Friday, October 31, 2014

Easy table runner!

I whipped up this table runner yesterday in about an hour from fabric I bought a few years ago (you may remember my obsession with blue and white china). I sandwiched a piece of leftover quilt batting between two pieces of fabric, edged it with wide bias tape, and sewed along the edge of the bias tape to secure everything. I love the way the runner adds color to the table and pulls the dining room together. I have a small piece of this fabric left. Hmm, what to make? A matching runner for the buffet, maybe?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Seventh and last summer top finished (finally)

My friend Lisa and I made the last top using the Burda pattern from top #5 and the leftover sparkly knit fabric from top #6. I think it looks fantastic and didn't cost anything to make.

Yay, Seven Summer Top challenge completed! What to do next?

Friday, September 5, 2014

A new twist on mother/daughter outfits

My daughter sent me this image this morning, of herself in the African dress (Togolese, actually) that matches a tunic I made a few weeks ago. I think the two together are a cute throwback to mother/daughter outfits we have had in the past.  See how the embroidery around my hem matches the embroidery around her sleeves?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Summer top #6 nearly done

This yummy little number, in a sparkly black knit of unknown fiber content, cost me exactly $0.00 to make. The fabric had been in my stash for a long time. DD bought it off of a G Street Fabrics sale table long ago.

I was originally going to use the same cowl neck sleeveless top pattern from Burda magazine that I wrote about last time, but there was a lot of fabric, so when I saw a long, bat-wing, cowl neck tunic advertised on television, I decided I'd make something similar for myself. Here's the result, still missing the hems, but you get the idea. The bat wings need to be cut a few inches closer to the armpit, but no major surgery is required on this one.

While not exactly a hot weather top, this tunic will look pretty fetching with skinny pants when the temperature drops.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Porch railings at last!

You may have noticed, if you are particularly observant, that the porch steps in the photo of Summer Top #5 have a new handrail. Just yesterday DH and I (well, DH mostly) finished installing railings on three sides of the porch as well.

You may wonder why, after seven years of occupying this old building,we suddenly decided to spend $700 to put railings on the porch. And therein lies the story. A few weeks ago, an old friend came to visit. She  said that her husband had been ill for several months.

My friend and her husband own a beautiful old house in a fashionable neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. As she told it, for years they had thought about raising a low-hanging chandelier, but instead put a table under it. For some reason, one day her husband leaned across the table and straightened up suddenly, cracking his head on the chandelier. My friend said her husband had suffered horrible headaches for months as a result of the accident.

We were sitting on the porch at the time she told this story. I had just warned her to be careful not to fall over the edge. Hearing of the pain and misery resulting from a preventable accident made my husband and I determined to put up railings before someone fell off the porch. And voila, there they are. I think they look great! Now if I can just get the sidewalk re-poured...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Princess Has Left the Building

I should be happy, really I should. After seven years of talking about it, my DH has finally agreed to opening a bed and breakfast. We have three empty bedrooms on the second floor, after all, a cool historic location, and lots of energy for a couple of fifty-somethings. We like to wake up early, and we know something about preparing food for a crowd. The city is planning to build a walking trail right past our house.

Next step: get the rooms ready. Remove personal items belonging to our children. Start with DD's beautiful tower bedroom, dubbed the "Princess Room" by her little cousins, who love to stay there.

Forgive me if I have told this story before. When I was expecting our first child, I fixed up a lovely nursery in yellow, turquoise and pink. This was in our little house in College Park, Maryland. When our darling daughter was born, she slept in said sweet nursery for five months before we moved to the Comoro Islands. Nothing fit in our new home in the tropics and despite all my best efforts, the little nest I had made for our firstborn was gone.

Fast forward sixteen years or so, to our move to our current castle. We built another nest for our baby girl, now a junior in high school, with sparkly lace curtains and the period-inappropriate bamboo floors she wanted. Her dad bought an ugly black metal bunk bed while I was away in Washington, but I dressed it in lavender, mint green and pink. The ceiling fan was ultra-modern, the fixtures brushed aluminum.

You can guess what happened. DD lived in that room all of six months before heading out to spend her senior year in France. I stood in the princess's empty tower, on those bamboo floors, under that ceiling fan, and mourned.

Still, during her four years at the state university thirty miles up the road, our daughter came home frequently to recharge her batteries within the round green walls of her tower. For five years, she brought the love of her life, in whom I invested emotionally, too, and then suddenly he wasn't the love of her life anymore, and we both mourned the loss.

Every time DD came and went, more and more stuff got left behind. Journals. Sketchbooks. Jewelry. Posters. Class notes. Guitar chords. Lots of rocks. A Dremel drill, unused, that her dad bought her for making jewelry with the rocks. Photographs of her former love.

And now it is my job to sort through all that stuff and leave only the things that a stranger might understand and appreciate. I worked valiantly for several hours, traveling randomly through various episodes in the life of our little girl, now an independent young woman whom we are fiercely proud of, and now it is all too much, and I can't bear to put one more thing in a plastic tub today.

The princess has left the building.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Freestyle sewing with the nieces

I've had a houseful of family guests this week, including my two nieces. Last year when they were here we talked about sewing, but this year we actually did some. The younger one wanted "genie pants" for which no pattern exists anywhere. I designed the pants and another sewing sister came up with top. I turned the two little girls loose with my old $25 Brother machine, and it was great to see the lights go on in their heads as they took turns sewing the long seams. Finally one of them showed me the seam in her t-shirt and asked, "Was this made with a sewing machine, too?" Their eyes brightened with the recognition of sewing possibilities.

The older girl wanted a t-shirt with a hood. She already had one, so I copied it for the pattern. While we sewed it up, she decided a front pocket and sew-on patches would make it even better, so the project grew.

Both girls love their new clothes. I spent about $11, once coupons were deducted, on the fabric, but watching them discover the fun of sewing was priceless.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer top #5

Back in April I had a free evening in Terre Haute, Indiana and walked over from our hotel to a bookstore. With me were the two young beauties who modeled for me in the Trashion/Refashion show, and one of them talked me into buying the Spring 2014 issue of Burda Style magazine.

For a while I really didn't see anything in the magazine that I thought was worth all the tracing. Then I pulled out a piece of deep purplish navy cotton/lycra, left over from leggings I made my third grade daughter (now 22). My pattern stash yielded nothing interesting, so I flipped through the magazine and a picture of a simple sleeveless cowl neck top caught my eye.

The top turned out cute and flattering. My friend Lisa liked it so much, she's out shopping for fabric to make her own as we speak. Should you be inclined to make this pattern for yourself, however, be advised that it is sized very large. I had the thing finished before trying it on. Bad planning; every seam had to be taken out so I could cut a full inch off both side seams and resew them. A two-hour project ended up taking twice that. The armholes are also too deep to cover a normal bra. The instructions for the cowl neck are unclear; when sewing the shoulder seams, you need to sandwich the back between the front and the cowl and sew through all three layers.

Summer top #4

Summer top #4 started out life as a skirt, part of an embroidered cotton jacquard dress and skirt set made for me in Africa, circa 1995. I never liked the way the outfit looked together, but DD wanted the dress, so I was free to do something else with the skirt.

I used Butterick 3928, a jumper pattern from the 1990's, cut shorter to make a top. You can see from the photos how I cut to take full advantage of the embroidery, eliminating the side seams from the hip down. I used a mint green cotton from my stash for the facings and repeated the color in the two buttons, which I bought at JoAnn's for about $2.00.

I like the way this top hides a multitude of sins, although the colors don't go with much besides jeans, so it may not get as much wear as some of the others. I also had an uh-oh moment with the seam ripper, resulting in a tiny hole near the base of the zipper, but it's practically invisible to the naked eye.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Becoming Jane, or at least dressing like her

Last weekend my niece, her roommate and I attended the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, and had a most wonderful time. You can learn all about the festival here:

What I wanted to share, besides my love for all things Jane Austen, are these three dresses I made for us to wear at the event. Mine had to be pulled up in the back with pins to keep the train from dragging in the mud the first night, then I liked it so much that way, and was so mindful of the pleated trim that had taken me an hour per yard to make, that I left it that way for the remainder the festival. In keeping with the self-imposed frugality of the summer, for my dress I used fabric my aunt gave me a few years ago, (but paid $20 for "The Elegant Lady's Closet" pattern).

For the girls' dresses I used Simplicity 4055, which sewed up fairly quickly. At the last minute I whipped up three little matching bags called "reticules" and voila! we were ready for the Regency promenade.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Pfaff City

Look what DH got me for our 30th anniversary! I'm so excited I could almost stay home from church just to play with it, but I'll defer gratification a few more hours. It's a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2, to replace my sadly no-longer-fixable 1222E, which we traded in along with the two parts machines. I hope to get thirty more happy years out of this machine (and the same husband).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer top #3, not free but very cheap

It took me a while to get top #3 of my Seven Summer Top Challenge finished, but it was worth it. I love how crazy this top turned out. The pattern is McCall's M6649, but I shortened the sleeves and added turn-back cuffs to make it cooler to wear (and to accommodate a fabric shortage). If I make this pattern again, I will move the pockets away from the center a half inch; they look too close together to me. To make this shirt, I combined a small piece of leftover Hawaiian shirt print fabric someone gave me with an unused blue curtain, both from my stash. I had to buy a fat quarter of fabric in a contrasting print ($1.99) and buttons ($.99) for a grand total of $2.98 plus $.20 sales tax. $3.18 for a new shirt is very affordable, even if it's technically a violation of the challenge to spend anything. I could have used more fabric and buttons from my stash, but it wouldn't have turned out this well. I made up the rules and I can break them!

Next project: My own Regency dress for the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville. I've already made two, for my niece and her friend. The festival is in two weeks, yikes! Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Summer top #2, absolutely free

This top I refashioned from a rayon batik dashiki-thingy that was a gift from a friend in Africa. I loved the fabric, but the arm openings were so deep on the original garment that I really couldn't wear it outside the house. Once the neck binding started to fray, it was obviously time for a refashion.

I didn't use a pattern for this one. I probably should have checked the hip measurement before cutting, as I could use an extra inch or so there, but the top is cool and comfortable and completely wearable. I especially like the fringe on the bottom.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A week's worth of summer tops without spending a dime

This spring I finally had time to enter a couple of outfits in the Bloomington Trashion/Refashion  show, which was a blast. I refashioned a couple of old Mexican embroidery garments that had belonged to my mother, plus some string from a defunct furniture factory, into cute new outfits, modeled in the show by a couple of adorable young women. 

The whole experience got me thinking hard about all the wonderful materials I have tied up in unused yard goods and boring, outdated or ill-fitting clothes. At the same time, I don't have many summer clothes that I actually want to wear. And thus was born this summer's challenge: Make a week's worth of new tops, seven in all, from fabrics and notions already in my stash.

Here's number 1, made from a piece of batik fabric I bought in Kinshasa six years ago. The pattern is New Look 6107. The covered buttons, interfacing and thread were all found in my stash. I love this top; it's a flattering shape and the pattern wasn't hard to adjust to my size. I'm visiting my sister in Minneapolis and have worn it at least three times already, so this one's definitely a keeper.

I made a set of Roman shades for my sister's bay window while I was here, which turned out very nicely, too, so I'm feeling very creatively successful at the moment. We're having a great time, but tomorrow I will return to the Hoosier state and my brain is already working hard on tops #2 and 3.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fighting winter demotivation

It's crappy outside. Here in southern Indiana, we aren't bombarded by snow like our friends in the northeast, but it's 3° outside and still fairly slick. I don't mean to whine; it's winter and this is what winter is supposed to do. Still, the long-term effects of a hard winter are nefarious: eat too much, waste too much time playing with my cell phone, exercise sporadically if at all.

So, in an effort to snap out of it, I finally persuaded myself to start a needlework project. It's stash-busting time (when is it not?), mostly because I have no ready cash for new yarn. I found this blue wool worsted weight, the green from last year's hat project, and the pink from a long ago craft fail that got unraveled and stashed.

I'm not in love with the checkerboard texture yet, but it will be a colorful and warm addition to someone's wardrobe. Stay tuned for the final result.

Family update: DD graduated from IU in May and is working for a lab in West Virginia. DS is a freshman at IU studying biochemistry. DH,  Mr. Fuzz and I are just trying to stay warm.