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Colette Sorbetto Tank

July 29th, 2013 — 8:38am

collette sorbetto tank alt front view This is the Colette Sorbetto tank, a simple and flattering sleeveless shell with a front pleat detail and bias-bound neck and armholes.  I stitched this one up last year out of some Amy Butler voile (and a couple eagle-eyed readers spotted it on me in the video from my Craftsy class).  This top is one of the four patterns featured in my Fall Wardrobe course starting next week!

colette sorbetto tank side view I realize it’s called the Fall Wardrobe class, but in reality the course is designed to be an online guide to sewing with commercial garment patterns.  I wanted to include as wide a range of the pattern types out there as I could, so we’re working with a couple Big Four patterns, along with an independent printed pattern, plus this one, which is available as a PDF download.  If you’re looking to work with sewing patterns, and have some experience but want more or have no experience and want to get some, it was really important to me that you get a good overview of how each type of pattern is put together, how to manipulate and work with each one, and how to interpret all the various symbols and instructions.  To leave out PDF patterns would have been foolish, since so many great patterns today are coming out in this format.  My goal is to equip you to sew fearlessly–and knowing how to work with all these different types of patterns is a big part of that!

colette sorbetto tank side view b We start with this pattern, too, because it’s such a transitional style.  It allows you to make a garment you can wear now, while the weather is still warm (at least, here in the northern hemisphere), but then layer under other garments once it gets cooler.  And I don’t know how things operate in other parts of the country, but here in the South, when office buildings turn on the heat, they turn it ON and I am always grateful when I can take off a jacket and have a simple, classy sleeveless shell beneath so I look professional but I’m not sweating like a pig.  It’s bad enough that forced-air heat sucks the moisture out of my skin, I want to at least stay comfortable, knowwhatimsayin?

colette sorbetto tank The construction here makes it a fun project to stitch up, a good place to start working with darts and full/small bust adjustments, and an opportunity to work with bias tape as an edge finish (woot!).  The simple pleat is a springboard for piles of ideas for ways to customize this top–or any other pattern down the road.  And really, that’s what I want this class to be: a chance for you to get past any discomfort you might have at the thought of sewing with patterns, to ask questions one-on-one that you haven’t had the chance to ask before or that you just can’t get answered by reading blogs, and some projects to work through that give you the opportunity to play with these techniques and ideas as you build your comfort level in sewing garments.

It’s already looking like a really great group, and I’ve got a few spots remaining!  Imagine how excited you’ll be to have made your very own sweet little tank to layer all autumn long, right at the start of our class time together.  Right??  See all the details on the Fall Wardrobe e-course class page and I’ll “see” you in class!


All-Yellow Scrappy Trips Around the World: Counting Blocks

July 26th, 2013 — 12:43pm

yellow scrappy trips around the world 3

My all-yellow Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt is coming along nicely!  This has been my back-seat project for a while, the one that’s cut and ready to go, but waiting in a basket while I’m sewing other things (like curtains, or curtains, or maybe no-sew curtains).  When I made the first #scrappytripalong quilt, I watched the Instagram feeds some other folks were sending out, and a few ladies had all-yellow blocks, which were so bright and sunny and citrusy and inviting.  I had already been (lazily) talking about an all-yellow quilt for a couple of years, and the two just came together.  BAM.

yellow scrappy trips around the world 2


I’m at 19 blocks at this point.  They just go together so quickly, which is awesome.  When I was making the first version, I considered stopping at a lap-sized quilt, but then I accidentally made a bunch more blocks and figured, “We’re going for a twin!”  Since then, I’ve been watching how we use our quilts a lot more closely.  A bunch of my earlier quilts were 60″ x 60″, which is an easy size to get to fairly quickly, and seems like it’s plenty big enough.  And it is–for the sofa.  But now that I have two children in twin beds (soon to be three), I find that I want to have actual BED quilts more, and the lap size just isn’t enough to really cover a twin mattress and look quite right.  I want some hanging-over-the-edge-ness to give the quilt a little presence in the room.  If I’m going to invest all this time and money and effort into making beautiful quilts, then I want them to be used, and a twin seems more likely to be put on a bed and given life by my children and, God willing, their children.

I put together some quick Scrappy Trip Around the World math to supplement the original tutorial, for your reference (and mine).  You can also download this chart as a PDF and print it at home to save for later!

Scrappy Trips Around the World math

I am taking my time and not rushing this quilt, but I do admin that I am really hoping I can get it pieced and quilted before the summer is over–the yellows will be dreamy out on the back patio, across from the yellow chairs we have out there.  I love it when a plan comes together.

yellow scrappy trips around the world blocksJust 23 blocks left to go!  I did a batch of 11 last night, so here’s hoping I can crank out another 11 over the weekend and be well close to finished with this before we leave for the beach next week.  I can almost smell the lemony goodness!




Mod Built-In Bookcases

July 23rd, 2013 — 1:32pm

Every time I post an image of the built-in bookcases in our den, I always get a ton of questions and comments. They’re pretty awesome, if I do say so myself–and they totally make the room.

mod builtin bookcasesWhen we first bought this house, the entire den was wall-to-wall wood paneling: dark, shadowy, brown, brown, brown.  It made me feel sad inside.  On top of that, the previous owner was an older man who was in poor health, and had lived here for 40+ years with all the belongings that go along with not having moved house in four decades.  The room was FULL of stuff.  After the estate sale thinned things out a bit, this is what it looked like:

bookcases beforeApologies for the blurry photo–this one was taken at the walk-though when we had the house under contract, and there was just SO little light that it made it pretty hard to get a decent picture anywhere in the center of the house, especially this room.  You can see all the paneling, though, and that the walls and bookcases and cabinet doors and mantel are ALL dark wood.  At first, I expected that we would paint all of it, including the mantel and fireplace surround, but when you got up close, the mantel is actually very pretty wood and worth saving.  Plus, with the paint color we chose for the walls, I thought the warmth of the wood would be a nice contrast.  So shortly before we moved in, this room was closer to this:

den progressHuge improvement already.  When it came to the bookcases, you can see that they were really “built-ins,” meaning the cabinets below were really built-in, but the shelving above was just brackets on tracks installed along the paneling at the back wall (you can see them on the right, where I was attempting to paint around them while we decided what to do in that space).  They weren’t much to look at, and I didn’t really want to be able to see the brackets, so we started talking about really building them in, with wood supports at the sides for the shelves and some trim around the edges.  We were having some handyman work done at the same time, and as long as our carpenter was there, we asked him if it was a job he would take on; he agreed, and we were thrilled–as much as I like the idea of learning to do woodworking, and as fun as my few experiences with a table saw have been, I’m just not up for taking on a whole new skill set for this project.

lrWhat we did do, though, was some research.  I had been scrolling through images on Houzz, really just with the thought that I wanted the bookcases to be more interesting.  Something more to look at and get excited about than just straight shelves from side to side.  I found an image similar to this one (naturally, I can’t find the link to the original, but they’re pretty similar) and printed it to show our guy, and asked him if he thought he could do something along those lines–his eyes lit up and he got animated, said he’d done something very similar for his mother-in-law at her place as a room divider and it turned out great.  So we both got to win that day!

bookcases 2The finished result really makes a giant impact in the room.  The staggered shapes draw the eye and give us a chance to show off our strangely-but-wholly-accidentally-oceanic-inspired bits and pieces, but they have enough presence and visual interest that they can stand on their own, even with some of the spaces empty (which is how we like it–less being more in this case).

bookcases 1For about a day I thought we’d paint the backs of the bookcases a deep, teal color like here, but the room is fighting so hard to not go dark again and the more I thought about it, the less I thought we could afford such a saturated color.  I also don’t much want to leave them white, and I loooooved Lizzie’s idea to use wallpaper at the backs for some subtle pattern on that wall, layered with the pattern the shelves themselves make.  I played with the idea of doing a darker green, but there’s a lot of green in this room already; a lighter teal, but the new sofa will be teal; or even just leaving them (which is what we’ve done all along).  Right now, I’m leaning toward making the backs of the openings a lighter grey than the pillows are; the chair up against the shelves on the left will be the same grey (but in a nubbly wool boucle–yum), so a lighter version of that should be enough to show off our white ceramics without darkening the room a ton.  I’ll let you know when I find just the right color!



Craftsy Sale!

July 19th, 2013 — 2:26pm

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Craftsy has PILES of classes on sale for 75% this weekend only! Have you been putting off taking my Design & Sew an A-Line Skirt class? Or have you your eye on another of their really delicious options, from sewing to quilting to cake decorating to gardening to artisanal cheese-making but just haven’t pulled the trigger? For reals, you aren’t going to find a better time to register and fill up your Craftsy schedule. Hope I’ll “see” you in class!

(I searched and searched for the video from Salt Lake City’s Channel 5 where I did an interview about Craftsy last Oct and said “cake decorating” no fewer than six times, but failed to locate the link–if I track it down, I’ll share, because who says cake decorating that often in an interview??)

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Curtains for the Den

July 18th, 2013 — 8:20am

sewing curtains | whipstitchIt is rapidly becoming curtains week around here–first a revised set for our boy’s room, then the temporary curtains for the front living room, and now some for the den.  I guess it goes to show the power that imminent house guests can have!

den curtains | whipstitchOur little late-mid-century ranch has a pretty standard floor plan: you enter the front door, which is more or less centered on the front of the house, and you’re in a foyer with a formal living room on the left and a dining room beyond that.  In front of you is a hallway, and on the other side of the hall is a family room.  We call it the den.  Den just seems so warmly old school.

Our den has one wall almost entirely occupied by a double-wide sliding glass door that leads to a sunroom.  These doors are original, and when the house was built, led to what we suspect was actually a screened-in porch that was later closed in with Florida windows to make the sunroom that we use as a playroom for the children.  In practical concerns, that means we have a 16-foot-long floor-to-ceiling window on one side of the room that is open to view from the back of the house.

Originally, prior to our purchase, that window had drapes across it that looked like this:

den originalThis is a photo I took during the walk-through we did about four months before we bought the house.  I have thrown this bad boy in iPhoto and lifted shadows and brightened it up the absolute max that I possibly could–and it’s still this dark.  The whole room was wood paneling and closed doors and heavy drapes.  Dark, dark, dark.  (This is the previous owner’s furniture, I should point out–don’t get me started on how the scale of the furniture and the layout of the room made you feel as if you were being eaten alive and chased away simultaneously.)

den original drapesAfter we closed on the house but before we moved in, we did the vast majority of the painting.  We also had a contractor come in and remove the wall between this room and the kitchen, as well as updating all the kitchen appliances (our inspector said, “Don’t use the oven.  I’m serious.”).  While he was there, I asked him to help me remove the drapes and their valance and uplight.  That’s right: I said uplight.  That ain’t sunlight coming in above that valance, y’all: that’s the beauty and power of four long fluorescent bulbs, baby.  Yes, it is.

den wiringHere you can see the valance down and the wiring from the fluorescents exposed.  Totally bizarre–I’ve never seen a light fixture like that, and it was most certainly not invited to stay in our house once we moved in.  Neither was the paneling.  In the left of this shot, you can also see where we took out one wall leading to the kitchen up to the ceiling, and replaced it with drywall and a cutout for a bar–more light, more light, always more light.  No more deep, dark, animal den in our den.

den construc

With the valance down, you can see how much brighter it was in here–but the paneling is still dark.  (And the book shelves are tragic–I mean, someone explain to me why you would build in cabinets below, but then do brackets on metal track above for the shelving?  Does not compute.)

den with paint

In our last house, we finished the basement.  It took my husband and me about six weeks to choose a wall color we both loved.  So for this house, rather than go through all that again, we decided to just use that same color from the last house on ALL the public rooms in this one.  It’s Homestead Resort Parlor Sage from the Valspar National Historic Trust collection, and it changes in the light as the day goes along in a way that’s really rich and textured.  Plus, it brightens the heck out of this dark room–this was a few days before we moved in, when we were finishing up the painting.  You can see the bookshelves, where we decided to make them look more built-in by coating the paneling at the back with the same paint we used to paint the trim throughout the house–high gloss Pure White–and then change out the hardware.  World of difference, and we didn’t replace a single bit of wall.

den curtains side view open | whipstitch

So long story slightly less long, this is what the room looks like now, with the updated paint and book shelves and NEW DRAPES!  Circuitous route, but there are relevant details that had to be shared before you could really appreciate what a big deal these drapes are.  They’re not just curtains.  They’re sunshine and HOPE.

den curtain ikat | whipstitch

The fabric is a heavy cotton ikat with a slub textured weave that I adore.  It has all the colors that I love best, on a softly creamy background.  I ordered 14 yards of it and spent a ton of time thinking through how I would construct the curtains themselves.

den curtain rod | whipstitch

The curtain rod was the hardest part.  Can you even imagine how tough it is to find ANY kind of traverse rod for a window that measures 16 feet wide?  Much less one with some style and panache?  Custom rods are absurdly expensive, and I knew we’d rarely feel compelled to completely draw these drapes–we can close them when we’re watching a movie or when our oldest has someone sleeping over and they want to stay up late in the den, but for the most part, we leave them open.  I don’t need something with a ton of muscle, just something LONG enough that looks great.  Crate and Barrel, of all places, came to the rescue and had just the right thing for a very reasonable sum compared to what else we had seen while searching.

The curtains, though, had to be made with this rod in mind.  Because it’s two rods with a connector in the center (and a small center support bracket), I didn’t want to have a ton of weight on the rod, either when they’re open or closed.  I had initially thought I would line the curtains entirely, but worried the rod would warp with too much weight.  In the end, the sides are turned under 1.5″–first 1/2″ and then another 1″ in a double-turned hem–and the upper edge is turned under 3″ with a strong seam.  (The lower edge still isn’t hemmed–I wanted to check the length and I loved them so much I still can’t bear to take them down!)  I used the clippies that came with the rings for the rod to hold them up–very strong, much better quality than a lot of the drapery clips I’ve tried in the past.

den curtains kitchen view | whipstitchIt is immeasurable how different this room is with the light and the paint–even I don’t recognize the room in the old photos from above.  But these curtains really do make a much bigger impact on the room than you might think.  They bring in more color and lightness, they tie together other elements in the room, and they are a great contrast for the orange rug we chose for the floor.  They also create a really vivid frame around the sliding doors as they pass into the playroom, and because we hung the rod nearly at ceiling height, they make the whole room seem taller and more airy.

den curtains closed | whipstitch

While I was sewing, I made a conscious effort to match up the design across the panels as I sewed.  Each of the two panels is made up of two cuts of fabric, 2.5 yds long.  Because the fabric is 60+” wide, I used four to cover the whole width of the doors.  I matched the pattern across the two cuts in each panel, and across the two panels where they meet at center–which is why I bought 14 yards, just for the extra yardage to match the pattern.  Plus, it came in handy when our son got jiggy with the scissors one day while Mommy was in the bathroom and chopped a giant chunk out of one nearly-complete panel.  I ended up using all my “extra” fabric to cut a new section and attach it with a nearly-invisible French seam–it’s over at the lower left, and I bet you can’t see it.  (At least, I hope not!)

den curtain bookcase | whipstitch

We’re still working on the furniture in here, so that these drapes don’t get wasted on a room filled with sad upholstery.  You can just see the swatch in the lower right of this photo for the mid-century sofa–it’s getting this fabulous aqua-and-peacock tweed treatment.  I just got the call today that the fabric has arrived (special order, thankyouverymuch) and it’s time to get cracking!  The chair and ottoman in the upper edge of the photo has gotten an updated pillow, and once the sofa is done, will be re-covered in a yet-to-be-found nubby grey boucle about which I am unreasonably excited.  Once those arrive, I’m pretty sure the sofa will be the star of the room, but until then, the curtains have the floor.

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