Monday, December 31, 2007

The shirt off his back

Okay, last project for 2007: the shirt is finished. I should probably have ironed it before taking its picture, but if I waited to do that, we'd be into January.

This was the easiest one yet. Even the sewing machine cooperated, only grumbling over one final buttonhole (on the sleeve placket, for some reason). I think the machine knew I was bidding on a Viking 770 on Ebay and it might soon be replaced (it didn't realize I didn't win).
How well this shirt turned out stems partly from the fact that it's my fourth one, but also from several other factors: my new toys, a point turner and a buttonhole gauge, two inexpensive items that for some reason I put off buying and which made the whole process much easier. Sometimes it really is the little things that count. Also, David Page Coffin's book on shirtmaking. If you don't have it, you really need to get it. 'Nuff said.

This was a nice change from all the gift sewing I did this year. It got my head back where I needed it to be - thinking about fit, precision, details like top-stitching. The boy says it's time I made something for myself; he didn't realize this was as much about me making a shirt as it was about him getting one, and he doesn't need to realize that.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


I don't make New Year’s resolutions because I don't keep them. I don't want in advance a list of all the things I'm not going to keep up for the following year. I have a better chance of working out, eating right and not taking in any more cats if I don't make any promises. (Not taking in any more cats has been on the list for 2 years, and the minute I let my guard down, Stanley moved into the guest room and is being slowly introduced to the herd).

I'll chance making sewing resolutions because if I don't keep them, it won't be for lack of trying – and trying is usually one of my resolutions. This year, I'd like to:

1. Conquer welt pockets. I love the look, and I promised a certain someone that I would make him a pair of dress pants. Which require welt pockets. And the fabric for these pants is already aging on the shelf. (I'm hoping this works the same way conquering invisible zippers worked – I avoided them until I had a dress that couldn't possibly be made any other way.) Now that I finally invested in the Reader's Digest sewing book, I have diagrams that make sense to me. The Vogue sewing book was almost as unintelligible (at least to my brain) as BWOF instructions!

2. Take my time. This is a hard one for me. I know – I know! – that everything turns out better when I read the instructions, make a muslin, and visualize what I'm doing before I dive in head first and then get all bollixed up. Things like thread-marking, inter-lining, basting and using the right interfacing should not depend on mood. They are integral to making clothing that I am willing to wear in public, as opposed to garments that look good on Evelyn but aren't comfortable on me.

3. Work on linings. I'm getting better at this. I've actually lined a few things in the past year that didn't require linings – mostly skirts, one jacket. And they looked and wore better, even though the linings weren't perfect. The goal for 2008 is a great jacket with an even greater lining, probably Vogue 8368 in the moss-green eyelet corduroy I bought in Paris last March, lined in something interesting that will show through the eyelets. Maybe a caramel color? Anyway, Patternreview is doing a lined jacket contest in September, so I'm going to practice before then. Maybe it'll even be a lined jacket with welt pockets.

4. Quality over quantity. I'm also getting better at this, but there are times when I just can't resist a sale or the $2.95 bin at my local store. Just because it’s a poly blend that I will probably never use, does that make it un-buyable? It should, but it doesn't. Which leads to:

5. Reduce the stash. The proportions of my stash have become embarrassing, even to me. In 2008, the stash will go down. I don't care if I sew it, donate it, swap it for fabric I will use or scrub the floor with it, but it's outta here! I would like to be at least 150 yards down by this time next year, hopefully with minimal new purchases.

6. Make new curtains for the dining room. This isn't a big deal except I did so much home dec sewing when I bought my house that I stopped garment sewing for almost 5 years. I know that won't happen again, and the complete overhaul of the dining room requires excessive new draperies and re-covering all the seat cushions, for which I have already bought many, many yards of fabric. (I also need new curtains for the kitchen, but those are a quickie job that won't disrupt my regular sewing).

So those are my hopeful sewing resolutions. Anyone have any to add to the list?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Getting back to normal

I feel better. I've been working on the shirt off and on (more off than on, unless you count sewing in my head on Friday at work), and it just feels good to get back to normal sewing, the kind without holiday deadlines or the inability to fit on the wearer.

Of course, I look at the picture of the shirt yoke here and while I'm pleased with how neatly I got the chevron to look, now I realize that I should have made it so that the pink stripes run right into the pink stripe down the CB of the shirt. But each project is a learning experience, and I'll know better next time. On the plus side, it's coming out really well, and the sewing machine has decided to behave her spiteful self (probably because she knows I have a bid on a Viking machine on Ebay right now and she could be replaced).

This is my fourth man's shirt, and I really feel like I've got it down now without pulling my hair out. The first two times I was completely mystified about how to sandwich the yokes together without any visible seams. Even though Kwik Sew's instructions are good, and clearly illustrated, it just would. not. compute. Last time, it went pretty well. This time, I didn't even realize it was usually a problem until I'd reached the topstitching. So it does sink in eventually. Nice to know.

I really should try another pattern one of these days, but I almost hate to. The KS pattern fits so well, and I know what to expect from it - and me - by now. I have drafted variations on the cuffs and pocket, which of course I forgot to use this time in my haste to make a non-Christmas project, but again, I say next time.

Last time I gave myself a break and made a short-sleeved shirt (it was Hawaiian), because I had it in mind that cuffs and sleeve plackets were a pain in the butt. I've got the cuffs sewn together and pressed, and if they go on as neatly as the plackete did, I'll be a happy girl.

Amazing that all the holiday sewing gremlins are off sitting on their hands somewhere now that the pressure's off. Good riddance to them!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

You say tomato, I say tomato . . .

I've been looking forward to getting back to "real" sewing. You know, not the stuff we make for other people, but the stuff we make for ourselves - even if it ends up being worn by other people. Next project up is a new shirt for the boy, partly because I bought shirting at PR Weekend and want to use it before it ages, partly because constructing a man's shirt will get my head back into the kind of sewing I want to do right now, and partly because he bought me a gift certificate to Mood for Christmas, and he deserves a thank you for that.

We slept in on Christmas Day and were just hanging around at the house, waiting to cook dinner. He can do that, but I started twitching, and decided to cut out the fabric. Cutting is never my favorite part of sewing, so I thought I'd get it over with while I had something else to look forward to. I showed him the pieces when I finished, and he said, "I like this fabric. I don't have any light blue shirts."

Hmmm, funny, I thought it was gray.

Turns out I like the reverse of the fabric, and he likes the right side. We each like what we like for the same reason: we think our chosen background color makes the pink and purple stripes stand out more. He likes the light color, I think the dark gray works best. But it's his shirt, so it's going to be blue. I'm pleasing myself by doing the yoke in a chevron pattern, something he thinks is kind of excessive. You say excessive, I say interesting.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

I'm finished. And I'm so freaking glad to be finished that there are almost no words for it.

A lot of what I'm giving this year is purchased, but I always like to make something for the women in Mario's family. They appreciate handmade, which doesn't happen as often as it should.

This kimono robe is for his sister Debbie. The pattern is Advance 8723, which I bought with the gift certificate to Lanetz Living I got for winning Patternreview's UFO contest. I had planned to make it for myself, but then I realized I'm not much of a robe-wearer, and she is.

I probably had a good fabric for this in stash, but when I was in my local store two weeks ago while buying thread for another project, I saw this mystery blend on the $2.95 table. They never have decent stuff on that table, so I grabbed this simply because it wasn't scary/ugly. It washed up really well, lost what little stiffness it had and it actually seems a bit more lingerie-glossy. And sometimes mystery blends are good for garments that are going to be coffee-stained or frequently laundered. This stuff will definitely take abuse.

This was a great fast pattern. It's all squares and straight lines, so it was a breeze to put together. I bought it in a vintage 14, which is more or less my size, and graded it down for Debbie because she's a good bit smaller than I am. Then again, it's a robe, so there's only so much worry about fit. I like making things for people where precise fit isn't an issue, since it ruins the surprise if you have to corner them for fittings.

Usually the default female gift is a bag. Last year for Mario's mom's birthday, I made her the Lazy Girl Gracie bag. It was my first handmade gift for her and I wasn't sure if she'd like it. When I saw her at Thanksgiving, the bag was almost worn out! I've never made something for someone that they actually used it so much it looked ratty. So she and his aunt both got these Miranda Day Bags, which are finally finished. I still like the pattern, and I still want to make it for myself one of these days, but not too soon.

And best of all on the Christmas horizon, my own personal Santa dropped off a bag of gifts downstairs a while ago. A big bag. I only shook them a little bit, but one of them feels like a gift certificate to Mood. Okay, so I looked. But only at that one. (I was worse as a kid, trust me.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Wine in the Gray Flannel Suit

I took a break from annoying and ambitious Christmas presents tonight and stopped for a drink with a friend who will be away over the holidays. When I got home, I started putting together my gifts for work tomorrow and realized that I had 3 bottles of wine for my 3 lawyers, but no gift bags to put them in.

Went upstairs, rummaged in the stash and the trim drawer and came up with some elderly gray wool suiting, a swatch of dark green dupioni silk and some old hair ribbons. 2 hours later I had 3 gift bags that certainly won't look like any other gift bags the boys will get this year.

These were really simple - I just cut squares of the wool in the approximate shape of the bottles, added a band of green across the top (most of which would be tucked down inside the bag), and then sewed 6 buttonholes across the bag while it was still flat. Then I pinned it, tried it around a bottle which I just happened to have in the workroom, and sewed the side seam. I cut a circle for the bottom and added it, not particularly evenly, I'll admit. Then I threaded the ribbon through the buttonholes, folded the green band down inside the bag, and pressed the whole thing. Added the wine bottle, tied the bow and the boys are done. Maybe they'll even share the contents.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One Down

So much for being a sewing machine. I feel more like a sewing tortoise. Came home, had a quick coffee with the boy and then locked myself in with the Miranda bags until I was done. Or almost done. The first bag (which is actually the second bag, unless you count the layers of fabric, in which case it's the fourth bag) is finished. The second bag just needs some hand stitching and another pressing.

As I said back when I first started these bags, I like this pattern. I want to make it for myself in leather. I will qualify that by saying I don't want to make it too soon. I've put myself through too much angst over these bags. It's not a difficult pattern, especially if you pay attention to the very clear instructions, color-coded drawings and stop thinking you know everything. Which, it turns out, I don't.

What this project drove home for me is something they mentioned on last week's episode of Project Runway - even though the designers were sewing for someone else, with that someone else's clothing, the end result still had to have something of their own design aesthetic about it. That's where I went sideways on this project.

Both ladies are older, like bright colors and think the original Vera Bradley bags are adorable but ridiculously expensive. I went for Amy Butler fabrics (the pattern calls for 4 different fabrics) in 2 different coordinating colorways. I was a little iffy when I unpacked the fabric, but I didn't listen to that little voice. You know the voice. Yeah, that one. The one saying, "Ummm, this might be a mistake?"

I didn't listen until I quilted both exterior fabrics, cut them up, re-sewed them, sewed them together, attached the lining fabric and sewed on the pocket. Then I listened, because working with those patterns and those colors was making my eyes go wonky. Then I did what I should have done to begin with, shopped my stash, and since I didn't have any more batting and I really liked the Craft Bond I had ironed on to make the bag sturdier (didn't have any more of that either), I cut the new fabrics to size and basted them right on top of the existing pieces. Then I channel quilted the stripes in the brown/red bag and the diamonds in the blue/pink bag.

I got a little overconfident on the red/brown bag. The hand sewing I have to do is to camouflage the seams between the bottom and top exterior fabrics, which are slightly off on one side. If it wasn't 5 days to Christmas, I would pick them out, I swear to all the sewing gods I would. But Gladys won't notice, and though I will, it won't be as bad as going to the house and seeing that horrifying chrysanthemum fabric. (Okay, it's not horrifying in and of itself, but it's damn scary when combined with morning glory vines, stripes and dots. What was I thinking? I was trying to think like a 75 year old woman with colorful, suburban grandma taste, that's what I was doing).

Bag 2 will be finished tomorrow, and hopefully the third gift along with it. Except I'm not happy with that either, but I don't have time to remake it. I don't think I do . . .

So Tired

And so not finished. I came home from work today swearing to do nothing but sew. Not to stir out of the workroom until those two bags were reconstructed and the robe was finished. Yep, I was going to be a sewing machine.

Uh huh. So, I came home from work, took a little nap, had a bowl of pasta, and kicked off my evening at around 8:00. Complete revamping of the first Miranda bag took place over the next 2 hours. I think it would have been easier to start from scratch than to quilt over top of the existing bag, but lack of time/supplies did me in. It worked, in the end. All I have left is to attach the handles and the closure, and iron it. Bag #2 is still in the flat stage, but on the other hand that saves me from making the mistake with the faux binding that I did on bag #1 (which will be covered in the review). Didn't work on the robe at all.

Even though shopping season is almost over, the catalogs are still trickling in. I got the latest J. Peterman today - can I tell you how glad I am that they started publishing again? I love their catalogs. This is one of my favorites from the new issue:
Even more do I like the way they describe it, in true sewing porn style: "satin-lined, with angled hacking pockets. Center back vent. Buttoning velvet collar and functional button cuffs. Made of pure-wool English tweed, itself a work of art, from a Yorkshire mill that’s been at it since 1837. Color: Olive Green enriched with flickerings of Brown, Blue, Taupe, and exuberant Rust." Give me a writer who can describe fabric like that.

By the way, it's $249. I'm not good at lining jackets yet, but I think I could buy 2 yards of pure wool English tweed, some velvet, good buttons, satin lining and all the interior hidden goodies for . . . somewhat less than that.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A few small changes

at the last minute. Still working on those Miranda bags, except work as we know it came to an abrupt, screeching halt the other night when I decided that I absolutely hated the fabrics. Nothing against Amy Butler fabrics per se, but they're not me. They're so not me that no combination of them I could come up with worked for me, and I was growing to dislike the bags so much that I was afraid I wouldn't finish in time for Christmas.

Do you ever get to that point with a project, where you just dislike it so much that you're afraid to give it to someone? I don't like giving a gift I can't stand behind, and I just didn't want to see these bags every time I visited for the next year.

So I did what I should have done in the beginning - shopped my stash, found a nice dark neutral and few coordinating home dec fabrics, and prepared to start over. Except of course it was after midnight and I had no more batting and I just couldn't face re-quilting, so . . . I cheated. I cut the new fabrics and pieced them on top of the existing already-quilted Amy Butler fabrics. I hated seeing $25 per bag in AB fabrics get buried, but you know what? It's less than 10 days to Christmas, and I want to be done. So in one night I managed to duplicate all the work I had done previously on the two bags, and I have the rest of the pieces ready to go for tomorrow when I have an evening to myself. (Tonight was dinner and present-wrapping).

Since it was colder than #%&*! today, I stayed in at lunch and finished all the hand-sewn details on the kimono robe (3rd and last gift, and probably the first to be completed). All I need to do there is some last minute pressing, fold it up and wrap.

It. Will. Be. Over. Soon.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What goes around

I ran into an old friend this evening (old, old boyfriend actually - from so long ago that it's barely interesting even to us anymore) and we were sitting around catching up. He's always been an avid fisherman, and he was telling me how he's been spending money on Ebay on vintage silk sewing thread for tying fishing flies. Now I happen to have, among all the other rubble inherited from a tribe of packrattish women, a basket of vintage thread that's been more or less gathering dust in the workroom. Occasionally I'll grab a spool ifI have some hand sewing to do, but I'd never use it in the machine and I tend to forget it's there. I took him up to the workroom and showed him this:

Let's just say I've never seen that reaction from a man about thread. "Silk buttonhole twist! You have silk buttonhole twist!" in a tone I would expect to hear from a fellow sewist at PR Weekend, not from a 40-something blues musician/UPS driver/fly fisherman. "Even the mercerized cotton looks like silk!" In the end, he only took 5 spools , but it was nice to see someone made so happy by something I had never placed any value on. According to him, I could be making a bundle on Ebay selling this to fly fishermen, but I can't be bothered. It will probably continue to sit in its basket on the cabinet in my workroom until he asks for more.

As an actual sewing update, as I said before, I'm making two Lazy Girl Miranda Day Bags for Christmas. I chose to use Amy Butler fabrics for a sort of faux-Vera Bradley effect (one in a blue/brown and one in a pink/maroon). I like Amy Butler fabrics in the abstract, but when faced with them in reality, they're just way too cutesy/colorful for me. The bags are not turning out to my taste at all, but I think the recipients will like them. I hope. I'm a little iffy on the blue/brown one, but I have backup fabric squirreled away – all I need is another yard of batting and I could knock out a replacement bag if necessary.

While I sat sewing the pockets onto the lining last night – 10 of them! – I realized this is a really good, useful bag, and I'm just being prejudiced against it because I'm not liking my fabrics. Then, when I attached the lining to the bag and did the fold at the top where the lining becomes a visible edge on the exterior, I realized that this bag would look great in leather. I would have to change the closure – can't do iron-on Velcro on leather – but I have a bunch of interesting buttons and buckles, so something could be worked out easily enough. I'd also add an exterior pocket, for interest, since I wouldn't have to do all the quilting or topstitch the seams. I'm using purchased handles for the two bags I'm making, but I would sew leather straps for my own bag unless I could find something interesting and vintage.

Hmm, this is going to be a nice post-holiday project. Now if I can just find enough leather, and keep myself from using that nice black lambskin I bought at PR Weekend for a jacket. I have a decent stash of leather from various thrift store purchases; this might be an interesting bag to make out of mismatched leathers – not too "patchy," maybe just alternating brown/black since the top and bottom are each made up of 2 squares. I'll think about that while I'm sewing all this shrill pink cotton.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm not supposed to be here . . .

I said no computer tonight. I said I was going to come home from work, scavenge a little food and start in on the holiday sewing. Which I did, but various things have derailed my train, and here I am, catching up on blogs, wandering through Patternreview. Not sewing.

I'm making 2 Lazy Girl Miranda Day Bags, and a robe for Christmas. How hard is that? Well, funny you should ask. I ordered 8 half-yard cuts of Amy Butler fabrics from a well-known (and formerly well-regarded by me) internet fabric store. They came several days beyond the famous "next day shipping" guarantee, and when I spread them out, 6 out of the 8 cuts were crooked. Not just wavy-along-the-edges crooked, but I'm-cutting-fabric-while-drunk crooked. (It was especially noticeable with the stripes.) Out of those 18" cuts, I was lucky to get 15" usable inches. Thankfully, that was enough, but I still got a few new gray hairs when I rotary-cut the pieces last night.

Tonight I got the front pieces quilted, sewn together and topstitched, and then I ironed on all the interfacing. I should have finished sewing the neck on the robe, and doing what little handwork is left, but I couldn't. I could have started the lining and pockets on the bags, but I couldn't. I'm feeling cranky and disgusted by what passes for quality control out there, and all the well-meaning messages from customer service offering replacement fabrics (in what, another week?) mean diddly and squat when all I want to do is finish the damn projects. Did they happen to notice it's only two weeks until Christmas???

A silly little something from a local shop that brightened my day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Cookies

I heard somewhere that the average person gains something like 7 pounds in the space between Thanksgiving and New Year's. No wonder we all head frantically to the gym on January 1! Here's my contribution to that weight gain (and trust me, if you eat the whole batch, you can probably gain it all in one sitting).

This recipe for zuccarini is from Mario's aunt (who is getting a Lazy Girl Miranda Day Bag for giving this to me). Keeping myself in cookies wasn't the only reason I decided he was a keeper, but I have to admit it was on the list. This fall she finally handed over the recipe.

For the cookies:
1/2 lb. butter
2 cups of sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
15 oz. ricotta cheese

Cream the butter and sugar, add vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time until mixture is light and fluffy. Sift flour and baking soda, add to cream mixture alternately with ricotta (this because the mixture gets unbearably hard to stir otherwise - don't use a mixer unless you've got a standing one; I burned out the motor in my handmixer on my first batch of these). Drop by teaspoons onto baking sheet. Aunt Cathie recommends scraping the dough off one teaspoon with another because it's so sticky that using your hands is impossible. Use only a small amount for each cookie because they spread in the oven. Because the cookies will be iced later, you might want to cover the baking sheet in foil. Bake at 350 for 11-15 minutes (depending on oven temp - his aunt's are done at 12, mine took the full 15). The cookies may get a little dark on the bottom, but don't worry, they won't taste burnt. Makes an obscene amount of cookies (in the 100 range) that will disappear before they're cool.

For the icing:
1 box confectioner's sugar (1 lb).
1 stick butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbs. milk

Mix ingredients together. Consistency of icing will be almost as sticky as the cookie dough. Spread on cookies when still warm, so the butter in the icing will melt into the cookies. Jimmies, sprinkles or colored sugar are optional, but tasty. Refrigerate until the icing sets. The icing recipe is generous, so you'll probably have some left over. Oh, the hardships of leftover butter icing.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

A little retail therapy

I turned down a trip to Reading yesterday to go outlet shopping with a friend because, I said, I didn't have that much shopping to do and going to the outlets would only tempt me to spend money I didn't need to spend. So, instead, I did it closer to home.

We got the car for a few hours and went over to NJ to do a Sam's Club run (the kitties were running low on necessities), and while I bought the cat stuff, I also got the boy a sweater for Christmas, some munchies for the kitchen, picked out a cute top for his sister and added 3 bottles of wine to the stash.

I asked if he'd mind going to Jomar, which is a clothing/housewares/fabric outlet in South Philly. I hadn't been there in about 5 years, but I've just finished repainting the dining room and am in dire need of curtain fabric. It's a 3-window bay, so lots of curtain fabric. And I remembered Jomar as being inexpensive and slightly tacky, but I don't require garment-quality from curtain fabric, so I thought it would be an okay place.

Jomar's not easy to find. The address is 22 Jackson Street, but along the river most of the street numbers start at 100, at Front Street. So this was below Front Street and the river, in and amongst all these old factory buildings, some of which have been converted to outlets for sneakers and ethnic foods and scary clothing. One of the streets to get into the parking lot has been so neglected by the streets department that it still had cobblestones. He just kept looking at me, hoping I knew where we were going. I knew. I could smell fabric.

In less than an hour, I got 15 yards of a really pretty poly-blend lace for the sheers, 5 yards of burgundy, 5 yards of gold, one pre-made curtain packet with the exact same 2 colors, 8 yards of chenille fringe, 5 yards of gold/white/burgundy piping, a 2 yard chunk of burgundy velvet, oh, and about 10 yards of assorted fabric for me, including a charcoal gray with light blue windowpane plaid pant-weight wool. All for $99 and change.

So I feel better. Even though I probably spent more than if I had gone outlet shopping with Dianne, it was (mostly) all stuff that I did actually need. More on the fabrics later, after they've been washed and done up in some kind of curtain configuration.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lay Your Head on My Shoulder

How many of the outdated trends on last night's episode of Project Runway have we all been guilty of? Personally, there are more than a few baggy sweaters in my past, a smidgen of neon (but only a smidgen), some dancewear, but only in the gym, and one outfit with visible underwear. My biggest crime was shoulder pads, but I think we're all guilty of that one.

In the 1980s, there was a discount clothing store in Philadelphia called Artie's. Their slogan was "Artie's is for Smarties," but I think they were the smart ones considering how much of my meager clothing budget they relieved me of during that tragic decade. But they sold cheap Norma Kamali, and I loved me my Norma, even though her dresses had football pads in the shoulders in those days. My Normas are long gone, but I found an example online of one that I had (sans shoulder pads), and which I now believe wore me proudly (I'm way too short for that dress, but you couldn't tell me that then. Besides, 3" heels can cure almost all image problems).

The only item left in my closet that has survived many years of cleanouts and this year's drastic, Tim-Gunn-inspired purge, is my Dynasty Suit. This was fashion on a large scale - big floral, puffed sleeves, 5-button cuffs, a gathered waistband on the skirt, textured fabric and . . . did I mention, the biggest shoulder pads I've ever seen.

It was dramatic, it was fabulous, and it made me feel like a Carrington female who wasn't saccharine or evil enough to make it onto the show.

In retrospect, and looking at it on my dressform, it's frightening and completely unwearable, but I can't let it go.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

And inside my 100-year-old house, it's almost as cold. I ventured into the workroom this evening, turned on my trusty spaceheater (which blows ever so considerately right at my chair), and it was 57 freaking degrees in there. I gave up and retreated to the computer to read sewing blogs and think about sewing.

For some reason, I've been thinking about stripes. I'm not much of a stripe wearer, but that doesn't stop me from thinking. I loved Gorgeous Things' article in Threads a while back about playing with stripes, and doing unusual things with something as basic as stripe is part of what I enjoy most about sewing - the freedom to go sideways with an idea, do something that you'd never see in a store (and wear it).

These were taken back in March when I went to Paris. I didn't think until the last day to take pictures of store windows, but both these striped jackets really impressed me because (a) they were both examples of flawless workmanship, and (b) while they were serious garments, there was nothing stuffy about them, even the jacket that could have wandered off a shoot for Brideshead Revisited.

What I particulaly like about these (aside from a facility for stripe-matching that makes my eyes cross) is that they're beautiful, classic, classy garments that still manage to be just the slightest bit off. In a good way.

Okay, all this meandering has been fun, but if I'm not going to get any work done on the holiday gifts, I should try sleeping. I worked on a robe for Mario's sister last night until past 1 a.m. and this morning I looked and felt like something my cats wouldn't even bother to bring in.

Monday, December 3, 2007

And now for something

completely un-sewing-related.

This is Stanley. Stanley has taken up residence on my porch over the last few days and is selling himself harder than a presidential candidate in Iowa. He wants to be my cat. He'll be the best cat for the job, bar none, all I need to do is take him in and he'll show me that he's got the experience and the charm and the Bill Clinton-esque strength of personality to be the best cat for the job.

Which would be fine, except how exactly do I explain that to the other eleven best cats? There are already too many of them, but saying no to this little guy is difficult. I'm trying hard to find someone to take him, but I've already suckered - I mean convinced - most of my friends to take a stray or two over the years, so the campaign isn't going well.

Best reason to take him in: we were coming home the other night and I was cuddling Stanley on the porch, and the other man in my life, who claims to be somewhat allergic to cats (though I've never noticed a sniffle when he's asleep on the couch with two or three on his chest), says, "You wouldn't take in another one. You're just wouldn't."

Oh, wouldn't I?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It only comes once a year. No, not Christmas, the couture auction at Freeman’s Auctions in Philadelphia. Freeman's Auctions bills itself as America's oldest auction house. They cater to the art-and-antiques crowd, a crowd I can’t afford to join - though I'm a fabulous browser.

I like their general estate sales, which occur four times a year, but the couture auction is the highlight of the year as far as I'm concerned. Today was the first day of the exhibition – the sale isn’t until next Tuesday, so I can visit a few more times before all these wonderful clothes disappear into their new closets.

How often do we get to look at stuff like this up close, much less take it off the hanger and try to figure out the construction? I'm intimidated by the stores that sell high-end clothing, and they certainly wouldn't appreciate my investigative techniques. As far as the vintage pieces, they're almost impossible to find anywhere outside of a museum exhibit. This is my opportunity to handle garments that I would normally only see behind glass. I can even try things on! Alas, no cameras allowed, but I snagged some photos from the auction catalog to share.

My personal highlights include Lot #85, a 1980s jacket by Oscar de Laurenta in aubergine velvet with embroidery and pewter buttons. For some reason, they’re calling it "Austrian." If it wasn’t for the slightly big shoulders, I would be whispering sweet nothings to this jacket. I could maybe get over the shoulders for that embroidery.

In the "what were they thinking?" category is Lot #119, the Chanel "scarecrow" suit (my word, not theirs). It photographs really well, that’s all I'll say. The catalog says "Yellow 'confetti' tweed light-weight double-breasted suit with raw fringed edging, shaped padded 'epaulettes' at the shoulders, four patch pockets, matching side-zip pants. Spring 98." If a stiff wind blew up, you might be naked.
They always have one ridiculous red showstopper in the window. Last year it was a full-length red-dyed ostrich feather coat from Christian Lacroix. This year, it's Lot #146, Valentino's fur stole checker-dyed in red and black. With rhinestone eyes. But of course.

In the vintage category, Lot #1, a dolman sleeve jacket in silk velvet with embroidered "florets," trimmed in dark green and gold chenille fringe and lined in immaculate quilted gold silk. Absolutely delicious.

Something that would push all PETA's buttons (and more than a few of mine) is Lot #146, a leopard fur capelet with, what else, buttons! "Boat-neck with side-buttoning closure, shaped shoulders and tailored arm openings. 1957." It's a serious old movie piece – picture it on Lauren Bacall in the fashion show from How to Marry a Millionaire.

In the "nothing succeeds like excess" category, Lot #83, a skirt suit from Koos van den Akker, black wool twill with appliqu├ęs of gold metallic lace and a gold mesh blouse. It's even more decadent in person. On the auction floor, they had it on a mannequin who was carrying a bag made of long black fur tails.

Last but not least, my personal favorite (in the realm of reality, anyway), the item I'm going to bid on even though it's technically one size too small, is Lot #93, a DKNY olive velvet frock coat (they called it a blazer in the auction catalog). It's only estimated at $40 - $60, so how can I not bid on it? It's much prettier in person, and it's silk velvet, so it drapes like a dream. And while it was a little snug over my sweater, it would be fine with a dressy tank. Almost.

Okay, so I just want it. Is that so wrong?

There were loads of goodies I didn't even get to at lunch today - vintage shoes, all kinds of bags including a batch of interlocking C's that were visible across the room, lots of Hermes scarves. More amazing vintage, including a Victorian wedding gown complete with train that was mounted on the wall.

Hmmm, maybe I can figure out how to use my camera phone after all. I mean, how hard can it be?

Don't answer that question.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Santa, Baby!

I'll admit it, the holidays have been known to bring out my more Grinchlike qualities. Sometimes pretty often. The only cure I've ever found is the thrill of shopping and finding the perfect gift for someone, some fabulous thing that they would never buy for themselves. Rarely do the tables get turned, but this weekend they did.

We were out doing some holiday shopping for Mario's mom and sister, and we went to Loehmann's. I'd never ventured downstairs to shoe world before, and when we came down the stairs, I spotted these:

There are no words to describe how these shoes made me feel. There aren't even words to describe why I like them. But I do, I do!!

And someone was watching. He couldn't buy them without my noticing, so he asked if I really, really wamted them. I really, really did, so he bought them for me. And I can't have them until Christmas, but that gives me a month to dream up the perfect outfit to match.

Is this the end of the Grinch? Probably not, but the Grinch will be fashionably shod this Christmas.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Location, Location, Location

The precise position of those two medallions didn't strike me until after the shirt was put together and on the dress form.

Well, if you can't hide 'em, drape them in large prints and point 'em at your nearest target!

This shirt is based on my favorite TNT blouse pattern, Simplicity 5204. It's a really basic shirt, but it fits well, and the collar goes together like a breeze every single time. You can't beat that. This time around I changed the shape a little - made it longer, tapered up at the hip, and changed the sleeve to a 3/4 with a faux cuff so I could show off some more of the fabulous buttons I picked up at PR Weekend.

I've had the fabric since spring of 2006 - my very first trip to Kashi - and all this time it hasn' t struck me what it wanted to be. I went into Pacific Trims on PR Weekend, saw these buttons, and the whole shirt just appeared in my head, finished.

It should be so easy. But this is a quick sew, almost instant gratification pattern, and now I have something new to wear to work this week, and something to feel good about while I continue to wrestle with the next big project, BWOF 10/07's 105 dress with all the pleats. It's moving along, but it's moving at its own pace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Snoop Shopping

Having been hit with dual dental pain yesterday (an unexpected crown and an even more unexpected Mastercard bill), I needed to go shopping. I wandered over to Loehmann’s at lunch, camera in my coat pocket, willing to shop but more willing to snoop. It didn’t take too long for me to end up in the dressing room with a pile of goodies.

First, this jacket. Which I thought was really cute, but not worth its $129 price tags. The satin was cheapish, and the skirt, which was supposed to be an 8, didn’t even zip all the way up. I know, I know, I’ve been reading Tim Gunn and I know size is a number that doesn’t mean anything, but generally it’s at least in the ballpark of zipping. These people cut TINY! On the other hand, what a cute outfit! I love the sleeves, love the piecing at the top of the skirt (very Burda!) and I absolutely adore the flowers around the neck of the jacket.

I do have a weakness for jackets. This one is made from a halfway-decent brocade and has velvet ruffles down the front and around the hem and the sleeves. I love ruffles!

I noticed with both these jackets that they’re lined all the way to the hem, which is how I do it when I foul up my linings. I like the more classic-looking lining, with some of the hem of the garment fabric showing at the hem, but they may be swaying me here into doing it the way that seems to happen for me anyway.

What I discovered is that I’m really attracted to garments that I shouldn’t be wearing, at least not in RTW where I can’t make adjustments. I love full ¾ sleeves, but their fullness added to the recent fullness of my hips (when did that happen? I wore boys’ jeans until I was 30!) is at just the wrong point. I love fussy details like the applied flowers and the ruffles, but I’m too short and solid to really carry them off well. This isn’t me saying that I’m fat, though there’s a certain 10 lbs I wouldn’t miss if they disappeared tomorrow, but being short, I look better in cleaner lines. I know I’ll never cut down on the patterned fabrics, so I have to say no to at least some of the trimmings that make my heart go pitter-pat. So, in the end, 9 out of 11 garments go back on the rack.

Coming home with me: 2 sweaters, a cranberry and black cashmere blend with a mock turtleneck and a brown scoop-neck with a faux white blouse sewn inside the collar. The sweater with the faux blouse is really cute; the blouse, while not a bad idea, is made out of cheap-n-cheesy white cotton and will probably either be removed or replaced in fairly short order. The sweater was only $19, which I would have paid for it without the blouse, so I didn’t mind that, but why do they use such crappy fabrics? Do they think people don’t notice? Most of them just can’t do anything about it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanks, Deepika!

PR Weekend just keeps going and going . . . I came home from work the other day and found an envelope downstairs. Since I didn’t go to the after-party last Saturday, I missed out on Deepika’s fabulous bracelets, and she sent me one!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Better Late than Never – the PR Weekend Review

Somehow, when I walked into the Milford Plaza lobby and saw Kathy, Connie and Kim, and a few other familiar faces, it didn’t matter that I was still half-asleep. Fabric was on the horizon: how much better could it get?

We met up with the rest of the ladies and headed out. First stop was Mood, where I wasn’t going to buy any fabric. They’re too expensive, and it was only the first store. So I only bought two cuts of shirting fabric, both for Mario, because he requested “non-traditional shirting.” Be careful what you wish for. (On the other hand, “non-traditional shirting” is a pretty articulate request from a guy who didn’t know the difference between one fabric and another before he met me.)

We made a brief stop at Pacific Trims, which blew M&J and Daytona completely out of the water as far as I was concerned. That place is a candy store! I bought trim, buttons, buckles, fasteners, and more trim. And I went back again later for a 12” separating zipper.Then it was off to Leather, Suede, Skins. I really liked Global Leathers last year, and got a very nice deal on some leather I was afraid to sew with for months. This year I decided I was ready to make myself a leather jacket. LSS supplied 40 square feet of buttery black lambskin (price started at $180, then went to $155, finally purchased at $128), plus some remnants of a wonderfully awful (or awfully wonderful, depending on your taste) snakeskin printed leather. That’s definitely a bag in the making.

After that, we went to see wonderful Kashi at Metro Textiles. This wasn’t my most productive trip, though you can’t tell from the amount of fabric I bought. I was going to let him ship it (and my previous purchases), but since Monday was a holiday, I knew I probably wouldn’t get my fabric until Wednesday, and I could have it all washed and ironed by then. Kashi supplied me with a wonderful silk scarf square to line my leather jacket, some striped linen (looks like vintage dishtowels!), a pink and cream lightweight coating for a Christmas present jacket, a brown with pink embroidery that wants to be a skirt, a great turquoise/green/gold and brown stretch knit, and the most amazing trim I’ve ever seen. I bought 6 yards of it without a purpose, but it was only $3 per yard.

We broke for lunch at 1:00 p.m. at the Times Deli. Trena and Cidell caught up to us there and Trena and I got to do our BWOF swap and I gave her some too-small vintage patterns that have been taking up space in my drawer. It felt good to be surrounded by fellow fabric mavens and to know that they understood why I had so many bags that they filled up their own chair!

Beginning to drag a little, but never too tired for Paron. I love the Annex – I hardly ever buy anything in the full price section. I found a wonderful semi-sheer floral in shades of orange in the $2 bin, then I got stretch twill in both black and a wonderful dark chocolate brown, and finally I bought a bottom-weight in gray with tiny broken stripes of black, brown and tan. One of those three fabrics is going to be the jumper from BWOF 10/2007.

I made it through Spandex House without a purchase, though I did have a nice rest on the 2nd floor, sitting and leaning against a few bolts of stretch velvet. I’ve still got a lot of stretch at home and I’m trying to get back into working with wovens because it requires more focus and the kind of detail work that I’ve been trying to avoid. Deepika seems to be on the same kick. She asked, “Does this mean I’m growing up?” Maybe we are, at least a little.

Last stop, Rosen & Chadick. I wasn’t buying anything. I was exhausted, thirsty, and shopped out, and I could barely lift my bags anymore. But they had such a fabulous selection, and Preston was so sweet and helpful that I bought one cut of shirting, this time for me – olive and gold with tiny stripes of red. Just my colors. And then I went in the back and sat on the floor again.

We re-fueled at Starbuck’s – peppermint mocha, yummm. But my 3½ hours of sleep had finally caught up to me. After coffee and some show & tell, and Deepika trying on my woolly mammoth coat, I headed off to Penn Station and caught the train home.

If this had been any other event, I would have probably blown it off, but no way was I missing PR Weekend. I had such a fabulous time, shopping and comparing fabrics and talking to so many great like-minded women. A day like that lasts a long time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Behold, the Woolly Mammoth (Or, BWOF 8/07, #112B)

It looks like a technicolor sheep exploded in my workroom. The boucle that I’m using leaves fuzzballs and puffs and strands every time I cut it. The bowels of my sewing machine are rumbling with yarnish indigestion.

There was no plan to make this coat. I bought the fabric in August when I visited Kashi at Metro Textiles. It was the end of the roll, a fact that influences many of my purchases. I love roll-ends; somehow I always end up with more fabric for less money. Kashi was also very enthusiastic, although I don’t always understand his enthusiasm. But I agreed at the store, though Mario raised his eyebrows. (That also probably had something to do with why I bought it). When I got the fabric home and spread it out, I was mystified. The orange was more orange; the shiny aqua thread was even shinier. Of the two sides, I still liked the one Kashi said was the wrong side – he said that the darker side was the right side – but I didn’t have a clue what it would be. Kashi said obviously it should be a jacket, and I think he meant something Chanel-ish, but all I can say is that a Chanel jacket in this fabric would make me look like one of those knitted toilet paper cozies that my Aunt Betty handed out for Christmas in the 1970s.

A few weeks ago I was sitting and going through all my old BWOF magazines because I couldn’t get the most recent issue, and this coat jumped out at me. It wandered into my head in conjunction with the boucle, and a small voice said, “It would look like a sweater coat.” I can’t say that I’ve ever yearned for a sweater coat, but hey, you shouldn’t ignore the voices on the chance they might be right.

Best of all, since I’ve just finished fighting two linings for the outfit for my friend Adam’s wedding (otherwise known as the Dress from Hell and its accompanying Jacket from Hell), I was pleased as punch to find out that this has only a partial lining. I had some tan moleskin around that I was planning to donate, since I got over my liking for it shortly after it arrived in the mail from, and decided that the glossy (wrong) side of that would make a perfect lining, and the moleskin side would cling nicely to the underside of the boucle. Voila, coat.

The least fun part was the tie belt. The hard part was realizing that my dinky 12” long tube turner was more or less incapable of turning a 5' long tube. I inserted the turner from the top, snagged a piece of yarn and just kept pushing/pulling gently from the wrong side until I could finally reach the loop. Then I pressed the crap out of it to flatten it. That would be the technical term for leaving the iron on the fabric until you can smell singeing wool (or cooking mutton), but it wouldn’t behave any other way. Of course all that gentle pushing/pulling stretched the belt, so it ended up a nice bit longer than its original too-long length.

I had problems with the collar, partly because the fabric is so chunky. I didn’t use interfacing on any of this coat because it already had enough body and I was actually afraid of losing what flexibility there was. The directions say to interface the collar, facings and the hems, which I can definitely see if you used a normal woven fabric. I didn’t understand what they were talking about re the darts in the front where the collar and the facing meet up, but eventually I did something that worked. I’m not actually sure it’s right, but I couldn’t pick it out and try again because it was starting to fray. And anyway, that’s the bright side of fabric like this – busy, busy patterns hide flaws. I had a suspicion that I was going to have a hard time with the collar, so just to make it more confusing to the eye, I flipped the fabric and did the collar and facing in the wrong side fabric. Which of course means I should have done the belt in the wrong side, but I’m not remaking that tie belt!

The two-part sleeves are possibly the best fitting BWOF sleeves I’ve ever run across. They needed minimal easing, and between my wonderfully malleable fabric (notice I’ve changed my tune) and the joy of using my new pressing ham, I got a shaped sleeve in no time at all. Minimal shoulder pads, just to ad a little more shape, and then I sewed in the partial lining.

Turns out I would have preferred a full lining. By leaving it only partly lined I had to put seam binding on all the visible seams, of which there are many. I didn’t remember until I put binding on the pocket bags just how much I hate seam binding, and at that point I had several miles of the stuff left to go to cover all the raggedy edges below the lining. But of course there wasn’t enough fabric left to make a full lining, and I decided to just to suck it up and bind the seams. It took 7yards, and I cheated and didn't do the seams that were hidden by the lining.

I topstitched the collar and the entire front length of the coat. It’s not visible because of the colors of the fabric, which is fine, but I wanted it to cooperate, and it wasn’t, and because I hadn’t interfaced the facing, it was a little soft and the line between front and facing kept blurring. This way it’ll stay put but won’t look like I sewed it there.

I managed to finish this in time to wear it to NYC on Saturday for PR Weekend. Several of the lovely ladies complimented it, a few petted it, and Deepika hauled her tired bones upright in a Starbucks to try it on. Seeing it on her made me realize I had to cut about a foot off the belt. The best PR Weekend addition to this coat came from Pacific Trims, which is a store I could spend days and weeks in without a repeat buy. Mimi pointed out this amazing brown velvet ribbon trim with pink and orange beading. How perfect (and perfectly ridiculous?) is that? I knew I had to put it around the sleeves, and it became one more reason to ditch the belt – I only need so much going on near my middle at the same time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wake me when it's over

This has had to be the most exhausting weekend on record. Friday was the wedding (they were so radiant and so happy!) and yesterday was Patternreview Weekend in NYC, which I've been looking forward to as much as I could with the DRESS FROM HELL hanging over my head.

I got home from the wedding by 12:30 a.m., took off my dress, laid out clothes for Saturday a.m., packed my bag to take with me, and fell into bed by a little after 1:00 a.m. The clock went off at 6:00, and I was on the 7:20 train. NY by 8:40, meetup by 9:15, shop until 1:00, break for lunch, shop some more until we retired to a Starbuck's at 4:00, and I realized that I couldn't do any more. There was a pizza party/gift swap/show & tell planned for 6:00 - 9:00, and I just couldn't do it. I had reached that point of exhaustion where if I had to do more, I would have either cried or just sat in a corner and rocked. (That probably also had something to do with the 30 lbs of fabric I was carrying at that point - more on that later).

So I bailed and took the 5:17 train home and collapsed on my bed for a while, feeling like a wuss, but knowing that if I had stayed, I wouldn't have had a good time and that would have ruined it for me. Sometimes you have to leave the party while you're still having a good time . . .

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What a Concept

My family has always had this thing - I'm sure we're not the only ones, but I do think it's especially prevalent in people who survived the Depression and saved things - but we have a problem using things. Not just getting rid of things, but actually using what we have.

I've always known this. My Aunt Margaret's funeral box was a running joke. Every holiday when she got something particularly nice, she would unfold it, smile, and put it in the box to be worn at her funeral. See, it was too good to use.

What is that? Who are you, if you're not good enough to use the things other people buy for you? Or the things you've bought for yourself.

And who got the last laugh? When Aunt Margaret died a few years ago, age 99 years and 6 months, her daughter pulled the box out of the closet. Every last garment in it had disentegrated with age.

I'm 43 now, and over the last few years have become the recipient of the household treasures of a generation of women: my mom, my Aunt Margaret, my Aunt Violet, and my Aunt Betty, who's still alive but beginning the process of cleaning out. I had enough stuff of my own, but I can't turn down potential new good stuff, especially since most of it is pristine.

Boxes of linens, most with stories attached. "Billy brought that back when he was stationed in Japan after the War." That's WWII, mind you, and the tablecloth and its accompanying napkins still have packing creases. There are scores of hand-tatted doilies; acres of tablecloths, solid, damask and embroidered, plus some kitschy 50s ones; enough cloth napkins to diaper a flotilla of babies; dresser scarves embroidered with southern belles, scottie dogs, poodles, kittens; pillow cases with enough french knots to induce insomnia.

What were they saving it for? Not me - I just got lucky.

And now that it's mine, all mine, I have to face the urge to put it aside and wear/use/sew with something less good. Again, why? Why can't I use the tablecloth on my dining room table and let it get covered in cat hair? Is that any less ignominious an end than dry rot?

There's a whole set of embroidered napkins with a matching table runner that is just crying out to become a blouse. I can see how it will look. I can feel how smoothly that old cotton will sew, and how soft it will be to wear. So why is it so hard to cut into it?

I will not be my mother. I will not be my aunt, grandmom, great-aunt. I may be a packrat, but I'm going to wear some of my clutter, dammit. One of these days I'll post that blouse, and every time I wear it I'll think of all those women, and the pleasure they missed out on, thinking that their things were better than they were.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Because I just can't sit around and do nothing . . .

Though I should be recovering from the Dress from Hell, last night I got to thinking about what bag I'm going to carry at the wedding, and I realized (big surprise) that I don't have anything that will come close to matching.

I knew there wasn't anything left of the brown silk but scraps, but I went diving into the trash and came up with a few decent sized chunks and turned out this take on Amy Butler's Frenchy Bag. It's a little shorter, a little wider, and I skipped the interior pockets because this is just going to be for wallet, camera, and fixer-upper makeup for when I cry all over myself at the wedding. And tissues. A big fat wad of tissues.

The bag turned out pretty good, I think, and my favorite part of it is that I got to use a big piece of my very expensive French beaded trim. Since I only used about 3" of it on the dress, it's been bothering me that I wasted 20E for 3" of trim. I feel better now, and the best part is, since the bag was pieced together from scraps, the trim covers all 3 seams on the front of the bag. There was only a center seam on the back, so I decided to let that go and just decorate the front.

Now, can I relax?

Probably not. The dining room still needs painting.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I'm Done!!!!

I don't usually use that many exclamation points, but that's just how glad I am that THE DRESS FROM HELL is finished.

Here's the story behind this project: My friend Adam is not a normal guy. He was raised by his mom, his grandmom and his aunt, and he is the man every woman wants - cute, well-mannered, responsible, employed, clothing-conscious and animal-loving. When he finally found the girl of his dreams (who is almost worthy of him), he decided that if they couldn't run away to Europe to get married, they had to have a formal wedding. The invitation said "black tie strongly encouraged." Adam says that too many of his friends go around dressed like homeless people, and he wanted to see them looking nice for once. Not surprisingly, almost everyone was into the idea. I started planning as soon as I found out what color the bridesmaids were wearing - I didn't want to inadvertently look like one of the bridal party.

Adam is getting married next Friday, therefore, I've known about this occasion for some time. I've even had the fabric for some time. (Okay, more than some time - I bought it in February). I waffled several times about what pattern to use and finally decided on McCall 4444, which is technically a sundress pattern, but when I made it back in July, it seemed like it had great potential as a dressier dress. And it did, thank all the sewing gods, who occasionally conspired against me and demanded more than their normal measure of blood, sweat and swearing.

For some reason, I decided that this outfit had to be perfect. That meant no short cuts and no ignoring mistakes just because non-sewers wouldn't notice them. Perfect, or at least done correctly, so I had to face a long-standing sewing fear and learn how to put in an invisible zipper. Once I got the hang of it, it wasn't difficult at all and now I want to put them in everything and I'm smacking myself for all the times I cheated and put in a regular zipper, and tried to ignore that it didn't look right.

The dress started out in a different color - I got a really pretty copper taffeta from, but it turned out to be crackly taffeta, as in cheap prom dress crackly taffeta. When I went looking for replacement fabric, they had this cocoa silk shantung for not much more $$. Not only is it gorgeous but I don't sound like I'm wearing plastic grocery bags in this dress. It doesn't crackle, it rustles. Much better.

The jacket (Burda 7987) was an afterthought, actually - I bought 2 yards of this embroidered home dec fabric to match the original copper; then I decided I didn't like it; then I decided to use it as a jacket because it's a November wedding and I was wearing a backless dress. To me there's something very Elizabethan about it. Maybe it's the stand-up collar, or the richness of the fabric. The collar is great - it's got 10 small pleats from the side to the back of the neck to give it shape, and even though it was a bear to put together and iron into submission, the end result was worth it.

The dress took more patience than the jacket, somehow. This is supposed to be an unlined sundress. It's not, obviously. I ended up lining it, because I didn't think silk shantung would make it through a wedding mass without creasing. To give the bodice a bit more body, I ironed a light-weight interfacing to the lining. I was afraid to iron it to the fabric, just in case it showed. But once I'm in the dress, the fabric and the lining become one, and the interfacing adds just enough structure. The lining had to be sewn in by hand, because the silk shows every single stinking pin and needle mark, and if I'd managed to keep the exterior clean up to that point, I wasn't marring it because of a lining. So it's stitched along the zipper and along the top of the bodice, very carefully, on the seam allowance just below the seam so there was no possibility of stitches showing.

You know what? Doing everything right is freaking exhausting! I went to the pre-wedding serenade last night and told the bride and groom that they could, indeed, be married next Friday because I would not be attending the ceremony in my underwear. Instead, I'll be wearing this, complete with dyed-to-match shoes.

The shoes are beautiful, but somewhat of a sore point. When I picked them up, a customer complimented me on them and asked, "Are you the mother of the bride?" I almost choked. "No," I say. "Oh, mother of the groom. That's lovely."

Can't I just be an overdressed guest? Do I have to suddenly have a 20-something child? It took all my strength not to snap at the woman who, after all, didn't mean anything by her remark. I just generally choose to believe I don't look my age, and I don't look kindly on those who assume that I have children old enough to be married.