Another Linnet #99 Tunic

A sleeveless, tunic length version of the Linnet #99 pattern.

A sleeveless, tunic length version of the Linnet #99 pattern.

I’ve made another version of the Linnet Dress #99. Since I’m not much of a dress person, I crafted another tunic version, this one somewhat shorter than the last one, and without sleeves, so it can be worn as a layering garment with shirts, turtlenecks and leggings. I had some remnants of heavy weight linen that I’d dyed for another project knocking around and so that’s what I used, and decided that the contrasting shade of the selvage was something that I liked so I chose to incorporate it into the design. I’m pleased with this project. This is exactly the sort of basic wardrobe garment that I needed and that prompted my wardrobe sewing adventure in the first place. The simplicity of the pattern lends itself to seemingly endless variations. This is a four pleat version, two in front and two in back, but I’m working on a 10 pleat version with long sleeves in an indigo dyed linen. My linen supply has run dry but I intend to make more of these, one in silk and a couple in some  cotton Provencale prints that I have in my fabric stash. With Spring nowhere in sight, I think I might still have enough time to crank out a few more before gardening season is upon us.

Tunic #1: Linnet Dress Pattern #99

The pattern was altered to tunic length.

The pattern was altered to tunic length.

picture of linen tunic sewn with a Linnet Sewing pattern

Detail of inverted front pleats at waistline.

Here is the completed garment, using Linnet Dress pattern No. 99, adapted to a tunic length. For such a seemingly simple garment, there’s been quite a learning curve, taking three times longer than I’d expected it to. (And I thought I’d be whipping these things out at a rate of one a day, passing the snowy, winter days, populating my wardrobe with a dozen lovely, well-made, linen tunics in gorgeous colors all hand-dyed by me, and in time to host garden parties this summer). Uhhhh. Time to re-think that one and set more modest goals, I suppose.

I’ve learned a lot from making this garment, and have a much greater respect for even poorly made garments, like this one, for instance.

I altered the pattern somewhat, eliminating the original shawl collar, which ended up looking rather matronly, and shortened the whole thing to tunic length. The next one I make will be for fall and winter, and the plan is to line it for extra warmth and opacity.

We’ll see how that goes. YouTube tutors seem to make entire garments come together, perfectly and professionally in 7.28 minutes, so…….anything is possible..

Japanese Sewing Patterns-Part II

Linnet sewing pattern fresh out of the airmail envelope.

Linnet sewing pattern fresh out of the airmail envelope.

Hmmm. Operation Japanese Sewing patterns isn’t going as swimmingly as I’d expected. Out of the envelope, what I loved about the uncluttered, clean, minimalist patterns has become a baneful sewing adventure. All that previously admired open space means there’s very little information to guide one in the construction/assembly process; no notches for matching seams, no markings for tailor tacks, no seam allowances.  Very minimal, indeed. I guess the Linnet people expect a more practiced sewist to be using their patterns. The written instructions that accompany the patterns are, at first glance, thorough enough, until you actually try following them. They’ve made a good effort but there’s just not enough direction for a beginning sewist, despite the simplicity of the garment silhouettes themselves.

Sigh. Well, on the bright side of things, I’m glad I’m not using wildly expensive or irreplaceable fabric, and, although I hadn’t really planned on any hand sewing, there is some of that involved, and thanks to YouTube and some generous and skillful tailors-sharers, I’m learning some great hand sewing techniques that I’d never known about.  I’m also keeping careful notes on the difficulties I encounter and how I’m resolving them so that I don’t have to tread this thorny path again. Lesson #1: Don’t try to adapt our measurement system of inches to metric. Just use the metric system. ( Weren’t we Americans supposed to have converted to the metric system sometime in the seventies of the last century? What happened with that perfectly reasonable idea?)

I’ve started this project with an off-white linen, and sewing linen is somewhat more challenging than the more tightly woven cotton fabrics. The next garment will be a cotton print. But while I’m on the subject, let me say something more about the garment I’m working on; Linnet Dress/Tunic #99. The good news is that there’s very little discernible difference between the ‘right-side’ and the ‘wrong-side’ of the off-white linen fabric that I’m using. That also happens to be the bad news as well. Lacking tailor’s marks or notches, it’s hard to tell what goes where and how in the construction. I’ve taken to sticking blue tape onto the fabric patterns pieces and writing RS (Right Side) and WS (Wrong Side) to keep myself sane-ish.

The first garment ought to be completed by tomorrow, and I’ll post the results here.

 

The Ultimate-ish Gardening Apron; Free Giveaway!

Producing a useful gardening apron is high on my list of things to do. I want to expand my apron offerings on Stonewell Cottage, to include the Ultimate Garden Apron. Many years back I had someone make a few artist/ craft aprons for me that were patterned on a sort of short, waitress style design. They were cute. When I moved to the country and actually tried using them for gardening, I discovered that they simply don’t function well. For the past couple of days I’ve googled gardening aprons and have found quite a variety, but surprisingly few will actually do the job they need to do. They look great on the real-life models who are standing erect and in a garden environment, tools nicely featured in generous pockets, and the more stylish ones are downright adorable and chic, not dissimilar to the ones I created years ago, but they just won’t do the job that I want my garden apron to do.

Here are my thoughts, based on real-life gardening work, and the criteria I will apply to designing the perfect gardening apron.

  • Firstly, the apron must have a slit through the front. Of course you want plenty of pockets for tools, seeds, etc..and these must be included, however, they will be positively useless if you cannot access those pockets in a crouched position. Its akin to keeping your tools in your front pockets…you simple can’t get to them, or worse, they’re jabbing you in the solar-plexis.
  • The apron needs to be more like a toolbelt, but not exactly. I have something like that and it presents problems for me. This takes me to the part that I think might be a hard sell because it seems so weird. I garden in a close fitting long-sleeved T shirt and sturdy jeans (baggy clothes catch on things, like rose thorns). In the classic crouched weeding or planting position, the T shirt rides up and the pants down, exposing a crescent of my lower back that gets sunburned. My garden apron idea is to have the apron tied on in the opposite way that it would normally be worn. In other words, a back panel would cover the lower back, preventing sunburn, the tie would be in the front, in my case, enfolded in belly fat, and the utility pockets would hang accessibly from the sides of ones outer hips, where they can be readily accessed.
  • The majority of people are right handed and so the narrow pocket for a writing implement might be on the right, but a similar pocket could be on the left, for lefties, or equally serviceable for plant markers. The heavier hand tools; the trowels and cultivators, would best be located as close to the vertical hipline as possible, so they work in harmony with gravity and our most durable and padded anatomical parts. (Sorry supermodels…talk to me about doing a padded couture version just for you!).

So I want your input and experience….pros, cons, all of it. There could be a bibbed version of the Ultimate Garden Apron. I suppose a bibbed version would provide additional storage for small items, but I think the pockets on the bib would have to be placed somewhere mid-chest and they would have to hang freely for easy accessibility, which means they can’t be very deep, otherwise they would block your field of vision. (Sometimes bibs can ride up and choke you a bit).

Oh, I forgot to mention…..my ultimate gardening apron must be durable and good-looking. I’m planning my apron around 100% cotton ticking fabrics, made in the USA.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a contest / giveaway. Totally subjective (but nepotism and familiarity free).  You MUST comment. Include details regarding what you want a Garden Apron to do for you. Based upon the seriousness and depth of you comments, I will select a winner, and he or she will receive one of my Ultimate Gardening Aprons within a months time.

Deadline for Comments is: April 1, 2014!!! I look forward to hearing from you!

Garden Year 2013 in Review- Part I

As the seed and bulb catalogues start piling up in the basket, it seems that this is a good time to review the ups and downs, successes and failures of our gardens in 2013. Where to begin? Well, it wasn’t the best gardening year, nor was it the worst.  Just different. One of the main differences was the absence of a cutting garden. In the past, we’ve had a separate, fenced garden, approximately 65′ long by 25’wide, that was largely dedicated to annually planted cut flowers; dahlias, sunflowers, cosmos, china asters, gladioli, zinnias, larkspur, Bells of Ireland, tall marigolds, nicotiana, and the like. This space was shared by espaliered apples, which line the fence, a fanned peach tree, asparagus, and vegetables that we couldn’t fit into themain kitchen garden. Last year, we rooted cuttings of red, white and black currants, blueberries, wine grapes, raspberries, black berries and gooseberries and these were all planted in that garden, and which we now refer to as the Fruit Garden, along with space-consuming strawberries. This was a great success. We produced loads of delicious jams and jellies, stuffed the freezer with raspberries,strawberries and blueberries, and are now enjoying muffins and ice cream in the dead of winter. This left us with no choice but to plant the ‘cut flowers’ into the borders and in a small, 20′ x 20′ un-fenced annex garden and the results were a dire failure. DEER! They ate everything in sight, all of the annual flowers were chomped down to nothing and many, if not all of the perennials. Deer pressure is reaching epidemic proportions in our neck of the woods and even at 20 feet away, they are fearless. They watch me feed the chickens, turkeys and ducks, they chomp away at the apples in the orchard, maintaining eye contact with me as if I were their friend, and now they’ve discovered the poultry feeders and learned to share! Yes! While the chickens and ducks and turkeys are snacking at the feeders, the deer are right there with them, nibbling away as if they were all one big happy family. The birds appear to have embraced them. The fowl seem perfectly fine with these cloven hoofed behemoths nuzzling their beaks at the feed source. (It’s almost as if they LIKE them, or worse, ADMIRE them)!!!! They gaze up at their eyes, and carefully, nimbly, negotiate around and between their legs with a generous sense of plurality and the cloven-hooved ones respond with gentle, careful movements. Not a peep or cluck or quack of alarm or concern. “Excuse me, but you don’t mind if I just grab this bit of cracked corn, do you”? “Certainly not, please, help yourself, and I hope you won’t mind my having a few of these delicious and nutritious layer pellets”.  ” Oh, not at all, help yourself, there’s plenty where that came from….the bipeds with the opposible thumbs always keep it full and fresh. Oh no, no need to go down that slope to the pond, the fresh water is over here, just follow me”.

Geez! What’s next? Fine, we’re accustomed to the chickens pecking at the front door asking for their treats of Cheerios or Carr’s crackers, but shall I now expect to hear hooves tapping at the threshhold demanding tortilla chips?

So, in short, there were no cut flowers for us this year, and very few roses, for that matter. More in the next post.

Totebags – Franglais Chinois!

You know, we all seem to have a dozen or more totebags but few of them are chic or stylish. In an attempt to change that ethos I’ve come up with a stylish, chic and utilitarian version of a Totebag, smart enough to double as a handbag. The fabrics are chic, honest and rooted in traditional textiles.  The main body of the bag is a heavy-weight cotton ticking made in the USA. The exterior pockets, the lower part of the bag, are in a polyester ultrasuede made in China, trimmed and lined with the charming Provencale fabrics that we’ve imported from France, which also line the interior of the tote, which features an interior pocket for a cell phone or, whatever… The straps combine the durable ultrasuede and the yellow ticking fabric.

The 'Avignon' totebag.

The ‘Avignon’ totebag.

Chic and useful totebag.
The bold, stylish, and infinitely useful ‘Avignon Tote’.