Grandma

My grandmother died 20 years ago this past  weekend. It’s hard to believe it’s been that many years. I remember packing my car to drive from the North Shore of Long Island to Upstate South Carolina for the funeral like it was yesterday.  It was packed with books, as I was to take my comps the next week.  So much has happened since then – in the blink of an eye.

Margaret and Ed Guy
Grandma, with her future husband.  He died when I was two.

Before she died, she spent about 10 years (or more) struggling with Alzheimer’s. Back then, we didn’t really know what Alzheimer’s was, and just thought she was a little kooky. As grand-kids, I don’t think we were especially kind, though by the mid-90s, and my mid-20s, we knew she wasn’t odd, but that something was really wrong.  I found my compassion then, but it was too late to get to know her.

 

Carol and Margaret Guy Christmas
Grandma, with my mom, and their dog Debbie.  My mom is fairly advanced with Alzheimer’s.

My relationship with  my grandmother was complicated. My grandmother didn’t like that I was in politics… she wanted me to find a husband, have children, settle down. I did that eventually, and even became the teacher she thought I should be. Along the way, she taught me to garden, preserve food, and to sew.

Ed and Margaret Guy in Knoxville TN
Grandma, with grandad just before he set out for WWII.

I’m going through all the family files and photos, and I’m seeing a different woman than the grandmother I knew.  She laughed a lot.  That’s what striking

My grandmother was a remarkable in ways that I can finally respect. She married young, into what became career military.  At that time, it meant raising her daughter while her husband was at war (three wars!!). Later, she returned to her homestead in South Carolina with a new husband (the man I would know as my grandfather, as her first husband died when I was 2). There she forged a career of sorts for herself at Converse College.

John and Margaret Melton
Grandma with her second husband, the man I would know as Grandpa.

My  grandmother was a really great seamstress, helping me to learn the finer points of sewing.  She was also into millinery.

One of the things I’ve learned about her in recent days is just how good a seamstress she always was – even if I didn’t appreciate it much as a middle school kid. In this picture, she is wearing an outfit she curated, sewing the dress herself. It’s 1940, she’s not quite 17, and she had just won the dress revue for the State of South Carolina 4-H club. She was headed for a free trip to Chicago to the national 4-H meetings.  Her budget:  $10.

Margaret Finch
Grandma, in the dress that won her the dress revue competition for the state of SC in 1940.

 

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Copycat: Modified Butterick 4684

As a rule, I don’t like to copy ready-to-wear.  I work in a field where ideas are protected, as is what you produce.  Plagiarism may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s still plagiarism.  Still, I did it this time.   I found this blouse at Nordstrom:

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Nic & Zoe (at Nordstrom)

It retails for $148 – all linen, raglan top, with tied up sleeves and shirt-tail hem.  I really liked it.  But before buying it, I saw a similar fabric at Marcy Tilton:  darker, more intense, but similar.  I decided to give it a go.

I went through my patterns and decided on using Butterick 4684 as my base.  I’d made the tunic before, long ago, so thought it would work:

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No, it doesn’t have raglan sleeves, but I find that raglan sleeves are hard to fit on me.  I chose view D, with the sleeves of view A.  Here are the changes I made:

  1. I eliminated the front slit.
  2. I used a top I had whose neckline shape and size was similar to the photograph (though a bit smaller as it turns out) to reshape the neckline.
  3. I used a narrow facing to finish the neckline, top-stitching 3/4″ from the edge.
  4. I used french seams throughout.
  5. I set the sleeves in flat before basting the side seam in a continuous seam all the way to the lower edge.
  6. At this point, I knew it was time to try it on for shaping, as this is a pretty boxy top.  I tapered into the waist about 1.5 inches on both sides.  I also shorted the top by 1.5 inches.
  7. After sewing the side seams, I used a favorite shirt to decide the shirt-tail hem, and traced/trimmed the fabric to the right shape front/back before machine-hemming a shirt-tail hem.
  8. I used half-inch black grommets I had on hand.   I would have placed them higher on the sleeve, as in the photo, but my sleeves were a little too narrow.  So, I placed them 4.5 inches above the hem, centered, as in the photo.
  9. I keep going back and forth on the ties.  The white cotton twill tape didn’t look right with the darker fabric and black grommet.  Unfortunately, the only black twill tape I had on had was synthetic and doesn’t drape.  I cut 20″ inch strips for both.  Next time I’m buying supplies, I will buy the cotton twill.

Photos.  I bought a tripod/remote for my phone, but the blue-tooth wouldn’t pair with my phone.  So, the usual not great bathroom selfies.  The pants are a white linen/viscose mix (also Marcy Tilton).  And, yes, they are Paco Peralto 1550, again.  I forgot to put on my shoes, hence the dragging hem!

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After seeing the stiff black ties, they are coming out!  The white looks better, even as a temporary expedient!

My sewing space is a disaster…

I’d like to say I’ve been sewing, but I haven’t for about a month.  Too many things demanding my time, and I’ve been exhausted.  I mentioned I start a new job in the fall (at the same place), but parts of that job have already begun, while I continue with the old.  And when I don’t sew, I buy fabric.  Ooops.

In any case, this is the state of my sewing room with two abandoned – no just set aside for now – projects in disarray (the Guy Laroche suit and a skirt/top combo).

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Work isn’t the only thing keeping me busy.  I’ve been working on two side projects as well.  Project #1 is scanning, organizing, and archiving all of the family photos.  My dad died a year ago tomorrow, and we’re still cleaning out the house.  I’ve scanned 1000 photos so far – photos that go back to the 1880s. I’m not kidding when I say there are about 3000 more to go (though I think many are duplicates).  It’s a challenging project, as many of the photos aren’t labeled, so I’ve been in contact with other relatives for help.  It’s also a joyous one!  I’m seeing my parents and grandparents as children and young adults.  It makes them more complex, interesting. I’ve also found pictures of my grandfather’s flight crew in World War II (Pacific theater), and I’m trying to locate their families so I can send them these snapshots.

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Ed Guy and Crew
“October 1945 Okinawa. Rebuilding of Enlisted Men’s Tent of the Crew. After Typhoon. LtoR: Bill Maher, Joe Collins, George Magar and me.” (my grandfather)

Project #2 is the ongoing re-landscaping of our yard and garden.  My window for planting is nearly gone – it will soon be too hot for that.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of some of the fabrics I’m hoping to sew up in the next few weeks.  I have other projects mixed in there too, but I only pulled a few of the linens out for the time being.  I need tops/blouses, and I have some beautiful linen, silk, and cotton fabrics to make those.

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Ah, bold stripes (McCall 7889)

I was determined to complete a project in February.  I started with the Guy LaRoche suit, but find myself frozen on the double welt pockets.  In an attempt to pull myself out, I decided to make this spring dress.  Easy, peasy, except…

Stripes.  Irregular stripes, with lycra. And a bold fabric with a flaw every 40 inches.  And, all of this with a 40″ wide fabric.  I knew the last two facts before purchasing.  I didn’t really read the stripes correctly until after I started cutting.  Doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t have had enough fabric to perfectly match the stripes everywhere anyway.  (And would have wasted a lot of fabric, too).  I feel pretty good about what I did manage to match, however.

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First attempt to match the stripes from the sleeve to the shoulder.  That small red stripe was off just enough to drive me crazy.  I pulled it out and got it right the next time.

Since this is a relatively new pattern release, I’ll do a “formal” review.

Pattern:  McCall 7889 (c) 2019.  Very loose fitting top and dresses, with button front closures. Sleeve, contrast, bias cut and neckline variations.  I chose view C, the featured view, with contrast bands and long sleeves.  PS: It’s really just a shirt-dress.

Fabric:  A really lovely stripe from Emma One Sock.  I purchased it last December, and I’m certain I bought the last of it.  It has black, raspberry, white and strong pink stripes.  The pink and black are the consistent stripes – the raspberry and white narrow stripes are very irregular.  The fabric is from the designer Diane von Furstenberg.  A cotton poplin, it also contains some lycra from crosswise stretch.  The pattern recommends poplin, gingham and cotton blends

Sizing:  I purchased A5, which contains 6-14.  I cut a straight 12, thought it feels quite big in the shoulders (very loose-fitting means lots of ease…).  The sleeves feel too long for the length of the dress – the model’s sleeves appear shorter.  I added 1.5 inches at the waist to accommodate my long torso.  I wish I had added some to the skirt for a slightly longer dress (though not much).

Instructions/changes:  the instructions were just fine.  This is a simple garment, complicated only by the fabric choice.  Because of the cross wise stretch, one layer of fabric would stretch as I sewed on the cross-grain with  the other layer on the lengthwise grain.  I basted a lot to help eliminate it, and it also helped to keep my stripes mostly matched up.  I didn’t press my pleats much beyond two inches (one inch either side); the directions say press, but not how much.  I didn’t have enough fabric for the tie, so I used a leather belt in my closet. Last, because of the stripe and width of the fabric, I did a single layer layout.

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I spent a day or two studying the layout.  Because the fabric was a series of panels, once I figured out what went where, I cut the panels apart, pressed the fabric, and painstakingly worked with the stripes to match them up the best I could.

Does it look like the pattern? Mostly. The sleeves seem longer, and I have long arms.

Recommend/Make again?  Yes, I recommend this, but take care if your fabric has stretch.  I don’t think I’ll make it again, unless I make the shirt version.  I just really liked the version on the model, and fell in love with the pink stripe.  I had to have it.  It’s not really something I would normally choose, so we’ll see how much comfort I have with it. I think it will make a good vacation/going out dress, but not so much going to work dress.

And the final photos… the selfie stick would stay locked in position, and I was too lazy to do make up and hair!

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cut my head off!
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Here you can see how long that sleeve really is!
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One more headless shot, that shows how short this is (I’m 5’9″).

 

Learning to (sew a) fly. Guy LaRoche pants (V2578).

Wow.  Where did January go?  I was so busy at work this month, I was too exhausted to do much more than read a book before bed.  I started these pants at the beginning of the month, but only just finished them.  Meantime, the passage of time included me taking up running again, which is making sewing (fitting) a little more challenging as my body starts re-shaping itself.

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The pattern is from 2001: a lovely Guy LaRoche pant and jacket.  I had considered making the skirt in stead of trousers, but decided to push my self to learn new skills and work on fitting.  I’m planning on making the suit with a lovely dark brown tropical wool and the jacket multi-toned tan wool.  Description for the trouser:  “Semi-fitted, straight-legged pants have contour waistband and fly zipper closing.”

But since I have limited experience with a fly closure, practice was in order first.  And, as I’ll write below, I’m not sure if it’s my limited experience or the directions, but I did a fair amount of ripping out.

I first practiced the fly with the muslin (though not the waistband, which would have highlighted an error in the instructions).  The muslin revealed (to me at least) horizontal wrinkles, so I graded out to I think a 16 (or between 14 and 16).  The pant is narrow, but my thighs are wide.  I was also going to need length, so I added an inch.  I did not encounter issues with the fly.

Three weeks later, I found time to do the fly again.  And again.  I was proud of my first attempt:

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I’ve pinned out the pleat.

Until I realized that I put in the right fly backward.  I also couldn’t figure out how I got a pleat at the bottom part of the zipper.  I followed the directions, but I think it has something to do with the second step in the middle of the photo – you’re to fold over and press, tapering to nothing.  I can’t see that in the picture, and I clearly didn’t do it right.

 

Rip out, redo.  Looks great.  I proceeded with adding the waistband to realize that the left fly is mis-marked for zipper placement.  I painstakingly marked the fabric, and it’s about 1/2 inch too close to the fold. You can see in the directions below that the fold should line up with the top stitching on the right.  And, when I attached the waistband, I had an extra half inch.  I trimmed it, at this point, because it was too late to do anything else.  However, it did make it difficult to put the button hole in neatly, because there wasn’t enough space…

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My left fly doesn’t line up with the right fly top-stitching as it does in the sketch below, and I ended up with extra waistband and a funky button hole.

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Does anyone know how to prevent the funky turn at the corners you see in the picture below?  I was super careful cutting, stitching and turning, and yet the corners are distorted.  Enough that I will likely wear these trousers only with tops un-tucked.  It’s like I pulled too much and stretched the fabric out of shape.

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Oh, speaking of the fabric:  a tropical wool with stretch, cross-woven black and white to produce a lovely blue grey (from Rag & Bone).  I purchased it as roll end from Emma One Sock last fall.

Other random thoughts:  I intend to wear these with a kitten heel, as they are too short otherwise (even after adding an inch).  I’ll add length to the next pair, to help elongate the legs.  These were lined, btw, but I left out the lining.   I will start the jacket for the suit before the brown pants.  I want to re-muslin giving all the running I’d doing.

And, with that, it’s time for a run.

Unfinished Projects, Part 1: On the Agenda

Unfinished projects, a.k.a, UFOs, or works in progress (WIP)?  This is the first of three blog posts about the status of my semi-abandoned projects.  I’ve been sewing, but I also spent time reorganizing my sewing closet, including the pile of UFOs. In this post, I write about my plans for what I’m calling works in progress, since these are back on the agenda for 2019. In the second part of this series, I look for advice about what to do with other unfinished projects.  I seek advice regarding refashioning several projects in the final post.

 1. The Vintage Vogue Long Coat (Vogue 1083):

I started this project in 2010.  I remember buying this fabric at Rosen and Chaddick’s in New York City.  It was such a fun experience.  The fabric is a merlot colored wool-cashmere blend and boy, was it expensive. The pattern calls for an interlining – I used cotton flannel – and lining (I used black warmback coat lining).  This is a heavy coat, both in weight and in warmth.  It’s too heavy for most Florida days, but I was living outside Washington, DC, when I started this project.

I looked at where I stopped, and I’m ALMOST DONE!  I need to finish attaching the lining at the sleeves and hem, and finish the bound buttonhole.  I remember it taking me a long time, and I stopped because Spring had come.  I also didn’t like the collar, and for some reason it dawned on me that it wouldn’t be that warm because, it only had one button at the neck.  How did I not see that before?  However, we do get some very cold (below freezing) mornings here, so it will be useful for that, even if it doesn’t get much wear.  In addition, when I draped it on the dress form, I liked the unbuttoned, shawl collar effect.  Again, an open coat isn’t an issue here in Florida, so I like the style again.

2. The Short Trench (Vogue 8884):

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Started:  2013.  Another project that should be complete, but is not.  I had trouble easing the sleeves into the armscye properly.  I’ve already cut the lining, so there is no reason I can’t finish this one in 2019.  This coat would get considerably more wear here in Florida in the winter, except for the cold, cold days.

The fabric is a coated cotton from Marcy Tilton, the lining is a black silk twill.

3. The Butterick Tote (Butterick 5540):

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Started: 2013.  I started this project when we introduced my then toddler to the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay.  I got distracted and never finished it.  All I need to do is add the lining.  We go to the beach regularly now (it’s only an hour away) and I’ve got plenty of totes that are more beach-appropriate.  But this one will be useful for day trips in the car.  The fabrics are cotton twill and linen, both from the old Gorgeous Fabrics, and the lining is rayon acetate.

4. The Matthew Williamson Caftan:

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Started:  maybe 2014?  This one never really hit UFO status.  I pick it up every summer and work on it in spurts.  I finished the caftan last summer, 2018, but decided it was too plain (in spite of the fabulous fabric).  I need to add the trim, as in the photo.  That’s it.  I’m definitely finishing this for this summer.  The neckline is too low, so it’s a layering piece.  The fabric is a stretch double georgette that I am almost certain I purchased from the old Gorgeous Fabrics, but it could have been Emma One Sock.

5. The slim, very fitted, tank dress (Vogue 9184):

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Started:  2016.  This dress is more fitted than the pattern let on. It’s also when I realized I was gaining weight (but went into denial).  I let this one out as much as it can go, but it’s a no go.  I held onto it thinking, maybe if I lose the weight…  The plan with this is to finish the armholes and the hem and donate it.  It’s too nice a fabric to just throw away (a linen from Britex Fabrics, underlined in cotton batiste).    I do plan to make this dress again this year, but in a larger size, and after a muslin.

6. The McCall pieced top (McCall 7390, view B, adding a sleeve):

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Started: 2017.  I had made this top before, but decided to make another with the flared bottom and sleeves.  I thought my work was sloppy, so I stopped, disgusted with myself.  After examining it, I think I was being too critical.  Yes, the fabric (a soft silk cotton voile from the old Gorgeous Fabrics) is soft and difficult, but it’s worth finishing.   However, I’ve decided the sleeves are a bad idea.  I only need to finish the armscye and the neckline.  It will be a lightweight summer top.

7. The Carolyn PJs

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Started:  2018.  This one technically never made the UFO pile – it stayed on the sewing table, staring me down.  I started it last February, but kept making error after error. I knew I needed to work on something else and/or take a sewing break.  This was at the beginning of my dad’s precipitous decline, so I think I was struggling to focus, and maybe having a little too much wine.  I’m better know, and desperately need pjs, so it’s back on the agenda.  The Japanese cotton is from Farmhouse Fabrics.

Seven old projects, back on the agenda, many near completion.  I think I can do it, as long as  I remember to intersperse them, along with the mending, with new projects.  Of course, that’s easier said than done!  And, which to finish first?