Sunday, May 29, 2011

Adventures with cowl neck tops

One of my daily exercises is to go upstairs to my closet (small room next door to the sewing room) to pick out something to wear.   It's good for me to go up and down the stairs several times a day.   DH hung upper and lower rods along the walls so I have coordinates hanging in order by color group with coordinating colors next to each other.   That way all I have to do is look around and pull the pieces.    Just spending a little time with the changing of the seasons and the weather shows me what have, what I wear and what I don't, or won't and what I might want to sew to fit into the mix.     Shoes are a different story since I can't wear slides or heels right now.    I keep the faith that I will be able to wear them again.   I don't have so many shoes that I need a separate Emelda Marcos room for them.   I store them in a couple open wire stacking cubes from Target I bought years ago.   You stack them and the shoes with wide heels sit on the shelf while the ones with heels are stuck in the square holes in the wire.   Very easy to see what you have.

Yesterday I wore this cotton lawn tunic top with a big cowl neck from Anthropologie.   Those are some heavy linen crop pants I've had for years.   It took some effort for me to raise my foot like this, and keep it up,  but I did it!

I tried the tunic on during one of my snoop shopping trips to the store.  I do that to see what works for my age and body, and what doesn't.  It was an intriguing style with details I thought I'd like to copy,  so when this went on half price sale I ordered it.   The interesting thing about the cowl is that it is not cut on the bias and is about a foot high.  The cowl is actually the top of the armhole and can be worn spread out over the shoulder.   I liked the shape, the pockets and the outside casing with a drawstring to draw the waist in.   It's fun and versatile.   I wore this black eyelet NOW shirt jacket from the Sewing Workshop pattern over it for dinner on the patio last evening.
Black eyelet SW Now Shirt

CLD Pure & Simple top modified
Today will be in the 80's here and I was feeling like wearing cool orange and white.   So I pulled out this cowl neck top I sewed last year by modifying the Cutting Line Designs Pure and Simple top pattern.    Note  the nice cap sleeve on this pattern.   It fits great and after looking at these photos, thought what  a super easy dress!   Just trace/split the pattern and add inches along the lengthen/shorten pattern line - connect the lines with a French Curve.

I'm wearing it over a pair of Louise Cutting One-Seam Pants I sewed from a textured rayon herringbone fabric I bought from her at an Expo.

I love wearing orange with neutrals as well.   If you have a pink/peachy complexion like me grab some flattering bronzed coral lipcolor and wear warm oranges and corals that are very flattering around your face

This photo shows how putting a coral jacket over the light orange/white top bumps up the orange.   That is an unlined lightweight stretch Ultrasuede jacket by Doncaster from their 2002 or 03 spring collection.  I loved the color and the classic lines and neutral horn buttons that allow the jacket to coordinate nicely with beige and tan pieces.   I also bought a pair of great fitting pants from the same collection in the same color stretch Ultrasuede fabric

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another Birthday and Thanks to all for your good wishes!

Thank you Betsy for the birthday wishes.   I've always been honest about my age and what I really look like.   I got a call from Denise and my sister and a friend I used to work with in Northern VA and lots of e-mails.    We met our son and his GF for a nice birthday dinner yesterday evening.    Thanks to all of you for your sweet wishes and insightful comments.    Hoping all of you have a safe and enjoyable memorial day weekend with friends and family. 

Today was warm and DH had an appointment for a minor ailment in the afternoon, so we had lunch before and then while I waited for him, I spent the time at a high end consignment store in the same shopping center south of town.  TDF Stella McCartney, Prada,  Lilith, Armani apparel, shoes, handbags ..  all the good stuff.    I had an interesting conversation with Leslie,  who had worked for a high end apparel line in NYC before marrying into an Asheville family, and moving here.   It's so much fun talking to someone with good taste who understands fabrics, quality and construction details.  I wore this cotton Tosca Dress I made in January with a black jersey camisole underneath.   She loved it and it was perfect for the day.  I'm still wearing it this evening.

The Ballerina hybrid musk roses are blooming

I've learned that you have to take control of your own health and future because nobody else will.   Our attitude,  faith and hope is most important in dealing with whatever we are struggling with.    I will get through this.    If any of you get the Good Housekeeping Magazine, there's an interview with Michael J. Fox in the June issue.    He talks about his family and dealing with Parkinson's.     That interview was so inspirational to me and really hit home.   When such things happen your priorities change or alter.    Some people already have their priorities straight but others .....   Stuff is just stuff,  it's people who matter and how we behave and support one another.    This statement he made (top of page 2) really hit home:

MJF: One of the great things about Parkinson's, in a superficial way, is it relieved me of vanity. I don't worry about what I look like, because it's literally out of my hands. But on a deeper level, it gives you a real humility, because you have to deal every day with the fact that you compromise, to a certain then you explore what that compromise is and "How am I compromised?" And for everything I can't do, I find that there's another ability that's been developed or another avenue that I've gone down.

I never considered myself a vain person.   Actually I was always too busy to be vain.   I could be dressed, put on a little make-up and be out the door in 15 minutes.   I always had a tight schedule when I worked so I planned and could pull together mix and match business appropriate coordinates that were ready to just fold into a suitcase to go anywhere from Japan to Panama to some AFB in the middle of the country.   With as little effort as possible I made it a point to look nice when going out, and I still do.

The difference today is that with these neurological problems everything takes longer to do and you get tired faster.   One of the reasons I got my hair cut short was that I just wanted to be able to wash and go without the need to style, even though that only took five minutes just to put a round brush through to smooth and style.     I try to remember to put a little powder on so I'm not so shiny but eye make-up  -- who cares,  besides some of it irritates my eyes after only a couple of hours.     So here's what 59 year old me wore last Sunday (I'm hanging onto my walker that you can't see - uh oh there's that vanity LOL).   This outfit is from a couple of the designers who teamed up with Target.    I took both easy pack and care pieces on our trip to Italy back in September 2008.    The dress is cotton/modal with bias stripes meeting in center front and center back seams with a contrast band at the bottom.   The versatile cotton eyelet duster was actually marketed as a bathing suit cover-up and has snap tape to close.     I like to wear it as a layering piece and roll up the sleeves depending on the weather.   Both of these styles would be easy to copy using basic patterns.   The duster is basically the Sewing Workshop Now Shirt without the collar.    The dress has a tiny cap sleeve and is the same in the back with a higher neckline. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Towards the end of May update

My last major sewing project was the Burda cardigan in April.     The bad news is that I have been deteriorating and am not doing well.   The good news is that I will be traveling to Johns Hopkins medical center in June.  I only got the call from JH yesterday morning so I had to hurry up and make reservations to stay somewhere in downtown Baltimore.   I found that many of the hotels are booked up already.  

Michael and Sherri Bearman of Michael's Fabrics in Baltimore are two of the loveliest people I know. I've known them for years since living in Charles Co MD for many years before moving to the Asheville NC area.  I remember talking on the phone to Michael the week their son Phillip was born.  With them you are a person not a credit card number.

Sherri and Michael have been aware of my health situation.   Since I will be traveling to Baltimore I called and told Sherri what was going on -  she was delighted that I got into JH,  then hearing about the hotels and logistics, she offered to check to see of they could help in locating/recommending a hotel perhaps where they are located.   They don't care if I buy anything or even if I'm well enough to come by, they just care about me and those are the people who will get my enduring business forever.

Over these past months of medical hell, wonderful people like the Bearmans in Baltimore, other sewing professionals around the country, and many caring individuals who read this blog and a sewing board have commented/written or called or sent notes to check on me.   Incredibly,  I have had absolutely no support from any of the sewing community here in Asheville - none of the people at a certain local fabric store where I was a great customer for years, nor anyone who lives in the area has ever contacted me - actually it's just the opposite,  I've been shunned. 

I also got an e-mail response from Sharon Lyon of Casual Elegance Fabrics last week.   My reason for writing was that with their emphasis on cap sleeves I was thinking about sewing an updated French Country Dress.   I have the pattern and was looking for some fabric advice.    Since reading the latest newsletter,  I was thinking linen but she said that she "really didn't think linen would be a good choice for that dress, although a really light weight linen/blend would be a possibility.    Since there are just a couple of tucks on both sides on front and back, a heavy fabric would not do well with the tucks.   A stable knit, as long as it wasn't heavy, would work great.  I really like that dress. One summer, a few years back, I lived in that dress!"    I think the design is really interesting, especially how Loes maintains the structure using the pockets.     I would make it knee length since the length in the pattern photos look frumpy looking on me.    I also attached a photo of the Bergman Jacket tweak (previous blog post) with how I used the mesh from CE.   Sharon wrote that she almost forgot about my fabric question since her attention went to the photo of the jacket that she loved.    How nice of her to say that.

So what about sewing?   With all my problems I had to do something Monday to see where I was in all this so I cut out a simple cowl neck tops - same pattern I used in the black and tan coordinates I sewed for my sister last summer.   This time I used the same black and white dot/stripe knit I've made the tops/cardigans from.    It's so easy to make.   I left the hem raw and did pretty well in terms of stitching down the seam allowance on the neckline and armholes.    I made it for my son's GF who got the Sewing Workshop eShrug in the same knit and the lace one.  I gave it to her yesterday and she was thrilled.   I'm going to lengthen the pattern and do a knit dress.    Won't that be a great look!

And so it goes.  To think about not being able to do the things I enjoy the most is devastating.  I wish I had the sensory capability to do more sewing, not because I have to, but because I enjoy it.   I have plenty to wear and I still give a lot of my things away.   Fortunately I sew coordinating groups and new pieces that coordinate with others so that I have many choices when I walk into my closet, no matter the weather.   Unfortunately that black and tan group of coordinates I sewed and sent to my sister in Texas last summer went up in flames with everything else in April, and I have not been able to be as productive as I was last summer to replace them.     My plans are to stick with the simple designs like the Shapes patterns.    I'm thinking a Shapes Four Good Measure top in a sheer fabric.   Louise Cutting and Linda Lee were way ahead of the fashion game when they published that line a couple of years ago.  The Four Good Measure silhouette is everywhere from Neiman Marcus to Anthropologie and more this spring.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I got to wear my Bergman Jacket "tweak" today

So here's me actually wearing the jacket.    There was a breeze blowing my hair in all directions, but who cares.   I feel that clothes have to be seen on the person they were made for,  otherwise it's no different than staring at garments carefully pinned and arranged on a mannequin in a store window.

Today I got dressed up for the monthly DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) meeting.  I missed the April meeting because of the medical procedures.    The weather has not been warm enough here to wear a mesh jacket like this, but today's forecast was upward of 80 so I pulled out the dotted mesh Bergman jacket I created and wrote about in February and paired it with this ten+ year old silk swing skirt from Loes Hinse's skirt pattern , and a v-neck stretch 4-ply silk crepe sleeveless top.   Neutrals never go out of style, and I enjoyed wearing this comfortable outfit today.    I bought the beige splotched cream embossed silk made for Valentino by Ratti, the famous Italian silk company, while shopping at their store in Como Italy in 1999.    I plan on getting lots of mileage from this cardigan jacket too.

Monday, May 9, 2011

No Sewing yet but I feel like I'm making progress

I feel like I am stronger.   I can walk across a room without the aid of a walker or cane now.  No changes in the demyelinated nerves yet, but that takes a lot longer.   I just haven't gotten any worse.    I've been upstairs to the sewing room but I was too tired yesterday to begin a new project having not slept well the night before.   

Since the weather has warmed,  I am wearing many of the outfits I made last spring and summer.    We had lunch on Saturday in Waynesville with our son's GF's mother and grandmother.   I wore the Easy Ageless and Cool pants with the By Popular Demand jacket and an ABO top out of silk noil.   Interesting that the silk noil pilled against the inside of the stretch sateen cotton of the jacket.     Today was even warmer and I wore these metallic linen Easy, Ageless and Cool pants with a purchased rayon jersey tank top and the beige stretch pique Pure and Simple jacket.    The difference between the photos taken on Saturday and today is that I am standing up by myself - big stuff for me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A drive up along the Blue Ridge Parkway

I did some sewing yesterday evening - first time since I made the Burda cardigan I posted about.   My hands were deteriorating rapidly prior to getting the IVIG and I hadn't realized how much they had changed for the worse until then.    I did manage to sew some black snap tape onto this By Popular Demand jacket I'm sending my sister in TX.      If I hadn't gotten the IVIG intervention, I probably would not be walking right now and would be in a hospital.     Thanks to each and all for taking the time to write me lovely notes and comments here and on the sewing board.    Your encouragement means so much.   

Today we decided to burn up a little of the nearly $4 a gallon gas and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway from the entrance near the VA Hospital in Asheville on Route 70, starting at the Folk Art Center,  to where you exit at Route 8o south toward Marion NC.    It's not a long drive - less than 25 miles, but you are at some of the highest elevations on the Parkway, and it's good for me to get out.   It has been a cool spring and even cooler up on the high elevations where weather, temperatures and winds are extreme compared to where we live in the valley above the Swannanoa River flood plain around 2,300 feet elevation.    For example, last night temperatures at elevations above 4,000 feet were 28 degrees with a dew point of 29 and wind gusts of 15 mph.   That's downright miserable.  To contrast, down here the lowest temp outside my north facing kitchen window last night was 48 and no wind.   The parkway is closed during the winter because of all the snow and because the tunnels actually freeze nearly shut.    The mists and humidity freezes in layers and the rangers told us that a man can barely crawl through the hole that remains.

I took a number of photos and posted them on the Blue Ridge Parkway Flickr Set.     You will find the icicles on both north and south rock faces in May interesting.    Our rhododendrons are already blooming down here but the native ones up there won't bloom until mid-June.   I photographed a wild turkey looking for one of the girls.    Those are the first photos in the set and he is beautiful and quite camouflaged.   You can see the Burnett Reservoir that is high up in the mountain north of our house.   That is where Asheville gets its water.    I would link some photos here but am having trouble doing that right now.     You can see why they call it the Blue Ridge Parkway because the haze makes the mountain ridges look blue.   Enjoy the trip!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yellow Roses and a Versatile top

Some have asked about my flowers.   Even though I can't do any real gardening yet,  my perennial plants and gardens are doing very well as you can see in the Spring 2011 Gardens Flickr Set.    These are Golden Shower climbing roses growing near the front steps.   Today was perfect weather to wear this lengthened cotton shirt I made in March from the Relax a Little pattern over this RPL ponte knit skirt by Vera Wang for Kohl's.   I only paid $20 for it with a discount.    When I can get such style ad quality for a great price,  I buy it instead of trying to figure out how to make it.   If I want to make myself another, not only do I have a great skirt, but also a pattern.   I have received so many kind messages about my health and other peoples'  behavior.   This one pretty much sums them all up:

I can only imagine the trauma, stress and worry that you and your family have been through over the past months.  I have also been angered that you have had to endure bad behaviour from others at a time when you already have more than enough to cope with. I therefore appreciate very, very much that you are able to rise above this pettiness and continue to share your style and wisdom with those of us who truly value your input into our lives - both through your blog and through this site.  

Because of those good and decent people,  I've opened the blog back up to public view.   Thank you for your confidence and understanding of my situation.  I felt like I was going to die the week after the IVIG therapy.   Now I'm a bit stronger, but it's still going to be a long journey back.    I'm starting physical therapy again, but until the nerves recover,  I cannot rebuild the muscle and have to be very careful not to do more damage than good.   There will continue to be many days where I need help and assurance to move forward.