Thursday, November 21, 2013

In Memory of Stevie D

2013 has been a year of much sadness and reflection. My brother, Stephan, died in June 2013 - only 54 years old! The trip home to Zimbabwe for his memorial service was filled with so many highs and lows. I felt challenged on so many emotional levels to put his death into perspective - anger, sorrow, regret, bitterness and on the other side of the spectrum, proud to see his handiwork -a pizza oven he built, his processed meats at the butchery where he worked, a dam he built and elephants that he had personally trained to perform a salute, and which ended up saluting him at his memorial service on the banks of the Zambesi River.
In the end I chose to lay it all at the foot of our Lord - all that matters is if my brother is resting safely with Him! I cherish his memory and live in the hope of meeting Stevie D again.

 
I came home and wrestled to find some purpose and meaning in my life again. I have found that just going through with the motions helps - eventually the good-feeling emotions seem to fall in line with the motions, and there is peace and equilibrium in my life again. My first challenge was to finish all those half-finished projects that were waiting in the wings - ie. the linen shirt that I had started making for my youngest brother in Australia in February already! Have you ever! Five months to make a shirt - really??
I packaged it with a small piece of sample fabric should the colour not be suitable, and if my sister-in-law wanted to try her hand at dyeing.
 
 
Then two weeks ago I faced up to my lack of get-up-and-go and challenged myself and a shop assistant at my favourite fabric store that the linen fabric I bought had to morph into a finished product within three weeks, or I was going to hang up my scissors and pack away my sewing machines. The mere thought terrified the heck out of me! I got going on a miserable Friday afternoon and traced out the pattern. The challenge was great - an aching back from falling down the stairs at work a week earlier, had me clutching and groaning, but I persevered. I cut the fabric out the next morning. So the process was going to be staggered and sporadic, but it was better than nothing. I call it my "Now or Never" dress.
 

 
It is made from Irish linen and fully lined with a cotton voile. The lining is only attached to the dress at the neck band as  I didn't want there to be any strain on the fragile voile. So the lining opening at the zip has simply been left open and the seam stitched down on itself.
 
 
It took a few hours of an evening to get the invisible zip looking invisible. But perseverance paid off!
 
 
 I couldn't find any plain white voile, but this voile with stick figures appealed to me. And finally, I was happy to sew on my personal label, for what it's worth......
 
My daughter took some shocking photos of me wearing the dress. Well it's either that or I just do not photograph well, particularly at 8.30 at night and the day before a scheduled visit to the hairdresser.
As I finish off this blog, which has taken all of almost two months to complete, I at least have the satisfaction of having completed another dress - same challenge with the same assistant at the same fabric shop within the same time frame. It appears that holding myself accountable to someone with regard to completing a project works for me.
 My next post is of my absolute favourite dress I have made in 42 years of sewing.
Post coming up soon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Double Trouble!

You would think that we would listen and learn from our predecessors. Not so!

I made myself a white linen jacket about eleven years ago. It has to be one of the most under-utilised garments in my wardrobe, but one that I admire exceedingly every time I take it out, look at it, consider the cost, and replace it in the cupboard. What can be said for white clothing - elegant, chic, cool, but the flipside, it shows every mark imaginable. So the cost is having to launder it virtually everytime it is worn, unless it happens to have had an hour and a half outing to church, and wafted like a ghost past anything that could leave a mark. I took it upon myself to fully line this jacket (the pattern didn't call for it), as I had just completed an intense course in tailoring. I was so fired up, I just had to make a lined jacket to cement my new-found knowledge. Here is the pattern I used.

So you would have thought my daughter Jeanine would have learnt from my experience, but no, she wanted a white linen jacket! We agreed at the outset - no need for lining. So I elected that a nice finish for the seams would be HongKong seaming. For a full tutorial, on HongKong seaming, see Carolyn's exceptional tut here - no need to reinvent the wheel.


My jacket fitted Jeanine to a tee, so fitting was a synch and I just had to get on with it. If I remember correctly, the bias binding needed to finish off the seams was about 11 meters. Something therapeutical in finishing off all those seams in their neat casings.

 
                        And here is my showcase of sillyness - two white linen jackets........
 
 
 
After all this stark whiteness, I am off to add some colour to my life!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Rollercoaster Ride to Closure

Do you remember this item that I was knitting?....the something yet to come

Well it transformed into this................
 
 
 
And then finally this...............
 
 
The ride was anything but smooth from the start! But I am a bulldog with a grip, tenacious, a die-hard!!! I don't like to give up easily.
 
I knitted the lovely border on the two sleeves incorrectly, as mentioned earlier here. Then it took all of almost three months to sew the garment together. But I knew from the start that the colour would have to go! I had originally knitted a snood with this wishy-washy beige 100% cotton -what possessed me to choose this colour after all these years, I don't know! It is without a doubt not my colour especially so close to my face. So I painstakingly unpicked it, as I was determined not to end up with bits and pieces. I then purchased more of the same cotton and proceeded to use this pattern as my basis, but in a more flattering longer version and three-quarter sleeves.
 
 
 
The sewing together of the individual pieces also didn't happen without any hitches. I balked at picking up all of 276 stitches around the neck and side edges, so proceeded to crochet a border. It looked hideous, and at that point I asked myself some serious questions...did I intent to sell out in a half-ditched attempt at the last hour in order to achieve closure?! Absolutely not! So I unraveled the border and five hours later (supper was sandwiched somewhere inbetween) I had a border that I could be proud of.
The grand finale was to change the colour which I had intended from the start. I contemplated the lovely Carolyn's idea to dye my garment in coffee, but unlike Carolyn we like the good stuff, and I couldn't stomach the  thought of wasting, if it can be termed as wasting, good coffee as a dyeing agent. Also I sifted through my various cardigans and noted quite a few shades of brown, coffee  and mocha. I only have one green cardigan, a lime green, so headed off to the chemist in search of a green cold-water dye.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and on Christmas Eve plunged my newly created cardigan into a bath of olive green dye. I seem to like doing the oddest things on Christmas Eve like making apricot jam because I had bought apricots at their lowest price. I recall having done this for the last three Christmas Eves past, so took a swing at hand-dyeing this year. I was quite thrilled when I saw the cotton grab the green dye and lose it's dull colour! But that's not the end of the story! It truly was an olive green........ mixed with blotches of brown. My heart sank into my feet! I had followed the instructions meticulously as Carolyn had advised caution, as ruining a hand-knitted garment in the twinkling of an eye could happen. My first thought was, well I will just knit another one in the colour that I wanted it from the start, and to hell with dyeing anything ever again. But I said I was tenacious, so I plunged the cardigan into water with fabric detergent and waited with baited breathe for it to dry. Nope...better, but still blotches. Again.....and again....and a final fourth wash. Well there are no more brown blotches, but the colour has now changed to a faded mint colour. I can live with that! And I have closure......despite all the odds I finally acheived something that I will be proud to wear!
 
 

 
 
 
 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The tease and the torment.........

Yes well, it's been a year of note!

What's the tease about this posting period? My daughter stringing me along with an intended visit from Cape Town, and then pitching up on the doorstep two days earlier. Then to add to the tease not staying as long as I would have liked her to stay!

The torment........

A casual visit transpired into a serious health scare, and then settled down to a manageable-we-hope health scare. Jeanine was potentially diagnosed with Graves Disease and it all came from having a thyroid check after having concerns about her weight. An elevated heart rate that she has been living with for years has remained unknown to us, but could have been life-threatening in years to come. All this because her thyroid is out of sinc! We thank the Lord that we have fantastic doctors who were able to detect that there was a problem. So the tests have confirmed that she does not have Graves Disease but does have hyperthyroidism, which can be managed with medication.

So the last day of her visit became a sewing frenzy to make up for all the days lost from endless blood tests, scans and doctors visits that could have been used to chill and sew! And this was a biggie for left-handed Jeanine.....only a few seams and hems. The only way she will overcome her lack of confidence is to plug away at sewing, consistently challenging herself to tackle a more demanding project every new garment. But I am inclined to agree with Merche and I quote "but as a left-handed I had to make things my way, (my mother can´t stand the sight of me cutting fabric, or pinning,says it looks dangerous!)"

                                        So this was Jeanine's top ....

And above, taking over my sewing room for a whole day, which left me on standby to gently (I must remember this!) instruct during the process.

All in all, we both felt we had "grown" in the process. Well done Sweetpea!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A thing of the past and something yet to come.....

I wore this dress to a wedding a few days ago, but actually made it three years ago.

 
 
I originally made it for my husband's son's wedding (never to be referred to as my stepson). The wedding was out of town, and required some planning regarding dressing. It was a hot day, so the car trip alone would not have been condusive to a good look on the other side. So I opted to get dressed at the venue. Fortunately I had taken another dress with that I had made just incase, as I was rather indecisive as to what to wear. That in itself was providence. The groom's mother wore a suit in a pastel blue, which I saw just before we got dressed. My mind was made up. For the life of me, I just could not upstage the mother of the groom - it was her day, not mine! So I opted for my second choice. My peacock (see the peacock eyes in the fabric) dress was packed away for another debut!
The pattern  I used was new to me, so I used the lining as my muslin first, before cutting the fabric. I have found if I am not familiar with a pattern,  lined garments provide the bonus in that the lining, which is invariably much cheaper than the outer fabric, can double up as a muslin, avoiding costly mistakes later.
 
I used Butterick B4127
 
I can recall that attaching the lining to the outer garment had me a bit confused. It appeared from the instructions, if I did indeed follow them correctly, that the inner workings of the bust cross-over of the lining would be against the body, iso facing against the inside of the garment, and therefore not visible if the garment was flipped inside-out. Suffice it to say that I eventually followed my own direction, and acheived a finish that I was happy with.
 
 
A very distinctive dress, but my pet babies felt they also needed to make an appearance and show themselves off!
 
The something yet to come....
 
My hand knitted hundred percent cotton jersey has taken a back seat for quite a few weeks now........owing to my husband's accident and renovations at home. But I have now got to the point where the dust has literally and figuratively settled! Remember my faut pas with the one sleeve, which I reknitted? - I mentioned it here in an earlier post!
 
 
I have blocked the pieces
 
The next step is to sew it up and then follow Carolyn's instructions on dyeing it a more appealing colour. Cream does nothing for me!
An update to follow on the finished product.
 
 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Back on track.....

Ok, the final diagnosis..........two fractured ribs, a punctured lung and a late discovery of a broken collar bone. Now I can start blogging in earnest!

I have had some serious thoughts in the interlude between my introduction and now, about ditching the whole blogging thing due to "not being good enough, and who would be interested anyway?" and of course a certain level of required eloquence, I thought I lacked. Then I remembered my son's bbm to me "Mom I was just thinking, if you're using an online blog as a creative outlet that's awesome and you must keep at it!" Says the one who had much to say as my first model........you can see the grimace on his face in the photo!
Since we are doing alterations to our house, I have had to put my hand-knitted cotton jersey on hold. The offending sleeve was reknitted, and all the pieces are complete, but to find a dust-free area at the moment to block the pieces, is like just not possible. It sounds ridiculous, but I cleaned my pug's nose wrinkle this morning, and all this red dust "surfaced", so believe me, there is nothing that isn't covered in dust.

Just to give myself a boost of confidence, I am going back to January 2011.........a sweet moment indeed. I didn't think I could do it anymore, after a back operation, but here it is.....a lined jacket for Jacques!




 
I used Burda 7690

 
Pattern Description: Unlined casual jacket with diagonal breast and almost vertical waist zippered pockets, front zipper closure with zipper band and studs. Decorative leather waist fastener tabs on the sides finish off the casual look of the jacket.

Pattern Sizing: Euro sizing 44 to 54. I made size 46(36")

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? If I dig back in the memory banks, I don't think I had any hassles. The reason for taking three months to construct the garment was more due to a confidence issue, and aching shoulders (two subsequent shoulder ops now explain my tardiness)

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the different style lines on the shoulders and sleeves. Unfortunately the effect is mostly lost in the pile of the corduroy.

Fabric Used: An avocado green corduroy and who knows what the lining was - I bought it so long ago!

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I lined the jacket, as my son requested this. Lining a corduroy garment assists in wearing ease and gave the jacket a more structured look. I omitted the waist tabs.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Not in a hurry. I was almost commissioned to make one for a friend of my son's, but could gratefully opt out due to pending shoulder ops. I never raised the subject again! I love to sew for myself and my immediate family - anyone outside of this circle becomes an obligation to sew for, and no longer a joy! Anyway there aren't enough hours in the day to sew for extended family and friends - suits me!

So look at the promised grimace......mmmmm.
You have to notice the label. It was selvalged from an old pair of jeans, until it could rest on just the right garment.....I thought it was the perfect finishing touch.


 
My sewing room is being tiled. No more hands and knees stuff to pick up all those escaping pieces of thread. So a small interruption, but I hope that this first blog reminding me that I really can make something inspires me to keep going..........

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Well, what a start to my blogging journey!

My husband was hospitalised on Sunday night at 9 o'clock for two fractured ribs (which was excrutiating painful, but not the problem) and a punctured lung (this was the problem!!!!) I had visions of him floating up to the ceiling the way he was blowing up. Scarey indeed if you don't know what is going on.

I would like to hang my hat on this disruptive weekend being the reason for my knitting the last sleeve of my 100% cotton jersey differently from the first one! Can I blame my husband? For my own pride's sake, I think I will. Photos to follow - of the jersey (now that the offending sleeve has been unravelled right to the start), not of my husband - it could be distressing for other viewers.

But being me, what was wrong had to be righted - regardless of whether anyone else would notice.

The finished garment will hopefully, after consultation with Carolyn on dyeing tips, be worth the effort.