Monday, May 30, 2011

Blouse: Colette Violet.

I finished this blouse, using the Violet pattern from Colette Patterns, just in time to wear it to a small birthday celebration for Joe yesterday. For my first try at a new pattern, I'm really, really pleased with it.

Colette Violet Blouse
Blousy and tucked into a skirt.


I took a chance with the contrasting collar and sleeve binding, and it's funky, but I like it! Everything in this blouse came from my stash, even the buttons. 

I made it in a size 6, to fit my bust measurement, but I did have some second thoughts even at the cutting phase, knowing that this top is very blousy. When I make it again, which I definitely will, I will cut it out in a size 4. I actually really like the billowy cut, but it's a little wide in the shoulders. Also, next time I will use a softer, lighter interfacing - the collar and facings are a bit stiff (which is why it didn't press completely flat, sigh). And I wish I hadn't faced it in white - it's really noticeable around the collar. Live and learn.

But we sewists tend to dwell on the flaws, don't we? The thing is, if I found this at a thrift store, I would buy it in a heartbeat, and love it for all its flaws. So I think that's a success!

Colette Violet Blouse.
Untucked and casual for a party.


This blouse has so much potential for modifications. You could square off the collar, or even omit it. Or what about a 1930s scalloped collar? Drool.

I also like the idea of making it longer and adding a few patch pockets near the hem, like a Beatnik artists' smock.

Yes, I do believe I will get my money's worth from this pattern.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sew the shorts, and Summer will come.

It's still raining every few days, it seems. Just trust me when I say, a significant amount of May rain is almost unheard of in these parts. This year's weather has been ... baffling. But we did get some dry days this past week, and we have been working hard in the garden. The front yard is going to be very crowded lush this year, I think! We now have six tomato plants and a dozen shelling beans out there, and I have plans to squeeze in a few more.

Hopefully, I will have pictures of a shelling bean tee-pee to share with you very soon!

When I haven't been gardening, I've been sewing children's clothes. In a fit of (so far unfounded) optimism, I've sewed a variety of summer clothing for a few of the children in my life, mostly from patterns that will look familiar to my blog followers.

For example, here is my second pair (oh, wait, third pair - I didn't blog the crazy bike printed ones I made for our friend's little boy) of Sketchbook Shorts, and my third (I think!) Ice Cream Top, for my best friend's daughter, who turns two in June. She lives in Denver, where it actually gets warm, so hopefully she'll be able to wear these this summer.

Sketchbook shorts and ice cream top.
Not the very best photography here, but I hope you can see the cute owl fabric!

And then I really got on a roll, and made a third fourth pair of Sketchbook Shorts, for Joe, from the same striped material I used for the yoke of the Ice Cream top, above. These were a bit of a challenge, because it's an irregular (non-symmetrical) stripe, so it's a bit of a trick to match it. I managed across the front and back of the pants, and the sides aren't too far off, which made me pretty proud. Now we'll see if it ever gets warm enough for Joe to wear them!

Striped sketchbook shorts.
Hand in the cookie jar box.

Striped sketchbook shorts.
That TUMMY!! Yeah, that top is a little small.

My little niece Helen is turning one in June so I made her a little dress too. This one is called the "Pretty as a Picture Dress," from Anna Maria Horner's Handmade Beginnings. This pattern has a European peasanty-folksy look I love. And it's probably a good thing that it can be worn over a long sleeved t-shirt, on chilly Bay Area summer days.

Pretty as a Picture Dress - Front.
Yes, that's a potato plant and tree branches in the background. Hopefully I'll get Helen to model this soon, for a better photo.


For all of these projects, I used fabric that has been sitting in my stash for a long time, and managed to avoid fabric stores altogether. Whew! I have so much great fabric,* but sometimes it sits for a long time waiting for a project. I know I'm not alone in that problem, right?

My next summer project is for me, and it has taken longer to cut it out than it took me to make two whole pairs of Sketchbook shorts, but hopefully it will be worth it. I'm making the Violet Blouse, from Colette Patterns in a funky brown and orange print. Making clothes for myself is so much harder than making baby clothes! Because, you know, I have curves. And also, I insist on a good fit (toddlers are not generally as picky). Fingers crossed.

*Note to self: Buy more solid colored linens, in great bright colors, and less kitchy prints. Those kitchy prints suck me in me every time, but then they end up neglected and orphaned in my pile.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I sewed with knits! And the world didn't end!*

*Okay, that last bit was a bit of a cheap shot at what is really a pretty sad situation for a lot of people. Sorry. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here is more information. Millenialism is such an interesting phenomenon, but way outside the scope of this blog!

So last night, in a desperate effort to avoid more hand-quilting, I decided to take the plunge and try sewing some simple knit pants for Joe. Now, sewing up a pattern with three, oops, four (total!) pieces would not ordinarily worry me, but I have an almost irrational fear of sewing with knits and stretchy fabrics. Actually, the fear is pretty rational. I don't have a serger (which is how the pros get beautifully finished knits), and I've had some really bad (really lumpy, really ugly) experiences in the past trying to sew knits on my good ol' 1970-something Singer.

But these days, I follow a kajillion sewing blogs. So I get to see quite a few cute knit projects worked up on ordinary sewing machines. With tutorials and tips on avoiding the lumpy/curly results I dread. So I've been thinking, maybe it's time to conquer my fear and try sewing with knits more. After all, my little buglet (one of Joe's many nicknames) wears a lot of comfy, stretchy knits. It would be great if I could make some of them. He's also going through a massive growth spurt and many of his once-too-long-pants are looking like floods these days (my chubster is becoming a beanpole! sniff). So he actually needs some new pants. And hey, I love a good challenge. Especially when I'm in quilting-avoidance mode.

And this is the result! Squeal!!

Nature Walk pants.
Look ma! Knit pants!


I used an Oliver + s pattern (I'm quickly becoming a freaky cult follower, aren't I?), figuring that if anyone could guide me through something this intimidating to me, it would be Oliver + s. These are a simple yoga pant pattern they call the "Nature Walk Pants." I was not wrong about the hand-holding. The pattern gives specific instructions for the zig-zag length and width you should use for these pants, and I do believe that might be the key to non-lumpy knits.

Nature Walk pants, hem.
Non-lumpy/curly hems!


When I showed these pants to Joe this morning, I said, "Look, Joe, mama made you pants with CARS and TRUCKS on them!" Joe, my boy of very few words (and I mean, very few words), let out a very appreciative "Oooooh." Aw, thanks Joe!

(Off topic: How did I end up with such a boyish little boy? I promise you that I have not been projecting a love of trucks onto this child. Trust me, I am not capable of projecting a love of trucks on anyone.)

Joe playing with his car maze.
My boyish boy plays with cars in his new car pants.


Watch out world, I can sew with knits!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quilt inspirations.

I'm working hard on hand-quilting Joe's quilt. It's going slowly, but it is going. I definitely see this one being completed in less than fifteen years. So that's great news, since fifteen years from now, Joe will be too big for it. But hand quilting does not make for exactly exciting blogging.

I don't know how the quilting bloggers keep up (granted, most of them machine-quilt, but still!).

Hand quilting is said to be meditative. I counteract this to some extent by quilting while watching bad television, but I admit, there is a lot of mulling going on. One thing I've been thinking about lately is ... wait for it ... what kind of quilt to do next. I know, this is crazy talk, right?

My first and only other quilt was very traditional in design (it used a simple nine patch and the "Ohio Star").

For Joe's quilt, I wanted something that would take me less than a decade to hand quilt, so I chose a simple, comtemporary design, Denyse Schmidt's "Flock of Triangles." It's a loose interpretation of the traditional "Flying Geese" pattern with a modern twist.

So, what next?

Lately, I've been really inspired by simple, utilitarian quilts from the 19th century, like this simple tied comforter (turns out comforters used to be called "comfortables" which just makes me feel snuggly and happy). I love the reuse of old fabrics, and there is something really fresh about the simple design:

More info here.
The quilt below has a similar color scheme but it's traditionally hand quilted. I love the asymmetrical border on the left. This may have been incorporated into the quilt because the quilter ran out of the tan sashing, or perhaps the quilt was intended for a bed that pushed against a wall, and the dark sashing was either hidden or decorative? If only quilts could talk! These little details fascinate me.

More info here.
I've also been poring over sweet little doll quilts. These were often made by little girls for their doll's cribs, and as a way to practice their needlework.  I think part of the appeal of these little quilts for me is that the quality of the stitching is a little closer to mine than quilts made by more skilled adult women! (Thus, they are not crazy-intimidating.) Also, they're cute!

From this awesome article.

Same great article.

This is one of my favorites. Love those off-grain stripes. See here.
The simple patterns, asymmetry, crude (although still better than mine) stitching, and proliferation of (sometimes off-grain) stripes and plaids in these little quilts actually gives them a very fresh, modern look, I think. Like this one. Isn't it spectacular?

Did I mention this is a good web page for fans of 19th century child's quilts?

So, my takeaway points from all this daydreaming while quilting: (1) There is a surprising amount of common ground between modern and traditional quilts, especially if you look at more utilitarian traditional quilts; and (2) I really, really like stripes. My next quilt will definitely have stripes. And it turns out even off-grain stripes look awesome. Maybe extra awesome.

Some might call these quilts clumsy, but I think they are charmingly idiosyncratic. So if anyone wonders about my sometimes crudely large, crooked, and uneven hand quilting stitches, I'm sticking to my story. That's just part of the charm, folks.

Now, back to my stitching!

(ETA: I wrote this post at about 10 p.m., and it was full of typos! That's what you get for blogging instead of sleeping. I think I caught them all ...)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Playing in the non-garden.

Thanks to the never-ending rain, which seems to start punctually every Friday and continue through Monday, our garden is pathetically behind schedule. We have some nice looking sprouts, but we haven't planted them. And right now, we only have two mangy, spindly tomato plants in the ground. Two plants is definitely not enough to fill our cupboards with home-canned tomatoes to last us through the winter. Also, one of them is a cherry tomato (and the idea of parboiling and skinning tiny tomatoes does not fill me with canning enthusiasm). And after Steve perhaps overzealously pruned the tree that overhangs our backyard, there seems to be no end to the piles of scrap wood everywhere. Basically, it's a mess. A sodden mess.

So. Yeah. Not doing so good in the gardening department. Apparently I am going to have to learn how to garden cheerfully in the rain, like the English. Shudder.

But in the meantime, here is some water-wasting toddler cuteness, in slideshow form. Enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Two years old.

This is what we call the "silent tantrum." It's like nonviolent resistance for babies. When told that you have to leave a fun activity and go with your parent(s), go completely limp (or "go boneless," in Knuffle Bunny-parlance) so as to make moving your small body very difficult.

When this happens, onlookers sometimes think that Joe is just, you know, lying down on the ground to take a rest. Haha. As though Joe ever rests?! We know better. This is Joe's way of saying, "No way. I'm not going!"

We're usually just grateful, at this point, that he's chosen the quiet form of tantrum, rather than the loud type. That type leaves no room for doubt.

Tantrum

Tantrum

Tantrum

It's hard being two.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Two years ago ...

... Steve and I decided to go to Golden Gate Fields race tracks for Sunday "Dollar Day." Not because we are horse aficionados. Or gamblers. Nope. Just because I was nine months pregnant, one day shy of my due date, in a lot of discomfort, and IN DIRE NEED OF DISTRACTION. Cheap distraction.

And the rest is history ... perhaps the sound of pounding hooves brought on labor? Or it could be just that Joe is a punctual chap, arriving right on his due date.

Wow, it's hard to believe that Joe will be two years old tomorrow! You know that cliche about how the time just flies by? There's a reason it's a cliche, folks: it's true. Sniffle.

Joe's profile.
Spring = bug bites.


For Joe's birthday, we are taking a road trip down to Yosemite, followed by a visit to family in Fresno. So I'll be offline for a couple of days, but I'll be back soon - with photos! Of a two-year-old!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A tour of my sewing corner.

If you follow sewing blogs, then you have seen the posts where seamstresses (and seamsters) show off their beautiful "sewing studios," which are usually spacious, tidy, and decorated with gorgeous hand-sewn projects. I love to see other seamstress' work spaces, but I admit, these images are often a bit intimidating and jealousy-provoking.

So, as an antidote to the many beautiful sewing spaces you'll see on the blogosphere, I figured I would share some photos of my sewing space. It is neither jealousy-provoking nor intimidating! It is also neither spacious nor tidy. It's decorated with heaps of fabric, scraps, and unfinished projects.

It is in the corner of my dining room, which is in the middle of my house, so the untidiness is generally on display, for all to see.

I prefer the term "hard-working" to "messy," thank you very much.

Fabric storage, warts and 
all.
Not the most obvious use for a china cabinet, but it works!


Here's the crazy part: I like it. I like doing my sewing right in the middle of the living space, where I can keep an eye on Joe, play music, chit-chat with my husband, and watch television out of the corner of my eye. This is perfect for me: I grew up in a house full of activity and kids, and I've always thought peace and quiet was overrated. I like bustle. I've had a variety of sewing spaces in my life, and here the thing: When my sewing materials are hidden away out of view, whether in a closet or a back room, I don't sew. I've sewn more since creating this sewing corner than in the prior ten years combined. It works for me.

I store my fabric in an awesome built-in china cabinet, whereas my china is hidden away in a cupboard in the kitchen. Priorities! (Also, earthquakes!) I didn't straighten it up one bit for this photo - sometimes my piles are neater, but not often. (This isn't everything - there is more fabric and batting stored haphazardly in our back room.) When I do organize it, I stack quilting cottons by color, and everything else by texture and fiber content. And then I get inspired to do something and mess it all up again.

The boxes in the hutch hold larger pieces and my prodigious scrap collection (gotta do something with those scraps ...). There are notions, thread, and patterns in the drawers and cupboard.

My ironing board sits to the right of the fabric stash. It is often piled up with tools and works in progress too. Steve dumps his keys and wallet there on a regular basis. A few hours later, they are often deeply buried under whatever I'm working on, leading to daily conversations regarding their location ("I think they're under the green shorts, honey!").

I really have only one complaint about my current set-up: I can't leave my iron unattended for one bloomin' second, which is extremely inconvenient. But my ironing board is right in the middle of everything, and I really don't want Joe getting hit on the head with a heavy, steaming hot iron! And so I am constantly unplugging it, storing it away, then getting it out again, plugging it in, etc. If you sew, then you know how much ironing is required and just how inconvenient this is. But, for now, it can't be helped. In the evenings, after Joe goes to bed, I can keep the iron out. (I trust my dogs' reflexes more than Joe's - if they trip over the cord and send it flying, they are on their own.)

What is that heaped on top of my ironing board to the right? Good question! Here's a close-up.

Joe's quilt
"Flock of Triangles" for Joe, piled on the ever-precarious ironing board.


Remember when I cut this out, last December? It's a quilt for Joe. The boy needs a mama-made quilt. After leaving it untouched for months, I finally got around to sandwiching it and basting it yesterday, so I can finally begin (hand) quilting it. Insisting on hand-quilting your quilts is one of the Seven Habits of the (In)Effective Quilter, of course. My hope for this one is that it will not take me thirteen years to complete. In fact, I am aiming to complete it in the next few months. I'm not sure if sharing this goal with my blog audience will motivate me to work hard on it or activate my quilting-commitment-phobia and send me running to sew more shorts. We'll see!

Here is my sewing machine. My one-and-only. I don't have a serger or anything "fancy" like that, although I sometimes wish I did. I do everything on my trusty mid-1970s Singer Stylist.

My trusty ol' Singer.
Some of my trims are in the bins to the left. I have no idea where that cheesy duck basket came from, but it holds elastic.


It is older than me, but I've had it for fifteen years now. I bought it at an estate sale in 1996. It came with the table, a full set of presser feet (but no walking foot - I've never tried to machine quilt), and the original manual (which I have since lost, luckily you can download them on the Singer website). It was exquisitely well-maintained by its former owner, a grandmother who proverbially "only drove it to church on Sundays." I think I paid $90, which was a lot of money for me at the time.

Since then, it has not been as well-taken-of, but like an old VW, it is mechanically simple, completely manual, mostly metal, and easily fixed. Unlike an old VW, it rarely breaks and it doesn't leak oil. I've had it tuned up exactly once (which also cost me $90, bringing the amortized cost of this machine up to $13 per year). Steve recently fixed the bobbin winder with a $0.99 part and a piece of masking tape (so make that $13.01), which I expect to last at least 15 years.

I'll never be able to upgrade to a "better" machine, because this one will NEVER, EVER DIE. It was built when the concept of "planned obsolescence" was still just a sparkle in the eye of a Stanford drop-out.

It does not make the most beautiful buttonholes, but it gets the job done.

It's a good little space and a great little machine. Now, back to work!