Friday, June 29, 2012

Strawberry guavas!

I feel so fortunate to have beaten my resident squirrel to some of the strawberry guavas this year!

 He really does own the tree.

These pictures are from early this morning. Perhaps Chukka Chukka was still sleeping...

Or the abundance of fruit this year is simply beyond even his greedy little appetite!

As I type I can hear him in the tree munching away. Such good company. 

Coco and Chukka Chukka

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Burda 7659 Pleated Dress in summer green

I have been waiting for days for a break in the rain so that I could take
pics of this summer dress! I love the rain, drought is such an awful alternative, rain rain, stay, please... However. Today Mr. Sun came out to play for a bit in between showers, and I was outside in a flash. I was ready! Shoes, belt, camera, action - and what action. So windy I thought I would lose my tripod. I am holding my dress in the back in most of these photos!

Cute dress! Just looks swingy, sassy, summertime fresh. My fabric is a very pretty grass green cotton from ACMoore - it almost smells like cut grass.

Not seen in the drawings, pockets are included in the side seams. The pattern calls for a back zipper, which I did not include. If you are comfortable pulling a dress over your head and wiggling your arms through, you will not need one. The neckline is not the issue - it is the bust area, which has little ease.

I enjoyed sewing this dress. It is by Burda, so instructions are minimal, with no notches or extraneous markings on the tissue. In fact, none, other than grainline, pocket placement, and pleats lines. They did provide very good techniques for sewing and finishing the box pleats - which will make this pattern approachable by a less experienced sewist.
The curved bodice is lovely, almost a surplice. It and the pleats work together to form-fit the bust. Not mentioned in the instructions, but a good idea - I ease stitched the sewing line on the bodice, then turned and pressed it. This is a tight curve, and I did have to pull up the thread a bit while making the turn.

I ran out of my main fabric, so I used a piece from Heather Bailey's Pop Garden collection to line the bodice and upper pockets. In the pic you can see my pocket trick: I only mark the upper placement of the pocket on the garment front. Everything else is pin-fitted based on that mark before I start sewing the pockets. As a result my pockets match up when I sew my side seams!

It is really getting windy here...

 I sewed a size 12 based on Burda sizing. Adjustments I made:
  • Sewed a 1/4" center back seam to adjust for my broad back. 
  • Lowered both shoulders 3/8" to (1) lower the bust apex and (2) manage my hollow chest :-)
  • Did a sloping shoulder adjustment on my right side.
  • Sewed the sideseams at 3/8" beginning at the upper edge for 5 1/2", then 'cured' the seam out to 5/8" at the pocket. 
  • Drafted armhole facings instead of using the suggested folded band facing. The pattern approach would have put 8 layers of fabric at some seams - I could only imagine what that would look like when it was topstitiched!

Last alteration - I added 1 1/2" to the hemline. At 5'7", just needed to do it.

Sandals, Jasmin NY

 I moved under the gazebo to do a little styling because I kept taking picture of leaves covering my face in the other part of the yard! But it is still touch and go!  

I enjoyed the fresh air and wind - we had more rain soon after, but it was lovely!

Ciao! Coco  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vogue 8813 Marcy Tilton vintage house dress


Before sewing this very popular pattern, Vogue 8813, I did a bit of research on its designer, Marcy Tilton, and her vision for the design. Marcy has a very entertaining and educational website, blog, and newsletter. In her  newsletter of May 2012, she describes a suggestion from a colleague that she design a dress with "...the flavor of a little French vintage house dress...".  And this pattern is a result of that conversation.

I've seen it done many times in a knit fabric, but I really prefer cotton - so much cooler here in south Florida. And I wanted to have some fun with my interpretation. So what would a little French vintage house dress look like? In my closet, ankle length and print fabric!
My main fabric is by Alexander Henry, from the Vie en Rose collection, which is based on Matisse's muses. The inset is also from this collection, done in Amelie Rose in sage. Both are 100% cotton from Hancocks of Paducah. I have noticed, though, that the Vie en Rose prints are increasing difficult to find, even described as retro! I bought the fabric several years ago.


The hemline drop at the sides as seen on the envelope are not at all evident in the woven version, perhaps because of the lack of stretch in the fabric. While I added 13" to the pattern, I did not alter the hemline. 

Alterations I did make:

The pattern calls for turning the v-neckline seam allowance in twice to make a narrow hem. I am seldom in favor of this finishing approach - particularly at the neckline which is the focus of attention of most garments! I drafted a facing (2 pieces before stitching) for the back and front neckline. I simply serged the edges before turning.

 That done, I turned my attention to the shirring on the front inset, again a focus element of the pattern. Marcy actually makes a bit of a fuss over this piece, including providing a YouTube tutorial (forgive pls if this link goes away) on how to stitch and iron. Her approach to the shirring is to zigzag over a string of perle cotton fastened at each side of the bodice.

 The string is then pulled to gather, adjustments are made, and 2 additional lines of straight stitching are applied, one on each side of the zigzag stitching. hmmm I went ahead and did this, because I wanted to follow the pattern instructions and to be able to provide a fair review to my friends. So - here is the result of the suggested approach. I really do not like it! It simply does not have the finish that I want for my garments. Call me a snob!

I unpicked the above and redid the shirring my preferred way:
  • Prepared the inset shirring before insertion in the sewn bodice front/back.
  • Hand-basted slightly above the 3 shirring lines using 1/8" stitches and a doubled colored  thread.
  • Pin-fitted the inset in the dress and adjusted the shirring gathers to fit.
  • Unpinned and stitched the shirring using 1/4" twill tape to secure.
  • Removed the basted gathering stitches.
 So much nicer. And this finish is not going to give, swing, or sway, not matter the fabric! I can just about bet that the front inset on a knit is going to drop if one is not careful with this detail...

It's a house dress after all. So here are some pics inside the house.

I have been so unsure of my feelings about this dress! It has been hanging in my view for over a week. Just yesterday I finally took the photos. Today I wore it out for the first time - and enjoyed wearing it. I felt so ne sais quoi!  

A bientot! Coco

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cheery ironing board cover

Fabric, Le Petit Poulet by Sandy Klop for Moda Fabrics

A nice quiet Sunday afternoon spent taking care of something that has been bugging me for some time - my ironing board cover! This cheery red cover is the result of my efforts, and I have to admit I'm glad I finally got to this!

I will share a peek of what I've been tolerating rather than fixing. This looks really awful but it is a blown-up pic - my cover was not that bad!

It's not that I routinely soil the board cover - who does? and I try so hard not to hit that steam button before the iron heats up (the cause of most of these spots). I have a really good iron, it doesn't drizzle, and the self-cleaning feature is the best I've ever had. Blame the water authority! They've put something in my water and look at the mess they made. :-)

My ironing board is a much-loved Polder hanging board. It is wonderful to have an ironing nook in my sewing room that takes no floor space - it is really out of my way but right at hand as well. I am one of those sewers who presses constantly while sewing, a true believer. I can recommend this board - it is wide, large, and sturdy, has no legs to get in the way of my feet! and collapses against the door if I want to put it up. 

The pad is foam - yea! I don't care for cotton batting pads. They capture water stains and give them back so easily under steam.

I used the old cover to trace a pattern that I can reuse. And thrifted the bias tape for use on the new cover. I thought I had every size bias tape there is. Nooo. I have everything but single fold bias tape! Probably because I make my own out of self-fabric. Fortunately the stitching was very large and easy to pick on the old cover. I was also able to reuse the twine that runs through the tape to tighten the cover to the board.

My quality assurance team gave the new cover a thumbs up. 

A nice, fresh ironing board cover. This one will go in the laundry because I know it won't shrink - I made it!  Coco

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Small world and friendship at AC Moore

This is special and I want to be sure my girl friend at AC Moore gets to see it! I put it on my facebook page, but, hey, not everyone does that!

I was in AC Moore today, buying more minibolts on sale ( 3 yds. for $10 and really nice cottons for summer). Gabrielle checked me out - as she as done several times before - and we got to chatting, again, as usual!

I was wearing a ruffled top (Simplicity 1806) made with fabric from a minibolt, pretty pink snakeskin print - and she loved my shorts as well (Simplicity 1852 in linen blend from JoAnns). Total price of my outfit was $9!! We got to talking about another style that she likes and has seen in stores, but at a big price - capris with a high waist and flared leg. Something I have on my storyboard! So I gave her my blog site - turns out either she or her mom follows my blog.

Gosh - what a small world! Coco

Sunday, June 10, 2012

McCalls 6291 Cargo Pants

Blouse, Simplicity 1806, Future blog
Belt, Coldwater Creek
Sandals, Easy Spirit

These pants from McCalls made their first appearance on the blog when I wrote about the Wiksten tank top. I felt very daring when I wore them for that picture...never thought I would wear pants with harem ankles. I actually sewed the pants and wore them several times with a plain hem. And I was bored, disappointed, frustrated! The model on the envelope cover looks so good. hmmm. So I decided to give it a try and inserted the ankle elastic - and fell in love with the pants.

My fabric is weavers cloth from JoAnns and is 55% polyester/45% cotton. It looks like a cotton/linen blend, is very soft, and doesn't wrinkle. Caution though - I also bought weavers cloth in khaki, and it is not nearly this soft (you can see the difference in this skirt).

Lots of pockets! Eight on the pants alone - so I decided to pick and choose. I sewed the front slash pockets, love them, and only one cargo pocket on the lower left leg. My intention in choosing both the pattern and fabric was to have a trouser-like garment that I could style up or down a bit. Not too casual.

However - all those pockets would make a great utility pant, lots of fun in a drill, denim, ripstop, or twill fabric! And the shorts and capris are so cute, this is really a nice set of patterns.

I sewed a Medium, and I think the size is correct for me. Although the pants are full, a Small would probably pull at the pockets. Looking at the back view, I have nice smooth seams and planes at the sides, crotch, and across the fanny.  The back waist area would have been better if I had a belt loop and had not just hitched up my britches!

Belt, J Jill

My next pair will have a center back belt loop to match the front loops. :-)

Sweater, Garnet Hill

While it has a lot of personality, the pattern is not difficult to sew. The instructions are clear, and pattern pieces fit together well. My fabric ravelled very easily, I staystitched the belt loop pieces as soon as I cut them - they have 3/8" seams! And I patted my serger a lot while finishing seams and pockets edges.

These pics were taken using my new 60" camera tripod. Such a difference in how light is distributed in a picture. And the fence is standing up straight! I had been using my little 7" flexible tripod on a table - all my  pics were looking up because I could not get my camera high enough. OK, it only took me 3 months to do this. What really sold me was the black canvas bag with carrying strap...

Now that I've worn these several times, I keep reaching for them. A kick to wear! Coco

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Fit for Real People" - Arrived in the Loft

I did it! I bought my first sewing book in years! and what a perfect choice  - "Fit for Real People" by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto. For many sewists, it needs no introduction. For sewists just getting started or maybe thinking about it, it is a really wise purchase.

 "Fit for Real People" does not teach you how to sew. It shows you how to make a pattern work for you and for your body. After all, we come in thousands of variations on any size...but we all use one pattern! This wonderful book will lead you through understanding yourself, your body, how a pattern is constructed, how to change a pattern, and so much more...and it's painless! And has terrific, large illustrations and explanations.

And the book has real people in it. I am really enjoying just reading the book and following the journeys of the ladies who are part of it.

I recently made croquis...brave girl. But curious as well. Self-image gets so skewed, and what I was seeing in the mirror was clearly not what I was seeing in my pics on my blog. I look good! (pat, pat...). So here are my 2 croquis.

What I see bears out the 45+ year-old body in the book. My bust is not so perky now - but it is still there! Leaving me with a 'hollow chest', of all things, sounds awful. Is there a resort spa remedy for that? And my derriere has slid and flattened (OK, I don't really have one anymore!)

Lastly, my waist is bigger than ever in my life, coming in at 30". Oh, it was so small for so many years - I used to be 5' 8 1/2" (something else Marta and Pati point out is that we collapse a bit with age) with a 27" waist. Ah.


My only other sewing challenge is that my right shoulder is lower than my left shoulder. And I did not carry anything or anyone on my right hip! The consequence, of course, is that I have to do a sloping shoulder adjustment on one side. And have to be careful with sleeve lengths on my right arm so I am even!

 The wonderful thing about "Fit for Real People" is that it shows me how to do these and other adjustments for all bodice, seam, and dart types - e.g., both shoulder and armhole princess seams.

I am really enjoying this addition to my Loft library. It is so friendly and so precise without being overwhelming - and it is so applicable to my sewing. I know I will use it constantly.  Gazillions of sewists have recommended it...and I do too!

Ciao! Coco

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pattern Review Featured Member!

I am so very complimented! I was the featured member on Pattern Review on June 5 - I was overwhelmed to receive the notification in my email. Once again I am humbled and honored by my friends at Pattern Review, beautiful sewists all.

Thank you! Coco

Friday, June 1, 2012

IKEA SY Sewing Machine!

My new machine from IKEA! a gift from my sweet daughter for Mom's Day. All I did was mention it, and it was mine (I do love her a lot...).

I am super fortunate because IKEA is 8 miles from my house. But I almost did not find the machine. No one I asked knew anything about it. Heart flutter. So I wandered through likely places, you know, aisles with textiles on them. At last, back behind all the kitchen linens and curtains, almost to the rugs - a short aisle of fabric bolts and 6 feet of shelf space with boxes of cotton thread, zippered sewing kits, and on the bottom, 3 smallish boxes. I almost missed them!

Thrilled. Only stopped for cookies in the market on my way out (if ever you can, try IKEA's cookies, oh my...).

This iconic white/yellow/blue machine was designed by Henrik Preutz. It is made of ABS plastic with an aluminum frame and various metals in its parts, similar to my Brother. A few stats:
  • Price $59.99
  • Width: 11 3/4"    
  • Height: 7 1/8"
  • Length: 14 5/8"  
  • Weight: 13 lbs.

  • Seam ripper
  • Straight stitch, zipper, buttonhole feet
  • 2 Thread spool felts
  • Lint brush
  • 4 Needles
  • 6 Bobbins
  • Additional spool pin
  • Screw driver tool
  • Combo control foot and power cord
I am ridiculously happy about the generous number of needles and bobbins. More than I have ever received with a machine. 

Side view...the hand wheel is conventional for non-computerized machines. It is pulled out to fill a bobbin, pushed back to re-engage gears for sewing. The two spool pins are visible here as well. I chose mine randomly. On the front is a view of the reverse stitch lever.

And a very nicely wound bobbin, easy peasy to do, very even tension.

The storage compartment slides off to provide for free-arm sewing and access to the bobbin case.

And it's a great bobbin case area. I mean it! It's fully accessible and well-lit by my IKEA bendable lamp. The bobbin case itself is standard and accepts most (not all) bobbins.
Also, take a peek at the metal throat plate. It is scribed in front in metric and in back in inches! Wish my other machine had this. My Brother combines the two behind the pressure foot - a lot of lines.

A view of the thread cutter, shank screw, foot release lever, and the dogs. Now to sew...

I'll comment first so you can look: the machine has 13 stitches, including straight, zigzag, decorative, and blind hem stitch variations.  (Blind stitch is not on my sample - oops). Not a purring machine, but not a jackhammer either. It has a steady feed, sews very evenly, and the control foot feels just like my others. It is very sturdy and does not budge - at 13 lbs. it is not going anywhere! but to add to that, the rubber feet are good size and quality.

Here's a front view. (The straight stitch is very good. Just not straight, which is my not being used to the machine!)

And here is the view I hold my breath over - the back view, the one that tells me whether the tension dial is working! Nothing ruins a machine for me faster than poor tension - I tossed a Singer over this issue. I used a lighter thread in the bobbin so that I could really see how the tension behaved - it got very good marks!

IKEA provides a very well-written manual with pictures that are large enough that one can actually see the part being discussed! And a separate folder on oiling and cleaning the machine, which I think is very thoughtful. Generic oiling on a non-sealed machine without directions makes me nervous! but it has to be done.

So that is the new IKEA sewing machine. I am excited to have it. I now have a backup and can sleep at night knowing a breakdown will not keep me away from my favorite activity. And my daughter is thrilled because I have a machine that can go with when I visit her.

I don't normally name my machines, but will share that this one has been called Priss since I picked up the box in the store. Good lines...

Edited with a little update, October, 2014: So many of you have gotten this machine! How wonderful, I continue to enjoy mine.  And I've gotten so many requests and inquiries for an English version of the User Manual. Regrets - but the Manual is under copyright, I simply cannot scan it and distribute it. I can only refer you to IKEA for help. I also have had questions about presser feet and bobbins. Well, I can tell you what works for me - I use low shank snap-on presser feet and Singer Class 15 plastic bobbins.
Happy sewing! Coco