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Archive for January, 2012

LBD Jewelry Organizer

January 24th, 2012 13 comments

On a trip to New York this past fall, a sudden, violent, downpour hit, and I ducked into The Container Store to wait it out, knowing that I’d find lots to look at.  The Container Store seems like a strange idea to me, but in Manhattan it makes perfect sense:  It’s kind of a hardware store for urbanites who want something a little more interesting than cardboard boxes for storing goods.  I saw this, and was instantly inspired to make something like it as a gift for Noilette:

It’s so clever, isn’t it?  I’m not wild about keeping any kind of jewelery in plastic sleeves, though, and those open pockets strike me as a bad idea for a Manhattanite like Noilette, who moves house constantly.  I decided to make her version with net pockets and zipper closures . . . and to make the “dress” a little more like a real Little Black Dress.

That required finding black brocade fabric, which, needless to say, was not available at my local fabric store.  I bought polyester “brocade” curtains instead, and black sheers for the pockets.  I also picked up eight zippers and a faux-velvet clad hanger.

Then I sketched the outline of a sheath dress on shelf paper, cut it out, and used it as a pattern to make, first, the “material” for the lower front of the LBD:

I cut strips of the drapery sheers much longer than the width of the pattern I’d made, and attached the zippers by centering them in the middle of the strips.  Then I pinned the “fabric” I’d made to the pattern, and trimmed all around.

The very top of the front is a small bodice, sewn to the uppermost zipper.  Once that was attached, I laid the sheer front piece over a full-length front cut from the brocade, and stitched the strips to it appropriately to form long pockets with the zip openings.  I also interfaced the all-brocade front backing, to support the pockets well.  Here’s the two-layer front, pinned together with the interfacing beneath:

I stitched the pockets randomly, making them various sizes, with just two, extra-large ones, along the bottom edge.  My only requirement was that it should be possible to get two fingers into each easily, to make retrieval of small things, like earrings, possible without frustration.

Let me just say that I’d rather sew the flimsiest China silk than ever deal with this poly again. This stuff didn’t ravel; it shredded.  Is there such a thing as short-staple polyester?  If so, this is it. Also, I think my scissors got duller just by being in proximity to this stuff.

I assembled the whole thing by putting the back right side to the mesh front, sewing the shoulders and the sides, and turning.  The neck and armholes are finished with bias binding, turned inside and topstitched, and the LBD was finished by turning the “hem” in and edge-stitching it closed.  I inserted the hanger, and voilà:

Yes, it needs a final pressing. That’s a lopsided fold line just above the “hem”.  I’m terrified of my iron, and I took the photo before risking melting all that lovely poly.

The pockets look dark, don’t they?  I tested the sheer before using it, though, and it’s quite easy to see what’s behind it.  To wit:

See the brooch?  Here’s a close-up of it in the pocket:

I added a loop at the bottom, in the back, with a silver button:

The button is to keep the loop from showing on the front, thus retaining the illusion of an LBD, but the loop is so that the “dress” can be folded up, held in place with the hanger hook, for transportation, or to save space:

Naturally, I loved the idea of an organizer disguised like this, but it’s also a practical solution for keeping jewelry visible and accessible in a tiny apartment where one might not want to leave such things just lying around.  The zippers ensure that small pieces won’t get lost, and the sheer should be kind to whatever Noilettte puts into the organizer.

The “inspiration piece” has velcro loops for necklaces and the like on the back, but I decided against this feature, as I wanted to make something that would completely enclose the stored pieces.

Categories: Accessories, Bags Tags:

Burda Turtleneck & A Gripe

January 20th, 2012 10 comments

This fall I fell in love with a cotton/poly/spandex stretch cord I saw at JoAnn.  I wanted to make leggings from the fabric, but the wales run from selvedge to selvedge, and that just didn’t seem like a good idea.  When I needed another top, though, I immediately thought of this material.  I bought it and made another turtleneck from BurdaStyle’s 09/2010 issue, pattern number 121:

It’s soft and comfortable, with a little bit of texture for interest, and made up perfectly.

However.  The clerk at JoAnn and I spent a lot of time trying to find an undamaged yard-and-a-half on the bolt.  Both ends were crushed so badly that the pile had no recovery.  At the open end, there were several random spots which were similarly damaged.  We did find enough (theoretically) undamaged fabric so that I could go home with my yardage.

Then I did the pre-wash, and look what I took out of the dryer:

Nice, huh?  That’s an exceptionally nasty fade line along the fold.

I was able to use it anyway, by cutting the sleeves on the crosswise grain; for this size, and with this amount of stretch, it didn’t matter.  But I’m annoyed, once again, by JoAnn’s real lack of quality control.  Sure, I could have taken it back — and I would have if I hadn’t been able to make it work — but this kind of quality control really shouldn’t be the consumer’s job.  This fabric was full retail, not a “bargain” piece, or heavily discounted.  And this is just the sort of nasty surprise you don’t want to discover, a year later, in your stash.

Also, I’m heartbroken.  My local JoAnn has several more colors, but somehow I don’t think I’ll be risking buying any.  But I wish I could.

Categories: Tops Tags:

From Tee to Cushion (With Fungi)

January 14th, 2012 8 comments

I have a dear relative whose life’s work has revolved around fungi.  You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was to find this in a shop last fall:

I’d been looking for “mushroom fabric” for quite a while, but everything was too kitschy, or cutesy, or just plain horrible.  I didn’t have any specific project in mind, and the pickings were so dismal, it looked as if nothing inspiring would ever turn up.  Then, when I least expected it, I stumbled across this:  not only beautifully reproduced mushrooms, but mushrooms with their Latin names appended!

There was one problem.  This is a tee shirt.  My relative does not “do” tee shirts. What, then?  The best idea seemed to be to turn this tee into a cushion.  Not, however, a pillow of the stuff-the-tee-shirt-and-call-it-done variety.  That fungi graphic needed some respect.  I went looking for loamy corduroy, and found a nice mid-wale in the right shade of brown.

I measured like mad, decided on the dimensions, and cut the tee shirt apart.  (I would have liked to have dumped the “mushrooms” text at the bottom; it worked on the tee shirt, but not so much on the cushion.  I couldn’t, though, without sacrificing important fungi labelling.)

I framed the knit on either side by cutting strips of corduroy carefully along the wale, and then pinning in the ditch where the knit attaches to the corduroy.  The precise cut allowed the seam guide on my presser foot to keep an exact distance from the “ditch” that the needle traveled while sewing the pieces together:

Corduroy has always been a favorite fabric of mine, and I used to wear it quite a bit.  I’m a bit picky about wales, and I really wanted the seam between the knit and the cord to follow the line of the corduroy wales perfectly.  This kind of persnickety requires mad basting, or, in my case, precise pinning, and that fine, fine accessory foot.

See what a beautiful edge this made?  The seam follows the wale perfectly:

I wanted this pillow to have a removable cover, so that it could be washed, if necessary, so I cut the back in two pieces, and inserted a zipper under a flap.  Then I used the technique described above to attach the back to the front sides, so that the seams would be just as smooth there as on the front of the pillow.


Here are the front and back, assembled, but without the pillow form:

The usable dimensions of the tee shirt had determined the size of the cushion, so I couldn’t use a store-bought form.  Instead, I whipped up a liner of muslin, filled it with the nicest poly stuffing I could find, and stitched it closed.  Then I popped it into the newly made slipcover, and this is what I had:

There’s a bit of a fish-eye affect going here, but you get the idea.  An alternative method would be to put a gusset all around the pillow — that would keep the shape more obviously square — but I wanted a slightly more informal cushion, and one that would be more scrunchable.

Corduroy was a good choice for the ancillary fabric; it gives the cushion a little gravitas, which I hoped would allow it to fit into my relative’s rather nice living room.

Tee shirts, it turns out, might be well worth mining for the kind of quirky or idiosyncratic fabric themes that are so lacking elsewhere, whether you think of them as apparel or not.  If you’re lucky enough to stumble across that one-in-a-million wonderful tee shirt, but can’t bring yourself to wear it, this might be just the trick to enjoying it anyway.

Categories: Home Tags:

Vogue 1277 – Koos Lite

January 10th, 2012 16 comments

My version of this coat (?) jacket (?)  is “Koos lite” because I changed a bunch of things to make the construction and planning simpler. For me, at least.  Your mileage may vary.

My duct tape dummy lists a little bit, but you get the idea.

Here’s the back:

I was in love with the Snow White collar at first, and may still love it when I’m wearing it in a brisk wind, but Jilly Be cut hers down, and that might be a good idea.  It’s one tall collar.  Folding it down makes it more human scale, but reduces the drama a lot.  Here it is with the collar turned down, reducing the size and showing some contrast:

Patternreview bizarrely describes this as a “cape/coat” or something along those lines, but it’s not any kind of cape. It’s an open swing coat.  It’s not at all difficult to sew, but the construction of the primary side is time-consuming, and requires some care:  For instance, nearly every piece of this coat is bias, so stay-stitching is absolutely critical.  Here’s the photo from the pattern envelope:

I wanted the look of the Koos design, but not the bother, so I did quite a few things differently from the Vogue instructions.

~ I made the two sides of the coat entirely separately, treating the solid side as a reversible lining.

~ This allowed me to top-stitch instead of flat-felling.  I have vowed to never do another flat-felled seam, not just for 2012, but forever.

~ I did not quilt the two layers together.  This makes my solid side much less interesting, but saved me hours of aggravation. I’m not a quilting fan, either.

~ Although I made a special trip to New York to find bias trim (make-it-yourself bias trim is also on my “nyet” list), I decided not to use it, or any trim, along the seam lines.

~ I didn’t make the welt opening on the pieced side, because I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the fabric.  The pattern calls for a single pocket, attached to the solid side of the coat, with openings on both sides.  I attached the pockets on the solid side of this open coat, but skipped the access from the pieced side.  Not having pockets on one side may drive me crazy, but, if so, I’ll deal with it later.

My reverse solid side, front:

My pockets are larger than the Vogue ones.  I always use a narrow seam for patch pockets, and since I love over-large pockets, I didn’t alter these to reflect my seam size preference.  I always line my patch pockets “patches”, and these were interfaced, too.

The Vogue instructions call for quilting along the seam lines on the pieced side, so that the solid side gets quilted.  The quilting looks fantastic in the Vogue photos, but I have neither the patience nor the skill to attempt anything that ambitious, so my reverse side is much simpler.

Here’s the back:

I’m not thrilled with the finish on the cuffs, so I may re-do them (it’s Noile issue, not a Vogue issue), and I made a horrible  mistake that I was unable to correct (after three tries!), which I’m not going to confess to.  Not in detail, anyway.  I’m hoping it will go unnoticed by all but the most observant sewists.

Vogue made things unnecessarily complicated by using two different numbering schemes for the pattern. One is for the pattern pieces themselves; the other is for the contrast panels. The pattern pieces for the largest, lower, coat band are numbered 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B, but the band is meant to be cut of a single fabric choice.

Several other pattern pieces have different numbers than their corresponding sections.  Why?  Why not make the numbers identical?  Visualizing that bottom band would have been much easier if both the section on the coat, and the pattern pieces, had been named “5”; why not name the tissue sections 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D?

Vogue calls the reverse, solid, side of the coat “Contrast 1”.  Why not call it “reverse”, or, if they must, “reverse contrast”?  If you’re using different fabrics for each section, surely simplifying the process would be a boon.  I ended up photocopying the relevant illustration (above), and making my own road map, which was a bit of a pain that could have been avoided with a little more thoughtful editing.

Although I wasn’t using contrasting fabrics for each section, I did still have to keep the individual pieces in mind as I cut and sewed, so calling each by a single, consistent, number was far more useful than trying to deal with two different designations.

I did want something of the Koos crazy-quilt, wonky-contrast appearance, but didn’t  trust myself to choose fabrics.  I’m seriously design-challenged, and Mr. Noile would tell you that I’m not very good at color selection, either.  However, I had this in my stash:

I fell in love with the colors (no knowledge required!), at least partly because it’s like nothing I’ve ever worn.  There’s a lot of textural variation woven into the fabric, which is impossible to see here. It’s “Richloom Studio Valliant Spice”, from JoAnn.  Yes, “valiant” with two lls. Classy.  Incidentally, I see that the price on the website is over 10% higher than the store’s regular price.  Plus shipping, of course.  Don’t do buy it online; it only encourages them.

It’s 58% polyester, 42% rayon (no label in the store, naturally, so I found this information on the website), and washes, gently, in cold water, just fine.  I dried it in the dryer, too, being careful not to over-heat or over-dry.

Washing created a bit of puckering in a few (consistent) spots, which just added to the interesting texture, of which there’s a lot already.  The price is JoAnn ridiculous, even in the store, but that’s why the deities invented coupons.  And remnant bins.

I didn’t have enough to make the coat face entirely in that material, though, and, in a stroke of amazing luck found this:

It’s also upholstery fabric, with a light backing, from Jomar.  JoMar is a Philadelphia-area institution; bargain prices, and often, fantastic finds, but the stores are filled with junk.  Lots and lots of junk.  Did I mention that you’ll score fabrics, even luxury fabrics, at JoMar that you can’t find anywhere else?  For pennies?

JoMar’s best for stash-building, though, since you can never know what you’ll find. This was a JoMar miracle, as I walked in desperately needing a second contrast for my coat, and didn’t want to resort to corduroy.  On this particular day, I found exactly what I needed, immediately.

I never let the fact that something’s technically “upholstery” worry me.  I tossed both fabrics into the washing machine to soften them up (and make them less sensitive to liquid in the future), and they were set to go.

Vogue calls the reverse side of the coat Contrast 1; I think it would have been better to call it “reverse” since there’s already so much “contrast” to track here.  Mine is a luscious rust from Kashi at the wonderful Metro Textiles; it has a burgundy note which isn’t at all obvious here, but works perfectly with the my main fabrics.

There’s nothing really to fear when approaching this pattern.  (At least not once you’ve made your fabric selection.)  You do end up sewing miles and miles of seams that involve attaching inside curves to outside curves, but a little diligence and care (and some careful basting or pinning) will make short work of that.

The reverse side couldn’t be simpler, and this coat would look wonderful made with two solid sides, as well as work up very quickly.  Since I made the two sides separately, I started with the reverse, just to be sure there weren’t any basic construction challenges.  There weren’t; it went together quickly and easily.

However, there are some unusual challenges to the overall project.  Assembling the pattern is a whole step of its own; you’ll need space and a fair amount of time.

The sleeves have a wonderful bias seam, so shortening them requires some creativity.  I shortened the sleeves by about an inch (I like my sleeves quite long, but I have short arms) by  pinning the pattern together, drawing a horizontal line at the lower bicep (JillyBe did hers at the wrist), cutting, slashing, adjusting, and  redrawing the side seam.

Laying out and cutting the material requires a huge flat space.  You’ll need to clear the floor in a large room, unless you have an amazing sewing studio.  (Alternatively, borrow a conference room from your workplace or the local library; you’re going to need the space.)  In my case, I also had to wait until  it was naptime for all five cats.  Need I mention that they were all exceptionally alert on the day I’d chosen for the big event?  Naptime is 2 PM; they finally crashed at nearly 4.  How did they know?  I might as well be herding toddlers here.

Then things get complicated, if you’re following the Vogue directions and going Koos all the way.  His design is fabulous, and will yield a result that is much grander than my coat, so I recommend it highly.  But, for those who, like me, follow the virtuous programmer* approach to life, this was too much.

Instead of quilting both sides of the coat together, I constructed them separately, sleeves and all, and joined them all around the hem, sides and neck, leaving an opening at the side hem to turn it.

Since I wasn’t using bias trim, I simply sewed each section together, right side to right side.

I trimmed and hand-tacked every single seam allowance.  I thought this was a good idea for two reasons:  one, because the bias tape would have supplied some (possibly quite necessary) support for all those bias sections, and two, because that helped to keep the seamlines smooth, and reduced bulk inside the coat.

Then I finished the sleeves by turning the hems in along a stitching line I’d previously made, and carefully hand stitching them closed.  With practice, this can be done invisibly by catching the machine-sewn stitches.  Top-stitching ensures that everything stays in place.

One last tip:  Buy the giant spool of thread.  I didn’t do any quilting, and this was still a five-bobbin project.  Admittedly, my Pfaff has smaller-than-some bobbin capacity, but you’ve been warned.

Jilly Be and Jan are in the middle of constructing this coat, as it’s meant to be constructed, and their coats look as if they’re both going to be beautiful.  Check them out for a different take on making this marvelous jacket.

*The three great virtues of a programmer, as described by Larry Wall, are laziness, impatience, and hubris.  I’ve incorporated these into this project in this way:  Laziness — I wanted the best result with the least effort; Impatience — I wanted it done in three days; Hubris — I determined to do this my way, no matter what those silly Vogue instructions said.

Needless to say, you can get into a lot of trouble following this credo, but it will be fun trouble.

In the Noile family we have one programmer, and one cat, who believe absolutely in this credo.  It’s rubbed off.  Literally, in the case of the cat.

Categories: Coats/Capes/Wraps, Jackets Tags:

A Sewing Day

January 9th, 2012 2 comments

I spent last Saturday with  a group of fellow sewists at a Sew In hosted by Annette, of Fabricate and Mira.  It was a convivial and productive day, and a lot of fun to re-unite with some favorite sewing friends, and meet a few new ones.  Annette had never held a Sew In before, but you’d never have known it; everything was organized beautifully.  She’s written up some tips on how she prepared — they’re a perfect blueprint for hosting your own.

Annette suggested that those of us who participated might write up how we prepared; I thought that was a great idea.  I’d never attended  a Sew In before, and, about a week in advance, I suddenly realized that I’d need to plan — especially if sharing even a large table with six or seven other sewists.

First item on the agenda was a rolling case for my travel machine.  The one in the photo above isn’t meant for machines; it’s a “yarn tote” from JoAnn, but my mini machine fit perfectly into it:

All of JoAnn’s rolling sewing machine cases are ridiculously overpriced, but the yarn totes were less so, and with a 50% coupon, this was a reasonable purchase, although it probably has a durability rating of zero.  That’s OK; I’ll baby it, and it will probably serve the purpose for years.  The wheel and handle construction appeared to be the same as on the bigger machine totes costing three times as much, which made this seem worth the gamble.

Then I gave some thought to what project I should take. This is what I settle on:

I had just finished my Koos coat (Vogue 1277), and knew that a project with huge pieces like that one wasn’t a good idea in a shared space, so I decided to begin work on  a coat for Mr. Noile.  This one’s unlined, so I knew I’d have lots of Hong Kong finishing to do, and it’s also full of epaulets, pockets and flaps — small pieces that could be easily managed if space was tight.

For a long time I’ve been trying to convince myself to make a roll-up fabric sewing kit, but I could never decide on the configuration, or how I’d carry it, once made.  For Annette’s Sew In, I used a plastic tote that fit into the open pocket on the front of the rolling tote.

There was plenty of room for all my sewing accessories and all the notions I needed for my project.  It’s easy to put a container like this on the floor, out of the way of other sewists, saving table space, and easy to grab things from it, too.  (I removed the jacket zippers before I took this shot; this box was full!)

I keep my small travel rulers and my Ginghers in another small, thin,  plastic case just to make sure they don’t get bent in transit, or the points nicked.  Everything in this box is s duplicate of supplies I have at home, so that I don’t have to unpack it after venturing out.  (That’s a legacy from the days when I sometimes traveled 800 miles to Mr. Noile’s parents’ home and sewed there.)  Keeping this gear packed up minimizes the chance that I’ll forget something on any particular day.

My project went into a zippered, mesh, double-sided packing cube.

I cut out everything (except interfacing, as it turned out), and put the small cut pieces on one side of the cube, and large ones on the other.  Love those packing cubes! This one served as a handy file system, and kept the project pieces I wasn’t working on confined neatly and out of the way.

The packing cube and all my miscellaneous non-sewing stuff went into this tote:

And that was it for luggage.

My secret weapon, though, for portable sewing, is my little Kenmore 1030.  It’s a small metal machine, made back in one of the rare eras when Kenmore made a good machine.  (My 1030 was made in Japan in 1973-1974. The mid-seventies were kind of a golden moment in Kenmore sewing machine history.)

The first machine I ever bought was  a Kenmore 1040, which was the model just above this one, with a few more features.That machine was the only one I used for years, and I was knocking out Vogue Couturier patterns on it with no trouble at all.  It was a fantastic machine, and I’ve missed it a lot over the years since.  When I went looking for a travel machine, I knew what I wanted, and found this one on eBay.  The owner had loved it just as much as I do; I felt honored to give it a new home.

I packed several days in advance of the Sew In, which turned out to be a good thing, since I walked into the sewing room the day before and realized that I’d failed to pack the 1030’s controller.  Whoops!  That’s a detail you’d want to check carefully; they’re just too easy to overlook.

It was so good to see Andrea, Karen, Lee and Mimi again, to meet Annette in person, and to meet two (new to me) sewists, Val and a very nice woman whose name I am horrified to realize I never got.  (Bad ears, and worse memory, I’m sorry to say.)

Annette’s blog post has a very helpful list for hosts, so I’m going to follow her example, and provide a check list for Sew In guests:

~ Choose a project that will be easy to manage in a group. Lee assembled quilting squares, Val made fabric bowls, and Karen whipped up three tee shirts during this Sew In.  Andrea wasn’t able to join us until later; she was in the early stages of making a gorgeous coat, and still prepping the individual pieces.

~ Prepare your project with an eye toward space constraints (cutting pieces in advance, etc.).

~ Pack your project pattern (if you’re using one) and notions. Remember interfacing, zippers, buttons, cording and any other extras you might need.

~ if you are starting a new project and want to save time on the day, wind your bobbins.

~ Make sure you have the tools you’ll need:  scissors, rulers, measuring tapes, pins, pin cushion, extra needles, and any personal favorites that make your sewing life easier, etc.

~ Double check to be sure that you’ve got both machine AND power cord/controller.  Mimi had left hers at home, just as I almost did.

~  If acceptable to your host, bring any magazines, stash or other items you are willing to part with (but be kind, and take away whatever isn’t acquired by the time the day is over).  I was thrilled to take home a couple of Burdas and Threads I didn’t have, and a couple of pieces of yardage I’d never have purchased, but can imagine using for fun.  One womans’s stash is .  .  .  another woman’s stash!

Annette wisely decided that we’d step out for food, and invited us to bring healthy snacks.  (It is just post-holiday season!)  Her home is ideally located for lunching, with a lot of eateries just around the corner, which was an advantage, of course.  We brought pizza and sandwiches back to the house.  Getting take out meant no fussing at the Sew In, no need to clear the table of our projects and machines, and no major clean up, either.  In a less congenial area, everyone could potentially bring an easy-to-eat, fast lunch, and get back to sewing just as quickly.

Categories: Accessories, Adventure/Travel Tags: