Monday, September 30, 2013

The excitement continues chez Coco...

Oh gosh, the phone rang at 7 this morning...I was still asleep. Mostly because I've been watching the Breaking Bad marathon for 5 days, and my days and nights are a little upside down. I actually ignored the phone. But then it rang again. You know that sinking feeling?

My Mum got a pacemaker 1 week ago today. I was up and out of bed really fast on that second call. Thank goodness, it was only the roofers.

Only the roofers? Nobody told me they were coming today!! Turns out their 'new' secretary forgot to call me. Not only were they coming, they were knocking at the door 5 minutes later :-)

Fortunately I decided on Sunday afternoon to move the plants out of the gazebo - I knew the roofers would move it eventually. Boy, my brain is working overtime. Maybe because I'm now drinking hot cocoa every night. I read in an article on the BBC website, that a recent study showed increased mental acuity and memory retention in folks who drink hot cocoa every day. How 'bout that?

I also blew out my garden of those new ones that's really light and shrinks up. I love it and have another one on standby. I like the plants on the fence and think I'll leave them there. The gazebo is on its last legs (rust), so I'll put it out in the next bulk pickup. New one next spring.

Back to the roof story...

Having a tile roof removed from a 2 story house is a very noisy enterprise. So is laying and tacking down the new asphalt fabric. And removing all the metal flashing.

Yes, things did fall off my walls, and my house is now really really dusty. I think any spiders that lived with me have packed up and gone to visit family.

A very helpful neighbor stopped by to let the roofers know that they had 3 trucks parked on the street and someone might hit them. hmmm. These were big 18-wheelers.

I think anyone would see them before hitting them...unless they were texting.

I stayed inside, except to open the door and snap a pic of the front walkway around 3:00.

The roofers are a great group, lots of grins and nice attitudes. They worked really fast and hard, and did a wonderful job of cleanup at the end of the day.

The house looks so different with no tile! But I'm 'dried in' (rain-proof) and all set for tomorrow. 

Parting back yard from my neighbor's lawn. I should do a photo shoot on this side.

Bye for now! Coco

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dreaming about water...

Don't do it! What a week at the loft. I really did dream about water last weekend. And I kept thinking I heard water dripping. Checked my kitchen faucet. Stood in the middle of the bathroom and listened. Nothing. Even went outside with a flashlight and checked the water meter! It was not turning.

But I just knew something was up.

On Tuesday I came through the garage to take the groceries into the kitchen (I usually just go through the front door). And there it was on the garage floor...water. A long puddle of water. Under the washing machine and the hot water heater. Up the walls. Out the garage door.

And on the baseboards, M.O.L.D.   Scary stuff, ugly, yucky. Stopped me in my tracks.    

I had no choice but to call in the big guys...

Lots of big guys.

It's now Sunday. I have a 'slab leak' - a cold water pipe has broken inside the concrete foundation of the house. A slab leak can't be repaired - it has to be located and isolated. The plumbers cap the two ends of the pipe, where they exit the slab into the house. And then bypass the leak with new piping.

Finding the leak took 8 hours, two men, and a jackhammer.

As of today, the mold has been 'remediated', the turbo fans and dehumidifier are gone, all the walls and floors are dry. Of course I have lots of missing and damaged wallboard in the garage, as well as a 2' x 5' hole on the outside of the house (jackhammer...). Reconstruction begins next week. Washer and dryer are disconnected, but (here comes the bright side )...

As my Mom pointed out, I have lots of clothes!

Ciao! Coco

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vogue 8810 - A new dress for fall

It's officially autumn, even here in south Florida, regardless of our very warm weather and leaves that stay green. And even I have the 'transition' bug, that little urge to do something different for fall.

I picked up Vogue 8810 last spring, not with any particular fabric in mind, but because I really like the lines of View D. It's a nice take on a shirtwaist, very feminine - no collar, bit of a bow at the waist, soft gathers at the shoulders, pockets, and a semi-circular skirt. Perfect.

Then along came this wonderful cotton print from Alexander Henry's Fulham Road collection, plum Sloane. I've had to rethink my initial neutral reaction to the Pantone 2013 Fall color palette...

Because they're all in here!

From Holly Lobby

This looks like a fall dress, right?

It's a Vogue Easy pattern, fun to sew, with lots of little details to keep me busy and content.

Sewing notes:

- This is my usual size 14, and the fit is spot on. I'm 5'7", and had plenty of hem, actually took it up 2".

- I sewed the waist with a 3/8" seam, rather than 5/8", just to get a tad more length in the bodice.

- The pattern has dropped shoulders, but I think they must work better with sleeves! The same pattern pieces are used for both sleeved and sleeveless tops, but sort of fly away on the sleeveless version.

From the pattern envelope
After I sewed the shoulder and side seams, I trimmed the armhole: 3/4" at the top, curing down to 1/4" between the notches. Then I trimmed off 1/2" the side seam, starting at the armhole, curing down to the first notches. Seems like I do this a lot now, all the big 4 must think we flair out at our underarms! end of rant...

- To finish the armhole, I used a 1 3/4"  self-fabric bias binding, rather than a facing.

- Because the tie belt is over a waistline seam, I extended the casing to 3/4" from the bodice edge. This way I won't have to worry about the seam wandering above or below the belt. It works really well.

- Button, button, who has the button...this dress is buttoned all the way down the front. Except I sewed the skirt buttons through both layers without cutting open the buttonhole. They'll never open!  And I ended up putting 4 buttons on the bodice rather than 2. This dress 'wants' to close higher on me, not something I feel like changing by redrafting the whole bodice! Easier to add buttons :-)

I didn't put a button at the waist at all, but sewed a large snap on the inside instead.

Cute dress with a modest twirl factor:

Ciao! Coco

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A quiet day...

I got up this morning feeling sad - the events of yesterday in the Washington Navy Yard just keep going through my mind. And I know I have lots of company.  After catching up on the news, I took my coffee out on the porch, my favorite place.

Even at quarter till 9:00, it was almost dark outside. The street light was still on, and I could hear low rumbles of thunder. Of course - we were about to have a downpour. A quick look at my weather station - the humidity was 89%! It was almost raining in the air (is that possible?) All the plants on the porch were happy, though, they had drops of condensation on every leaf tip.

And it really rained! Mr. Toad came out to play in his favorite spot by the porch. 

He is such a comedian. I took this pic of him last year. Mr. Toad in the bird frog bath. The figurine is a frog, and the birds have never come near it! so I keep water in it for him.

Once the rain settled down to a drizzle, I headed off to the library, where I got 3 books for $3 from the little Friends of the Library shop: The Bonesetter's Daughter, by Amy Tan, The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard, and White Oleander, by Jane Fitch. For some reason, I'm afraid I got 3 books about challenged women. Oh my.

Just finished Our Kind of Traitor by John Le Carre (great spyville story, love his work) and The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (also a great read, fun twisty plot, very clever).

Believe it or not, I don't read as much fiction as non-fiction - I just read fiction faster. On my non-fiction side, books in progress include Columbine by Dave Cullen (a re-read), Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (Marconi), Into the Silence by Wade David (George Mallory, the Great War, the conquest of Mt. Everest, all in one book), A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr (I had seen the movie but not read the book, which is fascinating), and Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey. Yes, I usually have several going at one time!

I also checked for BurdaStyle Magazine - ummm, no. Twenty or so books on sewing, mostly beginner level, which is good, I think, for a library. About 400 cooking books! And 200 diet books!!

Off to read, bye for now - Coco

Monday, September 9, 2013

McCalls 6559 - Maxi times two!

This didn't take long! After I sewed the short version of McCalls 6559, I made not one, but two, maxi versions right away. It is such an easy and comfortable pattern.

This first one is done in a polyester/lycra ITY knit from What a wonderful fabric! Feels so sleek, kinda sexy...

The second version is a really interesting print from Fabric Mart in a rayon/lycra knit. This is the same kind of fabric that I used on my short version - it's very light, much lighter than ITY, and perfect for Florida.

I really did not know how this print would look when I ordered it. It's hard to tell from a couple little thumbnail pics online. I assumed that the pattern going down my left side was the repeating pattern for the full width. Surprise - the pattern going down my right side is actually a border print! It's not at all obvious, but slowed me down a little when I was laying out the pattern.

I was glad that I had plenty of yardage for both these dresses. I matched the large stripe pattern on the ITY front and back, it would have looked weird otherwise. But I made no attempt to match the circles and lines on the purple rayon! Just keeping the targets in check took extra fabric. Remember Vogue's goof last year?

No changes for these versions, aside from those I made on my muslin. These two fabrics are both jersey knits and both have lycra in them - but they handle very differently under the needle. To share a few approaches that I find helpful:
  • Sewing the long seam -  The ITY is done on the serger with a fairly small stitch length. The rayon jersey is sewn on the sewing machine with an elastic stitch, and the edges are unfinished. The latter is to avoid putting weight in the seams.
  • There's an easy way to keep the feed dogs from eating a knit fabric when you start a seam on the sewing machine: put your needle down about 1/4" inside the seam. Using a straight stitch, back stitch a couple stitches, and then stitch forward. If you're going to use an elastic stitch, raise the needle after a couple forward stitches and reset the stitch. 

  • Starting ITY fabric on the serger can be tricky - the top layer tends to fold back as it goes under the pressure foot. Slippery stuff. To avoid this, I run a few basting stitches along the side and top of the start point. Works great.

    Speaking of slippery - placing pins parallel to the edge will hold ITY fabric in place much better than placing them at a right angle.

  • I also finished the bound edges differently. On both, I sewed the binding RS together on the outside with a 3/8" seam allowance, then turned it over the seam allowance to the inside.

    On the ITY, I stitched on the binding close to the edge through all layers. It is so slippery that stitching in the ditch is like chasing mercury!

    On the rayon jersey, I stitched in the ditch on the outside next to the binding through all layers.

  • Last  - my lycra knit dresses are folded and stored on a shelf in the closet - lycra doesn't wrinkle but it does strreeeeetch.....!

Now I need to go somewhere! Hope everyone has a nice week...

Ciao! Coco

Sunday, September 8, 2013

McCalls 6559 Knit dress...testing the water

Well, it has only taken me a year or so to try out this pattern. Actually, I've always loved it! But I thought it only came with a racer back. And to my credit, one really has to look at the line drawing to see that it has an option (View D) with a full width back! as noted by a wonderful blogger in a post I read a few weeks ago.

The pattern is a little scary, since it is described as 'very close fitting'. Ummm. So I decided to do my muslin in the short version, facing my fear at the least cost possible. I sewed my usual size 14, and, wow, a good fit! Yes, I can see my curves, but nothing is too bodaciously clingy!

This kind of funky tie-dye fabric is a rayon-lycra knit from Fabric Mart, and, to my surprise, it didn't run or lose color when I pre-washed it. The tough part was laying out the pattern so that the stripes and blotches didn't hit the wrong spots.

Only a couple changes to the pattern itself: I raised the neckline by 1/2", and  narrowed the upper side seams by 1/2" at the armhole, curing down about 3". I also used a 1" hem and self-fabric bindings, rather than purchased bias tape.

I like it! Would you believe that this short version only takes 1 1/8 yd. of 60" fabric in my size? and 1 3/4 yd. for the maxi. That is really amazing and economical. My next one, a maxi, is on the sewing table, in a beautiful ITY knit from

Back soon - Ciao! Coco

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Find a way...Diana Nyad

Go, Diana! I love her mantra, "Find a way...". And I know that sometimes that willingness to find a way is simply not enough. But I am so happy for her. I'm celebrating her success in fulfilling a dream.