Why ‘perfect’ should be a 4 letter word!

I want my blog posts to be perfect – full of photos as I go step by step through my creative process.  I want it to look like the blog posts from bloggers that I admire and enjoy reading.

The truth is:  those kind of blogs are not me.

I get a bit paralyzed in my pursuit of perfection.  I edit and re-edit.  I agonize.  I lose sleep trying to find the right turn of phrase, to edit the picture just right.  I kick myself when I forget to take pictures or if I just don’t feel like taking those pictures.

When I get involved in something I want to plow through, not stop to take great photos.  So I am going to relax from now on and just dash something off.  It is going to be more of a record of what I’m up to then any kind of detail.

This idea of ‘perfect’ is becoming an obsession, a four-letter word!  It stops me from posting.  I want to shake this NOW.

So, you will see more posts but less detail and less pictures.

But, because this post looks so naked, here’s a picture:



Now that’s perfection!!

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Blouse using a 1963 pattern

It seems that it takes me at least 3 muslins before I am ready to cut the pattern in the actual fabric and this blouse was no exception.

PatternReview is having a contest in which you had to use a pattern printed (better said published) prior to 1981.  I had been wanting to make this blouse for a while, now was the perfect opportunity.

This is Vogue 5883.  Understated elegance.

Vogue 5883

After much thought I decided to use the left over lawn from the Vogue dress I made (https://dressmeinsilk.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/ive-been-sewing/).  I had purchased an extra 2 yards back when I was making the dress just in case I messed up and I had to recut any piece (which fortunately, I didn’t have to do).

The fabric

Muslin 1:  Since the blouse has a french dart I decided to just cut a great big front and a regular sized back, put in the darts and loosely try on the blouse.  I don’t like using the actual pattern to do this, but I could have saved some fabric by doing it that way.  I ended up having to move the dart down about 2 inches, which I did by cutting it out of the pattern and sliding it down. Then I redrew the side seam lines.

Muslin 2:   This fit a lot better, but I was surprised to find that the back was a bit too broad and needed some adjustment.  The french dart point was still t0o high, so I lowered it another 1/2 inch.

Muslin 3:  This time I also added the collar to see how that affected the fit.  We were good to go.  I wasn’t thrilled with the front dart, but I had several people take a look at it and we all agreed that it looked good – just not perfect (a bit of an obsession of mine that gets me no where).

I wanted to stay with the 1963 instructions so I put my serger away – that’s not a huge hardship.  The serger is new and I still haven’t gotten the hang of it.  So right now it’s not my friend.

I finished the seams by folding them over about 1/8th of an inch and machine sewing them. There really were only four seams that needed finishing:  the two shoulders and the two side seams.

Seam finishes

The blouse is supposed to have a zipper on the left side, but I found while doing the muslins that I could get it on over my head (carefully) and didn’t need the zipper. That was nice.  A zipper seemed like it was going to be heavy on the very light weight lawn I was using.

The collar is cut on the bias and it is interfaced.  I am pretty sure that they didn’t have fusible interfacing back then and the sewing instructions only show the interfacing being sewn in.  Not as easy as it seems.  I used the same fabric for the interfacing, but it on the bias as well (only half the width), and then catch stitched it to the fold line of the collar.

Catch stitch the collar interfacing

I turned under and machine sewed the outside edge of the armhole facings and then hem stitched them to the inside of the blouse once I had attached them.

I had to cut a 1-1/2 inch wide bias strip to go over the collar seam.  So now we have the blouse fabric, three layers of the collar (that includes the interfacing) and a bias strip.  I sewed it all together, graded the seams, pressed it, pressed it again, and then for good measure, pressed it again. Then I hem stitched the folded over bias strip to the blouse.  It makes a very neat covering over all those layers of fabric.

The picture below shows both. The armhole facing is at the bottom, the collar bias strip sewn down is along the top.  I know it’s hard to see with this printed fabric.

Facing and collar bias strip

Next comes the sash, the self fabric tie belt.  The drawing in the pattern instructions show the opening to one of the far ends of the sash, so that’s what I did.  I sewed the right sides together and left about 2 inches open near one of the ends. Then I proceeded to pull it through.  Ugh!  Since I didn’t have enough fabric left to put the pattern piece on the fold (as they suggested in the layout), I ended up with a seam in the middle. Couple that with the fact that I had to pull a couple of feet worth of sash through you can see why I say Ugh.  It took me three days of working short amount of times (I wanted to avoid total frustration in which I rip it apart or something more drastic).

Here is a couple of pictures of the sash as I worked on it.  In the first it’s hard to tell, but almost all of the remaining part that needs to turn is bunched near the end there.  The second picture looks head on to the part that still needs to be pulled out.  Getting past the center seam really encouraged me and somehow made the project go faster.

Sash still being turnedEnd of sash

I could not tell if they wanted me to sew the hem or hem stitch it. Judging from the rest of the construction of the blouse I decided to hem stitch it.  I folded it under 1/4″ (I measured it by sewing a line of stitching 1/4″ from the raw edge.  Then I folded it under an amount that seemed reasonable for the hem.  I pressed it and then hem stitched it.

Here is the final result:

Blouse frontBlouse backSide view

The collar isn’t really falling like it did in the envelope drawing – maybe I need to play with it a bit more.  I pressed a fold in it, that might have been a mistake.  But overall, I am pleased with it.  It is very lightweight and comfortable to wear.

I was planning on making another version with the 3/4 sleeves using a solid color, but until I get that front dart better I don’t really want to do that – it will be very noticeable on the solid color.  I might just get some more lawn and make a printed blouse with the sleeves.  Not sure at this point.


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Winding the warp – Part 3 of a multi part weaving and sewing saga

A whole post on winding the warp!?  Well, um, yes.  But it will be a short one, I promise.

See, first of all I decided to add a yard to the length of the warp.  I had about 10 wraps of so of the 5-1/2 yard warp and I needed to take that off and start over with a longer warp.

I was using about 8 different colors for the warp and I had to decide how to wind that most efficiently. Use a warping paddle? Warp each color separately and then thread them randomly?  Or wind them on randomly?

I wanted the threading to be what I call ‘human random’ – as opposed to true random.  With true random you might end up with 85% of the warp being in one color and the other 15% being spread out among the other 7 colors.  I did not want that to happen nor did I have enough of any one of the colors to have that happen.  Human random is making the warp thread appear random.

Using a paddle would not accomplish that, I would be stuck with the one sequence.

I could go with just winding each color until it ran out and then changing to the next, but I kept on thinking of the tangles and headache of warping the loom pulling yarn ‘randomly’ from different bundles of yarn

I ended up going with winding the warp in a ‘human random’ sequence.  It meant a lot of knots on the warping board as I changed colors.  Some of you might be shaking your heads and thinking there is a better way.  I am sure there is, but time was running short and I had to get MOVING!

Below is a picture of my warping board.  You can see all the little knots at the top right of the warping board (I warp with the cross on the bottom because I bolted the warping board onto the wall upside down – go figure.)

Warping board

Let me just mention that it was a bit boring winding the warp this way.  I just could not get into a rhythm, what with having to stop every few winds and tie a knot and pick up the next color.  I took my time, unfortunately.

To help me along, I lined the colors up on the loom – these are the ones I used:

Warp colors 2

Warp colors

Remember I said that I made the warp an extra yard longer?  Well, I forgot to consider that fact when I was winding the warp.  Oh no, I measured it out correctly, I just forgot to consider that I was going to be using more yarn.  So I started to run out before the warp was fully wound.  I quickly added a new skein of yarn.  Nice to have lots of hand dyed yarn to pick from.

I still ended up a few warp ends short, I could live with that.

Warp ready to go!

Warp ready to go

It is now June 6.  Monday.  Workshop is this coming weekend.

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The Fabric starts – Part 2 of a multi part weaving and sewing saga

Over the last few years I have been dyeing with natural dyes.  In addition, NOBO has had an annual Dye Day in which participants bring different natural dyes and pre-mordanted yarns and we all dye skeins of yarn, dipping them into different dye pots.  I almost always use Harrisville Shetland yarn for my dyeing.  I love it!

So there I was with a pile of hand dyed, naturally dyed, Harrisville Shetland yarn.  Plenty for a warp (which at the time I saw as being 5 yards long and 37 inches wide.)  Besides, I was starting to have a problem with wool moths getting at the fiber. Below is a pile of my naturally dyed yarn, mostly Harrisville.

Naturally Dyed Yarn

To prepare the yarn, I had to wind the skeins into center pull balls (cakes).  That became quite a challenge.  I would put the skein on my swift, and connect it directly to the ball winder.  Then I would winding away and hit a weak spot (due to moths) or a spot where the yarn had partially felted while I was dyeing it and it would be a bit tangled.  It took a while to do the first ball and lots of swearing and time outs to gather my patience back together.  I finally changed my MO.  I put the yarn on the swift and wound it onto the Weasel, from there I wound it into a ball.  Though it was a lot more winding, it worked out better in the long run.  Still it took nearly a full day to get all the 8 colors for my warp all wound up.  One color just was too damaged and I rejected it – actually, I tossed it aside, aggravated (if you look below at the pictures of my sample, it’s the yarn on the far right selvedge that I ended up tossing aside).

The colors I chose for the warp were all light colors, mostly dyed at the end of the dye pot or with a weak dye solution.  Many were dipped in Indigo after the initial dye – everything can be dipped in Indigo!!  So, in no particular order the dyes were Tansy (from my garden), Cochineal (from Dye Day), Black walnuts (from a friend’s yard), eucalyptus, and I’m not sure what else since I took lousy notes.

Sarah Fortin had recommended a sett of 15 for the Harrisville, but then I got to thinking – always a danger!  I had, by now, wound about 10 wraps of a 5 yd warp, and I got to thinking.  She bases 15 epi on unwashed, un-wet finished Harrisville yarn. My yarn, had been washed and soaked in hot water and simmered and washed and rinsed; in essence it was already wet finished, it was already fulled.  So, maybe a sett of 18 epi would make more sense. Maybe that’s what un-fulled Harrisville shrank to once it was wet finished.

It was now around May  25th or so and I decided to weave a sample; a 1-1/2 yard sample of the fabric.  So I wound off 180 ends, using the warp yarns I intended for the final project.  I chose some yarn I had, also hand dyed, for the weft, warped the loom and wove a sample.

Here are a couple of shots of the sample in weaving progress (note, I had a threading error).  I had a few issues with broken warp threads (sigh).

Sample 1Sample 2Sample 3

Sample 4

This sample did 3 things for me:
1.  I took one of the warp threads out of rotation for the final war since I didn’t like it in the sample warp.
2.  I loved the weft color I used.
3.  The sett of 18 was actually too tight, the sample felt more like upholstery fabric than jacket fabric.

I would love to say that I am now a convert to sampling, but, in this instance I sure am glad that I took the time to do the sample; albeit at the last minute.

Next – winding the warp.  Yikes, it’s now May 31 – only 12 days left until the workshop.

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September 2015 – Part 1 of a multi part weaving and sewing saga

In the September NOBO meeting we hosted Sarah Fortin  – who weaves up wonderful fabrics and sews them into lovely jackets and coats.  She brought some of those beautiful jackets and coats with her.  She spoke to us for 2-1/2 hours about weaving fabric to make a jacket, what setts to use, how to wet finish the fabric, different types of seam finishes, etc.

We got to try on her jackets and coats.

We all knew that sometime in the spring we would have a workshop with her in which we would bring our hand-woven fabrics and we would then make them into jackets or coats.

I went home that night with visions of lovely fabrics that I would weave.  A little nervous, wanting something perfect, but not really knowing what I wanted or how I would go about making this fabric.  It was in my mind for weeks. But I didn’t worry much since I knew that the workshop was going to be in the spring and I had months to go before I needed to have woven fabric.

Oh my, the ‘months to go’ block! The ‘take your time’ trap!  We had no set date, but we were thinking of sometime in May for the workshop.  So what started as an 8 month lead time started to dwindle down, until it was the end of April and still no idea what to weave.

The workshop was scheduled for June 11, 12, 13 2016.  It was now the beginning of May and the indecision continued.  What yarn?  What sett?  How much yardage?  So many decisions, maybe too many decisions, and still that feeling that what I did had to be perfect.
PERFECT, you hear!

Worried head

I watched this video (and re-watched it), it helped to spur me on a bit; but I had the feeling I was just waiting for the panic monster to appear, just to see what it was like!


Memorial day weekend was fast approaching and I finally decided what yarn I was going to use.

And, I decided on a herringbone tweed for the weave structure but I was still not sure what to use for the weft.

I was starting to move!

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I’m on a roll here….

I was shopping online for fabric one day and saw this fabric:


It wasn’t what I was looking for at the time, but I felt that I had to have it, so I bought 3 yards of it, thinking to myself that it would make a nice pair of shorts.

But then, I started to look at some of my older patterns, and decided that the jacket in this pattern would be perfect:

Butterick 3794

This is a pattern I originally purchased back in the 80s (there was no copyright date on the pattern, but I found it here on the Wiki.)  I had used the pattern (yes, I still wear the same size – woo hoo!),  the front facing was missing, but all the rest of the pieces were still there.  I easily made the facing using the layout drawing for guidance. I am not sure what happened to the outfit I made, but I did find the finished bandeau top (though, that no longer fits, my body has changed a bit since then.)  I suspect that I never finished the garments and at some point trashed them.

I cut the pattern out without any alterations, I was looking for fast and easy.  I had enough fabric for the long sleeve shirt version of the jacket.

I messed up and first of all used an interfacing that was a bit too stiff for it to flow like the picture and second I cut two right side pieces.  I did not have a wide enough piece to make the full left interfacing, so I cobbled one together.  It worked well and is not noticeable at all.

Though the interfacing was a bit heavy, I do like the end result.  The question is whether or not to add a button to the front.  So far I have left it as is.

I made this in one day (after I had cut it out on another day).  I did it that quickly mainly because I could tell that I was faltering.  I was seeing that a part might be a bit difficult to sew or I wasn’t quite understanding the instructions, so I was going to tackle it another day. That might be why I, maybe, never finished it the first go round. So I cracked the whip and made myself continue. I am really glad I did.  I like the way it came out and I’m glad I finished it!

Jacket Front B3794Jacket Back B3794Jacket side B3794

I am amazed at the fit since I made it ‘right out of the box’, as it were. No muslin, no alterations.  The sleeves are a real nice length.  Again, I am happy with this!  Now I have big plans, maybe two sewn items a month??  I have one almost finished for the month of June.

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I’ve been sewing!

I wanted this dress from The Gap:

Gap dress

But it was all out in my size. So I thought, “I know!  I will sew one!  How hard can it be?”

I searched for a pattern that matched the dress and came up with this one from Vogue:

Vogue 8810

All I needed to do was to bring in the shoulders for style D (the one with the fuller skirt) and it was an exact match!

I found a nice cotton lawn at Jo-Ann’s, yes, Jo-Ann’s.   Lawn fabric

I started to think about how to change the shoulders and there is where I got stuck.  I hadn’t sewn for a while and the alteration was confusing me. So I signed up for a group open sewing gathering at the Victorian Cupboard and we made it work!

My next stumbling block?  Well, other than the fact that I put the facing on backwards and I had to rip it all out and re-apply it (a very painstaking and slow task due to the fact that I was using a cotton Lawn and I didn’t want to rip it), was the button holes.  I had an irrational fear of the button holes.  I was sure that my dress would end up all crooked due to misplacement of the button holes!  I cannot tell you how many practice button holes I made and how many weeks it took until I finally put them on this dress.

Then I put it down.  I started the dress in August and then it got too cold to wear it and there went my incentive to finish.  I picked it up again this spring thinking that all I had left were a few button holes and then the buttons.  But, surprise!, I had already done all the button holes, I just needed to sew on the buttons.

Since then I’ve worn it twice.  I am really happy with how it turned out.  No one asked me if I had made the dress which was reassuring, it didn’t look homemade!

Dress Front V8810

Dress back V8810


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A little weaving…

I know, I know, it’s been over a year (make that over two three years) since I last posted on this blog.  Not sure why, but there you have it.

I have done quite a few things since then, and maybe I will do a recap of all them (and then again, maybe not).

I wanted to have something for the NOBO meeting but I didn’t feel I had the time to get a project on the loom, woven and then finished.  It seemed a bit stressful for a Monday before the Thursday meeting.

I had seen a picture of something like this on Etsy and decided that I was going to do some weaving that didn’t need to be taken off the ‘loom’ – the loom was part of it. I did not take ‘progress’ pictures – but here is the finished piece. It was fun, it was quick, and I think I will do some more down the road.

My first branch loom projectclose up branch weaving

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Carrot tops, ivy leaves, and Goldenrod

Note June 2016:  LOL!  Never took pictures of the Goldenrod dyeing and have yet to dye with the Ivy.  But, I am posting anyway!

Note on January 2013:  I know why this one sat in draft.  I never finished writing it. I think that this is the one that caused me to throw up my hands in despair and evoke McKayla disaproves. So this is take 2.

Tansy flowers, Goldenrod, Ivy

Tansy flowers, Goldenrod, Ivy

September 2012:  What do carrot tops, ivy leaves, and goldenrod have in common?  They can be used to dye fiber!  I’ve gotten my dyeing mojo going right now, and I’m talking about the slow, natural dyeing mojo.

I wound off six 4 oz. skeins of Harrisville Shetland weight yarn

The yarn.

and scoured them (that just means I washed them to get the spinning oils off, but it sounds so dramatic to say I scoured them).  They are now dry.

All washed and dryed.

Though I do intend to dye with the flowers and leaves in my garden, first I wanted to start with the carrots.  So, Friday afternoon I pulled the leafy green part off 4 bunches of fresh, organic carrots.

Carrots – don’t they look great!

I rinsed the leafy parts and put them into a pot of water to boil, then simmered them for about an hour.  I left it to cool in the pot.  Once it was cool, I strained the liquid and put it into an empty gallon water jug.  Alas, I took no pictures of the dye liquid, but it was a pale green.

I was originally going to dye 3 skeins, but reconsidered, and went with 4 skeins.  I had used about 12 ounces of carrot tops and 4 skeins would equal that in weight.  But first I needed to use mordant on two of the skeins.  See my intention was to dye two skeins without mordant and two that had been pre-mordanted with Alum. Once they were all dyed, I was going to take one of the un-mordanted skeins and one of the mordanted skeins and put them back in the dye bath, but this time with an after-mordant of Iron.

Here is the pot with the yarn in it dyeing (it’s already mordanted):

Yarn in the dyepot

Yarn in the dyepot

I think that once they had finished simmering, I let them cool in the dyepot.  I like to do that, to get the maximum color I can get out of the dye.  It’s is surprising to see that what were green carrot tops is showing as yellow in the pot.  That seems to be the way it is with plant materials.

As I mentioned earlier, two of those skeins later went into a pot with an iron mordant.  I don’t seem to have a picture of that.

After it was all done, here is what the skeins looked like:

Yarn colors from carrot tops

Yarn colors from carrot tops

Left to right:  Alum mordant, alum mordant followed by Iron mordant, no mordant, no mordant followed by Iron mordant.

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More on that quilt

So I entered into the sewing room and examined my cutting table.  Not too bad, just a few things to move off of it.



Ta Da!  Like magic; all cleared off and ready for cutting!



Ha! I wish it were that easy, though as far as clutter goes this wasn’t really that big a chore.  I mostly had to reshelf a few books and move a few ‘in progress’ projects off the table.

When I got home after purchasing the fabric, I cut out little squares and pinned them to a photo copy of the pattern page with the fabric requirements on it.  I was so proud of myself for doing that!  But, of course, now I notice that I never indicated which fabrics were going to be which border and I no longer remember what was which.

I started to cut the strips, trying to guess what my thoughts had been regarding the borders back when I bought the fabric.  After coming up one strip short on the fabric that I ‘guessed’ was going to be the first border, I decided to concentrate on the squares and cut the borders later.

Here are all the strips nicely cut and in the order in which I will be sewing them:

Quilt all cut and ready to go

It was interesting cutting them.  When I started there was one thread, every few inches, on the bottom layer of fabric that was not cutting.  I decided that my rotary cutter needed a new blade (this was not a new problem, I had just lived with it).  But I started to have the same exact problem with the brand new blade.  So I fiddled with the angle that I held the cutter and discovered that if I held it upright (vertical, rather than parallel to the surface) I had no problems and I had less slippage of the ruler as well!   

Well, I’m almost ready to start sewing now, but it will have to wait until this coming weekend.

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