Friday, January 23, 2015

Paris Pants a la Marcy Tilton


This is so weird for me! I am having to force myself to blog lately. This is a first in my 5+ years of blogging. This is not related to my sewing mojo, by the way. I am feeling a LOT of enthusiasm for sewing!

Last weekend I whipped up a pair of jeans!

But let's back up a moment.

My absolutely favorite jeans to wear are my black stretch jeans with the internal seams outlined with white topstitching. I've counted three pair that I have made, but there may be more that I've forgotten about. All of these are in frequent rotation.


You can click on any image to learn more.

Last year, Marcy Tilton was inspired by a pair of jeans she saw in a Paris shop window. She later posted instructions on how to modify her skinny pant, Vogue 8859, to replicate those pants.

Last weekend, I used her instructions to make my own pair of these great pants. I had made Vogue 8859 before, so I had a solid starting point.

I refer you to Marcy's post for specifics on how to do these alterations. In addition to her alterations, I created a slanted front pocket, since I really need pockets in my pants!

Lining of slant pocket

It's so handy to use my backup machine for the heavy duty, contrasting, topstitching thread.

I've worn these pants three times this week, so they will definitely be a wardrobe workhorse!

Thanks, Marcy!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reversible New York Cape


I finally finished my cape!

When I wrote a post about different types of capes last October, I was already working on this one. I had to put it aside for awhile, and then it sat and sat, decorating my dress form. All it lacked was buttons.

But let's back up a bit.

This is a downloadable pattern from Tessuti. It comes only in one size. I didn't muslin this pattern, but I did tissue fit the paper pattern. I was with Georgene at the time, and she recommended a rather novel approach to the FBA. She suggested that I raise the shoulder seam on the front only, as shown in the following pic:

It's a rather unconventional approach, but Georgene got the idea by reading the wrinkles on the paper pattern as I was modeling it, and it gave me more room in the front. I didn't make any other changes to the pattern.

Georgene also suggested that I make the cape to be reversible.

I liked her suggestion but, grumble grumble, it meant more work for me, and more fabric to acquire. The main fabric is an incredibly soft wool knit from Emma One Sock. The other side is a charcoal-colored, water repellant fabric from Fabrics R Us, purchased the same day I went to PIQF.

The pattern has no pockets, but I wanted pockets on each side, so I spent time dithering over what sort of pockets to use. Have you noticed that these sorts of details require much cogitation? At least they do for me.

For the wool side, I made zipper pockets.

For the solid side I made patch pockets with a "window" opening. (I think I first saw this pocket on Pinterest long ago.)

Patch pockets ready to sew on

Completed pocket

This cape is mostly "open", like a poncho, but a button at each side creates some shaping, as shown in the following technical drawing:

Since I wanted the cape to be reversible, I had to get creative. I decided to put a buttonhole on the front and the back at each side seam. I then created button "cuff links" to go through the buttonholes on each side. Since this fabric has some loft, I used a piece of foam, with a slit cut out, to sew the button cuff links so that there would be about 1/4" of thread between them:

The shiny buttons are for the waterproof side. The artsy buttons are for the wool side.
I purchased the buttons at Britex.

A completed button cuff link

The buttons at CF are sewn on normally. This means that when I wear the cape with the waterproof side out, the left side buttons over the right. C'est la vie.

The cape is finished with a beautiful wrap-around binding that I purchased at Britex. I sewed it on by hand—it took me two days to complete.

Yes, those are polka dot socks

mem wanted me to twirl, so I removed the side buttons and let it fly!
Thanks to mem for these pics!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Floral Denim Jacket with Faux Piping


Whaaaaat?!?! Is Shams wearing a floral?!

A year ago I made a Sandra Betzina blouse as a jacket. I have worn that jacket a number of times and I wanted to revisit this pattern and make some changes: to lengthen the hem and the sleeves, add the button closure (which I'd left off of the previous version), and to use a stretch woven for increased wearing ease. When I saw this beautiful double-sided, stretch denim on Marcy Tilton's site, I snapped it up.

When I was sewing this up over the end-of-year break, I was having some trouble pinning the darts properly so I visited my friend, Ronda Chaney, head of the fashion department at Cañada College, and she pinned them for me. She also suggested that I add slits at the hem. Thanks so much, Ronda!

Here is the full list of modifications:

  • A generous FBA using a side dart.
  • Lengthened the hem by several inches.
  • Added side hem slits.
  • Faux piping along the front edges and the sleeve hems. This is done by "favoring" or exposing the facings just slightly. Topstitching in the ditch secures the mock piping in place. (Of course, you must also sew the facings on "backwards" to expose the other side, or use a contrasting fabric.)
  • Constructing the faux piping.

    I love the fluted collar on this pattern.

  • Omitted the sleeve pleats. Rather than lengthening and tapering the main sleeve piece, I decided to draft a lantern cuff for the rectangularly shaped sleeve.
  • Lantern cuff. You can also see the faux piping on the cuff and the hem slit.

  • Added pockets! I spent some time thinking about how to do this. In the end, I used a pocket inside a pocket. The inside pocket used the solid blue side of the denim and is much shallower than the larger outer pocket. This is perfect for my cell phone and tissues. The pockets are cut cross grain to take advantage of the wonderful selvedge.
  • Inner and outer pockets, before attaching. The fabric selvedge is at the top of both pockets.

    Completed pocket. The outer pocket is roughly 8" by 10".

  • Replaced the functional buttons with decorative buttons and snaps. The buttons that I found at Stone Mountain & Daughter were 1.5" across. I didn't want 1.5" buttonholes, so I sewed them on decoratively and added snaps.
  • Decorative button.

This denim was a dream to sew and very comfy to wear because it's extremely soft and stretchy. I expect to get a lot of wear from this!

Thanks to mem for the pictures!

Vogue 1385

P.S. I just saw on Sandra Betzina's Facebook page that she had surgery recently to repair pain in her neck, arm, and shoulders. It's so good to hear that she'll be in top form again soon!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year Around the World


Hola, Chicas! And Happy 2015 to you!

I believe that this has been the longest break I have ever taken from my blog.

I've even received a few emails from folks who were wondering what was up.

The short explanation is that I just haven't felt like blogging. Since starting my new job one year ago, I was really pushing myself to keep up the blog and it's been a bit of a challenge.

But, don't worry, you can't get rid of me that easily. I just needed to contract a bit, to breathe in.

The lovely Gayle Ortiz asked me to participate the Around the World Blog Hop last year. I agreed, and then I missed my posting deadline of Dec 22nd. I just didn't have it in me. I had spent three months (since mid October) preparing for the holidays and it was going into high gear about then.

So, let me do it now.

Gayle's Around the World Blog Hop post was stunning. Breathtaking. Mind boggling.

Such talent.

Mine will be different. I am using mine to inject a little introspection. I have been doing a lot of that, lately.

#1. What am I working on?

I have taken the last two weeks off work, combining some precious vacation days with paid holidays. At first I hoped to climb into my sewing hole and then pull the hole in behind me, churning out some significant work, but it didn't quite happen that way.

I found myself sewing slowly. Moving slowly. Deciding slowly. Finding other things to do. More of the burn out, I think, but I didn't want to regret having two weeks of potential sewing time "wasted", so I pushed through it, doing a little every day. (After Christmas, at least. No sewing occurred before the holiday.)

I currently have 4 projects in flow:

  • A cape that I started well over a month ago, around the time I did a blog post about capes. It is almost finished and it's been ornamenting my dress form. All that remains are the closures, but I set it aside to work on the Miyake jacket last November. DD2 saw it on Christmas Eve and loved it. She was surprised I had made it and it made me wonder if she's paying any attention. ;) It looked great on her, so if I tire of it, I know who to give it to. I just need to finish it.
  • A jacket using a pattern I've made before, but in a larger size, so I had to start over with a new pattern and all of the alterations. I was having a heck of a time getting the darts to look right, so I visited my good friend, Ronda Chaney, head of the fashion department at Cañada College, who helped me out. (Yes, I'm a lucky brat, to have friends like this.)
  • A couple months ago, I was shopping with my friend, Renee, in a local boutique that I like. I tried on a jacket that a) was very expensive, b) didn't really fit my bust, and c) didn't have POCKETS. I've always liked pockets, but since taking my new job, I find that pockets are essential. So I decided to replicate the jacket - it's a great shape on me and I can see it in lots of fabrications. I found an OOP Vogue pattern that has the right bones, and I traced it off, graded it up, altered it for me, and changed the style lines. I whipped up a muslin and took it along when I met with Ronda. She made several edits so I altered the pattern and made up muslin #2. I took it along when I was going to see my pattern drafting friend and Sewing Diva, Georgene. Many more refinements ensued and my next step will be to make a trial version. (Like I said, I'm a lucky brat to have such friends.)
  • Three years ago, I found some really cool notions at a local sewing store, but I had no idea how to use them. I brought some of them along to DOL in Taos hoping that inspiration would strike. It didn't. I get them out, every so often, and try to figure out what to do with them. I've made a few samples, but they continued to stump me. Then, last week, I had a flash of inspiration. I've ordered a bit of fabric that I hope will work, and I have more experimenting to do, but I'm excited about this idea. So we'll see.

I'm also doing some knitting. Yes, knitting. :)

#2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, I don't know of any other blogger in her mid 50s with überboobs, but with small hips and legs. I have a very particular shape that I sew for and a fairly specific style. I'm a niche blogger, and I'm ok with that.

#3. Why do I create what I do?

This is who I am. If you wonder who Shams is, this is it. This is when I feel most alive, most inspired, most authentic. Make of that what you will. :)

#4. How does my creating process work?

That is the million dollar question, isn't it? I think the truth is that my creative inner eye is pretty much always "on". Sitting on the subway, flipping through a magazine, walking along the street... I take note of things that appeal to me, surprise me, interest me. I love snoop shopping, it is pretty much one of my favorite activities to revive a flagging mojo, but my other favorite is the internet - Pinterest, googling, online sites. There is so much to inspire.


So, thanks to Gayle, for asking me to participate! I confess that I am not a fan of these hops when they are called blog "awards", but rename it to a hop and I'm in. ;) I have asked a number of bloggers (who haven't yet participated) if they would like to continue the chain after me, but all either declined or didn't respond, so I will let this thread die with me.

What Else is Up?

Those of you who've read my blog for awhile know that I don't do an end-of-year roundup in January. I do mine on my blogiversary in August, when I also do a giveaway. I don't do resolutions, but I do make plans. Last year I started a new job just before the new year and, while it's been the best year of my professional career, other things have suffered. This year I plan to focus on health and to do as much traveling as possible, given my limited vacation time. To that end, I plan to attend Puyallup Sew Expo, and a meet up with some sewing friends in the spring. I also plan to attend a health retreat next summer.

Imagine that. Travel with no sewing focus.

Happy 2015! May there be a lot more peace everywhere!

With silhouettes of my daughters made when they were 7 and 9. The 9-year-old was already a student at San Francisco Ballet, hence the "bun head".

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Knitwear for the Feisty (and Cute Earrings!)


I have a friend and colleague named Kathy, who is also responsible for convincing me to become a technical writer. I am responsible for her learning to knit. So, all in all, I owe her more than she owes me.

We have now worked together at three companies—I seem to follow her around. (We also worked with mem at the same three companies, so the three of us go back more than 25 years.)

mem, Kathy, me

Google donates to many charities and encourages its employees to donate both time and money all year, but there is a particular week in June called GoogleServe, which has many scheduled opportunities. (I found this about some of the work that was done for GoogleServe in 2011 and the program continues to grow.)

Kathy and I belong to a group of knitters at Google in Mountain View who enjoy knitting together at lunch, and this group collectively knit around 150 chemo hats this year for Knots of Love. (Knots of Love also collects small blankets, but we learned of this a bit late before mailing off our hats in June. I'm sure that next year we will also knit up some of those.)

A few of Kathy's hats. She gave them to me to weave in the ends. (Since I'm a sewer, ya know, and well suited for that kind of thing. :) )

Kathy knit something like 16 adult hats for the contribution. (I was a late starter and knitted three using the patterns that Knots of Love provides.) Kathy's hats contained a special, secret, coded message. In Morse code, her hats spell out F*CK CANCER. (She included a note with each hat so the potential wearer would know about the coded message, in case it mattered, one way or another.)

I've been pestering Kathy for months to turn her design into a pattern, so that others can knit this hat. She has finally released a pattern, and she went one step further—in her blog post, she included a Morse code chart in her pattern so you can include a different message in your hat. Maybe you want to give a loved one a hat with the secret message "I love you", "stay safe", "blessings", or "do your chores".

Check out Kathy's free Morse Code Message Cap on Ravelry. She also put it on her (new) blog, Kat Knits (and Purls). It's a fast knit!


Cute Christmas gift: Earrings!

My kids do not read my blog, so I feel pretty safe in posting this before Christmas.

Recently there was a Holiday Bazaar at the San Francisco office where I work 2 days a week. There were a number of local crafts people vending their beautiful wares. Who doesn't love a good crafts fair? I bought some nice things for my kids for Christmas, and ONE thing for myself.

Just look at these cute stud earrings. This couple make incredibly cute sterling silver jewelry. These studs are tiny, but substantial, as they are cut out of thick sheets of sterling, but the buttons are a scant 1/4" in diameter.

These button earrings are for me

These are for DD1, who has 3 piercings in each ear and attends university in rainy Oregon

I just loved their jewelry, and they have a website. They also have jewelry that would appeal to guys. Maybe you know someone who would love Pac Man cufflinks, or pinwheel cufflinks that actually spin. Maybe you know someone who teaches chemistry and has multiple piercings.

Here are the links to the button earrings and the umbrella and rain earrings. (Disclaimer: I get nothing for sharing these links with you. I'm just a satisfied customer.)

I also bought earrings from another vendor. She uses pennies and dimes to make jewelry. I bought a pair for each daughter. The grumpy cats for DD1 and the owls for DD2. So cute!

I've turned one of the cat earrings over so you can see the penny.

Linda, the designer, was lovely and we had a nice chat as I was dithering over which earrings to choose. She also has an Etsy store, loaded with goodies. Here are her grumpy cats and here are her owls. Check her out! (Same disclaimer applies.)


I don't expect to be sewing much between now and Christmas, so I have nothing to show. I am busy preparing for the holidays. DD1 arrived back in SF last night. She and I will be together for much of the weekend before she jets off for several days in NYC.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Giveaway Winner and Eye Candy


The winner of the digital subscription to Selvedge Magazine is R. Trittel!

Please contact me, R, and congrats!


If you didn't win the subscription to Selvedge, here is something to inspire you. Check out some amazing eye candy—wearable art by Kay Khan!


We are experiencing some ark-building weather here in northern California—it's the "storm of a decade", which makes it a wonderful day to work from home. My cat, however, is fairly grumpy that there is no door into summer.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Greedy Gift Grab, How I Love Thee


Once again, this last weekend was the annual Greedy Gift Grab and sewing par-tay. This event is in the back of my mind all year long, and this year was no different. I usually make a gift, but this year I spied some lovely hand-turned seam rippers in Treadle Yard Goods in St Paul, Minnesota, and I had to BUY one for the gift grab!

If you want to order one, see my blog post for info. (I also gave one away for my blogiversary.)
At this point, I've bought four: two to keep (one resin, one wood) and two to give away (one resin, one wood). I love them that much and I've used both the wood and resin rippers more than I care to admit.
This wood is bamboo—Bill makes them in a wide variety of woods and I've encouraged him to set up an Etsy store so non-locals can view his pieces on the web before purchasing.

My biggest challenge when it comes to these annual gifts is the wrapping. I am not a Wrapping Queen. In fact, my poor children often had to make do with unwrapped gifts. Sometimes, I would just hold their gift behind my back saying, "pick a hand."

Sad, I know.

My friend Renee is a gift wrapper extraordinaire. She helps me sometimes, but most years I have to muddle through on my own. And you want your gift to look compelling so that it gets opened earlier, rather than later. I always hope that I have bought a gift that will appeal to several people—it's a lot of fun when your gift is "stolen" multiple times. For me, that is the most fun of the entire evening—watching people "steal" gifts back and forth. It's a hoot and these sorts of games work well when people share a passion (which these folks do), and also when they are good natured about it (which these folks are).

So this year I had an inspired idea for the wrapping. Why not use battery operated Christmas lights?!

I then hopped onto the internet and saw that my idea was hardly unique. Oh well.

I went to Home Depot (it's so nice that they are open at 7am on Sunday) and purchased a string of fancy pendant white Christmas lights for $15. They require 3 AA batteries. (These would look so nice all lit up in a bowl as a holiday decoration and I see they also have the same lights online in multicolor.)

It's safe to say that the lights were just as much a hit as the seam ripper!

I had an ornate inlaid pencil box I had bought years ago as a gift to one of my daughters, but hadn't used it. I placed the seam ripper in the pencil box, on a bed of tissue.

I placed the pencil box in a shoe box. I placed more tissue around the pencil box and laid the lights around the pencil box.

I switched on the lights and then wrapped the gift (sans lid) with two layers of lightweight paper: one layer of canary tracing paper that I use as my tracing paper for sewing and, over that, a layer of food-grade tissue paper—white with gold stars.

Voilá!
Added bonus! I bought this ribbon before I was married. I used up the gold wrapping this gift, and I plan to use up the rest wrapping Christmas gifts!

My little trick worked, as my gift was the first to be opened! (I remember one year my gift was the last to be opened, meaning there is no chance to steal it—that was the year I put no special effort into the wrapping. Once the last gift is opened, the game is over.)

So what did I bring home after the game was over?

I was very fortunate to win some beautiful fabrics, all ikats, that had been purchased when my sewing friend, Sarah B, had traveled to Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand. I had to steal these back numerous times, let me tell you! What a special gift! (And thanks to Sarah B for sharing her travel treasures!)

Antique Burmese silk

Burmese men's longyi

Thai silk

Giveaway Reminder

Just a reminder! If you haven't entered the giveaway for the free, one-year, digital subscription to Selvedge Magazine, go do it now! I will draw a name on Wednesday. If you haven't left your contact info, please check back. If we can't connect up within a few days, I'll draw another name.

What's up? Where's the Sewing?

It's true, this was a weekend of back-to-back holiday parties (I also attended a huge 40s-themed work party on the U.S.S. Hornet), so I got only a bit done. My friend, Renee, had loaned me a very interesting Cynthia Ashby skirt, and I finally got that traced off, which was a bit tricky, due to some funky curves, but not much else was completed, sewing wise.

But I've just made some holiday plans... Between vacation and paid time-off for the holidays, I will have TWO WEEKS off from work!!!! I am very excited and need to start thinking about what projects I want to work on during that wonderful block of time. Staycation, indeed! (Last year I had just started my new job and had zero vacation days. That's right, it's my one-year anniversary!)

Of course, I'll also hang with my kids, but I hope to finish a few things, or maybe work on something meaty.