Monday, July 28, 2008

No Habla Patrones

Guess what? My Spanish-speaking friends don't Habla Patrones' Spanish either!

I got my first translation back today from my Latino newspaper bathroom buddy, and it's not all that much more clear than what I got from the online translation sites. Apparently (and I knew this but probably didn't believe it) Spanish from Spain is very different from the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico, Columbia, Guatemala and Mexico, the countries of origin of the women who work in that office. My translation turned into a group effort.

One word, tapetas, stumped them all. I eventually managed to track it down online - I'm pretty sure it's a button placket. And since none of these women sew, I'm sure they wouldn't have known "button placket" anyway. I know English-speaking non-sewists who wouldn't know what a button placket was if it bit them.

I don't feel like I'm all that much further ahead on this pattern than I was when I gave her the instructions, but I'm sure it will help in the end if I get hung up on something. If nothing else, it's confirmed to me that as far as Patrones goes, I'm better off just tracing the pieces, cutting the fabric, and winging it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

BWOF 5/08 #104 Dress

Pattern Description: Misses' Back-zip sleeveless v-neck dress w/front drape and buckle.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF 34-42. I made my usual BWOF 38 and it fit just fine.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very easy for Burda. I'd already made #103 from this issue, the top version with the asymmetrical drape, and the instructions for this dress referred back to those.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I didn't think I would like this dress so much because I wasn't that enthused about the top after I made it, but after seeing so many wonderful versions of it, I had to try and I'm glad I did - I really love it.

Fabric Used: Olive green and black mod-patterned cotton lycra jersey from

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: As did everyone else, I left out the back zipper. Since the fabric has so much stretch, I didn't see going through the joy of putting an invisible zipper in a knit for no reason other than that Burda said to. I raised the neckline by about 1/2" and made it slightly more rounded. I left off the extended facing again (didn't put it in the top either) and just made a minimal facing that I topstitched at the neck. Since I topstitched the armholes too, it worked out fine. I didn't have a buckle on hand that I liked and since the instant gratification seamstress was in charge, I went with a knot (the only part of the original top I was happy with).

As also has been noted in a few reviews, this dress runs a tiny bit big. The only place it was a problem for me was on the front drape, which I ended up taking in by about 1 1/2" on each side so that it didn't droop instead of drape.
Once I did that, it sat nice and flat against my tummy, while quite considerately concealing a good bit of said tummy. It's a very good dress for concealing a bit of excess fluff! Evelyn doesn't have as much fluff as me, so the dress looks a tad roomier on her. Hopefully I'll be able to post a picture of me wearing the dress soon.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'll definitely make another one of these - I have some black jersey hanging around and for that, I'll definitely hold off until I get a deserving buckle.

Conclusion: A fast and easy dress that's extremely flattering. There's definitely another one of these in my future.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lined Jacket Contest

So, one of Patternreview's August contests is the Lined Jacket Contest. I've been looking forward to this one but until last night I wasn't sure what my entry was going to be.

When I bought that foliage-patterned silk in NY on Wednesday, I was hoping against hope that it would work with the green Chanel boucle that I bought on my trip to A Fabric Place in Baltimore. And it did! (Picture me dancing around the workroom last night).

Both the boucle and the silk were small amounts, about 1 1/4 yard and 1 yard, respectively. I had in mind what pattern I wanted to use, but I checked the pattern stash and not only was it still my first choice, it was about the most fabric-economical pattern I could come up with - McCall's 5007. It has several of my favorite jacket qualifications: a nice shape, high cuteness factor, and a good vintage feel. And 19 positive reviews on Patternreview. I'm going to make View A (the lime green one on the illustration), with the patch pockets but without the notches at at the bottom.

According to the pattern, it takes about 1/4 yard more fabric than I have, but I can make it stretch. And actually the front piece is also the facing piece, so if I'm running short on fabric I'll split the inside facing and make it half boucle, half silk. So long as the part of the facing where the buttons are is boucle on both sides, I'm fine.

And speaking of buttons, this is also giving me the opportunity to use the antique metal animal buttons I bought at the flea market in Paris. Every one of them is different, so I think they'll add a nice feel to the front of the jacket. It only requires 4 buttons, so I might use the other 2 on the pockets, or I might save them for something else.

Now all I have to do is wait until August 1st. That's one minute past midnight on Thursday, July 31st, right?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What do you do when you have too much fabric?

You get on a train, obviously, go to New York, and buy more!

I met up with Elizabeth (Ladybirdlove on Patternreview) yesterday morning in Trenton and we took the NJ Transit train to NY for a little bit of shopping. I had an agenda and a shopping list; she didn't. It worked out just fine.

First stop: a little store called Hollywood Fabrics on 35th Street. We were just browsing on our way to another store, but I saw this orange/brown/tan/white lightweight floral poly and thought it looked wonderfully vintage. It also said it wants to be a BWOF blouse. Or maybe a Patrones blouse.But definitely a blouse, either way. I also picked up a yard of beautiful silk charmeuse for a lining - even at the discount the salesman gave it was still pricy, so I kept it to a yard. I'm hoping it will it will coordinate with the green Chanel boucle from A Fabric Place.

Leather, Suede, Skins, also on 35th, came up with the Florida-orange lambskin for my new Hotpatterns tote bag. I pulled two shades of orange from the shelf - this, and a darker, burnt orange - but when looked at them togeher the burnt orange looked muddy. I decided that if I was going to make an orange bag, it should be ORANGE. And it is. It certainly is.

I talked to Carolyn and we decided to meet at Metro Textiles at 1:30, so that left us some more time to browse. We walked up to 38th Street and went through the madness that is Spandex House. Elizabeth had never been there and was just stunned by the amount of fabric. I've been there several times and I still find it overwhelming. I was good - only a one-yard remnant of this brown/copper/black stretch. I can get a 3/4 sleeve tshirt out of that.

We also went to Pacific Trims, my all-time favorite trim store. I needed hardware for my Hotpatterns bag and found 4 shiny silver oval rings and a doodad to hold my keys. I also got some random silver studs (several different kinds, and a handful of each) because I'm not sure how I might want to trim the bag, and they were there and affordable. Also some buttons for a shirt I'm going to make for Mario, and some pewtery-looking buttons with slots instead of holes because I want to try the technique that Christina used on her BWOF jacket.

By then it was time to walk back to visit Kashi and meet up with Carolyn. We got a little shopping done before Carolyn arrived. When she came in I recognized her first by her great dress, which I liked on her blog and which was even prettier in person - as was Carolyn.

What was really funny was that some customers came in while we were talking and one of them recognized Carolyn from her blog and jumped right in and started talking. It's so strange (in a good way), immediately feeling that you know people because you either read their blog or their PR reviews. It was great finally talking to Carolyn in person, and we ended up taking home two of the same fabrics. I can't wait to see what we each make from them - our duplicates were this brown/black paisley on white, and this fabulous floral with a woven stripe that reminds me a little of one of my mom's vintage tablecloths.

Kashi also provided me with 2 yards of animal print (with green) stretch, 2 yards of pink/tan geometric that he says is poly but felt like silk, almost 4 yards of olive-green eyelet (the same square eyelet that I resisted in Baltimore because they only had it in white), a yard of black/white/gray flame-stitch stretch that gave me childhood hippie clothes flashbacks, and 4 yards of a multi-colored, fabulously happy printed cotton from France. He bought 300 yards of this stuff and it will go FAST. As in "call him now and let him ship you some - it's only $6 per yard." It feels like heaven and it makes me smile just to look at it.

After Carolyn left, we paid for our purchases and started back down 8th Ave, aiming to go to the FIT Bookstore. We realized that it was already after 3:00 p.m., and that if we hiked to FIT with our purchases and started looking around in the store, much less stuck our noses in the museum, we wouldn't be home until dark. So we were practical and caught the 3:30 train from Penn Station. Which got stuck outside of Princeton until 5:45 p.m. because of electrical problems caused by the storm. Once we finally got moving, we got to Trenton at 6:00, and luckily my Septa train had also been delayed and was sitting at the far end of the platform with its doors open. I made it home by 7:10 - which would have been fine if I'd left at 5:00.

So much for coming home and pre-treating all my fabrics, taking their pictures and then catching Project Runway. I had the energy to snarf up a big bowl of pasta and then sleep through Runway. On the other hand, I had a nice nap and caught the 11:00 p.m. rerun. All in all, still a good day.

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Look 6774

Pattern Description: Misses' dress with bodice and skirt variations.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 10-22. I did a quick muslin of the bodice in a 12 and it seemed a bit snug, so I cut the 14, and it seemed a bit loose. I think I ended up back to the 12 in the end.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? More or less. I've been sewing a lot of BWOF and Patrones lately, so I'm used to making up my own instructions. I checked these and they seemed fine though I wasn't big on their order of construction, and I would have liked it better had the straps been inserted between the lining and the outside, rather than being sewn after. I would have liked it even better if I had thought of that before I'd sewn the dress!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love all the variations included in the pattern - you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck with this one.

Fabric Used: Cotton batiste picked up on my Paris vacation. This is the fourth piece of vacation fabric I've used, and it was only purchased in May. I loved this fabric the moment I saw it, and the fact that it was only 10 euros for 3 meters made me like it even more. It's hard to find a decent border print, and since this had the border on both sides I was able to use it for the hem and the waistband. I was trying to find a way to cut the bodice pieces to really take advantage of the big orange paisleys without making it look like I had big orange paisleys centered on each boob, but I couldn't manage it. I really thought with a pattern that big I would have been able to engineer it so that it looked like a third fabric, but it didn't work and I had sense to let go of the idea.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Fiddling incessantly with the bodice until I liked the fit. I still had to back the bodice down where the right side crossed over the left - no matter how much I fiddled, it still didn't want to lie completely flat (of course, I don't lie completely flat, so that may be part of the reason).

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This isn't as big a recommendation as I would have hoped, but I am going to try it again. I like the straight across bodice and the pockets for another summer cotton that's been languishing in stash.

Conclusion: This one is definitely worth a try, just be prepared for a little more tweaking than you'd like to do. On the whole, though, it's a nice result, and a cute, comfortable dress.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Apparently I made a swim dress

Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous - weather in the high 90s, little breeze, sun, sun, sun. We didn't leave Philly until around noon, so we got to Skipjack Cove right before 2:00 p.m. And even though my boss' invite said "arrive anytime after noon," when we got to his boat, there was no one to be seen. There were, however, beer coolers on the dock, so I knew we were in the right place.

I called his cell and he answered on the fourth ring. "Where are you?" I ask. "Where are you?" asks Harry. ""We're on the boat," I say. "Oh. I'm in the boat." A minute later the hatch opens and out he pops still toweling his hair. Apparently it was a rough night for Harry - the last clients from Friday's boat party only left about an hour before.

We went below and helped him get out snacks and watch him knock back his first beer of the day. I was surprised to see how spacious it was down below - 2 sleeping areas and a third if you count that the table drops down to the level of the bench surrounding it. There were little cubbyholes and cabinets for everything. I was impressed with the level of neatness, especially since this is a man who can't pick up his office for anything!

The rest of the group eventually arrived, and by 4:00 everyone was there. At that point sufficient wine and beer had been drunk at the dock and Harry decided to take us out on the river. We motored out about 10 minutes and there were about 10 boats tied together on the river, apparently friends of his. Soon we were tied to them and I found out at that point why he told everyone to bring a bathing suit - the river there is only about chest deep and everyone immediately jumped into the water with their drinks.

Not to be outdone, I put my wineglass on the swim platform, gathered my skirt in one hand and descended into the bath-temperature Sassafras. Once I was in the water, the racer back and black bodice actually looked like a bathing suit. Only I knew that I had a wad of fabric wrapped around my legs, but there was no way I was going to stay sweating on the boat while everyone else got to cool off.

We splashed around out there for about an hour. His friends apparently do this a lot - there was a floating bar, and a raft bobbing around that had munchies and an entire spiral-sliced ham on it. There were also several small yappy dogs with their own rafts!

While we motored back I went and stood up on the sun pad on the front of the boat, and by the time we reached the dock I was almost completely dry. We were met at the dock by one final co-worker and his wife, and we stood around for a little while with them before going off to the marina restaurant for a dinner of very good crab cakes, a beautiful sunset and a full moon.

The drive home wasn't bad at all, and as soon as we got in, we turned on the air conditioner. High 90s while on the river is one thing; high 90s in my bedroom is something else entirely.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A little unauthorized shopping

Since I'm going to NY for the day next week, this was really unnecessary, but I was a little bored at work last week (something that hardly ever happens) and I started browsing around on I haven't purchased from them in quite a while - their quality has been hit or miss for me - but they had some cute knits and the prices were right, so I allowed myself to click "buy" a few times. But only a few.

First, this black, green and yellow doily print slinky. Cute, huh? It's going to be Vogue 2980. I had a misfire on that pattern earlier this year and need to make it up. This will be perfect. I haven't worked much with slinky knit but I think it will be good for this top, and there won't be so much of it that it will be sliding all over the sewing table.

Next, this olive and black square print jersey. This is definitely going to be the BWOF 5/2008 dress with the buckle that everyone has been making. Somewhere in the rubble that is my workroom there is a cute black plastic buckle that needs to be part of this dress. Now I just have to find it!

I'm not quite sure what this black, gray and white stained glass print is going to be ... yet. It'll tell me. A top of some sort, obviously. I'll go through my back issues of BWOF and look at the rest of the Patrones, but I have fingers crossed for the August issue due out next month - the first issue of fall clothes always has some really great stuff, and I'm hoping for a knit top pattern that will do justice to this wonderful, busy print. (I love prints. I just do. I think in my last life I was probably a quilt.)

My last purchase was a yard of white crinkled shirting. I probably should have gotten more, but while I liked it, I didn't think I could bear an entire shirt made out of it. So this too is a fabric in search of a pattern. I have some white stretch shirting in the stash, and I have plenty of interesting remnants that might want to be paired up with this, given the right project.
So, two in the queue, two on the shelf. Not awful.

If this is what I do when I don't plan to shop, be afraid for me in NY. I'm going to try to stick by my rule of not buying more than I can carry; if I let Kashi ship it home for me, I'm done for.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And another Patrones

Pattern Description: Racer-back style top with v-neck, pockets.

Pattern Sizing: Patrones 40-48. I made a 42.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? No, except for the racer-backstyling and the bodice. I left off the pockets (which I liked), and turned the top into a dress.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I don't read Spanish, so I don't know, although they looked pretty brief. It's a simple enough pattern that I didn't need them.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I originally traced this pattern because I liked it as a top, and because I have a racer-back bra that gets very little use. It turned into a dress when I found out I have an occasion next Saturday - office party on my boss' boat down in Maryland - where I need a sundress. This meant I needed a sundress that would be comfortable for a 2 hour car ride, so that left out some of my more fitted dresses. I decided to give this one a try as a dress, and I like the result. When I cleaned out my closet this year I got rid of most of my older, shlumpier sundresses (you know, the kind that are comfortable and airy but look like crap), and this has the comfort of one of those without the shlumpiness (shlumpyness?). Whatever, it's comfy and the straps stay put.

Fabric Used: White, pink and orange cotton lycra cafe print from Emmaonesock (at least 2 years old), pink and black cotton broadcloth from deep stash.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Well, I changed the top to a dress, for starters. The bottom part of the top is supposed to be cut on the bias, which makes sense in their recommended cotton voile, but (a) I didn't have enough fabric for that, and (b) it was a directional print that would just look silly going diagonally. I left off the really cute gathered pockets because I thought it was just too much for the dress, and I put in side pockets.
I really, really wanted to use that EOS cafe print for the entire dress, but the reason I haven't used it in all its stashdom is because I really don't like pink near my face - my skin tone is just wrong for that kind of hot pink. So I scrounged through the stash and came up with some solid black cotton. I decided that the black needed some color relief, and I had some hot pink cotton left from an old project and I put together the bodice muslin out of the pink. It fit well enough, so I cut out a black bodice and ended up sewing the two together, so that I had a pink-lined black bodice with topstitching. I also stitched the darts in pink thread just to bring the whole thing together.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I might make it again as a top - after all, that was my original intention, and that way I could use the pockets - but not another dress. As a dress, I think it's a little too recognizable to make more than once.

Conclusion: Spreading the gospel of Patrones far and wide, this is another cute, relatively quick project that didn't need any Spanish on my part for it to turn out okay.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Patrones Feb. 2007, #45

Pattern Description: Sleeveless summer dress with front and back darts, V-neck, waistband detail and invisible side zipper.

Pattern Sizing: Patrones sizes 40-48. I made a 40, which is roughly the equivalent to a BWOF 38, which in turn is mostly equivalent to a 12 in the Big 4.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? I think so. The magazinephoto was a white-on-white dress, so it was hard to see the details. The drawing was clear. My fabric is so busy that once again you can't see the details, but the shape is what I wanted.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Your guess is as good as mine. The instructions are in Spanish, which I do not speak, and even with Paco Peralta's list of Spanish sewing terms, I ran into quite a few words that I couldn't get. Patrones' instructions appear to be at least as bare-bones as BWOF - though at least when I don't understand something I have the excuse of not speaking the language.

One of the reasons I picked this pattern (aside from liking the dress) was I thought it would be fairly intuitive and I ended up not having any problems with construction. So I give them points for pattern drafting - everything fit together very well.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? During the recent PR meetup in Baltimore, Renee lent me an entire bag of Patrones magazines. It was like Christmas only better. Then I realized that I literally couldn't understand word one of the descriptions or instructions, and there the fun began. Let's just say that the free translation sites out there do not do an adequate job with technical words - when I tried to look up a phrase that (I think) was telling me how to apply bias binding to the armholes, I got a sentence that had the words "petty theft" in it. Huh?

Driving home, the car broke down but at least we had reading material while we waited for a tow. This was one of the first things that struck me, and I kept coming back to it. I liked the shape, I immediately thought of 2 or 3 fabrics that would work, and it didn't look too complicated. (I did, however, immediately lose the idea of the ball fringe trim on the original - while I do have a weakness for home dec fabric, I've lost the urge to deck myself out like Grandma's favorite chair).

Fabric Used: 100% Italian cotton purchased at Metro Textiles last summer. It's been waiting to be this dress, apparently; there have been two previous occasions where I almost took scissors to it, but changed my mind. This dress was a good canvas for the larger-scale design on the fabric. Ivory cotton broadcloth from my local store's remnant rack for the lining.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I think my dress is slightly more fitted than the one pictured, but it's hard to tell because the model has her arms raised. I changed the waistband, making it just slightly wider, and for the front I took a length of fabric double the length I needed, gathered it back to the shorter length, and ironed interfacing to the back. The band was edged in some bittersweet chocolate cotton I had on hand. I wanted some contrast, but the solid brown wasn't quite the right color, so I just used strips of it. I think it adds a nice touch. I left the back of the band plain and ungathered because I figure that most of the time I'm going to be sitting and the gathers would just get smushed anyway.

One major change: I'm pretty sure the instructions I didn't understand were for applying bias bindings to the neck and armholes, but aside from the fact that my cotton was a little lightweight to be unlined, I didn't think that was a good look for this dress. So I made a lining - my first completely closed lining, which was made easier because this dress is sewn together in two pieces, back and front. I put the lining and the fabric right sides together and sewed the neck and armhole seams, then turned it right side out and pressed. After that it was easy - I sewed the underarm seam first, to make sure it met up evenly, and then down each side of the dress to the hem. Then, I turned the whole thing right side out and pressed, and voila, no topstitching anywhere. The one pain is that the last thing to be sewn are the shoulder seams - I sewed the fabric (a little awkwardly because of the small size of the shoulder seam), trimmed and pressed it, and then hand-sewed the lining shut over the seam. What a nice, clean finish! I've always resisted doing a lining this way before as too much trouble, but it's amazing how you change your mind when all of a sudden it's the only option you can think of.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This pattern is definitely a keeper. It's a good basic shape and I could see drafting a sleeve for it and changing up the skirt length for a completely different look. If you can get your hands on this issue of Patrones, do - I traced 9 things out of this magazine. This was probably the simplest pattern I traced, but I thought it was a good beginning with Patrones, and I would definitely recommend it.

Conclusion: I think I love this magazine. There are even more patterns in each issue than in BWOF, and if nothing else, BWOF has given me plenty of practice in trying to think outside the box of skimpy instructions. I actually found it kind of freeing, being completely on my own with nothing but pattern pieces - I could do whatever I decided was right, without actually turning my back on the instructions. That being said, if you're not comfortable "winging" it, try to find someone to help you translate the instructions.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Using up leftovers

I don't like them in my fridge, but even more I don't want them in my workroom. Scraps I can throw out without guilt, moderately sized pieces I have a few issues with getting rid of, and larger chunks cause me outright pain as they sit their in the remnant box, taunting me.

There were some remnants of that Holy Hollyhocks jersey leftover from my Wardrobe Contest entry. I love that fabric, I love the top I made with it, and seeing any of it go to waste just bothered me. So cutting carefully and using some random brown jersey I had, I squeezed out New Look 6405, a pattern I've made before and a very economical one for fabric scraps. I had to cut the back in two pieces, rather than on the fold, but otherwise it didn't require too much tricky fabric manipulation, and probably only one or two swear words - because the machine tried to suck in the jersey and I ran all the major seams with a strip of tracing paper underneath that I could tear away afterward.

Now I have enough scraps to make a hanky, and I don't feel guilt-ridden about getting rid of them.

P.S. My backup machine, my trusty Singer, is back from the repair shop and it only cost me $89 for them to rescue the feed dogs from where they had dropped, deep into her insides. Welcome back, Baby, you were missed.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Shoes, Glorious Shoes

I've always had a weakness for shoes, but I've slowed down quite a bit on that particular addiction, mainly because as I've gotten older, my feet have gotten way more particular about what they're willing to be stuffed into for the sake of beauty. Beauty does know pain, let me tell you.

I mentioned a pair of shoes that I got at the consignment shop a while back, and I've been wearing them quite a bit. I love flowered shoes. I love flowered shoes so much that I picked up this pair of almost flat slingbacks - at Payless! - to keep the other flowered shoes company in my closet.

But the cherry on top of my personal sundae came in the mail on Thursday. I have a permanent Ebay search for "BCBG cowboy boots" because I have a pair of light green metallic ankle boots with cowboy styling that I absolutely love above all my other shoes. I bought them used, they're getting more used by the day in the colder months, and I want another pair. Instead, Ebay turned up these, in my size.

I thought for about a minute. They came. They fit. They're lovely.

And it's not like a pair of bronze boots won't go with almost everything I own, right?

Today I got an email from Ebay that a pair of my original lust-worthy boots (although in a different color) were up for auction, in a size 7. I'm an 8, a 7 1/2 on a good day. Don't think I still didn't consider them.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Another winner from Kwik Sew - 3614

At the beginning of the summer, I did the annual try-on and decided that I hated most of my shorts. The only shorts I did not hate were the ones that no longer fit, and those shorts I just found depressing. When I saw Dawn's review of the Kwik Sew shorts pattern in three lengths, I was there!

I've made two pair so far, and I'm still working on the fit. The first pair, the camouflage ones, were made from a remnant I got who-knows-where. These were cut out in my standard KS medium. Because I was test driving the pattern, I made no other changes to the fit. Featurewise, I added back pockets (what are shorts without back pockets?) and changed the waistband to a standard buttonhole rather than the overlap-with-hook. I knew I'd never wear that, so there was no point there for me.

As muslins go, these are pretty wearable. The shorts are a little fuller in the butt than I would like, and I'm not 100% thrilled with the side pockets, but that's an issue with me and side pockets I think more than anything. Because of the fabric, these were intended as garden shorts anyway, and I consider them nicer than my usual garden grubbies. The medium is a bit big, so I cut out the next pair in between small and medium, which is just about right.

What I love about this pattern: the zipper application and the menswear styling on the waistband/back seam. These shorts also have the best flat front zipper instructions I've ever seen. I've gotten pretty good at fly front zippers, but these instructions were even easier. I got two immaculate zippers here and I couldn't even find the zipper foot for my new machine so I did it with the regular foot and it worked fine. There are two waistbands, attached from front to back on each side. After you sew the waistband on, and attach the inside waistband to the outside, you check the fit and you sew up the back seam from the top of the inside waistband all the way around to the crotch seam. You get a nice smooth line that way and it really makes it easy to get a good fit in the rear.

For my second pair, I used leftover dark denim. I actually don't have any denim shorts right now, not even cut-offs, and I decided that a pair of denim shorts was a necessity. I omitted the front pockets on this pair, but again added back pockets, a little bigger, and this time using some of the machine's embroidery stitches to liven them up. I used orange thread for all the topstitching. I got carried away on this pair. Since the camo shorts were a little wide in the hips/legs, I kept the pieces the same size this time but took away some extra fabric by doing a classic flat-fell jeans seam down the outside of the legs. First time ever and it worked really well. I took some photos of the process and will post them later - I know it's not all that hard of a thing to do but I had a complete mental block with it and pictures help me more than words sometimes.

I've got a lot of decent bottom-weight remnants lying around, so I can see this pattern using up the leftover black stretch twill, some leftover brown denim from a pair of UFO shorts for Mario, and some other random bits and pieces that I will find when I excavate the sewing room next weekend.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My First Patrones

While I loved almost everything in issue 253, February, 2007, I decided to make this really cute dress, no. 45, for my first project. I chose it because, aside from liking it a lot and thinking it was a good simple style to start out with, it told me it wanted to be made up from some brown and white Italian cotton that I bought from Metro Textiles last summer. It's been waiting all this time, and it's almost been made into several different things, but each time I stopped because I thought the pattern was too big, or the color wasn't right, or something. Well, now the color's right, the pattern's a good size to be spread over a longer dress, and I have enough white batiste left to line the whole thing. I think the instructions say just to bind the neckline and armholes, but I'm not that neat and my fabric's a little light, so a lining was the way to go.

I cut out the pattern in a size 40. I'm generally a 38 in BWOF patterns, and that's more or less the equivalent of a Patrones 40. I cut extra-wide seam allowances, just in case. First I cut out the bodice in the lining fabric - muslin as lining, or lining as muslin, however you prefer it. I basted the pieces together and the fit seemed good, so I used my muslin to cut out the fashion fabric. I didn't want any topstitching on the bodice, so I attempted my first closed lining and sewed the lining to the fabric at the neckline and armholes and turned it right side out, then sewed the shoulder seams of the fashion fabric on the machine and then hand-stitched the lining closed. I've seen this technique before but always thought it seemed like too much trouble. Except when it was exactly the finish I wanted, and then it wasn't any trouble at all. Go figure. It's all in what you want to do.

Although this dress looks very simple, it's very nicely designed. The skirt, both front and back, is a center piece and two side pieces, and the seams line up with the front and back darts. This was something I only noticed when I was puzzling out the instructions; since the photographed dress was all white I really couldn't see the details that well. Besides, I was too befuddled by the ball fringe they used for trim to look closely at anything other than the lines of the dress.

The fronts and backs are sewn separately - top, waistband, skirt, and then sewn together. This gave me plenty of opportunity to work on fit before putting in the invisible zipper and closing up the seams.

I had issues with the waistband. In the same fabric, it just looked busy. I had some solid brown cotton on hand, but it wasn't quite the right brown to use for contrast, so what I ended up doing was edging the waistband with the brown. I also doubled the length of the front waistband and gathered it back to the original length before putting on the edging. I thought that added a little interest and also cut the size of the big flowers around my waist.

Now's where the fun starts. I got the fit pretty much where I wanted it and opened the zipper drawer. No long white zippers. Only thing I had was an 8" white zipper, which I really didn't think would do the job. Pinned in a 22" brown invisible zip - long enough, but it showed through the fabric, so no. Pinned in the too-short white zipper and wiggled into the dress. It worked, though a longer zip would better. But the instant gratification sewist was at the machine, so short zipper it was.

I got the zipper in in record time, and thankfully the invisible zipper foot for my poor disabled Singer fit the Juki machine, so no problems there. Then I closed the seams around the zipper and sewed the lining seams. No problems, right? Then I tried the dress on. Or should I say, I attempted to try the dress on. It wouldn't go over my head. I got stuck. I pulled it off, tried it again, got stuck again. (Did I mention it was after midnight?) Pulled the dress off again, sat down to try to figure what went wrong. It became obvious in a minute and I wanted to smack myself in the forehead with a sleeve board. I'd sewed the seams of the dress closed around the zipper, but I'd sewn the entire lining seam shut. So I had a zipper opening, but no corresponding opening on the inside of the dress. I think that's carrying a closed lining a little too far!

This morning I picked out the stitches in the lining and tried on the dress again. It fit, and the short zipper would be okay, except. it. broke. Dammit. So then I had to pick out all the zipper stitches, and then I picked out enough stitches so that when I go back to work on Monday, and walk down to the store, I can buy a new LONG zipper and do it the right way. And hopefully the sewing gods will stop snickering at me. I know they enjoyed this one.

I was really excited about working on this dress. With a 3 day weekend to work, I'd planned on finishing it up and wearing it to work on Monday. Oh, well, instead I'm finishing off my denim shorts and attempting to find out what's wrong with my Singer machine. All I know is that the feed dogs are down and they won't come back up, no matter how much I curse, coax or cajole. I think I'll be taking a half a personal day next week to take Mr. Singer to the doctor. It's my backup machine and my favorite for buttonholes, and last time I checked, almost everything needs buttonholes. And if the machine doesn't have the capacity to move the fabric, buttonholes are going to be a little hard to come by. Dammit again.

On to something else, like finishing the flooring in the room that will become my closet. At least if I do that, maybe I'll sweat out some of the crankiness.

I leave you with a July 4th photo of Vladimir Putintat, the stray tomcat who lives on my front porch, celebrating his freedom to do whatever he pleases, whenever he pleases. So what if I have to step over him.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I've got the fever

Patrones fever, that is. And all thanks to Cidell, who was kind enough to bring me a whole bag of them when we met in Baltimore last weekend. I expected to maybe want to trace one or two from each issue, but oh, no, these magazines are dangerous. The first one I opened, I found 9 things I wanted. Out of 90-odd patterns. That's not a bad percentage.

My co-workers now officially think I'm a bigger nutjob than they originally believed, because every lunchtime this week has been spent at the conference room table with a roll of tracing paper and Patrones' little multi-colored pattern sheets (more manageably sized than BWOF, you don't need roadmap-folding skills to get these back into the magazine). I traced off six patterns from the first issue, deciding that the other three, while absolutely adorable, probably wouldn't get made because they wouldn't look quite so adorable on me.

I'm grateful to Paco Peralta for his list of Spanish sewing terms, which helped enormously on deciphering the pattern instructions. I actually made it through the instructions for my first chosen project (a really, really cute dress - more to follow) on my own, but after I strained my brain I realized that I work right down the hall from the office of Al Dia, Philadelphia's Hispanic newspaper. I see the girls from that office in the ladies room all the time and one of them offered to translate instructions for me when I needed her. I'm going to be taking her up on that. And soon.

Because I just ordered a subscription. I couldn't help myself, and it's so nice to find new ways to spend money on sewing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

KwikSew 3575

Pattern Description: Misses' (woven) Dress and Tunic have center back zipper, armholes finished with facings, and front is gathered to round neckband forming shoulder straps. View A has front gathered to an attached belt with ties: belt and neckband are made from contrast fabric.

Like Loohoo, I made this dress in a knit rather than a woven, which is the only reason I put "recommend, with modifications" above. Otherwise it would just be a straight recommendation, but I really don't think this dress was designed for a woven unless it's a very, very drapy one.

Pattern Sizing: Standard KS sizing, SX - XL. I normally wear a M in KS, but cut an S this time because I was using stretch.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The best thing about KwikSew patterns is that your result ALWAYS looks better than what's on the envelope.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I went back and forth from the instructions and doing it my way, simply because the change in fabric necessitated a few changes in construction. But I can never fault KwikSew's instructions - they are clear to the point that I've never gotten bollixed up on one of their patterns.

Note: This has already been noted, but it can't be noted too many times. The back pattern piece is marked "cut on fold," but it should be cut in two pieces because it's a shaped back seam and also for zipper insertion.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I have to thank Loohoo her brilliant idea because if I had only looked at the KS envelope photo and drawing I would have passed this one by. The drawing and photo make this dress look boxy and a little dowdy. In the right fabric, it's certainly not dowdy.

The dress isn't hemmed yet because (a) I can't find my double needle, and (b) I'm still considering the length, though I think I like it more or less where it is. I love the back view with the ties.

Fabric Used: Stretch jersey from Gorgeous Things. The pattern is called "Burning Bush."

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: As mentioned above, the back pattern piece is marked "cut on fold" but that's where the CB zipper is intended to be inserted, if you're using one (since I used a stretch fabric, I omitted the zipper but still used the CB seam for shaping. Other than that, and changing the type of fabric, I left the pattern pretty much alone.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely. I liked the circular neckline construction - inserting the front and back pieces was easy and the whole dress went together quickly and without a blip. In other words, it went together like a Kwiksew. I can never fault their pattern drafting, even when the drawings/photos aren't good.

Conclusion: Had to get this review posted since I wore the dress to the PR get-together in Baltimore and there are pictures out there of me wearing it.