Two Halters, No Waiting

It’s nice to take a break from sewing wee tiny clothes every now and again, although I have to admid that I need a better model. Excuse the child’s dressform and instead enjoy the lovely Sun Surf Halters (an Amy Butler pattern) made recently.

Now, I would have modeled the Heather Bailey one I made for myself except … it looks awful on me. Seriously. It’s so unflattering, in fact, that I could not put it on for even a photo. Part of it’s the size — I think I need a Medium-and-a-half — and part of it’s the cut, which does nothing for my hourglass shape.

It’s not the pattern’s fault, by any means. Just a poor choice of style for my own self. Which is why I went on to make a second for my sister-in-law. I chose a pretty batik fabric, in her favorite color. I think it’s going to look amazing on Jenn and will likely end up making her more, if that’s the case.

Overall, I like the pattern. It’s got a nice range of sizes (children’s and women’s) and it’s easy to put together. I even had my 11-year-old sewing campers make them and they knocked ’em right out. But it’s definitely a look you need to know is flattering for you before you sew it.

Buy Handmade

One day while driving down Main Street in the city where my kids attend school, I noticed a new shop’s sign on a long-empty storefront. An artists’ market. I was so excited, it took everything I had to not pull over and peer through the window. Of course, it was 6:30 a.m. and nothing was open, and I really needed to get home so my husband could get to work. I made a mental note to check back later.

It was about two weeks before I could stick my head in the door and scope things out at Leasa: Life’s Work. And what I saw made me a bit giddy. Cool handmade goods. Some other neat gift-y things. A cool workspace for classes. Best of all was Leasa, the owner, who’s been making and selling handmade cards forever. I loved hearing about her work and her vision for her new shop. I think it’s a great thing for our area and I can’t wait to support it and the craftsmen who are selling their wares there.

I’m also excited to be offering some of my things there. I’ve already taken three Miss Madeline dresses adn a couple of wristlet bags.

Miss L watched me take the dresses into the shop and was so sad to see them go. Of course, they’re all too small for her and it’s not like I can’t sew her others. (In fact, I’ve already made her a different dress with the Heather Bailey and Dena Designs fabrics, so I’m not sure what the deal is.) And I always love sewing with Paula’s Flights of Fancy. It always makes me smile!

The wristlets are my own design and feature embroidery from Urban Threads of two lovebirds. I thought it added some interest to the little bags and I especially love the repetition of the Park Slope fabric with all those cute little birds.

Color Theory

Probably one of the most frequent comments I hear about my sewing is “I love the fabrics you choose!” It never fails to bring a smile to my face, as well as a little bit of a blush.

One of the things I touch on in the classes I teach is fabric selection — not just the appropriate type of fabric to use for a garment but also color, print and scale.

Give any 10 sewists the same pattern and you’ll likely get 10 very different interpretations of that garment, each with a very different “feel.” A lot of that has to do with fabrics they chose. It’s not just about color, but about how the colors and prints work with (or against) each other.

When I pick fabrics for a project, I think about who I’m sewing for plus how many fabrics I want to use and where I’ll use them. Samantha’s Miss Madeline pattern is illustrated with dresses that use the same fabric for the sleeves and dress, with a contrasting fabric at the waistband and apron edges. I like to mix it up a little more, so I use that same contrasting fabric on the sleeves as well. (Of course, I think it would be super fun to add another fabric into the mix and have the sleeves be something entirely different.)

For this particular dress, I knew I wanted to use that gorgeous orange floral print from Sandi Henderson’s Farmer’s Market line but I wasn’t quite sure what to put with it. The person I was sewing it for said she likes stripes and wanted a very fall feel to the dress. I literally went to the quilt store, pulled the bolt of main fabric off the wall and started walking around to find fabrics that spoke to me. (Doesn’t that sound so zen? LOL!)

I do it fairly often, actually. It’s not unusual for me to pile a table with bolts of fabric so I can lay them on top of each other to see how the colors and patterns work together. Often, it’s not so much about matching colors exactly but seeing if they’re harmonious when placed alongside each other. The orange in the stripe from this Amy Butler fabric is pretty darned close to one of the oranges in the flower but what really makes the two work together is the graduated shading of the green stripes. It kind of echoes the graduated shading of the flowers. Similar but different. It’s why I chose the Flutterby panel for the apron. The greens sort of fade into each other and really complement the bordering stripes without being an exact match. When put together, the three fabrics give off a similar vibe; they all say “fall” with the same subtle voice.

Contrast that dress with these two, also made with the same Miss Madeline pattern. They have a completely different feel, thanks to very different fabric choices:

Another thing that’s important to think about is the scale of print. Most fabric lines made by quilting fabric manufacturers include a large print, medium print and small print. Why? Because when you are combining fabrics, it’s pleasing to the eye to have prints of varying scale. A good rule of thumb for choosing a fabric based on scale is fewer seams, bigger print. Bigger pieces of fabric will maintain the integrity and feel of the print, whereas smaller prints can more easily accommodate more seams and smaller cuts.

I absolutely adore the aqua mermaid fabric on the dress to the left. Those mermaids, however, are HUGE, about 12″ tall and 8″ wide. If I tried to use that fabric for a patchwork twirl skirt, for example, it would lose so much of the under-the-sea effect that it just wouldn’t be the same. Instead, I chose to make a jumper-style dress with two big pieces and two side seams. The accent fabric is a medium-ish sized polka dot that balances the larger print.

I don’t really think of these as hard-and-fast rules by any means but these are the kinds of things in the back of my head when I’m selecting fabrics. Ultimately my goal is for whatever I make to reflect the wearer’s personality, rather than wear the owner.

Sweet Slippers

From the Favorite Things Pattern, Ballet Slippers. Made with Heather Bailey’s Pop Garden and Bijoux fabrics.

Recovering My Mojo

I have a little confession to make. I haven’t been feeling the sewing love lately.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed sewing; it’s just that it’s felt a little forced to get to my machine and make something. And that’s bothered me. Sewing has been such a release for me and having it feel like a chore is just not an option.

So I wrapped up a few things and spent a couple of days doing nothing sewing related. No pattern browsing, no fabric fondling (oh, you know you do it, too), no sewing. And suddenly, I reached the point that I missed it. I could see projects in my head and itched to make them happen. Sewing again feels like a creative outlet and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

Of course, with this kind of feeling, I can’t help but spend every available moment sewing. Ready for the onslaught?

Another Feliz, this one in a pair of fabrics I bought last year at Joann’s. Island something-or-other, IIRC. I made the modifications I thought would make for a better fit for Miss L, since this one was made for a niece’s birthday present and she’s a wee bit smaller than my girl. Perfect fit. It’s actually stretched a bit to fit on my dress form. I can’t wait to make some fall versions of this dress!

Have you seen the new Lila Tueller patterns? There are all these great, funky patterns for kids but not so much for moms (or teens). And her comes Lila with her Funked Out Peasant Blouse. The pattern out now is only three sizes (8, 10 and 12) but she’s planning more sizes. Her blog has info on the pattern sizing and also corrections to the pattern (some don’t list a 14-inch zipper among the needed notions).

I grabbed the pattern as soon as I saw it at Intown Quilters. Had to have it. And then when I was talking to the class coordinator a few days later, she told me the owner wanted me to know it was in. I guess they know me well over there. LOL!

I had little bits and pieces of these Amy Butler fabrics on hand and I think they worked well together. I’m finding it a bit difficult to sew for myself out of my stash. I tend to buy just a yard at a time and so many things take more yardage. This top works nicely because it’s just a bit here and there — just enough to pull together a cute, one-of-a-kind top. This one is now hanging up as a sample at the shop.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t paying attention the day I bought this pattern. The Cardiff pants by Studio Tantrum remind me of some of the funky pants you might find at Hot Topic in much bigger sizes. That’s probably why I couldn’t resist buying them.

Had I really read the store listing, I would have realized the instructions were in German before the envelope arrived. I still would have bought it, though. I’m just now getting around to sewing them because they start at a size 98 and that little tyke of mine is just really fitting in that size.

So, no translation to work from but I didn’t find it to be much of a problem. The only thing that gave me issues were the pleats. I couldn’t get the panels small enough to fit where they were supposed to. I ended up doing the aprons twice. Definitely worth it. They are seriously fun! That little nut of mine kept spinning around to make the panels flare out. I’ve seen some variations of these with little dangly detachable pouches and the like but decided against it since she’s so young and likely to get them caught on things. I can’t wait for the boys to come home and see these — they’ve been so eager for me to sew them up!

Last but not least … my first playing with Heather Bailey‘s Pop Garden fabrics. Can I tell you how much I am loving these prints? (When they first arrived at IQ, I threatened to pile them on the floor and just roll around in the yardage!) I swear, I will end up owning every piece before too long. They are just delicious! I decided to make some things that coordinated so both L and I could enjoy them.

Her dress is another of the Miss Madeline style by Samantha at The Handmade Dress. It is just so bright and fun; definitely suits that girl of mine!

My tunic is by Indygo Junction. I have to be honest here. I’ve probably seen the pattern in the box at the shop a hundred times or more and never given it a second glance. The samples on the envelope looked a little frumpy to me, just totally not my style. But something about it caught my eye this time. It’s shape reminded me of one Jennifer Paganelli has shown on her blog, made with some of the fab Bell Bottoms fabrics. And in that instant, I was able to visualize the top in bolder, more colorful fabrics. I’m glad I gave the pattern a chance because I’m really happy with the finished product. This one is hanging up as a sample at the shop right now, but that’s only because it’s so darned hot outside. I’ll definitely be wearing this one out and about just as soon as the weather allows!