All Things Bright and Beautiful-Part Two

At the end of a year that has often felt like being under a cloud at times, seeing the delight in our daughter’s face (albeit via FaceTime) when she unwrapped her colorful Moraccan-inspired quilted throw on Christmas Day radiated joy in more ways than one. Her priceless reaction reminded me of the happiness and sense of daily purpose I felt during the weeks and months it took to create this particular project; through the conceptualizing stage, piecing everything together and followed by a sense of profound liberation during the free-motion quilting process, all the while imagining her future enjoyment of something I made for her; providing warmth and comfort in her home so many miles away.

With each colorful “block”, I took inspiration from the design patterns featured in the various batik fabrics. These variants would spark ideas about what to try during the free-motion quilting process. Per Angela Walters’ suggestion in her book, “Free-Motion Meandering, A Beginner’s Guide to Machine Quilting”, I began by practicing the meandering shapes with pencil and paper first. As much as I love swirls, the leaf meandering pattern ended up being my favorite.

Practicing by drawing the meandering shapes first gave me the confidence to do the same with thread.

Once I finished piecing the quilt front and back layers, I secured the batting for the quilt “sandwich” utilizing the spray-adhesive method. I then “stitched-in-the-ditch” around all the “gaslight” colored shapes. Since the curved solid blue borders were not even in width all around the gaslights, I decided to sew a couple of echo-stitch lines 3/4” apart then filled the empty spaces with free-motion designs, improvising these areas as the spirit moved me.

Once I began the quilting process, it was fun and interesting to see what the meandering shapes looked like on the back of the quilt. I used deep teal bobbin thread color which matches the paisley batik fabric backing.

Here are some examples of how I quilted the brightly colored gaslights included in this Moroccan-inspired throw:

Meandering Paisley

Meandering Swirls (like waves in the ocean)
Cherries, Branches and Sunflower Echos
Leaf Meander
Swirling Spirals
“Sea Shell” Swirls
Flower Meander
Close up of Flower Meander
Sunburst Swirls
Meandering Paisley, Bubbles, Swirls and Flowers
The back of the quilted throw turned out so well, it makes it nearly reversible.

As we remember all the brilliant lights that shined during these last twelve months and reflect on those that were extinguished too soon, may the promise of the new year bring brighter days, hope and healing on many levels for us all.

Special thanks to Walt Andrus for his beautiful photography of this special project.

My first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe-Part Seven “Navy Navigation”

For the last two of my ten coordinating wardrobe pieces, I chose solid navy blue knit fabrics to make both a top and tunic-length “cardi”.

“Patty’s Princess Top” is a relatively new pattern in the Silhouette Pattern line. I’d already made a muslin and was relatively confident the process would be “smooth sailing” getting this piece finished in time for the contest deadline.

I love this pattern’s princess seams and the slight bell-shaped sleeve cuffs at the 3/4 length.

Well, yes and no. The lightweight, navy blue rayon knit I choose for this top had a nice drape but proved a lot more stretchy than I anticipated. Fabric scraps from the border print knit used for the first top I made for this collection were added to create a contrasting flat piping detail on both the front and back princess seams. I also cut out the v-neck collar from the border print and reduced the width from one inch to 3/8”. Good thing I decided to hand-baste the princess seams in place for a final fit-check prior to stitching in the flat piping. The rayon knit turned out to be a lot stretchier than the cotton knit I made my muslin out of; so much so that I ended up taking in the seams an extra 5/8” before achieving a flattering fit.

Given the super-stretchy nature of this knit, hand-basting the flat piping to the center front and back pieces prior to sewing the princess seams proved a worthwhile extra step.
Again, similar to the revelations from my previous posts, the border print infinity scarf really changes the overall look of this basic piece.
Paired with Style Arc “Margaret” pant.

Though a bit brighter in color, the mid-weight Ponte knit I chose for Silhouette Patterns “Hugo’s Favorite Cardigan” ties in well with the other nine pieces in this collection.

Love how the shawl collar also functions as a princess seam this affording better fitting options.

It a recent webcast, the pattern maker, Peggy Sagers, suggested adding front angled pockets set into the front side panels so I decided to add these to my version as well.

Paired with Silhouette Patterns “Giorgio’s Top” (tucked in), “My Basic Jeans Skirt” and border print infinity scarf.

For an extra bit of pizazz, I created contrasting bindings for the interior front seams (quasi “Hong Kong Finish” style) utilizing, you guessed it, more scraps from the border print knit!

In conclusion, creating my first capsule wardrobe has been a remarkably satisfying challenge. I’ve lost count of all the various wardrobe combinations creating this ten piece wardrobe has afforded. Each piece is comfortable and esthetically pleasing and I look forward to wearing all in years to come.

A sampling of some of all the possible wardrobe combinations in this collection:

My first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe-Part Six, the “Classic Blouse”

When the color palette for my ten piece wardrobe challenge started to take shape, finding this beautiful dusty rose eyelet fabric was a a real coup. Creating a blouse from it seemed a natural choice.

I’ve made this particular “Classic Blouse” pattern from the Silhouette Patterns line a number of times and with each iteration has come further fine-tuning both in length and proportion.

Even though the pattern features a self cuff, full-length sleeve, I find a 3/4 length sleeve more to my liking. Several people who have made this pattern elect to omit the pockets, but I like their angled shape and include them more often than not, especially when choosing a transparent fabric.
Paired here with Style Arc “Margaret” pants, Silhouette Patterns “Sweater Set” tank top and border print infinity scarf. Even though the use of interfacing is not necessarily required for the collar and front placket, I elected to interface these areas with coordinating organza fabric to add more structure and maintain the transparent nature of the eyelet fabric.
With Silhouette Patterns “My Basic Jean Skirt”, “Sweater Set” tank top and border print infinity scarf.
Paired with Silhouette Patterns “Giorgio’s Top” and Style Arc “Margaret” pant.

My first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe-Part Five (A-line “Hoodie”)

While waiting near the cutting table at one of my favorite fabric shops in the garment district of Manhattan a few years ago, one of the employees and I struck up a conversion while he was cutting the specified yardage from a bolt of fabric I was purchasing that day. As is often the case in fabric establishments, the shop employee asked me what I was planning on making. I shared that I had copied a pair of well-fitting pants from ready-to-wear and planned to make up the pattern I drafted with this particular fabric I’d chosen.

Though he did his best to conceal it, I noticed a slight cringe in his reaction. I asked him if I’d said something to offend and he replied, “sorry, I’m a designer”. (Awkward pause) Then I said something to the effect of looking forward to seeing his unique take on design and fashion and wished him the best success in the future.

Though I could empathize with the fabric shop employee/emerging designer’s reaction, I’ve heard it said from more than one professional source that there are no copyright or design licensing standards in the fashion industry, hence the existence of “knock offs” and copies of current and vintage designers within the vast realms of ready to wear and pattern makers.

When investing in well-made and beautifully-designed garments, I not only enjoy wearing them, but also find great inspiration in learning more about the structure, choice and quality of fabric used, proportion and construction methods employed. The information gleaned from the all of the above often inspires me to create my own custom-drafted pattern. As is often the case, my pattern is further altered to better address my specific figure and proportion specs.; ultimately yielding a more flattering fit when all is said and done.

In the case of the A-line, tunic-length “hoodie” included in my capsule wardrobe contest collection, I used self-drafted pattern I created from a RTW version of the same a couple years back. Since my first attempt at making up this pattern (from a lightweight wool jersey) turned out well, the choice of palette-coordinating dusty rose, lightweight cotton knit fabric (see tank top piece from same in my last post) seemed like it might also fit the bill.

The A-line princess seam design lines and tunic length features of this particular garment are figure-forgiving when it comes to fitting someone with pear-shaped proportions. Additionally, the center front pockets one often finds in a basic “hoodie” design are also present here. As someone who loves pockets, especially interior pockets for storing wallets, phones etc.. it’s no surprise that I found myself wanting to add two deep interior pockets which I elected to set into the inside side front sections of this garment. The available yardage of the dusty rose cotton knit fabric was somewhat limited, so I made the additional interior pockets out of, you guessed it, more scraps from the knit border print. During this whole process, that border print has definitely turned out to be the fabric that keeps on giving! (Look forward to even more usage of same in future posts) I also utilized more border print scraps to create a contrasting binding, concealing the raw edges of both the neck and hood seams.

Lastly, in addressing the wardrobe contest “unique” criteria, I decided to add tone-on-tone machine-embroidered design elements to the front left sleeve and center back of this piece, making it a one-of-a-kind garment that I’ll enjoy wearing for years to come.. ** If the machine embroidery design looks familiar, it is the same Pfaff Feather collection design I used for the jean skirt in this wardrobe collection and on the front and back of the blue and white striped Old Navy shirt from a previous post. Since I seem to like it so much, this particular design is quickly becoming my signature logo. 🙂

Paired with Silhouette Patterns #2017 “My Basic Jean Skirt”, #195 “Sweater Set” (tank top). Right panel: close up of interior front side panel pocket.
Paired with Style Arc “Margaret” pant, Silhouette Patterns #195 “Sweater Set” tank top border knit infinity scarf.
Clearer detail of the border print neckline binding and left sleeve embroidery design.

Next up for part six, Silhouette Patterns #600 “Classic Blouse.

My first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe-Part Four

Since I had extra dark blue stretch denim fabric leftover after making the Silhouette Patterns #2017 “My Basic Jean Skirt” featured in part two of my previous capsule wardrobe posts, I decided use the remaining yardage to make a pair of coordinating pants using my tried-and-true, Style Arc “Margaret” stretch woven pant pattern.

One of my favorite well-fitting pant patterns

I’ve had good success with the “Margaret” pant pattern in the past and was confident this pair would make up quickly, requiring minimal alteration. But then the challenge presented itself, how to make this basic solid wardrobe item “unique”? (a definitive part of the PatternReview wardrobe contest criteria) The addition of a tuxedo stripe sewn on top of the side seams, using a decorative stitch with the same color of embroidery thread I used to embroider the Sashiko design on my copper pleather biker jacket, came to mind.

This particular decorative stitch has a similar upward-fanning shape as is found in the Sashiko embroidery design I chose for the copper pleather Ziggi biker jacket from my previous post. Strips of fusible tricot were used underneath the side seams for extra stabilization.

I liked this particular decorative stitch so well that I decided to incorporate it as an embellishment feature along the neckline of another basic piece I made for this collection, a tank top made in a dusty pink coordinating solid lightweight cotton knit.

Two colors of thread were used for the decorative stitch. Pieced-together leftover knit border print scraps from “Giorgio’s Top” (see previous post “Part One”) solved my dilemma of not have quite enough fabric to cut out a whole tank top back piece.

The tank top pattern is from the Silhouette Pattern line; #195 “Sweater Set”.

The tank top featured in this pattern has more of a jewel neckline. I re-drafted the neckline for my tank top using my French Curve ruler to achieve more of a scooped effect.

The solid dusty rose lightweight knit fabric coordinates well with the knit border print, dark blue stretch denim and copper pleather in this capsule wardrobe collection. You’ll see it used again in my next post .

Here are various outfit combinations with the other pieces described in my capsule wardrobe collection thus far:

Paired with Style Arc “Margaret” pant and knit border print “infinity” scarf.
Style Arc “Margaret” pant and “Ziggi” biker jacket.
Paired with Style Arc “Ziggi” biker jacket, Silhouette Patterns #2017 “My Basic Jean Skirt” and border print infinity scarf.
Same combo as above but with “Margaret” pant.
Silhouette Patterns #195 “Sweater Set” tank top and #2017 “My Basic Jean Skirt” and border print infinity scarf.

Next up: Self-drafted A-Line Hoodie.

My first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe-Part Three: The Biker Jacket

Back in the 1950s Marlon Brando and James Dean made the motorcycle jacket the epitome of cool.

Marlon Brando (from The Wild One) & James Dean (near Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood)

Motorcycle jackets have since made their way into menswear designer collections and more recently into women’s fashion as well. When I saw this Style Arc pattern, I knew I wanted to make it for my capsule wardrobe entry in the PatternReview 2020 Wardrobe contest.

Ziggi Biker Jacket

Since this was my trial run for making the Ziggi Biker Jacket, I knew I needed to make a muslin from it first. So I made three. Yes, you read that correctly, three. Choosing the right pattern size for this particular jacket proved somewhat challenging.

A professional taylor once shared with me her philosophy for fitting; begin with the neck and shoulders first then work your way down the body, grading out or in for circumference, length and depth as required by each of her clients and their fitting preferences.

In the case of the Style Arc pattern line, a shoulder width measurement for jackets, dresses and tops also comes into play when choosing a pattern size. This said, even though I’ve made a few Style Arc patterns previously, a shoulder width measurement that worked well for one isn’t necessarily successful for another, hence some sizing trial and error during this process. Here is a photo of the final muslin for my version of the Ziggi Biker Jacket:

Length and circumference looking good but shoulders still really broad in the upper back area.

Regarding the muslin process mentioned above, even with the visual aid of my full-length mirror, altering the back of this jacket proved difficult to do on my own. Fortunately one of my neighbors and good friend of mine down the street, was willing to help. Among her many talents, my friend enjoyed a long career as a wardrobe/costume expert in the television and motion picture industry and really has a discerning eye for color, proportion and style. In light of our current pandemic circumstances, the two of us elected to meet outside the front of her home to accomplish our fit-tweaking activity and wearing our face masks for the duration. Imagine the amused looks we got by passers by, out walking their dogs etc… I’m sure it wasn’t something they saw every day.

With the border print fabric I used to make the first two pieces in my collection as my guide, I pulled out a beautiful piece of copper-toned pleather from my stash. It seemed an ideal fabric for this particular project.

In addition to the jacket design lines and multiple zippers, what really drew me to the Ziggi Biker jacket pattern was the quilted embellishment detailing in the upper sleeve caps and shoulder yokes. I could have just duplicated the diamond-patterned criss-cross lines, but since I love Sashiko Embroidery, I decided to embellish these same areas with an Art Deco-inspired pattern instead.

Here is a a photo of machine embroidery process:

Lining up each of the design sections was the most challenging part!

The fabric-backed pleather held up well during the machine embroidery process and proved user-friendly when hand-basting the brass zippers in place, without showing needle holes upon removal of the basting thread. Unfortunately the brass zipper teeth tended to snag and tear the same later during the jacket construction process, especially after “bagging” the lining and turning everything right side out again. Yikes! I’m thinking I’ll only want to work with leather for future renditions of this jacket from this point on.

The pattern instructions were vague regarding the installation of all the zippers. Even with my years of sewing experience, the limited construction information provided with the pattern reminded me of the technical challenges featured on the popular Great British Baking show..where the contestants are provided with all the necessary ingredients but minimal recipe details. Fortunately I was able to find four separate online tutorials with excellent photos and authored by individuals who had successfully made this particular jacket. One person showed how to add an optional sleeve hem gusset which I also decided to include in my version.

Pictured here with jeans skirt from previous post.
Paired with Giorgio’s Top made out of knit border print
Detail of sleeve gusset and jacket worn open.

I don’t have a lot of places to wear this biker jacket during our current pandemic, but when we are all more out and about in the future, I look forward to donning it for a car show or live concert perhaps. Won’t that be just the ticket?

Coming up in my next post, more wardrobe building with the Style Arc “Margaret” Pant and Silhouette Patterns tank top from the #195 “Sweater Set”.

My first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe-Part Two

I love a good jeans skirt! As someone blessed with a pear-shaped figure, it hasn’t been easy to buy skirts of any kind straight off the rack without the assumption that some sort of fitting alteration would most likely follow.

I did find a great maxi-length denim skirt on eBay a few years back. Even though I ended up cutting off over 20 inches in length, the fit around the waist and hip area was great. I used the finished garment hip circumference measurement from that skirt along with the altered hem length as my guide when choosing my pattern size for the following:

Then it was muslin making time. I ended up making two muslins when all was said and done, before cutting into the dark navy stretch denim I used for this particular collection. My main pattern fitting issues included shortening the waist to hip length and creating a new hip curve angle so my skirt would drape well and the hemline hang evenly.

The wardrobe contest rules stimulated creating ten “unique” pieces , so I started contemplating how to step things up a notch when it came to making up this classic staple. The addition of a machine-embroidered embellishment seemed a natural solution.

I really liked the feather work design I used to embroider the blue and white striped shirt featured in my previous blog post, so I decided to use it on the lower right front side of this skirt as well.

Even though I decided to leave off the belt loops for this version, I did elect to install copper rivets and a proper jeans button. These details proved a bit tricky to do but worth the effort in achieving a classic jeans look. I had to laugh when my husband asked me what all the banging noises coming from my sewing room were about.

Topstitching with a contrasting copper/brass thread creates a classic jeans detailed look.

Here is my finished jeans skirt paired with the knit border print top (tucked in) from my previous post:

Still marveling at the difference the matching infinity scarf makes in the overall look of the outfit.

Next up, part three, the biker jacket.

My first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe-Part One

I’ve always marveled at the multiple outfit combinations and layering possibilities capsule wardrobe collections can potentially achieve. Deciding on a cohesive color palette when packing for travel in the past was about as far I’d come in experimenting with the capsule wardrobe concept until some proactive opportunities presented themselves in recent months.

As luck would have it, the creative team at Seamwork.com featured another of their three-week online wardrobe courses last August. The course participants were encouraged to create “mood” boards, (I made mine using Pinterest) follow along in a day-by-day, step-by-step, downloadable course workbook and draw each wardrobe item and wardrobe combinations via a fun new online drawing platform, mybodymodel.com

The mybodymodel site features printable, front and back custom “croquis” (line drawings) for each user’s unique shape, using data from multiple measurements the individual user provides. I personally found the proportion-specific custom bases to be useful tools when creating sketches of my wardrobe combination ideas, visualizing what different outfits and color combinations might look like. There are also online drawing tutorials (YouTube) available to help with achieving accurate proportional sketches when using the custom body model line drawings.

Then came the 2020 Ten-piece Wardrobe Contest featured on PatternReview.com which ran from September 15 through November 15. The contest rules stipulated making ten unique pieces (2 toppers, 2 bottoms, 2 tops, one accessory and three additional items of the participant’s choice.

Hooray! What a welcome distraction from all the distressing things happening in the news and around the world. I was finally ready to take on the capsule wardrobe challenge and began pulling everything together for this particular creative odyssey. Even though my PatternReview contest color palette differed slightly from the one I conceptualized for the Seamwork course, my creative and organizational wheels were already set in motion by the time I began.

First up, inspiration fabric:

My camera didn’t quite capture the true colors of the print in this photo but it does show the variety of patterns I had to work with.

This was a tricky print to be sure, but I liked the colors. Given the narrow color panels featured in this particular two-way stretch jersey knit fabric, finding a sewing pattern with princess seams in the design seemed a good option. Here is the one I chose for this project:

Short sleeve version

Love the “finished garment measurement” sizing chart.

Next came the cutting out process. Since pattern placement was key, I chose to cut out each piece separately.

Here is the finished result:

Interesting what the addition of a matching Infinity “Moibus” scarf does for the overall visual effect!
Experimenting with different patterns yields interesting results, some I didn’t realize would be apparent until everything was sewn together.

Since I made both of these patterns previously, aside from the aforementioned cutting and placement challenges, these first two pieces came together relatively quickly and set the tone for the remaining eight in my wardrobe collection.

If you are interested in reading a more detailed review I wrote about the above pattern, check out the following link:

https://sewing.patternreview.com/review/pattern/168834

**Update regarding my Moroccan-Inspired Quilt:

Since I made it as a Christmas gift for our daughter, I am postponing my blog post and photos on that project until after December 25 this year.

Until the next time!

“Second Hand” Machine Embroidery Fun

It’s another sleepy “Fogust” day here on the CA Central Coast. After our smoky air quality in recent days as a result of the devastating forest fires North of us, the misty fog comes as a welcome relief this morning.

Yesterday I received a package of second hand items I ordered online including a $5. blue and white striped button down shirt from Old Navy. Even though I purchased a size that would fit me well through the upper torso, as is often the case with clothes I buy, I was prepared for it to be too tight in the hip area. Amazingly, though a bit snug, I was able to button this particular shirt all the way down. Adding a couple of four inch side slits would easily give me a bit more ease and result in a smoother drape.

Side seams all picked out and ready to top stitch.

Then I had another inspiration. I wondered about the possibility of an embroidered vertical spray coming up from the hem on the front side of the shirt, opposite the side with the pocket. After laying out several designs, I finally decided on a feathered, swirling pattern that was included in a Pfaff “Featherwork” Embroidery design collection I purchased a couple years ago.

Like several options included in the Pfaff design collections, this particular design stitched out beautifully. I was so pleased with the result, I decide to flip it in the opposite direction and embroider it down the center back of the shirt, just below the back yoke. Lovely! Then I thought, how about the sleeve? Fortunately I stopped myself before going a bit overboard….always a danger when something is going well. 🙂

Right lower front design facing up.
Center back design facing down.

In the final analysis, I find that I really like the juxtaposition of the swirling feather design with the vertical stripes, kind of a yin and yang effect.

Stay tuned for my next post. It will include a follow-up on my “All things bright and beautiful” entry a few months back and I am planning to share photos of my newly-finished Morrocan-inspired quilted throw.

Be safe and well.

When life gives you holes…

After my foray into machine-embroidered lace described in my last post, I’ve been experimenting again, this time in an effort to camouflage some holes in the front of one of my favorite tee-shirts.

Holes in lightweight knit tee shirt.

Since the holes were located in the front lower half of the tee, I originally thought it would be nice to create a paisley border design along the hem.

Initial design placement.

I chose two layers of “no-show mesh” for stabilizer and a thin, water-soluble “topper”. So far so good.

No-show mesh.
Kind of mesmerizing to watch this pretty design emerge before my eyes. I was concerned about potential “hoop burn” so I used a metal hoop with magnets. Such a worthwhile investment and game changer when embroidering on already-assembled garments or other hard to hoop items.

The crosshair placement lines for the second design I used yielded somewhat unpredictable results. So I decided to change my game plan from a border to an asymmetrical paisley cluster. Again, not perfect placement, but I will definitely wear this tee in future. Suffice to say, it’s now an original.

Playing with placement.
Just prior to soaking away the water-soluble topper. (See shiny bits)

I’ve learned a lot in this process, including embracing the notion of random imperfection as a thing of potential beauty, a stretch for my perfectionist tendencies to be sure.

Final takeaway? It feels wonderful to have prolonged the life of this simple garment in a fun and creative way.