Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Case of the Missing Blogger

    It has been several weeks since I’ve done any sewing and even longer since I’ve blogged about it.  I did complete two blouses in August that I haven’t photographed or blogged about.  They are “okay” but not great.  More recently, we installed new wood flooring, which required tearing up the “sewing studio” and the “study”.  This included dismantling two computers, one stereo system and all the associated sewing and computer furniture.  Of course, my husband was very busy at work at this time, so I got to have most of the fun by myself.
    I was surprised at how much the upheaval bothered me.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal.  Scattering my sewing stuff to other corners of the house was actually quite traumatic for me.  The results, of course, are beautiful.  The flooring is a mixed maple, eight foot lengths, installed, then finished in place (no, not by me and DH, silly).
     While I’m at it, I’ll give you a tour of the current configuration of my sewing room.  This is the former Living Room, now renamed the “Front Room”. Due to a family room addition at the back of the house, this room fell out of use, at least until I needed a sewing space.  We’ve switched room uses once or twice, so we now call them a descriptive name (“front room”, “hearth room”, “sun room”) rather than their functional names (“sewing studio”, “family room”, “dining room”).
    This is what you see when you look left after coming in the front door:

    I love my cutting table (below).  It is a counter height dining table that I found used and then refinished. It ended up not being a cheap project, but it is my favorite piece in the room.  There are drawers on each side, so I keep it turned perpendicular to the wall so I can get to all the drawers. It has drop leaves on each end, so it can be made more compact.

    My sewing table is also a former dining table.  This one was my mother’s and folds lengthwise.  That makes it a nice narrow 20” when it is folded, yet long enough to comfortably hold two machines. Note Patrick curled up underneath the table.

    These barrister style bookcases (2) have floated from one room to another in this house. I put fabric behind the glass (hot glue gun put to good use!) to hide the usual collection of sewing supplies and accessories.

    My newest find is for ironing:
(missing picture)
    I had received a Big Board ironing board from my husband as a gift this year.  It sat nicely on my regular ironing board, but I didn’t care for the look of the ironing board in the front room.  I searched for months for a affordable piece of furniture that had storage space and was narrow enough for the Big Board on top of nicely.  Score another point for Craigslist!  I found this for $30 at a new store opened by a local lady who does estate sales (Like the TV show “Cash and Cari”).  She says that it was originally a TV cabinet that someone added sliding glass doors to.  I’m not sure about that, but the glass doors are nice and thick, with two shelves inside. My next step is to make a more decorative cover for the ironing board.
( Photo borrowed from
    I will probably have to also buy a sleeve board down the line.  And I am definitely looking forward to filling the storage space under the ironing board with ironing accessories from StitchNerd.  Check out her web site!
    So, there was a week of getting ready for the flooring install, a week of doing the flooring install, a week waiting for the polyurethane finish to cure, a few days of getting the room put back together, another week getting ready for a real estate appraiser to come check out the house for refinancing, and now a week getting ready for Thanksgiving company.  (We will have 22 for dinner, some from here in Iowa, the rest of the relatives coming from Minnesota and Nebraska.) 
    I just KNOW that one of these days I will be able to get back to sewing.  Honestly, I’ve been suffering great withdrawal from my sewing projects. Anyone with some patience to spare, please send some my way!
    The only thing the room lacks is some more color.  That will come with time, including new curtains and ironing board cover.  I have to thank DH for suggesting I write about my sewing room, since I couldn’t write about my sewing. It has been quite cathartic.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing!

Please consider leaving a comment so I know you were here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The long and the short(s) of it...

    Hello again.  Yes, it's been a while. Somehow summer has other priorities than just sewing, but I have completed four garments since my last post.  Pants and more pants, and on top of that I got a "new" sewing machine. (As usual, these patterns are from PatternMaster Boutique).

    The first pair are teal shorts.  I decided to make them more snug after making my white capris, but this fabric doesn't stretch.  They ended up a little tight, but they are wearable. (Click on the pictures for larger images). 
    I drafted two darts for the front, but only sewed one, in order to give me more fabric for the front. I added the equivalent amount to the back darts to bring the back waist in more. I also scooped out the back crotch more.

    Then there's the decorative stitching.  The side stripe was not part of the plan, but I had a crisis of the serger type.  The blade on the serger cut a slit up the side of the pants.  I threw them aside for several weeks before I picked them up again and designed a cover-up. (Click on picture for larger image)

    PMB settings: classic pants, western pockets, round crotch front/back.

    I decided that I would do some experimentation with my next pair of pants.  I increased the ease to remedy the "too tight pants" problem.  I also used a 1 inch seam allowance and experimented with the side seam and crotch seams, taking them in and letting them out.  I ended up only making a few small changes.   Compared to the teal shorts, I drafted two darts for the front but didn't sew either of them.  I drafted three darts for the back and added the front dart amounts to the back.

    The fabric is a twill, which is my favorite fabric overall (regular twill and denim).  And look, it coordinates with my vest, in addition to my burgundy fleece jacket.  Whoo Hoo!  I'm excited about having some coordinating outfits in my wardrobe!  

My mistake was using a contrasting fabric for both sides of the fly.  I didn't realize how much it was going to show when I wore the garment.  Sigh.  Next time I'll get it right.

    Now comes the denim!  I don't know about you, but that's what I wear the most on a daily basis.  I don't have to dress for work, so denim is my usual wardrobe. I thought I'd be clever and efficient and sew two pairs of pants at the same time.  I sometimes spend a lot of time sorting things out between steps so sewing two pairs will save me the "thinking" time.
    I put eight belt loops on the pants because I like the extra support and shorter spacing between belt loops.  And a change I made from the burgundy pants was to change to a flat front crotch to reduce the poofy-ness of the front fabric.  I think it helpe
d. These pants feel a little "high rise" but then again I think that helps smooth out my profile, make for a less abrupt change from waist to hips.

    Somehow, in the process of creating two separate patterns, I managed to mess up one of the settings in the pattern for the long pants.  I moved the side seam forward.  Fortunately, it didn't make a big difference in how the pants fit, just surprised me when I figured it out half way through.

    This denim is fairly heavy and stiff, so tends to stand out a bit from the body. Over time it will soften up more and become more relaxed. I did pre-wash it twice with vinegar which helped.

    I learned my lesson on the fly fabric. The left fly on each pair of pants is made from decorative fabric, the right fly is made from denim with a decorative fabric shield behind it. Do you like my cute red zipper?
    Changes for next time: Increase the hem circumference on the shorts. When I sit down and they ride up a bit, they are too tight around my thighs.

    I have customized the size of the pockets to fit my needs. The "coin" pocket is big enough to hold my car keys.  The regular pocket accommodates my bulky cell phone.  And in the process, the two are kept apart from each other.
    PMB settings: classic pants, flat front crotch, round back crotch, jeans pockets. I believe somewhere along the line I raised my hip point a bit, too.

    Oh, about the sewing machine.  I had been struggling with my newer Brother NX650 and my older Kenmore 158.17501 which had been my grandmother's.  Neither machine was really happy about sewing through layers of denim, such as belt loops and pocket corners, though I had done some cleaning and adjusting on the Kenmore and it was working very nicely otherwise.
    I did some research (if you know me, you know I love to research things before I buy) and decided I wanted a vintage Kenmore of the same era (1969) as the one I had, but one that came with the dual belt system that was supposed to provide more "oomph" for sewing heavy fabrics. I acquired a 158.17530 from another sewing person in Iowa.  She had found it at a garage sale and wanted to find a good home for it.  On the same day, I sold my old Kenmore to an acquaintance of mine who was very excited to take it home. I feel bad about selling the sewing machine I inherited (sorry, Granny) but I feel good that it went to a good home with someone who will appreciate it.  The 1753 has lived up to expectations and I keep it set up with a twin needle for topstitching when I am sewing denim.
    Whew!  Now I believe I am caught up on my sewing blogging. Next, some time off for mending and other such projects, then I'm excited about making some blouses out of a number of the fabrics I have hanging in the spare bedroom closet.  And it won't even be heavy fabric.  That should be a nice change.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing!

And please consider leaving a comment so I know you were here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reversible for Summer

I have a summer outfit completed!  Okay, so it was supposed to be for last summer, but only you and I know that, right?  This is a continuation of my pants fitting process as well as (tada!) my first reversible garment (the shirt is purchased). Notice I gave you guys a change of scenery!  (please click for photos for larger images)

As usual, this is a Patternmaster Boutique v5 computer generated pattern.

I even made the belt!  

The white fabric is stretch denim (comfy!) and the print fabric is a basic cotton fabric that I had picked up because I liked it, then it languished in my closet for a couple of years. When I went to pick a fabric for the flip side of the vest, I knew immediately which fabric it would be.

Compared to the previous pants (tan pants), for this pair I changed some settings:
- lowered front waist height
- raised back waist height
- increased back crotch extension
- increased knee width
- increased waist ease
- changed to a contoured waist band

- I originally planned this as a reversible denim vest, but I can already tell that I will mostly wear it with the print side out.
- I'm still not sure about the pants length.  I experimented with a couple of lengths and went with the shorter one, but wonder if maybe they shouldn't have been even shorter.
- The lacing detail on the pants was intended to be an actual vent that was laced together, but I ended up going with just the decorative rather than functional version.  If I do that again, I would make a wider seam allowance rather than the vent facing I was considering.

- The "astute sewist" will notice that I even matched the pattern across the front of the vest!  ("astute sewist" is an allusion to a comment in a college calculus textbook that I have never forgiven forgotten which read "the bright student will notice...".  Needless to say, I hadn't noticed, and wouldn't have!.  I have resented that phrase to this day! Academic PTSD. LOL)

What will I change for the next pair of pants, you ask? (I'm sure I heard you ask that).
- I really like the fit and feel of the contoured waistband, so will keep that option.
- I am still trying to round out the back crotch a little more using the PMB5 "back crotch shape" settings, though maybe it's not the crotch as much as the center back that needs more room.
- The back pockets will be larger and closer to the center seam.
- I'd like to take some of the slack out of the lower front area, so will be tweaking that setting down the line, too.
As far as the vest goes, I'm fairly happy with how that came out. I might make it a tad shorter next time to see how that looks.  I drafted it with two darts front and back but only sewed one. It would be more fitted if I sewed both.
But all-in-all, I have to say I'm very pleased with the direction my pants fitting is going and I'm enjoying having coordinated outfits for a change!

Next on the cutting table: dark teal colored shorts...stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing!

And please consider leaving a comment so I know you were here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pants and Ensemble!

    Now that my sewing area is accessible again (see previous post) I have been able to start sewing again.  I was thinking it'd be fun to make some blouses, but when I went through my closet, it was clear I really needed pants more than tops. I have a large stack of pants that "don't quite fit".  ;-)  This was the incentive I needed to work on making a PMB pants pattern that fits.
    I had made a pair of shorts last summer, and they were wearable but a bit "wedgie" in the back.  In comparing PMB5 pants styles, I noticed that the Trouser version had more crotch horizontal extension than either the Slacks or Jeans versions (which I had used for the shorts), so decided I would try that. 
    I'm happy to report that I now have two pairs of wearable slacks.  Are they perfect, no, but they are a step in the right direction.   (Click pictures for larger images)

And even more exciting, I now have a vest/slacks set that I can wear with a variety of blouses! The first pair of pants matched the dark blue vest I made earlier.  I just made simple pants, no pockets, etc.  The pants are comfortable, though a bit snug around the thigh when I sit down.  


    And yes, my right leg _is_ shorter than my left leg. I'm always amazed how much it shows up when I do clothing photos.   
   Analysis: I also think I should widen the leg a bit by the knee, as these seem to make me look knock-kneed. There are still some other issues to be resolved.  The pants are relatively higher in front than in back.  I need to lower the front waistline and raise the back waistline some more.  I also need add a bit more room to the seat.

 I was going through my stash and found another fabric that was similar, even though it didn't fit in my current navy/forest/burgundy design color scheme. (Sorry about the bare middriff, I'm just trying to show the waistline and the pockets.)

Compared to the first pair:
- added "Jeans" style hip pockets.  
- raised the back waistline and lowered the front waistline a bit more.  
- slightly increased the back crotch extension and decreased the hip ease.
- slightly raised the hip level.
Analysis: I'm going to try yet more back crotch extension on my next pair.  The hip width is much better.  The increased knee width makes them more comfortable around the thigh when I sit down.

Note to self:  Remember to check the nap on the fabric BEFORE cutting next time. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Well, I said I was done with fleece jackets, and I am, for now.  However, this is one I made earlier that I didn't get a picture of until recently.  I made this jacket as a surprise for my mother for Christmas.  I've never made anything more than a hat for her before, so picking out fabric and making a jacket was an experiment.  The good news is, it was a successful experiment.  She wears it constantly!  I'm going to have to make more fleece jackets for her!  Her only requests were larger pockets and making the jacket longer.
(Click for larger image)
As you can see, I used contrasting fabric for the facings and pockets.  Because I wasn't sure about arm length, I also lined the lower part of the sleeves with the darker fabric so they could be rolled up if desired, but her arms are longer than mine and she always wears them full length. The fasteners are large, western style post snaps.  I tried buttons, but I had trouble sewing buttonholes on the fleece.  My machine just couldn't manage the thick fabric and they probably needed more interfacing or stabilizer.

For PMB users, this is a an Oversized Jacket pattern. 
Settings are:
Jewel neckline
Finished length 24"
Sleeve underarm length: 18.5
Collar style: convertible

And if you noticed that I haven't been sewing, it's true.  We bought new furniture for our "study" (aka home office) and everything that had been in the study ended up in the adjoining "sewing studio".  It's really easy to empty out drawers but takes a long time to sort through the stuff and decide what to throw or keep and where to put it!

Gratuitous pictures of new furniture (and Patrick the dog):
( They look a lot better if you click for larger images)

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing.

Sue C.

Addendum:  By popular request, more pics of Patrick (and the answer to the obvious question is that I have been told he is half Chihuahua and half Shih-Tzu.  He has the ears and domed head shape of the Chihuahua and the mouth and body of a Shih-Tzu.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sewing is an Art Form - Claire Kennedy

We learn from each other and I was encouraged and inspired when I read Claire Kennedy's new posting about Sewing as an Art form.  This paragraph sums up her ideas and brings a little peace to my soul.

Sewing is an art form – PERIOD!!!!  And approaching it this way gives you insight on many of the dilemmas and decisions you make when you’re sewing.  To be consternated, frustrated, confused about making decisions about patterns, fabrics, designs and fittings – is NORMAL!!!  It’s all part of the process and the problem solving that you will do in completing your creative project.  To have great equipment and great supplies means that you will have a better chance of a great garment.  To practice and keep your skills honed, means that you will have better results and faster.

Read the rest of her post here

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Winter is officially over

At least my winter sewing is officially over.  I finished my last fleece garment for the year.  This is the same pattern as the previous jacket, but with some minor changes. (Click on images for larger picture)
I found a rose patterned tapestry-like trim that went well with the fabric.  
One thing I realized was that I could use an enlargement of my line-drawing from my PMB5 pattern to help me plan my project:

Originally, I intended to do welt pockets, using the rose trim on the welt, but somewhere along the line I decided to switch to patch pockets, though I find patch pockets somewhat frustrating because they never come out as well as I'd like (repeat the mantra: "Done is better than perfect, Done is better than perfect.")  The good news is that they mostly blend in with the jacket and no one else is likely to notice.  
The pockets are lined with the athletic jersey material I had intended to use to create inside pockets:
This time I used blue grosgrain ribbon on the neck, hem and zipper seams.
My original intention was to create straps something like you'd see on a trench coat and attach the trim to the straps.  
Some experimentation showed that this was not feasible with the thick fleece. So, instead I just applied the trim directly to the sleeves and back of the jacket. I also top-stitched the seams to make them stand out a bit more.
Of course, I think I am all done, zip the jacket, and I see this:
Oh bother!  How in the heck did that happen?  And I thought I was measuring the hem evenly.  Maybe the fabric stretched or maybe....???  Oh well, it didn't take long to fix.
Hey look, I can get my hands in the pockets this time!

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing!

And remember: 

And as Phyllis Carlyle says:
"Done is better than perfect!"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Warm, Soft Jacket!

I wish you could feel this fabric.  It is Polartec 300 fleece, the thickest of their classic fleece products.  It has a sheared finish and is OH SO soft!  Warm and cozy!  I intentionally made it longer than my previous ones for warmth.

My biggest challenge was the pockets. I learned how to do an inseam pocket with zipper by reading my sewing books, specifically "Sew the New Fleece" (1997) by Rochelle Harper.  I'm pleased with the quality of the pockets, however the pockets are too low because I had forgotten that I needed to move the pockets higher above the hem, given that I'd lengthened the jacket. I DO like the way this also forms two inside open pockets between the fleece and the nylon.

The other problem is that the way this pattern drafts for me (PMB5 as usual), the front panel is narrow and the side panel is wider.  This makes the pocket opening too close to the center.  Between that and the the low positioning, I will probably be taking these pockets out and doing them over.  Stay tuned.

As I mentioned previously, I ended up with "camo" trim and pockets on this jacket.  That wasn't my plan, but when I went looking for grosgrain ribbon, camo was the one I thought matched the best.  I was standing in line to get my fabric cut when I spotted the camo rip-stop nylon.  I figured "in for a penny, in for a pound".  I really like the use of the ribbon to cover the zipper and fabric edge.

The hood is comfortable, but I see in this picture that when I put the hood on, the front hem comes up higher.  Next time I make a hood, I'll make it a little longer and probably a little deeper.  I put in eyelets for a drawstring (first time I'd used eyelets) but don't have a string yet.
I wanted some sort of placket on the sleeves, so I did a zippered gore (another first, both the gore and the zipper).  I'm quite happy with how that turned out, though the inside doesn't bear close examination (not pretty).  If anyone can point me towards a good tutorial on this, I'd appreciate seeing it.

PMB5 settings:
Classic jacket
Shoulder princess darts
Fitted hood
Sleeve height adjustment of -2 to give more freedom of movement (see, I'm learning!)

And here's a peak at the burgundy jacket (mentioned in the Mar 2 post) in progress:
Notice something different?  More to come...

Off topic:  We live on a small lake and this week the Buffleheads are here to visit.  They are a migrating diving bird that we only see for a few days a year.  Beautiful little birds!  Do you see these birds and what time of year?  Does anyone see them all summer long?
(Picture from Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site)

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on sewing!