Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nuts to You

Posting my to-do list here certainly seems to provide me with the kick in the pants I sometimes need. Out of the 5 pieces I recently posted, I've finished both dresses, and I just finished sewing the buttons on Butterick 4985, which is made from some of the oldest fabric in my stash. Actually, it's inherited grandmom stash, so that tells you it's getting up there.

I've posted a closeup of the fabric so you can see the print better - it's got the words hickory, oak, pecan, walnut, chestnut on it, with pictures of the nuts and leaves. How cool is that? While the colors - gray, red and purple - aren't my usual colors, I'm justifying wearing this because there are orange and green leaves interspersed with the others. Close enough, right?

I think the fabric is from the 1950s, but I can't be sure. My grandmom (actually my great-grandmom) died when I was 8, my mom took her stash, and I squirreled away this print before I hit my teens. It's been traveling with me ever since, waiting for the right project. Which this was, I think. Normally I'm not a puffed-sleeve kind of girl (see my comments on the BWOF dress earlier this week), but in this case, it worked with the fabric. And I have enough left over to make a matching skirt, which would turn this into a cute two-piece summer outfit.

Since I managed to finish all my pieces for the PR Wardrobe Contest, I'm debating if I want to enter the Mini-Wardrobe as well. I've been cleaning out my closets and drawers and getting rid of all the RTW that doesn't fit as well as it used to - or as well as what I make myself - and there are definite gaps in my wardrobe.

The rules for the Mini-Wardrobe are either 2 bottoms and 2 tops; 1 bottom and 3 tops; or 1 bottom, 1 dress and 2 tops. In all cases, 1 of the tops can be a jacket.

This would be an excuse for me to use the nice dark gray bottom-weight fabric that's been on the shelf and which didn't fit into the Wardrobe Contest entry. I certainly have other fabrics that would coordinate with it (offhand I can think of a light-and-dark gray stripe jersey that has a yen to be a BWOF top from last year) and most of those would also coordinate with the official wardrobe pieces. Yay! Just not sure if I want to do the extra top or a jacket. I have a few days before May - I'll sleep on it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Salute to Spring

Rainy days and Mondays should never happen at the same time. That's all I have to say on the matter. I didn't want to get out of bed this morning, and I certainly didn't have the motivation to wear anything springlike in this gray and dreary, definitely unspring-like weather. I'm still recovering from a double food coma this weekend – dinner out Friday and then again with the family on Sunday. I'm definitely not showing this dress off on me because I'm still too uncomfortable to zip it up!

BWOF 3/08 #113 is my salute to spring dress. I really loved the wedding gown version of this dress with the flutter sleeves. It looked very vintage, and when I found this Liberty print paisley in NY recently, I knew they belonged together. As I said before, this dress is cut a little more snug than the photographs would lead you to believe. I'm always a 38 in BWOF, generally without any alterations, so it really bugs me when they cut something narrower than expected. (I'm also bugged because apparently I'm even wider than expected in the same area; I had a traumatic moment yesterday with an accurate scale and I don't think I'm eating again until I leave for Paris).

I love how this dress turned out. I underlined the entire dress, with the exception of the sleeves, in white cotton batiste. This was for structure and modesty since the paisley was both very soft and somewhat sheer. Because I thought this dress looked so vintage, instead of using a button and loop closure or a pin at the top of the neck, I sewed the edges together and used a self-fabric bow made out of some leftover bias strip. Somewhere deep in the closet I have a vintage dress with a similar treatment and I really think it works with this fabric.

Even though this isn't quite the fit I had intended when I cut the dress out, it does fit – and will fit better very shortly, believe me! – and I can't wait to wear it. If only the sun would come out. The lilacs have almost finished blooming in my back yard and the peonies have started, but the rain is blowing them away almost before they're fully open. I ran out back this a.m. and put fencing around the bush to keep it from collapsing under its own weight.

Mother Nature needs to get on the ball here. I want to wear some of my spring clothes!

Friday, April 25, 2008

All around the town

They've done it again: the fountain is now a nice Caribbean blue, much better than last week's green. Where's the sand, though? Where are the umbrellas? Where's the cabana boy with my drink?

Last night we went to see What the Butler Saw, by Joe Orton, at the local theater. This is the play that required the multiple strait jackets, so I was expecting it to be interesting, but this was Oscar Wilde for the 20th century. It was a lot of fun - risque jokes, vintage underwear and inconsistent British accents. I wanted to get a shot of the jackets in action, but no photos allowed. Oh, well.

Much as I enjoyed myself, I was hoping we'd get home at a decent time, because I wanted to work some more on BWOF 3/08 #115. We were in before 10:00 p.m. Yay! Isn't it a shame that you can be off having a really good time and still rather be home playing with a project?

I finished the sleeves and got the hem pinned, so I can knock that out this weekend sitting on the back step in the sun. Now all I have left to do is possibly lose 5 lbs. off my hips prior to wearing it on Sunday for dinner with Mario's family (it's his birthday).

I really like the flutter sleeves on this dress. I wasn't certain at first - originally they seemed a little pouffy as opposed to drapy, but that was just the fabric reacting to being ironed. What you see here are the sleeves after they were spritzed with the water bottle and allowed to air dry. Much better. Before it looked like I had wings.

I doubt I'll get to work on it tonight - another boy birthday dinner, this time with friends, at our favorite Italian restaurant downtown. Even if I had time to work when I got home, I probably couldn't zip it if I tried it on, because I always overdo at this place. It's called La Locanda del Ghiottone - the literal translation is "place of the gluttons." I'd say that's pretty accurate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BWOF 3/08 #115 Dress

The minute I saw this Liberty paisley in Paron's a few weeks ago, I had to have it. I was even pretty sure I was going to make this dress out of it, if there was enough fabric left on the bolt. (There was, but only just – I had to cut the dress out without hem allowances to get it to fit, but thankfully, I'm short).

I thought it would make a wonderful spring/summer dress, and I loved the flutter sleeves. I traced out the pattern Friday night and started sewing on Sunday.

I know I should have made a muslin. I know that, honestly, I do, but 99.5% of the time I'm a perfect 38 in BWOF's patterns. I wasn't expecting this pattern to be one of the 0.5%.

It fits – don't get me wrong, it fits. It's almost fitted, it fits so well. I'm going to call this one the unintentional wiggle dress, because I feel like I need to put on a Marilyn Monroe walk to wear it. The top of the dress was fine, but it's a little snug through the hips. I've also undergone some recent expansion in that area – sitting all day at work and then sitting all night sewing will do that to you. As will a fondness for food in general and all things crunchy in particular.

I underlined the entire dress in white batiste. The paisley was the slightest bit sheer, and also so lightweight that I knew on a warm day I'd completely sweat through it – always a good look, right? The batiste gives it structure without making it any bulkier, which was good for the invisible zip insertion.

I made my own bias trim for this dress, but rather than follow BWOF's instructions, which were pretty incomprehensible for something as simple as sewing on bias tape, I actually did a very narrow visible topstitch, not because it was easier but actually because I thought it added to the vintage feel of the dress.

It's funny – the flowered version of this dress in the magazine didn't do a thing for me, but I thought the wedding dress was drop-dead gorgeous. It can't just be the difference in sleeves; I must have a bad reaction to frantic floral fabric. The flowered version didn't strike me as vintage either, yet in the Liberty paisley, this feels like a dress out of an old movie – not one of the star's showier dresses, but the dress worn by the best friend or the sister. It needs short gloves and ladylike shoes and it would be perfect.

Now that it finally feels like spring, I've started thinking about wearing dresses again. Last weekend I made Vogue 8352 in a brown and turquoise floral bought at Paron's last summer. My favorite thing about this dress was that I got to use some vintage turquoise buttons from the inherited button stash. Also, because I have a love/hate thing with shirt dresses, I cheated and put in an invisible side zip just in case I shape shift and decide to sew the button front closed. Ensuring that I don't shape shift might be a better idea, but it's certainly not an easier one.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Congratulations, it's a wardrobe!

It's done. I spent some quality time with the camera and the self-timer this morning, and I actually got the master review out of "work in progress" mode and officially posted. Now I can stop looking at the individual pieces every night and wondering if I should tweak them a little more. I'm finished.

I've learned a lot this year about what looks and feels good on me. There's not one piece of this collection that I wouldn't be happy to purchase and wear on a regular basis. Working on this project has caused me to find a TNT pants pattern that I will wear for a long time, I finally learned to how work with leather, and I made some great tops that I'm really happy with.

All in all, a good 3 months of work. And the very best part - I have no worries about what to pack for vacation!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What if they gave a debate, and nobody came?

Well, that didn't happen last night. Apparently there were 35,000 people at Independence Park last night, and for three hours, I was one of them. I'm not a big lover of crowds, but when your candidate of choice is speaking in your city, a few days before the primary, how do you stay home?

Posters said the rally started at 6:00 p.m. We walked down after work and got there around 5:30 p.m. Though the posters also said no tickets required, you did need a ticket to be in the section of the park where you could actually see Senator Obama. He would be onstage in front of the National Constitution Center, which is almost at Arch Street. Between the Constitution Center and Independence Hall is a two-block stretch of grass, bisected by Market Street. Non-ticket holders were on the other side of Market Street behind barricades.

A volunteer we ran into said that nothing would start before 7:00, when several local politicians would speak before introducing Obama. Well, okay, I don't feel like standing in the sun for over an hour, so off we went to find a snack and a bottle of water. Made it back to the park in about 40 minutes, not much more crowded, so we found spaces right behind the barrier and settled in to wait. And wait. And wait. It started to get dark.

At around 7:30 p.m., an organizer got on the mike, thanked a bunch of people, and introduced a musician who played a few songs, including a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" with lyrics about Obama. After that, nothing. It got darker.

Why did they only have one lame CD on a loop? Why were there no video screens? These seem like no-brainers. I know it's a big open space not really intended for these events, but they managed speakers and staging and places to put the snipers (men in black with really really big guns who walked down Market Street without even needing to swagger).

At around 8:00 p.m., a flag was hung in the center of where I assumed the stage was, not being able to see it from my spot. I hoped this meant something was going to happen, but no.

The crowd got really enormous. It kept pushing forward until there was absolutely no space between the bodies. Let's say I met quite a few new people Friday night. 8:30 p.m. came. It was dark. The moon came out. There was much chanting over the tired CD loop, but no one came.

I am embarrassed to say it, but I gave up. I went home. My head hurt, my feet hurt, I was hungry, and I felt like a whiny, cranky toddler. I ran into another volunteer as we were leaving, and asked what the delay was. None, apparently. They always just herd the people in hours in advance, so that there's no delay when it's actually important. Besides, it gives them time to do a head count, and it looks really impressive for people driving by to see thousands and thousands of people yelling and waving signs.

Maybe so. But it's a sucky way to treat your voters. I'm not blaming the candidate, mind you, just a system that makes it okay to treat the people whose votes you want like they're a bunch of sheep. A lot of other people left disappointed at the same time, lots of them parents with kids who had really wanted to hear Obama speak.

From Obama's speech: "It was over 200 years ago that a group of patriots gathered in this city to do something that no one in the world believed they could do. After years of a government that didn't listen to them, or speak for them, or represent their hopes and their dreams, . . . "

I may not have been there, but I'm there.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Up and Coming

I decided that since I make more progress on my sewing when I either announce them here or sign up for a contest, I’m going to commit, publicly, to my next projects.

Here, in no particular order, and setting aside time for vacation, is the spring collection:

BWOF 3/08 #115 Dress. I love this dress. I’m going to make it up in the Liberty print paisley I got last month at Paron’s, lined in white batiste because it’s just a little sheer. Still debating between the puffed sleeves and the flutter sleeves, but I just don’t see myself in puffs, whether or not they’re in style.

McCall's #5471 Blouse. For now I’m going to make this up in the white stretch shirting I also picked up at Paron’s. I think it would be cute in a multitude of colors, but I don’t have a white blouse right now that looks at all decent, so white is the priority. I just can’t get over the feeling that sewing a plain white blouse is boring. This also can’t be first on the list because I’m still getting over snow blindness from the strait jackets the other week. I can honestly say I’ve never run out of white thread before.

Vogue #8480 Jacket. As soon as the new Vogues came out, I had to have this jacket. Originally I was going to make it up in a tan twill I got from Gorgeous Things, but I think I’m going to reserve that for something else. Instead I’m going to use that brown corduroy and blue faces fabric that I got at the Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet when Cennetta was in town.

BWOF 9/07 #116. I’m not tired of these pants yet and I get compliments every time I wear them. By making them in every possible usable color, I’m forcing myself to get rid of the “good enough” RTW pants that, every time I wear them, make me feel fat. These pants don’t make me feel fat, so how can I not like them? Also, I can make an entire pair, cutting to hemming, in an evening – even better. I’ve got some charcoal gray and a wonderful tan glen plaid put aside. One or the other – or possibly both.

Butterick #4985 Blouse. This one takes minimal fabric, so there are a few things that have been aging in stash that are clamoring to be this one.

Vogue # 8352 Dress. I’ve started on this one in the brown and turquoise fabric I got from Paron’s last summer. I’m thinking that despite my love of shirt dresses, they’re not the most flattering style on me, and the dress and I have worked out a reconcilation of our differences. More on that later.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Only in Philadelphia

This is the view out of my office window. When I asked why the fountain in Love Park was the color of pond scum, I was told that they had dyed the water for Earth Day.

Only in Philadelphia, I tell you, would they pollute the water in honor of Earth Day.

Last year, Showtime leased the fountain for a few days and filled it with fake blood to advertise the new season of Dexter. Good advertising ploy, but was a fountain full of blood - right across from City Hall - really in the best of taste in a city that had a murder rate of over 400 last year?

Leave the poor fountain alone, and give me my view back.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Customer Service Isn't Dead

Ever since April 1, I've been impatiently awaiting the arrival of my April Burda. Ever since I got my subscription back in October (when the local Borders discontinued selling it), the magazine arrives on the 1st or 2nd of the month. By April 7, when it hadn't shown up yet, I was starting to pace. Someone had already posted a review from the April issue and I didn't even have mine yet!

I emailed GLP International's customer service, and a woman named Annika got back to me that same day. She said that the Easter holiday had delayed shipping and they hadn't started to ship until April 3. My magazine should be arriving shortly.

Well, it didn't. I emailed them again on April 14th and got a phone call from Annika the following day. She agreed that my magazine should have arrived. She apologized because they had no April issues left to send me, but she checked with my local Borders (which started selling the magazine again shortly after I subscribed) and they had several copies left. She asked them to hold one for me, and in exchange for the inconvenience and probably higher price (Borders' $10 to GLP's less than $8), they extended my subscription for two months.

It's so rare to get customer service that good that it was almost worth the delay. And I stopped at Borders right after work and got my magazine. And when I got home, my order of Swedish Tracing Paper from Birch Street had arrived, so now I can actually start tracing patterns again.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Loss = Your Gain

I can't stand it anymore. I've been sewing through my stash as much as possible, but there are certain fabrics that are just going to continue to hang out on the shelf no matter how much I sew. It could be because they're fabrics from the days when I bought because it was pretty, with no thought that the color would make me look like death, or they could have been inherited stash, or they just might have been purchased for a project that didn't happen and now they're sitting around taunting me.

Tastes change; fabric stashes are eternal.

So the gain would not be entirely yours - I'm going to get some shelf space out of this, and that's worth a lot to me. All fabrics are free with shipping (paypal preferred). All fabrics are described as accurately as possible; pre-washing notes are included in the fabric descriptions. Not all fabrics have been pre-washed, and if they haven't, at this point I will leave that happy task for you. Non-smoking household, but you will probably find a few stray cat hairs.

So in the interests of reducing my stash (and helping to add to yours), I offer the following:

3.0+ yards of white and lavender floral home dec (garment weight). Two cuts, each 1 2/3 yards. This was purchased with a specific vintage pattern in mind - can't you see it as a garden-party type dress, with a full skirt? I could, I just don't see it on me anymore. Purchased at my local home dec fabric store, approximately 2003 (though the fabric selvage is marked 1998). A little discolored on the selvage, but the actual fabric is still creamy-white. No pre-treating done on this one. Not sure how it would handle the washer, but it wouldn't object to being hand-washed and dried in a cool dryer.

3.0 yards olive/gold/aqua cat-tail print cotton from Fabric.com, approximately 2006. I loved the Art Deco-ish vibe to this fabric, and the colors are right. So why haven't I used it? No idea, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to. 100% cotton, pre-washed (so hopefully, pre-shrunk).

1.0 yards candy pink jersey. Wonderful drape, not quite slinky but similar drape. Great fabric for t-shirts, wrap tops, etc. Completely the wrong pink for my complexion, and it's not something makeup will cure. From my local fabric store, approximately 2006. Pre-washed.

2.25 yards red cotton jersey – more t-shirty than the pink above. I changed the photo so you could see the drape; the square in the corner is the actual color. This stuff is RED. Not blue-red, not orange red, but smack-in-the-middle-of-August Tomato Red. Gorgeous color, makes me look jaundiced. From my local fabric store, same shopping trip as the pink jersey. Pre-washed.

1.0 yard Amy Butler Belle fabric. I love the pattern, but it's a little large for what I had in mind (that's what I get for clicking "buy" before engaging my brain). This is one of the fabrics that is taunting me.
3.5 yards of brown/gold/caramel snakeskin print stretch twill (minimal stretch but enough). There was a project for this, honest and truly, but for the life of me I have no idea what it was. Pre-washed, pre-shrunk. Obviously wrinkled from stash-sitting since 2000, but not a wrinkly fabric when cared for.

And lastly, 3.0 yards of 100% acrylic "tweed" boucle from Fabric.com. I know it's 3.0 yards because it still has the order sticker on it. How lame is that? Bought about 3 years ago, not quite the color for me after all. Glad I realized it before I cut into it, given that sewing boucle is a royal pain in the bobbin.

So that's it, for now. Anything strike your fancy? I'm sitting here with fingers crossed.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The End.

The last piece.

This wasn't the bag I had planned for the Wardrobe, but it's the one that got made. I had intended to use the snakeskin print leather I got during PR Weekend 2007, but the leather was a little heavier than my sewing machine felt like working with, so I put the bag aside until I can pick up a heavier leather needle.

Instead, I used Amy Butler's Frenchy bag (appropriate for a Parisian vacation), and made the larger size. I've made several of the small bag but for some reason the larger one never got me. Silly me. The larger size is perfect for a vacation bag that doesn't look like a vacation bag.

I changed some of the interior pockets to suit my purposes - added a zip pocket on one side and reinforced the double pocket on the other side and added a strip of leather piping at the top for both style and structure.

Because the lambskin I used was soft and flexible (great for a jacket, not so great for a bag), I reinforced the lining with Craft Bond fusible interfacing. I didn't want to use too much heat on the leather, so I stiffened the lining instead, and did it after I had added all the pockets, just to put my machine (and me) through less strain. This was the perfect weight for what I wanted, and I made sure that the bag was only minimally larger than the lining so that the lining would in turn keep hold the shape of the bag.

There wasn't enough leather left from the jacket project to actually make the bag, but I wanted a black leather bag and I hated having a bag of leather scraps hanging around that were too small too use, so I pieced it. All of it. Even the straps. I think I managed to escape the 1970s "patchwork" look with my piecing. I used one of my machine's embroidery stitches to applique the pieces together.

For the lining, I came up with a 3/4 yard piece of black and white cotton printed with the Eiffel Tower. I got this at Paron's in NYC last summer - it was the end of the bolt and they threw it in the bag with the rest of my purchases when they saw how much I wanted it. I had no idea what I was going to use it for until yesterday afternoon.

I can't believe this is the last piece of the wardrobe. When I signed up for this contest, it seemed like this endless task stretching out ahead of me, and I've managed to finish it all (with the extra pieces) with two weeks to spare. It will take me that long to get decent pictures taken, I'm sure.

Now I can start thinking seriously about the spring clothes I want to make when I get back from vacation. I've already cut out a dress which I'll post about later, but for now, I think I'll let the sewing machine cool down for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I must be mad

That's the only excuse for tonight's sewing project. That, and I say yes to things from which I should run away screaming.

Here's the story. For the past few years, I've done some sewing for a local theater group. The head costumer comes up with all the ideas, and farms out a lot of the sewing to volunteers in the neighborhood. She sews herself, so I don't know how some of these bizarre things come to pass, but I think that while she can sew, she can't pick out fabric to save her life. I had to do a gown last year for the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland made completely out of black and red lining fabric. The flimsy kind. Ask me how much fun that was.

When she called last month, I said I was tied up in a few projects and couldn't take on anything too complicated. She promised me an easy project, and came up with this (actually these): she needs three strait jackets for the next show. No, it's not One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which is the only show I can think that would require that much restraint.

She delivered the fabric the night before I went to NY. I looked at a bolt of white fabric, with its accompanying bag of strapping and D-rings, and put it in the workroom to age. Then she called and asked if I could wash the fabric for her, because it seemed a little stiff. I grumbled a little, because it was 10 yards of fabric and I really didn't want to have to go to the laundromat. Then I looked at the fabric. White cotton duck, treated with something that made it feel like cardboard. The label on the bolt said "dry clean only." I cut a test swatch, washed it in cold and dried it in a cool dryer, and it shrunk by almost 50%. I guess they meant it when they said "dry clean only."

Called and gave her the bad news that she would have a trio of chafed actors. She said that they'd have to deal with it, and that she didn't need the jackets until the end of this coming weekend. So instead of working on them, I made another top another pair of pants for the wardrobe. Today she emailed and said that the photo shoot for their publicity stills had been moved up to Friday at 7:00 p.m. and could I please have at least one jacket done by Thursday. As in tomorrow.

Well, okay, if I have to. The pattern was a "special needs" hospital pajama pattern, and it had to be made so that the opening was in the back and centered (the pattern closed on the side in the front). The sleeves had to be lengthened by 19", with 20" of strapping hanging off the front ends. The back has loops of strapping with D-rings, and 5 straps down the center with velcro closures.

The drawing she gave me only had one ring in the loop, and that's what I did until I realized that for the straps to hold, there had to be 2 rings, and it turned out she did buy me 3 packs of rings. I just wasn't thinking. So I had to pick the strapping off, which made it fray, so then I had to make more loops.

I finished the first one at 10:30. It took me less time the other night to make a pair of pants for myself. Maybe there's a learning curve and the next two won't each take 3 hours of valuable sewing time. I'll find out tomorrow night. I've had it for tonight.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Almost there . . . wait, I passed it!

That's how I'm feeling about the Wardrobe Contest. Back when I signed up for it in February, I couldn't imagine I'd ever finish 4 tops, 4 bottoms, a jacket and an accessory by the end of April. But here it is, not even the middle of the month, and I've managed to finish 5 tops, 5 bottoms and a leather jacket. I've scared myself here. (I still have to finish the bag, but it's almost done.)

Last night was a mini-marathon. I have a time-sensitive project for someone else that I need to start on, which of course is why I decided to finally trace off BWOF 1/08 #116 and finish it, and then, because I couldn't commit to taking one of my existing tops out of the wardrobe to even things out, to make a matching pair of pants out of some brown RPL I just happened to have in stash. The fact that I still have an enormous stash left after making a 10-piece coordinating wardrobe is also scary.

I started sewing last night around 6:30, took a break around 9:30 to post the review of the BWOF top, and then went back in around 10:30 to do a little work on the brown pants. A little work. At 12:30 a.m., I finished hemming the pants, took their picture and did a quick add-on review before bed. By that point I was so energized I couldn't sleep. The hamster was running full tilt in my head and I wanted to get up and spend the night at the machine, but my back said no more and I eventually went to sleep.

Vacation is only a month away and I love that I'm going to be able to take an entire self-made wardrobe to Paris. The shoes won't be quite what I'd envisioned for each outfit, because of the mileage I'll be putting on each day, but I went to Aerosoles and got a pair of comfy near-flats that feel like sneakers and look like shoes, so at least I'll be somewhat stylish.

I think I should take the whole shebang except the tunic (which will wrinkle too much from being packed) and maybe the tan pants, since they will show the most wear. I can definitely get two wearings each out of the brown and black pants, and I'll take the black and tan skirts and one pair of jeans for going to the flea market. All the other tops are stretch fabrics which can be washed in the hotel sink if need be. For outerwear, either the black leather jacket I made or, depending on the forecast, a slightly heavier RTW one that I haven't been able to wear yet this season, and I should be set. No boots, no gloves, no bulky sweaters. I've never done Europe in weather that didn't require heavy clothes. That's one of the best parts of the whole trip for me.

That, and I'm sure I'll fit in a little fabric shopping time in Paris. Somehow. By any means possible.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Tale of Two Tops

Confession: I don't always use the right fabric for the job. After several really good pattern reviews, and specifically Trena's recommendation, I picked up Vogue 2980 at the last Vogue one-day sale. It's a Sandra Betzina pattern, which is both good and bad - good, because I like the fit and construction, but bad because I find most of her patterns kind of boring, in the way that can't be remedied by fabric choice or embellishment. But this is a cute little top and I immediately knew I wanted to make it in a chocolate brown stretch jersey that I had in the stash.

The pattern requires four-way stretch fabric, with about a 25% stretch in the width. Which, of course, is why I ended up using a rayon-blend sweater-look knit with almost no stretch. Don't ask. But as soon as I saw the fabric I knew that's what this top really wanted to be made in, so I crossed my fingers, picked up the rotary cutter and proceeded on by the seat of my pants.

Not my greatest idea. In SB sizing, I'm normally a C. For this lack-of-stretch-knit, I cut a D, with slightly wider seam allowances. Which was good, because I ended up making this with about 1/4" seam allowances all around with the exception - for some reason - of the top of the side seams where the faux shrug joins the front and back. That actually required the full 5/8" seam tapering down to 1/4" at the ribcage. Since when are my boobs the smaller part of my torso?

Even after that, the straight neckline was still a little gappy. I tried pinning a dart along the sideseam, where it would be hidden by the collar, but that just reinforced the point that I didn't like the way the collar rucked up under my arms. I think part of that is just the design of the top, but in a lighter, more flexible (dare I say, more stretchy) fabric, it wouldn't be an issue.

In the end, the lack of stretch didn't affect the basic construction very much. In some respects, like setting in the sleeves, it actually worked better - once again there was a decent amount of ease (too much) in the sleeves and ease-stitching and sewing set-in sleeves in stretch knit is right up there with sticking pins under my fingernails as far as I'm concerned. This knit took ease-stitching well and steamed beautifully on my pressing ham. Have I ever mentioned that I love my pressing ham? And for something I didn't think I need, I now think I need a second one, because I left one sleeve to sit overnight last night, pinned it in this morning and left the other sleeve steamed and sitting to be worked on later. Now, if I had two hams . . .

All things considered, I really like the idea of this top, and I still want to make it in that chocolate brown jersey. If a pattern works this well when you're using the wrong fabric, just think how cooperative it will be if I do what I'm supposed to.

But for now, it's going in the "salvage" pile, to percolate for a while. And here's one from that same salvage pile, which turned into something for the Wardrobe Contest: the completed rust tie-neck t-shirt.

This fabric was from Spandex House picked up at Patternreview Weekend 2006. Loved the color, loved the drape. Decided to make the KwikSew wrap dress with it, with the crossover portion of the bodice from a small piece of accent fabric that I got in an Emmaonesock bundle. Don't ask, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Cut it out, basted it together, and it looked like a big droopy orange bag. The fabric didn't seem that weighty, but the skirt pulled the bodice all out of whack and I couldn't think of any way to redeem it. But instead of chucking it, I threw it in the bag and when I was on my autumn colors binge with the wardrobe, it wandered back into my head. I salvaged the original sleeves, and cut the front and back of the shirt from that poor sad skirt. The bands and ties were just leftover bits of fabric, but I think they save it from being too plain.

This is my last top for the wardrobe, and I'm just finishing off the last skirt. Then all I have to work on is the bag, which is all over the workroom right now because I changed my design mid-cut.

Onward and upward.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Look what I got!

I got an Excellence Award from Tamara! How cool is that?

Finding 10 blogs that I like to read that haven't accumulated one of these babies is going to be hard, but here are a few of my favorites to start with: The Slapdash Sewist and The Mahogany Stylist, both of whom I've met through Patternreview and whose blogs are full of fun and inspirational ideas; Kitty Couture, who makes beautiful clothes (and has a beautiful kitty); Couturesmith, who I also know from Patternreview, who hasn't posted lately and who is getting this award because I miss her and she needs a boot in a sensitive place.
I love reading blogs because sewing (and most types of creating) are essentially solitary activities, and while I don't mind doing the work on my own, I like to talk about it and I don't have many "real" friends who find my activities at all interesting. Thankfully, I have lots of "virtual" friends, some of whom I've even gotten to meet and who are just as fabulous in person as they are online.

I joined Patternreview back in 2006 and I have sewed much more steadily - and far more ambitiously - due to the inspiration of all the other wonderful sewists on the site. I started blogging for similar reasons; I was spending so much time reading the blogs of others that I realized it was actually affecting my sewing time. The solution was starting my own blog so that someone other than myself would hold me to actually completing projects when I would be just as happy wandering around the internet looking at everyone else's hard work.

So this is a heartfelt thank you to all the bloggers out there who keep me endlessly entertained, inspired and informed.