Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Leopard Brocade Coat

Hey! It's Shams from Communing with Fabric with a project made from a stunning Britex fabric. For this project I selected a fabric from the Novelty category, Smoke Striped Leopard Smooth Brocade:

This reversible brocade leopard print from Italy is truly a stunning fabric. I wanted to make a coat and quickly settled on Butterick 6385, a Lisette pattern. I made this coat once before for my Paris wardrobe and I have loved wearing that coat.

Besides the beautiful brocade, the coat is lined with black stretch silk charmeuse, and the edges are bound with black stretch silk twill. It closes with covered snaps, though the outer coat features decorative Britex buttons.

In late October, I was headed off to a creative sewing retreat organized by Diane Ericson, Design Outside the Lines. The fall retreat that I attended, held in Ashland, featured coats as a theme. The guest co-teacher was Kathryn Brenne, who designs patterns for Vogue and has her own couture sewing school.

Kathryn encouraged me to use a variety of couture techniques, some that I hadn't used since taking tailoring back in the 80s, and some that were new to me. For example, I made shoulder pads and sleeve heads using wool fleece, used Kathryn's no-bulk side seam pockets, and made covered snaps (the snaps on the coat are covered with the brocade, and the snaps on the facing are covered with silk twill). I set the lining by hand, and finished the bias trim by hand.

Kathryn demonstrating her no-bulk side seam pocket using my coat.

Britex button on the left and a covered snap on the right.

Kathryn setting my sleeve or, as she calls it, "introducing the sleeve to the coat" on the mannequin...

...and on me

In my size, this coat calls for 3-1/8 yards of fabric and that doesn't inlude extra for pattern matching. I had 3 yards and wanted to use the print symmetrically. I was able to squeeze it out by cutting each pattern piece singly—no cutting while doubled. I used both sides of the gorgeous fabric—most of the coat uses the darker side of the fabric, while the inner and outer collars, the front facings, and the back yoke use the more silvery side.

Thanks to Britex for the beautiful brocade. I purchased all other supplies.

I just returned from Japan earlier today. One of my more notable souvenirs from the trip, two shattered finger tips with a deep cut to the bone through one fingernail, makes typing a challenge. After hours in a Tokyo ER, an orthopedic surgeon stitched up my fingernail and the nail bed (where the nail is missing) using a mallet and lots of local anesthesia. Nevertheless, I made many posts to Instagram and Facebook. I probably won't repost them here, though I may create a list of links to the relevant posts on Instagram.

Despite my mishap within one hour of landing in Japan, it was the trip of a lifetime—a complete dream. But I don't know how soon I will be able to sew again or, indeed, type normally. (I use my right hand as normal, but I have to hunt and peck with the ring finger of my left hand.)

I am left handed, so this is particularly challenging.

I return to work tomorrow. Have a great week!

Join me on Not Dead Yet's Visible Monday!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Japan Prep, DOL Ashland 2017, and More!

Margy and I in Ashland


So... basically I planned to write a "Preparing for Japan" post, and that's it. Next thing I knew, I was writing a massive post on DOL. I apologize for the extreme length but, basically, this is an Accidental Post.

Preparing for Japan

I've been planning a visit to Japan for many months. I wanted to share a few tips I've learned, in case you make a similar journey. (Note, I will be updating these tips, to keep them in one place.)

Everyone asks me which tour I'm taking. I'm not taking a tour! I've planned my own trip. I will spend most of my time in Kyoto, taking day trips from there. I'm also spending some time in Tokyo. My itinerary fills me with joy—since I'm traveling alone, I need only to please myself! I should add that I'm flying in and out of Tokyo with friends, then we go our separate ways (though we may meet up for lunch at Google Tokyo). So at least I can lob spitballs at their heads during our 11-hour flight. I found a convenient hotel near the train station for that first night, so we all booked it. It will be easy to get outta town on the bullet train the next day.

I've been wanting to visit Japan since I was 11. I don't know why it took me so long, though I am not a fan of Japanese food, so maybe that's part of the reason. I am a huge fan of Japanese culture and aesthetic sensibility. If I had a bucket list, which I don't, seeing Kyoto in the fall would be at the top of the list.

  • I purchased a Japan Rail Pass. This can save you money, but must be purchased before you leave for Japan—it is physically mailed to your non-Japanese address. Their website has a page to help you evaluate whether it makes sense for you. It's definitely saving me money. My rail pass cost $405 for 14 days.
  • I pre-ordered a portable wifi device. Wifi can be spotty in Japan, based on the experiences of numerous friends. Some hotels/Airbnbs provide a free portable wifi, but I ordered one to be delivered to my hotel the first night. You can also pick it up from the airport, but the airport railway office closes for the night, and I'm landing late in the day. If my plane is delayed, the office might be closed. Use the https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/services/pocket-wifi link to pre-order wifi. The jrpass.com/mobile_wifi link cost $20 more for the same dates, and had to be picked up at the airport. The link I used (the first one) delivers to an address in Japan for free. It cost me $79 to rent a device for 2 weeks, instead of the $97 offered by the second link.
  • Many businesses in Japan accept only cash, so you will burn through money. A good place to get cash is at a 7/11, which are plentiful, I'm told. I also purchased yen ahead of time here in San Francisco because I don't want to be scrambling for yen when I land late in the day, suffering from jetlag.
  • Many people in Japan don't speak English and I certainly don't speak Japanese. My friend Kathy (who is flying with me!) found some great phrase books at Kinokuniya, but I found my copies online. These "point-and-speak" books will be very useful! Let me give you a sampling from each. First, the general language book:
    From the food book:
  • Several people warned me not to expect hand towels in bathrooms, and to bring a package of hand wipes.

RIP, Nancy Zieman

Most of you have probably heard of the sad passing of Nancy Zieman. She was a pioneer in the field of home sewing. Many sewists of my age have seen (or been aware of) her TV show for years. She has been valiantly fighting bone cancer which was diagnosed a few years ago, and had metastasized from breast cancer.

Rest in peace, dear lady. Thanks for everything.

Britex Coat

I recently returned from a very special Design Outside the Lines retreat in Ashland, Oregon. Diane Ericson's guest teacher was Kathryn Brenne. Kathryn specializes in couture sewing, which was a fun juxtaposition to Diane's free, artistic approach. Both women are creative, but in different ways. Here are some pics from our week in Ashland. While there, I shared photos to Instagram, but you'll find more below.

My project for the retreat was a coat made from a gorgeous brocade from Britex (which is currently on sale).

I used many couture techniques on this coat and, once I returned home, I wanted to finish it before heading off to Japan. My goal was to finish last weekend, and I worked for many hours over both days. I attached the last covered snap at 11:50pm on Sunday, so I just made it. I haven't been able to take pics yet, but I hope to soon. Meanwhile, I posted many in-progress pics to Instagram.

Only chopped up scraps remained from the coat, thanks to the pattern matching and relatively small yardage I had. I pieced some of them together to make myself a travel bag. This reversible fabric is truly stunning.

Stay tuned for an actual blog post of the coat!

DOL Ashland 2017

Ashland DOL was so special, the more so because Margy came. She flew to San Francisco and we drove together to Ashland. (ROAD TRIP!) In fact, attending DOL was her idea. There were lots of friends I'd already met, and friends I only knew from the internet. It was so fabulous to see all of them in person!

Without further ado, here is a sampling from my hundreds of photos!

I got a haircut!

Crystal, a DOL attendee and friend of Diane's who lives in Ashland, is also a stylist. She cut hair for several of us. Can you imagine a more magical setting for a haircut?! It also meant I couldn't see what she was doing until it was done, but I trusted her completely.

Check out Crystal's tool belt!

Gayle captures the moment I see my haircut. I love it!

With Gayle (who had just gotten her hair cut, too) and Crystal

I bought a hat! And, gee, you can see I really needed that haircut.

I met Wendy of West Zen Studio! I also saw Debra, her BSF (who I got set up on Instagram), again!

Gayle, of Gayle Ortiz, is positively glowing!

We've just arrived in Ashland, but Margy knows how to relax and soak up the atmosphere!

Look who welcomed us!

So good to see Diane Ericson again!

I was shopping at Lithia Park Shoes for some boots. No sooner had Margy sat down when this happened. Meet Athos, who is happy to share his orange fur.

I was thrilled to meet the uber stylish Leslie Gelber (who I "knew" through Instagram). Here she is with Crystal, hair stylist extraordinaire.

There is so much creativity in this spot, I'm surprised they didn't burn through the floor. Left to right: Debra, Leslie, Diane, and Gwen

Who knew Margy likes to photobomb?! With Wendy and Debra

One of the stylish Karen's, Karen T, is wearing a knotted necklace that she made from strips of red jersey knit. Ginny sits behind her.

Debra repurposes suit sleeves into these cute bags. I'm modeling it in the second pic.

Several of us tried on Kathryn Brenne's hat made from felted wool. I think it flatters everyone! Top row, me and Claire. Middle row, Marta and Roni. Bottom row, Wendy

Karen G and Margy

Diane and Karen T

Sherri and Marta

It was SO great to see Claire again! She made this top from a kimono. (She had some good tips about my trip to Japan.)

Karen G and I have a mutual friend in San Francisco who doesn't sew! Check out Karen's adorable floral boots!

Guess who surprised us by dropping in! Marcy and Katherine Tilton just happened to be in the area. Here is Marcy with Kathryn Brenne.

Kathryn Brenne and Katherine Tilton had never met before. (Why are there so many spellings of Catherine?) Left to right: Marcy, Katherine, and Kathryn

So good to see Katherine again!

Very special! (And thanks to Roni for this pic!)

Gayle is wearing a gorgeous vest she made at a previous DOL.

And here's the back.

This pic of Gwen and Margy makes me smile. We were headed to one of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots, Hither.

This shawl is one of Gwen's ongoing projects. She sews pebbles to it, in some cases to cover moth holes. Gwen is recently retired, so I'm expecting to see an uptick in her wonderful creative projects!

It was so good to see Kathryn again! I'll be joining her tour in London next spring.

Debra found some earrings at Webster's that she thought Margy should buy. She didn't describe them to Margy, other than to say, "I saw some earrings at Webster's you should buy!" Margy found the right earrings. They are kind of hidden in this pic behind her hair. Oops.

Here we go! Cool, right?!

Shopping at Webster's. A yarn AND a wearable art clothing AND a jewelry store. A dangerous combo.

Webster's charming window display

Leslie is wearing an amazing coat that she made from some fabric painted by Miles Frode. It can be worn 3 ways—she is holding the bottom part that attaches to the jacket to make a full length coat. It's very clever!

I love the detail on the back of Leslie's (purchased) dress.

I love this photo of Gayle!

Kathryn helps Karen T.

Look at Leslie's amazing glasses!

Barbara, wearing a vest she made, watches Kathryn. Kathryn's fabulous capelet is just a knit rectangle, partially folded in the long direction, and closed with a buckle.

Wendy and Debra

Teaching also occurred. I liked the pieced hem on Diane's top.

A closeup of one of Diane's pieced samples.

Diane showing her fingerless gloves. I love the closures she's used on her top.

I love the removable, lattice collar!

A gorgeous coat featuring a lot of hand stitching.

Kathryn shows us her coat that features needle felting leather to wool.

Kathryn demonstrates the wraps from her latest Vogue pattern.

Kathryn demonstrates her technique of felting leather to wool.

Even sewing, Margy looks stunning! This was my view of the workroom.


With Debra

Debra made this fabulous statement necklace using scraps of a Kantha quilt.

I bought this fabric, hand painted by Miles Frode.

Wendy and Debra at closing circle. Debra collected the charms on her necklace when she visited Paris with the Tiltons.

Karen G and Barbara

Roni and I, newly shorn

I've saved best for last! Lithia Park!

Lithia Park in the fall is stunning!
I have not retouched these photos in any way.


My last pic as we left town. I like that I caught Margy climbing into the car

Edited to add: Check out Gayle's post that includes discussion about DOL!

Halloween 2017

We were busy sewing on Halloween! It was interesting to experience the day in Ashland. Those Ashland folk take Halloween seriously. They close Main street for a huge parade.

My Halloween costume

A tiny bit of the parade.

Does anyone get the reference? Can you explain it to me?

More parade

Kathryn Brenne took this pic in the hotel where DOL was held. The mother created all of these costumes for herself and her family. They came to the Ashland Springs Hotel to take their photos in front of its elegant fireplace. She was pretty dedicated to have 4 children in order to achieve the perfect Halloween costume. ;)

I watched most of the parade next to this adorable family. Mom was Cat in the Hat.

A Halloween decoration in Bloomsbury Books.

Remember the pussy bow I made for DD1's Halloween costume?

She was the Mad Hatter! (As portrayed by Johnny Depp.)

I also loaned her the spools of travel thread to make this sash belt.

Meanwhile, at Britex...

The employees at Britex compete every year for best Halloween costume. Visitors to the store vote for their favorite. I'm happy to report that Lindsey, DD1's close friend who has been working there for several weeks, won with a tribute to Carol Burnett's parody of "Gone with the Wind", "Went with the Wind". The original costume was designed by Bob Mackie.

For those not familiar, here's a 2-minute video where Carol Burnett talks about making this skit in 1976 (when I was a junior in high school... ahem). It has become a TV classic:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Holiday McCalls patterns, retreating... and other stuff

I've been preparing to attend Design Outside the Lines with Diane Ericson and Kathryn Brenne in Ashland, Oregon. I last attended two years ago when Carol Lee Shanks was the guest teacher, and I'm very much looking forward to it! My prep included taking two loads to Goodwill last weekend—I had to clear out my car for the road trip!

(And, shhhh, Margy is keeping me company on the ride!)

I have several items to talk about in this post.


Holiday McCalls 2017

The Holiday McCalls patterns came out yesterday. I wrote up a mini review on Stitcher's Guild, so I thought I'd post a slightly edited version here.

This release had some patterns I quite liked!

This would make an adorable bed jacket, and a great holiday gift! I wouldn't use this floral, though. I'd use something lush and snuggly. I might leave off the ruffle, depending on the fabric:

McCalls 7696

I like this long-line moto jacket/vest with ease in the back, by Melissa Watson for Palmer/Pletsch:

McCalls 7694

I like how this top appears to be layered, and not like the bottom was just stuck on. I would make the bottom out of chiffon or something equally flow-y, and use a more everyday fabric for the top (rather than a brocade), because I'd wear this to work AND the grocery store!

McCalls 7689

I love the lines of this jacket, with the fold back collar sewn into the bottom panel. For me, this ticks the box of something new, design wise. Instead of side-seam pockets, I'd add in-seam pockets to the horizontal seam:

McCalls 7693

It was an interesting choice to release this Kathryn Brenne pattern with McCalls, rather than Vogue. But I can see that these would be popular with the cosplay crowd, so it makes sense. What fun spats, though I'd never wear them over heels. I could see these catch on as regular wear, especially in fall/winter, over leggings. VERY FUN and a chance to play with my hardware stash:

McCalls 7706

I can't be the only one to see this vest ALL over Pinterest. I, myself, have pinned it. The original was by J.Crew. How smart of McCalls to make a pattern for it:

McCalls 7695

How cute is this hoodie with the ruched sleeves? I'd wear the dress as a tunic, made with a shorter drawstring so it wouldn't run into my boobs.

McCalls 7688

This design is not the most exciting or new, but I can rock this one (short and over leggings, of course). I prefer view B—much less likely for those sleeves to fall into my cereal or soup:

McCalls 7681

I quite like View F (and ONLY view F) of this top pattern. Though, come to think of it, this single girl doesn't do buttons/zippers up the back. I'd figure out an alternate closure, most likely up the front.

McCalls 7687

FabMo's Textile Art Boutique

I have talked about FabMo before. This organization saves tons of fabric samples and related materials from the landfill, by making it available to artists (or anyone interested in repurposing it). Once a year they have a sale featuring the work of those artists. Each item sold at their sale is made using at least 50% of the reclaimed materials.

One of my gifted artist friends, Luanne Seymour, has been making gorgeous pillows and bags using the rich fabrics donated to FabMo. This post highlights some of her beautiful work.

The sale is this Sunday, October 29th, at the Elks Club in Palo Alto. If you can attend, say "Hi!" to Luanne for me! (Sadly, I have conflicting plans.) It's a great opportunity to pick up some wonderful gifts for yourself, friends, and family. If you can't attend, check out Luanne's Etsy store.

Read more about the sale on the FabMo blog.

Business Cards

I've been meaning to order business cards for years, and I finally ordered some last September! Many times I've been asked for a card, but didn't have one.

I decided to order from Moo.com. They've been around a long time, had an easy-to-navigate website, and offered good choices. I didn't order many because I don't expect to use them often, and I like the idea of creating a different design each time I order.

Since I've had them, I've given one away. I often forget!

Ah well... Maybe I'll get into the habit.

Halloween Prep

Usually, I'm pretty good at saying no, but sometimes I thwart myself. DD1 was showing me her Halloween costume plans and I volunteered... volunteered... to make her a giant pussy bow. Sheesh, I have enough to do. But she tricked me by NOT ASKING ME TO MAKE IT.

She's clever and tricksy.

She bought half a yard of fabric from Britex.

I whipped up a quick pattern. The bow itself was made from an 8" by 45", interfaced strip of fabric. The ties were made from a 4" wide strip, also 45" long, or thereabouts, but not interfaced. This was one of those seat-of-my-pants operations squeezed into an already-overstuffed weekend.

At Britex, I looked for the findings I needed. I bought the clear hook, but they didn't have the figure 8 metal finding I wanted to use to make an adjustable neckband. Instead, I cut up an old black bra. I also bought a length of velvet ribbon for the neckband. (I didn't use those metal circles, also from the bra, but I saved them anyway.)

I'll share pictures of her completed costume after the Halloween parties.

Crazy Lace Stone Buttons

Last weekend I saw some gorgeous buttons on Facebook! Lucas Winter makes buttons from stones. I bought these beautiful crazy lace buttons.

Lucas seems to mostly sell his wares via Facebook, but you can also message him via Instagram.

Britex Update

And speaking of Britex...

I was walking from work to Britex today, using a different route than normal, when I stumbled upon their new location, which I only noticed because of the sign in the window.

I grabbed my camera to take a quick pic and, I kid you not, that very second the door opened and out walked Sharman (Britex owner), Dina (Britex manager), and some other folk. We all cracked up.

I'm not a stalker, really.

The great news is that their new store is next door to Gumps!

I was also in Britex last week selecting my next fabric—it's gorgeous—I plan to work on it while at DOL. While I was there, Kirby escaped the office, the little rascal... Here he is in the elevator, looking a bit chagrined at being caught.


Northern California Fires

You've probably heard of the devastating fires north of San Francisco, in and near wine country. The town of Santa Rosa, where I grew up, was particularly devastated. It appears that the home I grew up in, built by my grandfather and father, is gone, as well as my father's post-divorce house. My mother's post-divorce house seems to have escaped. These houses were no longer owned by my family (my father passed 2 years ago, and my mother many decades ago) but the devastation is very sobering. Here's an article, if you want to get an idea of the extent of the Tubbs fire.

The air quality in San Francisco and nearby areas was quite bad for several days. People were encouraged to stay inside and to avoid exercise due to the high level of toxins released by the fires. Many wore masks when out and about. I didn't have a mask, but I ordered a VogMask, which has the recommended N99 filter. I'll put it in my emergency kit for next time.

Vogmask in houndstooth.
It serves a serious purpose, but why not inject a little fashion?
(I'm blogging at night, forgive the picture quality.)

Oh, last week I published a page on how to write Hero animations for mobile. (These are also called shared element transitions.) This is hard to do on some mobile platforms so, if you are a mobile programmer (or know one), check it out. :)