Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New adventures in gardening!

Not a lot of sewing going on around here. First, because my lace for my 1970s tunic took about a month to show up and then wasn't the right color. Sigh. Second, because the weather is beautiful and my landlord has been instructing me in the garden! We have a nice big gardening plot in our backyard, and Judy happens to be a Master Gardener. At least, that's how I've heard others refer to her, and I can only assume that's an official title reserved for an elite few. I've no doubt she's earned it, because I've enjoyed tomatoes from her garden next door and admired her flowers. Just look!

 I don't know a thing about gardening myself, but I can't imagine a better scenario for learning than having a Master Gardener next door. Here's a look at the garden at the beginning.

Actually, I forgot to take a true "before" shot, and at this point we had already weeded out all the old, dead asparagus that had gone to seed. Can you believe a little ol' asparagus can grow into that huge gnarly bush? Now I really understand what "going to seed" means, although I certainly didn't before. Essentially, if you trim back a plant regularly (like snipping the asparagus or broccoli or whatever) you can keep it from growing like crazy and sending out seeds and becoming inedible (also called "bolting"). Plants before they go to seed are tasty and tender. After they go to seed they are tough. At least that's my newbie understanding of it (please correct me if I'm wrong). At the end of the season, when we're done eating the asparagus, we'll let the plants go to seed so that they reproduce next year.

Anyway, underneath all that "gone to seed" mess, we found this:

Tiny little asparagus (asparagi?) already popping up. I was pretty excited to see new, beautiful, edible plants underneath all that dead stuff.

Cricket used to hide in the asparagus bramble, and tried to cozy up in the waste pile after cleared it all out of the garden. Sorry Cricket. You'll have to wait til it goes to seed again.

Here's the asparagus a few days later and after I pulled all the weeds in this patch. The asparagus has been growing pretty quickly since our weather has continued to be beautiful. They're purple, but they turn green as you cook them. And yes, they are delicious.

The next task was to recover the strawberries hiding among the weeds in center of the garden. Turns out, there were loads of strawberries - more than we could possibly use. Judy told me strawberries have to have plenty of room or they won't produce many berries, so we went about transplanting them into neat rows, pulling all the weeds in between, and putting all the extra strawberry plants (and there were a lot) into a bucket to be planted elsewhere - in Judy's garden or some other lucky person's.

starting to establish the rows - neatly designated with stakes and string
Judy's fast in the garden, but I was quite slow. I don't know how many hours went into this strawberry patch, but I worked for several hours on Saturday and Josh and I went at it again on Sunday for at least five more hours. It went kinda like this - insert a stake, line up the string, find the nearest strawberry plants, pull all the weeds around them, dig all the strawberry plants up, dig new holes for them (at least 10" apart), plant em, move on to the next row. Tired yet? My mom always wonders that I ended up in archaeology since I used to complain when I had to work in the dirt with her (pulling weeds, diggin for sapphires). But there is something really satisfying about seeing this garden take shape, even if it's a lot of work.

Like my get-up? Overalls are the best gardening gear. And a wide brim hat, of course.

Not sure what I'm doing with my hands here.
Josh unloading the mulch
Adding to my gardening vocab, I now know the meaning and purpose of mulch! It's basically anything that you heap around a plant in order to: 1) keep it warm, 2) cover up weeds and make them die from lack of sunlight, and 3) give it nutrients? Maybe? Depending on the mulch I guess. We bought a truck bed full of the fancy stuff, but Judy said you can use all kinds of different materials, including wood chips or even the weeds you pull up. Following Judy's advice, we laid down long strips of paper between our rows of strawberries and covered these over with mulch. The paper helps smother the weeds (you can also use cardboard), and it also helps your mulch go further.

And here is our cleaned up strawberry patch!

Not bad, eh? Just compare that to the first garden photo and you oughta be impressed. Actually, you may notice there is one more row at the end that we didn't finish. We were exhausted. But tonight I weeded it, and tomorrow I will go back to transplant those strawberries and mulch around them so that it is as beautiful as the others.

I'm really excited to see how the garden does, and I hope I'll have the energy and dedication to keep tending it throughout the season. We still have to decide what else to plant, which is the really fun part. I'm going to do a few flowers - gladiolas! They're so pretty, and they remind me of New Mexico. We're also thinking about heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, jalapenos, beans... so many options! I'll keep you posted!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Muslin puzzlins

How do you muslin? Yes, I verbed that noun. I know muslins are important for achieving the proper fit, so I finally made one for the seventies blouse/tunic I'm working on. Specifically, I'm curious about what happens once you finish adjusting the muslin to fit. How do you transfer your alterations to the paper pattern? There's a ton of fantastic tutorials around the sewing blogosphere on how to fix specific problems, but I don't think I've seen a basic overview like the one I'm going to post here. Maybe because it's that elementary. So here it is: My super simple you-probably-already-know-this guide on how transfer markings on a blouse muslin that needs to be made smaller. I'm only posting this in hope that someday a beginner sewer happens to type in the right combination of words into a Google search and happens to stumble across this post and happens to find it useful.

So as a reminder, here's the pattern:

And here's my muslin:

No, I did not make the sleeves. I'm proud that I even bothered to finish the collar!

Too big! Too blousy! (Why am I always trying to make blouses less blousy? Maybe I should be making something other than blouses.) So I sewed some new side seams, curving in at the waist, and I added some darts in back. Then I turned my muslin inside out. Here it is, with my seam ripper pointing to the new side seam (hard to see, I know). Notice I didn't trim the excess off the seam allowance.

Next, I used a red pen to trace over my new stitching line.

Now Tasia, who does excellent tutorials, recommends thread tracing all your muslin pieces before sewing everything together. I'm not going to nay-say her - she makes professional, excellent stuff. But if you want to play it fast and loose, I think tracing over your seams with a pen after you've sewn them is a valid alternative.

I did this for the back piece too, and I also traced over the darts. Then, I seam ripped everything apart. Well, actually, I only seam ripped what was necessary to get half the front piece and half the back piece separated and lying flat once more. I did have to give them a quick press with the iron. Here is the back:

Next, I laid my pattern pieces down over my muslin pieces. The red marker showed through, but not enough to show up well in this picture. I traced it in Photoshop to show you.

Thus, I was able to neatly transfer my muslin markings directly and accurately onto my paper pattern pieces. See my new dart lines:

And the new side seam lines...

Now since I am marking the new seam or stitching lines, I still have to add in the new seam allowance to the pattern pieces. So I got out my clear ruler and measured 5/8" away from my dotted line. In the photo below, the blue arrow is pointing to the new stitching line, the red arrow is pointing to the cutting line, and the green arrow is pointing to the old stitching line.

Now, connect the dots on your cutting line with your handy hip curve ruler... 

And voila! you've transferred your muslin markings to your paper pattern!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

1980s turned 1950s refashion

I finished perfecting Eileen, and this weekend I put her to good use refashioning a dress I found at Goodwill. The dress fabric is quite pretty - a big floral print, cotton probably, looks sorta vintage. It has some nice lines too it too - princess seams and a six gore skirt. But the neckline of the dress - not so flattering. Here it is part way through the transformation process, after I cut off a good foot of the length (because tea length just isn't for me).

[Sidenote: Do you spy the hem marker my mom sent me? Love it! It worked quite nicely, especially since this skirt is about a half circle if not more.]

I apologize for the shoddy photography. The photo above is at a kinda weird angle, but you can see it had a high neckline. The bodice also angled in slightly at the shoulders, kinda like a halter neckline. I think that kinda cut makes your shoulders look bigger, and I was definitely not a fan. Why do that at all on this dress? Oh, because it's the 80s. Right.

So I spent some quality time with my seam ripper and removed all the facings around the neckline. Unfortunately, the neck facing was drafted together with the armhole facings, so those had to go too. Then I laid a piece of fabric over the bodice and drafted a new neckline onto it, used that as my new facing, ironed some fusible interfacing onto it, and sewed it right sides together to the dress. I also took the dress in a little at the princess seams because it was bustier than I. Hmm. I suppose I should have taken some photos of the whole process. But I was in a hurry! Isn't that always the case. Here's the new neckline:

Sigh. Much better. The sweetheart shape makes it feel more 1950s to me. Now all it needs is a petticoat to give the skirt some oomph. And a good washing. There are some spots I'm hoping will come out. Then again, maybe it's better they don't. That way, when I wear this dress to a summer barbecue and spill sauce all over it, I won't be too sad. I'm not too invested in this dress because I only bought it as a favor for someone (explanation later). But, I am excited about this added bonus:

Pretty excess floral fabric. Hmm. Now what does this remind me of? Oh yeah!

Gertie's beautiful rose dress, inspired by Joan, naturally...

and featuring appliqued roses, rescued from a vintage tablecloth.

I would love to put my flowers to a similar use. Maybe on a yellow dress? That would be a lot of fun.

Now the explanation. I bought this dress because a friend and fellow seamstress has asked me to be a model in a (very small) magazine ad for her (very small) vintage store. It's an extremely low budget production, so low budget in fact that she asked if I had a dress I could wear under the apron, which is a featured item in the ad. What do you know, I found this dress the next day. I guess it was meant to be. The ad is supposed to be sorta pin up style, and I'm trying to prepare myself for possible humiliation because a) I am really no good at modeling, b) I have to style my hair myself!?, and c) we couldn't even get a studio so we'll be taking the photos in a rather public location. So if anyone has any tips for modeling, hairdos, and pretending that pictures in magazines are not in fact you, please let me know. Thank you!