Thursday, December 22, 2016

Almost a new year...looking ahead

This is a quirky little post. I'm so busy, getting ready to visit with my children for the holidays. Ashley and Darrin in Ft. Myers. David and DGS in Orlando. Have you ever noticed that an impending trip or visit really makes you stop and think...what will I wear. It's more than that. How will I be perceived. How do I want to be perceived.

This has been a challenging year for me. I didn't feel well for most of it. And I just kept making the same thing...a calico maxi dress that was almost pajamas.

But, and it feels so wonderful, I've gotten myself out of a terrible 9 month funk. I don't say that lightly. I was really struggling with health issues and the ever lurking depression that accompanies the latter. But I stretched (OK, my doctors are incredibly supportive and helpful), and I made some things these last three months that I really enjoy.

 So. Anyway. Surveying my wardrobe ahead of my visit with my kids. The biggest event, frankly, of my year.


This time, I'm meeting the family of my son's fiance. They were engaged last month. I'm thrilled - she's so lovely. They're so happy.

They will have a blended family. And my family expands. Such joy - I'm so fortunate.

Last week I did a bit of closet consideration (like that?) and removed everything that doesn't suit me now that I'm feeling soooo much better. And on Saturday, I'm off to Ft. Myers to spend Christmas with Ashley, Darrin, and those 4 adorable and entertaining kitties.

Then on to Orlando next Tuesday for time with David, Preston, Elizabeth and her children.

I am blessed. Life just keeps placing wonderful people and chances in my way.

I say chances - you know, getting older doesn't mean that life is without opportunity, chance, and fabulous circumstance.

I'm wishing each of you, my treasured friends, the joy of this wonderful season. I'm looking forward to new adventure in the new year. And I hope you are as well.

Best ever - Coco

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Vogue 1297 Knit Dress - no-fear sewing...

No fear - I've had this Sandra Betzina pattern for a couple years (I think it was released in 2012), but I just couldn't commit to sewing it. I always liked it, but the pics on the envelope are not especially appealing. I don't care for the solid version, styled with a shirt, and I think the striped version is over-doing the look. I just don't like to feel like a dress is wearing me.

The design reminds me a little bit of the Marcy Tilton French Housedress, because of the drooping sides (the housedress has huge pockets). And also the StyleArc Toni Designer dress that I made recently. Feeling bold, I decided to take the leap and finally sew this one.

It helped that I had 3 yards of lightweight rayon/lycra jersey that I picked up from Fabric Mart's pre-cut sale - it was only $8.20. That's a great price for a knit muslin.

The fun here is in the details. I really like the side flaps!

Of course they fall down, as they should, and look pretty interesting. Coming...

and going!

The dress is really comfortable to wear, but it is surprisingly body-conscious. The weight of the skirt/side panels keeps the bodice close to the body. The pattern has bust darts, not always seen in a pattern for knits, and they really help to maintain the shaping in the bodice.

Some sewing notes:

  • I sewed View B in size C (I'm 5'7", 35.5" bust). Betzina's sizing is a little funky - size A to I, aligned to a finished bust of 32" - 54".
  • The bust darts are really really long. I shortened them by 1.5".
  • And the side panel is huge! And the pattern for the panel is the same for all sizes. It's not proportionate. I was a little shocked - Betzina has such a rep for design, details, and patterns. And this is a high-impact  oversight.

    Another surprise - the cutting layout has the panel for View B going across the grain. Which means the stretch for many knits would be vertical, not horizontal. One reviewer mentioned that her panels dropped quite a bit due to the stretch being vertical.

    Solution to all of the above: I took 5" out of the center of the panel. The altered pattern fits on the grain with the fabric folded selvedge to selvedge, and the stretch goes the right way, around the body, not up and down. 

  • Last change - I left off the pockets, and added long sleeves. I checked the armscye against M6747, and only had to extend the outside shoulder about 1/2". The sleeve from the McCalls pattern was a great fit.

A couple more comments: 
  • Betzina mentions that this can be done in a woven fabric, with attention to sizing in the bust. I think View B, sleeveless, would be lovely in a lightweight linen or rayon crepe.
  • The instructions are decent, and they include lots of help with stitches, seam and hem finishes, volumes on attachment of the bindings. But they really fall down on the hardest part of the pattern, which is sewing the panels to the center front and back. Three pieces come together in peaked join - all those seam allowances get wonky and in the way of one another. It's difficult to finish the area cleanly. And she takes a pass on how to handle that area of detail...
But back to my dress - I really like it. I wore it out this morning, loved it, and felt pretty in it. Winner. 

Bye for now - Coco

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sewing for gifts - cutest cat houses ever!

Jingle bells!

Deciding what to make for the family this year was hard. They have everything (sound familiar?) so I try to think of the unexpected. Skull-print aprons. Kitty treat mats. Walking Dead PJ bottoms. Camo board pants.

It's challenging. But projects are well underway.

For Ashley and Darrin, proud parents of 4 kitties, I settled on a cat house pattern from SeeKateSew. I found it just cruising DIY cat things on Pinterest.

It's unique, and it's free. But Kate could easily sell this pattern. It's beautifully drafted, and the instructions are great. Here's a pic of her version with personalized fabric:

It doesn't require a lot of materials - but it can be a little pricey to make. Well, compared to a wood crate with a folded towel inside :-)

Materials for 1 cat house:
(I found all my supplies at my local JoAnns on a sale day. They're available online as well. No, JoAnns didn't pay me to say this - I only mention it because it can be hard to source things like foam, online or anywhere else).
  • 1 yard shell fabric.
    I used a home-dec fabric, 100% cotton.
  • 1 yard lining fabric.
    Mine is cotton/poly broadcloth - it's very smooth.
Note: I laundered both my fabrics before I cut out the pattern. After a little shrinkage, the 1 yard cuts were a little spare - I had to cut 1 back across the grain. It only matters if you're working with a directional print.
  • Not on Kate's supplies list: I decided to cover the inside cushion in sherpa fleece, rather than with the shell or lining fabric. 1/2 yard was perfect for 2 cushions.

  • 1 yard 1/2″ thick foam.
    Show me the money... Since I was shopping for two houses, I got a 24" x 90" x 1/2" roll of foam, on sale, and with a coupon, about $14. That little bit of leftover foam will be absorbed by a craft project at some point - it's not wasted!

  • 1 seat cushion.
    I got a couple of these, on sale for about $3 each.  
My first house, ready for the cushion:

A few notes on construction:
The foam was easy to manage - I drew the pattern on it with a Sharpie and cut it out with my household scissors. 

Kate suggests using a whipstitch to sew the foam pieces together. Worked great. I used No. 12 perle cotton, quilters pins, and a 4" long doll needle:

It looks just like the outline on an embroidered pillow. Cute!

There's no way the foam ears will go all the way up into the points of the fabric ears. Once I had the foam liner inside the shell, I used a little poly-fill to stuff the tips of the ears.

Kate also suggests using a ladder stitch to sew the lining and shell edges together in the oval entryway. I tried it, but switched to a simple small stitch, sewn close to the edge. It adds a little more weight and definition to the edge.

These houses are not little! and are perfect for a little-bit or a full-grown kitty. The entrance is about 8.5" wide and 7.5" tall. The house is 18" tall at the tip of the ear and almost 22" across at the middle. 

Such a fun project. Ciao! Coco

Friday, December 9, 2016

Time for a knit duster ...

Who can resist a fun unstructured duster when the weather turns cool...

Not I! I've spent hours in the past few weeks, just cruising duster patterns and lots of wonderful makes by sewists in the blogosphere.

Irresistible. I especially like the new Berlin Jacket by Tessuti and the Esme Maxi Cardigan by Named Clothing.

But I didn't particularly want to invest in a new pattern. Trawling through my stash, I pulled out an oldie but goodie, the Heading for Adventure coat by Louise Cutting.

I made it in linen way back in 2010, but it was very large on me, even thought I sewed the size Small. And the linen really bugged my skin - I never wore it.

Nonetheless, the design details are so appealing. I love the piecing and topstitching. And Cutting's techniques, which are beautifully articulated in the pattern instructions, are incredible.

It was a great starting place. But I wanted to go with the lines of the dusters I mentioned above - a softer neckline, an attached band, and slim-ish sleeves. And I wanted to use a knit fabric - a very lightweight rayon/spandex French terry that I purchased recently from 

I was impatient to do all the re-drafting at one go, but I decided to be cautious. I actually sewed this in three steps. First, I cut out and sewed the entire coat from the Cutting pattern, using the size XSmall this time. And then I changed it, using the Jalie Cocoon Cardigan to redraw the neckline and draft an attached band, 

and the Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan to alter the sleeves (I removed almost 6" from the width at the upper arm - the sleeve was voluminous). 

This sounds like a lot of tweaking, but it was not difficult, because the Cutting coat is all right angles. It was easy to lay it out and draw on it with chalk.

Time for pics (this gray is hard to photograph - it almost shimmers here. Squint, please)...

I love the back drawstring! It looks very similar to the back of the StyleArc Winsome Designer Dress (posted here), but the construction is not the same, due to the placement of other pieces in the back.

The patch pockets are very over-sized and long. Fun! 

I'm off to JoAnns now, to get supplies for Christmas gifts. And I have to remember to tell my kids to stay off my blog for a couple weeks :-) Check out this adorable cat house from SeeKateSew! My weekend project...

Hope everyone enjoys a safe weekend, with lots of sewing therapy time...bye for now, Coco