San Francisco 6

The sewing retreat ended around noon today. People who live closer to the west coast have already departed the city. I couldn’t make connections all the way to the Canadian east coast work so I don’t leave till 8:10 tomorrow morning. 

Had lunch with another gal who has to spend the night here, then we went fabric shopping. Linda wanted to purchase some, I was happy to tag along. 

Britex does have some lovely if expensive fabric. A week ago I saw this silk panel that reminded me of the paintings of Gustav Klimpt – the colors and detail are simply gorgeous. Each 60″x60″ panel was priced at $125. I thought it stunning but couldn’t think what I’d make with it – my present life style is more LandsEnd than Tiffany. So I walked away. I was hoping when I returned today it might have sold – nope, it was still there. Again, I looked at it but in the end I walked away – I had no idea what I would want to add to my wardrobe.

I stopped on the third floor to look at the petersham (a softer, more pliable version of grosgrain). I was expecting a few colours – I thought I’d pick up a yard of a couple – forget that! The adjacent shelves held rows of shades from white through grey and beige to black. With no specific project in mind it was impossible to choose any.  I left Britex empty handed this time which is just as well since there is no room in my suitcase for one more item.

I love this window display. It caught my attention two years ago. It’s still there. It’s a clothing store next door to Britex. There are garments in a window further along but three of the windows are filled floor to ceiling with these antique machines. Wonder where they’ve found so many.

I can’t imagine walking in anything like these shoes;

Or these.

The Apple Store is wide open to the street on this sunny afternoon. The Apple people in their green jerseys are just waiting there to help you. I had no questions or concerns today so we walked on by. I wonder whether there are any other Apple stores so easily accessible.

I have had a great week, the women were all experienced sewers, all were deeply involved in learning more about fitting and sewing technique. Sandra Betzina is a whiz at fitting. I followed her most of the morning just watching as she spotted adjustments that people could make to their garment muslins then grab a pen and make the corresponding changes to the paper patterns – 3/8″ here, 1/2″ there, opening it out, taking it in. Several modifications to each pattern. At this point in the week those muslins were fitting pretty well.

An early night tonight. I have to be ready for the Airport Shuttle which is picking me up at 5:45 in the morning. I haven’t looked at Halifax weather all week. Hope it’s not snowing when I get back!

Pants #4

I spent all weekend working on Pants #3 and #4 using what I’d learned from the two failures from last week. Same two fabrics – a 20% stretch cotton/polyester denim/twill in a mid-blue and a navy.

This time I constructed the pants front first and made sure I put the front waistband on when I’d finished the fly and pockets! So the side seams lined up as they should have.

Pants #4 – Front

I made the pockets smaller (shorter) and positioned them higher – closer to the yoke seam. I didn’t bother decorating the pockets, just topstitched the top hem. They’re now a better size for my bum and sitting  better.

Pants #4 – Back

The side seams (and inseams) are straight.

Pants #4 – Side

This fabric is actually quite difficult to work with. Because of the amount of stretch I needed the pants to be close fitting – so there is no escaping some wrinkles. However, I’ve had them on since early this morning and they are snug but very comfortable – the back waist stays in place when I sit (a huge plus – my renovated jeans all pull down in back) so the back crotch must be long enough and whatever curvature I left on the side seams at the top of the back seems to hold the pants up over my hips.

I’d prewashed the fabric in warm water (which is what I use for all my washing) and it “shrunk”a bit when I steam pressed it. However, it loosens as I’m wearing the pants. Pants #3 needed washing after two days – I’m hoping they’ll tighten up after they’re laundered. Also, I have no idea whether the fabric will shrink in length (no stretch along the length) so although the pants look a wee bit long I made them my standard 27 1/2” inseam.

That’s it for pants right now. I have pant lengths of khaki and white fabric which are in my take to San Francisco pile – I’ll make up both pairs during the sewing retreat there consulting with Sandra Betzina about refinements with fitting. What these two pair (#3 and #4) have accomplished is a reshaping of the crotch and legs by removing excess fabric from the side and inseams rather than using the mid-back dart and they’ve turned out reasonably well.

And as I’ve said, they’re comfortable.

Pants #3 – Back

Pants #3 – Front

Pants #3 – Side

Jeans #2

Back #1

Back #2

OK. Not impossible. I took a deep breath and unstitched the waistband (which I’d put on upside down). Turned it around, stitched it back on. Added the waistband facing and stitched it down.

I did it, not to salvage the pants – there are problems with how the back of the legs is hanging (because of the fact that the side seams are out by 2″, right?). It’s the bum I was interested in and I can see it’s not bad (click on the images to see the fit more clearly). Had I done the construction correctly, the back would be fine – except for the pockets which are too low – for me, the pockets have to be almost on the yoke seam and not 2″ below which they are (which means I have to attach the yoke before putting the pockets on the back). If raised, the point of the pocket would be in a better location.

There’s also a problem in the front –

Pants Front

the front waistline has to be dropped half an inch – with it that bit too long, the front crotch has “smiles” – which is something I definitely don’t want. (Part of the “smiles” is because I’ve been sitting in them while writing this – but I will shorten the front rise that 1/2″ in the next pair).

Also I’m rethinking adding 1/4″ to each side seam – having had the pants on for 15 minutes I think the legs may actually be fine as they are (given the 20% stretch in the fabric).

Other than that, the pants aren’t too bad. They have served well for a muslin. Nevertheless, they’re still going into the “send to Value Village” pile – but the NEXT pair will be PERFECT! Really.

Weekend Failures

Two Failed Sewing Projects

I’ve been working at trying to get pants to fit me for a long time. I made my last pair last winter (I’m actually wearing them at the moment). Since then my waist has expanded a bit, my bum is still many sizes smaller, my inseam hasn’t changed… So instead of adapting my old pattern I decided to try a new Jeans pattern. I chose the Jalie 2908 – Women’s Stretch Jeans (I’d read good reviews).

I laid out the pattern pieces, saw I needed a size Z at the waist, a size U at the hips and a size R for the inseam. So I traced the pattern, making the adjustments between sizes using my trusty French curve, cut out the pattern pieces, cut out the light blue fabric (which I’d bought on sale and was treating as muslin) and put the pants together.

For me, the trouble with pants is I can’t baste them together and have any idea whether they fit – I have to put in the fly zipper, the pockets, add the waistband, even hem them (because the legs don’t hang correctly even pinned at the correct length) – in other words make the pants – before I know whether the pattern works or not.

I was using a stretch denim twill (20% stretch called for in the pattern) and the resulting pants were just ill-fitting! I didn’t bother with buttonholes in the waistband (all that was left to do) – I put the pants in the “off to Value Village” pile. (I will try the pattern again but probably not before the summer.)

That was Saturday.

Sunday, I went back to my Sandra Betzina Jeans pattern (V7608), redrafted the back panel yet again – last version had a long dart down the centre back of the leg from just under the bum to the top of the knee. I wanted to remove that excess fabric, instead, from the side seam and the inseam. Once I had the pattern retraced (with adjustments) I cut out my darker blue stretch denim/twill and constructed the pants.

I was doing a great job – put the decorative stitching on the pockets, attached them to the back panels, added the back yoke/waist. Attached front pockets and fly – both without a hitch. Time to join front and back – and here’s where I went disastrously wrong. I forgot to attach the front waistband before doing anything else!

I had stitched the front crotch so putting in the zipper was easier; I now stitched the back crotch (you get a slightly better fit if you sew the inseams first, then the crotch seam but in my head I was working on a second muslin and decided ease of inserting zipper trumped finessing the fit). I sewed the inseams, and the side seams – without the front waistband in place. Even though the front side seam was 2″ shorter than the back side seam (I trimmed away the excess on the back) then I stupidly serged both side seams – without questioning why the length difference. It was only when I reached to attach the waistband that I saw my mistake.

I stopped sewing. I made a quick trip to the fabric store to pick up more of both blue stretch denim/twills since I still had valid sale coupons and the fabrics were themselves still on sale. Planning on starting over – paying careful attention to what I am doing!

Today, I tried removing the “waistband” portion of the back yoke on the darker blue pants, tried adding a full waistband – only to see that I’d attached the waistband upside down! Not meant to be.

The pants would have fit quite well had I assembled them correctly. What I did learn is that although the legs fit not badly, I probably should add 1/4″ to side seam from the hip to the knee – in other words, take a bit less off the sides (I can always take them in – can’t let them out). These legs fit rather snugly.

So taking a deep breath, I’ve washed and pressed the new fabric and am ready to start over. Planning to assemble the parts in the right order this time.

Small Zippered Bags – Again

Three Different Fabrics

I made 40 small zippered bags before Christmas. During the holiday season I gave most of them away. Two days ago I went to my bag stash to pick out one to give a friend and realized I was down to just four bags. Time to make more!

Yesterday, I bought three half-meter pieces of bright fabric, raided my quilting fabric for a length I didn’t like any more to use as lining, cut batting from a large piece left over from a recent quilt, cut lengths of zipper tape, and 2 1/2″ pieces of grosgrain ribbon for a small tab on the side. An hour later I was set to go into business.

This morning I went into production – three hours later I had eighteen 6″ x 8″ bright zippered bags. 

I’m getting organized at this mass production thing – I resisted the temptation to do all the steps on individual bags; I completed each production step on all eighteen bags before moving on to the next. The whole job went quickly.

However most of my sewing/quilting is focused on unique constructions so what I’ve learned from bag production line isn’t much help for the other sewing I do.

Second Pieced Demo Pillow Cover

Finished Pillow Cover Top (Starburst arrangement)

Finished Pillow Cover Top (Starburst arrangement)

Here is the second pieced pillow cover as a demo for the gals interested in having a go at some sewing in ten days time. I had finished the 16 half-square-triangle blocks yesterday, I assembled them into a 4 x 4 array this afternoon. Added batting, stitched in the ditch around the “star” elements to quilt the cover top. Found a fabric for the back, cut batting – my original cut was 16″ – I needed 16 1/2″! so I had to cut a second piece of both batting and fabric. Quilted the cushion back along diagonal lines in both directions.

This time I applied an invisible zipper (I’m actually thinking about taking the first pillow apart and inserting an invisible zipper into that one – I bought a second one for that purpose this afternoon).

Back of Finished Pillow Cover

Back of Finished Pillow Cover

I’m about to sit down and write instructions for making a 16″ pillow cover from 10″ fabric blocks (layer cake size).

  • Step 1: Mark both diagonals
  • Step 2: Stitch 1/4″ on each side of both diagonal lines
  • Step 3: Cut along diagonal lines, then again on both the center vertical and horizontal lines which yields eight 4 1/2″ half-square triangles – perfect for this size pillow cover.
Mark Diagonals, sew 1/4" from line on each side

Mark Diagonals, sew 1/4″ from line on each side

Here’s a tip for making a pillow cover – don’t sew the corners square. I happen to own this Dritz Pillow Cover Template (I’ve had it for years!). As you can see, it rounds off the corners removing about 1/4″ – 3/8″ from the corner. This rounded corner looks square when the cover is stuffed with a pillow. You don’t get those pointy “ears” on the corners. I trimmed my corners on both the yellow pillow cover yesterday and the one I just finished.

Corner Shaping Template

Corner Shaping Template

I applied my zipper along the curved edge just fine, when finished the zipper edge looks square as do the other three sides.

Grey-Yellow IV

The grey-yellow quilt is finally quilted and bound. Before I left for Toronto, I’d assembled the quilt sandwich, pinned the layers, intending to get back to work on it as soon as I got home. Didn’t happen. We had a couple of severe snowstorms, I came home with a dreadful cold that triggered my asthma, so I spent the better part of 10 days doing little other than coughing.

Finally, last Monday morning, I managed to go to the pool for my regular water aerobic class (I coughed quite a bit, but managed to breathe well enough to stay for the hour). Afterward, when I got home, I looked at the quilt and decided it was time to get back to work on it.


Quilt Top

I fused and appliquéd the circle detail in position, and quilted the immediate surrounding block but didn’t get much further till the end of the week when I managed to get the rest of the central blocks quilted. Sunday, I quilted the border. This morning, I added the binding and label.


Quilt Back


I still had a bunch of half-square triangles left over. I decided to use them for a pillow cover. Last week one of the other sewers in our Friday afternoon knitting/sewing group and I offered to assist those gals interested in making a pillow cover with piecing some half-square triangles into a 4 x 4 block. Five indicated some interest so Debbie and I are planning a sewing Friday in my sewing studio to make zippered, pieced pillow covers.


Pillow Top

I started by gathering together all my leftover blocks – I had 13 constructed which I laid out in a 4 x 4 array – I made another four blocks being careful to use the appropriate grey fabrics so I could build some symmetry into my layout. I used my darkest grey in the corners, distributed the other two shades evenly, then sewed the blocks together. I added batting, and quilted along the diagonals to build some stability into the top. Next I cut a 16″ square piece of batik which I also backed with batting and stitched on the diagonal.


Pillow Back

I trimmed the corners of both the top and back, slightly rounding them off, to create the illusion of ‘”squareness” when a 16″ pillow would be stuffed inside the cover. Finally, I added a zipper (a regular zipper, not an invisible one) to one end, unzipping it before sewing the two sides and the opposite bottom end.

Our instructions to the women were to purchase just two contrasting fabric from which to construct their pillow top. Here, I’ve used several yellows and three different greys. So, I decided, my next pillow cover had to be constructed from just two fabrics. I dug through my stash and came up with a somewhat dark blue/turquoise batik but I had nothing light to complement it, so back to the fabric store to buy 1/4 m. of a light batik.

I cut each of my two 10″ width-of-fabric pieces into four 10″ squares – paired light and dark blocks, marked the diagonals, placed right sides together and stitched 1/4″ on both sides of the diagonal lines. Then I cut along the diagonals and both the horizontal and vertical mid-lines to get eight 4 1/2″ half-square triangles from just two 10″ blocks! All I need for one pillow top is four 10″ blocks (two of each fabric). I’ve got those done and laid out ready to stitch, which I’ll do tomorrow.

I have already cut fabric for the pillow cover back, and batting squares for both top and back. I still could use an 18″ invisible zipper (I like using zippers that are longer than I need so I can ignore the slide when sewing them in place, trimming them after I’ve completed the side seams). It’s not that I don’t have tons of #3 zipper tape (and slides) from which to make an appropriate length zipper, but if I use an invisible one, you’ll barely see it when I’m finished. Besides, both Debbie and I think the gals will be pleased with themselves for having actually sewn in an invisible zipper which is not difficult to do.

So more tomorrow after I finish my second demonstration pillow.