Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: April 2017

I am halfway through Exit West and still not sure what I think but the quotation above was worth the whole book. It so beautifully captures a universal truth.

This month I was lucky to have a week off from work during which I traveled to Austin, Texas to see my son.

 

For me, travel on planes means quick easy reads: murder mysteries, chick lit, novels that don’t require a lot of effort. The five books below fit the bill.

I also recently read this book which is a companion book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I enjoyed.  Thanks to my daughter for recommending it!

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I am almost done with two audio books, one quite long, The Gene and one quite short but very intense, The End of the Affair. I started reading The Gene last year and had a hard time getting through it as it is long and a bit long-winded. I loved the author’s prior book about cancer but this one has been a bit harder going. The author’s writing sometimes seems designed to show off rather than enhancing the narrative. He uses a lot of words with similar roots in sentences: “engender gender” is just one example. I liked it at first but then started to find it a distraction. When I realized that my library had the audio version, I started listening to it and that is working much better for me. It is funny how some books are better on audio and some are better read. At least that is how it works for me.

The End of the Affair read by Colin Firth is not my typical read. I initially wasn’t sure I would like it because although his narration is superb, the main character didn’t seem like someone I could identify with but halfway through, some things shift in the arc of the story and now I am really interested to finish it. I have been listening in small doses.

I also reread Travels with Charley this month which is just as good on the re-read. img_5648But the absolute best thing I have read so far this year is Lincoln in the Bardo. I am hoping I can get my book club to read it because I would love to discuss it with the group. It was brilliant, riveting, poignant. img_5646

It evoked so many things I have read but was also completely original. I was distracted at first by the many citations he uses. I was a history major and I wanted to know if they were actually real documents he was citing. I actually googled that question and I usually don’t google about anything I am reading until I have finished it. I found a review that criticized the author for making up some but not all of the quotes and once I realized that they weren’t all real and that I couldn’t really tell which were and which were not, I stopped paying attention to the citations and just read it quickly getting into the flow. I actually finished it in a day.  So so good. Just read it.

What books are you loving lately?

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Made By Rae Patterns, Ruby Dress Pattern, Sewing

Itty Bitty Baby Dress

It is almost Easter and in that spirit I did a bit of sewing last week.img_5424I made a teeny tiny dress.img_5460A friend at work had a baby last week, a little girl. This gave me a great excuse to sew something tiny and cute. The pattern is a free pattern literally called the Itty Bitty Baby Dress from Rae Hoekstra available for download from her site.  It is really small and I even sized it up a bit. It is designed to fit a 3 month old as sewn. My children are all grown. One forgets how small new babies are!img_5472I love the little birds. This fabric is cute but not cutesy which I love. My sewing wasn’t perfect but it really didn’t matter in the end.img_5463I made this little dress from fabric left over from a Ruby dress that I made and love. The fabric is Tokyo Trees from Cloud 9 fabrics. I bought it online at HoneyBeGood which has a great selection of organic fabrics.img_5429 The lining fabric was a fat quarter I had purchased from The Cloth Pocket. It is still available at various stores. The fabric is from a collection called Boardwalk Delight by Art Gallery Fabrics. I couldn’t resist the sprinkles. (below before I hand sewed the bodice lining) I love the rabbit ear shape the ties make. The curves are very small by the way which is a bit of a challenge-sew slowly 🙂img_5433In preparation for grandparenting which I hope to not be too far off-maybe 2 or 3 years?- I had already purchased the Geranium and Flashback Tee patterns when Rae had a pattern sale earlier this year. I love the many variations of those patterns (especially this one which reminds me of outfits my girls wore when they were little) and look forward to sewing them in the future. But this little pattern has no buttons or zippers so I thought I would try it  as I was sewing last minute the day before the shower-as I do. It didn’t disappoint. I simplified it a bit, eliminating the piping in the interest of time and I created a hem facing the same way I always do, only smaller.It is pretty foolproof and quick.img_5467One challenge was not having a small enough hanger to properly show off the finished product.  I tried to improvise. I am not sure I am doing it justice in this photo.I sewed everything by machine except for the last seam where I hand sewed the bodice lining. You could probably do that by machine as well but I don’t trust myself with the tiny gathers. It doesn’t take long.I enjoy hand sewing and it is quicker to hand sew once than to machine sew and have to redo it.img_5469Some more construction pictures below.  Hem facing. Attaching bodice.img_5428Such quick little seams to sew.One lesson learned, it you want to topstitch around the neck and armholes, wait until after you attach the front and back bodice pieces together. Ask me how I know that?img_5422 I got a little ahead of myself. But it all worked out in the end.  img_5476

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Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Arizona Cleo Skirt

I don’t have all of April Rhodes’ fabrics but I have many and have used them to make some garments I really love such as a Washi dress with sleeves, this Ruby dress, two pairs of Luna Pants, a Gemma Tank and a Cleo skirt. I am so happy with the green Washi with sleeves that I made with the beautiful fabric below imageand this navy Ruby dress and Gemma tank made in the other colorway of the green fabric, both of which I made and wore last summer.

I actually bought extra yardage of the green and navy fabrics as back-up for when I wear the dresses out which I consider good planning.  Although the fabric is quilting cotton and relatively inexpensive, it is easy to work with and the feel of the fabric is very soft and lends itself to garments you want to wear. I first bought the fabric below from the Arizona line because I liked the geometric design and I thought it would make a good Beatrix blouse but when Rae came out with the Cleo Pattern, I thought it would be fun to see how the pattern worked with gathers. I think it is great as a skirt.I sewed this at the same time that I sewed my Fringe Cleo as I have found it is not a lot more work to make two of a garment than one.  I sewed the hem with my machine using a hem facing, as I do. I used a lightweight white cotton batiste to face the hem because I thought the black lines might show through the white of the fabric if I just turned the hem up using the patterned fabric.I used three inch strips. Details of this hemming method in my prior Cleo posts. It is my go-to, quick method and it works well for me.I sewed the back of the waistband on the machine as directed but sewed the last bit of the front waistband by hand.  I get nervous sewing in the ditch when the fabric is gathered and prefer to finish that last bit by hand. I used the batiste for the pocket as well. There is something so satisfying about a crisply ironed finished pocket. Rae’s instructions are very clear and the skirt is relatively easy to construct but is very polished looking when sewn. It makes me want to sew all the skirts!Here in Connecticut it is technically spring but not quite the weather for this skirt but soon! I have some white double gauze and I am thinking that a sleeveless Josephine blouse would be great with this skirt. It is on my (very long and growing) to be sewn list.

My blog is not monetized and I derive no benefit if you click on the links. I provide links to resources that I find helpful and I hope you do too. Happy sewing!

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Bias Binding, Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing, Washi Dress Pattern

Snowday Sewday: WashiXP and Fringe Cleo Skirt

It snowed in Connecticut this week and the highways were closed. A perfect day to finish some sewing projects! I finished a Washi XP and a Cleo Skirt.The Washi XP is an expansion pack that enables you to make more versions of the Made By Rae Washi Pattern. It gives you many options for customizing your dress. I made the sleeveless version with a big bow. I had cut this dress out last summer when I wanted to use the fabric to bind this baby quilt and had to cut the dress out first to make sure I had enough left for the binding. And then it sat as WIPs tend to do. The Cleo Skirt below was planned from the minute Rae announced that she would be releasing a skirt pattern. I bought this Fringe fabric when I saw the great skirts that April made in both a child and adult version. But while I waited for the skirt pattern to be released (and it was worth the wait) I thought about how great this fabric would be for a pair of Luna Pants (which I sewed last summer) and I ended up buying more for the skirt. I am not sorry.Because this is quilting cotton, it is a bit poofier than say, voile or double gauze. But I have decided to embrace the poof. I love this skirt!It is great right now with boots and tights and it is going to be great this summer with a black tank top. Or this blue Gemma I made last summer that goes with everything. I used another fabric from April Rhodes as a hem facing.I used 3 inch strips. I find this is easier and gives me a nicer finish than a traditional hem. It is also more fun.Dress hanging on the front door before hemming and before I sewed the waistband down on the inside of the front waist. I hand sewed the front part because stitching in the ditch with all those gathers made me a bit nervous. Hand sewing was fast and I was happy with the results.This was a quick sew and the quilting cotton was really easy to work with. Next up, I have versions planned in voile. Pocket in process below. Rae’s instructions are really clear.Next up was the WashiXP. This is not much more work than the regular Washi. I love this fabric from Cotton and Steel. It is quilting cotton but a bit heavier in feel and it drapes really nicely. I have made several dresses with Cotton and Steel quilting cotton that I wear all winter with leggings and a sweater. In this version, the front bodice is in two pieces that are then sewn together to enable you to attach the ties for the bow.This fabric was also really easy to work with, a great thing for the first time you sew a pattern. I also have some Cotton and Steel rayon that I have planned for this pattern but I wanted to sew it first using a fabric that would cooperate.Again the step by step directions are easy to follow.This version of the Washi uses elastic with a casing instead of shirring with elastic thread although you could do either. I ended up machine basting the casing from the wrong side so I could be sure to line it up correctly and then used the basting stitches to guide me when I sewed it in place from the right side. This worked really well for me and was pretty quick.I hand basted the last part of the collar sewing where you sew in the ditch from the right side of the fabric. This kept the collar in place and enabled me to iron it well before sewing so I got a nice result.Here is the dress before I sewed the bias binding on to the armholes. The fit is spot on and I love the bow. Selfie arms below.I decided to use some of the last of my Cotton and Steel floral lawn for the armholes. I love this fabric. One of my favorites. I have a sleeveless Beatrix Blouse cut out of this ready to sew for summer. I need another snowday!It makes the binding so much more enjoyable when you love the fabric. I love the pops of color.Especially the mustard and olive green.I like to turn my binding under so just a hint of the binding fabric shows. I spent a lot of time sewing bias binding last summer when I sewed many Gemma tanks and this is my favorite binding method.Inside of dress below with collar.Finished dress in hallway picture (front door pictures don’t work in blizzards.)Inside view. I didn’t have enough of the floral for the hem so I used a Cotton and Steel lawn in a pink color that harmonizes with the floral.And as worn. Yes it was cold but worth it for the photo. These are both great patterns and I have many more versions planned for spring which is supposed to be here in just five days! 

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Nursebean Reads: March 2017

Still sewing more and reading less but I loved Jayber Crow (Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendation,) Paradise Lodge (Ben and Birdy recommendation,) Emma on audiobook with a great narrator (a kindle deal again today-thanks @annebogel !) and The Dry (WSIRN podcast recommendation) which was a fast read. I listened to The Things They Carried. An important book but oh so tough to listen to.  

What have you been reading and loving?

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Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Loominous Cleo

I was lucky to have the chance to test Rae Hoekstra‘s new skirt pattern the Cleo. I have had so many skirt ideas but didn’t have a pattern I loved so I had been waiting for this one for some time. I have loved all the checked and striped versions that Rae has made and when I saw this beautiful fabric from the Loominous line by Anna Maria Horner, I knew it would be perfect. I love the stripey, checked feeling of the fabric and the different patterns within patterns that are going on in the weave. I have also been loving yellow and blue lately.img_5226The biggest decision for me when thinking about skirts is the length. The floral skirt below is the unhemmed View B that I sewed as a pattern tester and I think it is just about the right length. Rae subsequently added several inches to View B for the final Cleo pattern but since most of my height is in my torso, I am happy with the shorter length. I made my Loominous Cleo 1.5 inches longer than my test skirt to allow for the hem. I ended up finishing the hem with a facing so I probably didn’t need the extra inch.
img_4234I loved this contrasting yellow woven fabric from the same fabric line (Loominous 2) and decided to use it on the inside of the waistband and to face the hem. It gave the waistband a bit more structure to construct it this way. In cutting the pattern pieces, I decided to cut the main skirt pieces perpendicular to the grain to have the stripes feel more horizontal than vertical. I cut the waist band with the grain in order to give it some contrast (also possibly more slimming? Hard to tell.) I am really happy with the way it turned out. Waistband in process below.
img_5203Inside of waistband close-up with under stitching seen below.
img_5199I cut the pockets with the grain because that made the best use of the fabric I had left after cutting the main pieces. One could also cut contrasting pockets but I only had a half a yard of the yellow.img_5213I under stitched along the seam where the pockets are sewn to the skirt. img_5215I love the juxtaposition of the shapes and stripes.
img_5210I finished my seams with a simple zig zag stitch. I bought a serger this fall but haven’t yet had the time to figure it out. One of my 2017 goals!
img_5216Picture of the inside of the waistband after inserting elastic below. This was a quick skirt in a day sew.
img_5221Hem facing being sewn below. I use the seam line as a visual guide when I fold up the hem facing. I used 3 inch strips.
img_5220The 3 inch strips enable me to sew my hems using the edge of the metal plate on my sewing machine as a visual guide to line up the bottom edge of the skirt.  img_5223Hem facing below.img_5224 I added a label as an afterthought right next to the side seam-I had already sewn the rest of the waistband when I thought to do it- because the colors match pretty well. This is the inside of the skirt after being washed and not ironed so a bit wrinkled. 
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I was on my way out the door to work but I had my husband take a couple of pictures.  I had washed the skirt and it is a bit rumpled but you can get a feel for the fit. That is a Gemma tank that I am wearing with it which is a great combination for summer.img_5246-1I  took the pictures with ankle high boots but switched boots after I saw the pictures. I decided that I like the skirt with taller boots or sandals given the length of the skirt. img_5257I probably will make the skirt an inch shorter next time but I am overall very happy with it. It will be perfect for spring and summer months. I have plans for several more Cleo’s in this voile, this lawn and this chambray and have this great fabric by April Rhodes cut out and ready to sew. I sewed a Medium although my measurements put me between a Medium and a Large. The skirt is relatively full and I am happy with the fit. I didn’t make any other adjustments other than sewing it in a shorter length. The fabric is from The Cloth Pocket, which is a wonderful store to visit in person or online. I basically want to buy everything they stock. I highly recommend this pattern and can’t wait to make more!

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Nursebean Reads: February 2017

I have been doing more sewing, less reading but loved the new book from Laurie Frankel which I found through Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Anne Bogel-she is right- don’t read anything about it just pick up the book and read it. I loved the writing and the characters and the author’s very personal viewpoint on the subject matter. After reading the book, I read the Modern Love piece she wrote about her own experience which is worth a read but read the book first. I also really appreciated Deep Work-another MMD recommendation- and am currently working on implementing some of the suggestions into my life. I listened to a great audio version of Persuasion and finally finished Gilead which I had started and never finished many times. I loved it but I think I loved Lila more. A big goal for me this year is to read more classics and more books I already own so I am glad to be making progress on those fronts. What are you reading and loving?

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