Saturday, November 30, 2013

New Look 6225 -- Sweatshirt Dress

A while back I saw this dress (at least I think it's a dress, it may be a tunic) by Philip Lim on pinterest and thought how I would love to wear that.  (I know, that may not be what you were thinking, but to each his own, okay;).  Sewing is changing the way I think about clothes.  Instead of thinking "Where can I find this?" "Can I afford this?" or "Will this fit me?" I think "Maybe I could make this."  That starts the wheels rolling, and I think about what fabric and patterns I could use.

There are not many dress patterns with raglan sleeves, so I decided to use New Look 6225, view D, which is a raglan top pattern with cap sleeves, and just extend the lines of the top down to my knees (one of the few times having a relatively straight figure is to my advantage).   I made a size 14, and added one inch to the side seams, tapering out from the underarm.  I also lowered the neckline in the front by 3 inches.  Because I was being a little experimental, I basted the side seams first to check the fit.  I found out that this is a good practice:  the fit check is much more accurate than just using pins, and if it needs to be fixed, basted seams are MUCH easier to unpick.  For the fabric I used a cozy charcoal sweatshirt fleece from Joann Fabric that has no stretch, which worked out since New Look 6225 is drafted for wovens.
I know this dress is a little 'out there', but I've worn it to an art gallery opening already, and it's very comfortable while being a little edgy.  I do wonder if I am on my way to 'crazy old lady' status; on the other hand, I have always loved that poem "When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple,"  so I guess I'm okay with that. Life is too short to take oneself seriously all the time:)

Usually I am not a fan of asymmetrical hemlines, but I felt in this case it was necessary to add a little 'oomph.'  Instead of cutting each pattern piece on the slant (I was getting a headache trying to make sure each side was correct), I made the dress a normal length, then tried it on and marked where I wanted the hem to go on each side.  I then chopped it off, leaving enough fabric to turn up the hem.  (One note here:  I wish I had made the dress longer and given myself more room to work with, because the differential between one side and the other needs to be greater than I anticipated for it to have the right effect.)

This is not the most flattering view of my backside, but honesty in blogging and all that;)

The shoulders were unpleasantly constricting after the sleeves were sewn in.  I unpicked them -- every project needs a little seam ripper action;) -- and resewed them with a 3/8"  instead of a 5/8" seam allowance.  The sleeves are two pieces with a center top seam, so that gave me another inch of room (4 seams at 1/4" increase), which was helpful.  I'm not very experienced with raglan sleeves, so I'm not sure why the shoulders turned out too tight, and there may be a better way to fix this problem, but for now it worked.  I added a little interest to the sleeves by binding them and leaving the raw edges exposed.  I also added a binding to the neckline and topstitched the raglan seams.

Also I finally figured out how to mount my camera on a tripod and take photos of myself using a timer.  (I looked on the good old internet and downloaded a very helpful manual for my camera -- much more extensive than the booklet that came with it!).  I need a lot more practice with picture quality and height, etc. but not bad for my first try.
Of course, I did get photo-bombed by my furry friends:
(Note:  my little dog Penny, who has appeared on my blog before, disappeared under sad circumstances early last summer.  We got Luna, the little dog on the left, this fall from a rescue shelter.  Angus is our Australian Shepherd.)

I also got photo-bombed by my husband and older son, who hammed it up and danced grotesquely for the camera.  But those photos are certainly not fit for public consumption;)

Lessons from this dress:
It's fun (and possible) to copy -- or loosely adapt -- ideas from pinterest or other inspirational sites
A top pattern can be turned into a dress pattern
Basting seams is worth the extra time -- they are so much easier to unpick, and they allow me to check the fit before I permanently commit to it
I can take pictures of myself when necessary

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Simplicity A1738 -- Turquoise Waterfall Jacket

In October I experienced some computer issues that kept me from being able to put photos on my blog.  Also, access to my laptop has become more limited as my high schoolers need to use it for some of their schoolwork.  That, combined with overwhelmed feelings on my part, led to an unplanned blog hiatus.  And like with most things, once you get out of the habit, it's hard to start back again.

However, I did continue to sew a little.  I love the title of Barbara's blog, sewing on the edge, because it conveys what is probably the reality for most people -- I fit sewing (or any other creative endeavor) around the edges of my days, in spare moments here and there.  So, back in late September/early October, in the midst of everything else, I made this waterfall jacket (I think that's what you call it, anyway).

I have Lynne of Wonderfully Made to thank for it.  She made this beautiful version and then had a give away of the pattern (it's now out of print) and I won!!!
Not only did she send me the pattern, but also this cute zippered pouch.

It's lined with wipe-off fabric and would make a fantastic cosmetics pouch, but right now I am using it as my camera bag, which I needed more.  I love it -- thank you so much, Lynne!
I was very surprised to win her giveaway, and also I was very intimidated (Lynne's version is gorgeous!).  It was the beginning of our very hot summer, so it took me until autumn to feel like I could actually make a jacket and also to decide on fabric.  I ended up using some turquoise cotton interlock fabric I had purchased from Golden D'or back in February.  I have a brown knit jacket made of similar material so I hoped this would work, even though the recommended fabrics were fleece (!) and suedecloth.

I cut my usual 14 in the shoulders and added a little to the side seams.  Now there are some things I wish I'd done differently.  I think I should have gone down a size to accommodate my more stretchy fabric.  The cotton interlock is a little too floppy.  I ended up top-stitching around the edges of the entire jacket to give the seams a little more structure.  I did not use knit stay tape on the seams, and I really wish I had.  But, it is very comfortable and I love the color.  A tab adds interest across the back:

And one more sort of goofy view of me, however you can see the jacket pretty good.  The sleeves are long, but I usually wear them pushed up.
I am much more a jacket person than a cardigan person.  I am thinking of making another one of these, only next time out of suedecloth, which would give it a whole different look.  Lately I have noticed some really cool suedecloth at both my local Joann Fabrics and Hancocks which could work.

It is wonderful to be inspired and encouraged by friends on line.  I have "met" so many generous, nice people, and Lynne is one.  Finally, Lynne, I have finished my jacket!  Thank you so much!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Under Pressure

Chemical Weathering of Limestone
Inside this mason jar a limestone rock is soaking in vinegar and is slowly disintegrating.  The rock started out much larger and very smooth.  (This is an example of "chemical weathering" for those of you who don't have a student in general science this year;)  I have been observing this rock disintegrate for several weeks now because it is sitting on the windowsill above my kitchen sink.

On the other end of the windowsill is a different mason jar filled with dirt, sand, gravel, and water.  After jostling the mess around for a day or so, the contents of the jar were left to settle and over time they settled into distinct layers.  Most of the sand is on the bottom, then a layer of gravel and dirt, then a layer of light sediment, with fairly clear water on top.
The Laying Down of Sediments
Sitting nearby on the counter is a bowl, which used to contain a big square of pristine steel wool. The steel wool has been transformed into its current state by nothing more dramatic than soaking in household vinegar for a few weeks (just like the limestone rock, a victim of "chemical weathering").
Chemical Weathering of Steel Wool
There was a time I tried to keep fresh flowers on my windowsill, and hopefully that time will come again.  But right now science experiments surround me, and in some sense they serve as metaphors for what is going on internally as well.  A lot of weathering, a lot of rubbing away of sharp points, a lot of transforming.

This fall has been a time of pressure in my home.  Five teenagers/young adults in the house is a lot of food and laundry to keep up with, but just as importantly, it is a lot of conversations.  Conflict resolution conversations, talking-someone-off-the-cliff conversations, listening-to-venting conversations, reassuring conversations, attempts-to-motivate conversations, crisis-avoiding conversations, temper-cooling conversations, faith-building conversations, asking-(and hearing)-questions conversations, late-late-night conversations, late-late-night-waiting-for-the-last-person-to-make-it-home praying conversations.

This has also been a time of increased academic pressure as everyone has more homework, more papers to get done, more decisions about the future to make, etc.  And some students are more motivated than others.....

Financial pressure has also increased this year, a combination of poor planning with some unforeseen and unavoidable expenses.

Plus, I am at the age where I am starting to have health pressures, both my husband and I have parental (our parents) worries, and there is not any one standing in line to buffer any of it's just us.  I have felt very squeeeeeezed.......why?  Well, I need a lot more wisdom, discernment, patience, hope, discipline, authority, energy, frugality, creativity, encouragement, perspective, endurance and love than I've got.

I think I have unconsciously been living my life under the delusion that things will get easier when (substitute whatever) happens, when a new decade arrives. That is not how it works (at least so far as I can tell).  Every season has its good  parts and every season has its hard parts.  Also, everybody's story is different; we don't all have the same burdens, nor the same joys.  It does me no good to compare my story to yours -- I am called to live MY story, and it may require different things from me than yours does from you.

Which brings me back to the limestone rock.  There is another way that limestone rock can change.  If, deep in the earth, it is subjected to intense heat and pressure over a long period of time, it can be transformed, or metamorphosed,  into marble, through a process called 'recrystallization.'  I am hoping that all this pressure will have this good result in me (and everyone else in my family), that the character of Christ is being formed in us.  It is certainly not something that can be seen on a day-to-day basis, but I hope to one day look back and think wow...the Lord has done something beautiful with all of these messy lives.

On my windowsill is one more science experiment:  a bowl of crystals that were formed by dissolving alum powder in water (you can get directions here).  Not quite diamonds and not quite marble, they still are incredibly beautiful. The same God who has power to change things on a molecular level has the power to change people on a spiritual level, bringing forth beauty and order and love and peace and perseverance -- all the fruits of the Spirit -- from people who once walked in darkness.
Alum Crystals
Squished behind all the science experiments on my windowsill is an index-card stand.  For a long, long time the only verse written there has been John 16:33.  Every time I would think about changing it, I would think No, I still need that verse.  I finally feel like I can add another verse, one that has been hanging around my thoughts for awhile, to remind me that God is able to do so much MORE than all that we ask or think:

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen" -- Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

McCalls 6032 -- The Problem Purple Dress

After seeing a solid purple dress on pinterest here (which actually seems to be for a sewing pattern, just not in my language), I got it in my mind that I wanted a purple dress, too.  I found some purple pique knit fabric at Joann's, which I used with the smooth side out.  I had a pattern (now out of print) that I thought might work:  McCalls 6032.  I was a little leery of those gathers underneath the bust, but I decided to give it a try.  I made view A, the one the model is wearing.

This pattern required A LOT of alteration to become wearable.  I cut a size 14 and added one inch to the side seams, which is my usual alteration.  However, it is so large in the neckline that I should have gone down a size.  The holes where the center loop goes through were too large, so I sewed them up smaller.  Also there is an inside lining piece that goes down to the waist.  The directions have you make a casing and run elastic through the bottom of the lining.  That added a lot of bulk to my ribcage and it caused the lining to crawl up and bunch, so.....after painstakingly inserting the elastic, I had to painstakingly remove the elastic:(  One thing I did not do that I should have done:  stabilize the neckline (which is a deep V front and back) with knit stay tape.  I didn't do it because it's a bit awkward to figure out HOW to do it on this type of neckline, but it would have helped the neckline lay closer to the body.  It's a low neckline and a little va-va-va-voom.

The skirt was very full -- a lot fuller than it looks on the model -- and I took out a lot of width on the side seams below the waist.  I can't remember how much, but at least 8 inches!  All these alterations were not enough to prevent the dress from the dreaded maternity look, which is fine if that's what you're going for, but I am trying to avoid that.  Ugh......I was really bummed because I loved the fabric.  I hung the dress in the magic closet, hoping that when I pulled it out again a month and a half later, my opinion might have changed.

Unlike this top, the dress did not improve with its time in the closet.  I thought about cutting it up and using the fabric for something else, but it had a center front and center back seam so there was no large piece of fabric.  I racked my brains trying to think of some way to salvage the dress.  Emboldened by the fact that I had nothing to lose, I took in the center seam by one inch from hem all the way to the lining, which helped get rid of some of the excess front fabric and it tightened the neck up a little, too.

Here's the much-altered dress:

A view of the back:
I can't say that I recommend this pattern -- it required almost a complete overhaul for me to get something wearable out of it.

The part I am most excited about are these bra-keepers I added to the inside of the shoulder seams:

These were super easy to add with just a small piece of ribbon, two snaps, and a little hand sewing, and they work great.  I am going back and adding these to some of my other problematic dresses and tops.  They keep your bra straps from showing and they keep the dress from sliding around and off your shoulders.  This is the one part of this dress that I truly recommend:)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Butterick 4789 -- Polka Dots and Zebra Stripes

I made this dress two or three years ago, pre-blog.  I had not started my own blog, but I had begun to read sewing blogs and I was soaking in quite a bit of information.  Michelle at Cheap and Picky also sews on a Singer 401, and she posted tips on how to sew knits with this machine.  I followed her suggestions and made this dress out of a slinky brown polka dot knit from Joann Fabrics. 

There are lots of things I would do differently now.  I sewed an 18, but now I would sew a 14 in the shoulders and add width to the body.  Also I would use knit stay tape on the neckline, but I didn't know about that yet, so I just turned the edges under twice and sewed them down.  All the same, I am very fond of this dress because it represents the first time of sewing with knits for me, and it was the first piece of clothing I had sewn for myself in many years.

It's not the fanciest of dresses, but I have worn it lots.  It takes up very little room in a suitcase, and it is comfortable during the hot summers we have.  The dress is a twist front design from Maggy London.  The pattern -- Butterick 4789 -- is now out of print, but people are still making it, mainly because it's fairly easy and it's also pretty flattering.

Anyway, after making the dress I decided to try my hand at the shirt, and I bought some pink zebra cotton knit fabric from Hobby Lobby.  However, I made a mistake while sewing the center front seam and ripped a hole in the fabric trying to unpick it.  I eventually went back to Hobby Lobby and bought some more fabric, but the top sat unmade in a pile -- for two years! -- while I worked on other projects.

I finally decided to make the top once and for all just to get it off of my sewing list and out of my sewing room.  This time I cut a 14 and added width to the side seams.  I also lengthened the pattern.  Everything went well with the sewing.  BUT.....even though the zebra fabric was knit, it had almost zero stretch, quite unlike the slinky brown polka dot fabric of the dress.

When I finished the top, I hated it.  I shoved it in the closet until such time as I got around to writing about how not everything I make ends up being wearable.  It stayed there for over a month.  To my surprise, when I finally put the top back on in preparation for blogging honesty, I didn't hate it any more.
I don't love it, but it's fine for a knock-around top to wear over capris, which I'm doing here.  And this is the kind of casual clothes that most of my everyday life requires.
So, my advice is this: when you finish sewing something and you don't like it, wait before you throw it out.  Let it marinate in the magic closet for awhile.  When you get it back out, you may like it better, or you may think of a way to salvage it.

Have you ever put something in the magic closet and have it grow more appealing while it's in there?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Simplicity 1716 -- Lilac Dress

I liked the shape of the red cowl so much that I immediately decided to make a dress like it.  I used view D from Simplicity 1716.  I made my usual size 14,  adding an inch to the side seams and adding some length to it (these photos are making me think I added a little too much length).
It is hard to tell from the photos, but the fabric is a lovely textured double knit lilac that I purchased from FabricMart for $3/yard during one of their doubleknit sales.

I have to confess that this dress is not as flattering on me as I had envisioned.  (Believe me, I deleted a lot of photos before I decided to keep these).  I don't fault the pattern, I fault my round, cylindrical, rectangle body where there is little differentiation between bust, waist and hip measurements.  I think this pattern would be gorgeous on a more curvaceous body.

Another close-up of that lovely shoulder draping, which is my favorite feature.
I wanted this dress to be my favorite, but it didn't quite make it to that level.  I will still wear it, though;)

I am so slow at blogging my projects that these pictures were taken at the end of July.  My daughter was my photographer, and during our "photo-shoot" these Texas sage were blooming away, almost a perfect match for my dress (despite the above photos, the fabric is more THIS color).
Also blooming was this Mexican Purple Heart Wandering Jew plant.  It gets a single lilac-colored flower on its dark purple leaves.
And a roadrunner ran across the yard during our photo shoot!!  He (or she) took a short break in the shade which allowed us to get a decent photograph. Yes, we have coyotes and roadrunners in our neighborhood:)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Simplicity 1716 -- Red Cowl Top

One of my summer sewing goals was to make some tops.  I do wear the dresses I make, but tops/shirts are what I need the most in my everyday wardrobe.  It seemed like a reasonable goal, but I have hit a rough patch in my sewing where things are not turning out the way I envisioned them.  So, the only wearable top that I made was this one.

It is view E  from Simplicity 1716.  I made a size 14, adding one inch at the side seams for some extra room and omitting the sleeves.  The fabric is a drapey knit with a crepe-like texture that I purchased for $3/yd. from FabricMart during one of their sales.  I was considering using the rest of the fabric for a dress, but now I'm not sure because it doesn't have good recovery.  Also, when this fabric gets washed, it feels AWFUL, like I've soaked it in salt, but then when it comes out of the dryer it feels fine again.  Not sure what's up with that.

Anyway, I really liked this pattern, especially the pleats at the shoulders and the way they drape.  I tried to show it here but solid fabrics are hard (for me) to photograph.

Hmmm....looking at these pictures makes me think I might have made it a little large, especially in the armholes and at the hips. I think some of this can be attributed to the fabric, though. In the back view you can see that the fabric has not recovered well around the hem.
Despite its flaws, it is a comfortable top to wear, plus I made it so I would have something to wear with these shoes (another thrift store purchase:).
I wanted to show you how well it also goes with my zebra handbag, but I got tired by this point and had to rest my eyes;)
The funny thing is I have another outfit just like this in reverse:  a short red pencil skirt, a black cowl sleeveless top, and black sandals.  That outfit goes with my zebra purse, too;)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Shoe Shelves

There are a lot of broken, disorganized, needing-to-be-repaired items around here.  It seems like our efforts towards order and beauty are "two-steps forward, three steps back."  It's just hard to feel like you're getting anywhere.  But part of my writing this blog is to remind myself that hey! sometimes good stuff happens, too;)

My husband and I share a small walk-in closet, plus we store various and sundry other items in there.  Suffice it to say, storage is tight.  I have been using the shelves above the closet rod  to store my shoes.  As you can see, there were too many shoes and not enough shelves:
It was hard to find a matching pair without pulling a few others down on your head.
I thought it would help if we could add a couple more shelves in between the existing ones.  My husband agreed and bought me some 1x12 boards at Lowes.  I painted them white:
And my husband installed them for me.  All in all, this was a fairly painless home improvement project (which is saying something, because our projects NEVER turn out right the first time).
I did donate some shoes that I never wore.  I thought about feeling guilty about all these shoes, but I really don't.  Most of them were thrift store purchases, and others I have been wearing for years.  Anyway, I love how neat and organized they are now.
In fact, for the first few days I would randomly go in the closet just to admire all this order:)
And while I was working in the closet, I filled a tub with clothes that I don't wear, but I either want to use the fabric for something else or think the clothes can be altered.  A lot of linen dresses from the 90s are in there, as well as some unusual knits that hopefully will become something else.
All this to say, a small successful project can lift your spirits and give you the energy to tackle another one!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Deer Blessing

Before I go east to visit my and my husband's families, I have in my mind some things I would like to do if I get a chance.  One of them is just to drive around in the country and visit places that were important to me when I was growing up, and maybe even take some pictures.  Well, that has yet to happen.  When we visit, I am juggling so many people's schedules and trying to keep everybody (my teenagers plus all my relatives that live there) 'relatively' happy;).  And I am usually too busy talking and visiting to remember to take pictures.  Also, I don't have a car of my own or free time of my own to cavort around on any solo adventures.  That's okay, life has its different seasons, that time alone is for the future (and I'm afraid I may not like it when it comes;)

So after my week with my sister-in-laws, my husband and three youngest kids met me.  The three kids went to camp in North Carolina, and my husband and I spent a few days in South Carolina at some meetings he had to attend for work. We all eventually ended up back in Tennessee for some quick family visits before heading west again.  It was very busy, but we had a good time (although, no pictures).

The whole time we were in Tennessee our eyes feasted on the green and on the hills.  I get hungry for both out here in Texas.  We spotted this little white-tail deer family on the side of the road near my father-in-law's new assisted living home.  This is the only time we did remember to take some pictures.
They were mildly interested in us, but not too afraid.
It was a pleasure to see these twin fawns that still had their spots.
We pulled off to the side of the road and just watched them until they finally bounded off through the tall grass and we couldn't see them anymore.
It's easy for me to get caught up in the hecticness and the perceived pressure of everything that needs to get done.  Sometimes I'm like a mole, tunneling forward steadily but feeling suffocated.  God makes room for us to breathe and to remember what (and who) is important through  gifts like these deer.  Just the stopping and taking pleasure in these little fawns helped put life back in perspective.

"Be still, and know that I am God:  I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah." -- Psalm 46:10-11 KJV  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Family Business

Above the entrance to my living room (it used to hang on my in-laws' porch)
Most of the month of June I spent east on extended family business.  My mother-in-law passed away back in January and my father-in-law is now in assisted living, but all their stuff was still sitting in their house and needed to be dealt with.  Part of my business was getting together with my two sisters-in-law to go through my in-laws' house and get it ready to sell.

The three of us spent an intense week camped out at the house with virtually no contact with the outside world: no TV, no internet, no radio, no newspaper.  We each had our own bedroom where we stashed our loot and slept.  Other than that, we worked hard -- everything had to be gone through -- every drawer, every nook and cranny -- if you've done this before, you know, but this was my first time doing something like this.  However, I am hardly ever in a situation with no distractions (i.e. no kids and no husband), so I was hyper-focused like a machine, I tell you:)

I was a little apprehensive going in, not knowing how everyone would handle things emotionally, but we all got along great and despite the grueling nature of the work we had a good time together, laughing at some of the funny things we found.  My mother-in-law was a "prepper" from way back, so we found many packets of carefully wrapped bandages hidden in the eaves of the attic, books with titles like "Are You Radioactive?", and we emptied out probably 50 containers of civil defense water that had been stored in the garage.

We divided up everything that we could, but in the end it was impossible for three already-full households to incorporate the contents of a fourth house.  Some things had to be sold and some had to be donated.  Plus we (my immediate family) had to rent a trailer to haul everything back to Texas so I tried to take only what we really wanted or could use (although I did get overriden on a few things).  Here is a sampling of some of the treasures we came home with.

This dry sink was the one piece of furniture that my husband was sentimentally attached to, mainly because it had just always been in his parents' home.  This is now in our living room underneath one of my husband's paintings.

The piece I chose was this primitive buffet.  I love these more primitive pieces for myself:)  This is on the wall near my dining table.

I have not found a good place for everything we brought back (nor did I get to make all the decisions about what we brought;) -- this treadmill is still in the middle of the living room.

This little bench makes me happy because it reminds me of my mother-in-law.

As does this little scene painted on a board:
My father-in-law (who has never been known as a handyman) made this stool for my diminutive mother-in-law before they were married.  I thought it was so sweet, we had to take it even though the women in this house are more Amazonian in size.  You never know, there could be a tiny daughter-in-law in my future;)
My mother-in-law loved signs with little sayings on them.  It seemed appropriate to hang this cross-stitch above the pull-up bar;)
Let me leave you with this last sign (which is still searching for its permanent location):
I thought about correcting this and adding an "s", but this is another thing that makes us laugh, and it's a good reminder that even on those days when you can only think of one, one still counts:)