Friday, December 25, 2009

Simple Christmas

The path of least resistance led to a simple Christmas this year. And I don't just mean that we didn't buy much, though we didn't. The boxes of ornaments stayed in the attic. Our son got his long-time wish to have a live tree, which we left outside and decorated with pine cones, dried amaranth from our summer garden and cranberrry rings.

These two ornaments spent just a few moments on its branches before being gifted to friends who stopped by on Christmas Eve. They are very simple, but they were fun to make with scraps of linen, cotton and ribbon. And sweet, I think.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two Years Later, I Wear this Dress

I actually made this dress, according to my note on the pattern envelope, in December 2007. I just wore it for the first time on December 13, 2009. Why the delay? First, I simply didn't have the right occasion. The lovely fabric, with its gold threads and colorful pattern, seemed to demand an especially festive event. Second, the neckline was just too low to wear without a camisole. Believe it or not, I didn't have a large enough scrap after cutting the dress (in a single layer layout) to make a modesty panel or cami. I just couldn't get into the idea of pairing the dress with black. I wanted to keep it all happy colors.

The breakthrough came when we found out we would be traveling to Portland, OR to celebrate the wedding of my brother-in-law. Festive? Check. Cleavage? I decided to cut up a lovely top I had made in a gold fabric that turned out much too small (very little stretch in that stable metallic knit). The camisole from the 2-2009 Ottobre Woman magazine was perfect, as it had a bodice panel piece which I could just fit onto one section of my repurposed fabric. The unseen, princess-seamed portions of the cami were made from two kinds of black knit scraps from other projects.

Interestingly, at the wedding party, I looked around a room filled with black and gray clothed revelers. Wow, did I feel like a Southerner at that moment. It had never occurred to me that my bright dress would be very different than a typical West Coast urban evening dressy dress. But I don't mind being different! I just went with it.

With Kwik Sew 2948 cardigan

Closer view of fabric

Pattern Description: Knit dress in two lengths with bodice variations.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 4-12. I made a combination of sizes 8 (at shoulder, neck and sleeve) and 10 (below armhole).

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, it's a pretty straightforward silhouette.

Were the instructions easy to follow? As I recall, now two years on, they were easy to follow.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the lovely results seen on other PR reviewers of different shapes and sizes. I could see that this is a forgiving design. I actually have decided that I don't particularly care for wrap styles on me. I never seem to feel completely secure in them, and they tend to place an emphasis on the bust line. I should have shortened the neckband slightly, which would have made the neckline more secure and lessened the need for a camisole underneath.

Fabric Used: Beautiful slinky knit from EmmaOneSock, described as having come from Chico's. I believe there were only one or two cuts of this print and I was thrilled to score one. I really had to work hard at the layout to get the dress out of the two-yard piece with the gold stripes running the way I wanted them. I cut a duplicate of each unfolded pattern piece and a full version of each on-the-fold pattern piece so that I could lay it all out before I began cutting.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I made a 3/4" FBA and shortened the midriff and midriff overlay by 1". I chose the shorter skirt length (D), and I don't believe I shortened it further.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'm not sure whether I will sew it again. Even though I like it and I feel like the fit is good, the fact that it took me two years to wear the dress makes me wonder whether this is a style that I feel comfortable wearing. But looking at all the lovely results PR members have gotten from this pattern, I can definitely recommend this pattern.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sewing, Imagined and Actual, in Portland

The first day in Portland, Oregon, I was pining for my sewing machines and sewing room. Catching sight of this front window in the neighborhood of Sellwood cheered me immeasurably. I saw the seamstress, too, but I lacked the courage to photograph her, sewing paparazzi style. A lovely lady with upswept white hair. Quite the match for her pretty sewing space.

In the midst of all the dreaming came an actual sewing task, albeit not one I consider my strength: altering! My sister-in-law had purchased two dresses, both of which had been altered and neither of which turned out quite right. I had on hand two needles, three bobbins of thread (black, cream and olive green) and a pair of nail clippers. Not enough to take in the bodice and shorten the balloon hem of a white satin cocktail dress. Off we went to JoAnn's (most interesting, as we have no JoAnn's in this area). I bought a tiny $50 crafter's machine, knowing it might not actually sew, but thinking that it also might be able to handle the few small areas I needed to unpick and restitch. There was a little set of accessories included in the box, so I didn't purchase a seam ripper or pins. I did spring for a spool of Gutermann thread.

When I returned the (utterly useless, unsuitable even for sewing the thinnest of fabrics, utter garbage) Singer PixiePlus, the woman who helped me said, "I don't know why anyone would ever buy this machine." Well, gee, sorry to purchase a product JoAnn's sees fit to stock. I told her that the handwheel fell off after the first seam. She replied, "What's the handwheel?"

Well, anyway, I did the sewing by hand. I deeply missed my beautiful sewing machines at home (not to mention a usable seam ripper and pins), but it seemed that the fixes were somewhat successful. The dress stayed on the bride, and the hem fell at her knee as desired.

I don't travel much, but if I did, I'd be in the market for a tiny machine to pack in my suitcase. In fact, I'm tempted to consider a little Elna Lotus. If I get one, I might never go away overnight without it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To Ease the Way

Maya's travel pillow was one of those projects. One of those projects that make me say, "Now why didn't I think of that?" It's such a simple idea with such great appeal. A pillow. With a handle. Really Maya's version is even sweeter, with its little pocket to hold a doll or note to comfort a little voyager. But my little voyager doesn't so much go for sweet as for soft.

I cut the front from a rummage sale cashmere sweater (seventies-era! made in Scotland!) that didn't look as great as it felt on me. The gray wool for the handle, piping and back was a gift from my mom's stash. So everything that is visible was essentially free. But the insert inside was a fancy one, so soft, from Hancocks. Don't tell.

Believe it or not, because this is silly, I agonized over whether to add a zipper. Normally I like all pillows to have a zipper. Somehow the envelope style never looks quite symmetrical when it is stuffed. On my pillows, that is. Other people's look nice. But in the end I slipstitched the opening closed at the bottom. I was worried a zipper might scratch or otherwise catch on something when the pillow is being toted about.

He's slept on it every night since the last stitch was sewn. We'll see how it does on its five-and-a-half hour cross-country flight coming up later this week.

The dog likes it too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


As an only child, I might have thought to marry someone with lots of brothers and sisters. But, well, other considerations (such as compatibility and emotion) won out. And so I have but one very dear, very far away brother-in-law. And he got married more than one year ago, with little fanfare, to a beautiful only child in Portland, Oregon.

Finally we are flying out to a belated celebration of their wedding! This little quilt and pillow will fly ahead of us, and I hope will make up for the delay.

The fabric is Anna Maria Horner's Good Folks (that woman is a right genius). The pattern is Amy Butler's Lotus Path. The quilting is...from the heart?

The quilt makes me happy just to look at, so it seems right for commemorating a union. A small family is just fine, when you love every member so much.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Air Quality for the Sewing Room and Beyond

I've spared the blog the sad tale of my recent basement flood and the subsequent sewing room mayhem, but the funky smell has lingered long after the destroyed rolls of fabric have made their way to the landfill.

Our friends Liz and Sam have invented an industrial-type air filter that goes into your regular heating system. When our flood occurred, I was using a regular garden-variety Home Depot filter because I happened to have it on hand. But a few days into the cleanup, I noticed that the sour smell was permeating our whole house. I reminded myself of the size that was needed and got a new Safe Home Filter. Wow! Within a few hours, the smell was bearable on the main level of our house, and within a day it was gone.

The filter removes all kinds of other nasty things as well (dust and fiber, chemical toxins, allergens, mold, pet dander), but just getting rid of the smell was benefit enough in this situation.

The basement is still rather rank despite quite a lot of professional carpet cleaning and drying, but we really can't expect the filter to have an effect on that when our HVAC system doesn't serve the basement.

Since installing the filter I have also noticed that cooking and pet odors have truly vanished. The filters are fairly expensive compared to ordinary filters (close to $40 per filter vs. about $6 for a standard filter), but so much more effective and convenient than a standalone air cleaner. One filter lasts for about three months, and I have an insider tip that can extend their life: vacuum a dusty filter and reinstall.