More Little Gifts

Microwave BowlAt this time of year, I’m always looking for [quick] cute little gifts for holiday party hostesses and (even more importantly) my grandchildren’s teachers.

Shortly after starting to work at a quilt shop, someone showed me the microwave bowl mat. Brilliant! You know how the microwave dings and you grab your soup bowl and then cry out in pain because it’s so hot that it burns your fingertips? Some brilliant crafter figured out a solution.

Microwave bowlI’ve read ten or fifteen tutorials, and this one by Lisa Lewis Koster was the one I liked the best. I recently won a pack of Cotton & Steel fat quarters from Gotham Quilts. Two fat quarters yield two microwave bowl mats and two little zippered bags. Cool! The prints I chose were: A) from the Hatbox line by designer Alexia Abegg, the Hatbox print in cream and the All the States print in coral; and B) again from Hatbox, the Palm Springs print and the All the States print, both in aqua.

imageThese mats are a little more time consuming than I like, but I can control that by the amount of quilting I do on each piece. When I start out again in the morning on the other three bags that I will take along to my friends at “orphan’s dinner” tomorrow, I’m going to be more judicious in the amount of quilting I do! Bet on it!!


Think 100% cotton. Cotton fabric, cotton batting, and cotton thread. Very important for something you’re going to “cook” over and over again.

Thrill for Twill

vestbuttonWe have some bolts of fabric at work that have been around for a few years. The shoppers who come in somehow don’t envisage these fabrics as quilts or bags or any other sewn item. So they sit.

I’ve been making it my mission to get all of these fabrics photographed (or find the pic online, although for older fabrics, that’s not an easy task), and make them available to potential online purchasers. In a sentence: what a shopper cannot see does not get sold.

Vest BackWhen I arrived at the store on Monday, eight bolts of Moda cotton twill were stacked next to the cutting table. Balanced on top was a handwritten note from the store owner: “Put in computer and label. Make something.”

When I went to American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI, a couple of months ago, I saw an Indygo Junction vest that I loved. In fact, many shoppers loved it. One of the woman associated either with IJ or with the store booth that was featuring IJ was wearing a denim vest from the pattern. She got so tired of stopping to answer the question, “What pattern is that?”, that she pinned a copy of the pattern to the back of her vest so she could just point! I purchased the pattern, but also bought some of this beautiful, soft denim IJ has developed. My intention is to make the long vest from the soft aqua denim. But I’d been eyeing this olive/black/red striped twill ever since I saw the vest. Wouldn’t that go together nicely? And it did!

Here’s the review:

Vest patternPattern Description: The Modern Silhouette Vest is styled with subtle shaping for a flattering fit. Only four pattern pieces combine with an array of construction options to create a variety of looks. Three lengths are offered: a cropped, upper hip number, a mid-hip variation and a lower hip adaptation with a decidedly free-spirited point of view. All have staggered hemlines that taper gently to the back with a concealing extended center back panel. Stitch your pieces together with exposed, serged seams or overlap and topstitch your pieces for an out-of-the-ordinary rendition. If you don’t have a serger or prefer an alternative finishing technique, use your zigzag stitch to cover and accent the raw edges of your garment. The pattern showcases a self-fabric tie option, an easy, single button closure and a vest unhindered by closures of any kind. You’ll also find instructions for deconstructing denim jeans to repurpose as a smart new vest.

Pattern Sizing: Offered in sizes S – 3XL.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Easy peasy! Construction time probably under two hours.

Fabric Used: Moda cotton twill . The store owner found eight bolts of this twill sitting around and said, “Somebody please make something out of this.” So I did. :)

vestsidefrontPattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Such a quick and easy vest. Side front and side back seams serge-finished, then sewn WS together and seam allowances pressed open. I love the subtle contrast of the wrong side showing on the side front/back seams.

Vest

Shoulder seam, with side front/back seams

The only seams sewn RS together are shoulder and side. I topstitched those seams from the outside at 3/8″ just to keep them flat. I personally like the insides of a garment to look as nice as the outside.

Vest

Left front snap

I used the Collins C17 “jumbo” plastic snaps, 1/2″ diameter, and I wished I had used something larger. Went to Jo-Ann’s but the larger ones they stock are metal. I felt they’d be too heavy for this lightweight vest. I plan to make this again soon in Indygo Junction’s beautiful Crossroads Denim, and will order larger plastic snaps for that – or use metal.

“But I don’t have a serger,” you say? Don’t despair. Use any of the overlocking stitches or fancy stitches your machine offers. Use cool contrasting thread. Or even use double-fold bias binding or that cool folded elastic that’s available now (just don’t stretch it!). You don’t have to have a serger – that’s just how the instructions are written.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely. I’ll be leaving it at the Bernina shop where I work, as a sample for shoppers to see. (After I sew my label in the back!)

Conclusion: Cute, easy, flattering vest in three lengths, suitable for medium-weight fabrics and great for repurposing jeans. Highly recommend!


The picture at the top of the post shows the raku button I used. It’s been in my stash for about 15 years and was handmade by a lovely clay artisan who lived in Oregon at the time. She has since moved to France with her love and stopped creating these buttons. How sad for me and other sewers!

The button is sewn on to disguise the stitches on the snap inside the right front. After I secure that button, I run a couple more stitches and add little glass beads. Love to include creative touches like this.

And don’t you love the word envisage (in first paragraph, above)? My Good Husband, a passionate word nerd, had a word-of-the-day calendar on his desk at the Pentagon. The day he died, “envisage” was the day’s word. It means “To conceive an image or a picture of, especially as a future possibility.” Just telling you this brings back such wonderful memories—and brings tears to my eyes.

Oh, and a smile to my face.

Suitable for a Page Turner

blackfrontNow that my primary page-turner is a teenager, his social life gets in the way of his helping Grandma keep the music flowing. For tonight’s performance, his eleven-year-old sister will be turning for me. She’s not nearly so experienced as he, but when I tell her she has to pay attention, she soberly nods and stays focused.

The problem? Her wardrobe consists of lots of bling and bright colors. To her, colors that coordinate are simply whatever she pulls out of her drawer or closet without looking. As into sewing and fashion as I am, it makes me batsh*t crazy to see some of the outfits she assembles. But I shut my mouth, hoping that—in a few years—she’ll grow out of it.

In search of something for her to wear this evening that will allow her the cloak of invisibility required of a page-turner, I turned to Butterick 5954, which I made a year ago for her. She loved it and it fit beautifully.

blacknecklineShe’s growing like the proverbial weed. At 11, she is now over 5’8″. She wore the velour version Thursday night for dress rehearsal with a new pair of (Ladies’ Size Medium) leggings I had gotten for her at Dillard’s that afternoon. I noticed the front is bordering on too short (crotch-revealing). But this top goes together quickly, and with an added inch in the front, it would be fine. (Second picture shows detail of the neckline finish I chose—using selvedge for binding.)

Here’s the review:

Pattern Description: MISSES TUNIC: Close-fitting and flared, pullover tunic has front variations, shaped hemline and narrow hem. Wrong side shows on back hemline. C and D: collar.
Designed for lightweight Two-way Stretch Knits. I chose view B – collarless and ¾-length sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: Combinations: Y(XSmall-Small-Medium), ZZ(Large-XLarge-XXLarge) I cut a Small.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Only checked them a couple of times. If you’ve sewn knit tunic tops before, you know what to do and in which order to do it.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The skirt fullness. Perfect twirliness for an 11-year-old who looks like she’s 15.

Fabric Used: Fabulous black ponte knit from MarcyTilton.com.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
- Added an inch in length at the hem.
- Interfaced back shoulder seam to stabilize.
- Interfaced hem allowance on sleeves and skirt bottom to stablize for double-needle stitching.
- Used a Tilton trick of using the knit selvedge for neckline binding: Sewed shoulder seams. Trimmed 5/8″ off neckline (pattern said to fold and stitch, which is my least favorite way to finish a neckline). Cut 2″ wide strip of selvedge about an inch less than the neckline circumference and seamed into a circle. Sewed right side of binding strip to wrong side of neckline, matching center front and back, and stretching binding to fit front. Pressed binding to the seam allowance, then wrapped the seam allowance with the binding so the frayed edge of the binding just covers the binding/neckline seam. Topstitched the binding just inside the frayed edge. Lovely and unique!
- Cut the back length closer to the front length – didn’t want it as much longer in the back as the velour version I made was.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Darn, wish I had made it for myself!!

Conclusion: Easy, quick to sew, flattering top. Highly recommend to add a staple to your wardrobe.

My previous review of this pattern.


I definitely want to try a version of this for myself. I think it’s a very flattering top. Now back to practicing for tonight’s show.

P.S. Ridley in her new top.

Ridley's new ponte top Twirly Girl

Response to a thoughtful question from @blondieinparis on PatternReview.com, asking what seam allowance I had used after trimming the 5/8″”from the neck edge:

Here’s my logic: if I had just turned under and stitched, as the instructions said, my finished edge would be the cut edge minus 5/8″. So I trimmed off 5/8″.

I used a 5/8″‘seam allowance on the binding: right side of binding to wrong side of neckline and stitch 5/8″; press the seam allowance flat then press binding over seam (now 10/8″ have been used); wrap snugly to the front, overlapping the seamline (15/8″ used, plus 1/8″ to overlap = 2″ width to cut binding strip). Topstitch 1/4″ from selvedge edge on the right side of the garment.

If you look at the closeup picture, you can see how my stitching is just inside the seamline, through all four layers of neckline seam allowance and binding. Because of the lightness of the fabric, this works beautifully – not bulky at all It wouldn’t be as nice on a heavier fabric, I believe.

Thanks for asking, @blondieinparis. I think I first learned this from Katherine Tilton in her Vogue 8817, documented here.

A Company of Creative People

Grandma and BostonEver since early June–almost half a year ago–I’ve had the challenging music of Stephen Sondheim weighing heavily on my collaborative pianist’s fingers and brain. All other creative activities (particularly sewing and knitting) have fallen by the wayside. I would walk past my sewing room on the way to do the laundry, and resist the urge to go cut out a new top.

And last night we opened “Company.” Wow, what a high! Accompanying this talented and spirited group of singers, which included my younger son in the lead role, was truly one of the highlights of my life. And we get to repeat that high five more times!

To me, the most amazing part of this production was the fact that Tyler stepped in nine days before opening and learned the entire script, including lots of words and some very challenging songs. Oh, for the opportunity to just sit in the audience and watch him sing any of these numbers! (I’m hoping someone with the theatre will tape one performance so I can watch!)

Here’s what Tyler posted on Facebook yesterday:Facebook post

DGS Boston has been turning pages for me since he was about six or seven years old. Now 13, he’s a pro. The photo at the top of this post was taken last night, minutes before curtain up on opening night.

Here is the preview, published yesterday in the Sharon (PA) Herald.

Yes, the writer’s referring to me as Boston’s “piano-playing grandma” makes me sound very old, IMO, but I’ll take it. What a joy to have three generations working together on this production!

A Gift For a Gift

bagsSomewhere in my past I learned the charming custom of never sending a plate or bowl home empty after a friend has gifted you with food. But I don’t cook, so sending home a plate of some delicious food is not really a choice in my world. But sending home some cute little sewn accessory is!

We had dinner out with our travel pals Mike and Marilyn a couple of weeks ago, then went back to their home for delicious homemade birthday desserts for Mike. The leftovers came home with us, and I’ve been eyeing that plate for two weeks—need to fill it, need to fill it.

mbagsclosedThen I realized Marilyn would much prefer something I made with fabric to something I made with flour and sugar. So I dug into my stash and found a fabric with a floral theme, as Marilyn is a wonderful and passionate gardener. (Another trait we don’t share.)

mbagsopenI posted these bags at Christmas when I made several as holiday gifts for my g’kids’ teachers. They come from Amanda Niederhauser’s Jedi Craft Girl blog. They’re cute and easy to make. Best of all, they’re useful to hold all manner of stuff and beloved by everyone who receives one as a gift.

I can hear you now—you’re thinking about what luscious edible you could bring to my home to get one of these bags in return, aren’t you?!