Monday, May 30, 2016

Summertime tote bag - a big one!

It's Memorial Day, the official flip into summer. But summertime always starts early in Florida - it has been hot hot hot and humid. And the last thing I want to do is carry a leather handbag with all its metal zippers and whatnot's. Too much!

Solution - a fabric bag. About five years ago I drafted a tote bag pattern, very much based on the Amy Butler Birdie Sling.

There are a ton of inspiration pics of the Birdie Sling on the web, and lots of tutorials as well. So drafting my version was pretty easy. I've made over 20 of these bags. They were both gifted and sold, back when Ashley and I were doing the craft fair circuit.

But I still have and use the first one I made. I love it. It's roomy, about 26 ¾” tall, including the handles, and 18” wide, and it has some incredible physics going on. Load it up, and the weight is barely felt on one's shoulder. Seriously! I'm sure it has something to do with the inside bag hanging freely from the top band. Whatever it is, I'm amazed every time I use it. I don't know if that is characteristic of the AButler bag as well, but I'd be interested to know.

BTW, this one has been through the laundry several times. Yes! machine wash and dry. 
Time to make some more. It's a great way to use remnants, since each piece - shell, inside bag, bands/handle - uses a yard or less of fabric. Calico, quilting cotton, and light canvas all work well. This cute black/grey number is the first one I've done without contrast fabric on the bands and handle. And it works perfectly with just about everything in my closet.

Keepsake Calico Cotton - Black Lines, from JoAnns

On the inside: Nothing bugs me more than a bunch of loose stuff on the bottom of a hand bag, hiding my keys and making me crazy. So the inside of this bag has a pocket on each side. One is stitched down the middle, the typical phone & glasses accommodation...

Lining Fabric, Buttercream Bicycles - Gray & Metallic - JoAnns
And the other is zipped - a catch-all for lip balm, nail file, comb, tissue, the jewelry I take off when it bugs me... I used a purple zipper because it's easier to see than a black one would be. And I'll put helper of some kind - a ribbon or charm - on the pull.

On the clothes front, my latest pair of Love Notions Sabrina Slims:

Black/White Ethnic Glyphs Cotton Spandex Knit, from Girl Charlee

Top - Butterick 6024
Parting shot: Zebra butterflies and a giant swallowtail roosting in the guava tree at sunset a couple days ago. They're in the tree almost every night now, just six feet from my porch. Beautiful.

This little guy is not so little - 5" wing span!

Ciao! Coco 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Puttering around...

It's a bright sunny day - the rain clouds are gathering for our afternoon showers, but right now it's beautiful outside. And it's Saturday. Even though I'm retired, weekends still have that 'oh, it's the weekend' feeling.

This morning I visited the pet store and brought home a companion. Meet Henry Thomas Fish, Mr. Fish for short. Or Henry. He's a crown-tail betta, and he seems very happy in his new digs. I love bettas, they're very social and good pets :-)

Henry's bowl is actually the vase from my Mother's Day orchid gift from David. Sweet son - he's been gifting me with orchids for my birthday and Mother's Day for years. And he gets me orchid plants, not the blossoms. This vase held two plants with about 30 blooms. Wowser.

And this morning I potted them. Under all that lovely composition in the vase, orchid plants from a florist are usually crammed into a plastic pot or bag, with their roots wrapped around and stuffed with sphagnum moss.  And they'll be very wet, in the interest of maintaining the bloom, not the plant. But all that wetness will rot the plant pretty quickly.

So - out of the vase, and time for a clean and trim.

I pulled out all that wet moss and released the roots. Can you believe all of these roots were in that little plastic container?!

Next, I pruned all the dead/rotting roots.

And here's this baby being potted...

My favorite orchid potting mix - it's fir bark, charcoal, and coarse perlite (not those pesky perlite beads you see in potting soil). Although it can be used for almost all types of orchids, I use a mix without the perlite for anything outside. In a pinch, one could pick out the perlite! 

While I was at it, I re-potted my other two porch orchids, and now all of them are resting on the bench while they acclimate. 

These are phalaenopsis orchids, which do well in pots and love a north exposure, either inside or on a porch. They don't grow well in the trees because they don't like water in their crowns. In the wild, they actually grow with their leaves pointing down or sideways. A tough lesson - I lost a couple, thinking I could grow them outside with my vandas and cattleyas.

I also took on a little maintenance work in the loft this afternoon - I think of this as 'call back' sewing. I needed to run triple-zigzag stitching around the waistbands of 5 pairs of pull-on pants, to keep the elastic from rolling. And add buttons on the front so I stop putting them on backwards! 

Parting shot: Zebra butterflies roosting in the guava tree ahead of a rainstorm on Thursday. By the time the rain came, there were about fifty zebras in these low-hanging branches. Lovely and a little rare - they usually shelter higher up in the tree.

Bye for now! Coco

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Re-purposing a Tessuti Mandy Tee...

A short Saturday post to share a 'save'...

When I was on my Tessuti Mandy Tee kick back in March, I made one that didn't work out at all. The problem was that the fabric - a white cotton spandex - was just too thick. And being solid white, the tee was overwhelming - I looked like I was being worn, not the other way around.

No pics of that, it was just not a good moment. And I tossed the tee in the bin by my sewing table.

I do that a lot! and then retrieve the offending garment later. So I pulled out the tee, pulled off all the loose threads, and hung it up to age.

Earlier this week I had one of those great ah-ha moments - how about cropping it?

I've had an ongoing issue with my knit maxi skirts, because I haven't found a good top for them. I've even considered letting them go. I looked at lots of ideas on Pinterest, but they really came down to just a few approaches: A slim tank top, worn out or in, a short chunky sweater, and/or a jeans jacket. I don't do any of that...but this works great.

I cut the front to fall just below my waist and drew a lower hem in the back. The width of the Mandy gives it a nice swing. Pretty neat.

Upper left side, my vanda orchid is blooming!

Other happenings...I was distressed to find a duck egg partly buried in my front yard late yesterday, along with the likely digging tool.  

While my house is just a hop and a skip from a lake full of ducks and turtles and various other water creatures, they don't usually nest in my yard, much less in the middle of the lawn. And we don't have foxes (which will carry and bury an egg for later retrieval). I'm sure someone took it from a nest, felt bad about it, and tried to bury the evidence. I checked online, there was nothing I could do to save it. 

More cheerful, here's a pic of one of the turtles, a Florida soft-shell. She was huge - about 4 feet from her nose to the back of her shell. While she crossed the street from one lake to the next, I had time to get my camera from the house and still return in time to take her photo. Lovely lady. 

I hope everyone is enjoying a nice weekend - bye for now! Coco

Monday, May 9, 2016

McCalls 6613 - A summer shirt...

Just for kicks, I thought I'd open with a picture of my current house guest - Mr. Lizard.  Honestly, I wish the lizards would stay outside, because they don't last long in the house. But - they will come in.

It's a bit like having a puppy - I leave a shallow saucer of water for him under his favorite bookcase.  He hangs out there and in the house plant in the pic, which is very close to me in the living room.

Every once in a while he trots across the room in front of me. So funny! Apparently he's pretty comfortable with me for company.


I'm setting records for slow sewing and posting this spring. But I did spend the last week working on a birthday gift for Ashley. The fabric is a cotton print that she purchased in JoAnns a couple years ago, with a dress in mind. But as her seamstress, I decided that a swingy boyfriend shirt would be fun for summer jeans and capris. She has one, white cotton with little skulls all over it, that she loves to wear. So I measured it every way I could during our Christmas visit. And went looking for a pattern.

In March, I found McCalls 6613. It's a unisex shirt, so it has very general sizing, but it also has traditional shirt features that I wanted to include: a pointed collar with a collar stand, pocket options, a back yoke, and an attached button placket. It also has a sleeve tab for rolling the cuff, a feature I know she likes in her other shirt.

Bonus: it has a two-part sleeve. That extra seam makes the cuff application so simple and also provides support for the button/button tab combo.

This one pattern really has so many combinations of collar, sleeve, pocket, and hem styles! Pretty nice.


I went with a plain collar, one breast pocket (plain), a straight hem, and the sleeve tab. I know this print doesn't show things very well, so I hope you'll trust me, please :-)

The collar turned out to be the prettiest collar I've ever sewn. Not my sewing of the collar, but the shape - it is almost elegant and lays back so nicely. Collars are not all alike!

A note on collar construction: My least favorite part of making a shirt is attaching the collar. It's so easy to mess it up! Beginning sometime in 2013, I've been using a great construction approach from a tutorial by Andrea at Four Square Walls. It's terrific, you might take a look if this is a bug-a-boo for you as well.

And the cuff is pretty, too - it's a very balanced width, with one pleat, a simple placket formed from the seam allowance, and one button.

Just a few sewing notes - Ashley is 5'9", so I started with size Large:

  • Added 'swing' by redrafting the side seam with a bit of flare, drawing it from an L at the armscye to XXL at the hem. 
  • Removed 2" from the yoke, collar, and collar stand at center back - it was really wide in the back, and the collar was super long.
  • Narrowed the shoulder by 1/2" at the armscye edge. 
  • Kept the original width in the lower back, but I used light gathers instead of a center pleat, when I attached it to the yoke.

  • Added an inch to the width of the sleeve in the upper arm, using the slash method. This pic is from a nice tutorial on The Curvy Sewing Collective. I like this approach because it doesn't really impact the armscye, other than a tweak at the outside corners.

  • And I added 1" to the hem, to bring it to a finished back length of  33.5", same length as her original. Adding the flare at the sides, plus a little trim on the front, also gave the finished hem a bit of a hi-lo look, which I think is really cute.

She just called me - her package arrived, she loves it :-)

I've been thinking about this pattern while sewing her shirt. This post really isn't a pattern review, because I used M6613 with the intention of modifying it a lot. However - while it's described as unisex, it doesn't strike me as a pattern I'd use for a man's shirt. Those two-part sleeves, the casual/non-placket cuff with only one pleat - not typical for un homme...

So, parting shot:

Having spring-cleaned my closet recently, I also took a look at my pajamas. I was tired of them, and they were tired of me. And I've been longing for crisp white cotton bottoms to wear with the slew of striped Wiksten tops I made in March (I have 5 now). I discovered 10 yards of  white Michael Miller Cotton Couture in my stash. Amazing. I bought it to muslin Ashley's bridal dress back in January 2015. In the end, David's Bridal made that dress, not I! and I forgot about this fabric, which is perfect for PJs. Fresh off the sewing table, using my TNT Vogue 8584 - they feel wonderful...

Bye for now - Coco