Monday, January 25, 2010

Restyled Pendleton 49er

I thrifted this vintage Pendleton jacket a few months ago. I love Pendleton plaids but I don't like the styling on the 49er, it's not very flattering.

I dry cleaned it - never wash this kind of wool, especially when it's this old. Weaknesses will become holes, and any linings will shrink or can lose their shape.

First I cut it off about an inch below the bottom button. Then I removed the pockets (I haven't figured out what to do with them... yet). Next I made a waistband out of the remaining fabric. I gathered the entire back until I was happy with size of the waist. Then I put the waistband on the bottom. The whole process took about 90 minutes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Good Project for a Gray January Day

It's rainy and cold here in Chicagoland. I have been trying to figure out what to make next and pulled out this vintage pattern that I got from ZipZapKap recently. I found the chintz fabric at an antique store in Pentwater MI two summers ago. I had the damndest time getting my fusible interfacing to adhere. It gunked up my iron twice before I finally gave up and used the sew in kind. I hate it when little things that should be simple end up being so hard - makes me feel like such a dolt! Oh well, I have moved on.

(I cook my chicken at 425 for the first 30 minutes. Then I put 2 large sweet potatoes sliced up in the bottom of the pan. I cook it for another hour (depending on the size of the bird) and the potatoes come out perfectly!)

I'm in the middle of making a chicken dinner, so work is proceeding slowly, but obviously it's no hurry - spring won't be here anytime soon!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Best Plaid Hat Yet

I made this hat yesterday from a favorite garment - a homemade vest/cape I found at a thrift store in the children's jacket section - I'm sure they had no idea what it was! I still remember pulling it out and wondering "what the??" then quickly realizing it was homemade - my favorite kind of find.

I wore the vest/cape for 5 years, but this year it came out of storage with moth holes and I just couldn't wear it anymore.

I carefully started taking it apart because I thought I might make a pattern out of it so I could make one someday. I pretty soon realized that I really don't have the time (or the desire honestly) to try and remake this one. I wanted to quickly make a hat more than I wanted to carefully make a pattern. There was a pretty small amount of fabric and I cut the first 2 (of 6) crown sections on the straight grain, then I realized I would have to cut the rest on the bias but figured I could work them together well. I enjoy the challenge and the mystery of working with plaid - what will these pieces look like together? I ended up using the 2 straight grain pieces on the front sides. I also cut the brim and the band on the straight grain. I carefully pieced the band to the brim so that the plaid lines up pretty closely.

Here it is a couple of years ago.

I loved the drape of the back and the handmade fringe.

I wore it today and the first person I saw on the train this morning said "That's a really nice hat" - I like it when that happens!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dallas Cowboys Custom Apron

My neighbor Thomas requested a custom apron with a Dallas Cowboys theme. How could I say no to that challenge!? I knew I wanted to use the helmet design as a pocket, but beyond that I turned to Thomas for ideas.

He requested that I include the number 13 (a lucky number, not the number of a player) and his initials TDC.

The Cowboys beat Tampa Bay 34 to 21 today, I know Thomas was happy about that - and he let me know on Facebook today that the apron was hit too - Thanks Thomas!

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Life for and Old Chair

When my husband Marc brought this chair home from the Salvation Army a few years ago I said it was fine as long as it lived in his den, which is where it stayed until his daughter moved in with us last November. We did some major rearranging in the house and the chair ended up in the living room. You know how when you live with something ugly or unfinished long enough you just get used to it? That's what happened with that chair. Last week I got a new futon cover and the chair looked just AWFUL with it - I had to recover it before I got used to it!

I really loved the original fabric from the futon cover so I used it to cover the chair pads. The fabric was really worn out on the top side, but the bottom side had a few spots that looked pretty good - I used those spots for the tops of the pads and the piping, and used the more worn out areas for the sides, and back. I didn't bother putting in zippers or anything like that, I made them like a pillow case and left a big opening on the side that you can't see and sewed them up by hand. If you look closely you can see that they are somewhat amateur, but I try to focus on the overall effect and not obsess over the details, and I think I was pretty successful.

I am starting a new design job next week and I feel like the new improved living room is sort of a metaphor for my life: most of the necessary elements were in place but just needed a little sprucing-up and updating.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Woody is Ready for Fall

I made this jacket for our dog Woody last night. I found the free pattern on line here. I had to enlarge the pattern (Woody is 19" around the middle). I used the sleeve of a vintage man's jacket that I have had in the basement for years. Woody does not like getting wet (we had a funny trip to the beach with him this summer, he had no interest in the lake and sat under an upturned chair and sulked the whole time we were there!) My mom knit the sweater below for him recently, check out the monogram!

I do realize that putting garments on a dog is mostly silly, but since Woody does not like water, and Chicago winters can be pretty cold, I think he will like having them. I know I will love walking him in his new duds!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hadn't Done That Before

My friend Sue asked me if I could recover a window seat for her Mom. Could I? Yes. Had I? No. I tend to be a little intimidated by tasks that I have never done before, but for me the best way to learn to do something is by the seat of my pants (whatever that means!) - to have to do it.

The window seat sat in my basement for a few weeks, out of sight but not out of mind. I would think about it at night and realize "oh yeah, I said I would do that..." Finally I just brought it upstairs and studied it, then slowly started taking it apart. The seat was covered in denim that was worn out, but the pad inside was in good shape. Denim is very easy to disassemble because the fabric is stronger than the thread used to sew it so you can just rip it apart. I tore the piping off of one side and used that piece as the pattern for the top and bottom. I did the same thing with the sides (which had to be pieced). I reused the piping (took the roping out and recovered it), and even reused the zippered section (after I asked Sue's mom if it would be ok - the fabric was faded but would never be seen anyway).

I'm really happy with the way it came out and I'm so glad I said I could do it, even though I never had. Now I can recover the pads on a cool rocker we have that has seriously hideous purple and yellow plaid covers because, hey, I've done that before!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Aunt Loretta's Dress - 1952

My Late Aunt Loretta gave me most of her patterns a few years ago, but she held onto a couple and her daughter Diane sent them on to me last week (thanks Diane!). I really want to make this dress. I made a dress very similar to this a few years ago, but I used a woven cotton that had some lycra in it and it never laid right. It would creep up in a most inappropriate way! I was so disappointed because I spent so much time on it, and it looked so pretty (until I started to walk!). This was a lesson to me about how important fabric choice is, and to stay within the bounds of the fabrics that are suggested (and were available at the time!).

Loretta and I are not the same size so I will need to adjust the pattern, (old patterns came in 1 size per package, most patterns now have 3 sizes in one so it's easier to see where adjustments need to be made). Since it's a wrap around type dress and there are gathers at the bust, it should be pretty easy to adjust. I am picturing a dark blue print, and would like to make it with the contrasting back as shown in figure 2.

I have a lot of projects on the docket right now: I am finishing up a t-shirt quilt for a friend, I have some apron orders, and I just got a hat order this morning - but I hope to fit this one in soon!

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Missed It!

We had some car trouble on the way back from Michigan so Vivi Sewhot missed skating in the 4th of July parade this year - I was so sad! Thankfully my fellow skater Flash Nordin (that's her second from the right) has an ace photographer in her boyfriend Bruce. This picture really says it all - everyone is having so much fun (and my aprons are in full view!)

We had a really big group this year. Skaters from the Windy City Rollers, and the Chicago Outfit were also skating with us.

That's Queen B in the middle, she is a retired Windy City Roller and the founder of Derby Lite. B wanted a skating club that would cater to the many women who are attracted to Derby but would like to play a slightly gentler version of the game - our tagline is "For Women Old Enough to Know Better."

The sting of missing the parade has passed, but I will tell you one thing, next year I will be staying very close to home for the 4th!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

4th of July Aprons

My Roller Derby Club "Derby Lite" is skating in the Oak Park 4th of July parade. We realized in our last parade that we really needed an apron to carry the swag (skate keychains, jaw breakers, helmet patrol coupons) so Vivi Sewhot (me) was enlisted to make the apropns.

Queen B and I went to TDO last week to pick out the fabrics and notions. We found a perfect combo of the red denim with the blue and white striped kitchen fabric for the pockets. I loved how easy the blue and white fabric was to cut and press! We picked out grosgrain ribbon because it will stay tied better than a satin ribbon. I estimated that it would take at least 5 hours to make the aprons - from cutting to the final step Quality Control - it ended up taking a little over 6. They went much quicker than the 20 Smash Cake aprons of course. I didn't finish the seams for ease, and also because we plan to cover the backside of the apron with St. Patrick's Day themed fabrics, since we skate in the Forest Park St. Patrick's day parade too!

I'm really pleased with the way the apron looks on - I think it will make a great impression when we are all skating in them on Saturday. Last year was our first year and it was a BLAST - I can't wait!! Come out and see us if you can - the parade starts at 10am and goes up Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Scarlet Letter Calling Cards

I designed this set of calling cards for the main characters of The Scarlet Letter a few years ago. (click on the image to see detail). Once upon a time I was a wee bit obsessed with the story. I designed and sewed my first quilt based on the it - you can see it here.

I have been watching the PBS version of the story made in 1979. It's excellent. I highly recommend it if you have never seen it. The production values are very naturalistic, and a lot of the scenes are shot outside. It is so true to the story in word and tone (I have read it many times), and Meg Foster and John Heard were so perfectly cast.

Why the Scarlet Letter you ask? I'm still not completely sure. When I was in my 20s I started seeing a therapist. At the first session after hearing my story and my reasons for coming to see him he said "You seem to see yourself a lot like Hester Prynne" - at the time I had a small copy of the book in my purse - I knew right then that I had found the right therapist!

It's true that when I was in my 20s I felt doomed to solitude, but now that I am in my 40s (with little solitude!) Hester still seems very familiar to me: Her independent spirit, her desire to be a good mother, and ultimately her hopefullness. When she meets Dimmesdale in the woods 7 years past their transgression, she still believes that their love can lift them above their present circumstances. She even convinces him for a little while. Of course things don't work out for them in the end, but I guess a story that doesn't end neatly is my favorite kind - it just seems so real.

In other news, we have gotten our first dog. Woody is a rescue - a schnauzer mix so he has hair rather than fur, he's about 5, and he weighs 19 pounds. He had been on the street and was next fostered in a home. We got him last Tuesday and I can't get over how quickly we have all bonded with him. I am the alpha, and I have been reading my Cesar Millan so I understand the importance of my role! We are doing a lot of walking - getting up early for a morning walk, and taking another long walk after dinner. Woody is adjusting to us just fine and has no real issues to speak of (he barks when people knock on the door, but it's not out of control). I can't get over how quickly we have come to love him - and he us - we are just thrilled with Woody!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Plaid Hat, Formerly a Pair of Long Shorts

Last year I thrifted a pair of vintage plaid petal pushers that were too big. I reworked them, blogged about it, then put them in the closet. This year I pulled them out and put them on - ugh. They just didn't look very good (and my husband laughed at them!). What to do?? Make a hat out of them! I love the challenge of working with plaid, and of transforming one thing into another. I used the inside of the fabric as pants as the outside of the fabric hat - the black was not so faded.

I didn't have enough fabric for the inside brim and the 2 bands (the pieces that connect the brim to the body of the hat) so I used some of the plaid from my last hat project. I also had to carefully piece 2 pieces together to form the outer hat band - look closely at the front and you can see where they meet. I used a small gingham for the lining.

Overall I am really happy with this one. I'm not thrilled about the way it looks on me - and that's the thing about making a hat - you really don't know what the hat is going to look like on until it's finished, so you'd better enjoy the process of making it (which I do, obviously!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

20 Aprons for Smash Cake

Michelle Garcia, owner of Bleeding Heart Bakery and the recently opened Smash Cake, ordered 20 children's aprons from me for Smash Cake a few weeks ago (my biggest order to date had been for 8 aprons). I felt confident that I could complete the order in the time that I had, but there were a few complications. The fabric I wanted was not available, and the replacement fabric that I wanted (and that had been approved by Michelle) was also not available. Plan B! The replacement fabric was available in a smaller print, and I figured it would work so I ordered it. All of this back and forth cut about a week out of my timeframe so I decided to make some changes to the design. Originally I thought I would use 1 fabric for all of the parts. But with the fabric arriving on a Monday and the aprons due on that Friday, I decided to use a contrasting fabric for the bib liner and ties, as I usually do.

I finished the bib liners, ties, and neckstraps in advance of the skull fabric (at right) arriving.

I meticulously tracked my time to see how much I could shave off the usual 1 hour per apron I spend when I work on a multiple order. I was pleased to discover that I got that time down to 45 minutes.

I especially like the back view where you can see the 3 contrasting fabrics.

Quality control and final folding took 30 minutes. I was surprised by how small the finished ordered looked after spending 16 hours on it! I was out the door by 1:30 on the day they were due, just enough time to get the aprons to Smash Cake AND make a stop at Bleeding Heart for the best cupcake I have ever had - rhubarb with a wonderful whipped strawberry frosting - yum!

Interior of Smash Cake, a bakery/coffee-shop/children's birthday party venue in Chicago.

The exterior of Smash Cake is great. The CAKE letters are especially fantastic. I thought they looked reclaimed, but Michelle told me she had them made for the shop.

I will be selling my aprons at the Smash Cake grand opening on Saturday, May 30th. (2961 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago) The event starts at 2 and goes until 6. I am working on child/adult sets, many made from various skull fabrics. I'm really looking forward to being part of this event. It all started with an ad that Michelle posted on Craigslist for crafters to sell items in her bakery, which led to the reality show aprons, then the order of 20 aprons – who knows what might happen next!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mae's Apron

I'm just a little bit embarrassed to admit that this is the first apron I have made for Mae. She has asked before, but always in a general way - and recently I named one after her - that kinda counts, right?? Not really.

Yesterday I was thinking that I really need a child's full apron in my line, and she walked up and said "mom, can you make an apron for me now?" What good timing! She picked out the fabric for the body, and today she designed a pocket:

Pocket detail.

Bib detail.

We had so much fun making this apron. She did a lot of the cutting, and turned the pocket. I showed her all of my apron making secrets as I was sewing. We also put the design in my pattern book. She didn't lose interest until the end, so I just finished it and presented it to her after lunch. She just loves it. I asked her if she will be getting it dirty and she said "of course mom, that's what an apron's for!" well amen to that!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Today's Bleeding Heart Bakery and "The Chicas Project" Adventure

Yasmin and Crash on the set of "The Chicas Project".

I put some aprons at Bleeding Heart Bakery a few months ago. A few weeks later I got an inquiry from Tsahai, a producer of "The Chicas Project", she was interested in some aprons for Yasmin and Crash, the Chicas! (they were going to be shooting a segment of their reality show at the shop).

Callie Black pocket detail.

Tsahai finally decided on the Callie Black Full apron for Crash, and the Florence apron for Yasmin. She asked me if I could bring them to the shoot at the bakery. The shoot was today: I took the aprons she ordered, a handful of other styles, and a bag of goodies. The girls loved the aprons that I made for them - Tsahai chose well! Everyone at the shoot was really nice, and made a fuss over my aprons - thankfully I remembered to bring lots of PN business cards!

Yasmin's Florence Apron

I gave Tsahai and Michelle (the owner of the bakery) each a vintage hankie as a thank you for the opportunity. I also had a Callie Blue Child's Apron with me, and Michelle bought that one for her daughter who is almost 3. One of the producers asked me if I make anything else - (I could see the wheels turning in her head!) I told her I make bags and hats and said "I can make just about anything and I love a challenge - call me!"

I keep thinking about what a random and funny world we live in - Tsahai would never have seen my aprons if they hadn't been at the bakery, and my aprons would not have been at the bakery if I hadn't seen Michelle's post on craigslist for crafters to place items in her shop. It all worked out so nicely, and left me with the nicest feeling of fitting in to the random world, somewhere!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lovely Pillow from She's Sew Slye

Cat at She's Sew Slye is having a weekly giveaway and I was the lucky winner last week! She sent me this beautiful pillow made from a vintage crazy quilt square. I put it on our back porch, which I just cleaned for spring. The pillow has all my favorite colors: blue and brown, with a little red and gold - it's just lovely, thanks Cat!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nona Lou Apron

Just thrifted this fantastic vintage apron! It was manufactured by Nona Lou. 2 things give away it's status as manufactured: the tag obviously, but the other thing to look for is the perfect serger stitch - few home sewers had sergers.

I love the combination of colors, the print is amazing - check out the cats and the purple upside-down trees! The use of the black ric-rac is perfect. It's just terrific design overall.

This Nona Lou apron is gathered the same way I gather my waistband aprons - only at the hips with the center flat.