Saturday, December 19, 2009

Big Snow!

We've gotten so much snow that our neighborhood snowplow guy is using a CAT bulldozer to clear the streets!
My back deck: Of course, this means that my flight to Cotton Creek, Alabama has been SO cancelled. I won't get home until late, late tomorrow, at best. I would estimate that 10 to 12 inches have fallen so far, with about 6 more forecast for today and tonight. But I am happy for this "rest" day, although I don't know how much rest will be involved. If I want to leave the house tomorrow, there is going to have to be a heap of shoveling of the drive.
I haven't decided whether there will be sewing today, or what kind: work on bindings or start something new?? Don't know, but I love having the time on hand to decide!
Parting Shot: My neighbor is getting the jump on the shoveling. Think I could talk him to coming over to my house????

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Liverpool Tunic

I was in Cotton Creek, Alabama last week, unexpectedly, due to some surgery my mother had; she's recovering nicely, and we are all very grateful. But while I was there, I did visit a great quilt shop I have blogged about before, the Front Porch Quilt Shoppe located on highway 231 in Ozark, Alabama. Melanie has so many bolts of fabric, and lots of samples that just make you want to sew. I browsed quite a bit there and came across Amy Bulter's new pattern, called "The Liverpool". I bought it on the spot and when I came home I made it up in Amy Bulter's fabric called "Daisy Chain": Here is my "model" shot:

Here's Amy's pattern:
I'm amused that after ranting about the uselessness of tunics here, I was overcome by the cuteness of this pattern photo and was possessed to make it. The pattern wasn't cheap ($ 15), but it comes in multiple sizes, with multiple lengths. You can make a shirt, the tunic, a short dress, and long dress. And there are four different sleeve lengths: short, elbow length, three-quarters, and long sleeves. Given the options and the price, I actually traced out the version I wanted to make: the three quarters sleeves with the tunic length. For the first time, I used regular tissue paper for the tracing since I was in Cotton Creek and that is what I had on hand. It worked well. I used blue painters tape to tape the original pattern pieces to my parents' hundred year old table, and then I taped the tissue paper over it. All this taping made sure nothing moved when I was tracing - you can get away with not taping for smaller pattern pieces, but for the large ones, go ahead and tape.
When I got back to Virginia, I cut out the pattern and began sewing, nearly right away. The instructions were thorough, and deliberately so. I wouldn't recommend this pattern to a rank beginner though, unless she had a class or a teacher to help her through it. I got to try several new things on this project; for example, this is the first collar I have ever made that had a collar stand. Also, this is the first shirt I have made with a separate cut placket for the buttonholes and buttons. And these sleeves are first I have ever put in flat (with the exception of some men's shirts I have made). Finally, these are the first covered buttons I have ever made. Here is a close up of the shirt which shows the colors more true:
I will say that my first collar with a collar stand will not win any awards for construction - I need more practice to make it look neater. The instructions on the collar and stand were maddenly vague: instead of identifying an upper collar or undercollar, or upper stand or inner stand, the instructions talked about "the first collar". Well, which is the "first collar"? I couldn't figure out which collar and stand should be interfaced from the instructions, and which shouldn't, and I got the stand backwards (the inner stand ended up interfaced, when the outer should have been, in my opinion).
The other area where the instructions could have been better was the construction of the cuffs and the button loops. Some illustrations would have been helpful; I have no idea if I did them correctly, and just did what I thought would work.
If you make this pattern, be advised there are two mistakes: 1) in Step 11 A you should press your seam allowance towards the cuff, not the sleeve, and 2) in Step 15, you should make your buttonholes on the right placket and put the buttons on the left placket.
On the upside, I LOVED putting in the sleeves in flat before you sew up the side seams. Much, much easier, and I will be doing that from now on. This technique may make me lose my dislike of sleeves!
I didn't know until I bought the pattern that there were ties in the back. Here is a photo:
The ties are really just a design feature; they have no effect on fit. The tunic is nicely shaped with six darts in the front and two darts in the back. In my opinion the ties are too long and heavy; next time I make this, I will probably shorten them by about five inches. Also, the three-quarter length sleeves seem very long on me. I've never seen myself as having short arms, but I think the three-quarter length should be about 2 inches shorter.
I was surprised that the fit was somewhat snug in the bust. The tunic fit fine in the waist and hips (you can see that I am wearing it over jeans), but it is a tad tight in the bust. I don't usually have this problem! My body measurements are those indicated for the small size - I wondered if I made my bust darts too generous. I don't think so, but next time I make it, I'll alter the bust area a bit to make it less tight. (I added a snap between the first and second button, just to make sure nothing comes apart at an inopportune moment.) I am excited to make this again as the short dress version with the elbow length sleeves as a summer dress, possible in a forties era print . . . My mind is boggling at the possibilties!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How Do You Solve A Sewing Problem Like Maria??

Maria came over to sew today and we had the best time. Maria doesn't have a lot of sewing experience, but she can run a sewing machine and isn't intimidated by it. She decided she wanted to make her mother some placemats for Christmas after seeing mine I made from "The New Handmade" by Cassie Barden. She wanted these placemats to be Christmas-y, but also be appropriate to use after Christmas was long gone. We choose a scenic winter print and a snowflake fabric for the front:
And we went with a red for the back: While this is technically a print of a poinsetta, the red and gold fabric can be used year round, and Maria's mother LOVES red. She can just flip the placemats over when winter is gone and use the red side. Maria did a great job and I believe her mother will love them.
Maria's mother is Italian. Really Italian. She is a fascinating woman. She was arrested at the age of 16 on the steps of her church, accused of assisting the French Resistance during WWII. She was guilty of exactly what she was accused of: she translated for the French Resistance since she spoke Italian, French, and German. She convinced the arresting authorities that she really didn't know German, so instead of being summarily shot, she was sent to a concentration labor camp in Germany for three years. She was liberated on Easter Sunday, 1945. She's well into her eighties now, and whenever Maria brings her mother to Mass, the Italian nuns from the nearby convent crowd her wheelchair like she is a rock star, all speaking rapid Italian, all joyful to see her.
Parting Shot: I think Maria liked her quilt!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving; I certainly did. I traveled to Arlington, VA to spend Thanksgiving with my friends with whom I spend every Thanksgiving. Not only are they wonderful people (and one of their kids is my godson), but two of the brothers are professional chefs. And their mother isn't bad either. No, really, I go for the fellowship - but yeah, the food is outstanding.

This year the dessert table was a sumptous as the meal. For dessert we had: chocolate cake, chocolate pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pie, pineapple upside down cake, and the best in my estimation: a cheesecake made by chef Thor (yes, his name is Thor, and he is the godfather to my godson). He made this heavenly cheesecake with a chocolate chip cookie crust, and topped it with raspberries. It was so good, I nearly ripped the refrigerator door off this afternoon trying to get to the leftovers.

One of Thor's sisters sews and has an etsy shop. Her name is April Scott and her shop is here. If you have a young daughter or granddaughter, check it out; she makes the cutest dresses ever. And I'm all about the dresses!

Tomorrow I get to see one of my friends and Prayer Sisters, Maria. She's coming over to sew, or learn to sew and I am going to be able to give her this: It only took me nearly three years to get it done! I last wrote about this little quilt here, and I had Susan Caldwell do some custom quilting on it, since Maria has had to wait so long. Here is some of Susan's custom work:

Here's what she did with the border:
I hope Maria likes it; I know she loves the colors, but she hasn't seen it complete.
I also hope everyone gets to sew this weekend! I prefer to spend time with the Bernina than go to any sale . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Double Wedding Ring Quilt Pieced!

This weekend I finally finished piecing the Double Wedding Ring Quilt. And after ten months of working on this diabolical quilt pattern, I feel like it should be . . . bigger. According to John Flynn's instructions this quilt with the 18 inch rings set four across and five down will finish at 54 1/2 inches by 66 3/4 inches. I don't know what quilt he is talking about; the effort I put into this should result in a quilt 120 x 140 inches at least! : ) Here are some close ups:

These aren't the best photos - they were taken last night on my kitchen floor. (You can enlarge them by clicking on them.) But I will say that the quilt came out as envisioned. I wanted the arcs to be black and white, but not too black - I wanted the black squares to stand out from the arc.
I learned a lot on this quilt. Curved piecing for one. I was nearly paralyzed when it came to putting the rings into rows and then sewing the rows together because I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it perfectly. But I finally decided done was better than perfect, and it was time to just do it. It's not perfect, but my confidence has grown just by the fact I was able to get this quilt put together - I feel like I could sew any quilt pattern after this.
I'm glad I got this together before year end. Piecing this quilt was one of my goals for 2009, and I didn't want 2010 to find me still piecing away. I want new goals for 2010!
Now turning my attention to Christmas projects . . . I don't mean to alarm you, but Christmas is about four weeks away!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's My Blog-Aversary!

I realized that I have been blogging for one year today! Here was my very first post. And in honor of this auspicious occasion, I made a cupcake of the pincushion kind. The pattern is from Cindy Talyor Oats that I got at my LQS. Making pincushions seems all the rage lately and Quilting Adventures even had the ground-up-fine walnut shells for the filling which are supposed to be better than sand for your pins, but I don't know why. The pattern was fairly easy to follow except for the parts where they tell you to press the seams. How??? You are dealing with a two inch circumference on this project. At any rate, the pincushion works great.

I want to sincerely thank all of you that read my little blog (hi Mother!). I have enjoyed it very much and I surprised myself by realizing that this is my 61st post in a year. There are several of you that I feel I have gotten to know through your blogs, and even though I'm not a big commenter (sorry about that), please know that I am lurking and enjoying everything you do and write about. I'm excited about so much more in the year to come!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Finish!

I finished piecing the Heartstrings quilt this weekend and I couldn't be more thrilled. Here is the whole thing: I've had this quilt knocking around in my head since the beginning of this year, and it was like I was on a mission to bring it into reality. I envisioned it as a man's quilt, so I used the brown strips, set off by the red half inch strips on either side. I also used fabrics I thought as "manly", like those depicting nature (leaves, trees, animals), along with fabrics from shirts, or those that look like they were from old shirts. Some of the fabrics I had left over from making shirts for friends, like Glen. Some of the fabrics were from four or five old shirts destined for Goodwill or the garbage. Here is one of the shirts I used after I cut the back out of it for strips:
Looks pretty funny with no back! But I found the back of a size large man's shirt provided a good size piece of fabric perfect for cutting strips with the rotary cutter. After making this quilt top, I have discovered that I am looking at men's shirts in a whole new way: Friday at work I was eyeing a co-worker's shirt he had on, thinking, "that shirt would look good in a quilt"! You can't just ask a man for his shirt, especially if you tell him you want to cut it up. I'll have to keep my eye open for shirts at Goodwill in the future.
I originally envisioned putting brown borders on this quilt, but having sewn the blocks together, I like it just the way it is above, with no borders. I'll use the same red fabric to bind it, and I think it will be perfect. (One thing I did notice about this quilt is that I seemed to end up with MORE fabric strips in my stash after I finished the quilt than when I started. Anyone else have this problem?!!!!)
The quilt will finish 54 inches x 72 inches, and it is a small enough size that I actually considered quilting it myself on my Bernina. But then I remembered I wasn't crazy. Susan Caldwell is currently quilting two customized lap quilts for me, so when I pick them up, I'll drop this one off. I also originally planned to give this quilt away, but I like it so much, I might just have to keep it. I think I'll call it "A Man's Heartstrings".
Parting Shots: I went to the Celtic Festival today and I got what I usually get: muddy boots.
I don't know why, but every year I go, we seem to have Scottish weather, cool and windy, with rain the day before. The bluster makes the festival feel authentic. I also got what you always get at fairs: junk food. It's not a festival without Kettle Corn!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Got A Present!

My friend Loy made me this necklace and sent it to me week before last. I found the rock at St. Bee's Beach in northwest England, where we visited in May of 2007. The photo doesn't do the necklace or the rock justice - the smooth rock, right from the Irish Sea, is a deep, smooth green color, and Loy drilled a hole in it and suspended it from the copper thingy. She did a fabulous job, and you can read about her work here. (Note: Loy's real name is Laura, but Miss Eileen named her Loy when they were roommates in college, so there's nothing she can do about that.) Currently, Loy is teaching a beading workshop, and is having a big sale in November. (If you are interested in her incredible stuff, I can hook you up - drop me an email or leave a comment.)
Photos I took while at St. Bee's Beach. First the young lovers: Doggies are everywhere!

Really beautiful scenery, and the approximate area where my stone was lying when I found it:

There were people actually swimming in the incredibly cold ocean when we were there. It was sunny, but NOT warm:

The Double Wedding Ring Update: I have all the blocks sewed together in rows. Now I need to join the rows. This isn't as simple as it looks. Apparently in order to always sew with the white part of the block on top, one has to sew on the seam for a while, and then flip the whole business over and sew on the other side for a while. At least this is what is explained in the directions. I need some uninterrupted sewing time to figure it out.
To take a break from all that, I am making a Heartstrings quilt, as mentioned in a previous post. I have half of the blocks DONE. It is such an easy block to make, particularly in comparison to the DWRQ. One thing that has come in handy is the rotating cutting mat I got to make the DWRQ. It makes life so much easier and I am using it on the Heartstrings quilt as well.
You start off with a block that looks like this:
You trim a side and then rotate the mat for each side like so:

And your finished block looks like this:

Why didn't I get one of these years ago???
Parting Shot: Half of the Heartstrings are blocks done. I'm loving this!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sewing ADD

My 30 minutes a day is paying off! For the past week, sewing 30 minutes a day on the DWRQ has allowed me to finish the nine remaining "footballs" and get one row sewed together! Wooo-hoo! Obviously, such industry must be rewarded, and what better reward than to irrationally begin a new quilt???? My motivation for getting the DWRQ pieced is so I can start one of Mary's Heartstrings quilt. So against better judgment, I did. These are the first 8 blocks I made this past weekend. They aren't sewn together, but I laid them out so I could see how they will look. My intent is to make a man's quilt, so I made the center strips all brown. In order to set the brown strips off, however, I added the red strips down each side of the brown. You can see a close up here:
I cut the brown strip 2 inches wide and the red strips 1 inch wide. So the red strips finish at 1/2 inch wide. (I saw this variation on Mary's blog by one of her readers, but now I can't locate the post where Mary showed it off.) The rest of the fabrics are what I would consider "manly" fabrics. I am using outdoorsy prints, civil war reproductions, and at least five castoff shirts given to me by my (boy)friend who was getting rid of them anyway. One of the fabrics comes from his old welding coveralls. He had used duct tape to cover the rips in the knees, and the only usable part of the coveralls was the back, but I got a few good strips out of them! I'm having a lot of fun with this quilt and the easy block is fun and quick compared to the DWRQ.
In other fun news, I found my mother's wedding dress! Well, not really. My grandmother made my mother's wedding dress when my parents got married in 1962. I remember the dress when I was child; my mother kept it in a gray box wrapped with a couple of pastel ribbons. I used to open it as a girl and look at it. I thought it was the most beautiful dress ever. It was in two pieces: a satin underdress that was strapless, and a lace overdress, with a bateau neckline, long sleeves, and basque waist. Unfortunately, in our last move before my father retired from the Army, the dress was lost. I was so disappointed. I loved that dress. About a dozen years later, my grandmother died, and all of her sewing supplies, including her patterns were sold or given away.
I didn't start sewing until 2003, and since that time I have been on the lookout for the pattern that was used to make Mother's wedding dress. I had always hoped that if I got married, I could be married in the same dress. With the internet and the explosion of interest in vintage patterns, this search has allowed me to waste, I mean, enjoy, hours of my time looking at vintage wedding dress patterns.
So a couple of weeks ago, I was on Erin's Dress-A-Day blog where she linked to a Wiki site of bridal patterns. (It's her September 8th post.) Something told me that my grandmother would have likely used a Simplicity pattern. I don't know why I felt that, but I did, so I started with the Simplicity patterns, and after about a half dozen clicks, there it was:
Here's a better photo that I shamelessly stole:

I knew this was it; right down to the basque waist. I was further convinced when I found out that the pattern was published in 1962. Here's a close up of version 1 which was used to make my mother's dress:

My grandmother also used the pattern to make all three bridesmaids dresses, in yellow, as I remember. I emailed the photo to my mother, who said, "Yep, that's it." Here's a photo of the dress worn by my mother on her wedding day:

Unfortunately, you can't see the waist very well in the photo. But dig the pointy sleeves at the wrists! I love it. This photo is of my parents at the Baha'i wedding at my grandparent's house, so Daddy is wearing a suit and Mother isn't wearing her veil. Later that day, they had the Christian church wedding, where Daddy wore his dress blues, while Mother did wear her veil. (Also made by her mother.)
Now armed with the pattern number, I just googled it, found two of the patterns for sale, one of which was in my size. I ordered it pronto and I am now the proud owner of the pattern for this great dress. Rest assured, I'm in no danger of getting married, but if I do, I have the pattern for it!!!!
I'm thinking that my grandmother would be vastly amused that the pattern she paid 65 cents for in 1962 is worth $ 40.00 in 2009.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Where I Have Been

I took last Friday off and headed north to the Philadelphia Quilt Show with my friends, Eileen and Loy. Unfortunately, the Crab Dress did not go due to weather/time/ironing concerns. It's complicated.

The three of us really enjoyed the Show. There was an international component this year, and it was fascinating to see quilts from Japan, Australia, and Ireland. The Japanese quilts were of such exquisite workmanship, it was hard to really comprehend. And there was collection of quilts made in the US specially during WWI and WWII which was wonderful. It became clear to me as I walked amongst the hundreds of quilts that I am simply drawn to the more traditional quilt patterns, rather than the contemporary styles these days.

Of course, there were plenty of vendors as well. I wish I could say I showed restraint, but I can only say that in quantity of yards purchased. There was no restraint in the amount of dollars spent. Because I found THE most gorgeous piece of fabric ever. It is a cashmere/mink blend in black: Of course, the photo doesn't do it justice, especially since it is so difficult to photograph black. But it is so soft and supple, it can slip through the proverbial ring. It came from one vendor booth selling luxury fabrics from Italy and I fondled every bit of it. This cashmere/mink is the most expensive fabric I have ever bought and will become a skirt for me this winter, lined in silk. The fact that I only bought a scant yard, and nothing else took a supreme act of self control. Of course, the bank account balance helped me in that regard.
As for quilt fabric, I bought this: Some was bought at the quilt show, some was at a LQS near Loy's home during the weekend. I especially love the bottom-most fabric which is called "Scarsbough Fair" by Windham Fabrics. I am planning one of Mary's Heartstrings quilts in my head with all this yummy stuff, so I am motivated to get the DWRQ done.
Speaking of which, I have all 20 quilt blocks of the DWRQ done!

Of course, that isn't all. I still need to make 9 "footballs" to complete the blocks that will go around the outer-most edges. I wanted to join the 20 blocks first, and then sew in the extra "footballs", but my rational mind said that trying to sew those footballs on when all the rows were sewn and joined was just an opportunity to stretch those biased edges. And we don't want that.
So I am dutifully making those footballs. Here is my progress:

I so want to get going on the Heartstrings quilt that I have adopted Summerset's idea of "30 minutes a day" to get this DWRQ done. I work on it 30 minutes a day, and then I stop. I am amazed to find out how much I can get done in just 30 minutes on a quilt. Last night I had a date, so I came home from work at lunch and did my 30 minutes. I am committed. Or should be committed. Whatever. It's working for me.
Parting Shot: When I flew home from Philadelphia on Sunday, I found that someone had spruced up my flower garden bed by putting in new scalloped border blocks. Which replaced the old icky two-by-four which had been there for at least a dozen years. I owe him a homecooked meal!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Time to Make A Jeans Skirt for Fall!

Saturday I made a pair of jeans into a skirt. The jeans weren't old or worn or even too short: I made them into a skirt because these pair of Levis I bought last fall had a goodly amount of spandex in them. And while the spandex made them very comfortable, I was NOT comfortable leaving the house wearing them. The spandex molded the jeans to my body in a way that left little to the imagination and that wasn't cool. My choices were to donate them to Goodwill (but then I'd be inflicting them on some other unsuspecting soul), or make them into a jeans skirt.

This is the third jeans skirt I've made since I started sewing and I have used the same instructions each time, which are the BEST and easiest instructions I have found on the internet. The instructions are from and they are found here. Go ahead a look at them. Go on - I'll wait for you to get back.

I guarantee you that if you can operate a sewing machine, you can do this. I'm posting how I did it using's instructions because I have a few tips to add. First, I used the two panel method, rather than the four panel. That is, I added fabric at the front and the back, but not on the sides. This mades the skirt a little more straight, and less flare-y.

OK, start with a pair of jeans and cut the legs off. I cut my legs off 19 inches from the bottom. The way to get the most accurate cut is to measure from the hem up: Next, cut off the inseam in accordance with the instructions. This is one of the reasons I really like the method from You aren't fiddling with a seam ripper to undo the seam, you just cut it off: Next, draw a line from about 2 inches below the back yoke to the bottom of the leg, like so:
And cut like so:

Do this on the front as well, about 2 inches from the end of the zipper. See the instructions at

Refer to the instructions to release the front and back center seams, and then iron the raw edges of the former inseam under about a half an inch:

Use the fabric from the legs you cut off to fill in the triangle areas in the front and back of the skirt, and then pin. I do one side at a time. This is the back:

First, edgestitch along your folded edge, then stitch again about a quarter of an inch from the edgestitching. It will look like this:

One thing I have discovered is that thread made specifically for jeans doesn't work so well. I just use regular thread in a color that matches close enough. Works well.
This is what the inside will look like. After you do your stitching, cut away the excess on the inside of the skirt:

Do this, of course, for the front and the back. Now you just have to hem it. The way I hem it is to lay the jeans skirt flat and measure down from the waist. I marked my hem 21 inches from the top:

When you lay your skirt flat, make sure the front waist naturally falls lower than the back waist. This will make you hem a lot more even:

After marking, cut the front and the back to length at the same time:

All trimmed up:

Next, I like to run a machine stitch around the bottom about 1/2 inch from the edge of the skirt:

Then I like to throw the skirt in the washer and dryer and let the bottom hem just naturally fray. Unfortunately, that didn't work on this skirt. I think it is because of the spandex in the fabric. After washing and drying it, my hem just looked like this on the right in this photo:

On the left you can see a previous skirt I made where it frayed quite nicely. Not so the evil spandex jeans - I just got strings hanging down where the fraying should be. So I used my newly-trusted serger and finished the bottom edge. I guess I could have just left it like that if I was going for the deconstructed look. But for me, "deconstructed" is the same as "too lazy to construct", so I turned up the hem just past the line of 1/2 inch stitching, pressed it, and then top stitched the hem. It ended up looking like this which is much neater:

Here is my finished skirt:

Still a bit snug, but much better! I can see wearing this with a sweater and some boots come fall.
I would say that this skirt took me about an hour and ten minutes to make, not counting the extra hemming I had to do. If you just did your hem like I intended and let it fray, the whole thing shouldn't take you very long at all. Anyway, I love those instructions - check it out!
Parting Shots: I got an apron! My LQS was having a sale on shop samples, and I spied this and grabbed it. I love it for two reasons: the adorable rick rack, and the fact that VickiW made it! It had to come home with me so as to not risk it going home with someone who wouldn't value it:
So to celebrate, I had to cook! I made my first red velvet cake in the new cake pans my mother gave me. It was yummy, and I even let other people have some!