An Artistic Blast from the Past

I haven’t really sewn since April, so I’ve had nothing to write about. All my energy has been going into my Travel section, documenting three major trips I’ve taken since the end of April.

Today, while looking for something else, I came across a blog post on my old blog. This was written on May 24, 2010, when my grandbabes were aged almost nine and five days short of seven. They loved spending time with Grandma. They loved our Friday night sleepovers, as did I. Precious memories.

I’ve copied it here to share with you. I’ve changed the names to indicate the identities they now have. Gender doesn’t matter. Love of art does.

Weekend Activities

We are a family filled with a passion for the arts, both performing and visual, and with myriad artistic interests. We play musical instruments, sing, write, take pictures, and make things with our hands—all sorts of things in all kinds of mediums. We are artists. We create.

These passions have extended to the third generation. Cody can hardly sit still without having a drawing pad and colored pencil in his hand. In their house and mine, he knows right where to go to find all the art supplies. And Celeste is very interested in my fabric and buttons and thread.

I had the babes overnight on Friday, which became sewing and dyeing time. Celeste has been wanting me to make her a snake that is hollow inside so she can feed it things. Friday night we ran to Jo-Ann’s after supper at Panera and picked out some fleece and some silky lining. Once home, she decided the shape of the snake’s head, and we cut and sewed. She had told me the snake would have a zippered mouth and a red tongue that rolled up into the mouth when you wanted to zip the zipper.

Two or three times on Friday night, I threaded my Bernina 1630 and each time said, “Over this, around that, up the right, down the left . . .” On Saturday morning while I was fixing breakfast, she decided she wanted a different color thread, so sat down and successfully threaded the machine. By herself. At eight-and-a-half years of age. With no help from me.

Anyone who sews will tell you that threading the machine is difficult. You must make sure you pass the thread through each of the eight or so nooks and crannies or the machine just won’t sew. Well, she got all the nooks, crannies, and the tiny little eye in the needle. I was astonished!

Cody spent time looking at all my bottles of fiber reactive dye, and chose “antique gold” (although he kept calling it an-tee-cue) and “lilac”. Then we dug a silk scarf out of my stash and gave it a base bath of gold, then folded and clamped and finished our mini-shibori experiment with lilac. He said, “It’s going to be cold today. I think I’ll wear it to my soccer game to stay warm.” I had to explain that a silk scarf is something you wear for dress-up, not for warmth.

I love that my grandkids think that I, with a needle and thread, can do everything there is to do. And I especially love that they want to learn to do everything I do.

I said to Cody, “Do you know how you are like Grandma? Because we both have lots of interests and not enough time.” He smiled.

Epilogue: This week is their third week at Interlochen Arts Camp. They’re both in high school now, and are both majoring in visual arts at Interlochen this summer.

The three of us frequently talk about how we have so many interests and have a hard time focusing on any one art form.

Some things never change.

Bali Batik Going Back Home

Kaye Tunic FrontI’m leaving for Bali in eight days. Two years ago this week, I was scheduled to leave for Bali on Thursday. The Jazzman and I had just returned from Easter dinner in Columbus with his brothers and their families. I was carrying our bags out of the car when I caught my toe on the sidewalk. I realized I was going down and was determined not to break my wrist again, so consciously threw my body into a turn to protect my wrists. In doing so, I fell on my back on the lawn in such a way that the muscles in my back were severely bruised. After a trip to the ER for X-rays, I was in so much pain that I knew I could not live through the thirty hours of travel required to get from Youngstown to Denpasar. My Bali Fiber Tour was cancelled. ☹


Duffel bag made for travel to Bali

Fast-forward two years. I took advantage of another opportunity and signed up for another Bali Fiber Tour with Barb Alexander. The best part of the tour this time is that nine of the ten women on the tour are alums of the Design Outside the Lines workshops that Diane Ericson (previously co-taught with Marcy Tilton) hosts several times a year in various creative locales. The women on this tour understand my passion for fabric and textiles. I’ve partnered with Tina Daily, a Portlander whom I met and instantly clicked with at the Design Outside the Lines session in Taos last June. We’ve been in touch weekly since we decided to take this journey together, and even had a sew-a-long making duffel bags out of canvas that Tina ice-dyed as our carry-on luggage. And now we’re one week away from departure.

Once I washed the three meters of fabric and hung it up to dry, I realized the ginkgo leaves were sparsley printed on one meter of the fabric, but the other two meters were densely printed. Cool! A great opportunity for playing with mix-and-match. Searching my pattern stash, I realized the StyleArc Kaye Tunic was perfect for this fabric. The sleeves and the pocket were the place for the sparsely printed section, while everything else would be cut from the densely printed section. In the photo at the top of this paragraph, you can see my shoulder, with the sparsely printed sleeve and the densely printed body. (All photos are clickable for enlargement.) Love this pattern play.

Here’s the review:

StyleArcPattern Description: A long line tunic top with a unique symmetrical hemline that creates a flattering draped effect

Kaye tunic side viewPattern Sizing: 4-30. I ordered the paper pattern in a size 16.

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? StyleArc’s instructions are succinct. See my comments in the changes section.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the bias-cut pocket. The neckline is very flattering. Dislike – nothing.

Fabric Used: Rayon batik created during one of Barb Alexander’s Bali Fiber Tours two years ago. At the last minute, I cancelled because of a fall; Barb completed my batik project and shipped the fabric to me after the tour.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I’m 5’8″ and usually add up to 3″ to the torso of a tunic. I added nothing to this and it was fine. If you’re vertically-challenged, you might need to shorten the body some—or you may need to skip the Kaye tunic. (Maybe make it without the pocket, but the pockets are one of the best features of this tunic.) The only (IMO) glitch in the instructions was in the insertion of the sleeve. I undid the side seams ⅜” at the armscye. Sew the sleeve down to the ⅜” opening. Then pin and sew the bottom of the sleeve to the top of the side/pocket panel across from side seam to side seam. Leaving that seam open the ⅜” makes inserting the sleeve much easier. (Otherwise, you’re going to have to carefully pivot at the ⅜” point on that top of the side panel seam. Tricky.)

Kaye tunicIn the comments on a previous review, a reader asked about the hems on the pockets. Here’s how I handled it: The first step is attaching the pockets to the side panels. At this point, I fused a ⅜” strip of fusible tricot to the hem, turned it up and pressed, then top-stitched just inside the hem allowance. The tricot is soft enough to not stiffen the soft drape of the pocket, but firm enough to give me a crisp fold on the hem. When I attached the pocket/side panel to the back and front, I left ⅜” of the front and back pieces extending below the bottom of the pocket. Then I fused a ⅜” strip of tricot interfacing to the front and back hems, folded, pressed, and top-stitched. The edges of the front and back hems meet the hems of the side panels as if it was all seamed together—but it’s much simpler! (Again, IMO.)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will absolutely sew this again. I’d like to try it in a firm knit, maybe a light ponte. I do recommend. Just take your time on the side panel and the sleeve and think it through.

Conclusion: Beautiful, drapey, flattering tunic to wear with leggings. Can’t wait to wear to dinner in Bali.


Here’s another look at the fabric that made these bags. To see more of Tina’s beautiful work, here’s a link to her Etsy shop.

We took a Craftsy class to make the bags. The class is Betz White’s “Sew Better Bags: The Weekend Duffel. The bag is not an easy make, but we’re happy with the finished bags and will be carrying them onto the plane with us for the long trip. I leave from Cleveland; Tina leaves from Portland. We meet in San Francisco; thirteen-and-a-half hours later, we’ll land in Taipei. After a four-hour layover, we’ll fly to Singapore. We leave SFO at 12:45am on Tuesday and arrive in SIN twenty-two hours and forty minutes later, at noon on Wednesday. We’ll hang out with Tina’s niece in Singapore for a couple of days, then take a five-hour flight from Singapore to Bali, when our two weeks of creativity begin.

Did I say I can’t wait? I can’t wait!!

A Second Courtney for Bali

On the heels of Friday’s seersucker StyleArc “Courtney” top, I made a second Courtney from a lightweight linen. And I love it!

StyleArc Courtney in linenWhile constructing the seersucker top, I also had a dye job going. First I took a pair of Eileen Fisher stretch knit crops that I hated the pale gray color of, and dumped them into my wringer washer that came with the house (lucky old house purchaser!). I had prepared the dye bath with a bottle of Rit liquid dye in Taupe. The pants didn’t contain much fabric, and half the bottle would have been sufficient for those pants to come out a lovely taupe color. But I used the entire bottle and they came out somewhere between avocado and olive. And I love them! As the Rit process didn’t involve adding soda ash or anything that would expend the color, I was pretty sure there was enough dye in there to turn a piece of white linen with tiny pinstripes an inch apart into a beige that would be more practical for travel. So I wet the fabric and tossed it into the old washer while rinsing the crops.

You might wonder why I kept the wringer washer and why I love it so much. My regular laundry wash machine is a Bosch front loader. Forget about trying to dye anything in that. The old washer agitates the heck out of any piece of fabric I put in there, which is exactly what you want when repurposing an older garment that’s already shrunk all it’s going to shrink, or a piece of fabric that you want an even color on. That washer and me—we’ve got a love affair goin’ on.
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Dyed linenIt is an odd shade of beige/ecru, but isn’t that the fun of dyeing fabric? It’s got the tiniest hint of pink to it, and I love the fabric and the finished top.

Linen topThis sewing experience was basically the same as the seersucker, except I didn’t need to reference the instruction sheet at all. One thing I didn’t mention in the previous post was my hem. This is a trick I learned from Diane Ericson last summer at the June “Design Outside the Lines” retreat in Taos. On all my knit garments, I fuse a strip of tricot interfacing to the hem allowance. The width of the strip is equal to the depth of the hem. In other words, if the hem is ½” deep, I’m going to cut strips of fusible tricot to equal ½” wide and the circumference of the skirt or pant or top hem. Once fused in place, all the loose threads are fused into place. You don’t have to do a double fold on the hem. You don’t have to zigzag or otherwise finish the hem. Just fuse, fold, press, stitch. On a knit, I stitch with a double needle and wooly nylon in the bobbin. On a woven, I just single-needle stitch. Voila!! Love!!

I don’t think tricot is required. I’ve also done it with bias strips of Pellon SF-101, or even on-grain strips. If my hem is perfectly straight, as on a pair of pants, I’d cut on-grain. But if the hem has a curve to it, I want bias-cut to be able to move with the curve when fusing. The important part is the fuse. I want fusible interfacing to grab all those thread ends on the cut edge and keep them from raveling once my garment is finished.

ThreadAs I was preparing to sew, I searched my thread stash for the perfect thread color. I found one small spool that had about a tenth of the thread remaining. My nearest thread stores (rhymes with “hate-that-store-ann’s) are ten miles away in either direction. I did NOT want to interrupt my motivation to drive up there and deal with them. (I should write a blog post on my feelings about coupons being required to get a decent price. Why can’t stores just set reasonable prices and do away with the coupon BS?!)

So I started sewing with a beige in the bobbin and a cream on the top. Yeah, yeah, the cream was near at hand, and the beige was a bobbin already half-full. Each seam allowance was zigzagged, pressed, and topstitched. Anytime I finished a seam, I’d change to the nearly empty spool of thread, topstitch the seam, then pull it out an inch from the needle and clip. And look at what was left on my spool after sewing the last stitch. Bwah, hah, hah – I tricked Jo-Ann’s.

And I’d say that’s a sign this top was supposed to be finished on Saturday before going out to dinner with friends. No, I didn’t wear it to dinner. It’s still fricking winter in Northeast Ohio, even though we got a breath of spring the past two days. I asked the Jazzman to take photos of me on the back porch, so I could show you that the Royal Star Magnolia blossoms are budding. Alas, getting decent light on the subject meant you barely see the little blobs of white in the background on the first photo. But there is green. There’s lots and lots of green. I may be able to live until spring comes to stay. In the alternative, I think I’ll head to Singapore and Bali for three weeks. ☺

A Cool Top for a Hot Climate

Seersucker topYou know how I get when a trip is upcoming; I want to sew-sew-sew and wear all me-made garments on the trip.

For my upcoming trip to Bali, the travelers on the tour have been warned to be prepared to be dinner for lots of mosquitos carrying lots of “bugs.” I’m taking a strong DEET mosquito repellent spray, plus mosquito repellent wipes, plus a repellent with eucalyptus oil, plus a product called Permetrhin that you spray on your clothes before traveling.

Here’s the description of Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray:
“Permethrin, is a synthetic molecule similar to pyrethrum that is taken from the chrysanthemum flower. When applied to clothing, Sawyer Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent binds to the fabric, eliminating the risk of over-exposure to the skin. Permethrin is odorless when dry and will not stain or damage clothing, fabrics, plastics, finished surfaces or any of your outdoor gear. This 24-oz container of Sawyer insect repellent employs an easy-to-use trigger spray for effective, effortless application. Applied to clothing and other fabrics, each application lasts through six washings or 42 days of UV exposure.”

Although the literature indicates Permethrin will not harm fabrics, even silks, I’m hesitant to spray it on expensive tops. So i wanted to make a couple of lightweight cool tops that I didn’t care about damaging (if the literature lied).

I dug a couple of old pieces out of my stash—a lightweight turquoise and white pinstripe seersucker and a white linen with a tiny black pinstripe running lengthwise. More on the linen in a couple of days.

I dug through my pattern stash and chose StyleArc’s Courtney top to make in the seersucker. It sews up quickly and as soon as it was done, I threw it on with a pair of white cropped knit pants. I was instantly in love.

Here’s the pattern review:

Pattern Description: An everyday top with interesting design lines

Pattern Sizing: Misses 4-30. I ordered a 16.

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? Typical StyleArc instructions – short, sweet, and to the point.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The design lines on the top front and the cut of the neckline make for a very flattering top.

Fabric Used: Pinstripe Seersucker from my stash.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I’m 5’8″. Added 2″ to the length. I’m a 38DD and did not make any changes to the bust! Yea!!

You may have seen that I wrote a review of this in January when I made it up in a knit. After wearing the knit version a couple of times, I really felt like I was wearing my pajamas. Go down a size when making it in knit.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This is my second time around and I’ve already cut out a third in linen.

Conclusion: Perfect lightweight top for my upcoming Bali Fiber Tour. Easy make – cut it out the night before, and have a new top before noon the next day. This is a keeper!

A Little Evening Bag

Black Evening BagI’m heading to Southern California next week for a special wedding on April 15. The bride is my great-niece, my half-sister’s granddaughter. The mother of the bride, the grandmother of the bride, and I will be traveling together on Wednesday, and the aunt of the bride will be following on Friday evening. My sister has been most gracious in including me in all the planning—including turning to me for wardrobe consults. You know I loved that!!

Today I whipped up a little evening bag that might be used by either the MOB or the AOB. It’s based upon the Big Bow Clutch tutorial by Melissa of Polka Dot Chair.

Black Evening Bag liningI wanted a solid black, but wanted the bow to be in a different finish than the bag itself. I ordered a 100% polyester Shantung Sateen fabric from fabric [dot] com. This is, effectively, a satin-back shantung. The bag was sewn with the shantung finish as the right side; the bow was made with the satin finish as the right side. I stuck my hand deep into a stash of silks, and came up with a fat quarter of white china silk that I had splotch-painted with a bunch of different bright paints many years ago. It had been resting, just waiting for an opportunity, like this, to bring some pizazz to a simple little black bag. All pattern pieces were interfaced with Pellon SF-101.

I made the bag much smaller than Melissa’s tute bag. The fabric pieces ended up being about 5½” x 9″. After a lot of pfitzing with it to come out with the finished bag, it’s about 5″ tall and 7″ wide. I love the explosion of color when the bag is unzipped.

I bought a Mary Frances beaded bag for myself around Christmas. Then when we were working on pulling the perfect GOB outfit together for my sister, I found the ideal little Mary Frances bag for her, also. (Suzanne’s boutique in Boardman carries this brand locally; I can’t stop eyeing her entire stock every time I’m in the store.) These bags have snake chain straps with lobster claw connectors that I love. I looked high and low online to find a chain strap that was the right size and would be delivered quickly. I found it on eBay from the vendor Deeliciousee. Ordered on Thursday of last week, it arrived on Monday of this week.

And how is the strap attached, you might ask. I took a 4″ x 1″ strip of the black fabric, folded it in half, right sides together, and sewed down the middle of the strip. Using the tiniest FasTurn tube, I turned it right side out. The seam allowance fills the finished fabric tube to make a very nice strip. I cut two pieces about 1½”, folded them in half, and sewed them at each end of the zipper. (There’s more to the process, but I’m only going to tell you if you’re a sewist and seriously interested in trying to replicate this fastener loop. PM me.)

So the bag is finished, and tomorrow I’ll run over to Medina to visit my sister and deliver the bag for my nieces to squabble over. (Don’t worry, I’m taking a couple other evening bags for them to choose from, if they’d rather. This auntie aims to please.)