It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

PR Wknd Shopping Aftermath + Jumping on the Bandwagon.....

The Me-Made-May bandwagon, that is.    And dang if it isn't getting crowded!!!  313 participants on Zoe's site as of this writing!   I've not done this before, but I'm pretty sure that I  have enough me-made items in my closet to make it through the month, so here's my promise:

I, Jilly of jillybejoyful, sign up as a particpant in Me-Made-May '13.  I endeavor to wear at least one handmade item at all times, all day each day for the duration of May 2013.   There WILL be repeats, and I highly doubt that I'll manage a picture every single day, but you'll have to trust me when I say I did it.  (I'm inherently honest, really!)  I know I won't be posting a pic every day, but I'll do my best at a weekly update.

Thanks, Zoe, for starting this inspirational challenge and for keeping it going!   I couldn't imagine that I'd ever participate when I first heard about it a couple of years ago, but now that my me-made wardrobe has grown, I think it will only take a bit of conscious awareness for me to make sure I make it through the month successfully :)   And hopefully point to any holes I have in my wardrobe, and set to work filling them in :)

Now then, about that shopping....

I thought I didn't buy much at all (and compared to many, I'm sure I didn't!), but when I gathered everything together I realized that I have a rather happy little haul...

Britex offered a free tote bag to all of the PR participants who visited the store.   Not only did I visit, but I actually BOUGHT something!   Just a touch of ribbon...only to find out that nothing on the notions floor was included in the 10% discount they were offering us.   Ah well, I like the ribbon :).   I also got some of the fusible cotton Japanese trim from Sandra (people rave about this!) in black and in white.  And some horsehair canvas (for bags) and a copper remnant (for bustles) from Stonemountain.

More Stonemountain Remnants - a particularly yummy thin wool, and a lovely cotton, both with unknown destinations:

The black wool gauze that had me rushing to Stonemountain first thing in the morning (yep, we cleaned them out of this one)  Even the selvedge is lovely :)

And then, since I had to go to Marin to pick up something from my Vet, who just happens to be right across the street from Dharma Trading, I popped in to get a set of the Colorhue dyes used in the Wabi-Sabi technique I recently blogged about.   And a bag of silk remnants - they bag up their remnants and sell them at 1/3 off - a great deal for projects like this!   My bag contained various weights of charmeuse, habotai, gauze, chiffon, flat crepe - I'm itching to do some more dyeing & weaving!

I actually tried and failed to spend a little more $$ - I finally got in to the Vogue website last night and put 2 patterns in my cart, but it was still running so slowly I wanted to wait until this morning to figure out a third (3 is the magic number - 4 bumps you into the next shipping charge).  By today everything I wanted was sold out.   Sold out!?  I guess that's what happens when they put the brand new releases on sale the day they're released.  Ah well, I can be patient until the next sale rolls around.   I really wanted to make up Sandra's new pants though!  They have just the sort of shape that I like, a unique way of puddling at the ankles, no elastic at the waistband, and they're one-seam pants that fit well.   Must get!

I wave goodbye to all of the PR attendees who are taking off - do come back, and next time, I hope to spend a little more time with some of you!

**UPDATE**  Before I knew that everyone was having trouble getting in to the Vogue site, I  emailed a report to them stating the troubles I was having, and said that I hoped the problems would get resolved before the sale ended.   I just got an email back from them apologizing for the difficulties, and they told me they would honor the sale price for me.

Sometimes it pays to speak up :)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pattern Review Day, 2013!

Yesterday I attended my first "official" Pattern Review event - in San Francisco this year (yay!).  I was really looking forward to meeting a number of PR & blogging folks from all over, but the first day was SO jam-packed with activities that finding a moment here and there for meet & greets was harder than one might think!

Sandra Betzina was the guest speaker - if you've ever heard her speak, you know how delightfully firey her style is - FILLED with tips and tricks & show & tells & answers & hints & advice and unfinished sentences and and and.....always a fun time with her!  She has a couple of new patterns out - not only were the new Vogues JUST released, but they're on sale at Club BMV through Sunday - right after being released!   If you can make it in to the site (I haven't had much luck yet...overloaded?), check them out!  I love her new pants pattern, and plan on adding that to my stash :).

I'm pretty sure that Sandra casually mentioned Stonemountain and Daughter approximately 73 times during her talk; clearly that's her go-to destination for most of the garments she designs.   Saturday was the official "shop til you drop" day for the PR weekend.   After Sandra's talk, I have a suspicion that most of the out-of-towners who were thinking of spending their shopping day in SF changed their plans so that the first stop was Stonemountain in Berkeley (my personal local far!).   I already planned on zipping over there in the morning for one specific fabric that Sandra had showed, and I'm glad I got there early!   This is what the line looked like about an hour after they opened:

That was maybe 1/4 of the PR folks who were flooding the store!

I was really delighted to finally meet and spend some time with one of my favorite bloggers and PR members, Mary of Biblioblog:

You may notice the twin MarcyTilton-with-hook-and-eye-tape jackets (totally unplanned - it's no wonder we knew from the get-go that we would be friends!)

Here's Wendy (one of my local BABES babes) with her pile of fabric (Mary hadn't started shopping yet), backed by a couple of the friendly and efficient employees madly trying to keep everything moving.

Backing up to Friday night, the gang took over a large area of Buca de Beppo in SF - they serve family style Italian meals, and I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the tastiness of (almost) everything we were served.  Lots of raucous laughter and cheers as raffle prizes were handed out and new friendships were being formed (that is, if you could hear enough over the noise to have an actual conversation lol!) - but once again, I somehow managed to NOT hook up with a number of people I had been hoping to meet - y'all are going to have to come back!

It's always nice to spend time with a bunch of other sewists, and in spite of the fact that I'm not normally much of a big crowd lover, I'm really happy that I  attended this year.  :)  Some of the rest of you are probably still out there closing down the fabric stores - I hope you enjoyed your experience in the Bay Area, and if I didn't meet you, just give me a shout out the next time you're here, ok?

Once I left Stonemountain and settled back in to normal errands, everywhere I turned I found that people were commenting on what a great day they were having.  Was it the Sunshine?   Something else in the air?   Just what I was attracting/seeing?  It has, indeed, been a very good day :).   After running around town taking care of the Stuff of Life, I tended my overgrown-but-still-beautiful garden for awhile.   I'll leave you with a few shots that I just took, which will hopefully explain why I'm going to go back outside to enjoy a cuppa out there.  :)

Happy Weekend, all!   :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Perfect Day (Attitude is [almost] Everything)....

Today was the 1st anniversary of my darling Mum's passing.  I did no sewing, but I have Mom to thank for all the sewing that I have done.   So this post is a little bit about sewing, a little bit about gratitude, and a little bit about attitude.  And of course, a lot of bit about Mom :)

Mom was the reason I sewed in the first place.   As with many women of her generation, sewing was a part of life, and  I was so grateful that she passed the practice on to me.  :)   Even though I gave it up for many years, she was, all those years later, the reason I started sewing again - so that I could make clothes that would fit her altered body and her special needs.   And whaddaya know, the sewing bug bit me so hard that I haven't bought a piece of RTW clothing for myself since!  I (theoretically) started sewing for her - but over the past years I've replaced half of my RTW wardrobe with clothes I've stitched myself.  :)

The death of a loved one...and the anniversary of the death, can bring up so many feelings.   I could have been feeling sad, steeped in memories of the past, but instead I've had a remarkable joy-filled day :).     Yes, I miss my Mom - we were close, and I was her caregiver for the last 5 years of her life - 3 relatively easy and wonder-filled years, which gradually got a bit more stressful, and ultimately quite time-consuming by the 5th year....but always filled with wonder, and blessings of many sorts, from many sources.

I set aside this day as a day in honor of Mom, of what she represented to me, and the (usually) positive and uplifting way she lived her life.   I began the day with a lovely energetic clearing and meditation,  and this set the tone for a day of blessed reflection and accomplishment.

I knew that I wanted to spend the day in the garden - another passion passed on from her. Whenever we lived in a place that had a plot of land, we had a garden, and fresh fruits and vegies on the table.   She was often busy doing something with her hands, something creative, be it sewing, cooking, gardening, artsy-craftsy fun  and creative projects - and she worked full-time!   My father also had a strong (somewhat rebellious) creative side, so I think I came by my own somewhat unique sense of style quite organically.  ;-).  

Today.  I cleared all of the vegie patches in the yard and readied them for planting - lettuces and spinach and chard went in today; tomatoes, tomatillos and peas will follow tomorrow, and root vegies will go in soon after.

And then, as the day was winding down,  I remembered that today was the finale of the Great British Sewing Bee!   If you read my last post, you already know how much I love this show, but what makes it even more special is my heritage - Mom is from England; she was the quintessential WWII War Bride - she was in the WAAF, and Dad was a Sargent in the US Army. They met at a dance, and she followed him back to the U.S.   (with enough $$ for a return ticket back to England, just in case, she was fond of saying.....)  They married, somewhere along the line I came in to the picture, and they continued to dance together for many years.

When she came to America, one item she brought with her was her darling little Singer Featherweight, which she sewed most of my clothes on as a child :)
Sad to say, this is not "The" Feather she used, and subsequently taught me  to sew on - some time after she passed it on to me I gave it up in exchange for newer, bigger, faster, "better", [headdesk] but I mended my error in spades once I started sewing again.

(See Featherweight Spa Treatment Post
And now, I'm off to watch The Great British Sewing Bee finale (still rooting for Ann, even though I really appreciate all of the finalists!!), and lift a (rare for me, but this is a special day) glass of wine in Mom's memory.

May we all have someone to pass our love of sewing on to, and may they appreciate the gift even half as much as I appreciate the gifts from my darling Mother.   The gift of a passion shared, and received, never stops giving. :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In case you've been sewing in a cave... (the Great British Sewing Bee)...

Surely you've heard of The Great British Sewing Bee by now, right?  Well, just in case you haven't, BBC has created the.  most.  delightful.  sewing program ever!  As someone who turned off my TV a year ago, and could easily live without it at all  (although I still watch some shows online and on Netflix), I can hardly believe how taken I am by EVERYthing about this program!

Numerous bloggers have already reviewed it to pieces, so all you need do is google it and you'll find a ton of reviews; all I really want to say is that if you haven't yet heard about it or seen it, and you care just a teeny smidgeon about sewing, find it somewhere online (I've provided some links below) and watch, because it's worth it!  I just finished watching episode #3 (sadly, there are only 4 total), and I realized at one point that I had an ear to ear grin and a smile in my heart as well, the entire way through!  Except for those moments when I paused to shout "Yes!" at someone's success, or "Awwwww" at some sweet comment that a contestant made about someone else, or widened my eyes in concern that someone was goofing up and wouldn't finish a is it that you can actually CARE that much about people you don't even know???

But wait!  Some of us do "know" some of the contestants!  (although, if you do, you already know about the show)  There's Ann, who is a revered member of Stitcher's Guild (I admit that I've been on Team Ann since day one).  Here's the thread that's been going on over there since the show started.   And Tilly, of Tilly and the Buttons, a novice sewer but already well-known in the sewing/blogging world.   And Stuart, who makes everyone smile and root for him because he's just too, too adorable!   And Mark, the pierced and bearded truck mechanic who sews his own Victorian steampunk costumes.  And Lauren, the young perfectionist who keeps smiling through her tears of frustration, and, well, everyone on the show!

Why you should watch it, in case you haven't already:
  • It's positive, uplifting, entertaining, and educational TV.
  • The contestants are genuinely caring and authentic and lovable human beings, not back-stabbing drama queens, like those selected for [koffkoff] so many other reality contestant type programs.   In my experience, this is the reality of the home sewer (and the pros too!)  - the sewing community is loaded with helpful, personable, and delightful people.
  • Everyone has a British accent.   (What?  That's not a good enough reason?  It's a jolly good reason, I daresay!)  
  • Chances are, you might actually pick up a tidbit about sewing!  Yes, they do share actual tidbits!  There are easy to understand bits for the novice sewer, and even lots of goodies for the intermediate sewer - I've picked up some tips, for sure! 
  • Patrick Grant  (yeah well, you've gotta have a little sex appeal, right?)  

Apparently sewing machine sales have increased noticeably in the UK since the program started - and they make no bones about hoping that the show will increase an interest in home sewing.

Here are some links on youtube for the first 3 episodes:
(Edited to add a link to the Finale, Episode 4)

One more link, from the woman who had a lot to do with the behind-the-scenes action in the show - here's her blog with insider tips on each episode:  the thrifty stitcher

In fond memory of Siskel & Ebert, I give this show two thumbs WAY up - just watch it already, OK?   Catch up on the first 3 episodes before the finale next Tuesday, and enjoy another boost in the resurgence of home sewing everywhere!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wabi Sabi Silk Wrap

Wabi Sabi ~ that perfect beauty that arises from natural imperfection - impermanent, authentic, incomplete.   That tiny tilt in a piece of pottery that catches your breath, the smudge of a stray  stroke in a work of art, the frayed edges of a ripped piece of silk that brush your skin...  Everything about this concept appeals to me!  So when a wabi-sabi workshop appeared in my reality, I had to know more....

Even though the meetings and workshops are an hours drive (each way) I signed up for membership in PENWAG (Peninsula Wearable Arts Guild) this year because of the amazing sounding roster of speakers.   I was really looking forward to hearing Brecia Kralovic-Logan speaking on "Wabi Sabi Wearable Art", and was so impressed with her presence and approach to teaching creativity that I signed up on the spot for her all-day workshop, even though it meant another 2-hour drive the next day.

As it turned out, there is no place I would have rather been than where I was in that workshop!  We spent the morning dying pieces of silk habotai and organza, using Colorhue dyes.  The advantage of the Colorhue dyes is that they are an instant dye on silk, which is great if you don't want to wait out the processing time necessary in some other dyes.  The sunny, windy day dried our strips in mere moments (until the sprinklers came on), and after pressing, we ripped our fabric in to strips, ready for weaving.

Here are a few samples of the dyeing and weaving done by workshop participants:

The weaving was done by laying down a sheet of water soluble backing.   We used hospital laundry bags (!), designed to dissolve in a hot water wash after being filled with contaminated bedding, etc.   Brilliant, eh?

Then you lay out your fabric by weaving, or layering cut pieces, or making some sort of arrangement with fabric bits - the possibilities are endless!   You top your piece with another layer of the water soluble plastic and pin everything in place.

Brecia admiring one of the student pieces:
I dyed my fabrics in a couple of different colorways, and wanted to use the earth tones in a scarf.  I added some fabrics that I brought from stash in order to have enough to make a nice long scarf.  
The darker pieces of fabric in my piece are silks from stash; the lighter pieces I dyed during the workshop.
My piece, woven and pinned and ready to sew:

I sewed down the center of each strip of fabric, both directions:

Once everything is sewn together, you give it a hot water bath (the hotter it is, the faster the process goes), making sure that the water soluble stuff is completely dissolved.   Dry it, press it, and you're done! 

I ended up with this:

Oops.  Not quite done.  I LOVE my colors!  But...  The dark copper-colored strips are a dupioni, which I felt took the process beyond wabi sabi and into sloppy, because of the loose weave and tendency to shred (note:  I said SHRED, not fray....).   After considering my options, I decided to even the edge along the long sides, and sew on a border fabric.   This not only gave stability to the dupioni, but added enough width to take it from a wide scarf to a wrap.  I sewed a French seam, which I then topstitched down, and did a machine rolled hem along the edge.

This is how my good clothes get ruined.  
It's not easy for a gardener to avoid picking up a tool and getting dirty
just by stepping outside for a moment....

The silk is, not surprisingly, a bit futzy and fidgety.
I may need to utilize pins to hold it in place.

Close up:

Here are the other two pieces I dyed in the workshop,
to be utilized elsewhere:

I'm in LOVE with this whole process!  Can't wait to play with the dyeing possibilities some more, and the weaving, and the piecing.....endless opportunities for fun here!  And I can't recommend Brecia highly enough - for her infectious enthusiasm, her delightful attitude towards the wabi-sabi approach to creativity, and her 'just right' method of teaching in an encouraging manner.   She's based in Santa Barbara - check her out if you can!  

How about you?  Have you had fun and success at fabric dying?  What methods, dyes, etc. do you love and recommend?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tilton Top #2 and the Vintage Kimono

My previous post showed the toile-cum-finished-jacket (V8088) that was originally meant to be the fitting practice for Jacket #2, detailed here.

The starting point was a fabulous fabric that began its life as a kimono.  This one was gifted to me many years ago, but as much as I loved it, it just wasn't a piece I wore.   For years I kept wondering how to make it wearable, and finally this pattern filled the inspirational void :).   I ripped apart all of the kimono panels without taking pictures of the original, but here's a bit that survived:
This lovely bit of embroidery was at the top back of the original kimono, applied after the two back pieces were sewn together.  I left the two pieces sewn together in order to preserve the embroidery, and it ended up in the same spot on my new piece.   Perfect!  :)
(Aside:  does anyone know if this symbol has any particular meaning?)  Update:  Louisa has identified this as a "Mon", or family crest.  This one may be the "Paulonia", a plant.   Absolutely fascinating topic - the things you learn in this multi-talented world of sewists!

A note about vintage kimonos (the real deal):  good heavens do those simple looking designs take a LOT of intricate folding and sewing!!!   This one was made from a number of panels, about 12-18" wide, and the sleeves alone took me a couple of hours to unpick!  I wonder how long it took to sew in the first place?  (all hand sewn of course).

After I had it all apart I hand washed it, and I have NEVER washed such stinky fabric!  I did some research on silk, and discovered that the stinkiest stuff comes from silk that has been processed very little.   So, although this fabric uses incredibly fine (but very strong!) threads, it clearly did not go through much processing.   You can see here just how fine the finished fabric is:

This was SUCH a pleasure to work with!  The fabric feels a little crepe-y, not silky-slippery at all, and in spite of the delicate look, it's so strong that it just laughed at me through my un-picking (which there was a lot of)  :(

After un-stitching the kimono, I laid out all of the pieces and figured out how to piece them back together to fit all of my pattern pieces on - no small feat here!   Then I stitched the pieces back together (using silk thread on Penelope, my beloved Singer 201), cut them out, and packed them up for a weekend of sewing with a few friends (a HIGHLY recommended way of taking a sewcation!)   I brought a Featherweight, and discovered a valuable lesson about testing threads in different machines - my Feather HATED sewing with silk thread!   I don't even want to admit how may hours I spent trying to figure out how to adjust the tension, the pressure, the way I was feeding the fabric.....all to no avail!   Finally I stole some Gutterman from one of my well-stocked friends, and wouldn't you know it....smooth sailing after that!

Once that was out of the way, and since I already had the fit figured out (see previous post for details), it went together beautifully.   I did add interfacing to the neckline and front edges, inside the hem (which is deep).   And I finished all of the hems with a straight stitch, instead of the zig-zag or deco stitch that's called for.

I wanted to add some embellishment touches (but not too much!....y'all know I can sometimes go a bit over the top....), and it took me awhile to ponder and play, but I'm happy with the end results.   Actually, very happy.  :)

Front View:

Close-up, showing trim details:

There were 3 embroidered symbols in the original kimono - the one at center back, and one on each sleeve.   Figuring out the placement of the other two was a bit of a challenge (given the size of the panels), and a bit limiting.   Then, when the piece was done, the folds tended to fall in such a way that the embroidery disappeared.   My solution was to sew a box pleat around each one, which makes the embroidery more likely to show up while wearing.   The trim is a fairly thick "faux braid", and some petersham that matches the braid perfectly.    

Back View:

Side View:

Close up of embellishments on sleeve ends and triangle point:

After trips to 3 different stores, which ended in buying a new wireless controller for my camera, I decided it was worth it to change clothes and do a photo shoot, so here I am, in my Spring Garden,  in the outfit I wore to a party last weekend:

Using the Flash shows the sheer aspect of the fabric:

Although I suspect that Version #1 will get  more wear than this one, I love this one just as much (if not more....)   It's positively yummy to wear, but a bit dressier, so will likely be worn more for semi-special occasions.   Anyone want to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant?  ;-D

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Marcy T Winner - #1 of 2

If I combine my Marcy and Katherine Tilton patterns and pretend they're a single designer (which they definitely are NOT, albeit there are design similarities), I'm pretty sure that at this point I've made up more of their patterns than any other single designer.

I must like what they do.  :)

This time it's Marcy's V8088, now OOP, and I'm SO glad I have it!   I made up my version of the jacket using a freebie fabric from one of my local sewing groups.   LOVE the fabric print, and even though it's almost certainly a poly/nylon sort of blend, it's thin and fairly breathable, and besides I LOVE the fabric print!  (did I say that already?)

I meant this fabric as a practice piece, and sewed it muslin style (i.e., sloppy basting stitches, unfinished edges), but ended up liking it so much that I took it apart, made my alterations and sewed it up 'for real'.  The results have given me an outfit that is getting a whole lot of wear lately!

The rusts, deep sagey blue-greens, beiges and burgundys coordinate with a lot of other pieces in my wardrobe, and anything that dresses up jeans just a little is a winner in my book!

The alterations:

1.  Shortened it by about 2".   Be careful here!   What I thought about shortening the back was wrong - it's deceptive.  There are triangular side pieces that can easily throw you off - I shortened the back and ended up needing to eliminate the 1" hem on the back piece in order to have it meet the sides.  Definitely do a muslin if you want to change the length!
2.  I cut in the armscye (which is also an oddly cut piece) by over an inch for my narrow shoulders.   I did not change the sleeve cap at all - cutting in the armscye and leaving the sleeve cap as is sometimes works out fine for me, since I really dislike sleeve puckers.
3.  The sleeves have a facing that is turned back to form the cuff.   After I sewed the facing on, I sort of liked the look of turning back the cuff, but leaving the facing free to hang down.   So I sewed a hem on the end of the facing, essentially re-designing the "cuff".
4.  I didn't use any contrasting fabrics or embellishments; and I used a decorative stitch to finish the hems and edges (the pattern just calls for a zig-zag)

This jacket has garnered a lot of compliments, no matter what I pair it with - a definite winner!

I immediately set to work on making a version in what was to be my Final Fashion Fabric - it's another winner, but I don't have pics yet.   That post will be coming up soon....

Isn't it fun when a muslin/practice piece/toile ends up being a wardrobe winner?   Have you had unexpected successes like that?   Feel free to link your success stories in your comments...I'll add them to the post, if you would like :)