what a good button-up shirt should be made of.

Dang, should have clipped those threads more carefully before the photo session...
The fabric is a muddy green, with a very subtle navy blue stripe. I tried to pull out the navy by using some dark blue buttons. It has a somewhat crisp hand and a close weave that probably makes it super durable. I can also tell you it has no ease whatsoever. Thankfully, the pattern has you sew in the sleeves flat before seaming up the sides, and there's very little ease in the sleeve cap, so even this sturdy, professional-grade shirting worked out just fine.

My attempt at a Burdastyle model pose. Notice how you can't see the shirt much at all?
I'll probably wear it more as a light jacket than as a shirt. In my old age I'm trying to be more conscious of how much sun I'm getting. Kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, but what can you do? In my youth, tanning was all the rage. Anyway, a light, loose layer with a collar and long sleeves should be just the ticket for summer sun protection.

I also bought a length of shirting in black with a very subtle lavender stripe. It's destined for the version with the back ruffle. Or maybe that would be better in something with more drape? Some stash-diving may be in order!

My pattern review is here on PatternReview.com

Thursday, April 24, 2014

NancyD's Got a Brand New Bag

Anyone else old enough to remember that song? 

I've been making myself this bag over and over again ever since I came across the pattern at the Pajaro Valley Quilt Association show years ago. It's the Diva Essential Designer Bag by Thumbuddy Special.

Sorry about the sunburst - the pattern envelope is kind of shiny
It has pockets galore. There's a big pocket on one end, just perfect to keep all my keys in. Does anyone else have two or three car keys that are each the size of a submarine sandwich?
Here's a shot of the big key pocket
There's another pocket on the other end that fits either my jumbo wear-over sunglasses or a bottle of water.
Here's the sunglasses/water bottle pocket
Inside there's a cell phone pocket, a raft of side pockets and a big, secret pocket on the back side where I stash my supply of medicinal chocolates.
Insides with multi-pockets. The cell phone pocket is on the right.
It's big enough inside to carry everything I own, plus the occasional bit or bob for The Man*, yet when it isn't full it folds itself together so that it isn't a pain to carry.
Here's my favorite thing of all though:
You can sling a strap over each shoulder and carry it like a backpack
If I'm doing a lot of walking, especially the kind of stop-and-start walking you do when you're tramping around a flea market or shopping for fabric, my back starts to ache from the weight of my purse hanging off one shoulder. It's so darn nice to be able to wear my purse like a backpack so the weight is more evenly distributed. Plus it leaves my hands free to fondle interesting objects.

I generally make this bag from upholstery fabric. Hart's has a bunch of tables with remnants of upholstery fabric for $7.99 a yard (yumm, the color, the texture... love it). This time I went for a sturdy cotton and used some medium-weight iron-on interfacing to give the main body of the bag some structure. I'm hoping it will carry me through to next summer.

I find these bags last about a year before they're trashed. Usually the zipper is the weak link, or the magnetic snap comes unglued. And after being tossed around the a football and carrying who knows how many tons of crap around town, even an upholstery-weight fabric will show its age.

But by that time I'm ready to haul out my pattern and make up a new one. I think of it as a chance for "iterative enhancement." By now I've got my pocket placement almost perfect.

My review is on PatternReview.com here.

* You know why men don't carry purses? Because their wives and girlfriends do.

Rare Singers and Liebsters

We're just finishing a very fun run of house guests here in Surf City. The Boy, The Man's Brother, my 12-year-old computing consultant and our friends Larry and Carole have all passed through in the last couple of weeks.

Larry and Carole were on their way home from the Alameda antique flea market, where Carole found a rare, tan Singer Featherweight. Carole has had a bunch of Featherweights pass through her maestro hands, but only a couple of the tan ones. She said this one was from the 50's, and that it was a particularly rare find because the case is in super shape.

It looks like the 50's somehow, huh? Kind of like a princess phone in sewing machine form
 This is the third selfie I've ever taken. Believe it or not, I'm getting better.

Carole and yours truly
On another note, Tracy H. of Tracy Sews Happy has very kindly nominated me for a Liebster!

As a blogger, I sometimes feel like a stand-up comic, tapping on my mic and asking, "Is this thing on?" It's really fun to see that there are a few people out there reading my meanderings. I always like seeing the Liebsters making the rounds. I've discovered some great, new-to-me blogs by clicking my way through to the nominees.

So here are the rules, as I understand them:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you, linking back to their blog (thank you Tracy!).
  2. Copy and paste the Leibster award to your blog.
  3. On your blog answer the 5 questions that have been set 
  4. Nominated 5 blogs that you think deserve to get noticed for the award
  5. Let your nominees know they have been chosen  by leaving a comment on their  blogs
  6. Set your nominees 5 questions of your own
So here goes!
1.  Do you have a current challenge you are hoping to master to improve your sewing?
My goal this year is to sew myself an everyday bra that really works. I hate shopping for bras. I have a hard time finding anything that seems to fit my more mature assets, or that gives me much of a shape (I need all the help I can get!). I've treated myself to the Bambi soft bra pattern from OhhhLulu. Now I just need to gird up my loins and make a muslin.

2.  What is your motivation for sewing?
A big part is the creative aspect. I love playing around with color and texture and shape. And how cool is it that my play sessions end up in a new shirt, or a pair of pants?

Also, I really enjoy seeing how things are made, from sofas to houses to clothes. Yep, the Discovery Channel has my number. I'm that person who stops people in the street to ask if I can see how their sleeves were inserted, or how their button band was attached.

3.  What do you like to sew best?
I actually enjoy making the everyday staples! Nice, simple tee shirts, a pair of pants, the occasional skirt... Though now that I'm getting back into my sewing groove, I find myself eyeing patterns that are a bit more challenging.

4.  Do you have a favourite pattern company?
I've been sewing a lot of Burdastyle Magazine patterns lately. I have enough of those puppies by now that I suspect I could find a passable pattern for pretty much anything I can imagine, from a tee shirt to a wedding gown, just by flipping through my back issues. Their patterns seem to fit me pretty well and I can bank on the measurements they provide without running into major ease issues.

I also treat myself to a pattern from Sewaholic or Grainline or one of the other indie pattern companies now and again. I've watched those young companies being birthed over the last few years on the internet. I feel kind of like a fond Aunt. 

5.  How many blogs do you read regularly?
Oh. My. God. Hundreds! If I spent half as much time sewing as I do reading sewing blogs, I could open my own boutique. Thank god for Bloglovin - otherwise I'd spend my days obsessively clicking to see if my sewing ladies had updated their blogs, kind of like a lab rat hoping for a food pellet.

Coming up with 5 blogs to nominate was a challenge, and not just the narrowing down of my list. Liebster's are intended for newer blogs that have fewer than 200 followers. I'm so lame that I don't know how to tell how many followers a blog has unless it's posted up top on the sidebar. I also didn't want to nominate someone who had recently received a Liebster, so I asked my friend, Mr. Google, to check that for me. If I messed up on either of those jobs, my apologies.

The blogs I love best meet the following criteria: they feature  lovely, fun, quirky items and the author has a distinctive voice (and a sense of humor).  It's a special treat if the blog has a sense of place. I love hearing little details about the weather in Toronto or how to make Brazilian coconut cake. It satisfies my arm-chair traveler bug. The following 5 sewing ladies tick all those boxes for me:

Gladys and Viv
The Sewing Princess
Sewing in Athens
Physics Girl on the Loose
Notes from High Road

I liked Tracy's questions so much that I will shamelessly copy all of them, with one small change:
  1. Do you have a current challenge you are hoping to master to improve your sewing?
  2. What is your motivation for sewing?
  3. What do you like to sew best?
  4. Do you have a favorite pattern company?
  5. Do you have a favorite sewing trick that you think everyone should know?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kicking Up the 80's

Back in December of 2013, Winnie (a.k.a. The Scruffy Badger) issued a challenge to all comers to sew up one of her fabulous patterns from the 1980's and to see how we might work them into our 2014 wardrobe. One of her lovelies was this classic:
Vogue 2753 ‘ career wardrobe’, size 8-10-12
Now I was a lass in the 80's and I remember wearing those pleated pants with panache way back when. I could hardly wait to get my sewing fingers on that envelope.
My chosen fabric
I picked out some slightly tweedy suiting at Hart's and got to cutting.

The pattern was nicely drafted and the directions were very clear. I had to do a bit of adjusting at the waist, as I'm a tad larger than a size 12 in that area. Otherwise, the cutting and sewing was a piece of cake.

These ain't no wimpy pockets
Besides the signature pleats, there were other features that harked back to the 80's. Check out those pocket pieces! Back in the day, cell phones (called "mobiles") were the size of a shoe box, so you needed a pocket that was not playing around. With these pockets I can easily stash my keys, my cell phone, a lipstick, a handkerchief, half a dozen do-nuts and a cup of coffee.

I finished the pants a while ago, except for the hemming. Once, back in high school, I hemmed a pair of pants too short. The experience scarred me for life. I still cut my pants way too long and then agonize about cutting any length off. One evening, after some deep breathing and a glass of wine, I leaped into action and they were ready for their closeup. But I needed to find the right setting for the photo shoot. Something that would do them justice.

When it comes to 80's fashion, you have to think of that icon of the decade:

Check out those shoulder pads! You don't mess with gals like that.
 As I'm sure you know, Dynasty was filmed at Filoli.

Filoli is the summer home Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourne II built in 1915. The Bournes were the owners of the Empire Gold Mine, outside Grass Valley, California. The Empire produced 5.6 million ounces of gold during it's active years. The Bournes  did not skimp on their house. It's now part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with its 16 acres of formal gardens.

Fioli is just outside Woodside, California, about halfway between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. So I talked The Man into gassing up the Bentley and we drove up north on a beautiful Saturday morning, when gardens all over central California were drying off after basking in some of the first rain they've seen for quite a piece.

I give you -- the pants
This was really a two part challenge: the first part was to make the pattern up, the second part was to "show how 80s styles can still kick a punch today." Part one was quick and easy. Part two was a bit hard for me. My style is what might kindly be called "eclectic." I'm pretty clueless about putting together an outfit that looks current. I tried on a few different tops and asked The Man for advice. We agreed the pants look best with something that has a bit of shoulder action going on to balance out the belly pleats. I decided on one of my Maria Denmark Kirsten tees and a pair of boots.

I recommend a fabric with drape for this style of trousers. There's quite a bit of fabric pleated into that waistband. Here's a shrug shot to give you a feeling for how much room I have in there.
I dunno. Where do you think we should go next?
From the side those pleats hang nice and flat though. The back is shaped with a couple of darts and the fit there isn't much different from the non-pleated pants I've made.

Pretending to admire tulips in the atrium
Sure they hark back to an earlier time, but I like 'em! They're the most comfortable pair of pants I own. I think I'll make them again, but I'll add belt loops. I remember wearing this style of pants with a button-down shirt and a belt cinching in the volume at the waist.

I think they'd be cute with a cropped blazer. Maybe the Victoria blazer from By Hand London. I've been eyeing that pattern.

Here they are as I wore them to work this morning. 
Photo-bombing Zoe dog.
If you're in the area, grab a chance to spend a pretty day walking around the grounds at Filoli. You can tour the mansion too, but the garden is where it's at.

 We were a bit too late for the daffodils and tulips and a bit too early for the roses, but we hit the peonies right on the button!
Bloglovin tells me I should claim my blog, so here goes: <a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/11384815/?claim=md9phdbznhj">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A New Top and Me Made May

This tee shirt is Burdastyle 126 from February of 2013. It's my March contribution for my Make a Garment a Month challenge.

I really did have it done by March 31, but I haven't had a chance to grab a photo. It's been raining on the Central Coast - yahoo! It's not enough to turn around our current drought, but my garden is looking much happier and when the sun comes out everything is so bright and fresh and sparkling - just what Spring should look like. It does make fashion shoots more challenging though.

Let's try a close-up so you can see the sleeve detail a bit better:

Hmm. Not that much better, huh? This is a raglan sleeve tee shirt. The sleeves are gathered in the front and back before you attach them to the body of the shirt. I think it gives an otherwise plain tee shirt a bit of va-va-voom. Too bad the design details are overpowered by the pattern on my fabric. Though I do like the fabric a lot. It's very soft and comfy and seems to have great recovery. I grabbed it on my knit-buying extravaganza at Backstitch in Nevada City. I got a giant piece for $10 - enough left for a dress or a couple more tee shirts at least.
I'm wearing it along with another pair of pants (a.k.a. trousers) made from Burdastyle 127a from October, 2013. I've been wearing my first version so often I figured I could use a back-up. I altered the pattern to use a cut-on fly rather than separate pattern pieces. It made inserting the fly a lot easier, but I can't say my results are much better. The inside still looks pretty messy at the bottom of the zipper, and, despite diligently ironing on interfacing, my fly shield stretched out towards the top, causing a sad pooch right below the button. I don't normally wear my shirts tucked in with these pants though, so I'm not stressing about it too much. Otherwise I really like the fit of this pattern. The legs are narrow but not tight and the pockets are just the right size.
Zip pooch on display. More zipper practice will make perfect, I hope
In other news, I'm going to be hopping in the pool for Me Made May this year.

Back when I first retired and friends and family would ask me what I was going to do, I'd say that I wanted to sew all my clothes. They'd mumble, "How...interesting," give me the side-eye, edge back a few steps and in other ways indicate that they questioned my sanity.

About that time I stumbled on Zoe's blog, where she was hosting one of the early Me Made Mays. I had a fabulous time following along with her daily documentation of her efforts and followed links to other people who thought sewing your own clothes wasn't crazy at all. I fell down the internet rabbit hole of sewing where I've been happily wallowing ever since.

By now I've come pretty far in my quest to make my entire wardrobe, so to kick up my challenge a notch, I, Nancy D, will attempt to wear nothing but me-made items for the month of May. Excepting underwear and shoes. Though I do want to try the Bambi Soft Bra from Ohhh Lulu. And I have a pile of knit scraps that would make excellent undies. I was wondering aloud a while back about how I could make my own shoes and my son said, "Mom! Stop it! You're scaring me!" Do you think cobbling is taking it too far?

My review of the tee pattern is here on PatternReview.com