Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sewing and cakes

Yesterday between all other activities I finished yet another shirt, this one the grey bridges fabric, for my son in New York and mailed it off.

Did I have the presence of mind to take a picture of it? 

No of course not. 

But then again you are probably sick of my shirt shots. I did the flat felled seams on it, Pam Howard's way, and was very happy with them. Just so you know.

The thing is what is this blog anyway? A display case for production? I am not even in the running for that one, so better done elsewhere.

I have also managed to squeeze in a little sewing for myself while I work on my next shirt of bits and pieces. 

Since I am back teaching I sort of rushed through these projects and I am well aware my pattern matching was not up to par. 

We will file that under Oh Well and move on.

Another Renfrew in striped high quality bamboo knit from Stitches Halifax. I figure with my figure I can wear the banded versions of this pattern with skirts and will lengthen it into a tunic for wearing with pants. Here we go, I am in love with this cowl:

I also knocked off a short sleeve version of McCalls 6932.

I was thinking I need an easy shirt for tearing around the house and this is how that turned out:

I really like the way the collar sits but of course being a unisex pattern it has basically been drafted for a man, hence the really dropped shoulders and wide sleeves and more snugness in the hips than these hips require.

Still there is potential here and I am going to follow up on it by going down a size and adding hip ease. Stay tuned on that one.

And now onto cakes.

Today is Miss Scarlett's kid party and I am making the cake.

I made the mistake of going to Pinterest for ideas.

You have to remember that the folks on Pinterest are not operating on the 24 hour clock. They seem to be working with 78 hour days and none of that sleeping. I should have figured this out when I saw this easy craft:


Now these are cute, but what does the rest of a life that has the time and patience to do this look like?

Me I am still trying to match socks.

But reality doesn't intervene much on my aspirations.

After all I sew.

So when I saw this on Pinterest I said perfect. How hard can this be?

Of course I cut it right down to my available layer cake pans, which is four, and hauled out my dusty old box of food colouring, deciding to reduce it to pastels because I am highly suspicious of food colouring.

Anyway despite giving that up and my best intentions here is what I ended up with at about eleven last night:

A brownish purple cake.

A greenish blue cake.

An organish pink cake.

A yellow cake that just looks like yellow cake which in fact it is.

Thank goodness for icing and smarties.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Percolating Butterick 6690

I am almost finished my next son shirt, yet another version of McCalls 6613 which is becoming my go to for a button-down shirt, and thinking of my next project for myself.

I am thinking of this one Butterick 6099 which I picked up on my last pattern BMV buying frenzy. I have an idea in my head to try to use as many of the pieces from my previous male family member shirts in it as I can.

Oh and here is what that pattern looks like:

When I wear this I intend to have a more cheerful look on my face. What's with this? " I knew thong underwear was a bad idea with these jeans"?

The idea has something to do with my visit this summer from my sister Nancy.

Nancy is quite creative and has an eye for decor. I asked her that old "what do I do with my house?" question. The homestead is in a bit of a state of flux, that place you get to when everyone has left home a while ago but left their odds and ends and things much larger than that (like five surfboards) with you.

The battering that happens when you have raised three kids in a small house has remained too along with the what do I do with their old room issue.

One of my sisters promptly sold both beds and turned one room into a sewing room and one into an office. Other folks, like Michelle's Obama's mother kept her old room just like it was in Chicago. I am sort of in the middle. I handed all their possessions over to the two that moved out and stayed local but have been reluctant to do anything with the room of the one who moved away to the US. Having a room that was left behind, like a childhood, didn't really make me happy either, but I don't want to erase his presence from where I am every day either.

I couldn't figure it out.

Then Nancy arrived and helped me out.

Her idea was to take personal things from that room, like some of the pictures and move them into the living room and kitchen where I can see them every day and to make that room into a better guest room so he and who ever else shows up as a real adult comfortable place to stay and not a remnant.

I have started to do that and it feels good to move parts of him back into the mainstream of the house.

This was also part of a process that Nancy calls shopping your house which means you move things you have put away into your main rooms and rotate things with the season. For instance she took old poetry books that were my grandfather's, he loved poetry, and moved them to a shelf in the living room. Lots of things like that.

So in the convoluted place that is my brain I have decided in this next project, rather than just using new fabric or even one piece I have, of shopping my sewing room and incorporating some of what I have been sewing into something that I am working on now.

Does any of this make any sense to you?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Craftsy review: Pam Howard's Classic Tailored shirt

One of the many things that happened to me over the summer was that my male relatives got a look at the shirts I have started to make for my sons and put in orders.

So many in fact that my fall sewing is going to involve alternating between projects for myself and projects for other people - with a required trip to NYC (great) for supplies.

I usually am not all that crazy about sewing for other people, because non sewers can be incredibly picky and request things that can't really be done (can you let out this wedding dress 4" - I forgot to tell you I was pregnant) but family, and those who want basically the same garment, are different.

Also let's face it my vanity took a nice boost to actually have requests for my sewing when the response around here to some of the things I make for myself can run along the lines of "well I wouldn't wear it."

Since I appear to be on a shirt making roll I decided to sign up for Pam Howard's shirt making class on Craftsy.

I will be honest with you, my Craftsy experiences have been mixed, ranging from a fabulous beginners crochet and some interesting cooking classes to a design your own knitwear class that, I should have known better, seemed to require a Phd in advanced mathematics - something that a person who was bribed to finish her grade 10 algebra by her teacher father with promises of pickled herring (I will pretty much do anything for pickled herring) is unlikely to ever get.

Back to Pam Howard's class.

It really wasn't what I was expecting.

In my mind, based on no evidence, I was hoping for some more tricks and tips - industrial methods or maybe a new way of doing the tricky parts, sort of an expanded Off the Cuff style.

I was surprised to find instead that Howard uses fairly conventional techniques and this really is a woman's style shirt, as opposed to a classic man's shirt (which is exactly what the course description promised).

For instance she hand sews down her collar bands and cuffs (no burrito method here) and uses a continuous placket rather than a real tailored placket. I was also surprised that she does her final press with sizing, which I am pretty sure is hard to get in Canada.

So at first impression I was a little disappointed.

Then I watched more closely.

What makes Howard's sewing amazingly precise is her technique at the machine and the ironing board. Like the best of professional sewers she really knows how to manipulate fabric with her hands and that is the secret to her accuracy.

She also has an amazingly calm and serene style and approach - you just feel yourself relaxing when you listen to her - and this, I realized, the perfect anecdote to the mentality of the quick and very experienced sewer who has got into the habit of rushing through sewing.

Pam Howard's message is - slow down, be careful, try holding it this way, enjoy the process - exactly what someone who has been sewing forever, like me, needs to hear.

So this morning as I took it a bit easier and used her simple but careful "finger felling" technique on the current shirt, I actually produced my best ever flat felled seam, no mess, no fuss and no stress.

So my verdict: great class, great teacher, more for even an experienced sewer to learn that may first appear, a great way to get back to some precision sewing and, most of all, find the zen in the process again.

Thank you Pam.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A dad's shirt: the Nergroni

One of the classes I will be teaching at Patch Halifax  is the Negroni shirt. 

I finished it before I finally figured out it was named for a cocktail which just shows you I need to get out more, or drink more.

It is a slim fitting, modern shirt without a collar on a stand (I figure to make it a bit easier) but a proper placket on the cuff and some interesting alternate pocket styles you can get for free here to download (I used one of those with a slanted flap for my shirt).

This pattern has sort of a cult following and I must say the pieces are wonderfully drafted - everything fits together like perfect puzzle pieces.

How often do you see that?

The instructions are also very good but since this may be a first shirt for many sewers there could have been some more explicit pressing instructions, like how to turn and press a collar for example.

What I really found interesting were the cool directions on how to bag a lined yoke when you are using a convertible collar and facings, like you have with this shirt, and not the regular collar on a band and the front bands you would have on the usual men's shirt. Worth the price of the pattern to get that one figured out. I am not a fan of back neck facings in blouses and many patterns I have seen to date (I just finished a pattern by Palmer and Pletsch like this) that have a convertible collar and a yoke involves a lot of messy hand sewing.

I am pretty pleased with the result, although the pattern matching at centre front was not up to par - the challenges of a diagonal print and limited yardage did that objective in.

I can't decide if this shirt is so ugly it is cool, or just ugly.

It did seem to me that the print was something my dad would of worn in the '50s and since it was that kind of style I decided it worked.

Ignoring the fact my dad didn't really have very good taste. Nice man but sort of was drawn to orange polyester plaids if you get my drift. I always meant to sew him a proper shirt.

He would have worn this one.

On that note here is my Negroni:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A quick dog report

I was going to write tonight with a proper pattern review but it is late and I have to get up early for class.

Instead I will give you a Daisy report.

I have started to dream about her teeth.

This is why.

When I took her to the vet this summer he told us she would need a number of teeth out as a result of her poor care and diet history. Her age was estimated, based on the condition of her teeth, at at least five and the vet wasn't sure how many teeth he could save.

The end of August she went in dental surgery.

To make a long story short after a good cleaning the vet decided to give her a rest from the anesthetic and see her again in October. Then he said he would see exactly what extractions she would need, apparently once the puppy mill crap was off her teeth were not quite as bad as he thought and he upgraded her age to a "young dog."

He told me that if I were very diligent with brushing her teeth a couple of time a day we might actually save many of them and maybe (slim chance) all of them. 

We will see next month.

Now you would get this but I am a committed do-it-yourselfer. 
These are not words I took lightly. In addition to twice daily brushing of those tiny teeth he also suggested I syringe her gum line with water. (Husband suggested he rig up the Water Pic but I nixed that idea).

So twice a day I lie on the kitchen floor like a manic, which in fact I am or was or am now much worse, with a tiny tooth brush, a tube of chicken flavoured toothpaste and something of my own invention I have added in, which is a pair of exfoliating gloves on my hands (that I bought for work on my legs but never got around to) which I use to get at the really back teeth and inside surfaces.

The water syringe idea is a none starter since she sort of chokes on it. The tooth brushing she tolerates, or at least tolerates me, despite the fact I have zero technique unless you count trying to hold a pair of slippery black lips open and stabbing aimlessly at her teeth, or where I think her teeth would be if I could see them.

It is all pretty inept and hopeless but I am devoted to this job. 

Her dental and medical care, and just being in the house for a few months now, has changed things.

The thing is since she had her teeth cleaned up and the bacterial infection fixed she has become a totally new dog.

She is wild. 

She runs up and down the hall and throws toys around. She lunges at me in my sewing chair and runs away with my back neck facings and steals socks. She knocks her bowl around when its time to be fed and barks at loud noises and does flying squirrel imitations off the front steps.

She has gone from a flat and broken soul at the back of a cage in a last chance shelter to a complete nuisance.

She has become a real dog.

Against all odds.

A lesson for all of us.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Can summer possibly be over and the Renfrew top

Well hello again.

I am back at school again with very large classes and what looks like some interesting students. I am going to be trying a few new things this term in a course I have taught fairly often. We will see how that goes. I always try to make my classes better every time I teach them. This is of course not always how it turns out. This intention means new ideas, some are good ones and some are dumb. Generally this works out overall but we will see how it goes this round.

This will be my last full time year teaching. After that my plan is to do one course a term and try to make it as near perfect as I can and just enjoy myself. No admin or all the rest of that stuff after this year - I have a feeling I am going to live without meetings just fine. More than fine.

My summer was so busy. 

I had family staying with me or visiting me for two and a half months straight and of course Billy the kid showed up too as the latest addition in July. All the folks allowed me to perfect develop my skills in cooking like I was running a restaurant, but while that was going on I caught up with everyone. This was good.

I really enjoyed having my nephew with me this summer a lot. It is kind of nice to have the good part of a teenager in the house (he is 17) without the responsibility of it being your own kid. Remember when you look back at your own children growing up and wish you had worried less and just enjoyed having them around more? That's what my summer was like.

He is a great conversationalist and I really miss him. When we said goodbye he cried and said I was his second mother which made me cry too. We will both remember the summer when he was 17.

Now we are back in normal life business I actually have a lot to tell you and am not sure where to begin.

Maybe I will start with some sewing and continue tomorrow.

One of the new things I will be doing this fall is teaching some classes at a new sewing studio/store called Patch Halifax

One of the classes I am doing is intro knits, a topic dear to my heart. Here is my sample of the Renfrew top in a high quality bamboo knit from the shop.

Of course this looks lousy as a hanger shot but is amazing on. I can't say enough wonderful things about this pattern. At first I figured that hey it's just another T shirt and I have sewn a million, but this is one well drafted, well fitting pattern. You will note that the hem issues that worry beginners have been eliminated by bands, not really gathered bands like we would have made old school, that finish the edges nicely. The cowl is cut so it hangs properly and interestingly and is so much nicer than the usual big rectangle from the Gang of Four.

I am going to be making one for myself soon in a stripe and that should produce a shot of myself in this pattern so you can judge for yourself.

Hope all is well with you.

So many people say fall is their favourite season but I have to tell you I am not one of them. So many people say that the return to a schedule makes them happy but I think I am built more for the random life.

You get more sewing done.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Another shirt from McCalls 6613

I am still deep in company land so this will be brief. Here are some shots of my latest shirt for a son, this one for my boy in NYC.

This pattern continues to impress with a few modifications. The buttonhole markings for the collar are far too high into the collar - the ones you see in RTW are right into the point, in some right into the top stitching.

I have also settled on this method for doing a collar on a stand, more steps but each is more or less a straight seam and can be fixed before you commit to the next stage. No fancy sewing or rolling or twisting - this method suits my style of sewing best.

Here we go: