Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gothic dreams

Inspiration comes when we are listening gently to ourselves and is sometimes a surprising companion.   We cannot see where we are going, or why something is important to us...but we follow anyway.

I found this fabric in a warehouse store, deep in a pile of cast off polyester remnants.  Peeking out of this unloved grouping was a bit of gorgeous color with lovely black outlining.
I pulled, thinking "What a beautiful scarf this would be".  I pulled some more and saw some odd splotches of pink, then some houses, trees, and perhaps a piano?  
An open doorway appeared, though it was tagged with some shocking red paint. I pulled some more, and my idea of a scarf was gone.  This was an unlovely but striking piece of art. Dark in places, and sweet in others.  Filled with the details of a neighborhood on the edges of a forbidding wood.

My mind said "WTH?" while my heart said "Buy this".  It has been with me for about a year, slithering its polyester way around the fabric closet.  This weekend I found the perfect pattern for it-this caftan by Butterick.  

Here it is on my dressform, still needing hemming. This caftan will be a workhorse in my loungewear wardrobe, especially now as we are suffering 110F.  

I can slip into this after a shower and pad around the house in comfort.  

More than a caftan though...while working with this fabric I was lost in memories.   I heard the slow cadences of southern speech, and smelled the wet decay under the azaelas.  I had vivid flashbacks of visiting my stepmom's family in the south-knowing the "wrongness" of some people, even while they were showing gracious courtesy.  The titles below came to mind...the McCarthy novel is one I have not read and was written before he moved west. Sanctuary is a must read, as is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  Southern gothic fiction is mysterious, gritty, dark, and almost always set against a backdrop of decaying Southern manners.  Happy sewing and reading~Mary

Sunday, July 26, 2015

a "simple" tee shirt

Hi Readers, 

I have been camping...unplugged, horseless, and no sewing machine.  How did our ancestors cope?

We spent a week in the White Mountains, north of Tucson and camped at Hoyer Campground in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.  It was wonderful to get out of the heat, and to enjoy the forest through hiking and photography.   I was really interested in checking out the area as I am trailering big Nick up there in August for a weekend trip organized by my boarding barn.  Elevation is 8500-9000ft in the area where we camped...and hiking proved that as I wheezed going uphill.

traveling down toward the bottom of the Salt River canyon

near Big Lake

a lucky sighting of elk
little Nick and I explored Bunch resevoir area

I brought a few tee shirts made a week before we left-I used a Marcy Tilton pattern-V 9057 and mixed A and C for a loose, sleeveless tank.  After wearing the tunics/tees camping, I knew they needed adjustments.  The sizing seemed too large in my  shoulders, so I altered to bring it in a bit.  The length was far too long using A and I removed 1.5" in the second round of alterations.  I'll need to add an FBA in the next tee IF I use a stable knit.   
The outfit below
is the tee (hate to sew cotton interlock) in its highly altered state.  It is acceptable for a 1st version and I will use the pattern again, but add sleeves.  As an aside, here are some pictures of my samples for the hem.  Did I mention I hate sewing with this fabric? 

The tunic had a serged hem, but I cut all of that off.  I used stitch witchery to stabilize the hem and then ZZ'ed.  It's okay for a Saturday/barn shirt.  

The skirt is from a Sandra Betzina pattern V 2911 OOP - a great bias skirt pattern.   I love my new bias skirt in turquoise, blue and brown.  

New sewers may think a tee shirt is an easy make...but I can prove that wrong.  This tee has been altered twice, and is still in need of work.  I didn't even discuss the neckline and armhole binding methods, which need to be chosen dependant upon the fabric and the style of the garment.  I rarely follow the pattern instructions there.  We sometimes forget how many skills we have picked up along the way as we merrily cut, sew, slice and re-sew.  Sewing is a skill worthy of pride.

Friday, July 10, 2015

New Vogues

I don't normally do a collection review but I am very inspired by the Fall collection at Vogue Patterns.   The overall vibe is ladylike, chic and elegant. There is a lot of seaming detail on the body, shoulders, and collars; necklines seem higher in general; lapels and sleeves are extravagant.  I noted that collars are smaller, and come in a variety of shapes.  This collection is less for the urban fashionista and more attuned to the woman who needs a stylish and subtle look for work, meetings and events.  
Donna Karan V1465
Donna Karan V1466

There are 2 sweet patterns for girls, and 2 patterns for dolls.  

Many of the edgier designers have lovely patterns, including one from Koos van den Akker.  I like to do applique and have been successful sometimes with the technique.  It is very easy to make a wrong turn and end up looking as though you are wearing a table I collect van den Akker patterns to study the arrangements.  


Marcy Tilton has 2 winners-the coat might overwhelm me but I LOVE it.  Petite people beware!  Her fabric choices are phenomenal-make sure to go look at the models.  
Marcy's newest tee shirt is super, with an organic look to the seaming and a softness which looks comfortable but sophisticated.  

In keeping with the above beautiful "art teacher chic" patterns, here is an interesting jacket from Sandra Betzina.

Kathryn Brenne has a lovely jacket which I would like to make for the holidays...

What did I hate?  Not much-one dress with bust seaming which looks awkward and a pattern for a traditional dress from the Southwest and Mexico.  The traditional dress would be very hard to wear outside of a village or a resort.

Overall, this collection is a winner for me.  30s and 40s vibe, feminine details, artistic design, easy wearing clothing, a nod to modesty and sophistication (not an easy combo!).  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Matching plaid or how to stay busy inside at 110F

I bought this fabric some years back and finally found the courage to use it.  Yes, it's plaid...and it is crinkley gauze.  The stretch is looooong and the weave is very loose.  It is cute though, yes?

I cut the pattern out using a single layer, and was successful in matching the main features of the plaid.  

I don't know what I did with that left dart but let's just call it good until I get all of the top together.  
I am using B5924 View B and plan to use this top with jeans for riding.  I cut a 10 through the shoulders and a 12-14 elsewhere.  This pattern has ABCD cup sizes and I chose to use the C cup size.  We will see if I choose right.  I have been weight lifting and walking on the treadmill 3 x/week.  Only 2 lbs down so far.  

As I was sewing the pieces together, I got a bit frantic about whether to match it vertically or horizontally as the pattern has tops and bottoms to each front and back.  I matched horizontally as that was most obvious.  On the back I matched horizontally first and discovered a way to be more accurate.  

I basted each dark band first, and then basted on the stitching line.  After checking, I stitched right over the basting.  If this were not for riding, I would stitch next to the basting and then remove it.  

Here is what the result is on the center back seam.
 I am happy with this and know that any un-matched spots won't be visible as I am riding.  No one looks at me anyway as my horse Nick is so strikingly handsome!

Besides exercising any OCD tendencies with plaid, I have also set aside some projects to sew through the summer heat.  Organizing pattern and fabric together keeps me focused on my wardrobe choices and lessens distraction from other sewer's projects.  I love to see what everyone else is creating, and I am easily led :-) so this helps me keep to my program.  

I need loose, stylish clothes for kicking around town and these patterns will help.  Next up will be another Ina skirt in this marvelous cotton knit I found at Hancock's for 50% off.  I love these greens and they look awful next to my face but in a skirt...they will be gorgeous :-)  
I hope everyone is staying busy, happy and engaged in creative pursuits.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Esther Rogoway artist, "Life is Full of Fun", 30x32
Not only has my wardrobe changed dramatically but so has my home dec style.  For newer readers, I used to live in a 1940s Cape Cod style home in Oregon-lovely home, lots of nice architectural detail and I'd been there 30 years.   My current home is in the desert and is a slump block home-flat roof, very plain, easy to maintain and clean.  I love the changes I have made and am excited to see that I can still use a few of my old pieces in this casita while adopting a bit of Southwest style in a sophisticated way.    

The landscape colors and light really affect what the interior of the house looks like.  Because we have temps above 100F in the summer, I hung accordian shades and sun screens.  It is very dark in the house so my photos are enhanced a bit so you can see some detail.  Furthermore, as the sun shines in, the paint on the walls shows very yellow or green.   The UV here is super strong-the paint in the front of the house is whitish tan (sailcloth) with a HINT of yellow.  The bedrooms are not yet painted and will likely get cooler neutrals.  

Here is your tour:

living rm with my old green couch, old blanket, old chair :-)
bedrm with a bedspread from Oaxaca, furniture from Oregon, pillows from Bed Bath and Beyond Tucson, pillowcases by me.
guest rm and sewing studio with buildityourself tables, bed from Oregon company, thrifted mirror painted in deep maroon by me.  oh, and pillowcases courtesy of me and Mexican shawl which I haggled for.  
...and here is the Arizona room-a place which was filthy when we moved in and I am so happy with the changes I made.  I cleaned and polished as much as I could, removed spiders and a snake skin, painted some thrifted pieces we hauled from Oregon, and hung a poem near the back door in memory of my father.  This is a wonderful spot in the morning for coffee but is far too hot other times during the summer.  We use it as a dining room sometimes during other times of the year.  Hi little Nick!

This little house is becoming my home...I am continuing to paint and to renovate and upgrade plumbing and lighting. Once that is done, I will have my shower re-tiled and a new door.  For now, it's fine.
Anne Balentine artist
Besides the landscaping we did and the repairs so far, the biggest expense has been art.
Charles Huckeba, mixed media, from the Cosos formation in CA
The pieces we had in our old home complemented an older plaster home.  They got lost in this house.  My casita needed drama, color, and to reflect the desert environment.  We looked online and in galleries, and went to shows.  It is very easy to find Southwest kitsch but not so easy to find Southwest art which is affordable.  This blog entry highlights the pieces we have added in-you will see a range of styles as I am eclectic in my decorating.
thrifted mirror, massive, motif found in Mexican folk art
Tucson artist, weatherproof!

metal bulls from Mexico  

Brenda Peo artist, "Lena", giclee   

Esther Rogoway artist, "Fun and Games", 36x36

Here is the main point of today's blog: retirement gives us a chance to reinvent ourselves and take some risks.  I embraced the idea of moving to the desert, and knew I would be able to find beauty here.  I didn't realize how far-ranging or deep the changes would be and as I reflect on the colors and drama of the art in my home, I see that my spirit is emerging around me.