Friday, October 31, 2008

Too many interruptions

Between work, baseball and watching entirely too much election politics, not a lot has gotten done lately. Friday I mostly avoided the Phillies World Series victory parade by watching it out my office window, though I did go downstairs briefly and caught these wingnuts up on top the roof of the train station. Needless to say, the cops weren't happy, especially when they started tearing the downspouts and gutters off by swinging on them.

And the destruction in Center City yesterday was pretty extensive. On the news, they were saying it wasn't "too bad," but I guess that's in comparison to the Sixers' win about 15 or 20 years ago, where they burned cars and had to lock down the shopping district against looters. On Wednesday night they still threw newspaper boxes through store windows and turned over cars, so I'm sure for those whose property was involved, it was bad enough.

Off my cranky old lady soapbox now and back to the project at hand. There has been much gluing going on, since I can do that while wandering back and forth to the television. The coutil is a perfect backing for the leather, which would stretch out in no time without some reinforcement. It leaves the leather completely flexible, but there's no way the bag will get out of shape now.

The first strap is sewn, interfaced, glued, sewn to its ring and about to be embellished with a silver stud at either end - downright tame as embellishments go, but I'm still leery of doing that for fear it will look awful in the end. Except how can it - it's one dinky silver stud. It'll look like it's holding the strap on the ring.

Fear of embellishment; who knew it was an actual disorder? At some point I'm going to have to get past it.

This weekend I'm going to finish the straps, do a little more gluing, and get the bag put together. With luck (and enough uninterrupted playtime) I'll be able to get the straps attached to the bag, and maybe even sew the bag and lining together.

Then of course there's the issue of embellishing the bag itself, but I have more smaller sized studs: round, triangular and star shaped. I'm thinking just along the top opening of the bag, but of course I'm not sure. Once I have the body of the bag together, I'll lay out several options and take pictures. I'm definitely soliciting opinions on this one.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And so it begins

A while back, I mentioned that I wanted to make the new (now not so new) Hotpatterns YSL Homage Tote in screaming orange leather. The idea never left, nor has my motivation; it's just been side tracked.

That's over now. When I finished most of my evil to-do list from several posts ago, I decided I needed to reward myself with a project that was more challenging than shirts - still somewhat challenging, but I've made 6 of that pattern now - and my favorite TNT pants. It was either the winter coat or the bag, and the wool was only just back from the dry cleaners and the pattern wasn't traced yet, so the bag won out.

First, I modified the size somewhat. I was hugely impressed with Ann's review of this bag, but since I would have a competition between cats to see who could ride around in it, I decided to make it slightly less than pet carrier size. I left the width the same but folded about 3" out of the depth and that seemed to be the right size for me.

Here's where we are so far. The entire bag has been cut out: exterior, facings, lining, straps, pockets. Speaking of linings, my original inspiration was to line this bag with zebra print. I thank those who dissuaded me without actually questioning my taste. The light orange dragon brocade pictured was actually from stash. (And I couldn't find any zebra print cotton anyway, so this is way better for several reasons.)

I changed the interior of the bag to suit my own purposes - on one side is a patch pocket, divided into two, sized specifically to fit my digital camera and my cell phone, both of which always end up in the bottom of my purse. The other side has a zip pocket (different size than original HP draft because I changed the depth of the bag), a leather loop and a doohickey to hold my keys.

Hot Patterns instructions for this bag seemed pretty straightforward, but since I was using leather, I knew I'd have to vary the construction so after giving the instructions an initial once-over, I put them back in the envelope and went my own way. I made the interior pockets first and attached them to the lining. Then I ironed woven fusible interfacing to the backs of the lining pieces. After that, I attached the linings to the top facings, trimmed the seam allowance and pressed it flat with steam-a-seam. I then cut facing pieces out of coutil, marked the magnet placement on the coutil, and glued it to the facings, using books to weight it overnight.

The coutil was purchased at Greenberg & Hammer during Patternreview's NYC shopping day. I had no idea what it was, or what it was for, I just knew it was the weight I was looking for. According to what I've found out since then, coutil is used in corset-making, which is logical because the stuff is extremely strong yet very flexible. It adds great strength to the leather without taking away any of the suppleness of the skins.

Because this is a leather project, it can't movea long at the speed I would like it to. As of now, the linings are complete - magnets attached, darts sewn and lining pieces sewn together, waiting for a bag to line. The bag pieces themselves have been lightly spread with glue and are under stacks of books with their coutil underlining drying. One strap is partially completed.

I'm still thinking on any embellishments that may or may not occur. Embellishment is not my strong suit - much as I love some of my ideas at first, I back off before I carry them through. I bought a whole variety of shiny silver studs and things when I was at Pacific gathering supplies for this, and I've laid them out in any number of constellations. All look good-ish; none will probably end up on the final bag. Maybe I need to go out snoop shopping and see how the pros do this - since Carolyn hasn't provided a primer for bag embellishment yet.

But tomorrow is another day, and it looks to be another cold, gray and rainy one. (Anybody not surprised to see it rain in Philly for the World Series?) I think I'll have plenty of time tomorrow night to do some more work on this. Heading into gray and chilly November, I'm going to want something loud and cheerful to see first thing in the morning.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Lounge Lizard Shirt

At least that's what Mario's calling it. This was adapted from a shirt he fell in love with while we were in Paris in May, but he couldn't bring himself to pay 60 euros to bring home. Why spend that kind of money when you have a girlfriend who sews, right?

There's no picture of him wearing the shirt because he's not getting it until Christmas. He saw it briefly in the fitting stage, but he can't have it for another 2 months. Hee hee!

This is my standard Kwik Sew men's shirt pattern, improved with Pam Erny's cuff placket method and her collar and collar band instructions. All of which made the shirt come together much more smoothly than usual - though there were some tense moments simply because I couldn't see what I was doing.

The collar band, inside yoke and under-cuffs were done in a small leopard print cotton; the body of the shirt is a black cotton shirting with a touch of lycra, so I could make the shirt a bit more fitted without it pulling.

As per the inspiration shirt, the buttons were black and square, and the buttonholes and button were sewn with a thread that coordinated with the leopard print. The contrast of those orangey-tan buttonholes on the black shirting make me happy for some reason.

This shirt came together pretty quickly. I started it one evening last week, just planning to do the first steps - front bands, pocket, maybe the yoke - but it went together so well that I got about 2/3 of the shirt done that first evening. Including the collar. Which happened after 10:00 p.m. and didn't give me a problem.

When the sewing gods are smiling on you, you must appease them by sewing until you can't see straight. Which is what I did. I even got the sleeves on that night, though I saved the side seams for later. Flat-felling when tired is just an invitation to disaster.

A few days ago I did those side seams, and constructed and attached the cuffs. Yesterday, I did all the buttonholes, sewed on the buttons and hemmed it. Even the collar band buttonhole didn't fight me. Which is a first.

All in all, I don't think I did a bad job of reproducing the shirt he was lusting after. I forgot, however, just how much I hate sewing black fabric with black thread under the inadequate light of any of my machines. Even with my reading glasses, I was blind as a bat.

So the shirt's done, and I'm almost finished a pair of TNT pants in a gray wool gab, and I'm bored. The shirt turned out well, the pants are coming along fine - but I need a challenge project, and I need one soon. Sewing as relaxation is fine, but part of what I love about it is the mental challenge, the puzzle-solving. Right now I'm torn between the coat I've been planning (chocolate brown wool from Gorgeous Fabrics with a gold peacock-feather brocade lining) or the Hotpatterns Humongous Tote in screaming orange lambskin with a lighter orange brocade lining.

BTW, can anybody tell me what the %*#&%* is up with Blogger and their photo uploading? There no "known issues" about it, but the discussion groups are full of grousing and every time I try to upload a photo, size it to "small" and click "done," I get this ginormous thing that overflows the margins of my page. If any of my photos in this post are wonky, it's because I went in manually and re-sized them and I'm not quite sure what I'm doing. Rant over - but if anyone has any suggestions how to get around this, or how to get Blogger to listen, I'd appreciate it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Half off day at the thrift store!

Let's just say this isn't going to be a miniskirt for long.

Now that I've gotten a lot of the backed up sewing done - shirt constructed, pants hemmed, etc., it's time for a little head-cleaning project.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Excess of Projects

Ever get so many projects going in your head at one time that you can't actually sew? That's what's happening right now. Some are big, some are small, some are just stupid mending that I could do while I'm on the couch, but right now they're just swirling around in a stew, taunting me to get started. Which does nothing except make me retreat to the nearest BWOF, which does nothing except add more projects to the list.

Here's what I have to do:

1. Finish Mario's black shirt. It needs a fitting, the side seams, cuffs, buttonholes and buttons sewn on. Done.

2. Finish a pair of BWOF 6/07 black pants. They were started in the spring, and then put aside when the weather got warm. The weather is no longer warm and I only have one pair of black pants. These just need facings and hems. Except it's been so long I've lost the facings. Found the facings; Done.

3. Another pair of those TNT pants in gray, to go with the wardrobe I've been working on. It's a fast pattern. It needs no tweaking. No reason to put these off. Cut out, mostly finished.

4. Make myself a gray sweater, using that sweater knit, and the Ottobre hoodie pattern as a base, just cut it on the fold, leave off the hood and add a collar band. It may only be a one season sweater, depending on how the knit washes, but it would fill a gap in the wardrobe. Fabric unsuitable; try again later.

5. Make a KS raglan sleeve top out of the leftover sweatshirt fabric. All my sweatshirts are so disreputable they can only be used for painting and serious cleaning. I need a warm comfy for the cold house. Another quickie pattern. Done.

6. Mario's jacket, the Burdastyle Stinchcomb. I have houndstooth check for a muslin. Just cut it out, don't even start sewing. Just scissors to fabric.

7. My Galaxy dress needs its capelet, and I've chosen 9/07 #118. Trace, cut, sew. Traced.

8. Mending. Hem one pair of pants for me, three pair for Mario. And there's a pink silk skirt I picked up at the thrift store that needs to be cut down to my size. And random buttons that need to be sewn back on. Done.

Okay, written out it looks even more alarming than it does in my head. But so much of it is fast sewing, it really shouldn't be that bad.

Tonight, I'm going to fit the shirt on him and pin the sleeves and side seams. If I get nothing else done, that's a start. Then I'll cut out the KS raglan sleeve sweat shirt, and when I'm finished that, I'll look for the facings for the black pants, or dig through the scrap bin and find a fabric that will work, and get those attached. (Hey, at least I haven't lost the pattern piece, just the fabric pieces).

Monday, October 20, 2008

And now for something . . .

Completely different. Every once in a while, you just have to make something practical.

I've been trying to get to the gym on a regular basis. I still have gym clothes that are wearable, but I don't have much to wear OVER the gym clothes on my way there. The gym's only two blocks away, so I don't need a heavy something, but I don't really want to wear one of my nice jackets over my sweaty gym clothes.

So I made a hoodie. I'd never thought about making one before - I've never even owned one - but that's because they're generally either oversized, gray and shlumpy, or petite, shiny and expensive. I wanted fitted but practical - and washable. This is Ottobre 5/2007 #19.

The worst thing that has come out of this project is a budding addiction to Ottobre. The pattern drafting on this was immaculate, the sizing was right (I made a 38, which is my normal BWOF size, and the jacket was fitted, which was what I wanted; if I wanted a more classic hoodie fit, I would have gone up a size) and the instructions put BWOF to shame. The only down side was their pattern sheets are a little harder to trace, but not all that bad.

There were a few nice details - cuffs and bands were fabric rather than ribknit, and the inside seam joining hood to neck was faced with a strip to keep the seam from rubbing. It's the little things.

This morning I went on Ebay and picked up a few more issues of Ottobre. When I got that last issue, I thought it was cool that the clothes were on real people, but then again, being accustomed to the sexy, fashion magazine style of BWOF and Patrones, none of the clothes drew me. Once I traced off this jacket, it struck me that Ottobre actually makes real clothes for real people, and that's what most of us wear most of the time.

A new reason to wait for USPS to mis-deliver my mail to my next-door neighbor. I'm just thankful she doesn't sew.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Vest and some Recycling

I just finished Burdastyle's new Franzi vest, and I think I need to make more of these. It was a really fast project, took only about 3/4 yard of fabric, and is a good excuse to use buttons and scraps that otherwise would just gather dust in a corner of my workroom.

Actually body fabric wasn't scrap - it was a dollar remnant from last Friday's trip to Jomar with Elizabeth and Kisha - but the lining and the gray stretch velvet for the lapels have been in the scrap bin for a while. The velvet was leftover from the pajamas I made for PR Weekend 2006, if that gives you an idea. The buttons are antique and have been in the jar for probably 15 years.

I love the construction of the vest. For the longest time I didn't get how things like this were made - sewing it all together, lining and vest, inside out and leaving only the shoulder seams open just didn't translate in my head. I guess finally learning how to bag a jacket lining turned on a few lightbulbs in my personal darkness.

Normally in BWOF and Burdastyle, I make a 38. For some reason when cutting this out I decided to cut a 40 and then taper it in if need be. No need - this seems to run a bit small. It's exactly the right length, though, just touching the small of my back and then ending in points in the front. Though that would be easy enough to adjust if I wanted to change the shape in the future.

Princess seams are wonderful, we're all agreed on that, but for this vest it made refining the fit a breeze. The whole thing, start to finish, including buttonholes (adjusted slightly lower because my machine looked at 3 layers of fabric, one being velvet, and said, "Nothing doing") took only about 3 or so hours.

Saving, printing and taping the free pattern together and then cutting it out probably took nearly as much time.

This is so going to be my favorite Christmas gift this year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vogue 8280 - The Galaxy Dress

Pattern Description: Fitted dress, lined bodice, back zipper closing with front flange. A, B, E, F: back slit opening. C, D: pleated lower section. Armhole and sleeve variations. A: sash with hook and eye closing.

Pattern Sizing: 6-22. I made my standard Vogue size 12.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, pretty much. I really wanted to make the version with the sleeves, but alas, it was not to be - unless maybe the Philadelphia Eagles needed a new linebacker.

Were the instructions easy to follow? As I think all other reviewers have noted, this was one of those hopscotch patterns that has you running back and forth between View A, View B, View E and the back side of the front page on the left corner. I did actually make my way, rat-like, through the maze, but it would have been easier if I'd remembered to take the instructions to work, copy them and play cut and paste. Much easier. Highly recommended that you do that, as a matter of fact. There were a few places where I got a little confused, and I think it was the illustrations more than the instructions. Sometimes an extreme closeup isn't all that helpful when you can't see how it fits into the larger picture. But staring and/or walking away and thinking about it worked, and all came out well in the end.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love this dress. When Roland Mouret's Galaxy dress first came out, I snagged every picture of it I could find online, and I was thrilled when Vogue came out with this more-or-less knockoff. I love the shape of the bodice.

Fabric Used: Well, I'm not exactly sure. I got it last year at Jomar in Philadelphia, and it was on the wool shelf. Since it was only $4, it's a wool blend (besides which, it doesn't make me itch), and it has some lycra in it because there's just enough stretch that this fitted dress doesn't keep me from breathing. Gray with a shadowy aqua plaid, yet another part of the slow-moving gray wardrobe.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Nothing major. I did start out making Version E, the straight neckline with sleeves, but after I constructed the sleeves and basted them in, I hated how they looked on me. They were huge 1980s puffy sleeves, I don't care how interesting the pleating/folding construction was. Off they came, and the dress looked much better. Of course since the dress was already constructed, I had to then bring the armholes and lining together without visible mess. That was accomplished with some strategic ironing, iron-on bias tape, and finally topstitching the neckline, flanges and armholes. The topstitching didn't happen beacuse of the lack-of-sleeve issue, but because the flanges kept wiggling around and I wanted them to stay PUT. I really hadn't wanted to topstitch this dress, but it's subtle and I don't think it detracts from the look.

I used an invisible zipper in the back instead of the regular zipper Vogue recommended. I was pleased that the plaid lined up perfectly on the first try. I didn't do the sash with hook and eye recommended by the pattern. I wanted a proper belt, and on my original NY shopping list for last Saturday was belting. Which I forgot to buy in G&H, though I did get some webbing for tote bag straps. Since it was 1" wide, when I realized I didn't have the belting I reached for that and it actually worked out well - the thickness of the webbing keeps the belt from shifting in the buckle. The oval mother-of-pearl buckle, by the way, did come from the PR shopping day - Pacific Trims is a wonderful place, and if you get to New York I highly recommend them. It's like a candy store for trim, buttons, zippers, buckles, you name it.

One difficulty with this dress - thus far, I haven't found a bra that doesn't show in the corners of the neckline, and I don't really want to go out and invest in a strapless. Today I tried it on without a bra, and surprisingly the dress is snug enough - and structured enough, especially with those topstitched flanges - that it can be worn without risk of spillage. Actually, nothing moved at all, and I can't think of the last time THAT happened.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know if I'll sew it again, but that's only because it's such a recognizable look. On the other hand, I am planning to make a jacket or capelet to wear over this, so maybe I could work up to doing another one for summer, and attach a fuller skirt.

Conclusion: Gorgeous, feminine, sexy dress that is much more comfortable to wear than expected. Not a difficult pattern so long as you're paying attention and willing to tweak the fit on those flanges.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Galaxy Dress: Revisited

I've been moving right along on the Galaxy dress - the bodice finished, the skirt has been attached, the invisible zipper is in - and hey, the plaids matched on either side of the zipper on the first shot. On Saturday night, after a day of shopping, I was too tired to risk messing something up by actually sewing in the workroom, so I decided to bring the sleeves out to the couch and finish the pleating and baste them into the dress. All seemed well, and I got them basted in and the ease gathers pretty well distributed.

On Sunday I tried the dress on with the sleeves. So glad I did that before I sewed them in, because those cute little sleeves made me look like a freaking linebacker. Huge, overpowering 1980s puffiness.

They don't look like that on the pattern envelope.

And my shoulders aren't that big - but apparently they are just big enough to really not work with this pattern. So off came the sleeves. Since I'd already put everything together I couldn't sew the armholes properly, so I ended up ironing a 5/8" allowance in on both sides and sewing it from the lining side. A little bias interfacing tape ironed along the seam made it sturdy enough and it doesn't look like the sleeveless option was an afterthought. And then, because the flanges just don't lay completely right once there's a body in the dress, I decided to topstitch the neckline, flanges and armholes anyway, so now nothing's going to go anywhere.

Thinking about it now, sleeveless is probably better for whatever capelet or jacket I make for overtop, because those uber-puffs would have definitely messed up the line of whatever I want to wear over the dress.

But damn those sleeves were cute until I saw them on me.

A few notes on this dress: Vogue seems to think it's a fairly easy pattern. I take issue with this. It's not a difficult pattern, but it's a challenging one. It's not a project to tackle when you're tired, or thinking about something else. And it's definitely not a project to tackle unless you've marked all your dots and notches and squares - accurately. Or you're in a bad place.

And then there are just the weird things. I don't know if I somehow mis-marked the skirt darts or the bodice darts (I'm assuming it wasn't Vogue's fault since none of the reviews mention it) but when I pinned the darts and held the skirt up to the bodice, the darts didn't line up. By a good inch they didn't line up.

They line up on the drawing, and I'm assuming in a perfect world they should line up on the dress. So I shifted the darts slightly, but that took my plaid slightly out of alignment. Still, I'd rather have that, especially since I'm going to wear the dress with a belt.

Up there at the top I did mention shopping, didn't I? There was a two-day fabric safari on Friday and Saturday, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I'm sorry to say that my camera died after one picture in Metro Textiles on Saturday. But here it is, Kashi and a small mob, happily lost among the fabrics:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What I want for Christmas

ETA: Santa said yes!

Now I just have to convince himself that yes, what I really want (need) for Christmas is another sewing machine.

I'm tired of either not hemming my knit dresses or having tops with ratty looking hems. It's time for a new toy. And Christmas is for new toys. I remember that much.

Monday, October 6, 2008

This time I mean business

We all know there are easy ways to do things (which still generally work), and then there are the long, drawn-out, absolutely right ways to do them. That's how I went about Vogue 8280, the Galaxy dress knockoff.

I cut the dress out on Thursday night. Over the weekend, I thread-traced all the pattern markings onto the fabric, and cut out the lining fabric.

Tonight, after spending way too much of the weekend doing other things (including seeing Bruce Springsteen perform at a voter registration rally on the Parkway, so not all bad), I finally got to putting the dress together. First I hand-basted the darts, checked the fit, and then sewed and pressed them. Then I did the linings and attached the bodice to its lining. I was really impressed with how pretty the bodice piece was even before I attached the flanges. Good darts are a beautiful thing.

The flanges were cut on the bias, and attached at the shoulder seams to the back pieces. The back and its lining were sewn together, and then the flanges were pinned, basted and sewn to the front. Vogue lost me there for a while - their instructions had me confused to the point where I was yearning for BWOF's brand of incomprehensibility - and then the fog cleared and I put the lining and bodice right sides together and got the underarm seam done.

All this took way longer than expected, so when I knocked off the bodice was on Evelyn, fronts and backs and flanges sewn, just not attached to each other. But tomorrow is another day, right?

And on a different note, thanks much to Cennetta, who nominated me for a Brillant Weblog Premio - 2008 award. Part of the rules is that I have to pass this on to 6-10 other bloggers, so I'm going to finish this off in a few days when I'm able to find 6-10 other bloggers who haven't already been given this award. In the meantime, thanks again, Cennetta - it means a lot that people read my meanderings on sewing, cats, my old house, and everything else that wanders into my head.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vogue 8280 - The Galaxy Dress Knockoff

Okay, so who doesn't want to look like this? Anybody out there? Vogue knocking off Roland Mouret's Galaxy dress was probably one of their best moves ever because it saved a ton of people from trying to draft this one on their own.

The Galaxy wasn't the first Mouret I saw and liked - I have various photos saved of his clothes - but it's probably the most flattering and wearable. It looks like everyone's vision of the 40s, but without the killer shoulder pads.

I've had the pattern for a while, and I've had the fabric for longer. The fabric, a gray-with-aqua-plaid mystery blend from Jomar, has been in stash for about 1.5 years, and it was originally purchased to be pants and a jacket. Or a skirt and jacket. Or possibly pants and a skirt. But as soon as I got this pattern, that plan changed.

And then changed again, because when BWOF came out with the adorable retro jumper pattern last month, I envisioned it in this fabric. Then I thought long and hard about (a) the full bust adjustment I didn't feel like doing to that pattern, and (b) if I did decide to do the pattern, I would want to do the front section on the bias and this just wasn't the plaid that called to me for that. So back to the semi-original idea, and the Galaxy dress.

Most reviews I read on this pattern said that it ran big, especially in the back, so even though this is fitted I didn't go up from my usual 12, and I'm probably going to have to go down a bit. I had enough fabric that I could lay it out on the living room floor during the VP debate the other night and make sure that all my plaids matched. I cut the shoulder flanges on the bias for a little extra interest, but if they don't do it for me when I start sewing, I have enough fabric left to recut them on the straight grain.

I also have enough fabric left that I can make something to wear over the dress. Short sleeves heading into fall/winter wasn't a bright idea, but I just don't see this dress with long sleeves. Doesn't matter that they gave me the option of sleeves with the pattern; it's a short-sleeved or sleeveless dress (in my case, short sleeves) and that's it.

The latest issue of Patrones had three capelets in it. And Melissa over at Fehr Trade made an adorable tweed capelet recently. I thought they were all cute, but where would I ever wear one? And with what? Several weeks later, I discover that I'm about to make the perfect dress to justify the making of a matching capelet. They'll be rolling on the floor in my office, but that's nothing unusual.