Thanksgiving Adventures…

My husband and I, born of an era when music and art tried to make sense out of a senseless world, have always had a special fondness for a special Thanksgiving more than 40 years ago.  You know the one, it happened at a restaurant, when a couple of well meaning dinner guests tried to help their friend Alice clean out the old church that housed the restaurant, and found to their dismay the dump was closed on Thanksgiving.  It isn’t unusual for my husband to find some rock station on Thanksgiving day, play the 18 minute Arlo Guthrie musical feast and happily listen, singing along about the 8×10 color glossies and Group W bench.  We’ve seen Arlo Guthrie perform in concert many times over the years, and even took the kids and attended the 40th anniversary tour of Alice’s Restaurant Massacre at Carnegie Hall a couple of years ago.

So it was with great fondness that we started on our own Massacre, of the debris that has accumulated in our oversized two car garage that no car has parked in for the last four years.  I remember the date well, I had to move my mother in law out of her apartment in Connecticut,  and put her into a nursing home in my town in NJ, by myself, because my husband was working in India for 4 months.  I brought her belongings by the truck load and stuck them in my garage.  I eventually worked through all of her belongings, she died in 2006, but once I gave up my parking bay, I was never able to reclaim it.

Brianna's latest wood project for school.
Brianna's latest wood project for school.

Fast forward, we have quite the woodworking equipment in the garage, under so much debris it is impossible to actually use it.   My daughter adores woodworking and is thrilled to discover a complete woodworking studio just within reach, but for a little cleaning….

So we set out to begin the messy task of cleaning out the trash and junk, and organizing the buckets of tools and bins, and of course, knowing the dump was closed on Thanksgiving, we waited until Friday.  And the dump was still closed.  So, my husband is out with the truck, dumping the worst of the recycling, and I am sitting in my studio where it is warm and happy, blogging.  I think that’s a good deal.

I haven’t felt well for the last couple days, too much discussion of swine flu and an over active imagination makes me think I’m already infected, but the symptoms are vague, and I’m probably just fighting off a cold.  I put away all the warping equipment, I’m finished winding white warps for dyeing, for now, and I’m really itching to just sit down and make something.  Something for me.  I am jealous of knitters who grab a ball of yarn and whip out something, the only equipment where I can do that easily is….

6600JanomeThe Sewing Machine…

It has sat idle too long and I needed to keep my fingers moving and just make something.  I subscribe to Burda World of Fashion Magazine, it comes monthly, (actually it is a holiday gift every year from my mom, that wonderful woman who taught me to sew), and I perused through the latest issue, and found a pattern for a simple skirt that had a bias fold over of cloth, and I looked up at the wool plaid skirt panels my husband brought me back from his trip to Ireland in 2008, and and an idea was born.

I blogged about these wool plaid panels from Avoca Handweavers, back in skirtpanelDecember of last year.  It was one of my first blog posts.

So, I traced off the pattern, basted it together, tried it on, and cut out the fabric.  By bedtime last night, I had the skirt mostly together, tried it on, needed to take it in a bit, course I’ll probably have to take it in a bit more over time, because, what was I thinking!…  Making a skirt the day after Thanksgiving is pretty lame…

But that didn’t stop me.  For insurance, I only basted the side seams together, and since this doesn’t have a zipper closing, taking it in is a breeze.

The skirt went together easily, and I remembered why of all the fiber techniques I do, I love sewing the best.  Handweaving gets you cool cloth to sew, but the machine and I are the best of friends.  I have a Janome 6600 Professional, which I absolutely adore, especially the quick basting stitch that bastes things together like hems, and pulls out in about 3 seconds.  This machine also has a dual feed foot built in so matching plaids is also a breeze.  And of course there is nothing like working with a gorgeous wool.

My trusty Kenmore short shank machine fits the old fashion Greist buttonholer.
The old fashion Greist buttonholer mounted on the back of the Kenmore.

I got to the closure, which consists of three horizontal buttonholes in the waist band, which folds over itself, and secures with a couple of well placed buttons.  I am a buttonhole snob.  I admit it, ask anyone who has ever taken a class with me on Closures.  I have this very pricey top of the line machine from Janome that I adore, but for this task, out came my dusty trusty little Kenmore, about 15 years old (coincidentally made by Janome as well), and because it is a short shank machine, my very old Greist buttonholer will fit on the shank, I drop the feed dogs, pop in the correct buttonhole cam, and watch it make gorgeous perfect buttonholes every time.

I’ve also gotten good at taking an extra step to make sure the buttonhole doesn’t look like a wound in the fabric.  I shot a sequence of making a buttonhole with the Greist buttonholer attachment, so I’ll let the photos do the talking…

Adjust the buttonhole width to very narrow.
Adjust the buttonhole width to very narrow.
Lower the presser foot securely over the area where the buttonhole goes...
Lower the presser foot securely over the area where the buttonhole goes...
After the buttonhole is stitched, before removing the fabric from the machine, use a very sharp pair of little scissors and cut the buttonhole apart.
After the buttonhole is stitched, before removing the fabric from the machine, use a very sharp pair of little scissors and cut the buttonhole apart.
Very slightly spread the buttonhole lips apart while the presser foot is still in the down position.
Very slightly spread the buttonhole lips apart while the presser foot is still in the down position.
Increase the width of the buttonhole using the lever on the back of the unit.
Increase the width of the buttonhole using the lever on the back of the unit.
Go around a second time with the slightly wider buttonhole, and it will cover the cut edge of the buttonhole.
Go around a second time with the slightly wider buttonhole, and it will cover the cut edge of the buttonhole.
And a quick modeling of the almost finished skirt, just have to do the handwork.
And a quick modeling of the almost finished skirt, just have to do the handwork.

Books everywhere…

I got some help from my daughter today, and tackled the wall of sewing books.  This is by far my largest collection of books, since I inherited many of them, not only from my mom, but from a retired home economics teacher as well, who taught garment construction and textile science for more than 30 years.  Her book collection from the 40’s and 50’s was incredible.

weaving_spinningFirst, I managed to find a way to fit all the weaving, spinning and natural dyeing books on three shelves.  Of course more are on their way from the Interweave Press hurt book sale, but I’ll figure that out when they arrive.  I am impressed with my collection, and would be an amazing weaver if I actually read them!  🙂

But my sewing book collection, along with pattern design, draping, textile science, tailoring, and social issues in clothing (which is a really fun category I can assure you) is huge.  On top of that, I have almost 15 years of Burda World of Fashion Magazine, which is a BIG sewing_booksmagazine, and each issue contains all the patterns for some 30-40 garments contained in that issue. And I get it every month!  (Thanks mom!) I took all the ones from 1995-2000, and discarded the actual magazine, and just kept the patterns.  I may regret that decision, and it really didn’t make a moms_fileshuge difference, since most of the bulk was the patterns, but it was an attempt. They are all on the bottom shelf of the bookcase on the right, two deep on the shelves.

I also have my mother’s collection of clippings.  She carefully cut all the Dale Cavanaugh and Eunice Farmer clippings from the evening papers, they use to have sewing columns, right along with Dear Abby, and my mother always clipped the articles.  And years of sewing articles from Vogue Patterns Magazine, are in there as well.  There are ten binders, plus one for all the unsorted clippings, they take up a huge amount of room.  Right now they are perched precariously on the shelf in front of all the back issues of Sew News. (Along with my tension box for sectional warping, yes I know that isn’t a sewing tool…)

I found all sorts of wonderful things, including two copies of the original Singer Sewing Book from 1949, that had the wonderful quote that circulated around the internet for awhile.  In case you missed it:

“Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Think about what you are going to do…never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates. Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing. When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals.

Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on.  If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing as you should.”

womans_instituteThere is a lot more where that lovely wisdom came from, I can assure you.  I also have this wonderful collection my friend Karen found for me.  They are small books, only about 5″ x 7″.  They are a series of books from the Woman’s Institute, of Domestic Arts and Sciences, Scranton, PA and they were copyrighted in 1924, and again in 1931.  In the Harmony of Dress Volume, I especially liked the chapter on Restraining Garments!  And then there is a wonderful pull out chart on Colors That May and May Not Be Worn by Blonde Types of Women!  And I’ve made a wall chart from Table VI that gives a Guide to Correct Dress for Social Functions-All Seasons. I know I’ll be consulting this on a regular basis…

Seems this series was actually written by the founder of the woman’s institute,  Mary Brooks Picken in Scranton PA . She authored 96 books on sewing and fashion, was the first woman trustee of FIT and a founder of Fashion Group who’s 60 years worth of fashion archives can be found at the NY public library.  She also authored the Singer Sewing Manual from 1949, that contained the excerpt I quoted above.  I got the bio from a blog I found, Not Enough Thursdays.  I’m totally fascinated by this woman, Mary Brooks Picken, and her substantial influence in dress and social norms of the early part of the 20th century.  I am anxious to do more research myself.

trophiesAlong with all these archival wonders on my sewing book shelves, I had a couple of trophies.  What does one do with trophies when they are no longer wanted and taking up too much space?  Right now they are sitting on the floor in the hallway.soldier

Side Bar: I got the smaller trophy as a first place award in 1971 for the High School History fair.  I made a 30″ tall civil war soldier out of chicken wire and sewed a uniform for him.  I don’t have the soldier any more, (though I actually haven’t looked in the attic, who knows…), but my dad took a slide of him and that was in my archival slide files!  Ok, he is a bit creepy, and I made the hair from real human hair.  But, I was only 16, and I did this completely on my own…

The other trophy I’ve held on to because I was really proud when I got it.  I attended the award ceremony just before my High School Graduation in 1973, and I was given the principal’s award for outstanding citizenship, or something daryl_hslike that, all I knew was it was the biggest trophy on the table!  Back then they gave trophies instead of money.  So I’ve had this huge trophy all these years, stuck in the corner in my studio.  It has shrunk somewhat over the years, partly due to my toddler son, who thought it was pretty and proceeded to break the upper section clean off it’s base.  I managed to salvage some of it, but I think now that he has graduated HS, and I’m over 50, that it is time to retire this thing.

So do I throw it out?  Is there any use for old trophies?  I suppose I could take it apart and use the marble base for something.  But I really just want it gone.  Along with other lovely things I’ve saved for way too long, like my report cards from Catholic School in the 60’s.  Do not begin to ask what possessed me to keep those.  They are now in the trash can in my studio.  It is time…


photoshootI converted my weaving studio into a photo studio for the afternoon yesterday.  That means I have to move all the looms into the spare room/hallway, except the big one, which won’t really fit through the door.  That one gets pushed as far away as possible.  The background paper goes up against the wall, hanging with skirt clips from a shelf above (how convenient is that, not really, I planned it that way!)

I set up my umbrellas, the strobe lights, and covered my dressform with a matte jersey fabric, that is a pretty neutral gray.  And then the fun began….

evolutionfrontevolutionbackevolutiondetailFirst I shot an older piece, from around 2002, that had originally been shot in slide form, and I was never happy with the results.  This piece is called Evolution.  It is an 8 shaft shadow weave, with bands woven separately on an inkle loom.  The vest is a variation on the jacket pattern I use for my classes.  I like the square armhole, it is easy to alter.



Then I photographed the Arctic Sky Jacket.  This is a twill weave structure, on eight shafts, in wool, cotton, synthetic, just about anything I had on the shelf that would work for the color palette I was trying to create.  The bright lime green piping, in case you weren’t following my blog a couple of months ago, is the natural felt edge cut of off a nuno felted belt I made with Loretta Phipps while we connected for the Design Challenge for Convergence 2008.  The pattern for the jacket is from Burda Magazine.  The bound buttonholes and pocket welts are Ultrasuede, and the top stitching is actually couching with a lime green embroidery floss.  I backed the entire jacket with a fusible weft interfacing.

splashfrontsplashfrontdetailsplashbackNext I photographed the Splash Dress, and as you can see, I had a lot of fun with the detail shots on this one.

This dress, a modified Vogue pattern, was made from the two remaining hunks of fabric from the Designers’ Challenge for Convergence 2008 in Tampa Bay.  I blogged about this project considerably, so if you want to see the original garments from this handwoven collaboration between me and Loretta Dian Phipps of Texas, click here.  This was another combination twill weave, 8 shafts, in silk, cotton, rayon, and some knitting novelty, all of which were given to us by the HGA.  The challenge was to come up with a runway ensemble.  I love the simplicity of this dress with the wonderful splash of summer colors.

sandstonelayersfrontsandstonelayersbacksandstonelayersdetailI’m really happy with the way this jacket photographed.  The colors are rich, and the angles of the jacket played well against the background.

This is yet another combination twill weave structure on 8 shafts, I dyed the warps to coordinate with a palette I did called Sandstone Layers when I was writing the color forecast column for Handwoven Magazine. The pattern is from Burda Magazine, and the topstitching is couched with a rayon novelty weaving yarn.  The buttonholes are handworked from a 6-ply rayon weaving yarn, and the jacket is unlined.  The seams are all finished with a hong kong seam finish.  The belt and skirt are purchased.  (The belt was a gift from my dearest friend in the whole world, you know who you are, and I have cherished it and worn it to death for many years.  It remains timeless and coordinates with just about everything in my wardrobe.  The signature on the back of the belt is fading, so I can’t read the artist’s name.)

So, now I have to put together a gallery talk for Wednesday and pray my plane via Houston to Des Moines isn’t delayed.  That would be really unfortunate.

Actic Sky

Arctic Sky refers to the project, not the stratosphere in winter.  I decided it was time to refer to its proper name, instead of Project 5.  I have begun.

First, I spent most of the day, after all the housework was done, working through the Dreamweaver Manual.  I finally feel like I’m grasping the basics of CSS, like I might even be able to actually execute this web site I designed.  It is taking so long, the learning curve is huge.  What’s more confusing is the variety of browsers and devices for viewing that exist, and no two read a site the same way.  And older browsers may not even support CSS style sheets, which is the next generation of device for designing sites in an efficient way, so it makes sense to learn it, even if viewing technology hasn’t completely caught up with it.  Rather be on the cutting edge than trailing far behind…

My daughter had a volleyball tournament this afternoon, so I was all ready to knit away, for a couple hours, I’m only a few rows from the neck of the second side, but alas, we spent more than an hour sitting in horrid traffic, the utility work on the major roadways due to the damage from the high winds was causing all kinds of traffic snarls, and most of her team and her coach ended up an hour or more late, and they missed the first match.  Oh well, I just sat and knit…   The games they did play, once everyone was assembled, were actually pretty exciting, I actually stopped knitting for awhile…

So I finally got to work on the Arctic Sky (Project 5) jacket after 10:30 at night.  The first step was to double check my size, my body is changing daily, I’ve been off Tamoxifen for over a year now, and still seeing slow changes back to my old body, in shape and weight, which means that every sewing project has to be resized.  I suppose there are worse things…  Like not beating cancer… this is a minor hiccup…

tracingI’m using a Burda pattern, since I subscribe to the Burda World of Fashion Magazine, which comes in once a month, I have to open out the huge mapped sheets that contain all the patterns for each issue, and first copy the directions, which are a scant couple of columns, and then determine what lines to trace, on what pattern sheet.  Once everything is located, I grab my bolt of pattern paper, and here I digress.

The second blog I wrote, way back in December, talked about how my favorite pattern tracing medium seems to have been discontinued.  I had always used HTCW’s Red Dot Tracer, which was sturdy, stable in all directions, and held onto a pencil mark really well.  Alas, not being able to get it, I found out that Pellon had re-engineered their Tru-Grid pattern tracing product so it was now stable in all directions, which meant I could substitute this in a pinch (I never liked the old version, somehow using something that wasn’t stable made no sense for tracing patterns).  I ordered a bolt from my distributor, and have been using it for the last couple of months.  I really like the product, it is more cloth like than Red Dot, it’s great for trying on as an interim muslin, but it doesn’t hold the pencil markings, they rub off all over your hands, and by the time you’ve gotten half through the garment, they’ve faded considerably.

Imagine my gleeful surprise, when I got a call yesterday from my distributor telling me that the rumor is, Pellon is picking up the Red Dot Tracing product.  I immediately ordered a bolt, praying it is the same stuff as the old one, or reasonably close, because I really want to use that for my class in California.  And I have to ship it ahead in the next week.  So I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and I’ll let you know if it is the real thing, and if so, it will be back on my website store for sale in two yard packages!  And if Pellon is carrying the product, it will be way more easier to get in a regular fabric store, if there is such a thing anymore…

Back to the project…

tracedaddhemSo I take my bolt of Pellon’s Tru-Grid, cut off a chunk, and lay it  out on the “RED LINES” on the G Sheet.  It is important to note that there are no seam allowances or hem allowances on the pattern pieces, so I trace the lines with my colored pencil, using dotted lines, making sure all the pieces are at least 1 1/4″ away from each other to allow for the allowances.  I add the seam allowances later.  I copy all the marks and reference lines, checking the little direction sheet to make sure they are all accounted for.

Once I do that, I pack away the pattern sheet, refolding it is much easier than refolding a pattern, after 45 years of sewing, I still haven’t mastered that one.  I’m too impatient if you can believe.  Anyway, now I can add all the seam allowances and hem allowances, 5/8″ and 1 5/8″ respectively.

The next step will be to baste the pieces together to try on the pattern.  But tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading off to a meeting of the American Sewing Guild.  I’ve been a member for awhile, but only went to one meeting, well over a year ago.  So I’ve decided to try another meeting,  I’ll report in tomorrow afternoon.

Back to the Projects

So my usual Monday morning task is to dust one level of my house.  Since yesterday was a wash, with the guild meeting, and feeling lousy, and my daughters five hours of extra-curricular events, I’m lucky I had the 10 minutes to blog.  So I picked up the dust cloth and started dusting this morning, and the upstairs is much harder than the downstairs, because it has a) my husband’s office, and b) my studio.  As you can imagine, both rooms are a nightmare to dust.

fabricI moved the roll of fabric from what I originally described as Project 5, way back in the beginning of January  off of my loom to dust, moaning that it may be awhile before I get to my poor naked looms.  But I have fabric still to sew…  I returned the roll of fabric to the top of my loom castle, and then decided to actually move it to my cutting table.  The sari lining I had originally put with it in the January photo, was instantly replaced with one of the new ones my husband just brought back from India.  It is a gorgeous cyan blue, with little Jacquard motifs in gold metallic.  It is a better match, even though the original sari would have worked, the original sari competed with the lime green piece of felt I made with a friend on a whim.  I love the edge of the nuno felt piece, the irregular felted edge would be so amazing peeking out of a princess seamline like piping.  And I found three big buttons that I liked with the fabric as well.

patternSo I poured through my back issues of Burda, and found the pattern I think ties this all together, shawl collar, lightweight jacket, princess seams, welt pockets, cuffs, and I like the little belt in the back.  Oh, and it calls for three big buttons…   🙂

So I feel like I am embarking on a new relationship, whenever I finish a project, there is a mourning period, where I am actually depressed, I feel like a passionate relationship ended, that it is gone from my life.  It is all about the process for me, and when the project is done, it just hangs in the closet, or goes out for exhibit, but it is the passion of figuring it all out, laying awake at night, jumping out of bed to get through what I need to accomplish so I can dive into the latest solution.  You can probably tell this brought  me out of my slump…

There is so much going on in the studio, but I am slowly chipping away.  I finished the latest five alterations for the HS Musical production, which came in after I finished the 27 dresses.  And I got a rough outline for my architect sister’s website.  Just waiting on the final photos of all the home additions and renovations she designed, the befores and afters (which totally amaze me, I know what I can do with a piece of fabric, but to do that with a house? )  I am feeling a bit better today, thanks to my mom’s famous home remedy for stomach ailments, sip on honey and vinegar mixed in tepid water.  Works every time…

I got the work shipped out for Small Expressions, and generally got back into the swing of things.  My to do list is onto the second page, which is always scary, but I’m in a brighter mood, with a project to execute, and I’m actually beginning to feel human again after the stomach virus from the weekend.  And it is suppose to be 60 degrees tomorrow.  Can spring be far away?  There is less and less snow/ice remaining, and pretty soon, little shoots popping out of the ground!  And you know what that means….  Gardening season!