Friday, August 15, 2014

Louise Cutting Fitting/Sewing/Styling Retreat

I was one of 14 women attending a workshop with Louise Cutting and Sandy Miller in Winter Park, Florida last weekend.    The first thing we do is take 21 specific measurements so that patterns can be easily checked and you know where they need to be altered.   Since all things change, she suggests re-measuring yourself at least once a year.   She limits the number of people at these workshops so everyone can get hands on attention all 3 days.    We all have different shapes and sizes and, because of the expert fitting and muslining, there were some beautifully fitted and styled garments.    Louise shows you how to place and match motifs, what alterations should be done and advises on the length and proportions.     You can also work as late at night as you want to while you are there.

I had several goals that were all accomplished.    They included some fine tuning/fitting/tweaking of patterns I had already sewn and some styling and restyling advice.    I brought this Eskandar linen duster so that Louise and Sandy could advise on the best way to restyle it and save the great motifs.   It's an Eskandar size 1 but was too wide and too long for my small frame.  Here is what it looked like before.  

The primitive motifs are beautifully matched at the shoulders and front so she advised to keep the front band, back neck and shoulders intact (the entire garment is sewn with french seams) and lay the size small Of The Moment pattern (view A) right front with the shoulder dot at the intersection of the band and the shoulder seam, omitting the front extension.    I decided to add 4.5" to the length of the Of The Moment jacket, and after comparing the sleeves, I just recut the cap and width using the OTM sleeve pattern, making sure to have that little extension that allows for the turn of the cloth at the hem. 

So here's how it turned out.   I'm wearing it with a silk jersey Of The Moment top and dark brown My Swing Set pants that I brought so they could check the placement and length of the darts.    Louise had only seen the photos of me in the pants and thought the darts might be too long.   When she saw the pants on me in person, she thought they were fine and no changes were necessary.

The front of this Of The Moment jacket is the same as this black/white linen jacket Louise Cutting is wearing in this photo taken at the American Sewing Guild conference earlier in the month.   Her jacket has the OTM long sleeves and my restyled jacket has the sleeve length from the Eskandar duster.    She added piping and a band of black linen at the hem to lengthen and add a design element.   Lots of possibilities.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

It's Over! A Huge Sigh of Relief

I'm one of the lucky ones.   
June 7, 2014
This is a post that has been 3 years in the making.   The news is that at my six month check-up two weeks ago, my doctor at Johns Hopkins, who told me 3 years ago today that he would make me well, pronounced me well, and said he does not expect this to return.   I am no longer on any meds and have basically been discharged.    It has taken a couple weeks for reality to sink in and I'm writing this post because it's been exactly 3 years today, June 14, that I was admitted to Johns Hopkins.   For those of you who haven't followed my journey,  here's a synopsis.  

In August 2010 I was overcome by a debilitating and bewildering neurological syndrome that was rapidly destroying the myelin shealth covering my nerves.   In late September I saw a neurologist in Asheville who not only misdiagnosed me, but paid no attention to the progression, letting me deteriorate for six more months.  When he finally prescribed a treatment late in April 2011,  I had a reaction to it, and it actually made me worse, speeding up the progression and deterioration.   When I called his office to say that I was getting worse, they ignored my calls, didn't care and said he didn't want to see me for 5 more months.   Well when you are in that situation what do you do?    It's your life, so you call in the big guns, Johns Hopkins Neurology Department, the best in the world.    Based on my criticality, they got me in within a month of our contact.   BTW Johns Hopkins said the Asheville neurologist's office didn't even send them all my records.    Those records were mainly for reference, since they do all their own tests,  and tests they did.  

By June 14, the day I was admitted to Johns Hopkins, I could not bathe myself, could not hold my fingers together to splash water on/wash my face; could not wash my own hair or hold a hair dryer to dry it.   I could not walk or stand alone and shoes fell off my feet unless they were held on by velcro straps like the Teva sandals in the photo.   I was at the clinic for the entire day of tests and they took 9 vials of blood - the Asheville neurologist never even checked my blood.   My doctor for these 3 years told me that day, "We know what's wrong with you, it's rare and we have no idea why and who this attacks, but we are going to make you well."   He also told me, "I'm going to be your doctor now and we're going to get to know one another because this will take years to overcome."   Once all the results were in, they convened a board of doctors to determine treatment, then I went back in July to be admitted to the hospital and begin treatment - 3 months of plasmapheresis plus immune suppressants.   

My doctor and I worked with Mission Hospital's Hemodialysis Center so that I was able to return to Asheville NC to have this done 3 times a week for the month of August.   I have nothing but praise for the staff and doctors who run that center.   They are the best of the best.  By the end of August 2011,  I was able to walk again and I went back to JH for a check-up.   I continued the plasmapheresis twice a week for two more months with a Hickman catheter hanging out of my chest.   In mid August I was also put on a high dose of the same powerful immune suppressant that organ transplant patients must take to keep from rejecting the donor organs.  I went back to Johns Hopkins the end of October 2011 for a check-up and to have the catheter removed.   I later learned that in everyone who gets this, it behaves differently.   Some people do not respond to treatment so it can be fatal.     

I continued to get stronger as the myelin and then the nerves slowly repaired and grew back.   By October 2012 I was strong enough and confident enough to drive to Louise Cutting's sewing retreat with Linda Lee in Florida.  Three months later, in December,  my doctor decided to begin tapering me off the powerful immune suppressant that I was taking heavy doses of, and having to get my blood checked once a month.  The 20 pages of warnings that come with that drug would scare the hell out of anybody, but I had no choice but to take it.  That took a year and a half, decreasing the dosage every six months.  I am much stronger today, although I have sensory issues and weakness in my feet from being untreated and left to deteriorate for so long.
June 26, 2011
In these photos, I am wearing one of the shirt dresses I made using Cutting Line Designs Ebb Blouse pattern (fabric from Michael's Fabrics).  In the 2011 photo I could only stand, even with a cane, for a few minutes.   

I haven't started any big sewing projects since I made view B of this A New Dimension jacket in March.   I've worn this jacket frequently this spring because it coordinates with dresses, pants and skirts.   In addition to our trip to Baltimore and then Williamsburg VA on the way home,  I attended the North Carolina DAR State Conference in Durham the first weekend in May and spent the following week in Florida.     I found a wonderful designer consignment shop in Ormond Beach Florida where we stayed, Kay's Designer Consignments, where I bought several things, including this Swiss cotton Fendi dress from a recent collection.   Who could resist the lines with that great color blocking and then the back!  The brown pockets match the brown stripes in the A New Dimension jacket perfectly.   This photo was taken last Monday morning before I left for the annual District 1 NC DAR meeting/luncheon in Brevard NC.   The fabric of the jacket is a light double face Zegna shirting and is very comfortable.   I kept it on over the dress for most of the day since it was cool inside the church.

Time to sign off for now because I just got the mail and the latest Cutting Line Designs pattern, The Director's Cut arrived.   I have this Eskandar linen coat that I have been waiting for just the right "look" to restyle it into.    Then there is the perfectly matched toffee color linen to the A new Dimension Jacket and my striped stretch linen Piazza Sempione sleeveless jacket that had just come in when I visited Michael's Fabrics in Baltimore a couple weeks ago ....   Now to get busy sewing again!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring Swatches from Michael's Fabrics

Spring is finally here and I want to make some new pieces to coordinate with my spring clothes.  

Although I am traveling to Baltimore the first of June, I e-mailed Michael to send some swatches for me to evaluate, and order if they worked for me.   Over the past 3 years I've had to travel to Baltimore every 6 months or more often,  but swatches are great for shopping from home.  Swatches also give me a better idea of what he currently has so I can make good use of my limited time when I get there.  

Today I examined and photographed the swatches I received yesterday from Michael's Fabrics in Baltimore.   

Michael has so many rolls of so many fabrics that he couldn't possibly put all of them up on their web site.  So I just e-mail them, explaining what I'm looking for in terms of textures, stripes, solids, fabric content, weights, to include the types of garments I want to sew and a general idea of colors.  Then I let them pick through their inventory and swatch based on my specifications and garments I've identified I want to sew.  There is no charge for swatches and their fabrics are amazingly affordable given their origin and content.   The garments that the designers make from these fabrics cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars retail.   I am always blown away by what he sends me and what's in the store when I visit!    

So here's how it works - Michael swatches from his inventory based on my request and loads an envelope with nice size swatches like this.   Here's what I do with the swatches before I call him to get more information about fabric content, width, etc for the ones I'm considering before ordering.

I examine them in natural light, and see what coordinates with what.  Then I put them alongside or over my garments/ensembles to see what they work with.  Maybe I could use a pair of pants to go with the striped jackets...  As I'm doing that, I take photos so Michael and I can look at them together on Flickr and discuss.  While on the phone he tells me the fiber content, the manufacturer and width and answers questions.   We did that this afternoon and I added that specific information to the Flickr photo descriptions.  FYI,  photos of all the fabric swatches he sent me this time are in the Flickr set for Michael's Fabrics.   Enjoy and call him if something that tickles your fancy.   If not, he'll customize a set just for you.

Then comes the hard part - deciding which to buy!
Silk woven stripe with my linen and cotton garments

Neutrals and browns with swatches
 Disclosure:   I am not affiliated with,  nor am I compensated by Michael's Fabrics for writing about their swatches.  I'm just a very satisfied customer who enjoys the clothes I make from his fabrics.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top and Dress from the new Simplify Your Life Pattern

Simplify Your Life is the latest pattern from Louise Cutting.  It includes two tops.   I made view A in this Hugo Boss cross dye shirting with a contrast facing.   Here the top is paired with dark brown My Swing Set pants in pant weight stretch rayon.   Considering the fit and shape of this top, I thought it would make a great dress. 

I had enough of this silk/lycra seersucker I bought from Michael's Fabrics in Baltimore that I had already used for this pair of Discover Something Novel pants and a Stars In Heaven tunic  to make a dress.   These 3 simple but elegant neutral pieces can be worn many ways.   I spoke to Michael last week about swatches.   He said he's got tons of new fabrics in and hasn't had time to put them on the website.   So call them directly if there's something you are looking for.    

Detail of fabrics and flap pockets
I added large pockets with flaps to give the dress a bit more personality.   Recent Diane Von Furstenberg dresses I've tried on at Neiman Marcus have this relaxed fit and I like dresses for the spring and summer.   I considered adding a casing with a drawstring but decided that it would not work with the pleat in the front.    I also auditioned some belts with it, but like it best unbelted.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stella top and eShrug coordinates

Last post I showed you the floral lace skirt using the Relax A Little pattern worn over a cotton knit dress with a textured knit cardigan.   Early this month I "auditioned" these fabrics to see what they coordinated with and what they wanted to be.   Here's the photo where you can see the green Peruvian connection dress that I planned to wear them with/over.   The photo below is the best representation of the colors, and you can see that the knit and lace also work with that mulberry plaid skirt in the Berry/Chocolate coordinate group.   Now I have three new pieces in the lace and the knit that coordinate with several garments I sewed earlier this fall/winter, and others I already owned.   They are light enough and layerable that I can wear them into spring.    In addition to the skirt, I intend to make a 3/4 length, long sleeve eShrug using the lace, and narrow hemming it the same as the skirt.    It will look wonderful over the green dress and even black dresses.

Stella top sans sleeves

The textured knit is very drapy and semi-sheer in places so I knew I wanted layering pieces.  It drapes but does not have recoverable stretch.  I got this from Fabric Mart a few years ago and don't remember the fiber content.   The crinkle/stretch lace is current Fabric Mart.     I enjoy the neckline of the Stella tops I've made but I didn't want sleeves.   If you omit the sleeves and simply serge and turn under the seam allowance you have a nice over the shoulder look - where a cap sleeve would end.  I used a lightweight knit stabilizing tape on the shoulders of both knit tops, and along the V before sewing the doubled cowl piece in.

Here it is layered over the green knit dress and it has a peplum look if belted.

Keeping it interesting, but simple considering the knit fabric, I cut out an a eShrug with the remainder.   I tapered the long sleeve eShrug pattern using the sleeve from one of my Babette SF jackets as a template.    The eShrug cardigan looks great over the sleeveless Stella top or just the dress.  

eShrug with long tapered sleeve
I lengthened this eShrug.  The front is straight (vs angled per the pattern) aligned with the selvedge to make use of that fringe.    I cut the sleeves on the crossgrain, placing the desired hemline for my sleeve length on the selvedge.  

I just serge finished the remaining raw edges with mixed thread colors to blend in with the knit.   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Working the Relax A Little pattern X Five

I love the shape and fit of the fluted four gore skirt in the Cuting Line Designs Relax A Little pattern that looks different in every fabric.   Over the past months, I've made several and tweaked each as I always do.   It's definitely a TNT pattern.

Here's one in a stretch denim where I added a separate fringed edge using strips of frayed selvedge.   I was inspired to do this after seeing this Louis Vuitton resort 2014 skirt.   Here's a photo of it and the selvedge trim.    I did not add the fringed pockets over my hips.   This one is a great casual skirt that works with the Ebb blouses I've made and classic white blouses like this wrap one.

Here is the RAL skirt again in a crisp printed linen sewn according to the pattern instructions with the signature waist and all the edge/ topstitching.  I added pockets, but used the rectangular one from the My Swing Set pant instead of the oval one included in the RAL pattern.   That is a silk noil Anything But Ordinary top that I made a few years ago.

In December I got inspired by this Alice and Olivia ensemble. I found the perfect lace and rayon jersey at Fabric Mart and made my version of the skirt, underskirt, and two tops. I used the Relax a Little skirt pattern to create my own version of the swooshy Alice and Olivia skirt with a slimmer waist and hip, and the Pure And Simple pattern (removed the dart) for the cap sleeve top. This lace does not have scalloped selvedges and it would have been impossible to use them with the curved hem of this skirt anyway. I edged the lace using a narrow 3 thread serged hem. My husband liked the lace on the arms so I made a short Loes Hinse Bianca top with long sleeves and used a satin stitch for the front three tucks so they stood out. I'm very pleased with all of them.

This is a warm ensemble when worn with tights or leggings, an underskirt with another layer under the lace tops. I added large godets to the sides for more movement and used a narrow casing with elastic for the waistband.   Here's the rayon jersey underskirt that can be worn on its own.

I was so pleased with the above lace skirt and tops that I ordered two of the French floral laces and made up another that I absolutely love.   I wore it today (temps here in Asheville were in the 60's!)  with this long sleeve eShrug over a pima cotton knit dress from the Peruvian Connection.   I'll blog more about this one and the tops I made to coordinate with it in my next post.   I've done so much sewing this fall and winter that I've not had the time or inclination to blog about.  But I've uploaded photos with informative descriptions on Flickr that I hope inspire you to sew something you love to wear as much as I love to wear my creations.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Berry and Chocolate Coordinates

I've been spending the cold winter days when you can't, or don't want to go out, sewing coordinates, adding to those I sewed in the fall but didn't get around to documenting.   I plan and measure and compare and try on and measure again so I have few, if any failures, and who wants to read about those anyway?  I let my garments try on and "wear" fabrics that I think will work with them.   Here's a photo of how I do that on Flickr showing a knit and a colored stretch lace that I thought would work over these and other colors.   It's a good way to decide what to make out of the fabric instead of just folding it up and putting it on a shelf after you get it.    

   In addition to these coordinates, I restyled several garments, and made several skirts and coordinating tops using the CLD Relax a Little skirt pattern and other top patterns.    I'll do a separate blog post for those.  

Here are photos of what I'm calling Berry and Chocolate coordinates I sewed this fall/winter that will work through this spring.   These are good neutral colors for me.  The dotted Snap To It jacket from last summer works with this group as well as the tank tops and dress from Loes Hinse Tank dress pattern I made after moving to NC.  Typically the photos are taken while I'm getting ready to go somewhere, and when I remember to get a photo taken.   As Net-A-Porter says, if you want to wear spring (lighter weight) garments in cold weather, just add tights!   

Here is a sweater coat in brown and pinks using Loes Hinse Sweater Coat pattern (I always modify the collar size and length).    This time I used the selvedges along all hemmed edges - including pockets and sleeves.  It looks great over my pink/beige Liberty jacket and Plaza pants, and with the dark chocolate brown tapered pant I'm wearing from Cutting Line Design's My Swing Set pattern.   I sewed pale pink petersham along the front plackets to stabilize the large buttons and snaps underneath.

This top is Cutting Line Designs latest pattern, Simplify Your Life, worn over the MSS tapered pant.   I used a coordinating fabric for the facings.  I'll wear this in the spring.
This is The Sewing Workshop's Cortona Shirt in the same fabric as the top above, worn over one of the LH tanks and a skirt in a textured knit/stretch lace fabric.    I like the darts and shape, esp the peplum that is formed at the back. It's a great layering piece and works as a jacket or shirt.

I used the knit selvedge as a ruffle trim along the edge of this bias skirt that is my adaptation of an old Burda Style pattern.  I made a Eureka top out of the same fabric, cut the hems along the selvedge and used the back/stretch lace side for the contrast bindings.    Here it is over the Loes Hinse Tank dress.   I think I lengthened this top that looks great belted as well.