Monday, October 6, 2014

A Short Stop on the Around the World Blog Hop

Beverley (also known as BeaJay) of On the Road to Sew Wear has graciously nominated me for the 'Around the World Blog Hop.'  BeaJay is a relatively new sewist who has sewn up lots of great Style Arc  patterns, many of them especially for workwear.  She lives in Australia (where Style Arc patterns are native) and I'm jealous of all the fun get-togethers Aussie sewists seem to have!
Anyway, this particular blog hop is more focused on the actual creative process, and if you would like to know a bit more about BeaJay, you can read her answers here.

There are four questions to be answered.

1.  What am I working on?  

From L to R:  white batting on back of lining, black nylon lining, silver and black coat fabric

Having just finished a summer dress right at the beginning of fall, I am trying to get ahead of the season (for once) by working on my first coat.  The pattern is Katherine Tilton's Butterick 5960, a duster style with no closures.  I know I will wear this style because I have had a similar maroon coat for probably 20 years and I still wear it.  I love this kind of coat over jeans and with boots.  I am using a silver and black rose-printed double-knit ($4 thrift store purchase!) for the outer layer, and am lining it with a black quilted nylon fabric that I bought off ebay.  This is somewhat experimental for me, but so far, so good.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Not much.  There are lots and lots of great sewing blogs out there.  I will say I don't totally consider this to be a sewing blog.  I am interested in lots of things -- quilting, crochet, sewing clothing, aging, personal history, travel, Christian faith, cooking, etc. - and I purposely chose a broad title for my blog so that I can put any of that in that I choose.  Currently my time is rather squeezed, with five teenagers/young adults still at home, so I have mostly been keeping my sanity by sewing clothes. This is something my daughter and I are enjoying together.

As far as sewing goes, one small difference is that I'm sewing for a rectangular/cylindrical/brick-shaped (pick an adjective) figure.  Most sewing blogs that I have found are working around other figure issues.  A lot are curvy and/or petite, and are making adjustments for that.  I, on the other hand, am tall, non-curvy, and not particularly thin;)  I'm also approaching the big half-century mark next year.  So if this is the kind of sewing role model you need.......

3.  Why do I write/create what I do?

I will start with sewing.  I come from a long line of creative women.  Almost all of them were poor, but they did beautiful needlework, quilting, sewing, cooking, gardening, etc.  I grew up believing that what women did was make things and feed people, and on some level that's how I still operate.

I knew how to sew but was discouraged by a very temperamental sewing machine.  When it finally broke, I began to research blogs about vintage machines (I eventually got a Singer 401A, which I love).  It so happens that a lot of vintage machine owners also sew clothing, and from there I became a reader of sewing blogs.  What a revelation!  There were all these people -- all ages, shapes, styles, skill levels, countries -- who made their own clothing and then wrote about it - with photos!  It had been since the early 1990s that I personally knew someone who sewed clothing for adults.  Sewing blogs gave me access to a community of technical help, style inspiration, and friendly faces.  And finally I lived in a town that actually had a fabric store. So I jumped in!

I was already blogging about other crafty things - quilts, bags, toys, etc.  However, it was a leap to post about the clothes I was making.  If you don't read sewing blogs, then sewing posts (featuring yourself modeling the clothes you've made, no less) might seem a little bit odd. It can feel a little vulnerable and a little exposed.  However, I love reading and seeing what others have made, and I love that they are real people with real lives and real bodies.  I find that to be empowering, liberating and encouraging.   In fact, I rarely read magazines any more because it is so much more inspiring for me to see and read what these real people have been up to.  I decided to be as brave as these other sewists.

Besides, it is fun to share what I make with others who like to make things. And hopefully somebody will think, "if she can do it, so can I."

4.  How does my writing/creating process work?

I get most of my inspiration from sewing blogs and Pattern Review.  Also I keep a style inspiration file on my pinterest board.  I do almost all my sewing from McCalls, Vogue, Butterick, New Look and Simplicity patterns.  I'm not opposed to other pattern companies; it's just that these are affordable and I can buy them locally, and I really haven't had many problems with them.  I try to keep the patterns catalogued on my pinterest boards too, and if you look you will see that I have WAY too many, but I am buying them for both me and my daughter, and the truth is, a lot of the fun of sewing is in the dreaming of possibilities:)

I start with either the pattern or the fabric, but usually they are not purchased at the same time.  The patterns are only purchased during a sale, so I buy any I am interested in then.  In general I try to only buy fabric for a specific project, but there are a few fabrics that I just had to have (like here), and the idea of what to do with them comes later.  I make exceptions for any usable fabrics I find at the thrift store; I go ahead and buy those.  (Despite these policies, I have amassed a considerable fabric stash!)  With sewing (unlike crochet and quilting) I am a one-project-at-a-time gal.  It just gets too chaotic otherwise and this forces me to finish things instead of giving up when I run into problems (which is almost always:)  I am a slow sewer -- I have to work in small bits and pieces of time -- so it takes me awhile to get things done.  I also usually take my own photographs, and there can be a big gap of time between finishing an item and getting it photographed.
The actual writing of blog posts usually begins with the photos.  Then I blather on about the construction details.  It may not be the most exciting content, but I try to include information that will help me (and possible readers) if I decide to make this particular pattern again. This is also a good way for me to keep a record of my projects.

My very very favorite part of blogging (and why it is so different from keeping a private journal) is the interaction with others and the making of friends.  One such friend is Coco of Coco's Loft, and I am passing the blog hop baton over to her. Coco is a beautiful lady, inside and out.  I love what she makes, and she also occasionally shares about her life in South Florida.  I married a native Floridian and two of my children were born in Florida, so seeing her posts reminds me of those days - in a good way.  Be sure to give her a visit:)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Vogue 8994 -- Last Dress of Summer

I finished this loose summer dress just in time for summer to be over.  That is because things take me WAY longer than I think they will.  I have a bit of a self-imposed guideline, allowing myself to sew spring/summer items from March through August and fall/winter items from September through February.  However, that last item tends to take its sweet time, so I think I need to back this up and sew for fall/winter in August-January and for spring/summer in February-July.

This dress is made from Vogue 8994 - a pattern labeled 'Very Easy.'  Patterns labeled 'Very Easy' should come with cautions -- very easy IF not one thing goes wrong.  In this case, a lot of things conspired to make it 'Not So Easy.'  In defense of the 'very easy' rating, there are only three pattern pieces, a front half and a back half and a back neck band.  But they are large.  And all the work is doubled because the dress is lined.  (That does allow you to use a sheer fabric on top, however).

And I did choose to use a sheer fabric, a gray and white crinkled chiffon purchased from   Chiffon is not-so-easy to sew; it is slippery and it frays, and you need to use a pressing cloth when ironing it.  The one smart thing I did was to soak the chiffon in heavy starch and let it dry (by hanging it over the shower rod).  That made it stiff and easy to cut out and relatively easy to sew, and I will definitely be doing that with thin fabrics in the future.  I used a Schmetz size 70 universal needle, which worked fine.

I lined the chiffon in a silver gray broadcloth from Hobby Lobby.  I was going to use white but the gray looked better.  The broadcloth is a poly/cotton blend, so not much wrinkling and it's definitely cooler in the heat (which is where this dress will be worn) than straight up polyester.  Also, it's washable, all important things to me.

Because the chiffon is sheer and frays like crazy, all the seams (front, back and side) were French-seamed.  I also French-seamed the lining.  I was careful and did a good job.  But something was terribly wrong.  When I tried to sew the lining to the chiffon, they did not match at all.  After puzzling through this for some time (Did I cut the pieces that horribly off?  Did the fabric stretch? Did I trace the wrong size?) I realized that I had made a gigantic mistake:  I had sewn the armhole seams together in the center instead of the center seams!  Three long lines of French seaming had to be painstakingly unpicked.  The pattern had to be put back together properly and then painstakingly re-French seamed.  (This is where I was very glad I had starched that chiffon so thoroughly.  Even with all the unpicking it held up pretty well.)

The neckline scoop is on the left and the deeper scoop on the right is the armhole, opposite of what I wrongly assumed
In addition to that colossal mistake, I ran into a few other issues.  One: if you are anything above a B cup, you will need an FBA.  I definitely do not have a figure that normally calls for an FBA (full bust adjustment), but a reviewer on Pattern Review had warned that this pattern was snug in the bust.  So when I traced the pattern out I traced my usual size 14 in the shoulders but under the arm I went out to a size 16 and then used that for my side seam.  I am glad I did, too -- I needed that extra room, and it was barely enough.

Second, the armholes are very low.  Maybe not too low for the runway, but if you are an everyday woman making this dress to wear in your everyday life and you don't like your bra showing, then you are definitely going to have to raise the armholes.  Unfortunately, because of the way the neckband is constructed, it is difficult to tell exactly how the dress is going to fit until it's almost sewn together.  I was almost finished (I thought), but those low armholes were unacceptable, putting the bra band and hitherto unnoticed underarm fat on clear display.   It would have been better (and easier) to redraw the armholes higher on the pattern pieces before cutting out the fabric, but it was too late for that, so I had to settle for shortening the front and back.  I removed the neck band, raised the armholes by shortened the back by one inch and the front straps by a little over one inch, and resewed everything back together.   I probably overcompensated the front bands by a quarter of an inch, but good enough.

Third, either the shortening of the back piece resulted in a problem with the neck band or the neck band is drafted too narrow (which is what I think is the problem).  The neck band should extend on either side by a 5/8" seam allowance past the back neck piece (step 11).  Mine didn't; in fact, it was exactly the same width as my back neck.  I rechecked to see if I had made the neck band the right size according to the pattern, and I had.  However, it needs to extend.  You have two choices:  either redraw a longer neck band, or narrow the back neck piece.  I chose to narrow the neck back piece because I didn't feel like cutting a new pattern piece, especially since I had already underlined and interfaced my neckband.  So I had to take it off and resew the upper back seams (making them more narrow), then reattach the neck band. (I sewed the neck band on three different times -- thankfully the chiffon held on, but it was feeling the strain).

The back looks like it's pulling a bit on the left side, so I need to check that before sewing again.  Also, the neckband is hidden under my hair.  I should have gotten a better photo of it.
All of this raising of the back and the front made the neckline too high for my liking, so I lowered the neckline at center front by two inches.  This entailed redrawing the neckline curve, which was harder than I expected and made me wish I had a French curve -- it was not so easy to get an exact mirror image.

I made view A, which is the shorter length.  I am 5'8" and I usually add length, but this time I didn't, and even with the shortenings that happened, this dress is plenty long.  Like the reviewer before me, I felt the high-low hem needed more exaggeration for it to look right, and since I didn't have the option of adding to the back hem I redrew the front hem one inch shorter at center front, tapering to nothing at the side seams.  That little bit of change made a big difference.  I hemmed the dress with a narrow machine hem, enclosing the raw edges. Then I washed the dress to rinse all the starch out.

Before I rinsed the starch out, so it's hanging a little stiff here
To be honest, I thought I was never going to be done with this dress.  And I'm probably not going to get but one wear out of it this year.  Up until the last minute I just did not know if I was going to have to toss it despite all the work.  It is very tent-like, so if you don't like that, then don't bother with this pattern.  But surprisingly I do like it.  It is good to have a few loose dresses in your wardrobe if you live in a hot climate (like Texas in the summer).  I like that it is simple, but the chiffon gives it a slightly floaty feel.  It's a pull-over-your-head-and-go dress, which is a plus for me.  I think that I ended up with an okay fit. Now, am I going to make it again?  Mmmm.......not anytime soon.

Happy to be done
And, fearful of missing the season again, I have gone straight from finishing this sundress to working on a winter coat.

My little photo bomber Luna 

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:)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Butterick 5907 -- Another Cozy Pullover

Sewing-wise, I accomplished very little in December and January, but for some reason February, the shortest month, has seen a rise in my productivity.  I think it is partly the pressure of winter soon being over and all my winter ideas having to be put aside until September.  It's also that I have been making things that are relatively quick and easy, like this top from Butterick 5907, view B.
It's a little hard to see in the photo (these were taken before Vee's tip of lowering the ISO on my camera - which I will try to figure out for next time), but the fabric is a soft, comfy chocolate leopard print double-knit that I think I got on sale at Hancock Fabrics.  At the time I bought it, I thought it might make a good top so I bought 2 yards.  This would normally be enough, even for a long sleeve top, but the cowl on the top is rather large and cut on the bias, and I did not have enough fabric:( I've had the fabric for awhile so I wasn't sure if the store would still have more in stock, plus I really didn't want to spend any more money, so I put my thinking cap on for awhile and came up with this.

I took the scraps and sewed them together until I had a piece of fabric large enough to cut the cowl out.  The cowl is doubled so all the wonky seams ended up hidden underneath the top layer and are in the back.  The busy print means that the seams are almost unnoticeable.  I am the most proud of this part of the whole project;)

As for the pattern itself, it has dropped shoulders, a huge but lovely cowl, and a pleat at center front, which is a nice feature that adds a little interest to an otherwise plain front.  The whole pattern went together beautifully and I love it.  I made a size medium, adding my usual one inch to the side seams, tapering out from under the arms. I lengthened the sleeves 1/2 inch and added 1 inch to the length.  I usually lengthen sleeves a lot more and often have to widen the bicep area.  I did not have to do that here, which makes me think the pattern may run a bit large, so if you are between sizes, go down a size.  (Take into consideration that I used a knit, but some of the other recommended fabrics are wovens.  If you are using a woven, it may not run so large, so proceed with caution).
Not the greatest view from the back, but at least you can see the coverage helps keep your backside warm:)
The cowl is luscious.
Anyway, it's another top I will wear often.  Like the top in my last post, I have already worn this multiple times.  If this is a shape you like to wear, I highly recommend Butterick 5907.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Simplicity 2289 -- Cozy Pullover

I don't know if it really has been or not, but this winter feels colder than usual.  I have been sleeping in knee socks, long flannel pants, a giant T-shirt, and on top of that, an even giant-et sweatshirt -- yes, quite alluring, I know;).  During the day I've often worn a coat or jacket while I go about my business inside the house.  And I don't live in the great white north -- I live in Texas!

Our temperatures seem to go up and down willy-nilly, even within a couple of days, but we have been known to have snowstorms in March, so I am keeping on with sewing warm garments through the end of February.

This top is my version of a wearable blanket.  The fabric is a lightweight sweater knit from Hancock Fabrics value selection.  It has a lot of stretch in it.  It is the color of dusty miller leaves, kind of a gray-green.  Even though it is lightweight, it is very soft, warm and cozy, just what I was hoping for.

The pattern is Simplicity 2289.  I've had it since last year, but it took me awhile to find a fabric similar to what I had in mind.  The cover fabric is fleece, but I was looking for something more drapey.  I wanted something you would pull on over a T-shirt if you were outside and the sun went down.  I'm wearing it over a T-shirt here.

I did make a few changes.  This pattern came in sizes small, medium and large.  I made the medium but added one inch to the side pieces, tapering out from under the arm.  After checking Pattern Review to find out what others may have thought about the pattern, I found out that the consensus seemed to be that the sleeves ran tight and short (which is interesting, because the body is quite wide).

So, I lengthened the sleeves by 4 1/2 inches.  I would have done more - they are still not full-length on me, but the sleeve is cut as one with the body and 4 1/2 inches was as much length as I could fit on my fabric.  Be aware that the sleeve cuffs don't really add much to the length.  I also gave myself a little more sleeve width by using only a 3/8 inch seam allowance on the underside of the sleeve (making the same adjustment on the cuff).  This was fine because my fabric had so much stretch, but you could give yourself even more room in the sleeve by using a 3/8 inch seam allowance on the top seam as well.

After reading the reviews, I decided to make the collar a double, rather than a single, layer, since my fabric was so lightweight.  That adds warmth at the neck, almost like wearing a light scarf.  It also prevents any raw edges from showing and adds some body to the collar.

A couple of my husband's paintings are on the wall behind me
The pockets were added after the shoulder seam was stitched, so I could check their placement relative to where my hands needed to be.  I think my pockets are lower.  I also took 3 inches off the length, but I decided that after I tried it on.  Both the shoulder seams and the hem are reinforced with knit stay tape.

Here you can see how it is finished at the sides.  After ironing the knit stay tape on,  I just turned up the hem and sewed a 5/8 inch seam at the bottom.
(A word about these photos:  My family does not really enjoy fashion shoots;) I took all these myself  using my little camera's self-timer and a tripod.  While I'm happy with their composition, the downside is when the camera is in self-timer mode I don't know how to make other adjustments, so the quality is a lot grainier.  Something else to figure out.......)

I have to say that this top is a piece of clothing I will wear to death.  In fact, I already wore it three days last week.  I finally had to stop because I spilled something on it and it needed to go in the wash.  It looks good but it is so comfortable you could curl up in a chair and go to sleep while wearing it. Not a bad idea.....