Saturday, April 30, 2016

Refashioning a Winter Wool Coat

This past autumn I searched high and low for a natural fiber coat to keep me warm in bitterly cold wintry Virginia.  I was elated to find a 100% wool coat at the thrift store for $25!

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The buttons were quite plain, so I decided to switch them out for a snazzier look!

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I also added a festive pin which has been sitting in my jewelry box for years.

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It's difficult to capture black on black, but I know the difference and I like it a lot!

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Editor's Note: I finally got a picture of me wearing this coat on May 1!

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I happened to wear this coat to the theater when we went to see Star Wars last January. It was an especially cold and windy day with a hint of snow in the air, so I wore the hood over my head as we entered. I paused and remarked that I must look like a Jedi Knight. I didn't plan it but it was certainly funny when we thought about it! I guess I should take a profile and back shot one of these days. Stay tuned!

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Friday, April 29, 2016

A Bit of Ribbon to Mend a Jacket

I have a lovely pink jacket that I purchased  years ago. The outside is a light pink cotton poplin. The inside is a silky pink and white gingham.

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I've worn it so much that the edges of the cuffs started fraying. I decided to edge the cuffs to reinforce them and extend the life of the jacket. I looked for fabric but couldn't find any I liked. For now I settled on a pink polka dot ribbon. If I ever find the right shade and pattern of fabric I'd like to use, I'll redo the cuffs and share!

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Black Microsuede Pants for Almost Any Occasion-McCalls 4574

One of my favorite patterns is McCalls 4574. This is a pattern for the skirts and pants, not the blouses. I've made each skirt years ago, but my "go to" pattern for pants for myself and my daughter is always this pattern! I love how they are not baggy with gobs of fitting ease  like so many of today's patterns. I love the slimness of the line as the pants taper near the ankle. I like the elastic waistband because my waistline is always changing, a size up and then a size down. When my daughter outgrew little girl patterns we went crazy finding any decent pants in the store. I decided to whip up a pair of these for good. For each of us I used a dark microsuede in a neutral color to allow for versatility. The microsuede seams do not need to be finished off because the fabric doesn't ravel. Microsuede looks quite luxurious so these pants have worked for every major winter event to keep our legs warm in the cold weather, whether we were attending church, numerous Christmas parties, and even the Nutcracker Ballet. I often wear my glitzy blouse with these during the holidays and my husband told me to even wear this combination for his USAF retirement ceremony. Simply mix things up with a different blouse, blazer or sweater and we have a simple versatile wardrobe. These pants last for years! The look is classic so it's always in style! Of course other fabrics would work too for a more dressed down look. The variations are limitless. I have a problem of trying various looks because I tend to get stuck on my favorite look. So that will be one of my personal challenges...to try other fabrics for other looks and see how it goes!

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I wear this combination to church on chilly days. I even wore this combination to a Constitutional Law conference I attended that happened to be at my son's college. How I wish I had thought of having a photo taken with my son as I joined him for lunch that day, because he was looking sharp in coordinating colors with his red, white and blue tie, white (or was it light blue) shirt, khaki pants (or was it dark blue) and dark blue blazer. Then that afternoon I picked my daughter up at college and she was wearing her version of these pants, also in black, along with a white dress blouse and her own red blazer (cotton eyelet from Dress Barn that I got on sale a few years ago). I'm going to ask my kids to repeat their patriotic attire for Memorial Day weekend so we can have some sharp photos taken! Meanwhile I'll have to hunt through my old snapshots for other versions of wearing these pants, especially with my Christmas sweater. Anyway, these are indeed versatile and quick to sew, taking only a few hours. 
 

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Here are some variations of how my daughter wears her microsuede pants to field placements in college:

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While hunting through all the digital photos that I have copies of, I found this fun series of photos that my son took of us a few years ago. I suggested a fun set of photos instead of our usual "properly pose for the camera" versions. My son took f-o-r-e-v-e-r setting up the camera for these shots so we allowed our boredom to make the most of the moments for funny memories! Anyway...even though I wore blue jeans (I think I was tired from a busy day of baking) my daughter wore her black microsuede pants! You can see more of the cut of the tapered pants in the various ways she held her legs and feet! I really love it! The pants and her shoes are so classic! By the way she is also wearing her all time favorite winter sweater, red with a bit of glitter which she's had for years and refuses to give up!


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I thought it would be fun to share some funny photos while showcasing the cut of these pants, which I love! My daughter seems happy with them too!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Vintage Jumper in Brown Embroidered Floral Microsuede for my Daughter-Simplicity 3673

A few years ago my daughter needed business casual clothes for college field placements. I don't remember which came first, the pattern or the fabric. Yet in the end we chose pattern, Simplicity 3673 paired with a contemporary brown microsuede with a touch of whimsy...a contemporary embroidered floral. What a cool way for a collegiate gal to blend retro with today. 

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It whipped up quickly! It's quite easy to sew! I actually sewed this a couple of years ago, so I don't remember too many details of the sewing process, so I've been working on collecting photos to fill this post. I did not make a muslin/toile for this. I do not remember how much fitting, if any, I did with her. She is so busy with college and work that often times I have a bad habit of sewing a garment and hoping it fits. Thankfully this fits.
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Here is the front view...

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I used some cotton from the fabric stash for the bodice lining. I *think* this is the only piece I used to fit her.

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Here is the back view. I handpicked the zipper, which is  my favorite way to sew the zipper. I finished off the inside seams. However the fabric doesn't ravel so I could have skipped this step. The hem was machine sewn.

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Edited: The following photos were added May 1, 2016 since she wore the jumper to church that day. I had never gotten great photos of her wearing this cute outfit before.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Serviceable Black Wool Skirt for Winter Warmth-Butterick 4136

Winters are a difficult time for me because I get cold so easily. Since moving to Northern Virginia from Texas I have found the longer and colder winters nearly unbearable. However during an 18th century sewing class that I took at Colonial Williamsburg, I learned the benefits of wearing natural fiber fabrics. Natural fiber breathes, which allows one to be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. My contemporary self decided to take this 18th century advice. Even all of the stores are full of synthetic fibers on the rack, I know how to sew! I am free to peruse the 100% wool section, small as it is, at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I settled on a thin 100% wool with a lovely drape. I decided to use Butterick 4136 for my pattern.   

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Because it is wool it doesn't ravel. Therefore I did not finish off any inside seams. I didn't even finish off the hem. The hem is simply the edge of the wool fabric. I might change my mind on this. However I don't know the best way to hem the wool since that would create quite a bit of bulk, even with the thin wool. The side zipper is handpicked. The waistband facing is tacked down by hand with a variation on the catchstitch. I didn't take any close up photos since nothing would have been seen with all the black.  

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I enjoy pairing my wool skirt with a 100% wool sweater that I purchased at an alpaca store. It is sooooo soft. Shortly after I purchased this sweater, I found a similar one at a famous clothing store where it was much cheaper. Feeling cheated on the price, I reached out to touch it. It felt horribly stiff and uncomfortable. I love my alpaca sweater!

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And yes, this outfit keeps me warm! I usually pair this with boots in the winter but I just took a quick photo today to complete this work-in-progress post, even though I sewed this a few years ago.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Black Rayon Shorts for Me-Butterick 5358

Years ago I needed new shorts so last May I finally determined to figure out a shorts pattern that I actually like and sew some shorts to wear from one of the many fabrics that had been sitting in the stash. I used to have a shorts pattern I liked a lot from the 80's. It merely opened at the side where the pocket is, and secured with hooks or a button in the waistband. They were the best fit that I have ever worn. However silly me tossed them in the garbage because in the 90's I was thinking they were old fashioned and I had to use a new style pattern. So the 80's pattern was tossed. None of the 90's patterns that I bought worked well for me. Since them I have decided to ignore "the rules" and sew fro my heart.

A few years I bought some old patterns at an antique store in Vermont. McCalls 7005 is one of them, and I *think* that the pattern works like my old 80's pattern. After all, the style of McCalls 7005 is quite similar to the 80's. However this photo is not about McCalls 7005. It was actually my "look at all my fabric for shorts that have been sitting in the stash and might possibly work with these 2 shorts patterns that I want to try" photo. However I will be able to feature that one soon because I've already used the pattern and it does indeed work the way my old favorites did once upon a time.

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Butterick 5358 was purchased when I dug around a pattern bin. I wondered what was in the "empty" bins and I found discontinued patterns...many of which I purchased! I love this pattern. However it is too large for me. Actually the McCalls pattern is a size too small for me and the Butterick pattern is a size too large. Two patterns I love but what a challenge either way I go. Of course silly me did not make a muslin first. Instead I dug into the black rayon fabric, which has gorgeous softness and drape, and cut Butterick 5358 in the smallest size that I could. My resulting shorts were HUGE! (Now that I know I've gained a bit of weight this year, this pattern might now be perfect. I tend to creep up and then creep down in weight, so options are good.) These patterns are  keepers!

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I loved the fabric so much, that I agonizingly and oh so carefully ripped out all the seams...then I oh so carefully cut them down to a smaller size. I left them attached at the crotch. These shorts have an elastic waistband. (By the way, this fabric was also used for the bow in my black and white polka dot 1940's dress.)


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This was the result! My blouse that I had purchased on clearance from Dress Barn a few years ago had been hanging in my closet unworn, but finally it had a  mate so that I could wear it last summer. 

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Black Linen Skirt with Turquoise Embroidery for my Daughter-Butterick 4136

As mentioned in my previous post, my daughter fell in love with my black linen with turquoise embroidery fabric so she asked for a skirt too. Of course! I had purchased plenty. We decided on this pattern for her, Butterick 4136. We chose View C.

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The front...

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The back...

I used the same techniques I used for my skirt, even though this was a different pattern.

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Another view...

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And off to internship!

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Mother/daughter photo (my daughter's idea) on Mother's Day 2015 at this link.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Nightgown and Refashioned PJ Top-Simplicity 3573

A few years ago for my daughter's birthday I tried to surprise her  with a few things she needed but wouldn't expect. I didn't have an extra budget so I dug through the pattern and fabric stash. She needed new nightclothes, so I pulled out her favorite pj pattern, Simplicity 3573.

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I dug through the fabric stash and found yards of this lovely cotton quilting fabric. I knew I could easily spare it and still have lots of scraps for quilting.  The buttons came from the button jar. She prefers frilly gowns to plain ones, so she got one frilly gown.

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While digging through the quilting fabric I came upon this fabric. There wasn't enough for any of the pattern pieces, however I could simplify one of the gowns by merely shortening it. The buttons came from the button jar. I bought her pj bottoms in a nice soft drapy navy blue rayon with tiny white polka dots.  It wasn't overly frilly, but I thought it had enough happening to make her happy. It did!

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I'm starting to rethink how I use patterns, and adjust according to what I have. It is such a simple thing to do while using scraps from the stash.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Black Linen Skirt with Turquoise Embroidery for Me-McCalls 6879

A few years ago I found a gorgeous black linen fabric with turquoise embroidered flowers at Hancock. I bought a few yards not knowing what to sew with the fabric. Finally two years ago I pulled out this pattern, McCalls 6879, to make skirt view A.

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I finally took pictures after having worn it and mending a rip in the back (how embarrassing but I don't think anyone noticed. Thankful for black slips!) Front view...

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While mending the rip, I reinforced the back seam with my triple stitch on my Pfaff.

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Inside details:

This linen ravels prodigiously so I definitely used a zigzag stitch to overcast the exposed edges.


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I made tiny handstitches to secure the waistband. Also shown are darts in the waistband from the inside.

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It doesn't look like it but I think I handpicked this zipper. I'll have to double check that and report back. Update...those are indeed basting stitches. I never noticed that before I saw this picture. I have picked them out and made tiny pick stitches instead. However I recently read an article from Threads magazine by the famous Claire Shaeffer who teaches and writes about couture sewing. It's about the myths of sewing and one of them is about a handpicked zipper. She says it should actually be done with a running stitch. Hmm...not sure I understand that. The handpicked zippers have worked well for me so far and I've been doing them for 27 years.

I also made a thread loop for the hook.
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Last Mother's Day my daughter and I had our photo taken for Me Made May with us wearing our matching skirts (her idea!).

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While I was cutting out my skirt my daughter walked by and started drooling over my fabric. I laughed and told her I had enough for a skirt for her...so that's how I solved the excess fabric dilemma! I used a different pattern for hers. More on that tomorrow.

Peas and Garlic Overwinter Gardening Attempts

One of the reasons why I have been so busy is because I have been gardening. The worst part is that we've been in quite the drought so I've spent a lot of time hand watering. Anyway I've collected a series of photos about my attempt to garden over the winter.

My goal was to do a mini form of crop rotation in my square foot garden. Since I had a prodigious harvest of tomatoes and peppers last summer, and since tomatoes take so much out of the soil, I wanted to try to put more back into the soil by gardening during the winter months with cool season crops. I've always heard that peas are great for this! So I planted pea seeds as soon as I uprooted my tomatoes and peppers last September.

By November they were growing quite nicely. I should have had a crop...but nothing. Not a single blossom, so of course, no fruit. Deep cold fronts set in to Virginia in October, so I'm sure the bees are gone by then. Saddened with the loss of peas, I hoped that at least the plants had at least enriched the overspent soil. I ripped out the peas because I had never read that peas grow past November in Virginia. Besides I had a plan for a winter growing crop...garlic.

I went to my favorite garden center which sells the best quality bulbs and grabbed a pack of garlic. The package said to plant in Nov/Dec and harvest in 3-4 months. Perfect for another attempt at spring peas before I put in the summer plants.

My husband actually planted the garlic bulbs for me, nice and deep in the garden. This southern Texan gal simply cannot bring herself to endure the cold, cold winds of winter that descend upon Virginia from October through the first part of May. Those are my New York hubby's gardening days of choice. Then I take on May-September!

Thus I ventured into the garden on a rare yet mild day in April to collect my garlic. I quit after the last few, because they were so teeny weeny! They looked more like green onions than garlic!

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I brought them in and dug into my garden journal (after the style of Thomas Jefferson and for highly Jeffersonian reasons) to research precisely the type of garlic we had planted.

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Spanish Roja meant nothing to me at the time, but with further research I learned that Spanish Rosa is a most extreme form of garlic. Happily it is heirloom garlic. Unfortunately it is potently strong! Uh oh! I took a tiny bite and oh dear. As much as we like garlic, this was definitely potent. Well, I knew that cooking can mellow garlic, so I threw the few I had harvested onto the grill with the chicken. I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling.  

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Then I chopped them up and added them to the butternut squash I had mashed. Yum! Perfectly mellow! This was some of the tastiest butternut squash we've ever had.

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About a month later I finally harvested the rest of the garlic. The garden was overgrown with peas, ripe for harvest. And being close to Memorial Day I was anxious to give the rapidly growing tomatoes space. It was amazing how large the garlic had grown in a month. They were definitely heads of garlic now. I had read that ideally they should stay in the garden until mid-summer but those tomatoes needed space. Now that I had all this garlic, what to do?

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In my original plan, I had thought they'd be harvested in the early spring when I'd have the luxury of harvesting about one a week. We really have nowhere to hang them for dry storage. I finally decided to clean them up and roast them on the grill. I chopped off the roots and tops, placed them in aluminum foil, drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them on the grill while cooking some meat for dinner.

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When they were nice and soft I took them off the heat and brought them into the kitchen to cool. Once cooled, I squeezed the cloves out of their papery cells. I then froze them.

To freeze them I set out a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I put about a tablespoon of garlic in mounds on the parchment paper, as if I was baking cookies. Then I popped the baking sheet into the freezer. Once frozen, I labeled a ziploc freezer baggie which I had labeled "roasted garlic." Then I plopped all the garlic into the baggie and stored them in the fridge.

Whenever I had a great application for garlic, I used it! Yum! So tasty and mellow! Now I don't remember everything I did with them. However one favorite dish was to add some to my roasted red pepper hummus. That was a hit with the family. The garlic was used up about midway through summer.

Memorial Day weekend was intensely hot. I spent much of that time gardening out front (forthcoming post on that). I had to do a lot of handwatering. When I checked on the vegetable garden way in the back of the back yard, I saw that the peas were ready for harvest, and that the squashes, peppers and tomatoes were trying very hard to take over the garden. I harvested the peas and pulled out the pea plants to make room for the summer crops. 

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The peas were absolutely delicious. We actually harvested a lot more than this. I did harvest in stages and this was only near the end of the pea harvest. The homegrown peas were far better than anything from the grocery store.

Well, the overwinter gardening didn't quite work the way I had planned. We weren't able to put in our second square foot garden. I don't think the soil was refreshed despite the garlic and peas crop rotation. Thus the tomatoes and pepper yield this summer hasn't been anywhere close to what it was last summer. All that...and the fact that it was not only a record setting hot summer for the Washington DC area, but we have been in a drought since early winter. Sadness. I'll need to regroup this winter. Stay tuned.