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The Great Northwest and Sew Expo

I left the cold wintry northeast for the slightly more mild northwest. Destination, Seattle Washington, Puyallup Washington, Mt. Rainier, and Portland, Oregon.

First of all, like many of you, I have no fabric stores locally that offer a wide selection of quality garment or fashion fabrics, and those that do offer a limited selection, and charge a premium. So, the thought of attending a large sewing expo was thrilling. I had attended the Worcester, Ma expo which paled in comparison to the Puyallup sew expo. The parking was very accessible. The crowds were excited but pleasant. The vendors were excellent, splitting evenly between quilting and general sewing. I attended a couple of the lectures. Organization and facilities were good. I spent a long day, covering all the vendors twice. I did the expo in one long day. Highlight of the show was when Coni Crowford personally measured my high bust, which I found out was 2″ smaller than I thought. I bought my first regular size pattern in decades (non plus sized). Hurrah to me and my new healthy lifestyle.

We then headed to Mt. Rainier for a stay at National Park Inn at the Longmire entrance. First day was gray and snowy with no views of peaks or high country. The weather forecast was not promising, so we had planned an early departure the next morning. But, fortune smiled upon us, and the sun shined and for brief times we could see the mountain top. So awesome. We traveled up to Paradise and rented snowshoes, and did a 1.3 mile trail, with amazing views of Mt. Rainier. Having not packed for snowshoeing we layered on the clothes we had. This was also the debut of my new twill pants, with two pairs of leggings layered underneath for warmth. We looked like vagabonds, but it was a blast. We dined at Copper Creek Inn Restaurant on the outside of park, a bit expensive but worth every penny, as the food and service were both great.

We then headed to Portland, Oregon. It was a long boring drive. We saw way too much of Route 5 this trip. We visited three places in Portland. The first stop was Fabric Depot. The entire store was on sale for 25% off. Wonderful selection of quilting fabrics, and fair selection of fashion fabrics. I was a bit shell shocked by prices of the fabric, and many of the offerings were dry clean only, or hand wash. If I am going to pay $$$ for fabric for a garment, I want to be confident that it will hold together. I ended up with some really funky denim. I also bought some sashiko thread and zippers for future pants.

The second stop was my all time favorite. The Mill End store in Milwaukie, Oregon. Absolutely fabulous. They had a good selection of tencel, ponte knit, scuba knit, and linen. The linen was 25% off already great prices. I left there with a large amount of fabric, and then needed to purchase another suitcase. A quick stop at Goodwill, and we found a nice suitcase for my fabric purchases. Luckily, Southwest allows up to two bags per person. That was much cheaper than mailing all my fabric purchases home. Just a note, the Goodwill stores out west are much much cleaner and well organized than any I have visited in the northeast, and I am regular thrift shopper.

The Pendleton wool outlet is very close to Mill End store, and worth a stop. I picked up a few small items but in general, there was not much to tempt me. Living just 30 minutes from the Dorr Mill Store has spoiled me for great wool selection and prices. This was my last stop of the day, and I was exhausted.

The final day we stopped by Pacific Fabric in Seattle. I bought some more funky denim, and a lovely shirting from their bargain table. At some point I went to ask my husband’s opinion on a fabric, only, to find I had approached a complete stranger instead. At that same moment, my husband was unknowingly snapping a photo of the store. How embarrassing! But the gentleman said he liked the fabric, so I bought it.

I have much work ahead of me and I am looking forward to every moment. Total yardage purchased just under 40 yards. Yikes!

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Photo Gallery of Recent Makes

A collection of recent makes. Most of these require either grading between multiple sizes, or grading beyond the largest size offered on the pattern. There is even one self drafted pattern done using drape methods.

Self drafted shirt pattern, using draping method, with the help of David Coffin’s sew along on facebook. This first is made in a lovely rich brown lightweight linen. The second is made in medium weight linen, which is buttery soft in both color and comfort.

This is my Burda 6714 10 gore skirt, which has a lovely drape. I modified slightly by skipping the elastic and putting in a fixed waist. Done in a swishy light washable wool. Love it! Displayed on my dress form.

Petite Plus Patterns, Flared Skirts by Kathleen Cheetham. This required grading up a bit beyond the largest size waist and hip measurements offered by the pattern. I love the look, and feel of this skirt, and the pockets are both functional and a flattering design choice.

Tina Givens, Maria Tunic which required grading XL bust to 2X waist and hips. I adore Tina Givens designs, and lagenlok apparel. This is my latest attempt. I was swimming in my first attempt, but managed to refine it. So comfortable and flattering in a soft medium weight linen. The bell sleeves make me feel feminine and dressy.


Sure Fit Designs – pants pattern, with fly front, side pockets, and fitted waist band. Pants have been a struggle for me. I have a challenging crotch curve, with large abdomin and large buttocks. I finally have comfortable pants for both sitting and standing. These are made in a soft gray brushed cotton twill with elastic in back waistband for added comfort.

Callie’s Nightgown from Everything your Momma Made. This is a fast and easy make. I tweaked pattern a bit, by closing up the neckline. I also had to draft 1x bust to 3x sleeves and waist and hips. So dreamy to sleep in on cold winter nights.

Daisy tunic from Style Arc. I tweaked the neck and shoulders for a better fit. I made the sleeveless version in a cool light blue cotton perfect for hot summer days. The second make was long sleeve in pink medium weight linen, perfect over pair of leggings.

Chamelon Weekender Dress by Hot Patterns. This jimper can be worn solo, or with a little something under making it multi-seasonal. I love wearing this on errand days.

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Well, there comes a time in every quilters life when you find yourself, buried in quilts. This past year I recently downsized and moved and found I had about 3 times as many quilts as I could ever need or store. I have been funneling my efforts more and more into fashion or garment sewing. Pants have eluded me. But, this month, I finally managed to put together a comfortable nice fitting pair of pants, with pockets and a fly front.

Being a short obese older woman, has made finding comfortable fitting pants difficult. I spend much of my time in stretch knit pants when I am home, and in skirts and dresses when I travel out. Ready to wear just does not come close enough to my unique shape. Being from the northeast, I miss the warmth of pants in the winter most of all. So, I started my quest for perfect pants pattern.

I tried several published pants patterns, by the Big 4 pattern companies, and several independent pattern companies, trying to use only patterns that included my waist and hip measurements. But, nothing fit and looked quite right, until I used the Sure Fit Designs system and drafted my own pants pattern. My first muslin was very very close, and my second muslin was wearable.

For the gory details, my measurements are 45″ waist, 55″ high and low high hip, 5’4″ tall, with short inseam, and a very challenging crotch curve. I am intermediate sewist, and this was my very first fly front. I am planning on making my next pair in blue gray twill, and my third pair in a lovely black linen. The thought of comfortable pants in cool and attractive material has me over the moon.

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Lagenlook Wardrobe Sew-A-Long

The Sew-A-Longs & Sewing Contests Facebook group has been a constant source of inspiration for me, for the past few months. In January I spent a month, drafting a pattern for a well fitted shirt from scratch. Although I have been reading, watching you tube videos, and taking Craftsy classes, the monthly sew-a-long offered in January was a must do for me. I love the deadline, and David Coffin, was hosting the event, giving feedback and expertise throughout the month. I ended up with a pretty nice shirt. Even more importantly, a pattern which fits me perfectly, and now I have the knowledge needed to transform it into many different items. It has been a very long time since I have had such an empowering and satisfying experience.

Next up for me is a four month long Sew-A-Long which consists of a themed wardrobe containing 8 pieces to be completed between February and May. Details can be found on the group’s Facebook page. So, three weeks in and I was still struggling to put together my game plan. And then it occurred to me, I do not want just a new wardrobe, I want a makeover. I am petite, plus size pear shaped 50+ gray haired old lady. I have never planned a wardrobe in my lifetime. Clothes shopping consisted of finding the correct combination of colors, textures, price, value, and ease of care. Fit was never great for me, so I gave up and tolerated what ready to wear had to offer. I settled for over-sized tops, to fit my over-sized waist, hips, and butt. Shapeless pants that never seem to find my waist, while clinging to my hips and thighs and pooling on the floor. They do not make a pair of pants, stretch or otherwise that does not need multiple adjustments just to make them wearable, forget about comfort and fit. Needless to say clothes and fashion were never an area that interested me, and to be honest it showed. David Coffin started his shirt sew-a-long posing the question; do you remember a favorite shirt? I did. It was a cream colored linen shirt. I loved how I felt when I wore it. It was retired when the kids came along due to its impracticality, and finally lost over the years, I remembered how it felt to look in my closet, and see that shirt, and slip it on, and wear it all day. It just made my day better. That is what I wanted for my new wardrobe. I wanted to open the closet door, and feel the excitement, and pleasure that comes with wearing something you truly treasure. No one manufactures these clothes. I cannot afford to have someone else design and make them for me.

So here goes, my Sew-A-Long Seasonal Wardrobe, is about bringing excitement and pleasure back to clothing for me. Again I turned to the internet to find the styles that I could get excited to wear. That is when I discovered Lagenlook. It is a German word, which means a layered look, and it has been a popular look in Europe for some time. To me it is both comfortable and stylish. Layering allows you to mix and match and be creative each time you go to put an outfit together. Now, I was truly getting excited. I still face challenges. My size and shape force me to give extra consideration when choosing items to avoid many common pitfalls. But for the first time, I thought I could open my closet and really like what I saw. What a way to start each day!

Here is what I decided to do for my eight pieces.
1. Structured pair of pants. I have narrowed this down to two patterns. Vogue 8499 by Marci Tilton. Will need considerable re-sizing. Second choice is Burda 7400. Using Linen.
2. Structured skirt – Vogue 8499 by Marci Tilton. Will need considerable re-sizing.
3. Jumper – Still looking for a pattern for this… I want inverted curved seam at bust heading down toward waist, then with hi lo hem mid-calf length. Loose and light so it is easy to layer.
4. Short Cardigan – Simplicity 2183 or McCall’s M6845
5. Boxy Short Jacket – Still choosing between Burda 8108 or Kathleen Chatham’s Jacket pattern found in Singer’s Perfect Plus book or A Little Something Jacket by CNT Pattern Co.
6. Long flowy vest – Choosing between three options: sleeveless version of my self-drafted shirt with, larger arm holes, or McCalls M6084, or Vogue V1375
7. Dress – Inverted rounded seam from breast to waist, shaped hem, or Hot Patterns 1179 Weekender Chameleon Dress
8. Tunic(s) – Multiple lengths – shaped hems. Style Arc Daisy Designer Tunic, Burda 6786,
Extra Credit
9. Short loose vest – wool or linen in McCall’s 2260

Will probably purchase Knit tee shirts for layering, Leggings, Scarves, Pair of shoes – flat, comfortable, all weather. I am not a feminine person in general. Hate make up, and frilly, or fancy stuff, but who knows before this is over I may even buy a necklace.

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Quilter’s Academy – Masters Year

The “My Story” quilt that I made in 2001.  This quilt is referred to as the inspiration for one of the quilts in “Quilter’s Academy Vol. 5 – Masters Year” by Harriet Hargrave and Carrie Hargrave-Jones.

Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:  “Pattern: Medallion Quilt – “My Story” Dimensions: Queen – 92″ x 92″

This quilt is about our new log home in the mountains. Each section of it relates to some aspect of the location. The blocks from the center out are: log cabin, filtered view of the lake through the pine trees, flying geese, deer and moose tracks, my expanded version of delectable mountains, and finally bear paws. The quilt is machine pieced, with the four seasons cornerstone blocks hand appliqued. Several of the blocks used are my versions of traditional blocks. The quilt was then machine quilted. This quilt was started in July 2001 and completed early December 2001. There are 4290 pieces in this quilt. It is one of my most favorites.

Click on the pictures for larger views!

MyStory quilt

Corner block detail for MyStory quilt

Corner block detail for My Story quilt

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Take it Slow…


Well, I have almost completed, my second attempt at the knit tunic. I hand basted the sleeve and bottom hems, and the neckline. I need to thread the cover stitch machine and I am good to go. I know that many people pin or simply fold the hem, and use the seam guide to sew. Although faster, this has led to good but not great consistent results. I think about the cost of materials, my time, and the fact that I will be wearing this garment for hopefully a long time. I want the hems as straight and neat as I can make them. Also, sewing a pinned garment is tricky, you know either you are going to get stuck, or the needle may make contact with a pin, or both. Hand basting allows you to concentrate on sewing a good seam, without distractions. Be sure to hand baste close but not too close to seam to allow quick removal. I also recommend using a basting thread, which tangles much less than threads used for machine sewing.

For my second project, I drafted a pattern from a ready to wear jumper that I love but that is too large for me. I painstakingly placed the pattern paper over the top of each piece in the jumper, and pressed along the edges. I lifted the pattern paper, trued up the seams, and added the necessary seam allowances. I then compared all adjacent seams to verify they would align during construction. I put on the original garment, and pinned the adjustments needed for a better fit. I made these adjustments to the pattern pieces and verified the adjacent seams were still compatible. I selected a nice corduroy, similar to original garment and cut it out. I contemplated the steps needed to construct this garment. Studying the garment itself, and referring to patterns I had on hand, I formulated a plan. The garment went together fairly well, with only a few detours. As I sewed, I would stop and try it on, to test the fit, and make adjustments if needed. Always be sure to make same adjustments to pattern pieces for future use. This garment included a front zipper, inverted box pleats, pockets, a collar, and a facing. I took it slow, I relied on hand basting to verify the steps prior to machine sewing, eliminating the need to pick stitches as well as making the machine sewing much more manageable. The results were very good. I noted my process, on the pattern pieces. I will definitely be making this garment again, and next time the finished results will be better, but for now I have a very nice jumper, in a fabric and a color of my choice that fits me. Wearing a garment that fits, and is in the color and fabric of your choice is a great feeling, well worth the time to take it slow, and take the extra steps of hand basting and test fitting.


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Baby steps…

Reorganized, or more accurately inventoried my garment material. I then took stock of my patterns. After careful study, I narrowed it down, to a knit pattern with raglan sleeves. I started with my least favorie color and cheapest knit interlock, deep purple. I adjusted the pattern to fit my small busted, but ample bottom pear shape. The sleeves needed the most adjustment, having huge upper arms. I fiddled with it, making adjustments while being careful to maintain the adjoining seams. Proceeded to cut it out using the most fabric. Wasteful. I hate that. I serged the front, back, and arms together. Should have basted, first. Tried it on inside out. Neckline was too wide. I like my necklines tighter, to keep the drafts out in winter. The sleeves were 3 inches too long. There was extra fabric along the seam running from shoulder to arm pit both front and back. Pinned the seams tight enough to remove extra fabric, but still maintaining necessary wear ease. Serged the seam adjustments, trimmed sleeves, added collar. Coverstiched the neck, bottom hem, and sleeve hems. Looking back, I wish I had coverstitched the sleeve seams before installing the collar. The garment would lie better, but overall I have a wearable tunic. The color grew on me too! I transferred my alterations to my pattern pieces, and I am going to make a second tunic. When I am satisfied with the tunic, I will lengthen to a full length knit dress, which was my original goal. Something truly comfortable, that I could layer with jackets, vests, and scarves to dress it up.

After thoughts… Raglan sleeves are easier to install. Using contrast color for sleeves, introduces a set of slimming diagonals to the garment. Top thread should be darker rather than lighter shade of fabric. Top stitch sleeve seams for smoother finished look.

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Where to begin…

I am a retired computer professional, mother of two genius, self sufficient kids, wife to the best guy on the planet (there is no debate!), caretaker for two aging German Shepherds, lover of nature, and an OBSESSED sewer. For decades I squeezed in quilting, Halloween costumes, and home decor projects around my family obligations and jobs. Over the past couple of years I have branched out into garment making, and accessories such as bags and hats. Most of all I love fabrics, of all kinds. I love trims, and patterns, threads, and sewing notions and gadgets. My sewing area keeps expanding, and although it is in the basement of our lovely log cabin, it has expanded to fill almost every square inch of our basement. I love the challenge of design. The internet has brought the world to my finger tips, which is good because I live in the middle of nowhere. So I have it all. I have time, space, equipment, materials, and desire. Let’s see where this takes me.