Hello from Atlanta, where my husband Charlie and I are visiting my twin sister Diane and her husband Ed. It’s our annual Thanksgiving trip. We arrived earlier than usual this year for a special reason: Diane and I turned 70 on November 16th and we wanted to celebrate the big 7-0 together. We weren’t going to let Covid keep us apart.
Charlie and I took extreme precautions on the trip here from Oregon, including wearing safety goggles in transit that made us look like very large insects. Two days after we left Portland the governor of Oregon announced new statewide restrictions because of the alarming increase of Covid cases. We will self-quarantine for two weeks on our return.
In the interim, we are having an absolutely wonderful time doing not very much at all. Lots of Scrabble games, brisk walks outdoors in the fresh air, reading, watching movies, making favorite recipes and trying out new ones. On our actual birthday we got all dressed up — Diane and I in our Little Black Dresses — and went to an early and very properly socially distanced dinner at a lovely French restaurant.
As fraternal twins Diane and I were never dressed alike by our mother but half a lifetime ago, when we turned 35, we bought matching sweaters and posed for this photo:
Fast forward another 35 years. We decided to recreate the photo with new matching sweaters:
Who says you can’t be silly at 70? Of course we can never go out in public wearing these outfits at the same time!
Here’s Diane in her Little Black Dress (which is actually midnight blue) . . .
. . . and here I am in mine:
I whipped up masks for us to wear with our LBDs:
I’ve taken to adding neck straps to my masks after hearing from a fellow quilter, Linda B. No more needing to stuff a mask into a pocket or leave it dangling on one ear. (Thanks so much for the idea, Linda!)
That’s the extent of my sewing on this trip to date but I hauled a bunch of fabric all the way from Portland to start on a new quilt. Here’s hoping I have a couple of test blocks — Quatrefoil blocks, in fact! — to show you real soon.
Can you picture Frank Sinatra crooning the lyrics to September Song?
“Oh it’s a long long while from May to December . . .”
[never truer than in the time of COVID!]
“But the days grow short when you reach September. . .”
We’ve actually reached the end of September. And until today I hadn’t worked on a single quilt the entire month. Can you believe that? Oh, I did some sewing in September: a few face masks, a pair of pillowcases, a bucket hat. I also worked on a fun home decorating project over the weekend that I’ll tell you about in a bit.
But a quilt? Not until today, when I pulled out this throw-sized quilt top I pieced a dozen years ago:
This little quilt came into being because I had a stack of 9-patch blocks left over from another project. (That’s a lot of leftover blocks, right? A confession: I had pressed the seams in the wrong direction while strip-sewing.) I combined the 9-patches with some snowball blocks, set them all on point, and created this 52″ x 58″ throw.
This project was ready to quilt back in 2008. I had pin-basted it to the batting and backing and had actually sewn a single line of stitching. One line! I have no memory of why I didn’t continue but I have no desire to finish quilting it myself now. My “quiltmaking” today consisted of removing all the basting pins and getting the layers ready to deliver to a longarm quilter.
My plan was to have it quilted with a simple edge-to-edge design. Then I realized that because I added a flange to the interior, the quilt will probably need to be custom quilted. Here’s a close-up of the flange:
Some of the fabrics are ones I would probably not buy now but I like the top well enough to want to finish it.
Now about that home dec project:
My husband and I took our first trip since the pandemic arrived on our shores, driving from Portland to Bend last Thursday to spend a delightful long weekend with my stepmother Shirley. While there I made two tailored bedskirts for her extra-long twin beds. Shirley recently bought new bedspreads with a nautical theme featuring navy and aqua images on a white background. We decided on a solid navy fabric for the bedskirts.
Here’s a look at the pattern I made on graph paper along with the fabric, a navy blender (almost a solid) called “Shadowplay” by Maywood that I like so much I buy it by the bolt:
You may be able to tell from my pattern that the bedskirts have one inverted pleat along the end and two on each side. Because of the dark fabric and the lighting in Shirley’s bedroom I wasn’t able to get good pictures of the completed bedskirts but they did turn out beautifully. You’ll just have to take my word for it!
This is the third and final pair of queen-size pillowcases made from a lovely toile fabric from Timeless Treasures that’s been in my stash for a few years:
The first two pair were made last year, the first pair as a gift and the second for my own home. I made these pillowcases last week as a hostess gift, planning to deliver them to my twin sister Diane when the Dear Husband and I make our annual Thanksgiving trip to Georgia in November. (Of course we will be taking every precaution while traveling during the coronavirus pandemic.)
I made the mistake of telling Diane about the pillowcases and she cajoled me into sending them in advance. I’m glad I did because she promptly put them on the pillows in the main floor guest room and sent me pictures. Here’s a close-up of the cases:
There’s something special about toile. I was really sorry to use up the last of that fabric. I actually searched for more on the Internet but came up empty-handed.
I did not make the accent pillow on the bed; Diane had it made at a specialty shop using fabric left over from the bedskirt. But I do spy four things in the photo above that are “me made”: the pillowcases, the quilt at the foot of the bed, the bedskirt, and — hard to see but look at the reflection in the mirror in the bathroom for a glimpse — the shower curtain, made in 2011 and embellished in 2012. You can read about that here. (There’s one more thing I made that you can’t see in the photo: tailored valances. I wrote about that project in this post, also from 2012. By the way, the pillowcases were made using my photo-laden Perfect Pillowcases tutorial.)
The DH and I will be sleeping on these pillowcases soon! This year’s trip is a very special one as Diane and I will be celebrating an important birthday, one of those big ones ending in a zero. Here’s a hint: we will become septuagenarians.
Hmm. Doesn’t have quite the same ring as “a bee in my bonnet,” does it? But I already have a blog post titled “A Bee in My Bonnet” so the one above will have to do.
Why a bucket hat? Well, after happening upon images on Instagram of the Sorrento Bucket Hat by Elbe Textiles I was inspired to give it a try. The pattern is available as a digital download for a mere two dollars. Lauren, the owner of Elbe Textiles, donates all proceeds from the sale of the pattern to a different cause every month. What a lovely thing to do.
Here’s a picture of my newly completed hat:
The multiple stitching lines around the brim are optional. I really like the effect of the contrasting thread. I chose a swirly dotted print in spring green for the lining:
Oh, did I mention the hat is reversible? Two for the price of one!
It’s easy to see why it’s called a bucket hat:
I interfaced the brim (an optional step) to give it more shape. It’s fun to play around with the brim, flipping it up in the front or the back for a different look. Here it is with the front of the brim flipped up . . .
. . . and here is the reverse side with the back brim flipped up:
Now all I need is a matching face mask. (Kidding!)
After posting pictures in January of the valances I made for our kitchen windows, I declared last year’s kitchen remodel “officially complete” and blithely added I would post before and after pictures “one of these days.” Well, friends, it’s been nine months coming but “one of these days” has finally arrived.
Our kitchen was fully functional before the remodel. Indeed, it had been updated only 20 years earlier. But there were several things about the kitchen I had grown dissatisfied with and I knew that making changes now would achieve three ends. First, the Dear Husband and I would enjoy cooking in the kitchen more. Second, it would give us the opportunity to correct some design flaws from previous remodels. Third — and much more important — the updates would make our home more attractive to buyers, a consideration down the line when it’s time to think about selling.
Let’s start with the east wall, moving around the corner to part of the south wall:
The soffit over the sink is gone, allowing the new cabinets on the south wall to go all the way to the ceiling. The old casement windows were failing, which is what started the remodeling ball rolling. We replaced them with double-hung windows in keeping with the windows in the rest of our 1913 house. Not shown in the photos above are the sliding glass doors that take up the rest of the east wall.
Here’s the east wall with the valances in place:
Looking directly at the south wall:
The upper cupboard space gained with the elimination of the east wall soffit was offset by cupboard space lost by having a custom range hood cover installed. We also lost a great deal of lower storage space by giving up the angled corner cupboard to the left of the stove containing a very large two-tiered lazy Susan that held most of my pots and pans. This forced me to pay attention to the items I actually use in my kitchen and resulted in paring down contents not just there but throughout the kitchen.
Here’s a “before” shot of the west wall:
Apparently I didn’t get a shot of the entire west wall after the remodel so I can’t show you a side-by-side comparison. Here are two “after” shots of the west wall:
The counter-depth refrigerator makes the kitchen feel roomier. It’s wider than the old fridge but doesn’t hold nearly as much. No matter: the old one is now downstairs in the pantry. Having a second fridge is literally one of the biggest bonuses of this remodel.
By the way, after taking the “after” shots last fall I had the lovely watercolor (by my talented daughter-in-law, Jeanne Ann White) reframed. Not until I got it home and hung it on the wall did I notice that the wood frame is the same color as the stainless steel appliances:
In the northwest corner of the kitchen, the doorways from the dining room and TV room were transformed by millwork matching the rest of the house:
It didn’t occur to me to take a “before” picture of this corner because there was literally nothing there but sheetrock.
Finally we come to the north wall:
Jeanne Ann’s work is featured on this wall as well. The wood trim you see on the far right side of the photos is the frame of the sliding glass door.
And there you have it.
I’m going to do one more post, focusing on some of the decorative accents I’ve added to the kitchen. I might include a list of the pros and cons of the remodel. Yes, there are a few things about the kitchen I don’t love so much. Overall, though, I am thrilled with the outcome and would do it again in a heartbeat.
If you’re new to my blog and want to review the kitchen remodel from the outset, feel free to follow these links:
Let me end this long post by saying I am beyond grateful to have a kitchen. As wildfires fires raged through Oregon last week leaving destruction and devastation in their wake, some of my family members and friends were forced to evacuate their homes. I am relieved to report their homes are still standing but it will be some time before they can go home because the fires are still burning and the air is thick with dangerous smoke. The fires came within a few miles of Portland but the city was blanketed by smoke. Portland has had the worst air quality in the entire United States for the last few days. Rain is forecast for tomorrow so we are hoping for some relief.
I have watched in anguish the images on TV of entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble not just in my state but also in California and Washington. Wildfires are burning in a dozen western states but the west coast has been hit especially hard. Against that backdrop I feel lucky to have a beautifully remodeled kitchen.
Last December I made the Dear Husband a new bathrobe because his old one was practically falling apart. I remember thinking, “My robe is pretty worn out, too. I should make myself a new one.”
Fast forward eight months. Eight months! That’s how long it took me to get the job done. But the wait was worth it. Here’s my brand new kimono-style robe:
The fabric is a lovely Asian-inspired toile from Michael Miller Fabrics that’s been in my stash for a number of years. I probably bought it thinking to use it in a quilt. Fortunately I had purchased a fairly large piece, enough to eke out a bathrobe. Also in my stash was a piece of blue polka-dotted fabric that was a good choice for the contrasting band, belt, and pocket trim.
Here’s what the robe looks like from the back:
Rather than make belt loops and a loose belt as the pattern called for, I stitched the belt directly to the robe on the back:
Perhaps you can see the stitching a bit better in this next photo:
The Simplicity pattern I used (5314) didn’t include pockets — what bathrobe doesn’t have pockets, for heaven’s sake? — so of course I made my own. And because the toile fabric depicts large-scale scenes of people and objects like pagodas and bridges and musical instruments, I decided to match the design on the pockets to the fabric underneath.
To do that I made patterns for the pockets out of freezer paper. After positioning them and ironing them in place, I made registration lines on the pattern that lined up with the design underneath:
Then I lifted the freezer paper pattern from the robe and matched it with the same design elements on the fabric scraps I had left over after cutting out the robe. Voilà — fussy-cut pockets.
Here’s the right-side pocket pinned in place:
(You’ll notice I added an inch-wide strip of my contrasting polka-dotted fabric to the pockets for some extra design appeal.)
Here’s the pocket stitched in place:
I did the same thing with the pocket on the left side:
I’m very pleased with the way my new robe turned out. Can you picture me sitting out on the back deck tomorrow morning enjoying my morning coffee? Here’s my dress rehearsal:
Well, maybe “fail” is too strong a word. Maybe I should just say the final result wasn’t what I expected. . .
To be clear, the problem had nothing to do with the pattern. It’s a very good one.
I’ve been intrigued by the three-dimensional face masks I’ve seen some folks wearing. The boxy shape seems to fit the face well and allows for plenty of breathing room. I decided to make a new mask for the Dear Husband using the 3D Face Mask from SeeKateSew, billed as “the most comfortable face mask.” I picked this print from Andover Fabrics that I bought last year to make the DH a new apron (which hasn’t happened yet):
He’s the gardener of the family and I thought this fabric would make a fun mask for him to wear when he’s outside working in our yard or tending our community garden plot.
I did make one adjustment to the pattern:
That’s my freezer paper pattern in the foreground, with extensions on the side to allow for a generous ¾” casing for the ear loops rather than the narrow ⅜” casing the pattern provides. The freezer paper pattern can be used over and over again — no pinning because the freezer paper is pressed directly onto the fabric, where it is easily peeled off after the fabric has been cut.
The printed directions by SeeKateSew are very clear, as is her website tutorial. The mask came together very easily. Here’s what it looks like from the front:
Here’s a look at the inside . . .
. . . and here you can see I added a sleeve at the top for a removable nose wire:
When the mask was done I could tell it would be too small for my husband. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll adjust the pattern to make a bigger mask for him. I’ll keep this one for myself.”
Then I tried it on:
Do you see what I see?
Those peas! They look like teeth . . . and the peapods? They look like lips. Green lips.
Tomorrow the Dear Husband and I will go on our first social outing since we began sheltering in place in March. The big event is a Happy Hour with good friends at their home. We’ll rendezvous on their spacious deck where we can chat (and eat and drink!) while maintaining proper social distance.
Here’s what I’m bringing as a hostess gift:
I never thought I would be bringing face masks as a hostess gift. On the other hand, I never expected to be living through a pandemic.
Here’s a look at the inside of the masks:
You can see each one has a channel at the top to hold a nose wire.
I made a new mask for myself and added a channel for a nose wire. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and attached it to the wrong side of the mask lining. When I sewed the lining and the main mask piece right sides together and turned them, the channel was nowhere to be seen. Silly me!
I’m not going to take it apart. There’s an easier solution, which I will share in my next post.
I’m shifting gears in my mask-making endeavors. Since mid-March, when the Dear Husband and I started sheltering in place at our Portland White House, I’ve made several dozen face masks using one of the first tutorials I came across, that of ER nurse Jessica Nandino. Between then and now, I’ve tried a few other patterns and haven’t found any I liked better.
This is PJ Wong’s design. (I haven’t met PJ yet, although we both teach for Montavilla Sewing Centers. She’s an expert on designs and projects for machine embroidery and leads several clubs at Montavilla devoted to sewing, serging, and machine embroidery.) On the Montavilla website I came across this link taking me to instructions for two masks PJ has designed: one with a vertical center seam and one with three pleats. Both designs include instructions for an optional filter pocket, and the pleated mask also includes a casing for a nose wire. The site includes pdf patterns, written directions, and video tutorials.
I tried PJ’s design for the mask with the center seam (often called a duckbill mask) and proclaimed it a winner. What I like most about her design is the inclusion of a facing, separate from the mask and lining pieces, that gives the mask a beautifully finished look — inside and out. What’s more, the facing creates a casing at the sides that allows the mask to be secured with ties or elastic or — a new discovery for me — “t-shirt yarn.” (More on that below.)
As you see in the photo above, I used quarter-inch double fold bias tape on my first mask. All I had to do was stitch the tape closed and thread it through the casing. I cut my lengths of bias tape 36″ long, leaving a length of 18″ on each side at the top and 15″ at the bottom. That leaves plenty of tape to tie at the back of the head and the base of the neck. If you look carefully at the casing, you can tell that I stitched a little bar tack in the middle of the casing to maintain those lengths.
Here’s my first effort:
PJ’s duckbill pattern comes in four sizes, small through extra large. The one I made first is a medium and felt a bit large on me so I decided to try making a mask in the small size. And while I was at it, I wanted to try a different method of securing the mask in place. To be honest, cutting bias strips and sewing fabric ties was the one thing I found rather tedious about the other mask design I’ve been using, although it certainly has other features I really like.
I had seen several references on Instagram to using t-shirt fabric to make ear loops for masks. It is said to be softer than elastic hence more comfortable around the ears. All roads pointed toward a tutorial by craftpassion.com on making t-shirt “yarn.” It was a breeze to make and now I have a small ball of yarn made from one of the DH’s t-shirts, enough for a few dozen masks. (I haven’t told him yet about his sacrifice.)
Here’s my second effort, with t-shirt yarn for the ear loops:
The ear loops are very comfortable. And look how cute the mask is on the inside:
See what I mean about the nice finish? PJ’s directions call for the facing (green fabric) to be stitched down right next to the lining (yellow dotted fabric), which is left open so that a filter can be slipped into the center of the mask. Since I’m not using a filter, I stitched the ends of the lining closed.
The next version I made was for my twin sister, Diane, who needs a mask to go with the dress she is planning to wear to a wedding later this month. The dress is a navy knit wrap with a gray leaf design on it. She wanted a mask that would complement her dress, and she asked for a mask that would hold a nose wire. I made this one for her:
Take a look at the inside:
How cute is that lining fabric? Even with the addition of the gray leaf strip at the top, which holds a nose wire, the mask is nice enough to wear inside out:
Kidding, of course. But now I may have to make a mask for myself with the lemon fabric on the outside because it goes so well with my top!
The face masks I’ve been making over the last several days are finished with fabric ties. For the most part I’ve been following the tutorial of ER nurse Jessica Nandino but I departed from her instructions by pressing my strips of straight-grain fabric in the manner of double-fold bias tape before sewing them onto the mask rather than after. This allows me to insert the raw edges of the mask into the center of the binding strips and stitch once through all the layers. The finished product is very neat looking (as in neat and tidy) but the ties aren’t as flat as I would wish. In addition, the process of pressing three separate folds into those fabric strips is time-consuming and tedious. Oy, is it ever!
I have a bias tape maker on order that converts strips of bias fabric into ⅜”-wide double-fold bias tape but it will be several days before it arrives. In the meantime, I decided to try something different: I cut ⅞”-wide strips of fabric on the bias, pressed them only once in the middle, then encased the raw edges of the mask in the folded strip, leaving the raw edges of the bias strips in plain view. I chose batik fabric for the bias strips because it’s very tightly woven. My assumption was that when a mask made this way goes through the washer and dryer, the raw edges of the straps won’t fray and the finished product will still look neat and tidy.
Friends, it worked! Granted, the finish isn’t as fine but I think it looks pretty darn good. Here’s my first attempt:
This mask has been through the washer and dryer.
Here’s a close-up, looking at the inside of the mask:
If you look carefully you can see that the raw edges of the binding are just the teensiest bit fuzzy but there is no raveling. That stitching you see on the inside mask fabric is the nose dart. The nose and chin darts in Jessica’s design give the mask its close fit. It’s a feature of her tutorial that I really like. No need to make a casing to insert a pipe cleaner or floral wire to shape the top of the mask, as I’ve seen in some face mask tutorials.
For my second attempt at a raw edge binding finish I used a zigzag stitch:
I think it gives a neater finish and may prove to be more durable than a single line of stitching.
Here’s a photo of the mask after having been laundered:
Again, no raveling of the raw edges, just the slightest bit of fuzziness.
Here is the same mask being modeled by moi:
These masks are not medical grade but they’re certainly better than no protection at all. And you can add an additional layer of protection by inserting a coffee filter in the mask:
I did have to trim the top and bottom of this 12-cup coffee filter to make it fit.
Thus far I’ve been making one mask at a time because of my tinkering with the construction method. Now I’m at the point where I can move to assembly-line production. A very low-key assembly line, to be sure. I’m not a speedy seamstress but my output should increase significantly.
I did figure out a faster way to cut fabric. Jessica’s pattern represents half of the mask. It was designed to be pinned in place with the center of the mask on a folded piece of fabric and cut out one at a time. To speed up the cutting process I made a full-size freezer paper pattern and pressed it to the top layer of fabric. With a sharp blade in my rotary cutter I can easily cut several layers of fabric at a time.
Then I simply peel off the freezer paper pattern and it’s ready to be used over and over again.
When my next batch of masks is done (I’m still sewing for friends and family) I’m going to reward myself by taking a break from maskmaking and sewing something new.