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.

Lace Showcase

One of the things I’ve been wanting to try for some time is making my own machine-embroidered lace. Thankfully one can find a wealth of video content currently available on this inspiring topic, both on embroidery design websites and YouTube for a start. My most recent inspiration came from an online webinar I watched entitled “Camouflage with Lace” presented by representatives from the Dime Company (dzgns.com).

A reoccurring theme in my ongoing education where all things machine-embroidery is concerned includes the following: effective and appropriate stabilization is at the forefront of achieving ultimate success. Machine-embroidered lace is no exception.

Among many things I’ve learned about machine-embroidered lace so far is that there are different design characteristics to consider. First, “free-standing” lace designs have a built-in, overall structure (hence the “stand alone” description) and are sewn directly onto water-soluble stabilizer which is later soaked away. Another type of lace design requires stitching onto a sheer foundation such as organza, tulle or “no-show” mesh. A third option is sewing a lace design directly onto fashion fabric, (as opposed to attaching on top) and using either a cut-away or tear-away stabilizer underneath. Depending on the fabric, some sort of “topper” layer of stabilization might be used as well.

The cautionary tale here is that in the absence of a built-in design structure or appropriate foundation, your lace will (even if sewn on water-soluble stabilizer) most likely disintegrate or in the case of a knit, shrink and pucker before your eyes.

With fresh inspiration gleaned from the recent webinar and armed with a new roll of high-quality water-soluble stabilizer, I decided to dive into lace-making at long last.

My project involved altering a secondhand, Coldwater Creek tee I acquired via Thredup com. I really loved the colors in the print and hadn’t seen anything like it in my recent fabric shopping efforts. As is often the case with my pear-shaped figure, the neck and shoulders of the tee fit reasonably well but I needed a couple more inches of circumference at the hem. Lightbulb moment=side lace inserts!

Side seam

I found this variegated teal thread in my stash so I used this when stitched out my first design:

This is a pretty lace design, but is at odds with the scrolled curves on the tee shirt print. Polyester thread proved too stiff to use with the knit fabric. I also did not like the brown color in the thread color mix or the stripe effect in satin stitches.

Next I tried some free-standing lace in a gray rayon thread. (I ran out of one thread and replaced with a similar color…)

Post soaking, stabilization removed.

Ultimately I decided to order some matching teal rayon thread and chose a third design which is meant to be stitched on tulle or similar. In this case I chose a navy organza. Within minutes of stitching out this design I knew it was a keeper.

Love this.
Beautiful! Would make a great neckline embellishment.
For my purposes I cut the design in half
Positioning on a dressmakers ham proved handy for lace placement.
Ready for prime time.

In conclusion, creative inspiration is everywhere around us. Research, ongoing education, the process of trial and error, solving puzzles and not worrying about the outcome of any given project continue to motivate me with each passing day. My ultimate take away? One’s efforts do not need to result in being masterpieces to be worth time well spent. Until the next adventure…

All things bright and beautiful

In the midst of all our global current Pandemic challenges, the month of May has included some rewarding and time-filling activities including discovering the healing power of working with a bright color palette. As it happens, our daughter loves a broad spectrum of bold hues (think “Fiestaware”) and has expressed a desire to have a Moroccan-inspired quilted throw for her living room. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to make one for her. This particular project will replace a relatively tired High School Musical Theater Tee-shirt single-size quilt I made for her circa 2004 which has served as a picnic blanket, college dorm bedspread among other things) The fabrics for the new throw are now collected and cut. The piecing process has also begun in earnest with a projected completion target date sometime before Christmas.

With a Moroccan theme as my inspiration, I finally landed on two block designs that are new to me, Jessica Van Denburgh’s “Gaslight” from sewmanycreationsny.com which is a clever variation of a traditional “drunkard’s path” block and reminds me of some shapes I’ve seen in various tile designs and “Moraccan Star” from Shelley Cavanna of Corasquilts.com which features a handy sew-cut-flip-press piecing method for all the little triangles included in each block. (Soooo much easier!) Both blocks require precision cutting and piecing followed by careful trimming to achieve the desired size and consistent effect. It’s been a slow process, but what I’m discovering is that working with all the beautiful and bright colors brightens my mood and gives me an abundance of joy on a daily basis.

After my initial blocks started to come together, it was exciting to see how each color combination would emerge and be brought to life with each passing day.

Beginning the piecing process for the first two “Gaslight” blocks the quilt top.
“Moroccan Star” blocks to be interspersed throughout the underside, background fabric. My hope is that the back of the quilt will be as appealing as the front resulting in a “reversible” throw when all is said and done.
Can you tell I LOVE batik fabric?

I’m already thinking ahead about how I want to quilt this bold little throw. Unlike my last two quilts, which include straight line grids and lots of “stitch-in-the-ditch” quilting detail, for this project, I plan to employ “free-motion” quilting throughout. I’m still on the fence regarding whether or not to change thread colors to match each gaslight fabric color. Using one uniform thread color such as matching the royal blue background fabric, might be faster to quilt, but I don’t want to risk defusing the striking brilliance these bright pops of color afford. While it’s ultimately more time-consuming to change thread colors as I go, I’m thinking it might be fun to employ free-motion elements inspired by the fabric. For example, free-motion “pebbles” for the teal and royal blue fabric with all the little circles within the print or a sunburst pattern for the orange batik with a similar motif. As for the thread itself, I’m venturing into new territory, exploring the “So Fine” 50 weight 100% poly thread by Superiorthreads.com. Free motion quilting maven and author, Angela Walters swears by it along with Aurifil for a 100% cotton thread option.

As much as my back and shoulders would love my bringing this project to someone with a long arm quilting machine, the creative design challenges described above inspire me to do the whole process on my own.

Speaking of my back and shoulders, I’ve started taking more frequent breaks as I sew and cut out fabric, both to stretch my body and to engage in deep, relaxation breathing. This practice has proven a real game-changer where my overall stamina is concerned. Not only do I have more physical energy as a result, but my mind and ability to concentrate are fresher when I return to the task at hand. Admittedly it is always hard to stop what I’m doing in the middle of an inspiring project, but implementing this brief, periodic gift to myself yields such positive and lasting benefits. I expect this habit will remain a regular part of my creative process moving forward.

The next installment in this current current odyssey is soon to follow.

Sewing Therapy

I am a self-described introvert, homebody and someone who loves staying busy and creating things. I am also a social being who loves getting together with friends, sharing the process and experience of learning about new subjects, methods, expressing and creating.

Thankfully, most of our population still has technological means of communicating with society at large. I think this ability to remain connected, albeit primarily cyber-based at this point, will prove a saving grace for the world during this time. This said, living through the reality of the last few weeks of sobering pandemic statistics and country-wide mandated social-distancing has proven challenging on many levels. While it’s true the majority of us (save our sainted healthcare workers, law enforcement, military personnel and those working in the farming, grocery and trucking industries) have a lot more time on our hands these days, many individuals I’ve communicated with have also struggled with achieving a healthy sense of balance; between staying informed about the latest “breaking news”, fear-inducing, sometimes addictive saturation of press conferences and news briefings in connection with our present Coronavirus situation, and remaining mentally, emotionally and physically healthy; continuing to be productive and maintaining a sense of purpose.

One thing that has helped me feel like I’m making some sort of difference is making face masks. I’m using a pattern that pattern-maker, Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns, designed. She consulted with physicians and Department of Health professionals to determine optimal features and provided shipping addresses and distribution portals where to send them. For links to the pattern and construction guide see the “features” section at http://www.silhouettepatterns.com

Here are photos of some of the face masks I made and that were shipped out last week.

Two layers of batik fabric (outer) and one layer of tee-shirt cotton knit (inner layer next to face.

It turns out many people in our country, including theater costume shops, are making face masks using a variety of patterns, materials and construction methods.

Second batch.

Some people who haven’t sewn anything for years are pulling out their sewing machines from storage, dusting them off and sewing masks to contribute to the effort.

It is rewarding to be making something useful during this present health crisis to be sure.

This said, it is discouraging to read negative, alarmist posts by nay-sayers on social media, criticizing everything from materials used, mask designs, practical application and potential threat of spreading disease. I’m guessing many of these same individuals are not making masks themselves, choosing instead, to criticize and complain about all of the above. Perhaps a better use of their time might be to brainstorm about practical solutions to the issues they raise.

I was telling my husband the other day that our current global struggles will (and already the case) surely bring out the best in people but also the worst. We will all need to heal, in several ways, when this current health crisis has run its course. Fear of what we know, the unknown and loss of control often breeds irrational behavior at times like these.

I also believe we will learn a lot about many things when we look back on this time in history.

Back to balance. Last week I was in mask-making “factory assembly” mode.

Over the weekend I decided to take a break from making masks and set my sites on finishing quilting the Queen-size quilt I had to put on hold just before Christmas last year. Happy to say I’m almost done.

Best wishes to all for optimal health-physical, emotional and mental well-being. We will get through this.

Look out everyone, the woman has an embroidery machine!

It’s a beautiful day here on the Central Coast of California. Bright sun, not much wind and relatively mild temps. I do not take our move here for granted, not for a second.

Although I try to live with a sense of balance from week to week throughout each year, the month of January always seems to inspire an added feeling of renewal, hope and resolve to improve all areas of my life.

Now on to the subject of today’s blog entry.

Among certain sewing circles it has been said in jest that one of the dangers of acquiring an embroidery machine is that using it becomes so addictive that the owner will want to embroider everything in their house. I will go one step further to say that one might feel compelled to embroider a gift for every member of their family.

I indeed have my fair share of embroidered, seasonal tea and bath hand towels in my home linen storage at the moment. (Oh yes, and a couple of pair of embroidered jeans in my closet as well) But the extent of my enthusiasm for all things machine embroidery really came to the fore when, with some amusement on my part, I looked around the room during our family’s recent gift exchange gathering and realized that I had embroidered gifts (tee-shirts, tea towels, pillow cases, shirts) for everyone in attendance!

Here are both a video and photo from a design I embroidered onto a shirt pocket of a brand of sport shirt our “passionate for all things fishing”, brother-in-law really likes.

This second image is the back of the shirt pocket before I tore away the stabilizer from the design and top-stitched the pocket back in place.

He was thrilled. Hooray!

Which brings me to my last topic, sourcing “canvases” for machine embroidery.

Since I’m still learning about best practice, methods and the variety of stabilization needed for embroidering various fabrics, I have no guilt in sourcing used clothing, blank canvas tote bags, aprons, shirts, old jeans, etc. to experiment with. My general rule is that the items I use must be clean and gently worn to fit the bill. It also feels great to give a piece a second life and often the price for such an item is more than reasonable.

All the above said, the purist in me still enjoys the challenge of making something completely from scratch. In addition to my new-found love of up-cycling, I intend to continue creating pieces anew, well into the foreseeable future.

And look out, the woman has an embroidery machine!

The Satisfaction Of Making Things For Others

While it’s true that I love sewing my own clothes and making things for our home such as quilts, pillows etc…it also gives me great pleasure to make things for others; Christmas and birthday gifts and donations to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Quilts of Valor.

Today I want to write about making things to donate. On this front, two such opportunities came to light last Fall. My first inspiration stemmed from an article I read in the October/November 2018 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, entitled “Artists Give Back” (pg. 29), in which the author, Jamie Fingal, described her “Hearts of the Home” quilt wall hanging project in conjunction with the Habitat for Humanity organization.

At the end of Ms. Fingal’s article there appeared a “reader’s challenge”; to make house-themed, 12×12″ quilted wallhangings with the intent of presenting these to Habitat for Humanity families upon the completion of their newly-constructed homes. Several of the reader’s challenge creations were to be featured in the Spring issue of Quilting Arts magazine and a firm submission deadline was set for December 1. What a joyful and inspiring prospect!

With this fresh inspiration in mind, I figured it was time to get cracking. My first attempt at the prescribed “Hearts of the Home” theme featured a simple house design including machine embroidery elements such as flowers and script. I chose a line from the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Our House” and realized well after the fact that I added an extra “very” to the lines of text. (it was definitely a “keep off off the grass” sign moment, where the mind corrects and erases redundancy while reading) I also incorporated some hand-embroidery elements for the cat facial features and whiskers.

My second attempt for this particular project I titled “Home Safe” and was inspired by the 1922 Craftsman bungalow, “Elmdale” design. I chose batik fabric scraps from my most recent “Storm at Sea” quilt and using this as the background, wanted to create the feeling of everyone being safely inside the house for the night. The night sky fabric reminds me of Van Gogh’s iconic “Starry Night” painting. My tendencies to get a bit carried away with attention to detail definitely came into play here, especially with the house detail and the bicycle. When the Quilting Arts Spring issue was released in late February earlier this year, I was delighted to discover this second piece was chosen as one of the featured submissions in the follow-up magazine article. (Quilting Arts, April/May 2019 issue, page 77)

The inspiration: The “Elmdale”

I first heard about the “Quilts of Valor” organization (see qovf.org) during an informative presentation given by our CA Central Coast regional representative, Mary Carnegie, at our local VFW chapter last November. I learned that quilters from all over the U.S. are creating patriotic-themed Quilts (approximately 60×80″ in size) for specially- nominated veterans on an ongoing basis. Sewn with love and appreciation for our Vets and their years of service, these lap blanket-sized quilts are presented to numerous nominated candidates at commemorative patriot ceremonies throughout each year. As it happened, my maternal grandfather fought in WWI (Army), my father-in-law served as a Chaplin’s assistant (also Army) on the battlefields all over Europe during WWII and my father and his brother (Navy and Army respectively) both served in the Korean conflict back in the 50’s, so for me, contemplating making a “Quilt of Valor” is personal as I’m sure it is for many of the quilters sewing quilts for this particular cause.

At this point I have purchased the fabric and chosen the design for my first Quilt of Valor and look forward to sharing the finished piece here in a future post.