Wednesday, January 28, 2009


So I'm having a dilemma. After a few too many jackets and cold weather projects, I decided I needed sonething spring-like to perk me up.. I chose Simplicity 2936 (View A, the yellow flowered one, but with no sleeve ruffles). I pulled one of my oldest stash fabrics off the shelf to use for this blouse.

This fabric has not only been in my stash since I moved out at age 19, but prior to that it was in my mom's stash, and she liberated it from my great-grandmom's stash when my grandmom died when I was 8. This poor fabric had been folded up for well on 50 years, and no one ever cared enough to cut it up. Until now.

My dilemma is until I finally unfolded and washed this fabric, I don't think I ever realized that what I liked was the reverse of the fabric - when I took it out of the dryer, I saw all these little dark blue flowers and didn't recognize it at first. I think I like the reverse better, especially for this blouse.

The left side of the photo is the reverse; the right is the right side, which I don't find as interesting - the dark flowers are too dark, and I like the slight smudginess of the orange and aqua on the reverse. Both sides have a slight sheen, but there's more visible texture on the right side.

So it sounds like I've basically convinced myself here, but I'm open to opinions. Right side? Wrong side? Wrong side with accents of right on placket and sleeve bands?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BWOF 5/07 #102 Jacket - Finished

And what a long, strange trip it's been.

I've really enjoyed recycling / refashioning, but I think it uses a different part of my brain than regular sewing does, because this project really wore me out.

First off, my apologies to Carolyn, who suggested that I use a colorful lining for this jacket. I feel it, but the jacket didn't. It wanted to continue its neutral theme, so I used an ivory lining that I had on hand. It's not exciting, but it didn't want to be. I promise, Carolyn, double bright exciting lining for the next jacket.

The last thing I had in mind when I started this project was accumulating another serious contender pattern for the Chanel jacket, but this really would work well, either with the front redrafted the way I did this time or with the original diagonal dart (so long as I was using a plainer fabric). It's got that almost sweatery feel of a good Chanel jacket.

Decisions, decisions.

Apparently despite my worries in the previous jacket post, I saved myself from 80s-ness. My roommate came down through the living room while I was taking the photos and her comment was, "Nice save. If you'd put shoulder pads in this it would have been 80s all the way." Whew, dodged that bullet! (I know, I know, they're trying to bring back the 80s, but having lived through them once, I'm not ready yet).

Next up . . . what? Kisha brought me a few new Simplicity patterns the other day, two blouses and a dress. They're calling to me, but not with any specificity yet. Staring out my office window at the white sky, gray buildings, and gray and white sidewalks isn't inspiring me with any desire other than to do something colorful next time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pass it on

First of all, thanks to Sew West and SewFast for nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger award. The rules are as follows:

1. Copy the award to your site. Check.

2. Link to the person from whom you received the award. Check, and thanks much!

3. Nominate 7 other bloggers. Check (though it was hard to find 7 who weren't already nominated).

4. Link to those on your blog. Done.

5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

It's really, really hard to find 7 deserving blogs who haven't gotten this goodie already, but here goes:

1. Connie at Couturesmith - always fun, always inspirational, always supportive - and she builds a mean wedding dress as well.

2. Isabelle at Kitty Couture - my cat loving Paris-to-London sewing friend. Her creations are as lovely as she is.

3. Laura of Laura's Sewing Room - because she makes gorgeous clothes, and she hasn't posted for a while, so this is not only an award, it's a gentle reminder that we miss her.

4. Berry at Couture Frenzy - back to blogging after a (too long) break. Welcome back, your creativity has been missed.

5. Rachelle at Craft Rage - her sewing and cat angst are addictive. I'm always impressed with the projects she tackles.

6. Melissa at Fehr Trade - she can stare down BWOF and Patrones and bend them to her will.

And last, but by no means least since she lives nearby and could kick my butt:

7. E, from Story of E, who acts like she's a beginner and then turns around and sews fake fur and quilts and anything that strikes her fancy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The fabric made me do it.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

At the beginning of the month, I entered Patternreview's Recycling/Refashioning Contest. I've already made a vest out of two old skirts, and really enjoyed the process. I like recycling projects because it really jumpstarts my creativity to look at one thing and force myself to see something else. Besides, it justifies my thrift shopping of things that don't fit me. Take these pants.

They're wool tweed, 34" waist, 36" inseam, with the cuffs picked out. They had pleats. They had pockets, both front and welt. They had a few stains. They called to me in the thrift store last year, and they've been in the recycle bag ever since. A few days ago, they called louder. They wanted to be a jacket.

The hunt was on. Sometimes the fabric is the jumping off point for the project; sometimes it's the pattern. Occasionally - as in this time - it's the limitations of the fabric that drives the pattern choice and the eventual style of the finished garment. In other words, I had to find a jacket pattern with lots of small, narrow pieces, or else do a lot of fairly discreet piecing. I chose the former.

This is the reason I have a BWOF stash. I had to go through all of them, 2006 through January 2009, but I found a jacket I liked. It looked nothing like what I had in mind, but the pieces were right - not only was it a two-piece sleeve, it was a narrow two-piece sleeve with an inserted piece that ran over the shoulder. The back was easily split at a center seam. The front was the only issue, since the piece as originally drafted had an interesting diagonal dart that ran from the bottom corner up to the bust. Nice, yes; interest, definitely. Big piecing seam in the middle of the front of my jacket? No.

I pivoted the dart so that it appeared in the usual place, sacrificing a little style for practicality - but the new piece fit nicely on the thigh portion of the pants front.

The rest of the pieces: back (no longer on fold), 4 sleeve pieces and facings, were cut from the rest of the pants. I had to piece the facings on one side, but they're inside and it really doesn't show. I didn't want to have to piece the shoulder/sleeve pieces since they're such an interesting part of the jacket, so I sat back and thought about it for a while and the answer appeared: leather.

There's a small stash of that, too, and I debated briefly between black suede (pants), dark brown suede (long skirt) and just plain leather (a small 1/2 skin remnant picked up at Metro Textiles) in an interesting brownish color. Plain leather won out, and actually because of the color - though truthfully I wasn't looking forward to dismantling a full leather garment just for a few strips. But I would have. Honestly.

BWOF's instructions for this jacket were even more unintelligible than usual, and that's saying something. I read the instructions for both versions, and I never did figure out how they wanted me to do the sleeves. So this is what I did, and it made for a beautifully set-in sleeve: first, I sewed the front and back together at the underarm seam, then I set that partial sleeve into the bodice. It lined up nicely (BWOFs fit together well, even when they don't make sense) and then I sewed the front band to the front/sleeve and the back band to the back/sleeve. Once that was finished, I sewed the two bands together (shoulder seam and down the sleeve). Pressed, it looked great.

Maybe a little 80s, but I still like it. I didn't do shoulder pads, so that should eliminate some of the 80s-ness of it.

One thing I did add to this jacket that I certainly hadn't intended in the beginning: welt pockets. You may or may not remember, but I suffer from severe FOWP (fear of welt pockets, an actual disease). But this jacket wanted them. It needed them. It was very insistent on the welt pocket thing.

It eventually relented and agreed that since it was a short, boxy jacket, maybe it didn't require complete pockets. It settled for faux welts - like the welt part isn't the part that makes my stomach turn over to begin with.

The funny thing here: I've read instructions on how to do this so many times that I just ironed interfacing to the back of the pocket area, marked it off on both sides, and went to it. And they worked. One is a little better than the other, I grant you, but they look like welt pockets, and that's what's important.

Oh, and just to make it more complicated, they're slant welt pockets. And they're leather.

I'm happy with this jacket. I'm not quite finished yet - lining still to come - but hopefully by Sunday night I'll have a new jacket to wear on Monday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Or something to that effect. Maybe it's just that having gotten away with free vet care last weekend for Vlad, this weekend Lily ended up at the University of Penn's vet school emergency room and came home tonight with antibiotics, pain meds and a ransom equivalent to what I would have spent on Vlad last Sunday.

You never actually get anything for free.

While Lil was off getting her abscess taken care off (little missy has been fighting with her siblings and for once did not come out on top), I went into the workroom to do some stress sewing and finish off a project I started on Friday night - BWOF 11/06 #116, the faux wrap top.

I've been admiring everyone's reviews of this on PR since they started turning up, and every time I saw one, I thought, "I have to make one of these." And when I finally went in to trace the pattern, turns out I'd liked it enough back when the issue first came out that I had already traced it!

I'm normally a 38 in BWOF knit patterns, but I should have thought to cut slightly wider seam allowances this time around, because the gray and black wool double cloth I had didn't have the stretch I would have hoped for. It stumped me for a while how I was going to get this to fit - this was not a top I wanted to give away to a thinner friend after I'd finished it - and then it came to me.

I used my machine's ornamental blanket stitch for the collar seam (which was supposed to be flat-felled), and then I used it to edge the collar, which I turned up instead of under - I just liked the look of the gray edge on the black collar.

When I realized that the top was going to be a little snug, instead of sewing the side seams and then hating how tight it was, I laid them one on top of the other (about a 1/4" overlap) and sewed them together with the blanket stitch. It actually looks like a design element rather than a screw up.

The collar seems both higher and closer than the magazine photo, but this is a plus as far as I'm concerned - it's cold in Philly, it's colder still in my office, and there's just flat out no heat for the first half of Mondays. So this is getting worn tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I took a mental health day

When I woke up this morning it was cold and gray and flurrying outsisde, and I took about 3 seconds to think before I rolled over in the bed. It's been crazy busy all week at the office but by yesterday afternoon I was able to see my desk, and I decided I did not need to see it again today.

What I needed was to spend some time in the workroom, getting the kinks out of the fit on Mario's tshirt, and finishing a few other projects I had started.

I also spent some time in the spare room with Vlad, who's recovering nicely from his sore feet, and does not know that a further small surgery is looming in his future. If he's going to be indoors, he's got to be fixed, whether he likes it or not. He's making my other cats crazy - and they're crazy enough without help.

There's no way of saying how long he's going to live, but if it's anything more than a few weeks, then they have to go. He'll forgive me, he's getting canned food twice a day to fatten him up.

Back to the tshirt. Thanks to everyone, here and on Patternreview, who suggested that a sloping shoulder adjustment might be the way to go in getting Mario's shirt to fit. I put the original tshirt on him and stuck shoulder pads in it to see if it made any improvement in the shoulder wrinkles. Totally confused the poor guy - I'm not sure what he thought I was making for him at that point - but it definitely decreased the wrinkling.

Today I cut out another tshirt in light gray cotton jersey that I had sitting in stash. I sloped the shoulder down by about an inch, and dropped the armhole accordingly. Other than that, I made no changes, but there's a huge difference in the way the shirt fits him.

Getting it right should always be so easy.

Other than that, I finished KwikSew 3533, which I started last week. I'm pretty much over the Duro dress thing, but I solved that by eliminating the back ties, adding a waistband in the back and tapering the sides so that it was more fitted - but still loose enough for me to pull over my head.

I'm not over the moon about it, but I think it's one of those dresses that I have to wear a few times to really warm up to. I managed to get a tshirt out of the leftovers - my favorite KS 3338 TNT top - and I'm actually way happier about that.

There's been a lot of conversation on PR and on the blogs lately about stash, how we feel about our stashes, and the merits - or lack thereof - to the whole concept of stashbusting.

I love my stash. It makes me happy. It inspires me when I am not. On the other hand, there's a ridiculous amount of fabric in the workroom. I have a dedicated space, with shelves and cabinets and tubs, and I still have fabric piled on the table and the floor.

I signed myself up for PR's stash contest, not to randomly try to sew as much stash as possible in a short time, but to sew up as much stash as possible in a short time in an organized fashion, making things that I need. I went through the closet and the drawers first and took note of what was needed, and I'm going to knock out a few more quick knit tops (which I always need) and some easy dresses, and a few more tshirts for Mario if I feel like it.

This is a two-fer, if not possibly a three-fer: make stuff I need, get more practice with the coverstitch, and decrease the load on my shelves, at least by a little.

Back to work tomorrow . . .

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fashion Babylon: book review

Well, one thing I did get to on my non-sewing weekend: some reading. I just finally got a new library card - mine got eaten years ago and I never got around to replacing it. Went to the library on Friday and came home with three books: The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, a memoir about taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris; Dior by Dior, which I just started this morning, and Fashion Babylon, by Imogen Edwards-Jones, which was just what I needed when I was unable to actually sew - a large dose of wonderfully gossipy, trashy fashion writing.

It's non-fiction but written in novel form because the "Anonymous" co-authors did not want to be identified and were merged into a single up-and-coming London fashion designer. The book covers London Fashion week and the months that follow, leading up to the designer's first show at New York's fashion week.

Much gossip about designers and models that we've all heard of, lots of how-the-collection-is-put-together stuff, including the seamstresses on the top floor of the office becoming quieter and quieter as it comes closer to showtime and the designer keeps making changes. The author knows what she's talking about from a sewing standpoint; lots of technical details and nothing stood out as wrong.

One of my favorite bits: when the designer's intern comes to her and says that someone wants to do a photo shoot and include a certain white blouse that was seen in the last collection. The designer is thrilled, says okay, and then realizes . . . the white blouse was a filler piece picked up at a London department store. Oops. So they find the blouse in storage, they make a pattern from it and produce it in a better fabric and put their own label on it. Makes you wonder how often stuff like that happens.

The rough part for me was when the designer was working on her collection, looking at vintage clothes, pinning things up on her mood wall, her brain spinning with ideas. I wanted to go downstairs and hop on the machine so bad but I couldn't.


And then there were 12 . . .

The reason for my totally non-sewing weekend: Vladimir Putintat. Big V has made an appearance or two on this blog before, but never before has he made an appearance in my house. Well, that's not exactly true. He's been brought in a few times, but never successfully. He went out one time through my roommate, another time by tearing the screen out of the window. This time he seems content to stay put, but that may be because he's under the weather.

It all started Saturday. I was in the kitchen making soup when the doorbell rang. One of my neighbors was outside. He said that Vlad, who is called Chester on Locust Street (and Butch on 46th Street, and Old Head at the hardware store on Walnut) was on his porch and bleeding badly from an injured front paw. I called around to my vet - who was closed - and several others - also closed. A friend who is a vet tech said she could visit him on Sunday if I could get him inside. So off we went to collect the cat.

Who had vanished, leaving what looked like a pool of red paint on their porch, and little sticky red paw prints down the sidewalk. I looked for that cat for hours. I got in around 4:00 p.m., chilled to the bone, and finished the soup. Mario came in around 5:00 and when I told him what had happened, he suggested one more walk around before it got too dark - it was starting to sleet, so it would be even worse for him to be out then. And of course the cat was right back on the porch where he'd been earlier. So I brought him home and stuffed him full of food to keep him happy until he could get his visit the next day.

Yesterday my friend Jean came and looked him over. He wasn't precisely injured - the index claw (I guess you'd call it that) on each front paw had curled and grown into the pad and became infected. So she knocked him out, cut the claws, extracted them from his pads, soaked his little hands in disinfectant, cleaned his ears, put drops in his eyes, looked at his teeth - and informed me that he has two small, inoperable tumors in his mouth. They were easy to see because he only has about 6 teeth.

The original plan had been to let him back out once his paws healed. He's about 12 years old and a confirmed tomcat. I'm not the only person who has tried to bring him in unsuccessfully. I think he really likes it outside - he was an indoor/outdoor cat in his kittenhood but his people left him behind when they moved away more than 10 years ago.

But if he's got something that's going to carry him off sooner rather than later, then I'm keeping him in. Vlad's been a part of my life since I bought my house in 2000. He's produced way too many kittens over the years, 4 of which live with me and about 12 of which have been farmed out to my friends.

The least I can do for the big guy is give him a peaceful end. Until that time, there will be much love, plenty of ear scritches - and cans and cans of his favorite cat food.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tee Time

I love free patterns. Have I said that before?

I got an email from Burdastyle the other day about a new pattern, and while I was on the site I checked out their men's patterns, looking to see what they had that I could make for himself as a "sorry I'm neglecting you to play with the great gift you gave me" present. I saved and printed both the vest and the Pete tshirt.

The tshirt seemed like the logical candidate, since it would give me a chance to do more practice sewing with said new toy. I had some nice beefy charcoal gray cotton/lycra jersey (enough for two shirts - yes, there's a tee for me as well, and no, we won't wear them together) and I cut, sewed and coverstitched this in about 2 hours. I'm sure I'll go faster with time, but I was being careful.

So the shirt looks okay from the front - the creases at the shoulders are because he had his shoulders raised a little while talking to one of the cats, who thought she was getting in the picture. When he stands normally, the front and shoulders fit fine. But the back is another story.

It still looks good. I've seen RTW tshirts that fit him the same way. He's really broad across the upper back (if he worked out more it would be a bigger problem, but like me he mainly sits on the couch and thinks about working out). There are wrinkles extending from the underarm up toward the shoulder that I'm a little confused about how to eliminate. The rest of the shirt fits him fine - not too tight anywhere, and he claims that the sleeves and shoulders feel comfortable.

So what gives? Do I change the armscye? The shape of the back of the sleeve? I'm a little lost on this one. I'm used to tweaking his dress shirts to accommodate his back width, and I really didn't think a knit would be more difficult to get to fit correctly, but it is. I'm open to suggestions, because it was a quick and easy way to appease someone I've been neglecting lately, and I'd like to make him a few more.

And for the moment of blinding stupidity on this project, here goes: I made the shirt. I finished the shirt, hems, etc. I ran the coverstitch around the neckband to make nice neat stitches. It looked good. Since I'm a little uneven yet with it, there were a few narrow raw edges which showed beyond the locked stitches on the underside. I took my sharpest scissors, sat down on the couch, and proceeded to carefully trim the raw edges. All was well until . . . I sneezed. And poked the tip of my sharpest scissors right through the front of the tshirt.

Swearing is very closely associated to sewing in my house. Last night they become one. After I could see clearly again, I took the shirt gently back to the workroom and cut a nice little patch which I steam-a-seamed down to the wrong side. I'll probably end up zig-zagging the edges, and now that I see it doesn't fit perfectly I feel a little better about screwing it up, but still. Honestly. Did I have to sneeze right then? Did I?

Go Figure

After posting 3/08 #108 as one of my least-worn garments of 2008, I sat down the other night to consider the reasons why that might be. I liked the general design of the shirt, loved the collar, the pockets, the fabric. I liked the little glittery black buttons I found that set off the black striping in the fabric, but when I looked at it, they were the only thing that stood out as wrong.

This past Saturday was half-price day at the thrift store, and I went on a notion and button mission. I spent about $10 at the store, and in addition to buying a Ralph Lauren suit (which is asking nicely to be taken apart and remade), I bought several blouses and sweaters which had interesting buttons and which were in sufficiently ratty shape that I felt no remorse at cutting them up. One of those pieces was a gauzy white Express tunic with flat gold buttons that looked a little like coins. And they were small, about the size of the black buttons on my shirt.

In a few minutes, my black buttons had become gold buttons, and I liked the shirt a whole lot more. I wore it to work yesterday, got several compliments on it and felt pretty good - at least until I got home and looked at the picture that the receptionist took.

Honest and truly, it looked completely different when I looked in the mirror! And I'm not saying I think I look that bad, but I recognize that body. It's not mine; it's my mother's. I'm not happy about assuming my mom's vaguely fire hydrant shape in my mid-forties. I made fun of her for it, and apparently she left it to me. Thanks, mom. I've been getting back to the gym more frequently since the holidays ended, but if I needed a picture to put up on the fridge, this is it.

But I do like it the top itself. Instead of not wearing it, I'm going to wear it more often - but without a tank top underneath to bulk it up. I like the stretch shirting aspect of the top (I think one of the reasons my blouses tend not to be worn is that they're a little boxy); there just needs to be a little less of me in the shirt.

Considering that last week I was thinking about getting rid of this blouse, I'm now thinking about altering the pattern slightly and making it up in white, because it could be the start of a perfect TNT white shirt if it were (a) longer, (b) had a less distinctive collar, and (c) had regular cuffs. Which would make it not like this blouse anymore at all, so I think instead I'll keep the collar, lose the pockets, and add some length to the bottom. I also think I want to curve the hem instead of leaving it straight - I think that would be more flattering to my general shape. I also think one of the reasons the top makes me look a little thicker is because it ends at the wrong point. Nothing I can do about that now, but that's the joy of making another version.

On a less positive note, I spent the first part of 2009 making a very successful wadder. More about that later - whether or not it stays draped over Evelyn or ends up in the can is still up in the air.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Best Christmas Present. EVER.

I love my new coverstitch machine.

I knew I would like it; I knew I would get a lot of use out of it because I've really gotten to like sewing knits in the last year - especially dresses, most of which haven't been hemmed because neither of my machines really like the double-needle thing. At all.

I didn't know that it would basically be love at first stitch. The machine came threaded with white thread, but the first thing I did was un-thread it and sit down with the instructions to thread it from scratch. I'm not the most mechanically-minded sewist out there, and I had visions of everything being hemmed with white thread until those spools ran out if I didn't learn how to do it properly from the start.

Guess what? It was easy. Who knew? I had it re-threaded pretty quick, tried out a test hem on a knit scrap I had on the table, and then re-threaded it with black and did the bottom and sleeve hems on my new BWOF 1/09 #106 dress, which would have languished unhemmed, and with lumpy sleeve hems, if not for the goodness of Santa in listening to me this year.

He was afraid that buying me one big pressent that covered Christmas and at least a good part of my birthday would end up disappointing me. I don't think so. Poor man will be lucky if he sees me again before my birthday, because I'm going to be in the workroom nonstop playing with my new toy.

In addition to finishing the BWOF dress - which, by the way, I absolutely love and am wearing to work tomorrow - I've also hemmed three summer dresses that got worn unhemmed, and I've ordered large cones of thread from Atlanta Thread in black, off-white and brown. I used regular small spools of black for the dress hems, because I had extra on hand, but this thing really blows through the thread, so ordering in bulk is the way to go.

This doesn't count against my fabric / notions / pattern fast because thread is a necessity, and even with shipping, I can't find it that cheap in Philadelphia. (I might be able to find it that cheap in NYC, but I'd "find" so many other things that it would defeat the purpose!)

As for the dress itself, this is one of BWOF's best recent dress patterns. I love the sleeve - it was the whole reason for tracing it off to begin with - and that's a feature that will definitely get transported onto other garments, like that gathered collar from the BWOF 3/08 blouse. I haven't decided yet if it's a little narrower than their usual cut, or if it's the fabric I used - it's not the stretchiest stretch fabric ever, if you know what I mean.

I changed the neckline from their modified V with a facing to a rounder shape with a band. I'm not big on facing on knits, and the V neck was an accident waiting to happen at work. I hate having to remember not to lean over near my boss when most of BWOF's dresses are intended for just that effect.

This was a really quick project, especially with the extra help on the hems. I think there's a top version of this in the not-too-distant future.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Look 6619 Jacket

Since I posted the teaser photo, I guess I should follow it up with a completed project. I've spent the morning tearing the closet out of my sewing room, so please forgive the transplanted PR review. I'd talk more if I had it in me.

Pattern Description: Short, lined jacket with set-in sleeves and collar variations.

Pattern Sizing: 8-18. I made a straight size 12 and it fits just fine. The shape of the jacket is a little boxy (i.e., no bust darts), so there is enough wiggle room here for me to taper it in if I wanted something a little more fitted.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, other than my obvious changes regarding fabric.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't really look at them. I've made plenty of jackets by now, and there was nothing complicated about this style.

That being said, I did make one major mistake (part user error and part pattern issue), but it was fixable, although a major pain to fix. I constructed the jacket and then I cut and made the lining. Trusting soul that I am (not, so how did this happen?) I cut the lining from the pattern pieces marked "cut 2 of fabric, cut 2 of lining". Except the cute little side panel piece isn't marked to cut as lining, and because there was a separate facing piece and front lining piece, I somehow got it into my head that the lining was constructed differently and went on my merry way. Since the missing piece doesn't affect the lining as sewn to the facings, I didn't notice until I got it all sewn in and tried the jacket on - and it no longer came close to fitting. Oops.

Cut the lining out, picked out all the stitches, went back to Jomar the next day, bought more gray lining fabric, recut with the proper piece, and voila! it worked. I looked at the directions later and it really didn't mention that piece either; the only way I would have gotten a heads-up would have been to look at the fabric layout diagram, and how often do we do that?

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I've got a hankering for a Chanel-style jacket and this was the test-drive of the pattern. It will definitely work with the fabric and trims I've selected for the next round.

Fabric Used: Charcoal gray faux "quilted" poly blend from Joann's. I'm not usually a big fan of Joann's fabric, but this was surprisingly nice. It sewed well but it refused to press flat. All the seam allowances are stuck down with Steam-a-Seam because otherwise they wouldn't have stayed down. Fabulous square snaps from Pacific Trims in NYC.

Despite the contrariness of the fabric, I managed to get the sleeves set in nicely (yes, those seam allowances were stuck down as well).

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Almost none since this was a test drive for a future jacket. I did alter the lining somewhat - this pattern has front facings but no back neck facing, and I don't like the look of that. I also added some width at the top of the lining so I could have a pleat at the top. I cut the sleeves (and that pesky side piece) on the bias to add interest. I've found that bias sleeves ease in much more cooperatively than their on-grain counterparts, so in addition to liking the look, I liked that. Other than that, this was sewn straight out of the envelope.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and yes. I'm planning on making a Chanel-style jacket from this pattern in a black diamond-patterned wool from Metro Textiles just as soon as I find buttons and trim that work for me. It's not a hard sew, the boxy shape makes for an easy fit, and it's easily customized.

Conclusion: Not a bad thing to say about this pattern.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A little recycling

Two of Patternreview's best contests are running at the same time - the Stash Contest and the Recycling/Refashioning Contest. I will be sewing until my fingers go numb.

I'm excited about both of these contests because I certainly have stash to use (more stash than I care to admit to, thank you very much) and the recycling/refashioning thing has always been something I enjoyed.

New Year's Day here was too stinking cold to go outside, so I blew off my daytime plans and got to work on my first recycling project. This version of Burdastyle's Franzi vest is made from two wool skirts, an old Ralph Lauren skirt of mine (from back when he was doing his "English country" thing) and one from the thrift store that turned out to have a broken zipper which I was too lazy to replace.

I took them both apart and cut the fabric from each skirt front into strips, sewed them together and then cut the resulting piece of striped fabric across into more strips, and sewed them together so that they were more or less in a checkerboard. I say more or less because I didn't stress about making perfect edges to the check; I thought since it was recycled fashion, it would look more organic to just let it go.

I used one of my machine's ornamental stitches to freehand stitch across the vest fronts to secure the piecing, and then constructed the vest. The sides and back of the vest were made from the leftover RL skirt; the entire vest is edged with bias strips of the checked skirt. I also made ties for the back of the vest from the rest of the checked fabric.

The interesting lining technique for this vest wasn't possible because I decided to do the binding on the edges, so instead I sewed the lining to the vest right sides together at the arm holes, turned it inside, sewed the center back seam of the lining and then pressed the edges under and carefully hand-sewed the lining to the body of the vest.

The gold buttons were from stash, but if I recall correctly, they were cut off something that either went in the trash or to the thrift store. If I'd purchased them, I'm sure there would have been more than 4 buttons.

Next up is (hopefully) the refashioned pink suede skirt into bag project that I started thinking about months ago, and it still hasn't gotten off my table. I know I should be working on "real" projects, but sometimes these refashioning projects just get my juices flowing in a way that simply following a pattern doesn't.

In other positive sewing news, I finally broke out the coverstitch machine from its wrappings last night and made its acquaintance. Probably not something I should have done after a day of straight sewing, but once I put my reading glasses on so that I could squint at it and learn how to thread the little monster, I did one sample hem and then ran my new BWOF dress through it and did a perfect hem in just minutes.

Then I came out and told Santa again just how much I liked my present.

Oh, the new BWOF dress? It's the one with the sleeves from the January issue. That's what happens when the issue gets there 3 days before the end of the month.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sewing Resolutions 2008 - a Recap

Well, this was last year's attempt at sewing resolutions, and I didn't get as far as I would have liked. Here they were:

1. Conquer welt pockets. Nope. Tried twice, they looked lumpy and uneven. Must work harder. (My lack of success with #1 has much to do with #2 below).

2. Take my time. I've actually gotten much better at this, so I think perhaps my welt problem issue isn't so much not taking my time as not being as precise as I need to.

3. Work on linings. This I'm happy about. I've lined skirts and jackets and a coat and 9 times out of 10 I'm very happy, and the few things that have gone wonky have been fixable. Good linings really make clothes better, so I consider this a major accomplishment for 2008.

4. Quality over quantity. I've managed quantities of quality. I did the Fabric Fast for the first several months of 2008 and really cut down on my shopping; however, I got over that. But now when I shop, I buy well - and often. This doesn't leave me a lot of fabric for muslins.

5. Reduce the stash. Umm, not really. But it's all much better stuff than it used to be (see #4 above).

6. Make new curtains for the dining room. (I also need new curtains for the kitchen, but those are a quickie job that won't disrupt my regular sewing). This was the only specific project on the list, and did it get done? No. Many more interesting projects stepped in between this resolution and the reality of curtains, but the house next door was just rehabbed and will have tenants soon, so those windows need to be covered.

Resolutions for 2009 will be along shortly.