Monday, September 1, 2014

Minnesota Wrap-up

I'm back from Minnesota and (except for some hot, sticky, humid weather), it was a great trip!

The Summary:

  • Daughter is launched and is happy. (Yes, this well-trained traveler simultaneously carries a daypack, a backpack, a ukelele, and two suitcases. Easy peasy.)
  • So mama is happy.
  • Minnesota is awesome. I stayed in 3 different homes, thanks to airbnb, and got to chat with some great folks, including a clothing designer–we had a lot to talk about! I showed her how to make a Tablecloth skirt, and figured out a dress in her lookbook that she's been trying to puzzle out.
  • Minnesota is full of art, especially whimsical sculptures. (Hey, I love the giant spoon.)
  • When walking around a neighborhood in Minneapolis, we saw many wild bunnies. Wild. Bunnies.
  • Most terrifying quote: One of my airbnb hosts was originally from Wisconsin. I asked her if Wisconsin winters were about the same as Minnesota winters. No, she said. "In Wisconsin you get used to your nose hairs freezing, but in Minnesota it's your eye gel."
  • DD2 went to Minnesota without any real winter gear. I think she needs some quick.
  • Minnesotans are nice. I marveled how nice when one of my airbnb hosts mentioned the quote "Minnesota nice." I had never heard that before, but it's apt.

I had only one free day to play, but I squeezed in as much as possible. I first visited Ginny's Fine Fabrics in Rochester (where I saw the front entrance to the famous Mayo Clinic). I drove to St Paul (about 90 minutes north from Rochester) and stopped by Atelier 957 (a high-end RTW boutique). I then went to Treadle Yard Goods for the pre-arranged meet up.


Ginny's Fine Fabrics (Rochester)

with Ginny

I had heard from several folks that I really shouldn't miss Ginny's Fine Fabrics (Facebook page) in Rochester. Of course, one hopes to never need the expert services of the Mayo Clinic, but if one does, then it's time to find solace at Ginny's, just a few blocks away.

Though I got an early start, I had some difficulty finding the store. She moved recently and, when I entered "Ginny's Fine Fabrics" into the GPS on my phone, it took me to her old location. Repeatedly. But, luckily, her old location (which is still vacant) has the address of her new location written on the window. Her old location (12 S Broadway, Rochester) is about 2 blocks from her new location (211 S Broadway, Rochester), so I parked and walked.

What a wonderful store! I'm told that the new location is much larger than the old location. It consists of two levels of fabric and she has some wonderful fabrics! Soon after walking in I was met by Sharon. Sharon is a dedicated customer–she is from Wisconsin–but I originally ran into her in California several years back. I was in Pacific Grove for a private sewing retreat, and she was there attending a Jane Foster sewing retreat, and we met while shopping in nearby Carmel.

The sewing world is a small world, indeed.

Sharon had spied a fabric that she knew I would like: a block ponte with flocked black circles. It was selling fast, so she asked Ginny to set it aside for me. She's right! I loved it. I bought a piece of that, and a piece of a rayon/spandex newsprint piece. I could have easily spent more, but I was on a budget. (Hey, textbooks are expensive.)

Thanks, Sharon!

I very much enjoyed visiting Ginny's, but it was time to hit the road.

Atelier 157 (St Paul)

I knew I was going to have a bit of a window before my 3pm meet up at Treadle Yard Goods in St Paul, so I had emailed Marcy and Katherine Tilton, asking them what else I might be able to squeeze in. They confirmed that I would not have enough time to visit SR Harris and it's 30,000 square feet of fabric. (The closer Burnside location of SR Harris (with 15,000 square foot of fabric) won't be open for another several weeks.) They suggested that I visit Atelier 157 (Facebook page), a high-end RTW boutique on Grand Avenue in St Paul, about three quarters of a mile from Treadle Yard Goods.

They both told me I shouldn't miss it.

They were right! This boutique is exactly the kind of boutique I love (and visit whenever possible). They carry, for example, Planet, Black Label by Rundholz, Crea Concept, Babette, Cop Copine, and IC Collection. They also carry some wonderful accessory and jewelry designers. They have a basement of sale items and also do custom work, though I didn't ask about that. As I chatted with the owner and one of the sales ladies, they were very pleased to hear that I knew the Tilton sisters and I learned that the Tiltons grew up only blocks away.

You should definitely check out this boutique if you are in the area!

After a very enjoyable visit, I walked to Treadle, eager for the meet up!

Treadle Yard Goods (St Paul)

with Mary

When I mentioned on my blog that I would be going to Minnesota, I received three offers for meet ups. I accepted the offer from Alice M, who contacted Mary, owner of Treadle Yard Goods (Facebook page). Mary graciously agreed to let us use her classroom. Delicious snacks were provided by The Oilerie St Paul (Facebook page). (Their Balsamic Vinegar is amazing!)

Some really wonderful, creative sewists were able to attend. Several are members of Treadle's Fashion Sewing Club. In fact, several of them have taken many classes from Katherine Tilton at the nearby Textile Center in Minneapolis. I was also happy to meet a local blogger that I "know" from Pattern Review and from comments on my blog, "Mrs Smith" (aka Charisma, aka Nakisha), from Sew Crafty Chemist.

So, yes, the local water must be full of Creative Juice.

The meet up was a lot of fun! I talked for a bit and answered questions. I had asked everyone to bring one or two items of show and tell, and I'm so glad I did! I snapped a few quick pictures (some too fuzzy to share). The creativity was impressive!

Mary has a wonderfully curated selection of fabrics! After the meet up and the eating, we did some shopping! I really enjoyed watching what everyone purchased. Mary also carries a very special item in her store: Alice M's husband is a wood turner, and he makes gorgeous seam rippers using different types of wood and also with resin. Just look at these beauties!

Above: American Cherry
Below: Resin

The meet up was so much fun! Thanks so much to Alice (organizer par excellence) and Mary (gracious owner) for a fun afternoon!

September Projects

I am happy to be back home! I am eager to dive into new projects–I have two scheduled for September. First up, I have a gorgeous piece of fabric from Marcy Tilton. This one is really special. I know what I want to make with it, but I don't have the right pattern (of course). It's is on it's way and I will make a test version before I cut into this fabric.

Britex has asked me to make another project. I picked up the fabric, a very striking wool, last Tuesday, the day before I left for Minnesota. I know what I want to make with it, but I don't have the pattern (of course). It's on it's way. I'm giving myself another fun little challenge with this one.

Today (Labor Day) is a holiday in the U.S. For today's walk, I headed to the yarn store. More about that later.

Tomorrow it's back to work, but next weekend I will be in Portland and Seattle for a work trip. I don't expect to be doing any sewing-related activities on this trip, more's the pity.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fifth Blogiversary!

Many bloggers do a "year in review" post somewhere around Dec 31st, but I am always too busy sewing over the holiday break. Besides, the end of August (i.e. early Fall) feels more like a new beginning to me.

So, yes, August 25th, 2014 is my 5th blogiversary! Bear with me while I look back over the last year...

(You can also check out my previous blogiversary posts.)


Year in Summary

Yowza, when I look at my 4th blogiversary post, I can't believe all of the changes and events of the year!

What Have I Sewn - Successes

My productivity was definitely down this year, partly because of the competition last fall, but even more because of the new commute-ful job, which takes a lot of time and saps one's energy. I still managed to make some garments that I have enjoyed wearing. The Burda coat (first pic), in particular, is something I wear all the time, but I wear all of these garments. (OK, I just finished the Tablecloth skirt (last pic), but I will definitely be wearing this!)

All of these pics are clickable and take you to the related post.

What Have I Sewn - Failures

What have I sewn that hasn't been too successful?

I know that you guys love to read about my failures. :D

I found three items that fit this category, though the dress (first pic) was rescued when I turned it into a skirt—it just wasn't my style, as a dress. I love the skirt and wear it a lot.

The chiffon top (second pic) was from the FabricMart competition and was the garment that got me ousted. I really really disliked that fabric. I did my best with it, given my very limited time (I also had a substantial writing project the same weekend as part of the interviewing process for my future job), but the final top was pretty awful. I freely admit that. (Did I mention that I really really disliked the fabric?) It's hard (at least for me) to do something great with a fabric that set my teeth on edge.

The third top is a Vogue pattern and I quite like the pattern, but the fabric (from JoAnns) is awful. After one or two washings, this top looks ready for the rag bag—the quality is atrocious. I plan to make this top again with a better quality fabric.

Clicking a pic takes you to the relevant post.

Top 10 Posts

These are my top 10 posts of all time, only two of which are from this year. (I guess I am losing my touch!)


End of Year Number of Posts Number of Followers Number of Subscribers
1 125 130 Was Google Reader in use?
2 107 341 482 (GR)
3 107 505 739 (GR)
4 92 617 996 when GR was retired on 7/1. 611 in Bloglovin.
5 98 695 1136 (Bloglovin)

The Coming Year

What's in store for the coming year?

Mostly, I want to keep pushing the creative envelope—that is what I truly enjoy. I have a long list of projects I want to make that I am very excited about. I have less time to sew (or blog), but I feel committed!

I want to thank each of you, my blog readers and my blogging sisters! It has been a great year and you have all been a big part of that. Thanks for your support, your feedback and comments, and your creativity! I am truly grateful.

I traditionally do a giveaway to celebrate my blogiversary, but I'm not prepared for that right now. (I leave in a couple of days to take my youngest to her first year at university in Minnesota. I'll be seeing some of you soon!) Let me mull it over and maybe I can come up with a good giveaway a bit later this year.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Striped Crinkle Tablecloth Skirt

I made another Tablecloth skirt! (Click the link for free instructions on how to make your own!)

I recently acquired 2 yards of a lovely, boldly striped, crinkled cotton from Smuggler's Daughter, called Paris Stripes - La Bastille. (Click the pic to see the listing on their site.)

I wanted to use a pattern that would make the most of the lovely yardage. An added bonus - this skirt is a very quick sew! I hemmed it by hand, so as not to stretch out the pleats.

I tweaked the dimensions from my previous versions to use the 2 yards - my previous versions were longer and used more yardage. The four hem panels are 13"x41", and the center square is 41"x41". I quite like this length!

I think I may take this to Minnesota! (I haven't checked the weather there lately. I hope it is not too hot and humid. Shams may melt!

Twirling. You can really see the tablecloth shape!

Not twirling, just windy!

Thanks for your lovely comments on the Butterfly top. I had a lot of fun with that challenge!

By the way, no need to be concerned about me regarding last night's 6.1 earthquake! It did get my attention and woke me up at 3:20am. It was more of a rolling earthquake (not a sharp jolt) and it lasted for seconds, but there was zero damage here. Napa (about an hour away) took the brunt of it. I checked with my former in-laws this morning - they have a business there. They have some superficial damage that will require about a day to clean up, but nothing structural, and no one was injured, thank goodness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bias Cut Butterfly Top Engineered from Border Print

I've finished my first Britex Blogger guest project! You can see it on the Britex blog.

There is a bounty of riches to be found on Where should a newbie guest blogger begin?

As I love border prints, and I also have a soft spot for paisley fabrics, it didn't take me long to settle on this beautiful 100% viscose panel and border print from Italy. I made a bias, V-neck top using view C of Vogue 7906 (an out-of-print Vogue Basic Design) as a starting point.

You might ask (and rightfully so), "Is this fabric a panel print? Or is it a border print? Which is it?"

It's BOTH!

Generally, a border print is manufactured with the border placed along one (or both) fabric selvedges. This means that if you want the border to appear along a hem, for example, you have to cut the fabric across the grain.

In this case, they placed the border print from selvedge to selvedge, repeating it every 39", so you can cut the pattern on the grain and still have the border appear along the hem of your garment. (Aside from the 18" border, the rest of the 39" panel features a turquoise background scattered with what-I-think-are stylized leaves.)

However, if you know me at all, you know that I like the unexpected. I spent days (maybe weeks) deliberating on how to use this wonderful fabric. I would chose a design and then, days later, I'd reject that idea and go back to the drawing board. I made, and changed, my mind at least 5 times. There are so many ways you can use a border print. In fact, I've created a Pinterest board with all sorts of inspiration for borders and panels.

Fabric hanging from m front porch

I finally decided to use three panels of this fabric to make a top, placing the border along the neckline on a 30° bias angle, and matching the print at center front, center back, and the shoulders. Using a 30° bias, instead of a 45° bias, creates a deeper V-neckline and the causes the print to meet at a pleasing angle. (There is no such thing as the "bias police"! You don't have to use a 45° angle bias, so long as you are consistent and the fabric behaves well at the angle you've chosen.)

Have you ever heard of an engineered print? An engineered print, also called a placed print, uses a print strategically as a design element; the print is possibly even designed for use in a specific garment. I engineered the extra wide (18") printed border to create a symmetric "butterfly" effect. The sleeves are cut on the straight of grain with the border at the top of the sleeve cap.

Auditioning the border placement for the sleeve

Laying out one of the fronts. Just look at the size of that bust dart. ;)

Matching the print

I didn't want the solid fuschia edge near my face, so I cut the front to exclude the fuschia entirely.

Pattern matching at center front

The fuschia appears only at center back, where I quite like it.

Pattern matching at center back

I performed quite a few pattern alterations:

  • enlarged and lowered the bust darts
  • added small darts at the back neckline
  • drafted a back neck facing
  • removed the button front closure
  • narrowed the shoulders
  • slightly reshaped the armholes (a side effect of the bias)
  • shortened the sleeves
  • created a V-neckline

The length of the top, the shirt-tail hem, and the gently flared sleeve are from the original pattern.

When I cut the back pieces, I had an area at the hem that ended abruptly at the selvedge edge, due to the print matching.

So I patched it. I didn't have an exact match for the print, so I inserted a piece that was very close.

This floaty top is absolutely wonderful to wear in warm weather! Despite the fact that uses a woven fabric, has no closure, and uses darts for a closer fit, the bias has enough give that it pops on and off over the head. It skims the body but doesn't cling. It also flutters beautifully in the breeze.

I love it!

(Note: I am wearing the top with black denim pants that I made using Katherine Tilton pattern, Vogue 8837. Sadly this pattern (one of my favorites) is now out of print.)

Thanks to Britex for providing the fabric!