Polar vortex trousers

It was a Big Brothers Big Sisters group sleepover at the zoo.  The conversation between me and a younger mentor went like this:

Her:  Haven’t seen that pant style in awhile.
Me:  Yes, they were a favorite in a prior decade.  They’ve been too comfy to get rid of.
Her:  Um, I’m pretty sure it was more than one decade ago.
Me:  I did say “a” prior decade; not “the” prior decade.

To give you the right visual, they were black stirrup pants.  Super comfortable for a sleepover, but admittedly…

Stirrup pant intact aw RSR

…they haven’t been in style for decade(s).  Actually, it was the prior millennium.  And, they aren’t warm.  So, when I needed a pattern for some insulated warm pants, I broke down and cut the stirrup pants apart to make the pattern.  Turns out it was a good choice for a pattern, because:

  • It was only two pattern pieces, which made an easy-to-sew pattern.
  • The fit was loose (unlike leggings or skinny pants), which accommodated the bulk of the insulated layers.

Pants pieces aw RSR

The fit came out right on the first try, except for the lower legs, which had too much taper for the thickness of the fabric layers.  To fix the lower leg issue, I opened each side seam below the knee and inserted a long triangle.  This worked fine.

Insert2 aw RSR

For the fly closure, I used a strip of velcro, which was not strong enough by itself, but worked fine when I added a waistband and fastener.

(View before adding the waistband.)

Pants before waistband aw RSR

Tips and notes:

  • Reducing unnecessary bulk.  For the fly and waistband facing side, I removed the pile from between the layers.  Those spots don’t need double insulation, or bulk.
  • Walking foot recommended. The lazy, impatient me didn’t use the walking foot on the sewing machine, because it is slow, and I wanted to sew this first pair up quickly.  I got by, and the pants came together quickly and easily.  But with these layers and pile, a walking foot would be the better way to go.
  • The fabric was a surprise purchase from Joann.  While shopping for something else, I spotted this at 60% off, which made it $8/yd.  It appears to be an in-store only item, so I can’t provide a link to it.  But if you have a Joann store nearby, go check the bargain fabric section with the color-coded discount dots.

The fabric:

Insulated fabric a w RSR

Why insulated pants?  For comfort and productivity.  I’m cold all winter.  Besides how miserable that is, I feel like it takes much time out of my planned day to warm up, whether by situating myself near a space heater, or having a heated throw at my desk.  It slows my productivity and energy level, just getting and staying warm.  I want to try designing and making some simple, practical garments that I can wear any day, every day, all day, at home, and just feel warm.  The ultimate plan is to make garments I can wear wherever I go during the day–from the office to grocery shopping.

This is the first of the attempts.  Not bad for $8 in materials.  To be honest though, they look like simple insulated pants that don’t cost much to buy ready-to-wear.  Must try harder to make them look more stylish for every day wear.

Insulated pants mirror model a w RSR

The polar vortex of last week was my inspiration to make these warm pants a priority.  But as luck goes, on the day I finished the pants there was a drastic warmup.  It was a 60s-70sF weekend with sun.  Crocuses bloomed!

Crocuses 2019 RSR

Alas, the winter temperatures have made a rude return, with 30+mph wind gusts, a windchill temp of -11F, and an icy coating on everything.  The pants are doing their job of keeping me comfortable.

Six Updates on Things I Wrote About in 2018

Just for fun, here is what has happened with some of the things I wrote about over the last year.

1.

Our historic ballpark is gone.

The entrance to our 84-year old ballpark looked like this in September, when they announced it would be torn down.

WP_20180903_003 a

They first tore the grandstand down.  Here is the site in November, when only the box office and entry gate remained.  Now those are gone too, and it’s a big flat dirt field.

stadiumtorndown2 RSR

stadiumtorndown b RSR

In 2020, we are supposed to have a new ballpark in its place.

2.

I finished reading “Sticky Fingers”.

Sticky fingers cover

After my blog post about the book, it took a couple of renewals from the public library, but eventually I finished the book.  It is a well written book about a repulsive character.  It was a repulsive read to the end.  It made me want all of those hours back that I’d spent over the years reading Rolling Stone magazine.

The soiling of Page 393.

As I was pushing on to finish the book, a bad thing happened.  I took the book with me to the movie theater to read while waiting for the movie to start.  I bought a little bag of popcorn.  Too late, I realized the bag was leaking butter.  I soiled the library book on possibly the most important page, and maybe the only important page of the entire book.

Page 393 a w RSR

When I returned it to the library, I confessed and showed them the page.  I’m waiting to find out if they are going to bill me for the book.  They certainly are within their rights to ask me to pay for it.  Because I was up front with them, and the stain was confined to a couple of pages (it bled through to the next page), they will not ask me to pay for a replacement book.  Lesson learned!  Have I mentioned how much I ❤ our library?  Well, this is just the latest reason.

3.

The electric blanket needs another repair already.

Thanks to the foster pup, aka “Jaws”.

Chewed plug aw RSR

4.

The pepper plant is still growing.  

The Poblano pepper plant that I’d planted and tended outdoors all summer, is now in a pot on the enclosed porch in the south sun.  It gets cold on the porch but has stayed above freezing.  When the sun is shining, the room can get above 70°.  Three peppers are growing on the plant, albeit very slowly.  I may be waiting all winter for a harvest of three peppers.

Outdoors vs Indoors:

 

Indoors

5.

Another Coco dress is in the works.

Here are numbers 1 and 2.

 

Sneak preview of #3:

Yellow Coco aw RSR

6.

I’ve made a shell from the 1937 pattern making instructions

 

and it fits.

IMG_20190101_160201865a w RSR

 


Aaand another holiday season is in the books.  One of my favorite holiday songs goes from reflective to angry to a call for hopefulness.  It sums up the end of the holiday season the way I feel it–looking back on the joyous gatherings of family and friends, and looking forward to the new year.

“And so I skate, across the Thames, hand in hand, with all my friends.  And all the things that we planned…

“Goddamn this government, will they ever tell me where the money went?  Protesters march out on the street, as young men sleep amongst the feet.”

“The end of Christmas day, when there is nothing left to say, the years go by so fast, let’s hope the next beats the last.”

 

 

Mary Poppins Returns

If you loved the original Mary Poppins movie like I did, then Mary Poppins Returns is a must-see.  It is not a remake of the 1964 movie.  It is a continuation of the story, 20 years later.  The music and actors are different from the original, but it feels completely connected.  I got emotional several times during the movie, not because it was sad (it isn’t), but because it was wonderful to have more of the Mary Poppins story.  Put the two movies together, and it’s a captivating miniseries.

There’s the familiar London steeples and rooftops,London skyline at night

and the familiar Cherry Tree Lane.mary_poppins rooftops

Cherry Lane

I don’t want to give away any surprises or spoilers, so no more details about the film.  But as always, I came away with sewing inspiration, too.  I’ll have to wait for better views when the movie is available for streaming, but for now here’s what I’ll be looking at:

Mary’s carpet bag, blue striped coat and striped skirt.  Coat and bag2

Bag - Copy

 

Striped Skirt 2

Jane Banks/Emily Mortimer’s pants-vest outfit.  The pants in particular.  They are pleated and baggy, and the hem hits where the ankle meets the foot.  Pants

IMDB link for the movie: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5028340/

If you are a Mary Poppins movie fan, and haven’t seen Mary Poppins Returns yet, I hope you can get to see it at the theatre.  Until then, here’s a little reminder from 1964.

 

 

Patching jeans

You wouldn’t know it now, but these jeans were once Casual Friday office attire.

Jeans back b w RSR

Then they morphed into my go-to comfortable yard work and housework jeans. Then a knee blew out.  Then the other knee went.  With two holey knees they were stylish, so heck yes, I kept wearing them.  Now they’ve reached the point where the denim is falling apart in places.

Jeans worn spot a w RSR

I don’t need to keep the jeans, but they are darn comfortable.  So, I started using them to experiment with patchwork.  A dig through my stash ensued.  Flowers from this barkcloth print now cover the knee holes.

Floral fabric for jeans a w RSR

Some chambray strips from old curtains, are now a woven patch to reinforce the worst weak spot in the denim.  It’s working well.

Jeans front a w RSR

For the next fix, I want to mask the stained sides, where I’ve wiped my hands way too many times.  I’ve removed a pocket, which shows what color the fabric used to be.  Jeans side a w RSR

I’ll put the pocket back on, but maybe not in the same spot.

Pocket - RSR

My mom used these iron-on patches on my brother’s jeans all the time when we were little.  They didn’t last that long on little boys’ jeans.  The patch edges would start lifting, and then the patches could be peeled off.  I might find a way to use these on my jeans. Patches - RSR

The patchwork will be a continuous work in progress.  There are more places to repair now or soon, and as I wear the jeans, they will keep developing new areas to be patched.

Jeans knees a w RSR

Hopefully the jeans will keep looking better as I add to them, so that someday they warrant showing in another post.

Not a blue jeans song, because this creative process is about thinking outside the lines and beyond the obvious.

 

 

Slim Aarons–what I’ve been watching

More sewing inspiration this week came by way of this hour-long documentary on photographer Slim Aarons.  What caught my eye first, were the colorful ‘everyday’ dresses and the lighting.

Slim Aaron orange people a

The trailer for Slim Aarons; The High Life:

Slim’s former assistants were interviewed in the documentary.  They were lovely and poised, and told good stories.  “We’re waiting for clouds.”  I’ll remember that one.  In listening to his assistants tell about the photos, I fell in love with the fact that minimal makeup and staging was involved.   The subjects were mostly rich, privileged, and often famous, but the settings relaxed and the smiles were natural.

The documentary only lasts an hour, but that was just the start for me.  After the documentary, I spent an absurd amount of time perusing the Getty photos website, where Slim’s archive is available for viewing and prints for purchase.

A few of the many images that grabbed me, for their nostalgia or for sewing inspiration, or both:

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Don’t recognize anyone in the slide show above?  Then try these:

Slim had a repeat theme of hammocks, and furry boots.  I love both.

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These next few really triggered my creative impulses:

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Slim Aarons skier
The outfit!

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Slim Aarons Dublin Horse Show 1968 a
Plaid coat!

Slim’s use of light was distinctive.  Several of his snowy scenes reminded me of the movie, Grand Budapest Hotel.  (Love that movie!)  This picture is an example:

Slim Aarons Swiss hotel

The documentary is in the Amazon Prime Video collection.  Link to the documentary: https://smile.amazon.com/Slim-Aarons/dp/B07CJSTXD4

But no Prime, no problem.  The full documentary is available on YouTube:

Slim would have celebrated his 100th birthday in October 2016.  That month, Getty released this 1-minute video of 100 of his images.

As mentioned above, Getty purchased Slim’s entire archive, and displays the collection beautifully here:  https://www.photos.com/slim-aarons

There is a collection of coffee table books of Slim’s photos. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0810946033

Slim Aarons coffee table book

Slim’s Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slim_Aarons

Another lover of photographs:

Dior and I–what I’ve been watching

This 2014 documentary chronicled the first 8-weeks that menswear designer Raf Simons served as the new Creative Director for Christian Dior.  In those 8 weeks back in 2012, he was tasked with designing, producing and showing his first women’s Dior collection.  Staff introductions at Dior were quick, and then everyone went to work.  The 8 weeks can be summed up as:  Artist drapes fabric on a model; amazing skilled craftsmen (both men and women) read his mind and make an entire collection happen.  There was scolding by Raf, followed by flowers.  The collection came together due to the amazing skill and dedication of the inhouse craftsmen.  Long hours were involved…for the craftsmen.

The unveiling of the collection before an audience of fashion critics and influencers, was the climax of the documentary.  In the minutes before the show, Raf sat at a table on a balcony and cried with fear and self doubt to a friend, as the staff was scurrying around to make the show happen.  Before the show, he had informed his organizers that he was too shy to take to the runway at the end of the show and be acknowledged by the audience.  He flat refused to appear before the audience.

The venue for the show was an old vacant mansion.  Here is a model approaching the audience-filled showroom, while in the background, the next model is ascending the stairs.

Model approaching

Raf’s vision was to cover all of the walls of the showrooms in fresh flowers.  The aroma must have been overpowering.

The scene moved to the showroom, where the guests were all seated and the fashion show was underway.  There sitting in the middle of my TV screen was Harvey Weinstein, flanked by young beautiful blonde women.  His presence was sickening.  His leer was gag inducing.

Weinstein

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Before the show was over, and while the procession of models was still underway, the Raf who was ‘too shy to appear on the runway and be acknowledged’, darted onto the runway between models, and did a runway stroll, soaking in the crowd’s adoration.  What an ending.

Taking my thoughts back to Dior HQ for a moment.  What the craftsmen and craftswomen did to create garments and an entire collection, from the vague, rough drawings and drapings by the ‘creative director’, was simply unbelievable.  I’d love to meet them and visit them at work.  It was truly fascinating.  For this, I recommend the documentary.

The documentary was filmed in 2012, when Raf was initially hired by the Dior company. Less than three years later, Raf had moved on, to the label bearing Calvin Klein’s name but now owned by another corporation.

Movie website: http://www.diorandimovie.com/

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3539664/ 

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dior_and_I

DIY Front Door Awning

An awning was not what I planned to sew this week, but the fabric on the existing one gave out.

The backstory:  Two years ago, my brother helped me enclose my front porch, which I love, but it left no cover for someone standing at my front door.  It also made the front of my house very plain looking.  I went shopping for an awning online.  It looked like I’d be spending $500-$1000 for an awning just for my entry door, and I wasn’t sure the dimensions would be right.  Enter thoughts of a DIY project.

Some quick online research showed that my idea of making an awning frame out of PVC pipe had merit.  I found some great examples and advice, such as this one on the Instructables website.  My brother had mentioned that awnings with a 45° angle seemed to be the sturdiest, so that’s what I started designing.

The frame needed to be secure on the exterior while giving the entry door room to swing open and closed.  It took one do-over to get the frame dimensions right.  When I was installing the frame to the house, a neighbor guy saw me on the ladder wrestling with the frame, and came over to help.  Many thanks to him, for making the job a lot easier with a team of two.

Here is the frame complete and installed over the doorway, attached to the exterior with galvanized pipe strapping and deck screws.

Awning frame1 w

Awning frame2 w

Next step was to design and sew the fabric awning.  I chose a pvc-lined canvas fabric from Walmart.  It was $5/yard.  I don’t have a product link to share, because it doesn’t appear to be offered on their website.  The woven fabric was super easy to cut and sew.  The fabric is more brittle than I wanted, but it is waterproof, and I was willing to give it a try for the first one.  I fastened the fabric awning to the frame with velcro strips.

Amazingly, the first awning withstood every bit of wind, rain, snow, ice and hail we had here in south-central Kansas for the past year and a half.  But this month, the fabric failed.  The awning frame is as secure as the day I installed it.  But the fabric now literally tears like paper, and started falling apart.

While I shop for a more durable fabric, I’ve made a quick replacement from more of the Walmart fabric.   It should last another year at least, while I try to perfect the next choice of fabric and tweak the construction.

The process:

This awning takes three pieces of fabric:

  • A 48 x 48 inch square, for the top piece
  • Two triangular pieces, each 30 x 40 x 43 x 4 inches, for the awning sides.  (These two pieces need to be mirror images.)

After cutting out my fabric pieces, I turned under the fabric edges 1/2″ and hemmed it for a finished look.  

Awning fabric PVC side w

Velcro tabs are sewn onto the awning to anchor it to the frame.  

Underneath view w

The top piece is tacked to the side triangles in four places on each side, rather than sewing the entire sides together.  That is intended to make it less susceptible to wind, by leaving vents for wind to get through.

This picture shows how the top overlaps the side about two inches, hiding the ‘vents’.  

Awning side w

To tack those top edges down so they don’t stick out on the sides so much, I used a Buttoneer.  Remember those TV commercials from the 70s?

The Buttoneer is still sold, and mine has been an amazingly useful gadget.  The Amazon reviews give it 2/5 stars, and some reviewers say it’s not the quality of the original ones.  If so, that’s disappointing indeed.  I’ve had mine for years, and wouldn’t want to be without it.

Buttoneer

Initially, the front awning hem was not hanging quite straight.  Annoying, but a quick fix, again using the Buttoneer.

Awning front before straighten w

Here is the awning after using the Buttoneer to tack down the sides and straighten the front.  

Awning tacked w

Materials used:

  • PVC pipe
  • PVC primer and cement
  • Pipe strapping
  • Deck/siding screws
  • Outdoor waterproof fabric (2.5 yds of 60 inch wide fabric) to make the top and two side triangles.
  • Velcro

The total cost of the awning materials was about $25.  Compare that to the purchased awning prices I was seeing, in the $500-$1000 range.

Final thoughts on this awning.

  • The first awning I made was light colored, so the PVC frame was not conspicuous.  From the angle of someone on the street, it still doesn’t show under the new dark green fabric.  But if you are up close enough to see under the awning, it really stands out against the dark fabric.  I’m thinking of painting the PVC a dark color.
  • I’d like to add a more attractive bottom edge to the awning.  I’m plotting and scheming for what that should look like.

In the meantime, anyone who comes to my door (me included) has a bit of shelter.

 

This is what the inside of an electric blanket looks like

The middle of the blanket wasn’t getting warm, but the sides were really warm.  The possibility of a short in the wiring concerned me, so I decided to investigate.

With my seam ripper, I opened the end of the blanket opposite the plug.  Turns out the heating element wires are sewn to a piece of non-woven interfacing, that is then sewn into the side seams of the blanket.  The problem was that the interfacing had ripped in half down the middle.  The two halves moved apart and started bunching at the sides.

Here is what it looked like when I turned it inside out and started rearranging the wires in the middle.  What a mess.  While arranging them, I looked them over for damage or deterioration.  Everything looked fine.

Ripped webbing w

Once I had the wires spread out, I used some black #3 crochet cotton from my stash, to make anchor stitches to hold the wires in place.  I stitched through one side of the blanket, since it was futile to try stitching the interfacing back together.

anchor stitches w

The stitching went quickly, thanks to my super useful long doll needle.

Doll needle w

When I had enough stitches to keep the wires distributed across the blanket, I tied a knot, and turned the blanket right side out again.  Amazingly, the little black stitches barely show on the blue-gray pile:

Closeup of stitches w arrows w

I used a big running stitch to close the blanket back up temporarily, in case I need to open it up and make more adjustments.

hem stitches w

Here’s a shot of the whole blanket.  It’s a super soft minky-type fabric.

Finished blanket w

So far, the fix is working out nicely.  I’m having to share the blanket with the foster pup, but that’s mostly working out, too.

Myrtle blanket w

I’m one of those people who is cold all the time, so electric blankets are pretty nice to keep around.



Welcome to my new blog layout.  It was time for a change.  For now, it’s a slight shock every time I see the bigger text and photos.  I’ll be tweaking a few more things until it’s the way I want it.  Ultimately, I hope it gives a better reading and viewing experience.



 

A dress to match the cuffs.

“Don’t buy a suit to match your tie,” is a proverb that has served me very well… except when it should be ignored, such as with this project.  It started with a picture of knit+crochet cuffs I saw online, which led me to grab knitting needles and some cotton yarn from my stash, and experiment with the design.  Soon I had a set of cuffs I loved, with nothing to put them on.

Cuffs RSR

So, with cuffs in hand and no plan except that I might like them on a dress, I went fabric shopping, and came home with this lightweight rayon plaid:

Fabric RSR

For a pattern, I decided on the “Coco dress” from Tilly and the Buttons.  The dress has simple, basic lines; is fast to construct; and worked well for me on a prior dress.

Coco-cover_grande

I sewed the dress and attached the cuffs before deciding what to do with the neckline.  At that point, the answer was obvious–make a collar to match the cuffs.

Collar RSR

The finished dress:  Tada!

Dress on form2 RSR

I’ve now worn the dress once, and am quite happy with it.  Here are a few thoughts on the dress and fabric:

  • The A-line skirt makes the dress bicycle-friendly.
  • The cotton cuffs and collar, and lightweight rayon make a very comfortable dress.
  • The lightweight fabric makes the dress fit easily under a blazer when called for at work, or under a jacket for chilly Fall mornings and evenings.
  • The weight of the dress feels quirky on the hanger because the fabric is lightweight and flowy, while the cuffs and collar are weightier cotton.  The weight disparity isn’t evident when the dress is being worn.
  • The rayon fabric is not very durable.  It will be susceptible to snags.  The edges of the fabric fray profusely, so I had to finish all of the edges first thing.
  • About that plaid.  I should have had my head examined for buying flimsy fabric with a plaid that had to be matched.  Eventually, I figured out a method that mostly worked, but not before several frustrated do-overs.  Marking a straight hem was a bear, too, because of the shifty fabric and the plaid.

A few more views:

The back neck closure was finished with two self-fabric covered buttons and crochet button hole loops.

IMG_20181021_105538520a

The horizontal plaid matching.

Match stripes 2

Hall mirror selfie.

IMG_20181021_175030488a RSR

Project Details: