Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Search of My Mother's Garden, I Found My Own.

Hello lovely readers! Boy have I been busy! Between an advanced pattern drafting class at my local college (such fun but loads of homework), doctor's visits, Mrs. Depew Vintage and about three on-going family disasters, I have been stretched to my breaking point lately. My husband finally sat me down this weekend and said, "Look, it's only been 7 months since you watched your Mom die. No one expects you to be ok, there is no reason for you to take so much on when you're not yourself, and shouldn't be. If you don't let a few things slide and give yourself a break, I'm going to sit on you."

This guy, I love him. And he is right. Being this busy was partly a choice to prove to myself that I can get back to normal, that I want to be normal again, and it was a total failure. I'm not normal, I'm broken, and that's ok. Oh, that feels good to say!
So yesterday, I took a deep breath and let things slide. I still processed business orders but after that, I spent the entire afternoon in my garden (a self-soothing mechanism that I learned from my mother) and at the end of a day full of sunshine, bugs, dirt, flowers, and one shoe caked in dog doo, I felt just just a tiny bit more like a person.

So I know I've been threatening to talk about my garden for a while now... so here it is:

Here we have climbing mandevilla, sweet pea - both a favorite of hummingbirds, alyssum, and pansies.

I started with what I like to think of as "Beauty Base Zero" and went from there. The yard had nothing but wood chips and cigarette butts in it when we moved in last year. The next door neighbors just moved in and their yard is a mirror image of mine last year before I started.

(Please pardon the photos - I took them through a screened window.)

Things are actually a bit more bare than they usually are right now. It's October in Monterey bay and I have no idea how the seasons work here... so I'm winging it. So far, the alyssum (all the fluffy white stuff) is unstoppable no matter the weather. In fact, I don't know that one could try to successfully kill it! I have read that it's a great plant to have around because it attracts beneficial bugs to your garden.

And above, we have 'the crazy.' I started these tomatoes from seeds and, newbie that I am to gardening (without my Mom helping me, that is,) I staked them, barely, but really should have put cages on them. Now, I have a tomato thicket. A thicket, I say. But they are thriving and I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with, which means I have become that weird neighbor who shows up at doors with baskets full of tomatoes saying. "Please, for the love of God, eat these."

I have also really been enjoying exploring the tropicals that can grow out here.  These hibiscus are growing and re-blooming like champs, and also bring in a lot of hummingbirds all day long!

Yesterday's project was paving our gate closure with stones and moss. Skunks have been digging holes at the gate to get in and play and I wanted an attractive way to keep them out. There's a story there...
It's five a.m. and my husband is up and getting ready for an early shift at work. I wake up to the sound of frantic barking, and then Butters the puppy gallops madly up the stairs and launches himself into the bed with the kitty and I.  And he smells like burnt plastic. After much screaming, and not a little swearing, I get up, get the dog outside, and try to figure out what the hell is going on. There had been a skunk in the backyard when the hubby let Butters outside, but it had quickly escaped through the hole at the gate, after very thoroughly blasting Butters in the face. My husband, only hearing barking and letting the dog inside, wondered if our toaster had chosen that moment to die, because unbeknownst to either of us, fresh skunk spray smells like burnt wiring. It is now 5:45 and my husband has to be at work (the military really does frown on tardiness, but I'm pretty sure this would fall under the classification of emergency) so he apologetically leaves me to deal with the dog.

Fast forward to 6:15 a.m. at my local grocery store where at checkout, I unload the following: 4 bottles of hydrogen peroxide, 2 boxes of baking soda (best anti-skunk remedy ever, thanks to my sister Jessi!) a pair of rubber gloves, half a dozen donuts, and a small bottle of whiskey. Not wrinkling her nose too obviously at the skunk smell radiating from my person, she asks, "Rough morning, hon'?"

I'm skunk-proofing the hell out of my yard - those suckers are ALL OVER base housing here.

Clematis, pansy, one rogue ranunculus ready to bloom, and my clematis who seams to be done blooming for the now.

I read a quote the other day that said, "In search of my mother's garden, I found my own."

My Mama under her green bean trellis.

That echoes in my mind as I plant things. It's not full of green beans and irises of every color like Mama's was, and it's not perfect by any stretch, but it's mine, and I love it.

It would be a lot more pristine if I didn't have a 75 lb. German Shepherd puppy treating the yard like a bouncy house.

More tomatoes trying to climb the bird feeder, some lavender, and some baby pole beans that will hopefully take off and fill the whole fence line with vines.
I also have morning glories and varied varieties of sweet pea popping up, ready to climb the fence like their parent plants did months ago. I have no idea if the slightly cooler nights (it's dropping to about 55 at night) will stunt them or not.

These flower beds are also rife with tulip and ranunculus bulbs and will be teeming with blooms in a few months.

One inhabitant of the tomato thicket is a very large, Cherokee purple tomato plant. The tomatoes start out as tiny black marbles, and then the lighten up to mostly green, and they are ripe, tart, and juicy when a deep red on the bottom. I made lasagna with them the other day and it was heavenly.

I'm also starting a lot of seeds indoors, including midnight black morning glories, snap dragons, safflower, impatiens, purple dragon carrots, Walla Walla onions, and more sage, basil, chive and cilantro to add to my teaming herb garden.

My Midnight Morning Glories quite literally came up this large overnight!

And that's it! If any of you garden, and especially if you have experience gardening in the bay area, I would really love to hear your tips and suggestions!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to Draft a Trousers Pattern - A Tutorial

Hello my dear readers,
This month I have really had trousers on my mind. A trip to Banana Republic where everything was lovely, expensive, and way too short for my long legs had me thinking, "I can make this! Why would I pay $100 for something that just won't quite fit right?"

I always do this. I call it the seamless loop. I want a garment, but it's expensive and I could make it if only I could make the time, which gets me thinking about how much my time is worth, how busy I am, and that I technically make enough money to treat myself to a lovely thing like that once in a blue moon. But I just can't justify buying it, knowing that I could make a better-fitting one... and it all goes through my mind for long enough that I get sick of it all and before I know it, I'm cranky, frustrated, and without either a purchased or handmade version of what I wanted in the first place. Have you ever done this? It sucks!
So I decided to break the cycle. I am drafting a few patterns to test out the fit, length, waist rise etc. until I have the perfect pair. 

I also decided that I would create a tutorial here in case any of you might like to try trouser drafting for yourselves!
Here's what you'll need:

Paper, long enough for your high waist to floor measurement plus a few inches more, and wide enough for 1/2 your hip measurement plus a few more inches. (a nice, 36" wide roll does nicely!)
Rulers, including yardstick or a tailors' square if you can get one.
A French curve, hip curve or other curve drafting tool.

And of course, you'll need your measurements! This tutorial is adapted from a 1940's/ 1950's trouser so you'll want to pay attention to your vintage sizing.

And now for how it's done!

I. - See illustration above.

A to B - Equals side length measurement.
A to C - Equals 6 3/4” for size 12
              6 7/8” for size 14
              7” for size 16 and up...

C to D - Equals 1/4 of hip measurement plus 3/4” for ease. Square this line across at C.
C to E - Same length as C to D. Extend line D-C to E; then pivoting at D, draw an arc line above E.
A to F - Equals crotch depth measurement plus 1” for ease. Mark point F on line A-B.
G to H - Equals hip line D-E. Draw this line through F, parallel to hip line D-E.
G to I - Square this line up at G through D, making this line 1/2” less than A to F.
H to J - Equals 1/2 of line F to H. Extend line G-H to J.
H to K - Equals 1/2 of line H to J.
K to L - Equals line G-I (center front) plus 2” for center back line. Draw this line from K to L, touching the outer most curve of arc line.
G to M - Equals length from K to J.
G to N - Equals 1 1/2”. Draw a diagonal line; then draw a curved line from D to M through N.
K to O - Equals 1 1/4”. Draw a curved line through O.
G to P - Equals length of F to B. Square a line down at G.
K to Q - Equals length of F to B. Square a line down at K.
P to Q - Connect for lower edge.
P to R - Equals 1/2 of line P to D.
R to S - Square a line across at R for knee line; then draw slightly curved lines from M to R and J to S for inner leg seam.
B to T - Equals 1”.
T to C - Connect.

II. - See illustration above.
Draw waistline slightly curved, from I to A to L. Reduce waistline to fit 1/2 of waist measure. First make part of reduction at sides and center front. Then make a dart in back and a pleat in front at follows:
C to U - Equals 1/2 of C to E.
L to V - Equals 1/2 of back waistline; then draw a V-shaped dart, 6” long.
D to W - Equals 1/2 of D to C.

III. - See illustration above.
For crease lines on front and back, divide the knee and lower lines in half; then draw crease lines from bottom to hip line. For waistband, make a double band 1 1/2” wide, finished and the length of the waist measure plus 3/4” extension for left side opening. To complete pattern, add seam allowances to all pattern pieces and hem allowance to trouser bottoms. Make corresponding notches.

And there you have it! The straight waistband should only be used if you draft your pattern at waist level. If you lower it closer to your hip line, you'll need to draft a curved waistband.

Aaaaand on a completely separate note, I have decided to have a sale this week at Mrs. Depew Vintage! If there is a pattern you've been eying, now is the time to try it. Use coupon code "FLUFFEHKITTEH " in the box at checkout for a 15% discount - good until the 21st of October.

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Giveaway Winner and some Vintage Eye Candy

Hello my lovely readers,
It's time to announce the winner of the November issue of Molly makes sitting here on my desk!
It was really great of you all to share your favorite sewing/ crafting magazines with me - I'll be checking out a few I've never heard about before so thanks for the recommendations. In case you didn't read the comments on our last post, here are a few that you all suggested:

My Image,
Knit Scene,
Vogue Knitting,
Cotton Friend (Japanese),
A Needle Pulling Thread,
Interweave Knits,
and SewStylish.

Our giveaway winner is Angie of Bombshell Babe (I just had fun reading your blog, my dear). Angie, if you could email me your contact info at, I can send you your prize!

And in other news, the other day I was lamenting the fact that my favorite sewing/ crafting magazines were all published about 70 or 80 years ago and aren't so easy to find. I started looking through my collection (also known as the massive hoard in my spare bedroom) and fell in love all over again. Oh, how I wish that Nouveauté (novelty) was still published!

So, to honor my favorite, no longer with us sewing and crafting magazine, here are some really, really pretty excerpts from Nouveauté - June, 1935.

One of the most charming aspects of this magazine is that the inside cover was always illustrated to look like the back of the model on the cover.

I wish I could look that glamorous while fishing...

Just lovely, n'est pas? If you want to read more, you can find the entire digital copy of the magazine here.
Happy sewing, mes amis!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mollie Makes - U.S. Magazine Edition finally arrives and a giveaway!

Hello my lovely readers. Yesterday I was so delighted to get my first U.S. edition of Molly Makes in the mail.
I first found Mollie Makes in Norway. It was a monthly tradition of mine to drive into town for an afternoon, pay too much for parking, treat myself to lunch, shopping, and my monthly editions of Burda Style and Mollie Makes.
There are no proper bookstores or newsstands in my area (something that hurts even more than the painful lack of nearby fabric shops) so when Mollie Makes announced a U.S. edition subscription, I had to pounce!

And, boy, is this sweet little monthly mag worth the $7.99. It's BEAUTIFUL!

Image courtesy of Molly Makes.

Along with tutorials for the adorable felt pine cone ornaments pictured above, the issue features knitting patterns for socks and breakfast themed scarves, patterns for a laptop bag, pin cushions and an adorable stuffed mouse, craft book reviews, a feature on Crafty attractions and shops in Portland, a fascinating article on the art of making bobbin lace, and a bunch more!

Image courtesy of Molly Makes.
If you would like to get your own subscription to this little gem, you can find it here.

Image courtesy of Molly Makes.

And it just so happens that I have an extra copy!
To enter to win a copy of the November U.S. issue of Molly Makes, just leave a comment below with your favorite magazine - craft or otherwise, and why.
I'll choose one lucky winner next week on the 16th.

Happy sewing!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sewing 610... Straps, Closures and a finished bra!

Let's discuss bra straps!
I have chosen to use some very delicate silk ribbon for my straps. I'm going for a very dainty, light weight, almost gossamer effect with this bra and I don't want too heavy of a strap. However, I can get away with that because, let's face it, I'm tiny up top and I don't need any support. If you're larger up top and using a heavier weight fabric than charmeuse or crepe de chine, I recommend using either purchased straps or at least silk satin ribbon. It's heavier and sturdier.

If you'd prefer to make some adjustable straps of your own, check out this great tutorial over at Ohhh Lulu.

For a more hand-stitched route, you can use this old-fashioned technique for adding bra straps to a finished bra without sewing the strap between layers.

I chose to sew my straps between the layers this time just to mix things up.
You'll need to test the fit of your bra at this point and (with some help if you can get it) pin a length of ribbon to the front and back of the bra to help you measure how long your strap should be.
As a starting point, my straps were about 20" long with seam allowances figured in.

Before starting on straps, place the two bra layers right sides together, then pin and sew the bottom seam only. This makes it easier to wrangle your layers when doing the next two steps.
--Tip for working with slippery fabrics: Years ago, I remember asking my Mama about how to work with slippery silk and she responded with "When in doubt, sweetie, just pin the hell out of it!" Mama was right - it works like a charm.

Now the easiest way to sew a bra strap (ribbon) between layers is below. Simply roll that sucker up and paper clip it, leaving a few inches out to work with. This will keep your ribbon from straying all over the place as your work with it, and more importantly, it keeps your ribbon from going rogue and  getting caught in a seam somewhere!

A paper clip can keep your ribbon from going rogue.

The best place for your bra strap placement at the front is just to the outside of your upper dart, though during a fitting with your muslin, you should test and see if this works for you too.

My two layers of fabric, open at the top and ready for the ribbon.
Add the ribbon just to the outside of the upper dart (the side closest to the under-arm).
Pin the ribbon in place securely and then tuck your rolled and secured ribbon in between the two layers.
The back end of the straps is going to be stitched to the outside of my bra once everything else is finished.

Now for the bra back closure. I'm using my usual French bra back closure (I won't use any other closure method any more!) but you can use any other method you're comfortable with.
For a button and ribbon loop closure, check out this tutorial.

You want to make sure that any bra closure method you use is facing to the inside of the bra as you sew the layers completely together. That way, when you turn your bra right side out, the closure is on the outside.
If you go this route, test your closure on your muslin version. You'll want the hook opening to be facing up, but which side do you want the hook on? Left or Right? This depends on what feels most comfortable for you and perhaps which of your hands is dominant.

Once you have your closure pinned securely in place, (this is another good time for a fitting!) you can pin the rest of the outer and lining together, matching seams and darts.

Stitch the layers together, taking time to back-stitch at the bra strap edges and closure for extra strength. Be sure to leave at least a 2" gap open towards the back so that you can turn the bra right side out!

First trim down the corners of the back of the bra, then carefully turn your bra right side out, press the edges, and slip-stitch the gap closed.

To secure your bra straps to the back of the bra, you can either  use the old fashioned method mentioned above or do as I did.
I simply folded the raw edge under 1/2" and then hand-stitched the ribbon about 1" away from the back of the bra edge.

Annnnd, we're done!

I pressed the black edge of the bra up just a tiny bit fron the blue side and it the way it sits looks like there is a little bit of contrast piping.

I'm in love with my French knots... I want to put them on absolutely everything now!

Did we just sew a completely reversible bra? Why yes, yes we did ;)


Any questions, my dears?

P.S. For those of you just tuning in, you can find all of our Sewing #610 posts, as well as where to find the pattern by clicking here.