12 months, 12 outfits – February plan

Nothing quite like making a sewing plan and then getting sick. Long story short, I have some catching up to do on the January outfit. It’s ok though because I am ahead on sewing for February.

12M12O February plan

The plan for this month is simple enough. One dress. I actually made it a couple weeks ago, in between sick days, snow days, and other stressful bits. I’ll write it up in the next post once I have pictures. I’m sticking with the same shoes as last month, and a handbag and jewelry I already own. The scarf, we’ll see. I have some options already – one that’s a wrap similar to the one shown, and one handknit (my red Viajante).

And this is it for today. I’ll be back next week to show you my new dress with the scarf options.

See you then!

12 months, 12 outfits – a new wardrobe in a year

Here’s my new plan for wardrobe building. I’m taking inspiration from Janice’s 12 Months – 12 Outfits series at The Vivienne Files where she chooses six scarves at the beginning of the year and builds coordinating wardrobes around them one outfit per month. This year, two of the scarves feature a color palette that’s basically dark neutral, light neutral, and two shades of one accent color.

12M12O Color palette

I’ll be working with black, pale gray, and shades of red. Janice’s posts will serve as a blueprint or inspiration for my sewing projects each month. I figure there may be times where an existing garment will work really well but for the most part I expect to sew each outfit. I tend to wear skirts and dresses much more than pants so I’ll adjust the ratio accordingly as we go.

12M12O January plan

The plan for January looks pretty easy – black skirt, red cardigan, and pale gray (or maybe red) long-sleeved top. I already have the skirt and top patterns fitted, and the cardigan shouldn’t require much adjusting. As far as the accessories, the shoes shown are my favorite work shoes, the earrings are in the jewelry drawer, and the scarf is representative of several I already own.

I’ve noticed that having sunshine makes all the difference when I’m cutting and sewing black fabric so I’ll probably start with the skirt if it’s sunny next week. Or if it’s all cloudy and gray, I’ll start with the top.

See you soon!

Goodbye 2018, hello 2019!

Happy New Year and may it be filled with much joy and happiness, sunshine, and beautiful fabrics!

It is time to look back and see what worked and what didn’t, and make new plans accordingly. Last year, I had some lofty goals:

  1. average an hour a day in the studio – yes, I did although not the way I had envisioned (a bit each day). There were days when I didn’t touch anything sewing or polymer, and there were those when sewing or polymer work was an all-day endeavor.
  2. sew up at least 50 yds. of fabric – yes, I did. In fact, my sewn total was 66.75 yds. Much of this was muslin or other test fabric, which brings me to:
  3. sew dresses and jackets and add red to my wardrobe, with coordinating jewelry – mmm, somewhat. I made a couple of dresses for work, a wearable-but-not-perfect jacket, some jeans, skirts, and tops, and an awful lot of muslins. 2018 turned out to be my year of fitting – almost everything I wanted to make required pattern adjustments and by the time I transferred changes from muslin to paper, I was over the project and wanted to move on to the next thing. Ugh! I had also planned to share all this with you on this blog as I went only that didn’t quite happen.
  4. sew up “precious” fabrics – nope, they’re still here.

So for 2019, I’m sticking with the goal of sewing up at least 50 yds of fabric – it was fun to keep track and it helped me keep new fabric purchases in check. Keeping track of time spent in the studio was decidedly not fun so I won’t be doing that again. I still need a decent work wardrobe and I want to sew it up one outfit at a time – that should keep it from getting overwhelming and at the same time ensure there won’t be any orphans in the closet. And I want to get back to regular blogging – I realized that having to pull the laptop out of its sleeve and set it up on the dining room table was a major psychological barrier – most of the time, I just couldn’t be bothered. So as of last week, I have a small desk set up right in the studio, with the laptop always ready – that should make it much easier to sit down and share my latest creations with you. On that note, I’ve been working on some changes for this blog so things might get a little wonky at times until I get it all figured out.

Here’s to a wonderful year!

July work in polymer

It’s been a while, I know. May was a doozy of a month here. June was spent on packing, moving, and unpacking in a new place. And then in July, I finally had time to focus on Dan Cormier’s BBB class. BBB stands for Building Better Beads and he means every word. We built. Beads. And they were better than most of us had ever made. Here’s my first one:

The class was nothing short of amazing. Detailed videos and explanations to take even a beginner through the process of building a bead worthy of admiration. Until this class, I didn’t know my hands could produce a bead of this quality. It’s my favorite red with a bit of black and white mokume and black backing. It’s flat where it should be flat and curved where it should be curved. The stringing hole is positioned perfectly. The surface is smooth, very smooth. I love it.

Then, because I was trying something different, came this teal bead:

Teal bead

There’s something very intriguing about mica shift. I like how it’s all one color without looking like one color. It also makes it easy to start over if something doesn’t turn out quite as envisioned. When Dan showed us pictures of some of his older work, there was a red he used for mica shift. It inspired me to continue my mica shift journey. There’s no red pearl in the Premo line these days but Polyform helpfully provided a recipe for it: 4 parts Pearl, 10 parts Pomegranate, and 1 part Purple Pearl. So I tried that and then played a bit to see if I could get closer to the red I had in mind. All of these reds look quite useful and pretty, don’t you think?

Pearlized red samples

Eventually, I turned my attention back to the teal veneers I had sitting on my desk. They’d make a nice bracelet and earrings and it would be a chance to practice what Dan taught us about composite veneers. And it would also be a chance to see how I can translate these newly learned techniques and concepts into my own work. Here’s how they turned out:

Teal jewelry set

The bracelet is much better than my previous work. More even, with smooth joins both on the outer surface and where the lining joins the outer veneer. And all that work was pure joy. Somehow, in the process of teaching us how to build a better bead, Dan managed to teach us to slow down and enjoy not just the finished product but also every step of creating it. It’s a wonderful thing and I’m already seeing it play out in my sewing, even though I’ve only been sewing muslin lately. I have a few days off coming up so “real” sewing should be happening then.

See you soon!

Casual top in gray and red

Hmm, I thought I had already published this post but apparently it’s been waiting for pictures. This is part 3 of my March sewing.

I haven’t really talked much about Sure-Fit Designs since I bought the whole kit and kaboodle. About a year ago, I had Sarah Veblen fit the bodice of my blueprint from the Shirt Kit, which I then used to make a sleeveless summer dress. A few weeks ago I finally got around to drafting and fitting the sleeve for it. That done, it was time to test it. I chose a wonderfully soft bamboo French terry from the stash and decided to learn yarn couching in this project.

Top front

I used the roll collar pattern piece from the dress. The only difference is that where the collar edges meet is not placed at center back but off-center in the front. It gives an interesting asymmetrical effect even though the neckline is symmetrical. This was my first time doing yarn couching. I tried two different presser feet and decided to stick with the one that could do zig-zag (Bernina foot #21). My practice piece looked like this:

Yarn couching - closeup

I used a cutaway stabilizer for it because this fabric just wanted to stretch and stretch. But the stabilizer made the fabric too stiff to use for the collar. Undeterred, I looked through my limited stabilizer stash to see if something might work better. I settled on UltraSolvy, using 505 spray to adhere it to the wrong side of the fabric. It worked well enough and washed out beautifully. (The wonderful people at my nearest Bernina store later recommended a wash-away polymesh for next time.) I had a lot of fun with those curving, flowing lines. It wasn’t quite free-motion sewing because I had the feed dogs up but I lowered the presser foot pressure and the UltraSolvy happily slid around with very little effort from my fingers. I wore my Machingers for this – they are thin gloves with rubbery fingertips that provide a good grip on the fabric – it’s a fabulous invention, I tell you.

Top back

After cutting the collar from the embellished piece of fabric, I decided to make another, smaller one, for the sleeve bands. I’m glad I did. I think having only the collar embellished would be a little weird. With the matching sleeve bands, it looks intentional. I think the sleeves turned out quite nicely, even if the shoulder seams look just a tad too long, probably from the fabric being so stretchy. I’ll test it again in a more stable knit soon. All in all, this is a very comfortable top and I want to make more like it. The whole project took 1.5yds even with the extra piece for yarn-couching practice.

That is it for March sewing. Next up – catching up on April sewing projects.

See you soon!

Relaxed fit jeans

Here we go with part 2 of March sewing. I told you I’ve been busy, hehe. (And there will also be part 3 once I finish that post.) After wearing the un-bootcut stretchy jeans for a few days, I decided to try making a pair of relaxed-fit jeans. I have that awesome Calvin Klein jeans pattern from, what, the 90’s? But those have a rise that looks mighty close to the armpits. And I like mine medium, with a curved waistband. Enter my good old TNT from Burda magazine back when it was called Burda World of Fashion (or BWOF, hehe). Remember that? Anyway, the pattern is #106 from BWOF 08/98. Mine no longer looks anything like the original wide-legged pleated-front trousers. I took out the pleats many years ago. This time, I also narrowed the leg from the knee down and shortened them to ankle length in an attempt to eliminate some of the tripping hazard. (You wouldn’t believe the stuff I trip on. Or maybe you would.)

Jeans - frontJeans - side

The fabric is a nice heavier weight 100% cotton denim from G Street Fabrics in Rockville. It’s like denim used to be before manufacturers started adding lycra and polyester. I’d bought the last two yards on the bolt and after wearing the jeans, I was hoping to buy a whole bolt of this fabric but no luck. When we went back to G Street, all their black denim was the stretchy stuff. Oh well. I’ll just cherish this pair.

Jeans - back

See the embroidery? I had fun with the back pockets. I used a design that came with the Bernina embroidery software. While looking for just the right design to put on these jeans (inspired by the hibiscus flower decals on my machine), I also took a few hours’ detour into organizing all the designs into folders to make future searches easier. Yay! I covered the back of the embroidery with a layer of stabilizer before sewing on the pockets, to ensure I wouldn’t snag the threads with my fingernails. That was an issue the first time I embroidered back pockets on jeans and a good learning lesson to remember.

Jeans - back closeup

I found two of my old labels and sewed one in. There should be an almost full box of them somewhere still but I think they disappeared in one of our moves. I haven’t seen the box in years. Isn’t the label neat?

Jeans - front closeup

And that’s all I have about these jeans right now. Stay tuned for the next post about the top I’m wearing in the pictures above.

See you soon!

Black jeans but not bootcut

My wardrobe has been in dire need of black jeans for a while. This month, I finally hopped to it and made not just one pair, but two. For the first pair I used Angela Wolf’s Angel Bootcut pattern with the leg narrowed to eliminate the bootcut. I’d used this pattern before for my blinged out teal jeans so the fitting issues were already worked out. Well,  mostly. I scooped out the crotch a tiny bit on this pair but I’m not sure it made any difference. Hard to tell in that black fabric.

Black jeans - closeup

The fabric is a slightly stretchy flocked cotton twill from JoAnn’s that I picked up a little over a year ago. At one point when I finished the jeans, I wondered if they’d be one-day pants as the fabric didn’t seem to have the best recovery, but that turned out to be an unfounded worry. They’re comfortable to wear, for a narrow pant. The leg width is new to me and I’m not sure it’s my most flattering.

Black jeans - frontBlack jeans - side

I omitted the pockets on this pair because it was meant to be a test pair. A wearable prototype, if you will. I finished them one evening and promptly wore them the next day for an all-day house-hunting trip with my sister. They held up just fine. I didn’t miss the pockets. Still not sure about the leg. I like more room all over. Like those relaxed fit jeans of old. I made those next, so stay tuned and I’ll show you. But before I go, let me show you my machine’s new look:

sewing machine with flower decals - front view

Isn’t it fabulous? I love it. It makes me happy every time I see it. And I take off the cover every morning to look before going to work, too. It’s such a cheerful sight.

Yardage sewn in this project: 1.5yds

Earring adventures in polymer

Whoa, these last few weeks just flew by! I’ve been sewing but haven’t had much time to blog or take pictures. I finally have time to write now and I took a bunch of pictures earlier this afternoon so there will be more posts following this one.

So, I promised to show you some earrings I made back in February. Here they are:

Earrings - prototypes

I was playing with this rounded triangular shape, trying to figure out how to make it work best for my needs. I don’t like it as a stud because it’s too large for how stiff it is. But it’s perfect as a drop. Now the question was how to attach it to the earring finding. I started out with an interchangeable style – by making a hole large enough to accommodate a small hoop. This works well because I have some metal allergies and earrings that I can wear comfortably have been few and far between. Then I thought, what about a small stud with an attached drop? I had some titanium findings that would work for this style so I gave it a try – it’s the pair on the right. Now that I’ve been wearing both styles for a while, I have a slight preference for the interchangeable style, for no reason I can actually articulate.

It’s not really obvious from the picture above but the green pair on the left is flat and the black/green pair in the middle is shaped on a curve. I prefer this 3-D effect so all subsequent pairs are also curved. (I prefer it not just visually but also because it makes the drops easier to pick up.)

Earrings - in their box

Another earring style I tried is the fishhook – several pairs above, including the teal ones, are made like this. The findings are titanium again – comfortable for my ears. This style requires a second curing to get the eyepin incorporated into the drop. That’s a bit of extra work but totally worth it, I think.

The red earrings in the bottom row have a necklace to go with them. Like this:

Necklace and earrings

I made these pieces following Martina Burianova’s tutorial. Her gorgeous photography and easy-to-follow instructions made it a breeze. Her technique requires a lot of waiting for things to dry and/or cure between steps and I apparently don’t have quite enough patience, hehe. Do check out her work – it is breathtakingly gorgeous.

And that’s all I have tonight. This weekend, I’ll tell you about my recent sewing projects.

See you soon!

Home dec sewing

With all that red from the previous post, I thought I would stick with red for a while longer. But then I sat down with some polymer clay and that was the end of sewing for a while. Partly because the polymer work was hours and hours of fun, but also because I didn’t have a specific sewing project lined up. I realized the other day that I don’t sew if I don’t have a plan for what to sew next. So I’ll have to come up with a sewing plan.

For now, let me show you what I made for our dining table:

Placemats and napkins

On Saturday, while out and about with my husband, I found these cool placemat inserts at the local Bernina dealer. The inserts are precut, with rounded corners, and fusible. Awesome!

My set of four also came with some applique/embroidery designs but I didn’t use those. I thought about it at first but then I remembered these pretty fabrics that were a travel souvenir from a trip in 2014. I had a yard of each, which was just enough for these four placemats and four napkins, using a yard of a different fabric for backing. That’s 3 yards for this project, bringing my running total to 23 yds. I’m not counting the solid Kona cotton that I cut up for the bias binding – it was a remnant from a 2013 project.

The fusible inserts made the job easy. The whole project was very enjoyable and provided hours of Zen-like peace. I might make placemats more often, hehe. I cut the napkins 18″x18″ and hemmed them with a half-inch double-turn hem, mitered at the corners. Easy-peasy.

And that’s all I have right now. Next time I’ll show you some polymer earrings I made last week.

See you soon!

Yes, red! And finished!

So I was all ready to cut the black wool suiting for a dress. Only I didn’t. Again. I don’t know what the problem is. I had a theory that I was lazy except I am not because I spent hours drafting a whole new dress pattern, combining three different existing drafts. Then I thought maybe it’s because it’s a woven and I got so used to sewing knits. Except that’s not the problem either because I made two pairs of flannel lounge pants just a few weeks ago. And then I thought, maybe it’s the color. I need red. Maybe I could sew something red. And so I did. A red denim dress. That turned out to be a wadder. I’m counting the 1.25yds though. And the dress is not in the trash can because I’m hoping to salvage at least some of the fabric. Maybe for a skirt or something.

Red PJs and lounge pants

But what started out as a meh week ended on a very productive note. Because since the machines were already threaded with red, I thought I’d continue the red theme. My favorite pair of PJs needed to be replaced and I had just enough red Kona cotton in the fabric collection to make a new pair. And I could also use a new pair of warm lounge pants so I bought this fabulous waffle-weave flannel at Suzzie’s Quilt Shop in Manassas when my sister and I stopped there on Thursday. It is absolutely wonderful – thick, warm, and soft. Here’s a closeup:

Red flannel closeup

The two pairs of pants together used up 6yds of fabric. (I think this is the secret to winning a stash busting contest – use narrow fabric. The narrower, the better. Because only the linear yards count. Hmmm… how narrow can a fabric go before it’s a ribbon? Hehe) The pants pattern is my TNT, originally for pleated trousers in an old Burda magazine. Obviously, it went through a few iterations to get to the PJs stage.

Speaking of TNTs, I used another one – Jalie Dolman Top to make the next item. I like plain necklines on my winter tops because scarves are my signature accessory. But summer temperatures rarely allow for scarves and then plain necklines look, well… plain. So I figured I’d try this roll collar style – there’s something vaguely 60’s about it and that usually works well for me. It’s just a rectangle the length of the neckline by 8″ plus seam allowances. Easy-peasy. The fabric is a cotton interlock from Nancy’s Notions. I had ordered a yard last year to try it and now that I finally got around to sewing it, I think I’ll order more. It’s soft and smooth, easy to cut and sew, and feels wonderful on the skin. That brings the total sewn so far to 20yds. Not too shabby.

08 - Jalie dolman top

On a more social note, I went to a sewing meetup in D.C. today. That was a lot of fun. It was organized by Nikki whom I haven’t seen since 2003. I got to meet Meredith, Adrianne, two Sara(h?)s, and one other sewing soul whose name escapes me right now. For the fabric swap, I contributed a bagful of fabrics in need of a new home – all but three were adopted. Yay!

Fabrics for swap

I brought home three new fabrics and two patterns but it didn’t occur to me to take a picture while there was decent light (not that there was much of it on this dreary rainy day) so a verbal description will have to do: one is a purple sweater knit, another a drapey lightweight knit in a beautiful shade of orange, and the third a very cool eyelash fabric in black. I have no idea what to do with this third piece but it had my name all over it so we’ll see.

And that’s all I have today. Happy sewing!