I've recently concluded that I'm not a blogger. The fact that I only update once every few months is a pretty strong indication that Aunt Nina's Blog is very low on my list of priorities. Dealing with chronic disease can often be a life-sucking experience that doesn't leave a lot of time and energy to do All The Fun Things. On those occasions when I am able to do The Things, I'd rather enjoy those moments rather than worry about documenting them.

So, it's official. Aunt Nina's Blog is closing shop.After a few weeks of debate, I've decided to not delete my old posts, at least for now. If I should one day experience a surge in energy, I might resume blogging, but for the foreseeable future, I'll just use my new art journal when I have something to say.


It's been awhile. Again. My health took a sudden nosedive in April, just as I was heading to Colorado for a 3 week stay to see if my immune system would calm down enough to allow me to live comfortably back home in Oklahoma for a few months before it ratcheted up again. I grew very weak and short of breath within 24 hours of my arrival and what I had initially believed to be altitude sickness turned out to be severe anemia. Fortunately, proper treatment plus the addition of the appropriate supplements (B12 and Folate, specifically) turned things around and I've since been able to add several new foods to my diet for the first time in years (Produce! Hurrah!).

Needless to say, my work on my Spring 6 Pac 2015  came to a screeching halt. I did finish 2 Alabama Chanin tops and 2 AC boleros before I became ill, but I managed to lose a substantial amount of weight before I got better, so that they now don't fit me. Although I've worn the solid black fitted top around the house a couple of times, the straps keep falling down and the top keeps riding up under my arm pits. The only reason I can think of for this is that it's just too loose to stay in place. Either that, or maybe I need to re-work the pattern. I won't know for sure until I'm the same size that I was when I originally altered the pattern, so I won't make any changes until then. 

I'm slowing regaining the lost weight and hope that I'll be able to get back to drafting and sewing clothes soon (I can't wait to start working on Suzy Furrer's Pant Sloper Class). In the meantime, I've found other things to occupy me:

First, I did all of the small organizing and home repair jobs that had been on my to-do list for a very long time (I credit the B12 for the sudden energy surge that enabled me to do this). I also painted a few pieces of furniture and worked on plans for a new drafting/cutting table.

After all of that was done, I still hadn't gained enough weight to justify the time and expense of making new clothes, so I turned my attention to home dec issues and ended up replacing the sofa slipcover and throw pillows. The cover was purchased, but I made the pillows. I used a heavy cotton canvas in a dotted aqua print for one pair (I think I got it from Mood, but it's sold out now). The other pair were made from a selection of Bonnie and Camille fabrics for the front and a dotted linen piece I had lying around for the back. 

During my organizing/home repair phase I purchased a new chair for my sewing room and it needed a new cushion, so I made one for it from some Moda cotton canvas in a red dot print. (I think it's called Sweetwater?)

For my evening hand sewing, I have finally resumed working on my black and white Alabama Chanin skirt. All of the hand embroidery is finished and now I'm spending my evenings cutting away inside each shape to reveal the fabric underneath:

I won't sew the side seams of the skirt for another month or so; I want to be sure that I'm done "growing" before I finish it. I'd like to be able to wear this skirt for a long time, so it will be worth delaying its completion. Once I'm done cutting out the applique shapes, I'll set the panels aside and get back to stitching on the long indigo skirt I started last Fall. I suspect it will be cool enough to wear it before I've finished it, so it's definitely time to resume work on it. 



I recently did some "housekeeping" in Google photos, not realizing that deleting a photo there would also delete it here. And then my laptop crashed. Though some of the photos I had posted on this blog had been saved to a backup hard drive, many had been deleted because I never expected to need them again.

I've not been here lately due to some health complications, so hadn't noticed the missing pictures until today. After close to 4 weeks spent bed bound, I'm just now able to sit and type or read, so I'm looking at a long convalescence. Hand sewing and knitting are-I hope-in the not too distant future, but pattern drafting and machine sewing are a long ways off. I'm thinking that hunting down the pictures that are still in existence will be a good project for the next week or so. I'm not sure what I will do yet with blog posts that will remain picture-less. I guess it will depend on whether or not they make sense without them.

My advice? Leave pictures alone. And don't get macrocytic anemia.

Updated July 1, 2015:

I'm making progress on the photo recovery (as well as the physical recovery). I have found all of the pictures that are going to be found and am nearly done putting the right ones with the right posts. This involves re-reading every post to try and figure out which photos go where, so it's been a slow business.

Unfortunately, many photos could not be recovered. This meant that a lot of posts would no longer make sense, because they were written specifically about the subjects in the photos. I ended up deleting quite a few of them, so my sporadic history of posting now looks even more sporadic.

All of this time spent reviewing my writing has led me to wonder if the best approach would be to scrap everything and walk away from blogging-if not permanently, then at least for a good long time. However, I've decided to keep up with it in my very, very irregular and unstructured way for now, simply because I like having one place to record my goals and chronicle their completions (or lack of them) along with all of the photos and links relevant to each project. In between my more severe health episodes, it has always been nice to have something to look forward to and to keep me occupied. Blogging simply helps me to keep on track. There's something about writing down that I'm going to do something and then sending it out onto the internet that increases my resolve to actually get it done.

I do hope that other sewers (sewists?) find something useful here, even if Aunt Nina only serves as an example of how not to go about making things.


Spring 6 PAC 2015

This post was originally published February 14, 2015

How very timely! Just as I was making my pledge to buy no more fabric until after I had completed six new garments, this post was started at Stitcher's Guild:

From what I can understand, a 6PAC is a 6-piece collection in which the pieces coordinate for a multiple of combinations/options. This is probably just what I need to get me started on warm weather sewing.

The guidelines for this Spring's 6PAC are as follows (I like that these are suggestions rather than rules):

1. Jacket or covering layer in mid-to-dark neutral
2. Jacket or covering layer in another or lighter neutral or favourite colour
3. Bottom in the same mid-to-dark neutral
4. Bottom in second neutral
5. Top in one of the neutrals or a white
6. Top in favourite color or a print that mixes

I think these guidelines are very doable. But, before I decide what I'm going to make this year, I think it would be best to look at what I already have. From last Spring/Summer's abbreviated sewing spree, I now have the following pieces:
I also already had in my closet:
I can see that I have quite a few bottoms. Still, I love skirts-especially when they are easy to wear and go with everything, so I'm game for making more. Although I already have a couple of basic t shirts in my wardrobe,  I prefer a closer fitting (and slightly shorter) top with my skirts and a much looser one with skinny jeans, so the basic t-shirts are only worn with sweatpants and hoodies when the weather is cold. As for jackets, I'm kind of bored with the black sweaters (though they are good basics that I intend to keep), so I am looking forward to adding something else to the mix. I won't attempt pants this year; I'd rather not start working on a pattern for these until I've taken a pant drafting class (still waiting for Craftsy to add one). And, to keep things simple, I'm sticking to the black/white/red palette I worked with last Summer so that what I already have will work with what I will make, though I might throw in some grays and indigo (I have lots of leftover yardage from the long skirt project) like the palettes below:

Both images: Alabama Chanin

So, here is my tentative plan for a Spring 6PAC:

  1. Alabama Chanin long sleeved bolero in black-I definitely want to applique this one and possibly add some beading (which could be done later, once the other pieces in my 6PAC are finished). 
    Long sleeved bolero from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
  2. I also want to make an outer layering piece in red jersey. I love this jacket (love the full skirt, too:
    Project Alabama
    But I suspect that drafting and fitting a blazer won't fit into the 6PAC schedule, so I'll probably make another Alabama Chanin bolero, or maybe the Carmine jacket from Cake Sewing:
    Carmine Jacket by Cake Sewing

  3. Black skirt.  Initially I toyed with the idea of a fuller skirt that can be worn with a crinoline underneath (am I too old for a crinoline? I don't know, but I've always wanted to wear one and I'm not getting any younger). I'm not sure if I would make it with a knit or woven fabric. In the past, Natalie Chanin has shown skirts full enough for a crinoline, so it can be done, as in the photo #2 above or these two:

  4. I think, though, that a full Alabama Chanin skirt deserves a special surface treatment (love that striped one!), so I think I'll save this for when I have the time to devote to it. I could make a woven full skirt. I like this one and the draft would be easy: 
    Talbots skirt. No longer available.
    Then again, I don't think I have enough appropriate fabric for something this full and I figure, with a full skirt, it's go big or go home. So, I'll probably end up making a simple A line. I don't have a basic black skirt in my closet right now, so this would fill a big hole in my wardrobe, plus I already have the pattern drafted and it's a quick sew: 
    A line skirt from Banana Republic. No longer available.

  5. Black and white skirt Alabama Chanin Swing Skirt. I'm cheating a bit here, since this is 2 neutrals instead of one, but I already have one cut, stenciled, and ready to sew and I'd really like to finish it this year.
    My Alabama Chanin Swing Skirt in progress

  6. Alabama Chanin top in red (corset or fitted top):

    Alabama Chanin Corset. I would make mine solid red, though I would like to make more with surface treatment

  7. Alabama Chanin top in black (corset or fitted top):
Fitted Top by Alabama Chanin

With the exception of the black bolero and the black and white skirt, the Alabama Chanin pieces won't be appliqued/embroidered (or at least not very much). I can always go back and add beading and such to finished garments when I have the time and inclination to do so.

As for scheduling my sewing time, I doubt that I'll finish my 6PAC by the official deadline of April 30, not only because I'm just now starting to plan mine (the date to start sewing was Feb 1st), but also because I'm still working on my dress form. I hope to finish that by the end of next week, because I have a trip planned for the week after that, so I won't be really ready to get started until the middle of March. I will, however, be able to take the black and white skirt with me and will work on the hand applique while I'm away. I may also have time before I leave to cut the red and black tops and those will be quick to sew together while I'm away since I'm not doing a surface treatment on them. Not this time, anyway, though I do want to eventually replicate that black on black corset. I'm not stressing over the schedule, though. I'll finish when I finish and still be way ahead of where I was last year (when I was still planning winter clothes sewing).

If I have any spare time between now and my trip, I'll work on fitting the bolero pattern (both of those will be really quick to sew) and cut out the A line skirt (unless I change my mind about it and decide to make a full one instead), so those would be ready to sew once I get home.

I think this plan is doable and all 6 pieces will work well with each other and the things I already have. Now to finish that dressform cover and stuff the foam form into it!


Catching Up and Making Plans

This post was originally published February 1, 2015

With the exception of a few minutes here and there of hand sewing on the Alabama Chanin indigo skirt and a quick hem repair on my husband's athletic shorts, I haven't sewn a stitch since Thanksgiving Day. I have yet to cut into the merino I brought back from LA and since then I have bought even more fabric for winter clothing. I kept busy up until Christmas with gift knitting and I knew that my husband was going to be having minor surgery early in the New Year, so I decided to delay any new sewing projects until after that. 

He has since had his surgery and has recovered, but I've been dealing with an increase in symptoms brought on by the frequent weather changes we've been having. Abnormally warm spells interspersed with cold snaps have kept my trigger-happy immune system very busy, which means I haven't had much energy for making things. I want to get back to my drafting and sewing, though at this point it makes more sense to start working on clothes for Spring, since I suspect it will be here before I've completed much of anything. 

Before I can start to sew I need to fine-tune some patterns, finish up a big project in my sewing room, and make a wardrobe plan.

Since I know that I'll want to make some Alabama Chanin tops to go with my already made Alabama Chanin skirts, I need to finish fitting those patterns. I've already moved the shoulder point (and cross front/back) on the Corset Top, but still  need to take care of the swayback. I think the Corset Top might need a swayback adjustment as well. Once I've done both, I'll machine sew them up in some cheap jersey to make sure that they really are "done".

Then I'd like to take another stab at the Fitted Top. I had issues with it in the past and thought that I had found a workable solution with an added bust dart, but the fit is still a bit off, so I want to revisit that one. I really like the cut of this top, but might need to consider different seam lines to get the fit I want.

Lastly, my self-drafted t-shirt pattern needs to be revised. Maybe it's because I've lost some weight, but the t-shirts I made in the fall seem too big under the arms now. I might need to take out a bit of ease there and perhaps also raise the armhole slightly. These changes would require a new sleeve draft as well, which is okay with me because the first one I drafted didn't include the elbow adjustment Suzy Furrer taught in her Craftsy class and I want to see if it makes much of a difference in a casual knit.

As for the Big Sewing Room Project, I am very close to finally having a custom dress form. I've wanted one for years, and several years ago I even went so far as to buy the My Twin dress form kit, but I never got around to using it. It sat in my closet for  a few more years before I finally concluded that it wasn't going to be a workable solution for me. Because my immune system over-reacts to everything with which I come into contact, wrapping myself in a plastic bag and then several layers of plaster bandages didn't sound like a good idea. In fact, it sounded like an invitation for trouble.

Just when I concluded that the My Twin and I were not going to be friends, I found a custom dress form class on Craftsy and, after consulting with the instructor, decided on a Uniquely You dress form. Nina (yes, I've named my dress form) arrived before Christmas and I'm now ready to get started on it. Uniquely You form consists of a soft, squishy foam that conforms to the shape of a custom-fitted cover. Uniquely You sells covers that come with fitting instructions, but, since I already have a well-fitting moulage, I'm going to use that as a pattern to cut my own cover. In the Craftsy class, the instructor shows how to trim down the foam where needed to make it easier to get it into the cover. I will definitely need to reduce the bust projection as well as the waist and hip (I think the buttock is a bit too high as well) and the arm "nubs" are way too wide too, so those will be lopped off to match my narrower frame. 

Uniquely You Dress Form at All Brands

Dress Form class at Craftsy

Now it's time to switch my mindset from cold weather clothes (and all that yummy merino) to warm weather ones and think about what I want/need for Spring this year so that I can come up with a sewing plan. I'll take a look at what I already have in my closet this week, as well as what I have in my fabric stash. I'd like to use fabric that I've already purchased rather than buy any more at this point because, well, I have a lot of it that needs to be used (and there's not much space left for new fabric purchases). I might need to pick up some lining or interfacing, but other than that, I'm pledging to not buy any more fabric until I have made at least 6 new garments. I promise.


Fabric Shopping in LA (and Online)

This post was originally published November 7, 2014

I got back from a one week stay in California this past Wednesday evening. I was quite busy yesterday dealing with things like laundry, banking, sorting mail, and thwarting potential identity theft. Just the usual coming home from vacation routine. 

Today I turned a year older. I'm now 52, which really isn't that big of a deal to me. I can't have cake, which, to me, is the best part about having a birthday. I hope someone out there had a slab of something thick and chocolatey and thought of me.

During our vacation-planning phase, my husband had asked me what I wanted to do while we were there. My response (in order of priority)

  1. See our daughter
  2. See my sisters
  3. Go to my home church on Sunday (this was its 50th anniversary)
  4. Spend time on the beach-especially right before sunset
  5. Go to Mood and The Fabric Store Los Angeles
We managed to do all of the above, for which I felt both content and grateful. 

So, about #5:

I was there.

We visited Mood first and, when I initially walked in the door, I felt a bit overwhelmed. There was SO MUCH fabric in there. I quickly discovered, though, that one half of the store is dedicated to home dec fabrics and, since I wasn't looking for any, this eliminated the feeling of not knowing where to look first. A store employee directed me to the boucles and, after that, we just browsed the other aisles until it was time for the parking meter to expire. I decided that I will want a solid black boucle for my first French jacket. It's my best color, the backbone of my wardrobe, and there will be no plaids to match. For the lining, I'm leaning towards either a deep turquoise/teal or rich berry red. The silks were gorgeous; the jewel tones especially simply glowed. I didn't get a picture in the silk aisle, but my husband did snap one with his iPhone while I was examining the novelty wools:
Not sure why his iPhone camera was set on this filter. I'm actually not jaundiced. I think that it's also that filter that is making my upper arms look flabby.
We also looked at the cashmere (I confess there was some fondling) and I quickly eyed the heavily embroidered laces as we walked past. I have no idea what I would use it for (and doubt that I ever will), but a heavy metallic silver one definitely caught my eye.

Then we drove a few blocks to The Fabric Store Los Angeles. This is the first US location of a New Zealand company and, though they carry a lot of beautiful textiles, I was there with one purpose in mind: buy merino! And so I did.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of my haul and it's now safely packed away to keep moths out of it until I can cut into it. However, I can list what I bought:

  • Medium weight 100% merino jersey with a nice drape in a very rich, deep magenta. I'll probably use it for a dressy, drapey top or a ballet wrap.
  • Heavy merino ponte (I didn't know that this existed!) in solid black. I think it has some lycra in it, because it has good stretch and recovery. I've never used ponte before, but oh my goodness, I need more of this. It will probably be made into a skinny pant.
  • Medium weight 100% merino jersey in black. This also has a nice drape and will be made into a dress and possibly a top too (I bought 4 yards of it)
  • The final piece is a gorgeous heavy charcoal gray. It was shelved with the jerseys, but it feels like maybe it's boiled. It's 100% merino with some stretch. I will use this for either a jacket or a cozy dress or tunic to be worn with leggings and tights.
After The Fabric Store, we went across the street to The Sycamore Kitchen so my husband could pick up some treats for one (or two) final indulgences before our trip ended. He highly recommends the flourless lemon custard almond cake. 

I also ordered some more fabric from Alabama Chanin last week. There was a discount code available on Halloween and, since I buy from the site quite regularly, I never pass up one of their sales. I picked up a couple yards each of the black and dark gray organic cotton jersey. I'm still working on fitting the AC top and dress patterns and am almost the point where I can start making them. I  hope to have quite a few tops made by next spring so that I have something to wear with my hand sewn AC skirts. I'm also going to work on some boleros and shrugs to layer over them. I'm always happy to see that stenciled box on my porch with a neatly tied bundle of yardage inside.


Cotton Jersey & Indigo Dye: My Most Ambitious Alabama Chanin Project So Far

This post was originally published November 6, 2014

I mentioned in a previous post that I'm currently working on a couple of Alabama Chanin skirts. 

The first was started during the Summer months, but was set aside while I fiddled with slopers and shirt and dress patterns for awhile. By the time I thought about getting back to it, Fall was here and I figured there was no rush to work on it because I don't plan wearing it until the weather is warm again.

This is the Swing Skirt from Alabama Stitch Book. I cut a size large and plan on taking deeper seam allowances if I haven't gained weight by the time the applique is done.

The top layer is black and the bottom layer is white. I applied the Facets stencil with white paint and will use reverse applique throughout.

As for the second skirt, I have always admired the indigo clothes from Alabama Chanin. I've been thinking about making something in indigo and recently decided it was time, but first I needed to choose which garment to make. I really like the AC jackets and coats, but I have yet to use my sloper to draft a jacket pattern and am waiting to start working on one until the newest Alabama Chanin book is published in April (it's going to include a coat pattern!)

Indigo blazer by Alabama Chanin
Dolman Coat by Alabama Chanin

I also love the long dresses and skirts made up in the indigo jersey.

Dress and skirt by Alabama Chanin
I ultimately decided on the long skirt from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Now all I needed was the fabric. Unfortunately, indigo dyed cotton jersey isn't cheap-understandably so, considering the labor intensive process required to produce it-and a long skirt would require a lot more yardage than the short ones I've previously made. I was on the fence about this for awhile, wondering if maybe I should just forget about the indigo project altogether. Then, while searching for some dye for another sewing project, I found a reduced indigo dye that was reasonably priced. A few weeks after that, Alabama Chanin had a sale, so I was able to get enough white cotton jersey yardage for the skirt without breaking my budget.

I dyed the jersey on a mid-October day when I was feeling particularly brave. Here is one of the pieces right after it came out of the vat following its second dunking. The fabric was green when it came out of the vat, but was already beginning to change to blue before I got it on the clothesline:

The piece on the left had just had its second dunk, while the one on the right had been dunked 3 times at this point:

And here are the same two pieces again about 15 minutes later. The indigo deepens as it is exposed to air and with repeated trips through the dye bucket. I dunked the one on the left one more time to get it as dark as the other piece. Both pieces faded a shade or two after rinsing and laundering (this was expected):

After the fabric was rinsed, laundered, and dried, I cut out the skirt and transferred the stencil design. I chose the Angie's Fall stencil and used ultra fine Sharpie markers to transfer it to the fabric. I was inspired by this inked indigo tunic (swoon):

Inked Paneled Tunic by Alabma Chanin
On the following day I layered the top and bottom layers of each skirt panel and basted them together. Then all of it was bundled up to await my return from a 1 week trip to California. I got home last night and am ready to get started on this later today. (Progress photos to come in a future post!)

My fabric has some mottled areas where the dye didn't take evenly, but I rather like the effect. I would think that the Alabama Chanin indigo jersey is more consistent since this is something they have done for quite some time now. My final verdict on dyeing with indigo: totally doable, very economical, quicker than I expected but a bit tricky when handling long pieces of yardage without a helper. I'll definitely dye with indigo again (the dye vat can be kept for a few months). I'm going to experiment with dyeing some completed garments next.