Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Butterick 5664 -- Lilac Boucle Dress

An uncertain look

A lot of times with sewing you get the question:  which comes first, the fabric or the pattern?  In this case it was most definitely the fabric -- a lilac boucle -- which I bought from Walmart back in 2006, when Walmart stores had decent fabric departments.  I know this because the receipt was still with the fabric ($26 for 4 yards, which I probably thought was a lot of money at the time).

Originally I planned to make a suit, but I lacked the confidence to cut into the fabric, and it has been languishing in storage ever since.  I'm feeling a little bolder these days, so I decided to use the boucle this spring.  I had intended to finish it for Easter but instead wore it on Mother's Day -- it takes me awhile to get things done:)

I was concerned about the boucle -- which has a very loose weave -- falling apart, so before I cut it out I fused tricot lining to the back of the fabric.  Although this was time-consuming, it made the fabric very easy to sew.  I chose Butterick 5664 because I wanted a basic sheath dress, and the dress on the pattern cover looks like it is made out of boucle or suiting.

I must confess that I had some fitting issues with this dress.  It was not too difficult to make, but the way it's put together -- there is no shoulder seam, the sleeves go over the shoulders, the front and back are not sewn together until last -- makes it difficult to tell how it is going to fit until you are already done.  The lining can't be used as your trial dress.

I cut a size 14 but added one inch to the side seams and an inch to the hemline, which has become sort of standard for me.  However, this pattern has a lot of curve to the side seams, and when I sewed the dress as drafted and tried it on,  it looked like a cartoon -- my hips were way out from the body -- quite honestly, I was shocked at how ridiculous it looked!  I should have taken a picture just to give you a laugh, but it was so ludicrous, and I had already put a lot of work into it, that I just jerked the dress off and redrew the side seams, taking almost all the curve out.  Alas, my hope -- that making a curvy dress would make my cylindrical body look curvy too -- has been cruelly dashed:(

Also, I feel like the upper back is a little too large.  I keep having to pull the dress down to get rid of that gap.  The shoulders are also very wide, and they have to be kept wide or the dress will not fit correctly.  Here you can see the color -- it is pretty fabric, and I was glad to find a zipper that matched.

It is fully lined with a light pink cotton blend sheet -- a comfortable choice for wearing in the heat.  However, even with copious underlining and trimming the seams and heavy pressing, it is hard for me to keep the lining from showing on the outside at the neckline. This has been a problem on other lined dresses, too.  Any helpful hints?  I did put some effort into making this.  I even trimmed the lining with some cotton lace left over from my heirloom sewing days.
As I sewed along, I had a niggling suspicion that the dress was a little reminiscent of Adele's carpet dress. I am an Adele fan, but that was not the look I was going for;)  Despite my misgivings, I finished the dress and promptly put in the magic closet to marinate, unsure if it was a keeper or not.

Then a few days later my husband informed me that we had to make an appearance at a party in one hour and were to be dressed in Mad Men-esque attire.  I really own nothing that is even remotely Mad Men.  This dress was as close as I had.  So I got it out of the closet and put it on and realized it wasn't as bad as I thought.  It was WEARABLE, and that is still my sewing goal.
Off to the Mad Men party

Surprisingly, other people seem to like it, which has given me a little more encouragement.  I have since worn it twice more:  for Mother's Day and to an afternoon wedding.  I won't be making another one like this anytime soon, however.

I will close with a photobomb moment:
Ah, that's better.  This is my youngest son.  I have to take advantage of these moments when he still wants to be in a picture with me:)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trip to California

Back in April my husband treated the both of us to a little vacation in honor of my birthday and our upcoming anniversary (this summer we will have been married a quarter of a century:).  We went to California, a state neither one of us had ever been to before.

We flew into San Francisco, then rented a car and drove about an hour north to where we were staying.

Driving across the famous Golden Gate Bridge while the fog is creeping in:

We didn't take time to visit Alcatraz, but we saw it several times as we drove across the bridge:
Walking around Chinatown:

Our forays into San Francisco were brief.  It was enjoyable just to see it (and its vertical streets!), but to really get the most out of it you need to stay in the city.  And it would be a big help to have a local person show you the ropes about getting around.  We had no problems in the Chinatown area, but on our last day before we went back to the airport we -- in our ignorance -- drove into a section of the city that was like trying to drive in downtown NYC  -- very chaotic and very stressful!!  We got out of there as quickly as possible, but that meant we didn't get to ride the cable car:( However, we did eat lunch at Tartine Bakery.  We couldn't buy their famous sourdough because that only gets out of the oven in the late afternoon and we had to catch our plane, but the lunch was still delicious.

Most of our trip was spent outside.  We went to Muir Woods and walked the trails amid the redwoods.
We drove from there to Stinson Beach.  Here we are stopped at some roadside trails along the coastline.
We stayed in Napa.  Our hotel had a lovely courtyard with lots of flowers and a small pond that was home to two nesting swan couples, as well as quite a few ducks.  Here are the two white swans:
The flowers in this part of California were quite spectacular and probably my favorite part.  Don't you just love this gate?

Mostly we just enjoyed meandering around, having no agenda.  We drove around and saw vineyards and cows and cute little houses, and we went on small hikes.  On our next to last day we went on a five-mile hike in a state park near Napa.  Thankfully we saw no mountain lions (although there was a warning at the entrance to the trail), but we did see some turkeys:

And some deer.  This deer was bedded down near the trail, and she never moved despite our proximity,  making us wonder if a baby was coming, or maybe she was just used to people.

Here is a picture of us after going out to eat one night, tired but happy:

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Hawks Return

Last year we had a great deal of enjoyment watching a pair of red-shouldered hawks raise a family. (You can see those posts starting here and following the links).  At the time I wondered if they would return to the same nest, and I am happy to report they did!

This year they seem to have fewer babies, which is probably for the best since last year one got pushed out of the overcrowded nest.  So far we have only spotted two babies.  (They are easier to hear than to spot because they are very, very vocal when they are hungry!)

Their nest is in a pine tree in my neighbor's yard, right across from our driveway.  This is a bit unusual because there are not many pine trees where I live.  Most of the native trees are some variety of oak (primarily post oak) or mesquite.

This pine tree is probably appealing because it is so much taller than any of the other trees around, giving the hawks a great view of the neighborhood.  They appear to be totally unbothered by all the activity taking place underneath their tree.  If these babies are like last year's, when they get bigger they will peer curiously over the side of the nest at any basketball games going on in our driveway.

Here you can see the beautiful markings on the mother bird as well as some of the materials used to make the nest.

Taking pictures of them from the ground is always a challenge.  I have to zoom my camera as far as it will go and aim in the general direction of the nest.  I can't tell what I've gotten until I download the photos onto the computer and blow them up a bit.  I did manage to get one good one of mother and baby:)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Little Gardening

Back in February when we were going through bouts of sickness, on the good days we put in our garden.  This year the lettuces didn't do much, but thanks to our cooler than normal spring, some of our other crops are doing quite well.

Here are some of our onions:
We planted three kinds:  red, yellow and white.  My husband buys the onion sets, and this year Son number 3 and I planted them.  FYI:  there are many, many little onion plants in those sets:)

Son number 4 wanted to get in on the planting action, too, so he planted radishes and beets.  The beets didn't do much, but we did get some radishes.  Here he is harvesting them (we had to pull them up to make room for the corn):
Part of the radish pile:
Here Son number 3 is surveying the rows before we pick some peas.  In the blue buckets are tomato plants.  My husband is experimenting with planting them in buckets, but the jury is still out on the wisdom of this method.
Pea plants are so pretty.  A close-up of some of the peas:
I wish we were more organized, but alas! we are not.  There is no record of what kind of pea this is -- English pea or sugar snap?  Raw, they are very sweet to the taste, which is why I wondered if they are sugar snap.  Nevertheless, we treated them as regular English  peas, shelling and freezing them.  While a part of me really enjoys shelling peas (and breaking beans) -- there is something very satisfying about it -- I will say you must shell a LOT of peas to get even a bowlful:)

We are woefully behind on being self-sufficient. is so worth it to try new things, gain new skills (even if it's ever so slowly), and just live life.
Gardening -- even in our haphazard way -- is one of those things that brings our family pleasure.  Actually, it's mostly my husband and me, but I'm hoping that our enjoyment is rubbing off at least a little on our kids.  I'm hoping it's good for kids to see their parents interested in and trying new things, whether it's gardening, or painting, or sewing, or cooking, or woodworking, etc.  One of my prayers for them is that they will always be interested in life and have eyes that are opened to the wonder of it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Some New Friends

These past few months my daughter has spent some time here and there sewing up some new friends.  This beautiful girl is from the Clara and Pearl pdf pattern from  Gingermelon Etsy shop.
With her jacket on:
A little close-up:
Showing off her shoes:
She is made of wool felt ordered from A Child's Dream Come True.  The trim on her dress is tatting left over from my smocking days.  She is entirely handsewn.

And now let me introduce you to the mouse family.  Mama Mouse (her cardigan was designed and knitted by my daughter):
Papa Mouse:
Son Mouse (he's a little large to be "Baby Mouse"):

The mouse family was the featured cover project on Issue #11 of MollieMakes, a great craft magazine
 full of cute projects.

All the mice were also completely hand sewn.  Their bodies are made out of white muslin and their clothes were from fabric scraps (of which we have plenty around here).

I love the little creatures my daughter makes (and so does she), but we don't really know anyone else who feels the same way.  We sort of keep this part of ourselves under the radar.  Do you love little dolls and animals?  Or do you have some parts of yourself that you don't necessarily share with "just anybody"?  It's somewhat ironic that we can share things with people we haven't met and yet feel funny about sharing them with people we know in real life, but I think it's because most people that read our blogs feel some identification with us and our interests -- otherwise they wouldn't keep reading:)