Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Throw, New Pillows and on the Cutting Table

Finished: new covers in winter fabrics for all of the throw pillows. I chose a pretty red and white toile that has been ripening in the stash since 2003. I had forgotten exactly what I bought it for, but it makes pretty pillows for winter that don't look too Christmas-y. Pillows in Chez Hunting Creek lead a hard life, and I end up recovering them about twice a year anyway. They serve as floor pillows, lap desks, foot rests, as well as normal pillow duty. I don't use zippers because of customer complaints about zipper hardness. Instead I use one piece of fabric, two seams, (one on each side) and an envelope back. Smooth, no lumps and everyone is happy.

Some people have said mean things recently about minky, but the blanket-using population here has nothing but praise for the new faux sheepskin and minky blanket I made last weekend (when it SNOWED!). Making a faux fur throw is so easy a rookie can do it, but be aware that just like real fur, this stuff sheds like crazy when you cut it and sew it. When writers talk about the fur flying, I believe they were referring to sewing faux fur. I had to clean out the inside of my machine twice and wipe down the cutting board plus vacuum the sewing room afterwards. But the actual construction is a breeze. Please note that minky and my faux fur were knit backed, so I used a ball point needle and a small zigzag stitch. I left a opening on one side then reached in, turned it right side out and hand sewed the opening shut. The fancy fur thows at Pottery barn and Restoration Hardware sell for hundreds of dollars, and while I admire them, I won't cry when someone spills pizza, root beer or red wine on mine, because I can wash it. And it didn't cost several hundred dollars.
I asked Mr. Hunting Creek if so many finished projects meant new fabric purchases were in my future. He laughed and said, "Only when you have an empty shelf", so don't expect new fabric purchases in the next week or so.
Next up:

I admired Lindsey T's Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2192 tops so much that I thought I'd make one of my own. The pattern back suggested brocade as an option, and it just so happened that I had some pretty dark teal and black brocade lurking in the stash from a long ago purchase. I don't recall what this fabric is made of, (I suspect man-made, but nice synthetic, if that's not an oxymoron) but I know it has some lycra because it has a slight stretch. Since I bought it forever ago, that means it's free, right? This pattern is very simple, and like all simple designs, nice fabric is all. If the "free" brocade version looks good, then I'll upgrade to silk brocade.(Which is aging nicely in the Great Wall 'O Fabric).
A note about this pattern. As Lindsay T mentioned, it runs big. That seems to be the style now, so if you prefer a smaller size, please plan accordingly.

I've finished six things in the last week and items 7 and eight are in progress. This is amazing productivity for me. And all items have been successes! I want to hang a sign on my sewing room door like they have on factory floors that says something like Eight Successful Projects Without An Injury.
What's on your cutting table?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XX1: Fabric Words

My BFF from high school, up in snowy Alaska, sent this fun fabric email:

This week's theme
Fabric words used metaphorically

This week's words
dirty linen

I've heard peaches described as cottony, as in, "Late peaches are all cottony inside." Maybe it's a Virginia thing?
Cheap people are chintzy, but generous people are never satiny or silky.
We all know about airing dirty linen in public, (witness the current Republican Primaries for a more direct example of dirty linen airing in real time) but no one ever advises showing off your clean linens either.

What other fabric related words can you think of?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Scary Fabrics,Volume I: Sock Monkey Santa

If Stephen King sewed, this would be the fabric he'd make into pajamas for his kids.
"No, Daddy, NO! Not Sock Monkey Santa!"
Of course, if you're a fan of the macabre little monkieys, find them here. All others be warned.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bedside Reading- Colette Sewing Handbook

The Colette Sewing Handbook came in the mail yesterday. I read every single book that I sell on my website - what if someone asks me a question? This book would be a nice gift for someone who wanted to learn more about sewing, and if I were giving it as a gift, I'd put it in a gift bag with some silk pins, a pretty pin cushion, and a measuring tape. I like how it opens up and lies flat too. The book has lots of good advice about prepping fabric and pattern tissue - stuff that I learned from my mom ages ago, but if you don't have a mom or grandma who knows about sewing, it's nice to see this sisterly advice here. There's a chapter on fitting, advice about wardrobe planning and more. I need to read it very carefully again and maybe make that cute skirt. The instructions have lots of pictures for visual learners, and are very reassuring.
Even though I've been sewing since I was a child, there's always something new to learn. Plus, it comes with five patterns! The skirt with the scalloped hem would be perfect for my daughter. There's also a pretty bias blouse with fluttery sleeves, and a couple really pretty dresses. There just aren't enough pretty dress patterns - you can't have too many.
Mr. Hunting Creek thinks reading sewing books in bed is deviant behavior. Things could be worse, I tell him - with mobile devices I could be buying fabric in bed. This effectively shuts him up about the reading material.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jasmine is my New Favorite

Even though I have not purchased any fabric in over four years (and not suffered one bit, that's how much fabric there is around here), I never stopped collecting patterns. Patterns are the crack cocaine of sewing, incredibly addictive, and each new batch leaves you wanting more, more , MORE! Not that I have a problem with that. Patterns are small. I temporarily stopped my so far fruitless search for Simplicity 3536(but now I have two completely clean closets!)
to unwrap my new Colette Patterns, and immediately decided to make the Jasmine Blouse. So pretty! So feminine! No buttons or zippers- a big plus in my book. Although I've been making buttonholes since I was ten, I hate sewing on buttons and this is a perfect chance to avoid them.
As mentioned yesterday, when I cleaned out my office closet and previous fabric storage location, I found fabrics that some unknown person had snuck into my house. Luckily this unknown person has exactly my taste, so I could make the Jasmine Blouse out of blue charmeuse or cream silk jacquard. Or possibly both.
The new Peony Dress is a very ladylike kind of dress as my mother would say, and it would make a perfect LBD, and the Clover Pants are VERY Audrey. Audrey and I look nothing alike, but we can't let little things like that get in the way.(I'm more like Elizabeth Taylor, and very few people would say that she was a fashion a good way. She had her own style, though. She didn't give a damn about what you thought of her, and that's a style worth emulating.)
I know what I'm making next -what's on your cutting table for Fall?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Much is Too Much?

You know you have too much fabric when you clean out the office closet and find four yards of dark blue silk charmeuse that you have never seen before in your life.
You know you have too many patterns, if, when trying to organize them (a Sisyphean task)you find not two but three of the same one.
You have too many shoes if you find new shoes in the back of your closet but it's the wrong size. Did I think somehow my feet would shrink?

Monday, October 17, 2011


Overheard last week at Hancock's, where I had gone to buy patterns while they were on sale:
"How much do you want of this?" asked the cutting lady, about a pretty red silky print
"One and 7/8 yard" replied the customer.

I raised my eyebrows and whispered to Mr. Hunting Creek that I had never bought 7/8ths of anything my whole life! He agreed that that was silly - why not just round up and get 2 yards? "Who calls for 7/8s of a yard?" he asked.
The back of the pattern envelope, I told him. And those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. You might need more or less.

They didn't have Simplicity 3536 (a vain hope!)- so of course I bought ten other patterns to make up for that. This is the same kind of thinking that leads to extra fabric buying...just in case.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fabric Affineuse

When people ask about my stash/fabric collection/Great Wall o' Fabric, I no longer say that I collect fabric. Instead, I say I am a Fabric Affineuse. Affinage is the practice of aging cheese so that your favorite brie is just meltingly ripe and the wonderful English Coastal Cheddar properly sharp - but not too sharp!. Fabric Affinage is the practice of lovingly collecting fabric from all over the world - curating it, in fact, and keeping it until just the right project makes itself known for that fabric. Sometimes this can be days, or weeks, other times it can be years or even lifetimes. There is fabric in my collection from my late mother's stash, from Mr. Hunting Creek's mother's stash, from his late aunt's stash...and so on. No fabric is sewn here unless properly aged!
Sometimes the match betwen fabric and pattern results in a beautiful relationship. Other times...well let's just say that there may have been harsh words or even tears. But most of the time fabric and pattern become one and we all live happily ever after...until the next project.
Do you practice Fabric Affinage? Or, are you one of those people who buy their fabric one piece at a time, for each specific project? (Really? Not even any extra? I wouldn't even know how to do that!) Become an Affineuse - you'll be glad you did.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Favorite Pattern

Normally, I'm not a sucker for cute, but this one was too cute. Reader, I bought it.
I imagined a teeny tiny clothesline along the wall of my sewing room with little bitty clothespins holding the eensy weensy aprons.
Simplicity should made super small versions of all of their patterns. It would make great art!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupy Retail

When it comes to stickin' it to the man, of course I am all in favor. I am cheered by the Occupy Wall Street Protesters. Who doesn't dislike greedy plutocrats? I'm surprised that no one has shown up with flaming torches and pitchforks yet.
Last night while Mr. Hunting Creek was watching yet more football, I had an epiphany.
What women needed to do, I realized, was go on strike and occupy something. Why, people are still talking about those feminists who burned bras, although as I recall, no actual bras were burned. But it's a vivid image, and one that people remember having happened. Women on strike is not a new idea, of course. From Ancient Greece on down, poets and playwrights have fantasized about women on strike. But I wasn't thinking of going on strike like Lysistrata (although being anti-war is an excellent reason to go on strike). I was looking at fashion on my Steve Jobs memorial handheld device (thank you, Steve Jobs!) and wishing that the technological changes that have improved our lives might be applied to fashion.
If you were to ask any women, tall, short, thin, curvy, woman of any size, almost all of them would tell you that they have a horrible time finding clothes.
Of the women that sew, they will say that they sew because they can't find anything that fits, or that the workmanship is horrible on RTW, or that they like to customize what they wear to suit themselves. In the business-computer-land, where I work, we customize workstations to each individual user. But fashion has not embraced this possibility. There are hundreds - maybe thousands of designers, but it seems like they are almost all designing for some imaginary woman who is six feet tall and wears a size negative 2. In other words, not me. Not you either, probably. When I see fashion, I'm always mentally raising a neckline or lowering a hemline, always taking away excess fabric here, adding some extra there - customizing the look to fit my preferences. That's why I sew, of course. But in my fantasy, women everywhere occupied the malls and fashion districts and demanded clothes that FIT. Clothes that fit them and their lifestyles. Clothes that came with clearly labeled sizes inside, with dimensions and with different cup sizes. Yes! Standardized sizes! Tops and dresses with cup sizes! Pants that weren't always, eternally a foot too long (my complaint) or too short.
So good luck to my brothers and sisters occupying Wall Street! It's difficult to start a movement without backing from huge moneyed interests. Well done bringing attention to the plight of the millions of unemployed.(Some of whom could be making clothes that fit and beautiful fabric right here in the USA if those afore-mentioned moneyed interests hadn't shipped all of the jobs overseas to sweatshops and near-slave labor, but I digress). And if you can spare a few moments, can you make room for my sisters who want clothes that fit?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jeans and a Turtleneck Can Change the World

My kids and I used to joke that Steve Jobs' closet had a row of 30 identical black turtlenecks and a row of just-cleaned, worn-just-the-right amount jeans.
He showed us the power of knowing what his personal look is and sticking to it. When you know your personal look, you don't have to think about fashion and can focus on changing the world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Into Thin Air

The drawback of being a messy person who is married to a OCD cleaner person, is that items belonging to the messy - I mean, Creative Person, tend to vanish into thin air, never to be seen again. When guests are expected who aren't family members, Mr. Hunting Creek transforms in a manner not unlike Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde/Incredible Hulk and goes into his cleaning frenzy. Things that have disappeared, never to be seen again, include Simplicity 3536, which was last seen on top of my cutting board with dark green stretch velvet last December. The green velvet is visible on a shelf in the Great Wall of Fabric, the pattern is MIA. No matter, I thought, I'll buy another when they are on sale. But, Alas! The pattern is both out of print and out of stock. Heavy sigh. Also missing - my 9 inch round cake pan, and the 24 muffin mini muffin pan. Where on earth can he have put them?
When confronted with the fact that these items are missing, Mr. Hunting Creek denies all knowledge of their existence. "I know I had it," I tell him, "I even took a picture for my blog!" Confronted with proof, he looks somewhat shifty. He says I must have put it away somewhere different. Since I never put anything away, this is clearly a delaying tactic on his part. I can buy another cake pan and muffin tin, I tell him, but the pattern is out of print. I make a sad face. He claims that I just haven't looked hard enough.
If you see a copy of Simplicity 3536 around, let me know. The dining room, my office and the sewing room are all unnaturally clean. I suspect foul play.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Can it be too clean?

When my sewing space is too clean, I don't want to "mess" it up. Does having a too clean space affect your creativity?
I have found that I like things out where I can see them. It helps me make connections, think of cool projects I could make, put fabric and patterns together to live happily ever after. One of the reasons I asked Mr. Hunting Creek to build my Great Wall of Fabric was so I could see what I had. I have some fabric still in those big plastic bins, and I don't like it at all because I can't see it there.
When I am working on a project I like to have everything out where I can see it. It's all over my desk, and if it is a large project, it might also be in stages on the dining room table, the kitchen table and maybe even the chair in my office. I work messy. Which is funny in a way, because in my professional life I am famous for being neat, orderly and a martinet about organization. Do you suppose that's because I am free to be messy creatively?

Last weekend I made tissue paper collages, to make Christmas garlands with. I haven't had that much fun since second grade. They were SO messy, involving glue, tissue paper, paper snowflake doilies, glitter and Angelina. I'm going to add foil and paints today. They are only meant for fun, and how often do any of us do something just to make a mess nowadays?
Some of my friends assure me that they can't get a thing done if so much as one thing is out of place. They have to work in a neat and orderly environment or they just can't stand it. Secretly I feel sorry for them.(I tell myself that messiness is a strength!) I grew up in a large family with many dogs, cats, fish, kids and working parents who ran their own business. Things were chaotic,messy, noisy and disorganized but the experience gave me a very high tolerance for working in chaotic conditions.
How about you? Messy or clean? Messy but won't admit it? Neat and proud of it? Neat but trying to be be messier?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scary Patterns X: Stuffed Animal Abuse

This picture reminds me of movies where the hero is chained to the wall in some dark, damp, dismal dungeon. In this case, cute little animals are stuffed with plastic bags, chained to the wall, forced to dispense the bags out to say this politely?...their nether regions...stuffed animal lovers, please avert your eyes.
For persons who find this dispenser just the thing they've been looking for their whole lives, the pattern is here.
I keep my plastic bags in a plain bag on the back of my kitchen door. No stuffed animals are abused by my recycling efforts.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Scary Patterns IX: Raisin or Potato?

What was Simplicity thinking? If you have always dreamed of dressing as a California Raisin or a Couch Potato, this is your pattern. But don't limit yourself to raisins or potatoes! Think outside the box of raisins, and imagine yourself and your loved ones as dancing cranberries, prunes or dried apricots! Or maybe sweet potatoes or turnips. The whole world of produce dressing is now available to you.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Playing with Paintstiks and Rubbing Plates

Take the rubbing plate of your choice - here I've used one of the Triangles plates- and tape it down with blue painter's tape so it doesn't shift around. Some people then spray it with quilt basting spray, but it's too hot to spray outside and I don't want to spray that stuff inside. So I taped the fabric with the tape too. Then I peeled away the paintstik film on the side of the stick - to make a larger surface area for making a rubbing. These are from a mini set. I used mauve, celadon green, Wedgwood blue, iridescent light gold and iridescent orange.

I painted some silk crepe that someone had given me, saying that maybe I could use it to line a purse, but when I looked at it earlier this week, I realized that the silk pieces wanted to be painted scarves.
If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, "You're so creative! I'm just not artistic." I'd be as rich as Bill Gates. Making rubbings is as easy as finger painting and requires no special skills. It is also very fun and my silk looks awesome. I'm letting it dry now. The drying takes about 24 hours. Then I'll iron it between sheets of silicone release paper, sew it and show it off to you. These scarves will make wonderful gifts...if I can bear to part with them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Scary Patterns VIII: Cruisin' For Foxes

A common refrain among sewists both male and female is that the pattern companies don't make any good men's patterns any more. Case in point: this groovylicious leisure suit from 1975, just begging to be made in that patchwork denim print polyester doubleknit for optimum fox-cruisin' capabilities.
To better impress the ladies, please add a Tom Selleck moustache and Mr. Brady perm.
If your Halloween plans involve dressing up as Magnum PI, find it here. Send us a picture for our wall of shame.

Quote of the Day

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.
Mark Twain

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Working With Paintstiks

First, get your mise en place ready, as they say in chef school.
Clear off a workspace, and protect it with newspaper, a plastic tablecloth or silicone release paper. Wear old clothes or an apron, so you don't get paint on your clothes. (Just like kindergarten)
My basic toolkit:
Blue painters tape, to hold stencils, fabric and rubbing plates in place.
Invisigrip, to keep rubbing plates from sliding on the table
A paper plate or Palette Paper, to mix colors on
A dedicated vegetable peeler, to be used only with the paintstiks, to remove the protective film. (See the little paint peelings in the picture? Paintstiks have a protective film that keeps them from drying out. You remove this before painting with a rough paper towel, vegetable peeler or little paring knife. It's easy to remove and comes right off. Be careful not to get paint all over your hands. Maybe I am just really messy, but I always do, and end up with paint on my nose. It does wash right off...but still. Kids require supervision with this.)
Scrap fabric, to practice on. I do a lot of practice samples before I use the "good fabric". Kind of like making a muslin - same idea. The more you practice, the better you get.
Assorted paintstiks
stencil brushes
Purchased or home-made stencils
And most importantly - time to practice, play and try out new ideas.
That's what I'm doing today - trying out different colors and fabrics and just seeing what develops.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Another Kind of Skirt

When the going gets HOT, it's time to think about cold weather sewing! I can't help it - when I get a fabulous idea, I have to try it out. The new Christmas Patterns are coming in for my website. I was unpacking them, and I read this line on the tree skirt pattern: "Two blocks are included, or use your favorite 12" quilt block." I thought, "hey, I could use anything there, as long as it was 12 inch square. This has possibilities." It's not that I have a favorite quilt block. A twelve inch block would be perfect for printing pictures on and also for embellishing with Paintstiks. Working on an art project might help cheer me up. (We really miss our dog. When we come home from an errand, there's no joyful welcome. I miss that.)
So this weekend, why not mess around with Christmas fabric, paintstiks, stencils and all sorts of messy fun? There's nothing like fooling around with art to help mend a broken heart.
It's better than moping around and more healthful than eating brownies.
What are your plans to beat the heat?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Goodbye, Petey

We're sad this weekend to say goodbye to our Springer Spaniel, Petey - the Best Dog Ever. Farewell, Petey - may there be ample squirrels to chase in heaven.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Scary Patterns VII

Sometimes the sheer creative inventiveness of America is astonishing:witness the quilted toilet seat cover, above. If this is totally your thing, find it here.
What will they think of next?
p.s. look closely at that quilted picture and take note of what it is! a little quilty joke! Mr. Hunting Creek shuddered. "You aren't thinking of making that!"
"Only Ironically, sweetie."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Must Make This List

The Violet Blouse from Colette Patterns reminded me so much of blouses I wore in high school that I had to have it.

Now I just have to find a worthy fabric. I know I have to have a pattern when I see every new fabric and think, "you'd make a nice Violet Blouse."
Also on the agenda- a maxi dress (I wore those in high school too) and silk drawstring pants (I was never so lucky as to have silk drawstring pants in high school. We mostly wore shorts and jeans and t shirts.)
For my drawstring pants (which I haven't worn since college, but then, I am a recovering corporate dresser) I thought either McCalls 6291 (I have a muslin cut)

Or McCalls 5889, since I admired Lindsay T's version so much:

Or possibly, both versions. I don't have any red silk lying around, but you can't let a little difficulty like that get in the way. I do have celadon green silk, and Caribbean blue silk...let's just say there's no shortage of alternative colors.
The fabric for my maxi-dress has not yet revealed itself to me, but I'm sure while I am sewing the pants muslin this weekend I'll realize what it should be.
What's on your summer sewing list?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Insulated Tote for Groceries and Picnics

All of a sudden, it is HOT here in Virgina. After my ice cream came home from the store in a soup-like condition, I decided to make an insulated tote. to keep my cold groceries cold. It will also work for picnics at the pool, and help keep picnic food cool - or hot (but not both at the same time.)
I wanted to do something fun with my tote, so I cut four six wide strips of embroidered denim (from stash) and two 6 inch wide strips of white quilting cotton.
I string pieced uneven strips of brightly colored fabric on the white fabric and then trimmed it. I saw this technique used in the previously mentioned Block Party book, and I wanted to try it. Small projects like totes are an excellent way to try new techniques.

After I had finished with my string piecing I sewed the colored piece in the center of the denim pieces so I ended up with two 17 1/2" by 22" pieces. I clipped a two inches square out of each bottom corner, and did the same with the lining pieces. I then backed my tote pieces with Insul-fleece, and basted it on.

I cut some bright yellow belting for the handles. I basted them on about six inches in from the sides.

Then I sewed the sides and the bottom, and boxed the corners as seen in this tutorial.I assembled the lining, leaving a large part on one side unsewn so I could reach in and turn the bag right side out, and then sewed the lining to the tote. After I turned it right side out I topstitched around the top so that the lining would stay inside.

Now it's ready for shopping and picnics by the pool. I made mine from scraps and stash fabric, but this could also be made out of recycled fabrics as well. It's fun to make utilitarian items look pretty,and it's a good way to try out new techniques.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Transportation Baby Quilt

Finished: Transportation Baby Quilt
Finished size - about 48" square

Here's a close up of the baby announcement, added to the quilt by scanning and printing on Transfer Artist Paper

I've been working all week to finish this baby quilt in time to take to a party, and I finished at least four hours before the party- I'm getting rusty, because usually I finish things and the situation is: Mr. Hunting Creek has the car running already, we're running late, and everyone in poised for takeoff. I even had time to wrap it nicely, watch the Preakness with a glass of cold iced tea, and write a nice note in the card.

The quilt is my own design, if a square in a square log cabin can even be said to be original. I was inspired by a quilt in Modern Log Cabin Quilting, but mine is made differently. Let's say it's my own interpretation. If you'd like to make something similar, here's a run down of what I did.
We went to the Variety Store nearby; they have a large selection of quilting fabric, and I had a specific theme in mind. I bought half yards of the green road fabric, the black and white airport, the yellow train print, one yard of the plain blue, and two yards for the back of a pretty yellow train themed stripe (I didn't need all two yards, but it is nice to have some extra in case the quilt grows.)
The blue road map and classic car print was from stash, as were the red and white dot fabrics and everything else. It's nice to have options. My rule was - no two blocks exactly alike, but everything will go together, and one block will have the baby announcement.
I chose 15 4 1/2 inches squares for the centers (and one saved for the baby picture. So there are 16 centers. I framed those squares with the blue, cut 1 1/2 inches wide. The second round was the same prints as the squares, cut 2 1/2 inches wide, with a few calming blender prints thrown in for a place for the eyes to rest. Then I used the red and white dots as sashing, cut one and one half inches wide - I wanted it the same width as the blue. I quilted it very simply to frame the blocks. There's a lot going on here. so no fancy stitching needed. I love how it turned out and when I was done, I imagined it all soft and faded and dragged around all over as little kids do, as a treasured wooby blankie.
If you've never worked with the Transfer Artist Paper, here's what I did to transfer the inage. First I scanned the baby announcement, and then in my HP Image Manager (the software that came with my All In One Printer) I reversed the image and crapped it as necessary. Then I printed a couple on paper to make sure I had made it the right size. Then I printed it on the Transfer Artist Paper, and transferred the image to plain white cotton using the instructions included in the package.I was glad that I had made two copies (one for practice) because I learned that the iron has to be HOT. My first one wasn't perfect, but my second one was. Save the trimmed parts of the TAP, you can also paint or draw on it and transfer those as well, so I save my scraps for a future project.
The new parents loved the quilt so everyone is happy. Now to clean up my sewing area and plan my next project.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Modern Quilting Bee Block Party

It's always a happy day when the new books arrive from the publisher for the website. They are all fresh from the printer, crisp and new and it is always exciting to sit down and read every one and see what new ideas I can steal...I mean, borrow from them. My hands down favorite was this unexpected jewel: The Modern Quilting Bee Block Party. There are twelve projects with illustrated directions, and short biographies of the twelve women who participated in a virtual quilting bee and created the quilts. This never happens: I loved all twelve projects and wanted to make my own version of all of them. As a quilter I am very improvisational. (As a garment sewer and cook as well. Maybe in life too.) Some people might say that is because I am incapable of following directions (and those people might be right) but I prefer to think of myself as a Free Spirit. An Artist. (Rules? we don't need no stinkin' rules! Did Monet follow directions when he painted? I don't think so.) The directions in this book appealed to my rebellious free-spirited way of working. I start with an idea of where I want to go and let the fabric give me direction. And that's just what they did! With lots of pictures to show how they ended up with a beautiful quilt. I don't keep every book that I sell (and a good thing too, or there would be no room in the sewing room) but I am keeping one of these for my very own. If you like the improvisational style of quilting, you might like it too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Accidental Diet

No sooner had I come up with a brilliant idea for a cookbook that I immediately decided to write, Mr. Hunting Creek decides to go on a diet. He does this occasionally, and all of us shiver in awe at his dedication and annoying success. He is a fanatic! Dieting is like a religion to him, including the periods of self-denial, ritual fasting and feasting. He never cheats - never!(Once several years ago, when he went on Pritikin, we were so fat free I used to dream at night about butter and olive oil. I am not making this up.) Only when my sister and I threatened to excommunicate him from cooking did he let us bring olive oil back into the kitchen. My sister still remembers this period with a shudder. After that debacle, he was forbidden to even utter the words low-fat in our presence.
This time he decided to combine Atkins with power-walking. Our children and I told him that while we totally supported him, we were not going to go totally carb-free. When we went to Ray's Hell Burger for Mother's Day, he ate his without the bun. Even though I am not on a diet, I had to stop baking, which is my main form of entertainment. Our son and I can't eat a whole cake or batch of cookies and then I'd just have to throw it all out. So in a way we are all inadvertantly dieting because it is no fun for us to eat dark chocolate brownies alone. However, it has been a challenge to design entire menus that do not include excess simple carbohydrates. It's like having vegetarians come for Thanksgiving. You have to be creative. When we had an Easter Brunch I made all the dishes so that he and his fellow dieters at the table could easily avoid the carbs by just not eating the home-baked soft rolls (which were awesome, by the way), and not putting sugar on their strawberries. I discovered that ground almonds make a nice crust for a savory cheesecake and an admirable addition to crab cakes.
This made me think what if there were a cooking site that could convert recipes to conform to different diet regimens? For example, suppose you want a cheesecake - just plug your recipe into the recipe converter and it sends back a converted recipe with suggested changes. My rule would also stipulate that nothing fake could be used, since I don't approve of artificial sweeteners or fake anything. Usually when I imagine something this awesome, the Universe nicely invents it for me and I don't have to do the tedious work of making it happen. (I 'invented' non-electric ice cream makers this way). I'm working on inventing low-carb Ice Cream and cake that has nothing fake. Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Time Travel: Simplicity 2409

Vintage Simplicity one piece dress and Redingote

The dress, seamed down the center front, is fitted with tucks at the front shoulder. The gored skirt joins the bodice at the natural waistline under a self or purchased belt. Extended shoulders and a V neckline finish the dress. The princess redingote, styled with long sleeves, features rounded lapels and is secured with a single button.

Do you read the suggested fabrics and imagine how you'd make this up? Suggested fabrics: silk or rayon crepe, spun rayon, canton crepe, rayon jersey, foulard, surah, pique, linen, chambray, cotton broadcloth, balloon cloth (???)
Redingote: Silk, wool or rayon crepe, rayon or wool gabardine, or flannel, satin faille, bengaline, shantung, spun rayon.

Where to wear it: Kentucky Derby (with a splendid hat), New York luncheon, shopping in Rome, matinee in London, followed by afternoon tea.

Sadly, this pattern is incomplete. It's missing the skirt pieces, and the back of the redingote, and the center front piece. Sigh. However, it does have the redigote facing, so the front could be reconstructed, using the remaining pieces as a guide.
If only the previous owner had been more considerate, and thought of us 70 years later!
How would you go about replacing the missing pieces? I think I know how to do it, (the dress skirt is easy), but suggestions welcome.
Who said Time Travel was easy?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sewing Attention Deficit Disorder

I know I'm not the only one. Venus de Hilo has it too. It's the lure of the new, bright beginnings, pretty colors, I want it now. She listed all of her works-in-progress, and I realized that in spite of my vow to complete each project after I started it (I promise!) when we finished my new sewing studio, I have been BAD. Currently I have the following in various stages of not-finished: blue linen capris that only need hand hemming, a Sidelines Quilt, an Apron (a gift), batik drawstring pants, and two Hawaiian shirts that need buttonholes and buttons. And I'm planning a baby quilt right now. Bad me.
Do you keep starting new things before you finish the old ones? What is it about new stuff?

Imitation is the Sincerest Form...

Bridal manufacturers everywhere are frantically copying not just the Duchess of Cambridge's lovely dress, but her sister Pippa's as well. The Business Section of the NY Times had an interesting article about the entire process, from design to fabric to sample. Find it here.
I especially like the part where the reporter described how they laid out the pattern pieces on a the fabric like a large puzzle. Oh reporter - don't you sew? That's how all of us do it. Committed sewistas hate wasting fabric. Especially expensive fabric like silk chiffon and satin.
There are any number of current patterns that one could use as a starting point, considering that the cowl neck and the slim fitting skirt are popular silhouettes right now. McCalls 6282 might work as a starting point.
I'd enlarge the neckline drape and lengthen the skirt, add sleeves of choice (Maybe lace?). It would be fun to make my own version. What would your version look like?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wild Things

We live in the woods not far from Mount Vernon. Even though we're only about twelve miles from the Capitol in Washington, you'd never know it from the view out of our windows. This week has been Nature Week at Little Hunting Creek. We have had two deer on our back porch, just walking around and looking for hostas to munch on, a wild turkey this morning and yesterday - a SNAKE in the downstairs hallway. Yes, you read that right. A black Snake, just outside J. Hunting Creek's bathroom, in the downstairs hallway, just chillin'. Mr. Hunting Creek almost ran into Mr. Black Snake and called me from downstairs, yelling, "hey, there's a snake in the hallway!" That's the kind of announcement that gets my immediate attention.
Two years ago in summer, I had spotted Mr. Black Snake in the living room. J. Hunting Creek had left the back door open a smidgen and that was just enough for Mr. Snake to come in and make himself at home. I thought he was a belt on the floor and almost walked over to pick him up until he moved and I realized that he was not a belt at all. It is a heart stopping realization that what you think is an inanimate object is in fact alive. I was alone in the house and had a brief panic attack, and then got hold of myself. I called Mr. Hunting Creek at work. No luck, he was on one of his eternal conference calls. I called my daughter. She is always full of practical advice. She said to call Animal Control. They sent over a very nice man who told me all about what I need to know about snakes while he searched for my snake, who had decided to make himself scarce while I was letting the officer in. My son joined in the search and the officer told us everything we ever needed to know about capturing black snakes. Basically, they are harmless, and we were so lucky that the snake would eat our crickets and mice. No problem that we couldn't find him! He would let himself out!
Well, now we know that he did NOT let himslf out, because there he was in the hallway yesterday. Mr. Hunting Creek felt some hesitation about just grabbing him with his bare hands and I don't blame him. I thought fast - why not put a box over him, slide my large rotary cutting board underneath, and have my own personal Team Six- Snake Removal Division, remove him to the front yard? The capture went flawlessly. The cutting board/box on top of snake prevented escapes, and it was easy for Team Six to take him outside and set him free. I held the door.
It's been a busy week and it's only Wednesday. (This is an excellent reason, if you needed a reason, to buy a large rotary cutting board. Useful for rotary cutting patterns and snake captures!)

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Right Stuff

Wasn't that a lovely wedding? The bride was radiant, the groom was blushing, everyone looked happy (except for that one bridesmaid) and now we're all off to search for a pattern for Pippa's dress. Having got up at 4am this morning, I can't be trusted to do anything more complex than load patterns on my website. I may have loaded several thousand vintage patterns in the last few years, and I think that there might be two kinds of Pattern People: the Stuffers and the Folders.
The Stuffers take their used pattern pieces and without regard to envelope size or shape, wad them up into a vague rectangular blob and jam them into the poor envelope, shoving the instructions in along side the wad of pattern. Witness the photo above.
Whereas those of the Folding School of Pattern Care gently fold their ironed pattern pieces, softly and reverently slide them inside the instruction sheets and close the envelope. The Stuffers sometimes can't close their envelopes, so they frequently resort to staples! (Oh the horror!) Those of the Stuffing persuasion may be closely related to those sadly misguided souls who cut out their patterns with Pinking Shears. My Junior High School sewing teacher felt that this behavior was just one step on the road to perdition, and I can't help but feel that she may have been right. How can one line up the pieces accurately if they're cut with pinked edges? I do not approve.
Of course I feel that my way is the only correct way: when the garment is sewn and the pattern is no longer needed, gently fold the pieces, making sure that all of them are together with the instructions and place them back in the original envelope.
I am always shocked to hear of people who cut up their envelopes, tape them to manila folders, and shove the pieces into ziplock bags. Or they tell me that the have all of their patterns sorted by number. (This is OCD madness, and I hear that there is medication that can help.)
I have mine sorted by pattern company, and then by type of pattern, because when I want to make a skirt, I am not going to remember the number. I just keep all the skirts together.
But there are people with complex systems who scan the patterns and have whole galleries on Flickr. I suppose I could do that, but I like to look though them.
I never cut up the envelopes and I never mangle the patterns. (What would Mrs. Funk say?)
What say you - are you a Folder, or a Stuffer?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Search Me

It is my morning amuse-bouche to read the daily search terms that people use to find my blog and website.
This morning the terms used were: hunting baby quilt, Hunting dress pattern, hunting paint. This left Mr. Hunting Creek and me scratching our heads. What on earth would a hunting baby quilt look like? Babies with camo and shotguns? Babies in duck blinds? Babies out with Springer Spaniel puppies, looking for ducks? (I hope they didn't mean that they were hunting for babies...what kind of creepy person would do that? And combined with quilting? It boggles the imagination.)
We're also uncertain as to what a hunting dress pattern might be, but I like to think it looks like an English Riding Habit from a romantic novel. Maybe Hunter Green and velveteen. With a hat that has a long black feather.
And as for the person who was looking for a pattern for a curling holder...I think that they are just making stuff up. Unless it's for a curling stone for curling the sport, which would also be weird. In that case, they are on their own.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fire-Breathing Sewing

We all have our weaknesses. There are certain descriptive words that draw me in and snag me: Italian silk, for example, or Japanese cotton, or Dragon Pattern. I have a weakness for small, realistic-looking (if you can use that word about a dragon) patterns for animals. Like all addictions, it starts when you're young. I remember making stuffed turtles, whales and dinosaurs for my baby brother (He is now in his 30's). I made them for my high school classmates. Even though my co-workers tease me about being pragmatic and practical, they don't know that my evil dark secret is that I like making teeny stuffed animals. I like to make them small and not too precious-looking (not that there's anything wrong with that). The quirkier the better.
I have two of these dragon patterns, if that's your weakness too. I know other people collect Issey Miyake patterns, or doll patterns, or YSL. I'd love to pretend to be to be so chic, but that would be a lie. It's little wild animals for me. What's your pattern weakness?

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Name is Diego Montoya...

A perfect costume shirt for swashbuckling lords, repeat after me, "My name is Diego Montoya..."

How is this shirt different from the McCall's shirt?

What separates "costume" from "Fashion"? The worst insult the designers hear on Project Runway is that something is "costumey", but where is the line? Is it that famous line for pornography, that you know it when you see it? My Simplicity blouse is a whole lotta look, but no one has yet challenged me to a duel while I have worn it. The new fashion for long ruffled skirts has a Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves look to me, but I was around the first time girls wore floaty skirts. And circle skirts always have a fifties vibe, because my mother wore those as a teen.
How do you know if what you are making is too costumey? Where do you draw the line?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easy is as Easy Does

Most experienced sewistas would agree that this pattern is EASY. But are all easy patterns equally easy?

Wouldn't you agree that collars, lapels and set in sleeves are slightly less easy than the peasant style blouse above?
Would a beginner find sewing this knit top easy? Or that skirt in the recommended charmeuse?
I very much doubt it. There needs to be a better way to indicate difficulty to the sewing public. My grandmother always told me that nothing was difficult; there were only different levels of attention required. Some patterns are labeled Advanced.
Ralph Rucci, for example, or Koos. But if you read their instructions, you'd see that nothing is that difficult; they just have extra steps to get precise results. Go slow, take your time, you'll be fine.
Instead I propose that they scrap all this EASY/INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED nonsense and give patterns ratings that mean something.For example:
Instead of easy, how about DISTRACTED you can assemble this with child interruptions, while on the phone.
Or PANIC Suitable for last minute sewing before formal occasions.
Instead of INTERMEDIATE, they would instead say: RELAXED Relax and take your time, because this ain't gonna be finished tonight anyway.
And as for the advanced patterns, when you try to add them to your cart, the website will ask - Are you sure? This has buttonholes, set in sleeves and gathering - don't say we didn't warn you! So maybe we'd call those FEELING LUCKY. wait, we'd call them DIRTY HARRY's, in honor of Harry saying, "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Even though my new sewing studio is not yet completed - I need some new blinds for my window to block the afternoon sun, and a new desk and a pattern storage solution- I can't stand not sewing anymore, and decide to make a simple quilt. This suddenly presented almost insurmountable difficulties. Mr. Hunting Creek had "put away" my rotary cutter, and finding it required a good 45 minutes of searching. Had he put it with the scissors? No.(That would be too easy) I had to channel my testosterone brain, and finally found it in a drawer in my office that held my steam a seam and some traced Burda Patterns. I only found it there because I was looking for a pencil. Then I looked for my 24" x6" ruler - which I discovered had been broken by the movers (Mr. Hunting Creek)! Sigh. So I had to get a new one, but it didn't have the sticky stuff on that kept it from sliding on the fabric. Mr. Hunting Creek had peeled that off the broken ruler and KEPT THE BROKEN RULER instead of my vinyl strip. SIGH. I had no idea where he put the rest of the roll of the sticky vinyl stuff. Anyone who is married can imagine the exasperated conversation that happened next. The Little Hunting Creek Company will now be selling that stuff by the roll. Maybe by the truckload. And those little dots of sandpaper. (Why would you keep a broken ruler? Why would you store it but carefully peel of the intact backing and throw that away? I ask you.)
I decided to make the Sidelines Quilt by Maple Island Quilts.
My son and I liked the lattice pattern. He picked out the fabrics for me. They look very cool and summery. The quilt has partial seams, but don't let that intimidate you - it's really a modified log cabin design and isn't really very difficult at all.
When I make a quilt from a pattern (I usually make up my own patterns, but this one looked fun) I don't cut out all of the fabric at once. I cut out some of it and make a couple blocks and see how I like the fabrics combined. That way if I change my mind I haven't done all of that work and have homeless pieces. I have enough of those already.
I had to find a solution to the new ruler sliding on the fabric (until my new rolls of Invisigrip arrive) and I discovered after experimenting that half inch strips of steam a seam on the ruler provide enough stickiness to keep it stable while I cut the strips. I don't know how long it will stay sticky, but it only has to last a couple days. Which is fortunate for both the fabric cutting and Mr. Hunting Creek.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Scary Patterns VI: The Faceless Ones

Whatever you do, don't make these faceless dolls and sneak them into my sewing room, because we all know what would happen next.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scary Patterns V: Creepy Geese Version

The First Rule in the Alien Expeditionary Force Handbook is: We don't talk about the Alien Invasion. Instead, it instructs, dress to blend in with the Earthlings. However, as with all advice translated into a second language, they missed a few finer details. For example, Non-Alien Invader Geese do not dress in hats, bow ties and raincoats. The one in the Yellow Raincoat thinks he is blending in with just plain folks, but we all KNOW he is one of THEM.