The Heart Wants, What the Heart Wants...

Be it man or...fabric.

In my case it was fabric. Maybe I didn't fall in love with enough "Bad Boys" in my youth so I am trying to make up for it now by falling in love with "Bad Fabrics" Who knows? I just know that I was bound and determined to make this stuff work!

So I set out to tame this slippery, slidey fabric that wanted to disintegrate at the slightest touch. I searched the archives of PatternReview.com and the CMNewsletter. I re-read my favorite books on the subject: Sandra Betzina's More Fabric Savy and Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide

Both great references for working with any kind of fabric. I was going to go into this fully armed.

After some trial and error, I found that I needed a VERY gentle hand in every stage of the cutting and construction process. From the finest needle, to the lightest of pressure from both the iron and the pressure foot.

I even replaced the standard needle in my BabyLock Evolve with a very fine Microtex** to do Kayla Kennington's rolled hem technique. I feared that even the finest ELX705 needle would just shred the silk and, if not immediately, would eventually just pull away from the edge. As you can see here, it worked beautifully:

Notice how the look of braiding was achieved by the use of different colors of Rayon threads. To get this look I used a very dark Peacock Blue in the upper looper, Lt. Peacock Blue that almost dissapeared, in the lower looper and a lovely and unexpected Golden Tan in the needle position.

Where two seams were attached to each other, I used a multi-stitch zig-zag with a verigated metalic Sulky thread in shades of Aqua, Gold and Lavender.

At the seams with the greatest stress, like the shoulders and where the ties would go, I fused silk organza strips along the edge prior to serging, in the hope that it would keep the seam from slipping.

Next up~ Softening up that print...

**A word of warning: ELX and Microtex needles are of different lengths, I believe the Microtex are a smidge longer. I asked my dealer about the advisability of using the Microtex in my Evolve and his response was "Well, if your not hearing anything funny or having any problems, I don't see why you can't" While I wouldn't exactly call that an endorsement, I, personally (nor did my machine) suffer any ill effects from using them in my Evolve for this project. Your mileage may vary...


Falling in Love with the Wrong Fabric!

In my quest for the perfect Ocean-Blues-Elegant-Ethereal-Drapey-Beachy-Silk to use for my Beach Fantasy Dress, I came across this:

An undeniably Gorgeous Silk Charmeuese print. That it was located in Hong Kong (!!) and the wedding was a mere 6 weeks away didn't deter me, I was in love!

It had it all: the deep blue of a storm tossed sea, green and every shade of turquoise with subtle highlights that looked like the morning sun reflecting off a calm inlet. There were even the golden shades of virgin sand beneath your feet...

I had found my perfect fabric. It was mine. I had to have it. No other fabric would do after seeing this lovely.

I dutifully awaited it's arrival from the far east. Surprisingly, I didn't have long to wait, 10 days perhaps. When it arrived it was even more vibrant and beautiful in person, just stunning!

The quality, however, left much to be desired. The first problem I noticed was a printing error where there were two 1/4" in dots devoid of any dye at the same place in EVERY Repeat. It was almost as if a piece of fuzz got stuck on the printing plate. (If they even use a 'Printing Plate' for fabric, lol)

The fabric was busy, the dots were small, the repeat was large, the dress was made of strips: I would make it work. If I couldn't cut around them, I would dye them with a Q-tip!

The far greater quality issue arose when I started tearing the fabric to get a straight edge. That's when it really hit home that there is Good Silk Charmeuse and then there is Baaad Silk Charmeuse. And this was definitely Baaad Silk Charmeuese. So bad in fact, that if I looked at it wrong the threads would slip in a BIG way, to the point of leaving actual holes in the fabric.

How on earth was I going to sew this stuff?~ Grrrr


Can I be her when I grow up?

Kayla Kennington is an Artiste Extraordinaire!

I have long admired her work and collected her patterns with dreams of some day incorporating a little of her genius into my own art.

As many of you already know, my first attempt at this was for VBG, where I used Kayla's unique seaming technique quite successfully. Here are a couple of close-ups of that:

After that I was hooked! I wanted to jump in to the deep end and make one of Kayla's amazing patterns! In July of this year I had the perfect excuse, my cousin was getting married in a small ceremony on the beach in Carmel, CA. and she wanted all of the guests to wear 'Ocean' blues.

I decided to make "Fantasia"

This is a beautiful jacket pattern I have had in my stash since it first came out. It is really quite simple when made as drafted, composed of mainly rectangles and triangles.

Of course, my brain just can't comprehend things like 'simple' or 'easy' nooo...that would be, well, too easy ;-) and apparently I must prefer my life a little more complicated.

The examples of finished garments made from this pattern on Kayla's site are truly astounding and inspiring! The one that really got my creative juices flowing was the floral silk georgette summer dress. Perfect! Except that the dress is not a draft that is included in the pattern. I did say that "Fantasia" is a jacket pattern, didn't I? But after seeing that summer dress, I had my heart set on making Fantasia into a dress for the wedding!

Since this pattern is comprised of mainly rectangles, it should be a fairly simple thing to just lengthen them all and make a dress. Right? Wrong! There are also triangles. Lots of triangles. And when you add triangles, you go from simple math to geometry. When I said my brain didn't like simple, this was NOT what I was talking about!

So what a girl to do? Call the designers website contact number for tech support, what else? I called on a Saturday afternoon, 'cause, well that was when I was getting frustrated. Not really expecting an answer, I got a recording of Ms. Kennington herself saying she was on the road until the following day. I hung-up without leaving a message.

Imagine my utter shock when the phone rang the following day, Sunday, and it was Ms. Kennington calling to say that she saw I had called, recognized my name on the caller ID (what? who? me???) and wanted to know how she could help me. OMG! It took me a second (OK a really long second) to compose myself enough to ask her about the dress draft.

We had a wonderful conversation and I must say that she is the kindest, patient and most generous woman you could ever hope to meet. She freely shared drafting help with me, even going so far as to tell me what size my rectangles should be based on my measurements and my height.

Kayla, if you happen to be reading this, Thank you Thank you Thank you! You are the best! I am just sorry it has taken me so long to get this posted, please see 'I am a baaad blogger' ;-)

Coming up: The journey of the Beach Fantasy Dress and Falling in Love with the Wrong Fabric ~

I'm Published!

Last summer Anne Marie Soto, the Editor of Notions, asked me to write an article on using Tyvek. Apparently after seeing how I had used this great stuff on VBG, she thought her readers would like a How-to article. I was more than happy to oblige, but nervous as all get out!

With more than a few false starts, a computer crash, LOTS of help from my friends (Thank you Denise and Marylynn!) and Anne Marie's mad editorial skills my article was published in the Summer '08 issue of Notions.

For those of you not familiar with Notions, it is a great trade mag published by the American Sewing Guild, or ASG. ASG is a wonderful non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sewing as a rewarding and creative activity. They do a great job!

Oh, and if it weren't for the loving support and encouragement I got from Anne Marie, VBG would never have seen the light of day!

Stay tuned for the Tyvek Tutorial...


A Rowenta Pressure Iron and Steamer in the Sewing With Nancy 25th Anniversary Contest! I placed second in the Fashion category, quite an honor as the first place winner was none other than Eve Kovacs, a very talented and accomplished designer who has won many contests.

Congratulations to all of the participants!

All of the winners can be seen in the Summer issue of ASG Notions magazine.

I am a Baaad Blogger!

It is now December and my last published post was in MAY! How can that be?

I have had lots going on. What about Nancy's Notions? Didn't I ever update that? Or how about my article for 'Notions'...I was sure I wrote something.

And sewing, what about sewing? I made the wedding shrug, the Fantasy Beach Dress, my perfect-crotch-curve-yoga-pants, the twist top, the twist top, the twist top...the Khaliah Ali stuff. None of it got blogged about?

I think the time has come to admit to myself that: I. AM. A. BAD. BLOGGER.

There, I said it. I can release the guilt.

I may be a bad blogger, but I am a great person, mom, wife, and friend and it has been those things and more that have been taking priority and my time these past few months. Now that things have settle down a little and my health and energy has greatly improved, I hope to catch up on all of the blogging that I have only been doing in my mind.

I am grateful to all of you for your love and support,

"I'm not ornery, I'm just playful"



OK, this is my first official blog rant! If you hate rants, please move along to the rant-free posts below; otherwise keep reading because if you have ever used a computer ;-) I am sure you will be able to relate.

In case I haven't mentioned it earlier, I have been asked to write a 'How-to' article for the American Sewing Guild's (ASG) 'Notions' magazine. The ASG is a great non-profit organization and some of the biggest names in the sewing industry have been contributers to Notions. It is an opportunity I am both honored by and grateful for.

At first everything is going along smoothly, the first draft of the body of the article is done but I still have to do the step-by-step instructions. My personal editors (Marylynn and Denise) are keeping me from looking like a complete idiot so now the third draft has been emailed to my real editor at the magazine. Great! She likes it! On to the project, photos, tips and step-by-steps.

I spend an entire day back and forth between my office and my studio writing steps, working on the project, taking photos, writing tips, back to the project. You get the idea. I finally finish around 5:00 pm, and before I can send a copy off to my personal editors (to make sure it doesn't totally suck) my dear husband calls to tell me to get ready to go out we have things to do when he gets home. Ummm, OK.

By the time we got home it was late and I was bone tired. I got up bright and early the next morning only to discover that sometime during the night, Microsoft in it's infinite wisdom (HA!) decided to 'Update' my computer and restart it for me!!!! Of course neither the auto save function of that great MS product 'Word', nor the auto save that is supposed to happen when you are shutting down, actually worked! Why hasn't Microsoft updated that?

All of my work is GONE! Yes, I know I should have saved it myself more often. And yes, I have searched my entire hard drive for any remnants, they do not exist :-( That is what I get for trusting auto save and MS!

Another day was spent rewriting it (after spending an inordinate amount of time cussing and searching my HD) I am hoping it is as good as I remember the first being. LOL


I won....Something?

Yes, it's true. Nancy's Notions called again to congratulate me -- I was a winner in the 25th Anniversary Contest! Wow, what an honor.

Now of course you will want to know where I placed and what I won? The truth is I have NO idea! And they aren't telling.

Since I couldn't spring for a last minute ticket to Beaver Dam, WI to go to the Expo and see the display of the winning entries, it looks like I am just going to have to wait and see what my 'Prize' is when it comes in the mail! OK, that is one way to do it, LOL. But it would have been so much less torturous to just TELL me, instead of being reticent with the information and only saying that I had "Placed in the top 5" Arrrggg! The suspense is killing me!

So, Dear blog readers, if any of you happened to be at the Expo on May 1-3 and saw the display, do put me out of my misery and just tell me already ;-)


SewExotic Adventures - part 2

Back for part 2 of "SewExotic Adventures"

For this installment I will take you to what I shall lovingly call the 'Garment District' of Marrakesh. They have garment districts in LA, NY and Paris, why not Marrakesh?

Shops lining the streets of the 'Garment District'. Between all of the wares hanging from every available space, there really are open doorways that lead in to shops.

My cousin and I in one such shop. Notice the beautiful array of handwoven fabrics that line the walls and hang from the ceiling.

And now a behind the scenes look at the garment district:

In the middle and to the right you can see the big piles of wood that are stacked up waiting to feed the fires that heat the dye pots. On the left are rows and rows of virgin wool that have been spun into yarn, just waiting for their turn in those dye pots.

And when the yarn comes out you get this:

An amazing rainbow of colors -- from indigo blue to saffron yellow and the truest red you have ever seen! And some the color of spices...

Ahhh, can't you just smell them?

Mustn't forget my handsome men!

This is my DH and DS doing their finest Omar Sharif imitations. The fabric, however, is a wonderfully fine cotton that has been dip dyed in the 'Garment District' you saw above. The enthusiastic proprietor will grab any unsuspecting potential customer, a length of brightly colored cloth (in the color most suited to you, of course!) and with flourish and style wrap him/her up like this. Then he will produce a mirror out of thin air and proclaim you to be most Zouin/Zouina (handsome/beautiful) in all the Kingdom of Morocco! This is all done with the perpetual optimism that he WILL be able to separate you from a few of your Dirhams as you realize that you just can't live without that terrific turban! Yes, I do own a few. In blue, as a matter of fact! ;-)

Please ignore the goof balls clowning for the camera...

Instead, try to notice that fab pashmina they are hiding behind. Just another of the amazing textiles Marrakesh has to offer the savvy shopper.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of SewExotic Adventures as much as I have enjoyed the jaunt down memory lane. Until next time, allah ihennik!

Nancy's Notions Called...

And Valerie's Butterfly Garden is going on a trip to Beaver Dam, WI!

I was just notified that VBG was chosen as a finalist in the Nancy's Notions 25th Anniversary Contest! I understand that there were over 350 entries in the five categories and that it is now down to @90. Whew, pretty stiff competition! I am just thrilled to have made it this far and with those kind of odds, I have no delusions of grandeur ;-)

I actually sent the photos in on a bit of a whim and almost missed the deadline. Maybe procrastination is part of my "creative process?" lol

Wish me luck!

SewExotic Adventures

Why 'SewExotic'? Because I love to sew and I love to travel to exotic places and I really love to combine the two! As in finding great handwoven textiles, incorporating architectural design elements, inspired color combinations, ethnic design, etc. into my creations.

So I thought I would share a few of my favorite photos from my trips to Morocco ~ Who knows maybe you will find some SewExotic Inspiration too!

This was taken at a party we were having in the Riad one night. First let me just say for the record that I hate having my picture taken. Hate it, hate it, hate it! Probably because I will then have to actually see the *usually* embarrassing results that show without mercy every lump, bump, crooked jaw and flaw that I prefer to live in denial about ;-) Now that I've got that out of the way, I actually LOVE this picture!

The Guembri/Sintir is hiding all the really bad bits and as you can see from the look on our faces, we were having a magical time!

Don't you just love their costumes? Speaking of costumes...

And here is one for the boys ;-)

Now that I've got a small sample of the 'ethnic' shown, albeit in the form of Kitschy Costume for the Tacky Tourist, I will move on to some more traditional everyday, about town fun.

But that will have to wait for Part two as blogger insists on putting every pic at the TOP of my post. errrg!


Random Thoughts

I wrote this after returning from the annual ASG conference last year, prior to my blogging days. Isn't it nice to have a place to share your random thoughts? Enjoy ;-)

I just returned from my very first sewing convention, the annual ASG conference in Sacramento, CA. It was a wonderful experience. So many like-minded, enthusiastic people gathered together in one place to learn, shop, eat, visit and did I mention…shop!

One of my favorite moments came on the last day, at the very last minute. My cousin, Denise, and I had been trying to get to the JSM booth all week, but it was always crowded. You really should have Joyce measure you and have her counsel you to get the best size in her pant pattern. Besides, if I am paying $20 for one pattern, I want to talk to the designer and find out what I am going to have to do to make it fit!

I get there first -- Denise is coming. Joyce Murphy's 'assistant', a very sweet, older diminutive woman with a pronounced palsy in her hand, measures me, tells me what size and offers to have me try on the pre-sewed muslin. I politely decline, "Why, I have all of my PatternReview, CMN and ASG friends, I can figure this out" I muse in my head.

Denise comes along, "Yes, I would love to try one on!" Off she runs to the ladies room, outside the vendor area, to change. She has not sewn for herself in years and we live two hours apart, the likelihood of us getting together for fitting anytime soon is slim.

As it turns out, SHE is the smart one! The 'Assistant' sits down in front of her, with pins at the ready. Tucking and pinching her way to an amazing fit! When that is done she makes a sketch, measures her tucks and pinches and makes a note on the sketch with any other things Denise needs to know to get a perfect pair of trousers! All in less than 15 minutes.

OMG, I have made a royal mistake! The auditorium lights are blinking! The big burley men are here rolling up the carpet. Joyce is folding up all of the muslins. Dare I ask?? A timid voice I barely recognize as my own squeaks forth “Err...um...do you have time for another?" The kindly older assistant doesn't hesitate for a second "Sure, Joyce do you mind?" Joyce: "No, I am still packing..."

But wait. I can't leave the vendor area to go put the pants on, they won't let me back in. Whew, I manage to get the muslin up and on under my skirt with no unseemly flashing of 'Big Burley Men'. Oh NO! It is falling OFF! This muslin is too big! I need a smaller size. No time to rejoice in the fact that I need a smaller size. Joyce has packed up the muslins. In that suitcase…Right there...The UNzipped one. The one that is waiting for the muslin I am wearing. "Um, Joyce, does this look a little large to you?" Joyce: "Yes, you need to start with the next size down, less adjusting. Here, let me grab that for you." Ahhh, thank you! I neatly fold up the too large pair and put them in the case. I do another 'Presto-chango' that we women do so effortlessly and that always seems to leave men scratching their heads.

Now the fun begins. I strap the pincushion to the assistant’s wrist; she sits before me and performs her magic. The kind of magic only another sewer can truly appreciate. Tucking and pinning. Pinning and pinching. I stood there in awe as the hand that was shaking so profusely just moments ago, was drawing me a perfect sketch of my pants. Every adjustment, from my high hip to my sway back, was addressed on that sketch. Not a one was left out. Honest to goodness, well fitting trousers are now in my future.

Little did I know when I walked into Joyce Murphy's booth to buy a pant pattern that I was going to walk out with a perfectly adjusted pant pattern by her lovely assistant, the legendary Judy Barlup!

I will forever treasure that sketch. For me, it represents so many things:

For such a seemingly simple thing, it has years of sewing knowledge, experience, instinct and wisdom behind it.

It makes me want to do better, learn more, and be more patient. But mostly, to share what little I do have to offer with others.

It reminds me of the pioneers in the industry that have come before us and so generously shared their vast, hard-earned knowledge with us.

Judy’s generation is, sadly, getting older. It is now up to us to continue the tradition and pass our hard-earned knowledge on to the next generation.

For more information on Judy Barlup check out her website: http://uniquetechniques.com/


40 Tips for an Exceptional, Superb & Powerful Life!

I just got this e-mail from my dear friend MaryLynn and I loved it so much I had to share. I hope you like it, too!


These are really very powerful. Implement whatever you can.

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.
2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.
3. Tape your late night shows and get more sleep.
4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to__________ _ today.'
5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
6. Play more games and read more books than you did in 2007.
7. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.
8. Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
9. Dream more while you are awake.
10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.
12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
13. Clear your clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.
14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.
17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the energy vampires away.
18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
22. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
23. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
24. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie (not you guys.) Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Forgive everyone for everything.
28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
29. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
31. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
32. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
33. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
34. The best is yet to come.
35. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
36. Do the right thing!
37. Call your family often.
38. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: 'I am thankful for __________.' Today I accomplished _________.
39. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.
40. Enjoy the ride. Remember that this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

May your troubles be less,
May your blessings be more,
May nothing but happiness come through your door!


It fits so well, but I've made it before...

I am currently working on my second version of this Simplicity Khaliah Ali Pattern #3804 View E. The first one I made in a wonderful Chico's type Low-pile burnout stretch velvet. In that one I left off the cuff piece for a great 3/4 length sleeve.

Like many artists, I find duplication to be less than inspiring nor very creative. In order to utilize a pattern that I know fits me great, without reinventing the wheel, I decided to make it more interesting and challenging by trying some new techniques.

After reading about slot seams in Threads, on PatternReview and seeing the gorgeous skirt Ann did, I have been wanting to try this technique myself. I also just got a new gadget I have been dying to try out. It is the "Crop-a-dile" eyelet and punch kit. While I have always loved the look of eyelet's, I HATE cutting and setting them! This little gem is supposed to make my life a lot easier, we shall see...

I thought why not combine a slot seam with eyelet's and make this shirt lace-up the center front? I will use the slot seam technique to add a wide underlay for the lacing.
In this version, I am using a lush charcoal wool jersey (very slightly felted) from Londa's.

The lacing, cuffs and facings that will roll to the front and become faux piping, will all be made from black stretch velvet. Since I didn't have any black stretch velvet in the stash, I am recycling a shirt that is waaay too big and has never been worn. Perfect!

Pictures coming soon.


Valerie's Butterfly Garden

I was quite amazed and honored to have my garment chosen as the 2007 Grand Prize Winner in the Simplicity/ASG Creativity Contest -- Most Creative Use of Fabric and/or Trim Category.

This was the first time I had entered a contest like this, or for that matter, made a piece of art-to-wear, so this was especially gratifying.

All of the winning garments can been seen on both the Simplicity and ASG websites. I highly recommend a look, some amazingly creative work!

I have had numerous requests for photos, so at the bottom of the page is the main photo and inspiration for the piece. I have also included a slide show with commentary on the construction process.

I would love to hear what you think, so drop me a note!