Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sewing thingies for the sewing room...


New year, cleaner loft? ummm. No! But I did take time to brighten it up a couple days ago.

First, my pin cushion. Much loved, much used. I cannot tell you how nice it is to have a 'roll' that fits right in front of my machine. And is long enough for me to segregate my pins by type.

I made my first one back in 2011, and it was looking pretty drab after 6 years. So, a new one. I took the oldie apart, both to re-use the sand bag that was inside and to retrieve any lost sewing needles. The latter was gratifying - I rescued 12 needles, most of them self-threading needles that I use all the time to sink thread tails.

The pin cushion is easy to make. It's basically a rectangular bag, finished at about 7" x 3", with a opening on the side for inserting the innards.  Inside, on the bottom, I have a fabric bag of super-fine sand that I found at PetsMart (bird department). The bag is sewn from a high-thread count fabric and hasn't leaked at all. On top of the bag, poly batting and fiberfill, stuffed in until I just couldn't stuff any more. And the opening is just hand-sewn to close.

Those sewing needles. Usually they're on a magnetic card that's stuck on the metal base of my lamp. This works great, because they're right at hand and not populating my pin cushion. I still see this Singer notion at JoAnns, it comes with a few needles and is very inexpensive.


Next up, a notions tray for the little things I use constantly at the machine. Seam ripper, measuring tape, long tweezers, Frixion pen, hem gauge, 7" ruler, spool caps...lots of stuff :-) I've been using a pasta bowl from my dinnerware, which bugged me no end. Making a quilted fabric replacement was easy peasy, I should have done this sooner.



The materials are simple: A top, bottom, and batting layer, all cut at 10" x 12", then sewn as a bag, turned right side out, and quilted. 

Ta dum!

I've made these trays so many times as travel gifts. Most of them are smaller, about 7" x 5" - they pack flat and have snaps to close the corners. They're great for holding jewelry, change, and keys on a hotel nightstand. And in my living room right now, this one has the notions I'm using while basting a bunch of quilt blocks.


I'm glad I took the time to spruce up the loft, but it was just exhausting. LOL - actually I'd rather be sewing.

Bye for now! Coco

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Lagenlook-drafting tale...





This was bound to happen.

Over the past few weeks I've sewn three dresses with a Lagenlook vibe. And I love them. One thing they all have in common is a plethora of pattern pieces - lots of pieces and seaming to get that iconic fly-away/belled look.

Being totally without anything else I HAD to do, I started thinking about drafting a simple dress - front, back, and sleeve - that would mimic those lines. It would be as easy to sew as a tee shirt dress.









Fun project! I decided to use the skirt from the StyleArc Toni Designer Dress and the bodice from the Sewing Workshop Cityscapes Dress.


A little time on the floor, with both patterns and more tissue on top, and I had something to sew. 

Actually, this first version isn't bad - but it is very unstructured through the body and sleeve. I do like the fabric (a pre-cut rayon/cotton/lycra jersey from Fabric Mart), so I'll re-sew this as a tunic in the spring. It will be great over white leggings.

Not deterred, I went back to work. This time I kept the skirt from my first draft, and added the bodice from Sandra Betzina's knit dress, V1297. 

The Betzina dress has a more narrow bodice and a French dart for shaping. And it has a nice slim sleeve.

Success!




I'll be able to whip one up in no time - the dress at the top of this post was sewn just that way :-) Now I'm off to see what else I can do to make a mess in the loft. I'm thinking a nightgown.

Ciao! Coco

Friday, January 13, 2017

Vogue 1453 - Rockin' my 50s sci-fi pants...







I'm game for a lot when it comes to sewing a new pattern that looks interesting. Even trying one that I cannot find in any review and knowing in my heart that they might be very special...

These are the funkiest pants I've ever made!












To my mind, I look like my knee hinges dropped.


In all fairness, this Sandra Betzina pattern is hugely popular. I've seen so many beautiful versions of the vest. And I plan to make it as well. But the pants - well, they just called to me. If they had worked, they would have been pretty neat.


I tried every way I could to get the pleated parts to lie down and behave. But they just popped back out as soon as I moved. Pressing them down didn't help, and I am NOT going to press them anyway!


Good news, I can take out the pleats and reshape the lower leg for a jegging. The fit is fabulous - I sewed Size C, it's long enough for me at 5'7", and the crotch length is perfect, front and back. In fact, I plan to make some more in knit fabric. They will be great PJ bottoms.


It's Friday! and I hope everyone enjoys a safe and peaceful weekend, maybe with a old sci-fi movie thrown in :-)

Ciao! Coco

Monday, January 9, 2017

Vogue 1456 - Sandra Betzina tunic...


Well, in addition to rambling on about my hair, I've actually been doing some sewing! And I think I need to take Sandra Betzina to lunch. Her patterns are so interesting, a little challenging, and a bit like doing a puzzle. Absolutely perfect for chilly weather that invites staying inside and making a mess in the loft.

I almost didn't get this pattern - the envelope pics are awful! and don't do the pattern justice at all. Because the lines and details are great. I read every review I could find (I love my fellow sewists at Pattern Review), and just after Christmas I picked it up from BMV's Vogue sale. I decided that even if I didn't like the pattern, I could use some of the details (that back is beautiful).













But Betzina didn't disappoint. This tunic is so cute!  


Some sewing notes - no major changes!

  • I love this rayon crepe fabric from Confetti Fabrics, purchased from Fabric Mart. It's a 4.7oz fabric, perfect for a topper. And yes, it frays, shifts, goes off grain, grows... Using a walking foot for sewing, and steam to reshape pattern pieces, really makes crepe a more pleasant fabric :-) 
  • The patterns sizing method is not my favorite: Sizes A through J (as on all her patterns). One has to cruise the body measurements, find something, and work back up to a letter size. My goodness, what a lot of fuss...I sewed Size C, which has a finished bustline of 40", View A. 
  • When I bought the pattern, I knew I wouldn't use the mandarin collar or front zipper. I just can't wear zippers and fabric up my neck. After studying the pattern, and checking out what other sewists had done, I decided to seam the front where the zipper would have gone and redraft a simple round neckline. I used the Grainline Studio Willow Top to redraw the neckline, since I've made it and know it works for me.


  • It's impossible to see the center front seam in this print! But it's there. I opened the seam and topstitched the allowances so they wouldn't wave around on the inside and drive me crazy. The pattern has lots of topstitched finishing, so this new seam just fits right in. 


  • I also made a small change to the back hemline. It's meant to be higher than the front, but I thought it was a little too high. So I added 1" at center back and trued it out to the sides. I also dropped the four hemline darts to the new hemline.  



A couple omissions. 

  • I didn't add the pockets - I thought they would get lost in the front folds anyway. Plus I don't use pockets in tunics and dresses. I do like to work with them as design details if they're visible.
  • And I didn't add the notch detail to the sleeve edge (shown on the line art above, just a smallish vee). This crepe fabric has so much mechanical stretch that I was leery of trying it. I think it would be a nice touch in a linen or other sturdier fabric.

And a tip - use those dozens of marks and tracings from the pattern tissue. You'll need them all!



Parting shot: My fellas in their Christmas flannel robes. I used McCalls 6236, which is for men and boys. It's a great pattern - fast, easy, and with nice sizing from boys XS through mens XL. They both liked the length and the not-in-my-cocoa sleeves.


My Betzina journey isn't over - I actually bought 4 of her patterns, not just this one. Lots of fun ahead. 

Bye for now - Coco

Friday, January 6, 2017

Beauty post! letting that hair go grey...




Oh, the angst of giving up hair dye and going naturally grey. The decision was easy - the execution was a pain!

I've colored my hair since my mid-thirties. With naturally black hair (from my Dad, with a bit of Native American on my Mom's side), I didn't get grey hair - I got white hair! And I colored it, even though I always disliked using hair dye. The smell, the time it took, and the feeling that I wasn't doing my hair or scalp any favors.








However - vanity is a powerful persuader. And during my working years, grey hair on women was largely perceived as an indicator of age, not experience. So I kept it colored. In my fifties, I had it done professionally, every two weeks, and had dark blonde hair!


In June of 2016, I decided to go grey. And here's a photographic progression of that little journey:

June
July

August - low point! 
September



October
November

That first step, getting rid of the dye load in my hair, way back in June, was critical. I didn't want to have it stripped professionally. Or to use color removers from the pharmacy. So I did a couple of interesting shampoo sessions with a paste of Dawn dish washing detergent and plain old baking soda. With very long rinses to let the color escape from my hair. Amazing! 

After that, it was a matter of time and patience. My hair was short when I started - I only needed to grow it out about 2.5" to do a total changeover. So I wore a lot of hats throughout the summer. My hair was distinctly yellowish, with a tinge of orange. Aaack! And I loved trimming it. Seeing the white start to predominate, after 3 months, was lovely.

By October, I was there. And I was also beginning to realize that my pretty white hair could be sabotaged and yellowed by things like mineral deposits from my hard water, colorants and additives in hair products, and even heat from a hair dryer or curling iron (it oxidizes minerals on the hair shaft => rusty hair). 

To share what's worked for me:



I found a good residue-removing shampoo, one that I can afford - Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo (in supermarkets and pharmacies). And I use it once a week, or any time I notice dinginess in my hair color.
The rest of the time I use Shiny Silver Shampoo and Conditioner from One'n Only. For this one I have to go to Sally Beauty, but it's close-by. And it's sold all over the place on the web.

The last challenge - a styling product. I threw out all my hair gels, sprays, and mousses. They were good products but I could see the yellow the instant I used them. Still, I do like a little something to lift my hair. Enter Got2B Spiking Glue by Schwarzkopf. I can use a little, slightly wetted in my palm, or a lot, for that rocker hairdo. It's great stuff and easy to find in the supermarket and pharmacy.  
And here's a tip, for the occasional extreme maintenance requirement (and this works for yellowing beards and mustaches as well) - the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda hair mask. I didn't even try it until all the dye was gone from my hair, because I was afraid it would make it freaky orange or Ryan Lochte green! but it's benign on my hair now, and it's very effective at removing discoloration and brightening the white and grey. I use this little formula from LiveStrong...


You can use this on your nails, to whiten them! Or as a toothpaste... Honestly, baking soda is amazing.

And how about white vinegar - I sometimes pour a solution of white vinegar and water over my hair as a final rinse. It dries with absolutely no odor, and it simply feels good.

Whew - that's about it. I hoped you enjoyed this little foray into the world of beauty, maybe even picked up some ideas :-) And if you're taking this step into natural hair, go strong!

Ciao! Coco

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Sewing Workshop - Cityscapes Dress...



Happy New Year! and my apology that I've been slow to respond to comments on the blog. Busy time!

I was so excited to get back to sewing after all my visiting with family - because I found a new pattern one night, while watching The Christmas Story and cruising the web.

This is Linda Lee's Cityscapes dress. I think it was first released around 2002, along with an apron-like topper. And now the dress, by itself, is available from The Sewing Workshop as a PDF download.

My first Sewing Workshop pattern!






It has great lines - simple, symmetrical and definitely Lagenlook:



The original release reminds me of Sonia Rykiel's Vogue 1379 Sandwich Dress from 1976.


My fabric is deep brown and does not photograph well, so I lightened all the pics a bit. Squint please.


Sewing this pattern was so much fun. It's a little quirky, but goes together beautifully. The pic below shows the basic layout of both the front and the back. I had to sit and look at it for a while. I knew the dart was continuous, bust/upper back to hem. But part of the dart, the 'bell' curve, is removed when the pattern is cut out, not when it's sewn. 






Once I played a mental game of connect the dots (there are a generous number of them, defining the dart sewing line), I was OK. There are four sizes on the pattern, so I just had to be careful not to stray out of my size.

I used a tailor tack at each dot, and then drew the sewing lines with a chalk marker. Perfect and not difficult at all.
A couple pics on Emile. The inside - I was very short on fabric with only 3 yards, so I cut the front in two pieces instead of on the fold. The center front seam is pressed opened and topstitched down.


And the outside. I could have cut the back in two pieces instead of the front, but I try to avoid center back seams on a knit dress. They tend to stretch out at the stitches and just don't wear well.


A few more notes on sewing and finishing:
  • I sewed the size Medium, which was perfect. The sleeves and the hem were long enough for me (I'm 5'7"), so both might be a little long on someone shorter. However, the pattern has lengthen/shorten lines in the sleeve, torso, and skirt, so alteration would be easy.
  • A few sewists mentioned a concern about the width of the hem and ease of stride. So I added 4" at the hem (1" on each side, back and front) and cured it back into the pattern about 12" below the waist. It worked great, and I'm glad I added to the width.
  • The shoulders were a little wide on me, so I trimmed off 1/2" at the outside of the shoulder and redrew the armscye to accommodate the change. The sleeve cap was fine without any changes. 
  • The pattern uses a neck band, but I bound it instead - binding is just more comfortable for me. I also trimmed about 5/8" from the neckline first. I might have a big head...

I used a very lightweight rayon/lycra knit with 4-way stretch, which is heavenly to wear, but requires some careful finishing. Particularly because it wanted to run if I pulled at the cut edges. What!?  I picked this up from Fabric Mart's pre-cut fabric sale for a couple dollars a yard. It's not great fabric, the color is a bit uneven, almost stippled. But it was perfect for this muslin version of the pattern.
  • My shoulder seams have a enclosed strip of knit tricot fusible, cut with the grain to reduce stretch in the fusible and stabilize the seam. I finished the seam with a flat fell on the inside and topstitching outside.
  • I used an elastic stitch throughout, including the darts and hems. And serged/cut all the long seams together at about 3/8". The armscye seam is pressed toward the dress and topstitched (visible in the last pic).  

Time for a view of the back - pretty sassy :-)


Borrowing an expression, I'm pretty chuffed with this dress! And I plan a follow-up soon, in a nicer fabric.


A little parting tip: Knits, whether in a dress or a tee, can invite a wardrobe malfunction for anyone who wears unpadded lingerie. I love these thin foam bra liners :-)


And I'm off to watch the Parade of Roses. Ciao! Coco