Friday, October 6, 2017

Travel Memories, Part 1

It was hard to board the plane back to the US last week after 13 fabulous days in England.  However I promised to share the Great British Sewing Bee Live experience in a little more detail and am happy to keep that commitment.  Most Americans wouldn't know that an amateur sewing competition was aired in the UK for four seasons by the BBC since you had to sneak viewing it through youtube videos or a VPN link.  I learned about it through our wonderful sewing discussion boards and loved the civility, creativity and charm of it.  So when our trip plans coincided I was happier than imagined to buy a ticket for the expo itself and to take a class....and then to meet up with the talented moderator of one of the private Facebook sewing groups I have joined.  When Sue made that offer I was again touched and grateful at the friendliness of people who create and dream of fabric, fit and fashion, just as I had been when Sigrid did the same earlier this summer in Amsterdam. 
Thanks to the the easy to navigate London transportation system (oh, I know locals everywhere like to complain but it is marvelous) I took the tube from our hotel near Hyde Park, connected to the Docklands Railway (like Baltimore's above ground light rail system) and arrived at the enormous ExCel convention center.  

I dressed with some thought that morning since one of my expo complaints here in the US is that too few attendees wear something they have made.  My most recent stitch and flip jacket was the answer since it packs like a sweatshirt but looks "citified." (Another aside....at a sewing expo luncheon some years ago the lunch presenter asked us to raise our hands if we were wearing something we had sewn.  About half the room did which was a good sign.  She made us keep our hand in the air and swear not to explain to someone the mistake we had made somewhere, however, in sewing it;-)

Certainly the GBSB expo looked like American ones, those put on by our national organization, the American Sewing Guild and by for profit convention companies such as the regional Original Sewing & Quilt Expos or Sew Expo at Puyallup, WA.  There are booths (whoops, "stands") of vendors with fabric, notions, patterns, sewing machines, sewing furniture, dress forms, all the things that make our hearts go pitter patter and our credid cards go ka'ching.
Friday early morning expo traffic....four times as crowded over the weekend
Since this show is related to the GBSB there was a fun exhibit of some of the garments made over those four seasons...most of which came from seasons two onward.  (I am sentimentally attached to season one since Ann Rowley won and her beautiful creations and helpful sewing tips were already familiar to me from her postings through the years on Stitchers'Guild.)  The challenge for the contestants is, of course, to create these fashions under a time crunch as well as on camera so I am "gobsmacked" by what they accomplish in those circumstances....while keeping a civil tongue and good relationships with fellow contestants.  
Great British Sewing Bee contestant garments on display
I am thrilled that there are sewing bloggers who have made a name and now career for themselves over the last decade and one of my favorites has always been Melissa of Fehr Trade.  As an old seventies TV trope says, she has "spunk" and I have read and admired her creations since she started blogging.  So I was particularly happy to see her stand, her garments and order her new book on sewing activewear.  She graciously agreed to pose for a picture....probably thinking who is this crazy American lady who doesn't look like she runs too many marathons and what is she doing at my stand.
Melissa of Fehr Trade smiles for American tourist
I wandered more of the aisles and noted the stand for the McCalls/Vogue/Butterick pattern trio (usually referred to now as BMV but I still like McVutterick)  There were two women trying on a gorgeous yellow wool coat and I almost stopped dead in my tracks first at the beautiful lines of the coat and second that those design lines were exactly what I was describing to Mr. Lucky at the train station to Paris the previous morning.  I was noting the trend to more cocoon shaped dropped shoulder coat designs, not my best look, and pointed out a picture of a gorgeous version that was flattering and current looking....here's my poor snapshot...
Dropped shoulder but with cocoon coat seaming that made it less overwhelming
And there at the sewing show was the perfect pattern that I could use to work out my version for this winter's coat sewing project.  The sample is of course not my size but look closely at the line drawings for this pattern and I think you see what a hidden gem it is.  The shawl collar is just a wonderful additional detail but what makes it work, IMNHO, are the princess seams and the two piece sleeve panel with easy gusset.  Look at the grey drawing on the pattern envelope and you will see what I missed when this pattern came out...wonderful fit in those design lines.  Thank you, Liesl, loved meeting you and loved seeing this coat in person.  
Happily contemplating how I will make Butterick 6423 mine, mine, mine!

Butterick 6423 on Liesl's blog

From here I slipped over to watch the fashion show and enjoyed seeing the independent designers as well as the BMV garments.  I'm a poor photographer to start and trying to capture moving models made it almost impossible to get respectable pictures.  I did like seeing this Vogue dress in action, Vogue 1532, with the beautiful overlay and sparkly cuffs.
Vogue 1532
The Seam Detail Dress as a top
The unlined Raw Edged Coat in leather
Striking in their simplicity are the designs from Frances Tobin and The Makers Atelier which have a modern deconstructed look to them.  Since the samples at the stand were in cool tones they drew me in but in reality I can't carry this look off without looking sloppy and frumpy, not the look I am going for....usually;-) Sewing pattern gallery But I felt mildly sophisticated for the moment being in London after all so the designs were calling me....and there were plenty of pockets for the inevitable return to dog walking and errands.  However none of the patterns came home with me and that's just fine.

By now I wanted to share my excitement with a sewing friend and was struggling like the dickens with my phone and the ExCel wifi service...finally was able to catch up with Sue and yes, after the  nanosecond "Hmmmm, wonder if this new sewing friend and I will like one another, why did I offer to meet up, could I just slip on by..." we were laughing, comparing notes, enjoying all that comes with finding another person as passionate and involved with the art and craft of making clothing come to life.  And then you, dear Audrey, came up and took up my challenge to add a sweet, thoughtful and fun greeting to this lonely sewing person and made it all a wonderful gathering of sewing aficionados.
Jane, Audrey and Sue, strangers no more
Sue and I had tickets for the afternoon theater show starring the GBSB judges and some of the former contestants.  Again, so sorry for the poor pics but it was so much fun hearing Patrick Grant and Esme Young share info about their backgrounds and their show experiences.  Three former contestants were introduced and had an onstage refashioning 45 minute challenge.  They were paired with an expo attendee, given a thrift garment (in our case, a long gown) and told to make it over into something new...while on the other side of the stage the interviews were going on, another previous contestant gave a sew demo and there was general hilarity.  Talk about focus.  I can't even get my lowly projects done with only Lucky the dog at home to interrupt me.  All good fun and so in the spirit of the show.
Patrick and Esme chatting with Jenny Eclair
The refashioning challenge being critiqued
Sue and I had the loveliest chat afterward, sharing our enjoyment of the show and personal backgrounds that got us to this common place.  But those of you who know me personally are wondering, Jane, you haven't bought anything yet, could this be true?  You know me too well, dear friends and readers.  I could not resist two pieces of wool, my favorite this tweed herringbone with colors that reminded me of our beautiful previous week in Cornwall...
Pure wool, 15 pounds sterling or under $20 per yard
from Fabworks Fabworks online 
I know others envy the US and its great fabric resources like Mood, Elliott Berman or Britx but for pure wool fabrics in wide array of colors and fabrications at reasonable prices, wow, this was a goldmine.  
Then Sue helped me enabled me select a remnant from the Savile Row company Holland and Sherry.  very heavy 100% wool home dec fabric...two yards a little over $25 total.  I see it as a long winter vest over a cozy turtleneck.

All of this in day one of the sewing expo.  I had to battle rush hour that evening but Mr. Lucky and I had fun sharing stories of our days on the town.  While I was in sewing heaven, he took public transportation out to a golf course near Wimbledon, rented clubs and enjoyed the glorious weather with new golf buddies on the local course.  Happy times for both of us.  
Next morning I repeated the journey for more fun and some hilarious laughs...you'll see why I say that in a moment, I promise.
First priority was to visit the exhibit of Libery garments to honor their 140th anniversary.  I have always loved their prints and the feel of those fabrics but never felt I could afford them or do them justice.  I was in my glory getting to examine the details and stitching on the garments, some home made and others sewn my a professional dressmaker and all with that Liberty look.  


About a half dozen or more were dresses and tunics from the '70s which is when I first came to London on the wave of American backpackers touring Europe on $5 a day.  When I saw these beautiful dresses I immediately thought of this picture with my two girlfriends who toured with me the summer of "72. 


I have laughed to see the maxi-dress return in its boho splendor in recent years....fashion just keeps reinventing itself, right?

Ok, that wasn't the humorous part of the day...but my class experience was.  
When I saw the weekend class list I was happy to see that the classes focused on garment sewing, fitting, draping, all thoroughly useful techniques but usually those that I could do already, albeit half-baked, or had limited use for...so I decided to take a class totally out of my box and out of my skill set....and it turned out  to be totally out of my reach.  Tambour beading.  Yes, I the American on a hiking holiday week was going to try her hand at this exquisitely delicate and refined technique for adding luxury touches to couture garments.  What could go wrong with that idea?  

Oh, wait, are you thinking any of those results are mine?  Very funny.  These are just some samples of the exquisite work done by the lovely instructor, Charlotte Appleby, The English Tailoress  She could not have been clearer, more patient or kind to this hopeless, hapless student.  It took me 1 1/2 hours of the three hour class just to learn how to set up our beading frame with its roller arrangement, woven tape and silk organza base.  Then I struggled with the tambour hook, with my new eyeglasses and trying to see the hook and finally just laughed and enjoyed watching Sue and the other women in the class learn to do this amazing craft.  To give you an idea of the delicacy and finesse in tambour beading, that beautiful seahorse is what you would make after a three day class with Charlotte.  Hmmm, much like my pottery throwing and mosaic classes, it's good to get it out of my system and move on.  Move on I did and so enjoyed a free demo given by Jamie Kemp on making hand made looking buttonholes.  he has the tutorial on his blog as well:  Male Devon Sewing 

Jamie Kemp and very good demo set up 
if you have stayed with me this far, thank you.  I will share one dramatic difference in American sewing expos and this one in London....in the US we would not see this sign...

Since Patrick Grant shared that the sale of new sewing machines has multiplied dramatically in recent years (from maybe 50,000 to 100,000 per year to 1.2 million machines sold in three or four years) I believe this might have something to do with it.  So cheers to the Great British Sewing Bee, to Sue, Audrey and all my sewing friends and to you, lovely readers.  May your sewing projects keep you challenged and bubbly.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Great British Sewing Bee Live

Thanks, sweet readers, for your nice comments about the easy peasy floorcloth in my last post.  It must be impressive in person, too.  I had 20+ people over for a barbecue/potluck last night and at least a half dozen of them asked me about it and admired how it turned out.  One neighbor asked me to make him one and I told him that it's just like my sewing for others requests....I'm slow and expensive, probably not the combination he was looking for.

So now the party is over, the refrigerator food and summer produce are almost used up...one more batch of tomato soup for the freezer...and Mr. Lucky and I are headed out this week for another adventure.  A wonderful friend (and trust me, she was wonderful even before she made this offer) has invited us to enjoy a house trade she has made starting mid-week.  Yes, we fly to London on Wednesday evening then take the train out to Cornwall to spend a week in one of my favorite parts on England. We'll be staying only 10 miles from the magical Tintagel and are packing our hiking boots, poles...and rainwear...for lots of long walks, pub meals (yummy Cornish pasties) tea, relaxing and reading.  

But I'm not writing this to tell you my trip plans but to share the happy sewing news that it just so happens that the Great British Sewing Bee Live is in London when we are there the following week.  I'm one of the American groupies who has watched all four seasons via youtube and a Virtual Private Network service....and cheered when the best British seamstress award went to Ann Rowley (a generous and frequent poster on Stitchers Guild Ann's Flickr albums) in season one.  Yes, I understand the time pressures, the uneven skill sets among the participants but it is refreshing to have judging done on some particular standards and for less person to person drama than in American "reality" series.  So when I learned that there was a sewing expo in London I immediately bought my tickets. The Great British Sewing Bee Live I'll be there in the exhibit hall on Friday, watching the Vogue fashion show, visiting the Liberty fashion display and seeing the GBSB stage show on Friday afternoon.  Saturday I am signed up for a class on tambour beading and of course more shopping.  If you see a happy American blogger wandering around with a grin on her face, please stop me and say hello.  I really am a lucky sew and sew.  
Off to pack for the trip. Here's hoping you have something in your life today making you feel like a lucky person too.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fabric Afoot

This time last year Mr. Lucky and I were happily moving back into our renovated and redecorated kitchen and family room.  One change for us was to carry the hard wood floors into our kitchen space, removing the former no clean no wax vinyl flooring.  We bought new wool dhurrie rugs for the dining and sitting area but wondered what to do in th kitchen.  I had seen a great contemporary design floorcloth covering at the Baltimore American Craft Council show and thought perhaps I would paint my own floorcloth.  Well, one of these days I might just do that.  But in the meantime I needed something practical and cleanable in the kitchen area.  We have been using a matching wool rug...a mistake was made for the dining area version so we had it cut down, professionally edged...but that wasn't going to be a long term solution, especially with jam making and tomato sauce making season arriving soon.
When all else fails, spend hours on Pinterest...and that's where this inexpensive, relatively easy project came about.  Most of the time floorcloths are either primed and painted canvas or else the 20th century version, primed and painted vinyl flooring remnants. How about combining the two and actually just cover the vinyl flooring (the most inexpensive piece I could find at Home Depot) by spray gluing some fabric in place 
Floorcloth from cotton fabric wrapped over vinyl flooring

then coating it with four layers of satin finish poly acrylic.  I was sure I would have to go out and find some fabric to coordinate with my new color scheme but surprise, surprise, I actually had something in my resource center that doesn't look bad for a temporary solution.  I bought maybe five yards of this cotton canvas cloth for I think $1 or $2 per yard, intending to use it for making some coat or long jacket mock ups.  
Gluing the fabric to the vinyl on our basement floor

Let's give the appropriate credit to this blogger for giving me the idea:  Easy Floorcloth

Previous temporary wool rug
But it turns out that the colors are neutral enough to blend in with my color scheme.   I would still like to paint something more fun and contemporary next year but even if I don't, my kitchen wood floors are protected, I have a washable floor covering and I think I spent a total of $50 for the whole project.  Just another reason I can justify those frequent Fabric Mart visits.
Lucky wanting to know if kitchen tidbits would still fall on this kitchen floor covering.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summer Sewing

"All in all, it was a never to be forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world."
—Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams
Oh, that Anne of Green Gable, her and that cheerful optimism and love for life.  I have just started watching the new Netflix version of those beloved books while working in my sewing space.  The new series is most likely more psychologically true to the real experiences of a young orphan although I still prefer my memories of reading the books and the mid-'80s TV series.  But any version of these novels is an antidote when the pain, hurt and anger in the world seem overwhelming.  I get to escape to my sewing room, to my books and to happy memories of the summer season almost ending now.  
Two months ago I promised a mini-travelogue on our bike and barge trip but haven't sat down for enough time at the computer to sort pictures and write it up (for my memory more than anything you might find interesting.) However, since I did complete some sewing projects this summer I do want to get them posted, once again primarily for my own record.  Most of these are repeats of some of my TNT patterns so I will post them altogether and call this summer season sewing officially closed.  Labor Day was yesterday here in the US and that holiday means back to school, back to work and now back to more structured and ambitious sewing projects...and maybe even back to more frequent blogging.  So here are the summer projects that kept me busy and happy in my sewing space:

McCalls 7357 tunic
This McCalls 7357 is one of my very favorite "new patterns...meaning yes, it is still available in the catalog.  This one is a lightweight poly with burnout flowers, Fabric Mart, of course and I was particularly flattered when a sewing friend thought it was RTW when I brought it to our sewing meeting last week.  I brought it because I am raving about the potential of this pattern...bust cup sizes, princess seams with that small Euro dart (what the heck is the name of that small dart on a princess seam?) and a three piece sleeve.  This is my third version and I see several more in my future.  There's a lot of ease to the pattern so this is a light and airy summer tunic but I would like to change up the neckline, take out some ease and use it for a knit as well as a woven.
Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic pattern


I could make this pattern up in my sleep.  Another one of my TNT patterns, Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic from Fit for Art  Rae Cumbie is a local friend of mine and I couldn't be happier that her patterns are succeeding in the marketplace.  This one is a fun Fabric Mart rayon knit, fairly lightweight so I don't know how many seasons of wear I will get.  But I wore it to attend a summer lecture on the upcoming solar eclipse (Maryland was in the 80% + path) and someone remarked that it looked like there were moons and planets in the print.  I tried something new for me after watching Marcy Tilton's video on her blog and laid the front pattern piece on the bias.  As she noted, knits don't have grain per se and I like the freedom I get to arrange the fabric as I like.  Seems just as stable as my normal method and gave me real flexibility.  
Vogue 8691
Vogue 8691

Another rayon knit, this one a little beefier and warmer, perfect for fall days.  Vogue 8691 is a Katherine Tilton for Vogue pattern and I love the princess seams, the flounce and mini-mermaid look in the back.  I never do a pretty job attaching those flounces but the gypsy boho fashion thing means not even my sewing friends examine that part up close.
Kwik Sew 3740
OMG, this TNT pattern is ancient in sewing fashion terms.  Kwik Sew 3740 was the buzz at least ten+ years ago for the unique way to managed a cowl neckline without the fear of exposure when you bent down the retrieve something.  I waited a year or two or three before I made one and still wear that one happily to this day.  I loved the summery watery colors in this fabric and it's a lighter than usual rayon blend that feels like slinky...cool and drape-y.  Seems like it was worth holding on to this pattern just to have a new summer top with truly a "quick sew."
Burda 6809
Staying in the same color wave, Burda 6809 has stolen my heart.  This is my second one done in a poly burnout but this time with the collar added, not just with the collar band.  Cute little neckline detail, a little different from so many tunics out there and a two piece sleeve make this one a real winner for me.  I think a linen dress version would be perfect for hot muggy days and once again, maybe even a knit version.

Vogue 8997
Now, in my mind and my mirror I'm as beautiful as the young woman in the catalog wearing Vogue 8997.  That's how much a twirly girly dress can affect your senses.  I made this pattern last summer in a bright pink and cherry red print and this summer I took ten inches out of the skirt circumference and did the water color wave version.  What an absolutely fun dress for dancing in and I highly recommend this very versatile pattern.  There's a two piece sleeve that I have to try and a sheath version and with bust cup sizing this could turn from fun and silly to great mother of the bride outfit.
Stitch and flip jacket



Last one in my turquoise summer love is another stitch and flip jacket.  This is my TNT princess seam jacket and I have raved before about my love for this technique taught on Patternreview by the late gifted and kind Shannon Gifford.  I had actually demonstrated this technique at my sewing meeting early last fall.  It's so easy to do, I exclaimed, as I stitched together the jacket back along with its lining in about thirty minutes....and then left the unfinished project in my sewing room for months!!!  In one of my mad, use or lose it cleaning frenzies I decided to actually finish it.  The trim is just more of the raw silk cut on the bias and zig zagged on the edges and I added pieces of a blue plastic zipper from the old PA Fabric Outlet (boy do I miss that place for its notions.)  I added the pocket trim by hand to curve the bias so you can see those stitches inside, if you are looking.  I add small shoulder pads as well which means that I have to hand sew the lining of the sleeve to the body of the jacket so there is a little hand work but not as much by far as doing the traditional "French jacket" version.  The jacket feels like wearing a sweatshirt and packs wonderfully and the colors make me so happy.
Jalie 3461 Elenore Jeans
Yes, summer is winding down so I squeezed in another pair of Jalie Elenore Pull on Jeans in a black and white Fabric Mart stretch woven transitional print.  I love this RTW lace top from Stein Mart and am always on the lookout for tiny print stretch woven to sew up for pants.  
Wow, that was an interesting retrospective for me.  I have so many other things going on that I feel as though I don't get enough sewing done but it's nice to see that I actually did accomplish some projects and have enjoyed wearing them.  No new big discoveries, just terrific TNT patterns that fit my life.  Here's hoping you have sewing goals and projects that do the same for you.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Will Travel for Fabric and Friendship

Hello, again, dear readers and sewing enthusiasts   I am back from a trip of a lifetime and yes, it does include fabric (no surprise) but also a highlight, meeting up with a fellow sewing blogger whom I have admired for a decade.  
When I mentioned on another blog that I was traveling to Amsterdam in 2017, Sigrid, of the informative, inspiring and so very creative blog, Sigrid Sewing projects emailed me with an offer to meet in person.  Not only did she take the time to meet up with me after returning from her own holiday trip (and we know how much there is to do at home after travels) but she even went along enthusiastically with my last minute request to visit the famous Kantje Boord shop Kantje Boord Amsterdam  Sigrid gave me great instructions about taking the tram from central Amsterdam and maybe 20 minutes later, there I was at the gateway to lingerie paradise.  Now, I don't even make my own lingerie but Sigrid's exquisite creations of the years have always jumped right off the screen because of their beauty and sophistication.  
We spotted each other easily.  Let's face it, after years of posting blog pictures of our successes and sometimes failures, we are rather familiar with the external appearance of our online sewing friends.  But what will we be like in person when we meet?  After 30 20 10 seconds of uncertainty we were off and chatting away.  Sigrid's generosity and helpfulness on her own blog were matched in person as she guided me through this amazing store.  I can share pictures but pictures don't do this justice.  The staff are friendly and helpful and even I, a lingerie newby, just had to buy some things to see if I too can create lovely lingerie items.
By now you probably want to see some pictures so here they are:

Lunch in the sunshine after the hard work of fabric selecting and shopping
My haul selections:
The lace on my "shoulders" are wide laces that are sold in "mirrored" pieces so you can make sure the two sides of a bra or nightgown match.  I loved the lace immediately and when I went to purchase it the helpful staff brought out the coordinating embroidered net fabric and thinner lace trim to go over the elastic straps.  Wow, I will have to up my skills to do this collection justice.

I loved this floral print lace because different color fabrics underneath highlighted different flowers in the print.  Again, when I went to buy the lace it turned out there was a coordinated print net fabric.


One of the nice things about purchasing lace at Kantje Boord is that they will help you put together all the other elastics and fixings for bras.  In this picture is another lace that I simply fell in love with while gazing at the hundreds available.  Sigrid was so right when she said that no one has ever said, oh, yes, I have a place like this in my town.  


There are several other rooms similar to this filled with treasures of fabric and notions.  The gentlemen in the store were being patient just like Mr. Lucky is when I am fabric binging.  But even though I don't speak a word of Dutch I could certainly understand the teasing as the women were selecting printed knit fabrics.  Do you think either of these fellows would like to wear undies with kittens wearing tiaras or windmills and clogs?  Humor and teasing are obvious in any language.
I saw this lace and just had to have since those are my colors.  I'm sure it will coordinate with something in my fabric resource center;-)

I didn't mean to enable Sigrid but even she could not resist a few purchases.  The black and pink lace being measured is so sophisticated.

The displays of completed projects is wonderful as well.  Here are only half of the pictures I took.





I already own two books on sewing lingerie and the bra making class from Craftsy.  I appreciate the guidance on fit and construction which always does come first. But I must say, for style inspiration this is the place to go.  I don't know when I am going to focus my attention on lingerie sewing but when I do, Sigrid's blog and Kantje Boord will be my creative muses.

Sigrid also told me that Amsterdam holds a weekly fabric market so patient Mr. Lucky accompanied me Monday morning while I perused and touched the many selections.  I did end up buying a few more items, not as good quality perhaps as at Kantje Boord, but good to use for my first future attempts.
Monday fabric mart finds
I didn't limit myself to lace, however, and couldn't resist the low prices on these two knit fabrics, one a faux leather that might be leggings or a skirt and one a flocked ponte like knit that might be a dress.



And one splurge:

Remember the lace RTW dress that I just altered for a recent wedding? Nordstrom's blue dress with lace overlay I think this fabric would make a great version with a dark tan dress and fabric flange on a lace overlay.

Well, it's time to finish my unpacking, bill paying, grocery shopping, cooking, weeding and other normal life routines.  Next up I will post about the actual boat and bike trip and later about the fabulous Balenciaga exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Until then, a big shout out again to Sigrid for her kindness. 

Wishing that we lived closer but happy that we can still keep in touch through this medium.  Here's hoping that you having sewing friends who lift your spirits, keep challenging you and share your passion.
SaveSave