Friday, August 1, 2014

Simplicity 2219 - Camouflage Maxi Dress

My last dress is a go-anywhere dress.  This dress definitely is not.  Instead, it is my frivolous and fun maxi for the summer.  Back in the spring I somehow got in my mind that I wanted to make a camouflage maxi dress.  What, you don't have one on your wish list??? I hope you have something equally as crazy:) 

I had a pattern (Simplicity 2219) for awhile now but the holdup was the fabric.  I wanted a decent knit with some stretch and I wanted a particular kind of camouflage (not blue, pink or brown).  After much searching, I finally found some fairly hefty cotton jersey from Girl Charlee (sadly, I don't see it on the website now) and ordered it.

The fabric was a good price and I thought I ordered extra - so much extra that I could maybe make a T-shirt with the leftovers - but it was 100% cotton and must have shrunk quite a bit during the prewash.  And I added two inches to all the skirt pieces. Also, there was a flaw along the selvage edges, which normally wouldn't matter, but I ended up needing all the fabric.

Anyway, when laying out your pattern on your fabric, make sure you have enough for the large pieces FIRST.  I didn't and ended up having to cut the back skirt upside down.  I also had to put a center seam in the back skirt because of fabric shortage.  Luckily, in this particular print, I don't think it's too noticeable.

I made my usual size 14.  I usually add to the side seams, but it was unnecessary for this pattern.  In fact, I think it is still a little too big, and I wish I had gone down a size and made a 12.  I kept taking in the sides trying to get a better fit.  Other pattern changes:  I raised the front side pieces by half an inch to insure bra coverage.

I will say that there are a lot of pieces to the bodice and it was very confusing remembering which was which.  I suggest labeling each piece with a sticky note, especially if you are lining with the same fabric.  Someone else suggested skipping the underlining and I second that.  I tried to underline but all I did was make a big mess -- it is too hard to tell what you are doing, better just to leave it out.

I was hoping the gathered bodice would add a little more shapeliness to my rectangular/cylindrical figure, but I don't think that happened.  However, those of you who are a little more buxom may find this to be a very flattering pattern.
Despite its flaws, I still love it, and it is a great date outfit for summer outdoors activities (not that I've had much opportunity for said dates this summer, I have to admit).  Also, it is so comfortable you could sleep in it ('secret pajamas', right?).

Doing outdoor photo shoots in Texas has its difficulties.  The gate behind me has been broken by a falling tree.  The wind is picking up here, and I look as if I'm trying to hold on to keep from blowing away.

Another wind-blown look:
And here is the true hazard of my yard - goat head stickers:
They are everywhere and almost impossible to get rid of.

A less wind-blown look:
Lastly, a close-up of my wooden earrings from Green Tree Jewelry, an etsy shop discovered by my daughter.  Check them out:  they have lots of fun, inexpensive earrings and great service.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vogue 1390 - Brown Pleated Shift Dress

While I have been lax on blogging, I have been sewing here and there.  I sew because I like being able to make things to wear, and also because it is a good, constructive, creative way to occupy my mind and body, which makes it fun for me.  Unfortunately, my projects have piled up unblogged because it is difficult to get them photographed.  Even though for the most part I do the photographs myself, it still requires a block of time to take the photos, and another block of time to edit.  I do like to have a record of my projects here, however, so I'm not going to worry about the order and go ahead and blog what I can.

Anyway, my most recent make is this Sandra Betzina dress pattern Vogue 1390.  It looks like I made view B (and I did use the 'v' neckline) but I used view A's directions because my pleats were already on my fabric.  This is because my fabric is a cotton pleated shower curtain that I purchased for $3.99 at the thrift store:
Sorry for the blur
I had purchased the pattern when it was on sale and was keeping my eye out for some kind of panel printed fabric.  When I was trawling the thrift store linens section, I came across this shower curtain with its chocolate brown pleats (I am very, very attracted to texture in fabric), a little light bulb clicked on in my head and I thought it might work instead.  For $3.99 it was worth a try!

One thing I will say about refashioning items from one thing into another:  you never have as much fabric to work with as you think you will.  I had to cut the heading with the grommets off and I had to cut the hem off, which reduced my yardage.  I carefully cut the lining away.  The pleated section was on the edge, so I had to cut off some plain yardage and sew it to one side of the pleats so that the pleats would actually be centered and be wide enough for my center sections. The pleats were pressed down in alternate directions, and because I used the pleated section on the front and back panels of the dress, I couldn't play around with the placement -- my main concern had to be actually getting the yardage I needed.
These pleats are much narrower than the ones given in the pattern directions for view B, but as long as you pleat your fabric before you cut it out, I'm sure you can make your pleats any size you want.  Again, I didn't do any of this because my fabric came already pleated; however, if you are interested in doing these alternate wavy pleats yourself, I found this tutorial that explains the process.

Here's a view of the back.  It's wrinkled but that is because I've worn it all day (and at least three other days now -- one was my day of flying to Tennessee.  It's a great travel dress).
This is a substantial little dress.  The cotton itself was sturdy, the panels are pleated (which adds fabric heft) and the yokes, the bottom bands and the side panels are all doubled (which further explains why I barely had enough fabric -- I had to do a little creative piecing with the side panels).
This is my first time making a Sandra Betzina pattern.  Her sizing is different, but a size C is roughly equivalent to a size 14.  Although I usually add an inch to the side seams at the waist of size 14s, it was a little confusing how to do this with this pattern, and the dress is supposed to be loose-fitting, so I cut a straight size C and hoped for the best.  I did shorten the length by two inches (I'm 5'8"); I was afraid a longer length might look too dowdy.
The most time-consuming part was cutting out the dress, and that was because I had to reconfigure the fabric and sew pieces together just to have enough.  Once I finally got everything cut out, I sewed the whole dress up in a single afternoon (except for ten minutes), which is super fast for me.  It may have been because I was working with a sturdy woven cotton, which is very cooperative.  There is also no hand sewing on this dress, no turning up of a hem, and no zippers or other closures, all of which make it faster to sew.
The construction of the dress was a little different, so I was afraid to deviate from the directions very much.  Sandra advocates finishing all the seams with a serger, but I just stitched and pinked all mine, which worked fine.  I finished the sleeve seams by sewing purchased bias tape to the edge and turning it to the inside and topstitching it down.  The final silhouette has a bit of a bell shape.  I took a little of the hip curve out (the hip curve on dresses and skirts always hits me mid-thigh, I need to make some type of fitting adjustment prior to cutting out), but I left some of the bell shape in.  It's subtle (and hard to see in these photos), but it's another fun element to the dress.

I have to say this is a very useful and comfortable addition to my wardrobe. So far I've worn it for a day of traveling on a plane and through airports, to an outdoor military ceremony, and to church.  It could go to the grocery store just as easily, and to be honest the most needed clothes in my life are things I could wear to the grocery store.  And I love that it's made out of a shower curtain!! But my favorite thing about this dress is that it goes with these shoes:
Crown Vintage Peony Wedge Sandal
I bought these (as well as a brown pair) from the online DSW clearance section with a birthday gift card from my husband:)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


A large rainbow that appeared over my neighborhood this past spring
It has been awhile since I posted.  I have to confess that for the last few years I have been feeling a bit squeezed by life.  Reading blogs by others (one of the most encouraging to me is Brenda at coffeeteabooksandme and if you haven't read her blog I 'implore you to exert yourself' and give it a try) and blogging myself has been helpful, but sometimes blogging itself gets squeezed out by life.  I have four boys and a daughter, all now teenagers/young adults, ages that bring with them a lot of relational, parental, emotional, and financial challenges.  I love them all to pieces, but I don't always know the best way to maneuver in these difficult waters.  Add to that the reality of aging/dying parents and the awareness of our own growth in years, job stresses, etc. and my husband and I looked at each other one day and said "This must be what a mid-life crisis feels like!"  Hmmm........

I appreciate so much your kind comments about my mother's death.  It is strengthening to have the support of friends.  I just returned from spending a week and a half with my siblings cleaning out my mom's house in Tennessee.  As an adult I have never lived in a house with a basement and often lamented that fact.  I am rethinking that now:)  Apparently, a basement is a place where you can just put all the things you don't know what to do with, and after 30 plus years in the same house.......let's just say my brothers became very good friends with the man who ran the dump!  We didn't get completely finished, but we made a good dent in it.  We each chose some things to keep (and I am now trying to fit my treasures into my house), and the rest will go into an estate sale.

We coped emotionally because the work just kept driving us forward.  We didn't have much time for meditation.  We boxed up the photos and decided that maybe next summer we will get together to go through them - there was no way we would have been able to do them this time.  My two brothers and my sister and I all get along very well, so while the task was difficult, the time spent together was comforting and relatively stress-free (I just realized I made a pun;)  We really didn't want anyone else to help -- it was a job that needed to be "just us."  We got to spend some good time with my dad and his wife as well, taking him dinner three different times.

There were some fun things.  My brothers and I stayed up late one night laughing at old photos:  all I can say is the 1970s and 1980s were not kind, style-wise......  My sister and I found our wedding dresses and prom dresses (all made by my mom).  Lots of things we had forgotten about.  But a lot of my mom's possessions (her "nice things") were acquired in the last 25 years, after we were all grown and out of the house.  The grandkids associated all the nice things with her, but my siblings and I remember instead the naugahide couch that we used for building forts and for sliding down the stairs on the cushions and things like that.  (For the record, I totally understand waiting until the kids are grown before having nice things because kids break things;)

There were other fun things.  Over the weekend I spent the night with two of my high school friends, and we had a wonderful time staying up til three in the morning reminiscing and catching up.  Also, another friend and her husband came and took me for dinner one night, and a fourth friend came by one afternoon and we spent about an hour catching up.

I thought I would have a little more downtime for memories and driving around significant places, but it was really too busy.  I did spend one night alone in mom's house (I flew to Tennessee, but my husband drove in the next week so he could pack my stuff up in a trailer and we could haul it back to Texas).  That night it was hard to go to sleep -- very, very seldom in my life have I spent the night in a house by myself:)  But as I lay there thinking about life now and life after death, I realized that the things that are the most solid, and most central, and most real, are God's truths.  When life's hard or sad or happy times come round, those truths will hold.  Sometimes Confessions say it best.  Here is Question 1 from the Heidelberg Catechism (1563):

Christian, what is thy only comfort in life and in death? 

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him. 

Also, the words of Paul:

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21 (KJV)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ponderings on Death this Mother's Day

View from my mom's backyard at sunset April 2014

I want to thank each of you for your prayers and comforting words since my mother's death before Easter. I have been the recipient of so much kindness these past few weeks, from many meals and other helpful deeds being provided for my family, to thoughtful words and prayers from friends I have yet to meet in real life.  It is a great reminder that the truly important part of life is relationships.

In our culture we don't have a lot of time set aside to grieve.  The funeral itself was a blur of making arrangements, greeting all the people who came to pay their respects, figuring out logistics of travel.  Then the next week my brothers and sister and I had to go right back to our regular lives.  In the old pagan days we would have torn our clothes and cut ourselves with knives, or more biblically maybe worn sackcloth and sat in ashes, refusing to eat.  Something.  Because this was a surprise event, we had done none of our grieving early.  I expect it will come when it comes, different for each of us, and we will each have to find a way to make a space for it.

Yesterday my first thoughts upon opening my eyes were about my mom.  It was the first time I actually let myself say to her "I miss you, Mom." But I started thinking about this Mother's Day and the sadness of it, and I realized for my mom it is a beautiful day.  She may be spending it with her mother, and her great-aunt, and her grandmothers, and her great-grandmothers, and on and on.  What wonder to look back through the generations and see the love and even the hardships that had a hand in our past. No longer bound by time and space, able to know and be known by Christ Himself but also by all the generational links back to the beginning of time.  Mind-boggling.

Some of my grief has been shamefully selfish.  I loved my mom, and I miss her for selfish reasons. So that I can tell her something.  So that I can call her.  So that I can hear about everyone else in the family that she kept up with. So that I know I always have a place to go home to. So that my children always have a grandmother who loves them. So that we can go thrift shopping together. So that I have my mother who always wants to give me a small gift. So that there is someone who has known me my entire life -- longer than I've even known myself. So that my mom can be the link back to her mom and her mom before her through all the stories that were handed down. So that my mom can make each new grandchild his/her own special quilt. So that my brothers and sister and I have a link holding us all together, no matter how far apart we are geographically.  I could go on and on.

So that there is at least one generation standing between me and my own mortality.  I have to admit to being shaken up about that.  My mom had had heart problems, but supposedly she was doing fine.  She was always a vibrant, healthy person, active, never overweight.  Her parents died in their eighties.  Her sudden death at 67 from a heart attack or stroke leaves little reassurance for me.  I can't say "if I just don't do this (whatever this is),  I'll be okay".  Her death feels arbitrary, and I guess it somewhat makes me - her oldest child, her daughter who is only 18 years younger than she - feel doomed.  I already have sucky genetics (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) against me on my dad's side.  Yes, I know that God has our days numbered, and there is nothing we can do to add or subtract from that, but this is where head knowledge and visceral reality meet.

I think maybe no matter how old you are when you lose a parent, you still feel like an orphan.  Both my husband (his mother died suddenly last year) and I are surprised to be without the safety net of a mother and her prayers and her "capableness," if that's a word.  I have to say that I don't think I could ever fill the shoes of either my mother or my mother-in-law.  At one year shy of 50, I still never feel mature or like I've got it all together, like I could be the matriarch of a family.

On one hand, I am feeling very grim and sober about this life.  Bad things happen, not just death, but other things too.  Even in these last few weeks, more troubles have headed my family's way. It seems like my forties have been too much about learning that, too much grief.

On the other hand, I feel reckless and extravagant.  Seeing how quickly life can be turned to death, I want to love my husband and children (and others), to actually be alive while I'm here, to put aside all petty annoyances and hindrances and to embrace all the good and the wonderful that also constantly surround me, whether it's watching baby wrens learning to fly or hearing my children laugh.

How to do that, and not be paralyzed by fear or dread.  Not a theoretical problem, but an imminently practical one.

One thing that has helped me.  I have had two very vivid dreams about my mother-in-law since she died.  The dreams were different, but in each dream the feeling was the same.  My mother-in-law was so happy, so joyful, light, almost giddy.  I've thought about that and thought maybe that's what we are like in heaven where we have no worries, no burdens, no fears anymore.  What will it be like to be totally free of fear and the cares that weigh us down, and at the same time know we are totally loved? One day we too will know.  It reminds me of the verse in 1 John 4:18 "...perfect love casteth out fear."

I want/need to wrestle with God through the Psalms, and I want/need to worship Him like Peter:
"Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." John 6:68 (KJV)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blog Absence

Dear Friends,

I've been absent from this space for a little while just because of life being a bit busy and overwhelming at the moment.  Sadly, I will be absent a little longer because my dear mother passed away very unexpectedly this Sunday.

It feels a lot like a repeat of my mother-in-law's death just over a year ago, except my mother was a lot younger.  No matter how old you are, when a parent dies you still feel like an orphan.  My siblings and I are very sad.

We are traveling this week for the services.  Any prayers are appreciated.

Thank you,


Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Look 6071 -- Blue Sweater Dress

While my daughter has been sewing for spring ever since January, I still had a couple of winter things that I wanted to finish.  First up is this blue sweater dress I completed in late February/early March.
The pattern is New Look 6071, a Workroom/Project Runway pattern that just went out of print, so if you're interested in purchasing it, do it soon.  I really was not that interested in it myself until I saw Andrea of Fabric Epiphanies great series on this pattern: number 1number 2number 3number 4, and number 5!

Inspired by her flattering versions, I bought the pattern myself.  I had some blue sweater knit fabric from Joann Fabric that I thought would be a good match.  I cut a 14 at the neckline and added an inch to the side seams, tapering out from under the arms.  Tissue-fitting revealed that the sleeves were very narrow and I actually added almost an inch to the width all the way down the sleeve to the wrist.  I also added a little to the length of the sleeves and the skirt.

I liked the interest added at the bodice with the twist and the pleats.  Instructions were good on this.  The neckline is finished with a facing.  After reading some reviews and fearing gaping issues, I shortened the facing to somewhere between the size 10 and size 12.  I'm really glad I did, and if I make this again I will shorten that even more, which helps snug up the neckline.  The neckline still ended up a little lower than I am comfortable with, so I hand-tacked it together, giving me another inch of coverage.
The back fits very well.  I made no adjustments to that other than lengthening the skirt slightly.

All in all, this dress is okay.  I like the interest in the bodice, and the slightly A-line skirt is a nice change for me.  Definitely wearable.  The main thing I don't like about it is that it shows how thick I've gotten this winter while I was bundled up under my giant sweatshirts, and how much work I'm going to have to do to keep from getting thicker.  That's a little discouraging.  However, I do think I will try it again.  I think it might look nice in a stripe and as a top.

As for the photos, I didn't use the self-timer, but I set the tripod up and set the shots up myself.  Then I set my husband behind the camera and told him to just push the button.  I still don't understand how I can take more flattering shots of myself than he can take of me....... Anyway, these shots were taken outside, where I was constantly getting photo-bombed by my furry friends and my youngest son,

who was lovingly mocking me (now you can understand why it is so hard for me to look at ease).  But it's only fitting he should have his own photo (even though he's making a face), because this week he was the last of my offspring to pass from childhood into teen-age-hood.  Happy birthday - and yes, we did celebrate with ice cream cake!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Look 6035 -- A Good Top for Swinging into Spring

Finally spring is just around the corner!  In eager anticipation of this happy event my daughter began making warm weather clothes in February.  She finished this little sleeveless shell from New Look 6035 view C.  I say 'finished" because she started this top over a year ago and stalled out because she didn't know how to do the binding.  The top languished waited patiently in a little bundle until her skills and confidence caught up, and she felt ready to tackle it.  Plus, sometimes you just want to get that project that's been hanging over your head out of the way.
The top is made of a cotton fabric covered all over in tiny white flowers that I've had in my stash for well over ten years.  I don't remember what I originally thought I would make but I'm glad the fabric is finally getting to be worn:)  The cotton does wrinkle -- these photos were taken after it had been worn all day -- but wrinkles are a second consideration to comfort and coolness when you live in a hot climate.

Here you can see the tone-on-tone flowers, which add visual texture to the fabric. The neckline and armholes are bound with self-fabric bias, and the neckline also has small pleats.

Here's a view of the back:
And here is a view of the side.  The side seams are finished off with a slit, which gives the top a little more movement.  She made a straight size 10.  The underarms are a little snug, so next time we will deepen the underarm seams half an inch or so.

It's a great top for summer, but also for cooler weather because it's perfect underneath a jacket.

An all-around do-it-yourself-er, my daughter also made the swing in the photos:)  She used these plans from Lowe's, spent an afternoon or so on construction, and then hung the swing in the huge live oak tree that is in my front yard.  It's very sturdy (supposedly up to 500 lbs.!) so any of us can enjoy it, not just small kids, something that all my tall people appreciate:)