Friday, October 31, 2014

Quilting Fever

I've been taking a breather from garment sewing (always my first love) to do a quick dive into the world of quilting. I decided I want to give my nephews and my son quilts for the holidays. It's been a tough year in the family, and I figure they could all use a big, warm, cotton-y hug. That means I plan to finish four (count 'em, four) quilts by December 24.

I'm using designs from Cozy Modern Quilts, which I bought at Sew Creative in Ashland. They had a quilt made from one of these designs hanging on the shop wall and I was so fascinated by the construction that I had to get the book, even though I had no concrete quilting plans at the time.

The boys who will be receiving said quilts are all 20-somethings, or, in the case of my son, early 30-somethings. It's an outside chance that they'll be excited to open a quilt on Christmas Eve, even if it is from their loving Aunt Nancy (a.k.a. Mom). I figure I might increase the happiness quotient if I stick to designs that are more angular and modern. Plus (bonus!) bigger pieces that are all rectangles will probably make my life a lot easier.

I'm reasonably certain that none of these young men follow my sewing blog, so here are photos of my first two quilt tops:


I have to say that I'm having more fun with this than I thought I would. Playing with the fabrics and colors is a blast, and, as my friend Martha pointed out, I don't have to worry about whether it's going to fit when it's done.

One thing I've learned so far is that in quilting, accuracy counts. I'm getting pretty snappy with the old rotary cutter and I can eyeball a 1/4 inch seam way better now that I could 3 weeks ago. I'm hoping this new-found respect for precision will migrate to my garment sewing, where I'm sure it would do wonders.

I've only made one quilt in the last 40 years, and that one took me 3 years to complete. It was for The Man's birthday. He got quilt-in-progress photos for two years running. I'm clearly going to need to step up my game if I'm going to meet my deadline.

So, I am a total quilting newbie. Can any of you give me advice about how to handle what I understand is called the "quilt sandwich?" I have to say I'm really liking the idea of taking my completed tops to the Quilt Pixie and asking her to take care of all that pesky batting and backing. Would that be a cop out? If I invest in a walking foot could I manage to quilt something this size at home without driving The Man to drink with my cussing and crying?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Vintage Casual, Gertie-style

I just finished my first go at one of the patterns in Gretchen Hirsch's new book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. This is the Zip-Front Dress.

I'm going to take a quick detour to talk about this book, which I've been really enjoying. It includes a bunch of patterns that I'm looking forward to trying. Vintage casual seems to be just the ticket for my dog-walking, retired-person lifestyle.

The book is organized a lot like Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, with a beginning section talking about her inspiration for the designs and discussing the kinds of tools, materials and skills you'll be learning (including a section on sewing with knits).

In the second section she has patterns for the following pieces, along with instructions for some very cute variations:
  • a 40's style blouse with tucks, which you can turn into darts if you want a sleeker look
  • a flared woven skirt
  • a knit top with neckline and sleeve variations
  • cigarette pants, with variations including 40's style wide-leg trousers
  • a knit pencil skirt that you can flare, or gore for even more drama
  • a pin-up sweater, with instructions for tweaking to a very cute, basic cardigan. I'll be trying that one for sure. 
  • a shift dress
  • a wrap dress designed for woven fabric. I'll be giving this one a whirl too.
  • a halter top (if I were 30 years younger...)
  • and the zip front dress you see above
Gertie says she sizes her patterns pretty close to RTW, but with a curvier bent (a bigger waist to hip ratio).  My bust is a Gertie size 4, my waist is a size 6 and my hips are a size 2. What can I say? I'm a brick. For this dress I decided to start with a straight-up size 6 (36-28-40). I thought a little looseness would be comfortable in the top, the waist might be more or less right and with a skirt this full, why stress about fit in the hips?

I toyed with the idea of doing some flat pattern measurements to double-check for size, but take a look a the shape of this bodice piece:

The bodice back and front are cut as one piece, with the kimono sleeve shaped with a pleat in the shoulder. Looking at it all traced out I had no idea how to measure, let alone how to sew, but Gertie's instructions are clear and the size worked out pretty much just as I'd hoped.

I used a chunk of cotton I got at IKEA because I thought the beetles were cute.

The fabric is really navy and white, as it looks here. Not the brighter blue in the outdoor photos.
When my sewing buddy Jessica saw it she asked if I knew any entomologigists. The fabric is really more a home dec weight, but I was so enchanted with the print that I dove in despite some misgivings.

Gertie advises you to secure 3 yards of 60 inch wide fabric. I had probably 2 1/2. I got the end of the bolt. It required two minds and about 30 minutes to squeeze on all my pattern pieces. Turns out this is a directional print, but no way I could take that into account, so my beetles are climbing up my dress on the front and down my dress on the back.

There are some cute design details that are lost in this print, like patch pockets with little pleats. The collar would be really fun to do in a contrasting fabric. Gertie gives instructions for adding piping to the sleeves and pockets, which I bypassed for this version but will totally try out on my next.

Hand in patch pocket
I really enjoyed sewing this dress! It was a trip to see how the bodice came together. It's very comfortable to wear and I love the zip front. I have plans to make another in an actual garment fabric. 

My pattern review is on here.