Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Singer Buttonholer Attachment

Today I made a "duster", a light cotton robe, for Lena, the mother of my dear friend Anna. It is completely finished with the exception of the closure. Given that Lena is 86 and has some arthritis in her hands, I thought big, chunky buttons would be the easiest. I toyed with snaps and a zipper, but I am feeling the buttons more.

My Janome makes an ok buttonhole, but I thought this the perfect opportunity to try out my Singer Buttonholer Attachment. It comes in a sturdy green case that snaps closed. The case has slots for the buttonhole dies at each corner, with one die being loaded into the attachment.

The Buttonholer came with an instruction manual, but if you own a Buttonholer and need a manual, they are readily available online. Some, but not all, manuals describe using the attachment for embroidery. But that is a project for another day. :-)

I made a few examples, then read through the entire manual. My Buttonholer came with a manual, but I also have the manual downloaded as a pdf from the Internet - and loaded into "iBooks' on my iPad. It's so much easier to read this way.

In reading through the manual, I learned how to make corded buttonholes using the attachment, as well as a technique to make your buttonhole look more like it is hand sewn. Cool, huh?

Here are some basic samples:

The plaid seersucker is the lightweight cotton I used to make Lena's duster. To practice buttonholes, I layered the facing fabric, interfacing, and fashion fabric, since this is how I will be sewing the actual buttonholes. The fabric on the right is a stable fleece scrap. I labeled the settings next to the buttonholes for future reference. I want to try the corded buttonhole - just need to dig up some cord.

I'll post the duster when I finish the buttons & buttonholes. I don't have enough large buttons, so it means a trip to the fabric store.

It feels good to be home and sewing. My sweet daughter and I have been in Cleveland, OH and Erie, PA over spring break. We had appointments in Cleveland and visited friends & family in Erie. My daughter came home all braced up. Sadly, she has two spinal fractures, and will be in a torso brace for four months. She also came home in two "boot" style braces to immobilize her ankles. Those will be worn shorter term, but in both cases, we are trying to avoid surgery. The torso brace is not comfortable in Florida heat, but hopefully it will do it's job.  She has a good sense of humor about it all, and occasionally breaks out into 'the robot'.  I don't know if I would be so agreeable if I were in her shoes.

We had planned a few days at the beach, but nixed those plans because of my daughter's 'exoskeleton'.  I never mind hanging out at home.  I have enough fabric to keep me entertained!

What is your preferred way to make buttonholes?  It seems like it is one of those things some people loathe.  I guess I am in the "I don't mind them" camp.  And now I like them even more with my newly discovered, old toy!  Which camp are you in?

Keep sewing!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Stepping Out of My Box: A Print Version of 'The Tee'

If you read through my prior blog posts, you may notice that I'm a solid gal. It's rare that I sew with prints for myself. I occasionally wear RTW prints, but have a hard time choosing fabric prints when shopping online, which is how I do most of my fabric shopping.  Overall, I tend to be pretty conservative in the way I dress.  I would, however, like to introduce more variety with prints into my wardrobe.  Primarily, my everyday wardrobe is casual, but I also need dressier clothes fairly often.

So, a while back I was perusing Emma One Sock, and found a Chico's knit abstract print in oranges/reds/browns/and near black. It appealed to me, as I love shades of orange, but I like it broken up a bit, not so much in-your-face orange. It hopped in my cart, just a scant little yard of it.

A few other knits were close matches.

Last week I was perusing digging through the stash, looking for summer knits to sew. I just love knits, the unrestricted comfort and easy wear, easy care, and I really need some tops. I found the Chico's knit, and thought she would be lovely as my favorite J. Stern's Tee. I have made it before, here and here.

So I laid out the fabric, which is not as wide as a lot of the knits I've purchased. I fooled around with layout for a couple of evenings, until I was able to squeeze the entire pattern, including sleeves this time, on the fabric.

The pattern envelope on the right is saving a spot for the other sleeve.

A few notes about pattern alterations:

Jennifer is great about providing alteration instructions for this pattern on her blog. At some point along my sewing journey, I altered the Tee pattern in the following ways: First, I made an FBA. Then I made the Tee out of Ponte a couple of times. I wear them all the time - the Ponte is so-so quality and is 'pilly', but the it is firm, and good for hiding some bumps & bulges. Knowing that I would want to make the Tee from a softer, more drapey knit, I used a modified form of Jennifer's instructions to relax the fit of The Tee.

I also took in the front neck and armscye a bit by adding mini pleats to the pattern tissue in those areas.  If I recall correctly, Jennifer had those instructions on her blog also.

As I was laying out the pattern, I remembered seeing this version. on pattern review, and loving it. Then this review popped up with an update - the reviewer had redrafted the front yoke as one piece, and it looks great on her.  I knew I wanted to do away with the yoke side seams/pieces in this version, so I redrafted the yoke, combining the side and center pieces into one. Then when laying out, I folded the new pattern piece in half and cut it as two halves, with the intention to trim it and leave it open.

Why I began keeping a sewing notebook:

All those pattern alterations I just described? I don't remember how much I altered, or when I altered. I'm usually pretty good about scribbling notes on the tissue and/or pattern envelope, but not so much in this case. A while back I began keeping a sewing notebook, and have found it to be so helpful. I typically put much more detail in the notebook regarding flat pattern measurements, tissue alterations, fit issues, and fit-as-I-sew changes, than in blog posts.

If I had kept a notebook when I made The Tee, I would have been able to look up and remember that I needed to make an adjustment to the pattern for a more perfect fit. You see, now that I have made the front of The Tee and pinned it to my (as yet unnamed) dressform, I am recalling that when I sewed my last Tee, I needed to sew a much deeper seam allowance under the arm at the upper side seam. What I cannot recall is whether I thought taking up some of the armscye would help, or if I did that just for gaping above the bust. At any rate, I am adding a sleeve to this version, so hopefully that will take care of that little issue at the upper side seam.  If I were going sleeveless, I'd just do a wider SA at the top.  And make a note in my sewing notebook to correct that on the pattern tissue.

The upper side seam is pinned further back than midline.

Back to design changes:

 Serindipitously, laying on my cutting table was some leftover red knit from the Creative Cate top. There were also black knit scraps, and I pulled out a brown knit from my stash. Here is a picture comparing the three colors against the primary fabric.

 I went with the red for trim, as I think it lends the most versatility as far as wear is concerned. I lined the redrafted front yoke pieces with the red knit, then made and sewed red knit trim to the center split.  In the interest of blog post length, I will leave that part of the construction for another post. I also plan to trim out the neckline with the same red knit, rather than self fabric.

So, here is the front of The Tee, pinned to the dressform. I like the bust fit, and I also like how the lower bodice is a looser fit in this version, skimming the abdomen rather than hugging it.

The in-laws came for dinner, so I had to turn off my machines and unplug the iron.  Stay tuned for more of The Tee.

Happy sewing!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Beach Blogging

Hi y'all. I've got to say, there are some clear benefits to living in the Sunshine State, so close to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Or at least in the country. Every time I come out to the beach I wonder why I'm not here at least once a week. (Until reality sinks in.)

This afternoon my daughter begins spring break. I love spring break because it is a beautiful time of year here. Not crazy hot yet, but sunny and breezy. Just right.

This afternoon I picked up one of my girl's best buds, who is at the end of her spring break (different schools), then we grabbed my girl from school and headed to the beach.

The girls went off down the beach to enjoy the surf, and I am soaking up the rays. Albeit the post 5pm rays, with hat and sunscreen, but rays none the less.

On the sewing front, I've worn the heck out of my new Style Arc Sailor Sue pants. So comfy, and I love them, but they will need to be taken in at the waist. I'm thinking a waistband. I've read the few reviews on Pattern Review, and noticed that Shams (I'll post a link later) added a waistband to hers. I will draft one or steal one from the Silhouette Yoga pants pattern. Or the SA Linda pants pattern.

Anyway, I don't have to order Navy Ponte for my next pair of SS pants, because I found some in the stash (yay!). It's a little beefier than the black one I used the other day. It's from Emma One Sock, and feels wonderful. I am so looking forward to sewing up the Navy SS pants this weekend.

I actually mistook the black Ponte as being from a Marci Tilton order, but I found my label on a selvedge scrap of the fabric, which is my usual system. It's a Hancock fabric, poly/rayon/Lycra, I believe. I hope it holds up, but if not. nbd, it's easy to whip out a new pair.

Currently on my cutting table is a lovely Chico's print knit fabric, just a scant yard. I took my J. Stearns T and transmogrified it. A while ago I added more room through the front belly area using Jennifer's tutorial on her website. I also did an FBA at that time, and took in the neckline a bit, just in the front. I merged the upper side front with the center front, and redrafted the piece as one. I actually wanted to split it down the center and create a placket, but I don't have enough fabric for the layout. I can barely squeeze the sleeves onto the fabric as it is. But I think I can make the upper part as one fit. I've pinned it all on my pinnable work surface, but not cut yet. It was late and I didn't want to cut until I looked at it with fresh eyes. I'll take pictures of my transmogrifications when I'm home and getting ready to cut.

We have 2 glorious weeks of break ahead. Later in the week we are going to Cleveland (to the Clinic) and Erie for a couple days. (I know, backwards, right?) We are visiting my Comara's family (Her 80 something, sweet, dear dad broke his hip a few weeks ago.) We will get in a quick visit with family also, and then upon return to our beautiful home state, we are planning a few days away at the beach.

Alright, time to get back to my seagull dodging and wave watching. Have a beautiful weekend! I hope the sun is shining warmly on you wherever you call home.


ps. My Meyer Lemon Tree is blooming and smelling luscious, hence the picture of the little blooms.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Style Arc Sailor Sue Palazo Pant, P015

Sailor Sue and I are going to be good friends. She calls herself a 'Palazo Pant'. I won't argue with her - she can call herself whatever she wants - but most 'Palazo Pants' I've seen are pretty wide at the bottom. Wider than Sue. But I think Sue's bottom leg width is just right.

You see, as much as I love a beautiful high heel shoe, truth is, they don't play well with my feet. A really full Palazo Pant looks great with a heel, but since I will get more wear out of Sailor Sue if she is ready to go for flats, her leg width is just right pour moi. Perfect width to work with flats. Here is a crappy night time cell phone pic before hemming, with flats.

So, here is the low down on Sailor Sue.

Fabric: A lightweight Ponte from (I think) Marci Tilton. In black - my favorite color for bottoms. Sews like a dream, very comfortable to wear.

Size and Alterations: Size 16 - no alterations.

Pattern Details: Sue is a super basic, but well drafted pattern designed for stretch knits, with an elastic waistband. The pattern is drafted on heavy, white paper, as all SA's are, and comes in one size per envelope. The markings are clear. The instructions are brief, as with all SA patterns. A small fabric sample square is included.

Construction Details: No big surprises here. Inseams, crotch curve, outer seams, waistband elastic, and hem. I sewed Sue entirely on my serger, with the exception of the elastic. I found I was out of the 1/2" elastic that the pattern called for, but had plenty of black FOE (fold-over elastic). I sewed a circle with the FOE, divvied it up into quarters, and applied to the waistband with a narrow zig-zag stitch. My unfolded FOE was 5/8", folded it was slightly wider than 1/4". This worked well, and made for a simple, neat waistband. I coverstitched the hems. I just love my Babylock.

Fit: Lovely. Perfect crotch length. Seriously - with no alterations Sue fit me right out of the envelope. How nice is that?? Before I made her up, I took some quick flat pattern measurements, so I didn't have another Linda. No muslin, though. The one alteration I may need to do is taper the waist in slightly, but I want to wash and wear them a couple times before I decide.

Will I sew this pattern again? You bet! I want a pair in Navy. I also have some cheaper knits that aren't fabulous in quality, but would make good lounge/pj pants, so I may whip those out. They will actually be a good medium to experiment with the waistband. I may borrow a waistband from Silhouette #3400, the Yoga Pant, and try it on a pair of these, if the mood strikes.

Sailor Sue is a winner in my book. Night time pictures of black pants don't convey all that well, but I'll try to get some 'modeled' pictures in daylight.

Just a note about my fingers: Ouchie. The wounds look good, but are still very tender. The good news is, I can sew even with bulky bandages on my ring finger and pinky - yay!

Happy sewing!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sewing Interrupted

Life is busy, it seems, for most people in my generation, the "sandwich generation" if you will. (And I don't mean eating sandwiches.) The pull in different directions can be challenging at times. Many of my friends who are age contemporaries are having similar experiences with aging parents, kids in college, etc.

One of the things we do to make everyday life a little easier is to cook in batches when I am feeling up to it. We are trying, as a family, to eat well and eat out less. To do that, preparation is key. Yesterday was a prep and cook day. We grilled Italian sausages, peppers, chicken thighs, chicken breasts, and turkey breasts. We use the latter in place of smoked pork in greens, beans, soups, etc. I freeze them in small portions after cooking until needed.

I also make an Eggplant Lasagna type of dish - sort of Rollatini, but flat and layered. It's my own made up thing - maybe I will post the recipe later. I slice the eggplant thinly, lengthwise, on a mandolin. It gets layered with Ricotta cheese, parmesan or romano cheese, fresh spinach, sauce, and is finished with fresh Mozzarella.

Yesterday I had begun the dish, and needed to slice some more eggplant, but the troops were hungry, so I put it off until after dinner. And after a cat nap after dinner. I awoke with a start, and before I was fully awake, and without using the proper guard for the mandolin, started slicing the eggplant, and yep, you guessed it....

I will spare you the gory details in case that sort of thing bothers any of you. But seriously, folks, this is the first time in my life anything involving blood has ever made me weak in the knees, and trust me when I say I've seen plenty.

I immediately grabbed a towel, and in a quiet voice, called for my husband. (The quiet voice - that's when they know something is wrong...) Hubs and DD peeked over the balcony, saw me sitting speechless with a towel covering my hand, and came running downstairs. My husband immediately went to work applying pressure bandages control the sanguinous flow. My daughter made me a stiff drink and a bag of ice. ;)

I am now missing two fingertips and two partial nails and nail beds on my dominant hand. Lets just say there is nothing left to stitch up!

Morals of the story: 1) Always use the guard on a slicer. 2) Never use a slicer when you are tired or groggy.

Sewing will resume as healing allows, but at least I have a 'get out of KP' free card. Meantime, I will derive vicarious pleasure from blog reading, and seeing your fabulous creations.

Happy sewing,


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Style Arc Patterns Creative Cate Top

A while back when I ordered some Style Arc patterns, I received 'Creative Cate' as a freebie.  I'd seen some reviews on Pattern Review that were favorable, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Digging through the stash, I found a piece of fabric that I had failed to label (or the label fell off - who knows!).  The fabric is a pretty red color - a lightweight knit with moderate recovery.  It feels like a rayon knit, but is too light for me to comfortably wear, unless I layered it over a cami.  At any rate, I thought it perfect for a wearable muslin, especially since I had my doubts about this pattern working for me.

My suspicions were correct.  Creative Cate is a cute top, but is not for me.  My dislike lies in the shape of the  shoulder and neck area.  It is no fault of the pattern, and on some women looks great.

I sewed this pattern without alterations, but in a different order than listed on the pattern, because I wanted to use a coverstitch to hem the sleeves.  I also coverstitched the shoulder seams and the bottom hem.  This fabric and the Babylock didn't play perfectly well together in a few spots.  Lightweight knits can be challenging that way.

Anyhow, here is Creative Cate:

Next up is Style Arc's Sailor Sue pants.  Maybe tonight, if this cuppa joe I'm drinking perks me up.  ;)

I'm wishing tomorrow was yet another weekend day.  I sure could use another!  How about you - ready for Monday???

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tropical Smoothie Recipe

We have been working really hard at living and eating healthier in our family. For Lent, we gave up sugar, pastries, white breads and other white starches like pasta and potatoes.

Fruit smoothies used to be a regular item for us, but for some reason got out of the habit some time ago.

Our smoothies have to be made without added sugar, and I don't like artificial sweeteners, so ripe, tasty fruit is a must.

Today's smoothie recipe:

1 cup fresh or frozen mango (I used frozen today)
1 small banana, fresh or frozen. (I keep peeled bananas in the freezer for these. Frozen bananas lend a nice texture to the smoothie.)
2 handfuls of Bob's Red Mill unsweetened, shredded coconut.
I cup milk of your choice. I used organic 2% lactose free milk.
Juice from half of an orange.

Throw it in the blender, whirl it up, and serve. A couple orange slices and cashews go well with the smoothie.
*If you object to any texture in your smoothie, feel free to skip the coconut.