Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: July 2017

I have read far fewer books this year than last mostly due to a heavy work schedule. I am also listening to more NPR news (sadly) and podcasts. I am also having a harder time finding books I love. Nothing I have read yet has topped Lincoln in the Bardo. I highly recommend it.

Here are some recent reads.

I am glad I read A  Piece of the World and appreciated the characters and the way the author wove the story together that blended real settings and people with her fictional characters but I found it slow going at times.

I am going to be honest: Beartown was hard to read at times. I felt the foreshadowing and omnipresent voice of the narrator always commenting on the characters and the story was heavy handed and I found it hard to read knowing that something bad was going to happen but not knowing when or to whom.

Our book group read All the Rivers, a novel that was banned in Israel’s public schools about a romance between an Israeli woman and an Arab man who meet in Brooklyn. It was beautiful and poignant and led to a really great discussion as several members of our book group grew up in Israel.

I really enjoyed The Wangs vs. The World. It was timely, funny, poignant and I loved the characters. I read The Rules Do Not Apply because It was recommended by two bloggers whose taste I trust  but while I could appreciate that the author had been through some very tough experiences some of which were very familiar to me from my own experience, I just had a hard time relating to her. I felt really detached reading it which surprised me. I am listening to this on audio which is very good. The best thing I have read so far is the first 20% of this classic-my current read. I am loving the writing and the main character Isabelle Archer. I only wish my English professor father were still alive so I could discuss it with him when I finish the book.

Linking up today with Anne Bogel my chief book whisperer whose podcast What Should I Read Next is my major source of great new reads. I highly recommend it!

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Cleo Skirt, Gemma Tank, Made By Rae Patterns, Pearl Shift, Sewing

Summer Sewing: June 2017

The view out of the window of my sewing room in the late afternoon. I am so lucky to have this little room of my own. Gemma Tank being finished below.June was a very busy month work-wise and I didn’t have as much time as I would like to sew but I had some projects that were almost done after Me Made May and so I used the time I could find to finish some Gemma Tanks and a Cleo Skirt. I am looking forward to mixing and matching these all summer.

I made a yellow lawn tank out of Robert Kaufman Cambridge Lawn in Maize. I made the scoop necked version in a Medium and lengthened it an inch or so. I applied the bias binding using the traditional method in which you see the binding because I didn’t want the shoulders to be too narrow.I originally planned to wear it with two Cleo skirts that I made in May with beautiful navy lawn fabric. but have found that it goes just as well or better with my striped cotton-linen blend skirt.I ended up having extra of the striped fabric and made another Gemma Tank. I love it. This fabric from Joanne’s was a great purchase. I know this will get a lot of wear year-round. It is perfect with white capris and jeans. 

I finished a Gemma Tank in April Rhodes fabric that I started last summer. I have already worn it several times. It is perfect with jeans and a mustard cardigan. Such a great print.I also finished another Gemma-Pearl Tunic. I absolutely love this shape. I will definitely be making more of these. This is in a beautiful tea-stained print by Cotton and Steel. I used scraps from a much loved Washi dress for the bias binding. I love how easy the Cotton and Steel fabric is to work with. You don’t even need pins. Seriously. Even bias binding is a pleasure with this fabric. I rest my case. This fabric makes me feel as though I can do no wrong. Not something I can say about all fabrics!
For a tutorial on how to make this tunic, check out this post. I finished a Cleo Skirt in a beautiful voile designed by Sharon Holland called Mudcloth. I can’t wait to wear this. I am finishing a black lawn Gemma Tank which I think will be perfect but the yellow works too. I am really happy with how versatile these tops and skirts are. I was wearing the first Cleo skirt that I made while I hand-sewed the front waistband.I love this Loominous Fabric by Anna Maria Horner. This has turned out to be a great hot weather outfit. The tank is one of the many Gemmas that I made last year.The blue and white striped tank and skirt are also great together. I didn’t plan them that way but when I had my pile of various projects on my ironing board I saw them together and realized that that would be another great outfit. I think I have reached the point where I have enough hand-sewn clothes to last for years to come. But fabric designers keep designing beautiful fabric so I will be continuing to sew. Next up is an Isla Dress using these beautiful new knits from April Rhodes. Who could resist?

 

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

Morning Walk Ruby Dress

I have loved this beautiful Leah Duncan print for a long time and I finally took the plunge and bought the voile version of the fabric. I debated whether to get the quilting cotton or the voile but at the end of the day, decided that the voile would make a nicer feeling, better draping dress. I made the Ruby with the lined yoke as I have previously done here, here, here and here. The Ruby is a great project. It is uncomplicated but the details are pretty, I always enjoy sewing it and this was no exception. I sewed the lined yoke using the Made by Rae sausage technique.I find the little bit of bias binding to be pretty easy since you are just sewing half of the armhole. Wonder clips work really well here. It is so satisfying when the bias binding turns out well. Here is the finished dress hanging on my front door which is my summertime place for pictures of new makes.And as worn to church during Me Made May. I will say that as much as I love this print, once I finished the dress, I realized that it is really very busy and might be better in a smaller dose so I may wear this as a dress this summer and then shorten it to a blouse at the end of the summer. I definitely like it better with a cardigan which breaks up the print. But I love this for a summer work dress. It is lightweight and floaty. I also enjoyed working with this lightweight fabric and am now inspired to make some Rubies in blouse length with some of the beautiful new lighter weight fabrics that are available now. I especially love these. This is a great summer pattern. I highly recommend it!

 

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Bias Binding, Gemma Tank, Made By Rae Patterns, Pearl Shift, Sewing

Gemma meets Pearl

img_2673-1I had been wanting to try making a Gemma Tank lengthened to a tunic length since last summer when I made a lined voile dress version of the Gemma seen here. For the dress version, I followed Rae’s tutorial and made it with a curved hem. This May I decided to blend the Gemma with the Pearl Shift pattern which works for me in a tunic length so I literally taped the pattern pieces together. This is pretty much the most low-tech mash-up you will ever see but it worked really well and I love the finished garment. I used this great pink and navy bandana fabric from Cotton and Steel. I was inspired to buy this print when I saw a great sleeveless version of the Pearl Shift using this fabric made by Alexia Abegg (who designed both the pattern and the fabric) which is pretty close to what I have made here.

I cut a medium scooped neck Gemma and for the Pearl, I used my much used pattern pieces which I long-ago tapered from about the high waist down to the hem from the Small to the extra Small line on the front pattern piece and from the Medium to part way between the Medium and Small cutting lines for the back. I made these adjustments when I first made the Pearl pattern. I found that the pattern if made as directed was a bit big and the skirt sort of winged out to the sides a bit too much for me. It was sort of a triangular shape. I am bigger in the back than in the front so I tapered the front a lot and back a bit and these adjustments have given me a nice fit that I have used for all my Pearls after the first one.

I literally used one piece of tape to join the pattern pieces so that I could un-tape the pieces after cutting out the tunic. The back pieces seen below lined up perfectly. and the front. I lined the pieces up at the center fold and in the front, because the Pearl is wider, I folded down the top of the Pearl pattern and cut on the Gemma cutting lines to just below the bust dart line:I then took folded away the bottom of the Gemma and used the Pearl cutting lines as a guide, joining the two lines. I then moved away the pattern pieces and used my rotary cutter to make sure I had a nice smooth seam line. 

xxI was using 2 yard pieces of fabric so I basically lined things up to maximize the length and make two equally long pieces. It worked out to be just the right length. One thing I do every time I make a Gemma is to shift the pattern just a tiny bit when I cut the neck as a sort of hollow chest adjustment so it doesn’t gape. Also quite low tech. I shift the pattern piece back after cutting the neckline and cut the rest normally.Once cut out it was like sewing any Gemma. It all came together nicely. I stay-stitched around the neck and armholes. I  used some pink cotton lawn to bind the neck and armholes and for a hem facing.I used this method. And after a quick couple of hours, I was in business. This is the perfect after work attire. I love it with leggings, jeans or on its own for hanging around the house. Finished garment from the back on the front door place of honor.And as worn from the side.  It is just loose enough. Comfortable without gaping.From the back:And from the front as worn with jeans. Make this! You will be glad you did. 

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: May and June 2017

I have not been reading as much this year as last. Partly because I am listening to fewer audio books having already worked my way through Flavia De Luce and Robert Galbraith and partly because I am listening more to the news and to podcasts rather than audio books (I love this one, this one and this one and I powered through this one along with much of the country (although I am not sure I loved it in the end,) and partly because I have had less free time than usual due to business at work and to dedicating time to getting more regular exercise which has limited my reading time. But I did read these books in the last two months. This was my favorite which I found out about through Great New Books which is a great source of books I have enjoyed reading. This is a memoir and does follow the year of experimentation a la The Happiness Project, which seems to be a new genre, but I liked the author’s unsentimental writing style. She acknowledges feeling and sentiment without wallowing. Her writing is spare but quite beautiful. She is self aware but also seems to put her ego aside which I appreciated. The subject was very interesting to me because my brother is an ornithologist and though it is about birds, it isn’t really about birds. A pretty quick read that I will likely read again. Lots of food for thought.I read four other books, all of them good reads but none of them five stars. I Let You Go was engrossing and I liked some aspects of the story but there were was a really unlikable character whose thoughts and actions occupied a lot of narrative and that detracted from my overall experience of the book. I did like the writing though and would try other books by the same author.

I discovered Erin on the Art of Simple podcast and I ended up liking this memoir more than I expected to. She writes in an unsentimental way about things that were really quite difficult for her. Many of her experiences are things I went through. I have sometimes thought about writing a book but have stopped because I don’t want to revisit those times and out of respect for the privacy of the other people involved but I felt as though she did a very good job in telling her story. Highly recommend.

I listened to O Pioneers on audiobook and I would probably have done better reading it. The narrator of the version I read had a sort of sing song voice that came across a little too pollyanna to my taste. This totally reminded me of the Little House books. I will have to go back and read more of  Willa Cather (I understand that several of the books are basically a series?) and will give this another go. I didn’t dislike it but it was hard to engage when listening to this particular narrator.

Earlier this year I read this book which I loved loved loved so I expected to love Rules of Civility. I liked some parts of the book very much, particularly the etiology of the title and the history and the historical figure who coined the phrase but I didn’t love the book entirely, again due to characters making bad choices. I guess that is a theme for me this month. I am glad I read it but is wasn’t up to A Gentleman in Moscow.

I am currently reading this book which I am really liking. The writing style, the characters and the story are all working for me.

I started this book which I think I am going to really like. Sort of a modern era Rules of Civility. So far the characters are more likable.

And I got more than 80% through this when my library loan ended and it disappeared from my Kindle. I really want to know how it ends now. I have liked it but not loved it. The ending will likely tell the tale but it may be months before my turn comes around again.

What are you reading and loving right now?

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Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Loominous Bianca

The Bianca Pattern is one my favorite patterns. I have made many versions which you can see here. Anna Maria Horner’s Loominous fabrics are some of my favorite fabrics. I have made a Loominous Gemma and a Loominous Cleo. This Me Made May, I made a Loominous Bianca and it might be my favorite Bianca yet. This fabric was originally purchased because I thought it would be great as short sleeved shirt for my husband and I still think it would be but it didn’t speak to him. Lucky for me because it makes an awesome Bianca. I bought it from The Cloth Pocket which is one of my favorite fabric stores. I follow them on Instagram-their feed is outrageously funny- and shop from them online and last March,  I actually took a class there in person when I visited my son who lives in Austin. So fun. They have amazing class space and instructors. I think I will now plan all my trips to visit Steve to coincide with classes I want to take. Seriously. Anyhow, as I started to think about this version of the Bianca, I decided to try sewing it with the facing, per the pattern. I have made all of my others with a lined bodice, something I improvised based on the lined Washi dresses I have made. I usually use a contrasting lining so that a bit of it shows. I think it adds a cute detail. But I didn’t have anything that would work in this case that was the same weight and I wanted to really enjoy the lightweight fabric and a lining would have added bulk so I decided to use the Loominous for the facing as well. And then I had the idea to try sewing the facing on the outside which is explained as an option in the pattern directions, and then I had the idea to turn the facing on the bias as a design feature. I am not going to lie, it was a bit tricky, but I am thrilled with the results. This is before the elastic is added which gives the Bianca its shape.The trickiest part for me actually wasn’t the front bias facing, it was the back neck facing. I am not sure how I did this but it ended up being shorter than the neck on the dress and they didn’t line up. When I realized this was happening, I just folded the excess in the center of the back as I was sewing as if it was meant to be. It actually didn’t turn out badly, thankfully. 

One thing I wish I had done is to cut the pattern pieces out a bit more thoughtfully because I could have totally matched the stripes on the side. They are just a little off. I just didn’t think ahead when I cut out the pattern pieces. But I will definitely do it next time and there will definitely be a next time because I bought this fabric again in this grey and in the cream colorway. You can see in the picture below that I am just a little off matching the blue stripes at the bottom of the skirt. So close! This dress is a bit shorter than the other Bianca’s I have made- about an inch. I didn’t sew a hem facing as I normally do. I was in a hurry to finish it and be able to wear it so I just turned the hem up. I like the shorter length because my plan is to wear it with leggings and jeans but if I make it a second time, I will make it with a hem facing. I like the little bit of extra structure of the hem facing and I feel as though my dresses hang more nicely with that little bit of extra weight. But I am very happy with how this turned out. This was another dress sewn in a day. I sewed it pretty quickly although it did take a bit of time to sew the facing, especially since I was being careful not to stretch the fabric out of shape. Knowing now that I can manage the facing on the outside (and knowing that I have to check my measurements to figure out what I did wrong when I sewed the facing to have the size difference-probably a seam allowance situation) I will definitely be making this version again. I love that this little shift of putting the facing on the outside gives you so many design possibilities.I highly recommend the pattern and the fabric-a winning combination!

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Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Ikat Luna Pants

Last year I made 2 versions of the Luna Pants, a Made By Rae pattern. I am going to be honest and say that at first, I couldn’t imagine that this style was for me. I just didn’t think that they would be flattering. But then I kept seeing great versions on Instagram and I had to try the pattern for myself. I made both of the first two pairs in Art Gallery quilting cotton which is softer and lighter than most. I wear them all the time and have found that they are incredibly comfortable, surprisingly flattering and especially great for traveling.  They are my go-to airline attire.

One of the challenges I starting during May is to make a new version of each of my favorite patterns using somewhat nicer fabric than quilting cotton. I made several Cleo skirts using a lovely cotton lawn and a Gemma tank out of double gauze (both blogged in the same post) and for this version of Luna Pants I found a lovely lightweight loosely woven cotton.  I bought it at fabric.com where it is currently on sale. It would also make a great Cleo skirt or Gemma tank but I restrained myself and didn’t buy more even though I was tempted.img_2639I wasn’t sure which direction the design was supposed to go but my husband felt that the design looked like arrows and should point up so that is what I did. I have to be careful with this type of pattern because it is so subtle that it is easy for me to forget and cut one of the pieces the wrong direction. I made a size that is halfway between a Medium and a Large based on my measurements around the hips and then graded back down to a medium at the ankle. I made them quick quick quick. I did not sew french seams although I probably should have but I decided to just sew my seams as I usually do and finish them with a zig zag stitch which is my fast and easy technique. If I ever make these in double gauze it will be french seams all the way. I did make the pockets which are really well drafted the way that they are sewn into the waistband. Love them!img_4202I cut this out and sewed it in an afternoon and I don’t really have pictures of the process but my other Luna posts give more details. It is a very straightforward pattern. I did add 2 inches to the length because I had written a note on the pattern to do this based on the last time I made them but I didn’t end up needing all the length and trimmed it back to almost the standard length. Although I am 5′ 9.5″,  most of my height is in my torso. I wear a 31 or 32 inseam.  There are many pictures below of the finished pants as worn with my newly sewn double gauze Gemma. I had actually thought that a slightly cropped Gemma with a straight hem in the higher neckline version would be a good look with the pants but I wanted to wear them the same day I made them and I actually think this is fine. Such a comfortable outfit. img_4273I tried them with a slightly higher heeled clog for a more dressy look.img_4295-1My husband got much better at taking pictures as the days of Me Made May went by.img_4251They are great with my trusty 20 year old jeans jacket.img_4316And as I will usually wear them with flip flops and a cardigan.img_4370One funny thing happened as a sewed. I didn’t realize that I left a pin in where I couldn’t see it and I sewed it right into the seam. I ended up having to cut the thread to free the pin and resew that section of the seam.img_4206I realized that I was using the previously sewn pin later that month when I pinned another project.img_4752I highly recommend this pattern. It is even more wonderful in this softer loose weave fabric. I will be wearing them all summer.img_4250Also highly recommended is Rae’s Luna Pants Sewalong. I have learned so much from her posts and tutorials. It is a great way to make the pattern, a bit at a time.

Happy sewing!

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