Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Promised Room

For most of the years we have lived in Jade House, sewing space was as changeable and dreary as the Dutch weather. I felt like Moses in the desert.  Lots of promises, lots of grumbling. The living room, dining room, and  the front bedroom were all used from time to time. Sewing projects kept piling up; put off because I loathed the process of recreating the wheel every time I needed to sew something even quickly and simple:  most of my projects are not that simple. I learned all about patience. The intended sewing and craft space was designated for the old goat barn/coal shed (now rechristened "The Annex") which is connected to the house behind the kitchen.  The first rebuild project out there was to create a TV and Wii space for the kids to hang out with their friends. It turns out they never really did that because other projects have made it a temporary storage spot (to my mild chagrin), but the space will morph into a nice spare sleeping area for our summer visitors since we cool it in the worst of the heat. The office and administration area is out there as well; I spend more and more time writing and reading out there now that I am alone most of the time. All of that was well and good, but I yearned for space to create without interruption.

In the course of time we realized putting the sewing area in the upper loft of The Annex was a logistics nightmare- climbing up and down a ladder with armfuls of fabric was not very safe. And it was more isolated than I liked.  So Himself now has the upper loft for his tools and stuff- and he can be as messy as he wants. win-win.

Careful thinking through of heights and widths- custom designed shelves and spindles- good flooring- a new window- and viola!  No more goat shed. A sewing space was born.  Since I have been working in there a bit over a year, I can honestly say that I have been totally pleased with the layout and the design.  The size forces me to be organized and tidy between projects. It is big enough though for two sewers to dance around each other  if needs be. Once we get the carport and the large loft reorganized, the space behind the sewing table will open up so I could have a class of four if I had a mind to...who knows what the future will bring?

There are a few decorations to be hung---but I am too happily sewing to really mind.  I just wish I could work as fast as I did ten years ago! But oh the joy of the promised space!

As you walk in from the Annex through  the sliding door, the impression is organized chaos.  I hope this will get better as time goes on and I complete the to-do list.  Himself made the window in the back corner. The view is out into the fruit and vegetable garden.

All the tables are extra high so less bending, slouching and back pain.  The mechanics cases on the wall were painted by my son.  I didn't think to move the pink cutting mat- there is a light box built into the table.  No more taping things to the window!!
You might think it is cluttered, but all the stuff on the windowsill and on the beams are mementos which each have a story. This is "my" room, indeed.  I love working back here. Dig the crazy pink radio!
Every storage space was thought out and chosen. This is ribbons, trims, laces, interfacing, muslin, and small units of batting, stuffing...It might change over time but it is so good to have everything right at my fingertips!
In the opposite corner is the everything but sewing area.  I was hoping the kids would sit there and craft while I worked- but they are all grown and gone on to other things. Sometimes Himself sits and corrects exams while I work.  We just quietly do our thing, but together.  The clear spot in the ceiling is a plexiglass trap door that lets in natural light, keeps cold air and the unwary from falling down into my space,  One of our better ideas. Some day I have decals to go on the cupboard doors....

So if you are pounding on the front door and wonder where I am...go around back. You are welcome!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Guilt-ridden Projects and Projects from Hell

Too many years ago I promised to make nightgowns for a shut-in friend.  These nightgowns are much coveted by those who receive them.  Usually, I can whip one out in a couple of days. However, my friend had a list of requests ( a train? on a nightgown?  HOW many?)  that cooled my ardor for the project.  And, since flannel is scarce as hen's teeth and twice as expensive, materials were slow to gather. Then I got sick. Then two bitter winters shut down the sewing room for months. I did other stuff instead. Time moved on very quickly.
This last autumn my guilty brain got me into the sewing room to get at least something ready to mail out for my friend's birthday.  I was also preparing to leave for the Orient and had to get the gift in the mail before I left. So I sort of slammed the thing together. The collar wasn't great but, it would do. This is a pattern I made from a nightgown I wore to death years ago. It has to be my favorite of all time.
I went to get the email mail address and could not find it. I sent emails to my friend but the account was closed.  Oh my gosh, did she die and no one told me???  Guilt and panic competed for mental occupancy. I had to bug out to China.
We returned. Some concentrated detective work found my friend alive, and her address. (Never did find out why her email account was changed, hmmmm.)  So THEN I took a good look at the nightgown along with my sewing buddy and we went , "Naaaah."  Off came the collar ( serged seams are on royal pain to rip and on the bias??? hellish)  I got it back on straight and went to put on the last and only button by machine. KaPOW!!!  broken needle; worse, broken button, no spares.  I checked with my buddy for the source of those buttons, I went out to the car to go fetch some more;  it isbitter weather, car is dead as a doornail. Now this project truly is a project from Hell.  Fast forward through borrowing a car because rental agencies were closed for the weekend for which we HAD to have transport,  a button buying trip squashed in between the over booked activities that weekend, and you know, life.
Finally got the buttons on and with the help of my darling model girl: here is one lovely nightgown.
I wish the photo reproduced the colors better.
My model is somewhat taller than my friend....
I especially love this collar.  And the wood glue bottle which keeps the doorknob from whacking the plaster..
and the model is not at all the same size as the intended wearer, but one makes do with whatever one can find.  Now this nightgown is not particularly embellished in the way I make gowns.  I could not find any trims to match.  I did use the rolled edge setting and trim it with pink and had pink buttons.  The dark green ribbon was and after thought that Himself liked a lot.

Then I turned my sights to another flannel gown: for me!  My one is so old I can read the morning news through it and it has some tiny holes starting.  I found a piece of flannel that was meant for girl and boy jammies when Thing One and Two were small.  Re-purposing is my middle name. And I found dandy ribbon for it. And I had some great cotton lace. Ingredients for the perfect gown.
Do not get distracted by the too tall and skinny male model.  Himself was all I could find at that time. This gown was just exactly right and beautiful.

It was so wonderful, I knew I had to fold it carefully and add it to the gift I sent my friend.  Because she needs a good deed and a  special nightgown more than I. And it helped me reduce the guilt of procrastination.  I admit, I shed a couple of tears.  It really was a gown to yearn for.

Sheepishly Returning to this Excuse of a Blog

In fact, I have been creating the whole of 2012, and here we are in May of 2013 to talk about it. One completed project I am particularly fond of is:   "A Sheep for all Seasons, " a gift for a departing friend and colleague who is a sheep nut (who is not??)
Since Paul is not a girl, it became a challenge to find fabrics which could represent each season but not be eye-rollingly  feminine, or worse nursery themed, combined with the sheep.  My personal stash was not a lot of help so off I went to the local quilt shop. It took some doing, but I was delighted to find fat cuts which were not break the bank expensive:
My finds
the green is spring, the yellow is summer, the orange is autumn, the blue is winter. I could not get away with no flowers at all for the border fabric (it is paisley) but all the colors are there.

I had a nice piece of  favorite grey print from my stash to sober it up a bit and use for the trim and backing, apparently I never took a photo of it, bad me.

Close look at the seasons fabric.

The paisley even had grey in it :)
Here are the original pieces. The pattern was scaled up for this project.

On to the pattern. A sheep duvet cover has been on the to-do list for years. This pattern for a sheep was a find on the Internet. It is ingenious because  how the feet, head, body and tail are positioned gives a different look and personality to the animal. It make me laugh to look at it.

Two bodies and a whole bunch of little legs

There be sheep here, mounted on fusible fabric, finished with zigzag on the edges.. 

Simple windowpane arrangement: I think it should have had a thin grey sashing around each patch. 
 I had to hand sew the padded cording.  That was a little unexpected horror.

I am not totally satisfied with it; it is pretty good for a one day project though. Paul likes it and that is after all what matters most.  I think the duvet cover-to-be will benefit from the experiment....and I love to work with this sheep pattern! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Seams to me...

If one is to begin one blog, one might as well start two.  I am SUCH a Gemini!  Actually, the other blog is about journeys, this is about being a journeyman.  I taught most of what I know about handwork, needle crafts and textile arts to myself out of need and interest.  It came in handy to put bread on the table as life went on.  I even had my own atelier: JanaLymited.
When we moved to this old house 17 years ago.  I had a mobile sewing space: first, in the bedroom, then. the living room , and, the dining our slow renovation projects required.  My patience was sorely taxed as I had to recreate the creative environment every single time I wanted to build something.
But!! I now am pleased to announce that MY very own made to measure creative space is launched out in the annex.  There are a few sharp corners to smooth, but by gum, I am really truly pleased with the hard work and effort Himself devoted to the room ( and he is possibly even more delighted to hear me happily working rather than crabbing about having no place of my own.)

The pile of projects got really out of hand over the last ten years with this and that distraction and disaster.  One 25 year project was THE TWELVE BEARS OF CHRISTMAS.  Back in the Midwest, I had a housemate; another single parent to pool our meagre resources.  One thing we did together was counted crossstitch;  it turns out she was a far more patient needlewoman than I. Her masterpiece work was a set of 12 bears in the days of Christmas theme.  Those bears immigrated to the Netherlands with me and languished in the to do pile for moons.  Every so ofetn I would find a fabric for the project, and guiltily stash it together with the bears for the right day.

The day finally came this last October.  I thought.  An  urgent wedding dress build, and the Dutch holiday giving days got in the way, but I did prevail.  So 2 weeks before Christmas, off went the box.  Two weeks after Christmas it was delivered (to my permanent dismay).  But the Bears are back with their creator and she is delighted. A finished project!!  Wonders never cease...
I thought it was quite handsome in spite of some little flaws.

a partridge

2 turtle doves

3 French hens

4 calling birds ( remind me to tell you about the original words!!)


6 geese

7 swans
8 milkmaids
9 ladies
10 lords
11 pipers
12 drummers
Here is the completed front, a mix of old fashioned fabric and modern. It was a challenge!
And purely by kismet, I found the backing fabric in the 12 days theme.
 Then had to find  fabrics to meld the colors with the front.
The design became a duvet- you can see the opening at the bottom.