Monday, June 29, 2009

The library is growing

So apparently I've had a little too much time on my hands at work lately. The lure of has been too great, and within the last week, the sewing library has expanded significantly.

I love sewing books. I read them in bed, I read them on the train - even though it does get me some pretty strange looks - and occasionally I even read them with the specific purpose of learning something. Like cookbooks, though, sometimes having them and reading them is enough, even if I don't use them.

This week's acquisitions are: Kenneth King's Designer Bead Embroidery and Designer Techniques, the Dressmaker's Technique Bible by Lorna Knight, and two books I don't know, The Expert's Book of Sewing Tips and Techniques and Every Sewer's Guide to the Perfect Fit.

The last 3 books were priced under $2 each, so even though I'm not familiar those last ones, I'm not taking much of a risk.

I also replaced two books that have mysteriously disappeared from the shelf: Claire Shaeffer's High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the World's Best Designers and Couture Sewing Techniques. I know I had these books. I read them. And apparently I either lent these books out (highly unlikely) or misfiled them somewhere on the 3 floors of my junky house. Replacing them will make me find the originals, and then I will put the extras back on Half.

Thank you all for your kind words about Vlad. It's amazing how much I miss that guy, but I know I did the right thing. It's just hard to remember that in the middle of the night. If you have a critter, kiss it for me.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vladimir Putintat, 1996-2009

Today is not a happy day in the House of Many Cats.

Back in January, I brought Vlad in from the cold, supposedly only until his paws healed. Then my friend told me he had small cell carcinoma and only had a few weeks left. At that point, I decided that Vlad deserved to spend his golden weeks in warmth and comfort, and eating as much 9 Lives Super Supper as he could swallow.

A few weeks passed, and Vlad was still ticking. He'd actually put on a little weight and was adjusting to life indoors. Within the first day, he'd figured out the litterbox. Drinking water out of a bowl took longer, but it sunk in eventually.

Toys never did. He never got the point of chasing something for fun; chasing was what he did to get his dinner.

As time went on, he slowed down a little. His big fat tomcat cheeks got bigger, and I began to suspect that although the tumors in his mouth weren't getting bigger, the cancer might be spreading into all that packed tissue. Toms grow those big cheeks to protect themselves when they fight - there aren't many blood vessels in there. Eventually the swelling started to creep under his chin, leaving only a little strip of soft fur to scratch there, but it didn't affect his ability to breathe or eat.

That was the problem - he didn't act sick. He slowed down a little more; he had trouble getting up on the bed but once my housemate donated her old aerobics step for him to climb up on, he hopped back up; he ate less dry food because of his mouth, but he still ate as much wet as was put in front of him. He still liked to cuddle every night when I went up to read with him before bed.

In the years that I've known that cat, it's been one thing after another - fights, bite wounds, infections, ripped up ears, and finally an eye wound that left him blind in one eye. I couldn't wait for him to show pain; I think he's had so much of it in his life that a terminal illness was probably almost restful.

I knew that sooner or later, I'd have to make the decision to let him go. Last week I talked to Mario, my housemate, and the two men around the corner who were his alternate parents. We decided on this Sunday because everyone would be around to go to the hospital with him to say goodbye.

Of course I immediately began second-guessing myself, and Vlad didn't help because he was perky and affectionate all week. Still, his fur was looking greasy and starting to thin, and despite his endless appetite, he wasn't putting on any more weight. I spoke to a nurse friend, and she said that it sounded like we were feeding the cancer at this point, and the cat was benefitting from the leftovers.

That was all I needed to hear.

When I decided to keep him inside, it was because I knew he wasn't well, and I wanted to be able to make the call when it was time, rather than have him disappear one day and worry that he'd died alone under a bush. Vlad deserved better.

And he got it. At 1:30 today, I put him in a carrier and took him downstairs to have a ramble in the back yard - his favorite territory and where I made his acquaintance 8 years ago. A few friends came over to say their goodbyes, and Vlad had a nice walk in the garden. He ate some plants, he peed on my roses, he rolled in the mulch and enjoyed the sun.

My neighbor arrived at 2:00, and we took him down to Penn's vet hospital. I don't like the place, they're ridiculously expensive, but they're very compassionate about euthanasia. The doctor took him back and put an IV in his arm, and then we got to spend some time with him in an exam room. He was a little stressed from the car ride and was panting and, being Vlad, managed to pull his IV loose before the doctor could touch him. Nothing was ever easy with this cat.

Finally we'd all said our goodbyes and kissed him on his big furry head, and the doctor gave him the sedative. He went to sleep in my arms, and then she gave him the second shot. He looked peaceful and about as kittenlike as I've ever had the privilege of seeing him look.

The house seems really quiet without Vlad bellowing for food, attention, litter changes, head scratches and what have you. He had more heart and more personality than a lot of people I've known, and he leaves a big space behind.

When I got home from the hospital, I hugged all my cats, especially the ones who were his. All the cats in the world don't make up for the one who's been lost.

It was time, Vlad. Enjoy your freedom. We'll miss you.

His ashes are going to be buried in my back yard, where they belong. If he had a stone, this would be on it: Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ...Wow! What a ride!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The real meaning of summer

Okay, so this probably isn't the only real meaning of summer out there. It means different things to different people - for kids, it's being out of school, going to the shore, running under sprinklers, all those fun kid things.

For me, especially this year, summer is two things. Tomatoes and cute dresses.

Since Philadelphia has spent the last 3 weeks basically underwater - I swear if they tell me we're in drought in August, I'm going to run amok - so my tomatoes have been growing like weeds. I just wish all these lovely little green balls would start turning red. Or at least reddish.

Oh - three things. Three things mean summer. Add summer fruit to the list.

The blueberries only needed a couple of days of sun and they suddenly became edible. Yummy edible, as in I'm sitting on the edge of the raised bed grazing off the bush edible.

But let's face it, the best part of summer is being able to wear cute dresses. I finished one today that definitely falls into the cute category, and the pattern could definitely work its way into TNT status pretty quickly - it fit great right out of the magazine, and I think the neckline (almost square, but with curved edges) is really flattering. The one piece facing snugs the neckline right up against my chest, so there's no gaping, and I like the empire waist with fitted skirt, as opposed to the usual empire waist with flowy skirt. Very flattering, all around.

Lots of good things about this dress, which by the way is BWOF 2/2008 #113 (full review here: I got to use fabric from my trip to NY just 2 weeks ago, so it's barely even cooled down yet. I finally got off my lazy duff and tried Els' invisible zipper tutorial, and I'd like to smack myself with a french curve for not trying it sooner. That one little extra step makes the zipper go in perfectly, and I've been having a little issue with bubbling recently, so I'm glad I gave in and tried it. I also did BWOF's strangely worded but very effective method of inserting the facing by sewing it all the way around the neck and armholes, leaving the shoulders open and turnign the whole thing right side out through the shoulder openings. Then you machine-stitch the outside shoulder seam, fold and press and hand-stitch the inside shoulder seam and you have an immaculate finish.

For some reason, this technique gives me fits. I never think I'm going to be able to get into the shoulder seam to sew it shut properly, and then I never think I'm going to be able to get the facing seam to be flat enough so that I can hand sew it down. And it always works. Why are there just some things we can't get past, no matter how often we do them?

We had a nice sunny Saturday today, highs in the mid-80s, so before I got to the garden or the workroom, we hit the farmer's market (blueberries, cherries, random other goodies) and a couple of porch sales in the neighborhood. I picked up a cookbook - like I need another one - and at the last sale, 2 blocks from home, my eyes zero in on this lonely white carrier box sitting on the sidewalk. There are 3 labels on the box "$5" "sewing machine" "needs work."

Like I need another one, right? It's late 1960s, from JCPenney, a icky tan colored workhorse of a machine that from what I can tell works perfectly well, the girl just didn't know how to use it. I'm going to take it apart and give it a good cleaning and a test drive, but it seems that my backup machine now has a backup.

It was $5. Could I resist? What if it hadn't sold and she'd put it in the trash and no one had trash picked it? It would have gone to that great dumpster in the sky unused for the last 20 years, and we can't have that.

On the other hand, I did pass by the free Singer treadle machine that had been wired for electricity but was sunk into a wooden table the size of my refrigerator. It would have taken 3 people to move it, and I had no idea where I could put it. If any Philadelphians are reading this, it's in the alley behind Melville Street, right off Baltimore Avenue. It needs you. Just so I don't go back and get it myself.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BWOF 4/09 #122 Tunic

Pattern Description: Cut-in-one sleeves, empire seam with drawstring and a fiery paprika colour create this irresistible look. Our styling tip: To complete your dream outfit, tie a large scarf around your hips and add an exotic belt.

Ummm, whatever, guys. It's a cute, kimono-sleeved tunic with a drawstring and a very deep V neck. I think they want you to tie a large scarf around your hips to hide the fact that the top may be too short for most people - definitely measure before committing to the existing length.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF sizes 34-42. I made my standard 38 without any alterations.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Pretty much so, except that I'm built like a real woman and not a Burda model!

Were the instructions easy to follow? I did actually look at the directions this time, to see how they handled the drawstring and casing, and figured out that I wanted to do it differently. That being said, I can say BWOF has had worse directions; I did get these, I just didn't like them. They also had very strange ideas of how to handle the back neck - I got the bias strip bit, but how they wanted it sewn in just sounded . . . wrong. I did it my way.
I also agree with a previous reviewer who said that the upper bodice could use a bit more length. It looks and fits okay, but an extra half-inch might feel a bit better.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I didn't like this pattern too much when the magazine first came out (actually I claimed not to like the April 2009 issue at all and this is my 4th piece, so I think it grew on me). This pattern definitely grew on me as a few versions have appeared here on PR, and I started thinking about it and mentally going through my stash to see what jumped up and volunteered. When I remembered this fabric, I knew I had a winner.

Fabric Used: Silk/cotton blend from Metro Textiles. It's almost weightless, but it wasn't slippery to sew. I had fun playing with the scarf print.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I loved my fabric, but the blocks of the scarf print weren't in the exact place I would have liked them to be to take advantage of the design. But that's okay, if the design doesn't come to you, you go to the design. I lengthened the sleeves by adding a border to tie in with the hem of the tunic. I also cut the front of the bodice on the bias to use the border along the front neckline. The back of the tunic is the center of the scarf square.

I also added about 1.5" to the length of the tunic, which considering I only added a short hem to hide the selvage, should have added a lot of length. It didn't. Long torsos beware; I'm only 5'3" and this would have been short on me if I hadn't added to it.

The pattern instructions have you sew the backs and fronts together, then top to bottom. Then, somehow or other, you're supposed to turn the seam allowance into the casing for the tie, which comes out through the pre-sewn buttonhole in the front. I didn't like this idea because my fabric was fairly fragile, and I was afraid that making a casing out of the seam allowance, and then threading the drawstring through it, would be too much stress on a delicate fabric.

First I decided I would sew the casing on the inside, and I thought on that for a little while. I decided that since the stitching would be visible on the outside anyway, I would topstitch the casing on the outside and take advantage of the fabric one last time since I decided after the fact that the join between top and bottom would have looked better in the darker fabric.

For the tie, I initially used navy blue rat tail cord, but it seemed too flimsy. A dig through the trim stash didn't give me anything heavier, but it did provide two pieces of light blue/gray rat tail, so I braided the 3 pieces together to make something of the weight that I wanted, and knotted the ends. I'd still like to find something a bit lighter, and use beads on the end, but for now this works just fine.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know as I would sew it again - there are a lot of other tunics out there if I'm in the mood to make one, but this was a fun project and didn't take too long. I'd recommend it, but I would say to trust your own instincts when the instructions don't make sense; it'll turn out fine in the end.

Conclusion: This would be a great intro to BWOF patterns - only 4 pieces and no difficult fitting issues. A winner, but maybe not a repeater.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where do UFOs come from?

Last year at the Patternreview Baltimore meetup, Cidell sent me home with a whole stack of Patrones magazines. I'd asked to borrow one, so this was like Christmas come early. I traced off a bunch of patterns and sent the magazines back.

Some patterns I didn't bother to trace - I know how BWOF pants fit me, and it looked like Patrones ran narrower. I had no desire to re-invent the wheel, especially when I couldn't read the directions. I did, however, photocopy quite a few pages with patterns I liked, and this pair of Sportmax pants was one of the designs that made it to the keeper pile.

I liked the slouchiness of them, I liked the menswear stylingl, I liked that they were seersucker (and I don't particularly like seersucker), I even liked the cuffs (I'm short and generally don't - ever - wear cuffed pants). And I had some seersucker in the stash, provided by Gorgeous Fabrics. I bought it because it was the least seersuckery seersucker I'd ever seen. If that makes sense.

I started with the KwikSew shorts pattern that I'd just successfully completed. I liked their fly front and construction techniques, and I figured I could rework the pockets to match the Patrones illustration, add belt loops, and play with the length and width of the legs. I drafted the pattern pieces I needed, cut into my seersucker . . . and put it aside.

Until this week.

Why? They weren't going wrong. They hadn't even gotten anywhere when I put them down. It wasn't that the weather was getting cooler; I could have gotten plenty of wear out of of them before the end of summer. So what did it?

I have no idea, but after having won Patternreview's UFO contest in 2007, I tend to be sensitive about UFOs left in my workroom. If something's not going well, I let myself put it down to marinate for a while, but when I come back to it, if I'm still not feeling it or I don't like where it's going, generally I can release it to that great scrap pile in the sky with not too much regret. This pair of pants got under the radar and I forgot about them.

When I came across them last week, still draped over the back of a chair with the pattern pieces pinned to the fabric, I decided to give them one last chance before I chucked them out. Everything went together like I'd planned last year. I like the decorative band on the pockets and the wide belt loops. The fly front went smoothly, and even the waistband gave me little trouble.

These pants aren't necessarily something I'd make again - I was right, I am too stinking short for cuffed pants - but as a little something different for the summer, they're just fine.

Most important, they're no longer a UFO, lurking unfinished in the workroom, waiting to jump out at me when I'm least able to deal with them.

(Photo of me wearing the pants still to come - the timer on my camera is acting wonky and the photographer isn't available).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weekend Update

I guess the one positive thing about the never-ending rain is that there's nothing to do but hang out in the workroom and make stuff.

This was a pretty rainy (and pretty productive) weekend. I'm all but finished a pair of UFO pants from last year. These will get their own post when they're completely finished.

First, a recycling project. I've got a ton of old tshirts in the drawer in size XL - why is it that all giveaway shirts are in XL? - and since I've finally made things to sleep in besides those shirts, most of them went in the bag for the thrift store. A couple of them stayed home, and one got turned into another Ottobre tank top. My mom sent me this shirt from one of the many little New York state towns she lived in (they moved a lot) and I always liked it. A lot of the stretch had gone out of the knit, so I cut it a size larger than usual, and used some leftover white stretch for the bands rather than trying to get the tshirt knit to cooperate. Besides, the contrast looks better.

Tonight I traced, cut and am about half finished BWOF 4/2009 #122, the drawstring tunic. The fabric is from Metro Textiles, and is (I think) a cotton/silk blend. It's almost weightless. I had fun playing with the scarf print and all the bits of border it had to offer. I added some length to the cut-on sleeves so I could edge them in the border print, and added some length to the bottom pieces because BWOF's tops are always shorter than I like.

The plunging neckline is pure BWOF, no surprise there, but I have tanks and camisoles that will work under it. Tomorrow I'll join the top to the bottom and add the casing for the drawstring. I think I'll make a separate casing rather than doing it their way, which involves using the seam allowance and just seems like it would put a lot of strain on the fabric. I've got some navy blue rattail for the drawstring, and somewhere in the workroom, there's a box of beads for the end of the drawstring.

Now if I just didn't have to go to work tomorrow . . .

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I slipped my leash

lost my mind, blew the budget and basically shot any chance of stash parity for a while to come.

In other words, I went to New York. I went with good intentions, and considering that (a) I went to New York, and (b) I visited Kashi while in New York, I didn't do too badly.

Unless you consider 15 yards bad. On top of the 10 yards earlier this week.

On top of the 7 yards last week.

Yeah, yeah, I did the math. You can check the sidebar.

Yesterday was great, though. I took train up in the morning, wandered around a little, stopped in a store on 35th Street called - I think H + M Fabrics - that's been going out of business for at least the last year. From there came the first score, 2 yards of black/white/pink cotton stretch novelty print (dress or skirt) and 5 yards of white batiste for underlining. Note: the batiste is not included in the fabric totals. I don't count lining, therefore, I'm not going to count underlining. All this cost $14 - $2 per yard. No guilt there.

After that, I wandered up to 39th Street and stopped in another store (don't remember the name, but it's 2 doors down from Beckenstein's, which was my destination. But first, I went into this little store, which was stuffed full with bolts up to the ceiling, and fell for this coral, black and white, vaguely Asian-inspired, Betsey Johnson semi-sheer cotton (see, a use already for the white batiste!) I think it wants to be a nice floaty summer skirt.

I did make it to Beckenstein's after that. Beckenstein's is menswear heaven - suitings, shirtings, tie silks, linings, seersuckers, wools, gabardines. Lovely stuff, amazingly high quality, with prices to match. I broke down and got a shirting cotton anyway - Italian, almost glossy, a maroon plaid with a muted light blue thread running through it. Perhaps it will make up for Jackson Pollock in space. And if not, it'll look good on me.

At 12:30, I met up with Elizabeth of Sew a Beginner at Metro Textiles, a lovely place to have lunch. Kashi was his usual welcoming self, and had lots of new goodies on offer. There's a navy cotton suiting with white flecks that feels vintage to me. Also, I got rayon jersey in heathered navy and brown - the flecks are darker instead of lighter, which looks particularly interesting in the brown. The photo of these fabrics is much lighter than they are.

I also got one stretch knit for a summer dress, a turquoise and green floral. Another goodie: blue fine-striped cotton with stripes of embroidery. This one warrants going through the vintage patterns for an appropriate summer dress.

After Metro, we went over to Pacific Trims and I scored more buttons for the endless collection of buttons I seem to need to feel secure.

The best part of the whole day, though, competely wiping out fabric shopping (not that I'd give any of it back, mind you) was our trip down to FIT's museum for the Isabel Toledo exhibit. I have to admit that other than the Inauguration dress she did for Michelle Obama and a few other pieces, I really wasn't all that familiar with her work. But I am now, and it killed me that photography wasn't permitted in the exhibit because I would really love to share what I saw with you all.

My brain is still swimming, trying to figure out how she constructed some of those dresses, even though the cards at the feet of most of the mannequins had lovely little diagrams of the pattern pieces that somehow resolve themselves into dresses that in no way resemble those strange little collections of pieces.

But actually, she had me at hello. When you go down the steps to the exhibit, the Inauguration dress is in a case, and there's a wall of photos in chronological order of Toledo's career. There's also an excerpt of the brochure posted there, and this is what got me: "I never thought of myself as a designer. I'm a seamstress. I really love the technique of sewing more than anything else. The seamstress is the one who views fashion from the inside! That's the art form really, not fashion design, but the technique of how it's done."

Let us all bow down and worship - or at least really, really appreciate - a designer who proudly calls herself a seamstress.

Last but not least, Vlad, still living large in the guest room. Starting to go downhill, even slightly aware of it some days, but for a cat who was given two weeks to live back in January, he looks pretty good.

Give me Liberty

Bad. I've been very, very bad.

I recently used up the last of my Liberty of London fabric from last year's vacation. A stash with no Liberty in it? That's not a happy stash, at least not in my world.

So I went merrily off to Ebay and placed a few bids and resolutely didn't check back because I knew I'd be lucky if I got one of them.

Except I got five. Five. Each at least a two meter cut (yes, meter, not yard - most of thebm are coming via the Royal Mail - which probably takes less time than the USPS) and all of them are gorgeous.

I had a few vague ideas when I was thinking about a new Liberty print. But now that there are this many of them heading my way, I'm completely boggled and have no idea what to do with them all. But I'm sure something will come to me.

You know, until I posted all the pictures here, I really hadn't noticed that all my fabrics are tending toward the blues. What happened to Miss Earth Tone, 2009? Okay, so there are some of my greens mixed in there, but blue? Aqua? Purple? Which of my alternate personalities had control of the bid button?

And of course I really needed 10 meters of new fabric right before I went up to New York for the day, right? Because of course shopping occurred while I was in New York - how could it not?

I'll post pictures of the haul from NYC (really not embarrassingly bad) as soon as I get them uploaded.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Maybe you'd better rethink that

I think I mentioned that I made a small order from Fashion Fabrics Club during their last sale. A few fabrics for me, and one that I particularly chose for another short-sleeved shirt for Mario. I thought it was cool. I liked the colors, and even though I was a little unsure that he would like it, I thought I could sell it to him as a sort of "Jackson Pollock in space" kind of thing.

Or not.

I got the package on Friday, brought it home, spread the fabrics out to admire, and he walks in. I show him the blue and white, the two navy, red and white fabrics, and then I point to his fabric. "What do you think of that one?"


"I was thinking it could be a shirt."


"For you."

More silence, and then he says, "Maybe you'd better rethink that," and goes wandering off in the direction of the television. I get the feeling he was being tactful.

Problem is, I'm seriously tempted to make it anyway, put it in the closet without saying anything, and just wait for the morning that he goes stumbling blindly in there and puts it on. You've got to admit, that would be fun.

And here's one for the cat lovers out there. I don't think I've supplied sufficient feline photos lately, so here's Mr. Max, happily woken out of his afternoon nap, waiting for the belly rubs to commence. I don't think he's the brightest cat in the herd, but he's definitely one of the most affectionate.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A knockoff project

I got this top at my local thrift store's last half-price sale. Generally I tend to shop there for fabric - clothes that I can take apart and turn into other things - but this little top caught my eye. I loved the fabric, and I thought the style would be nice for work.

It is, but it could use some improvement in that it's a smidge too short for me (for a short woman I tend to like my tops longer) and also the facing has a tendency to creep out the front opening, even when the ties are knotted at the throat. So that needs to be dealt with as well.

Structurally it's not that complicated. I'll use my TNT tshirt pattern - the back and sleeves won't need any alteration at all - and then add about 1 - 1 1/2" in length. Using the higher-necked version of the TNT, I can mark and cut the opening, and the collar/band is actually just one piece, folded and sewn, so how easy is that? I don't know yet if I'll fully line the front (since I have some new black stretch tricot lining that I'm itching to use) or just turn the fabric under and stitch it down without bothering with a facing since they never work well in knits. I've made enough BWOF to have been thoroughly disillusioned with knit facings.

Once I remake this top, I may cannibalize the original and make myself yet another Ottobre tank top. I really do love the fabric.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

McCall 4444 - the last word

Or rather, a last photo or two. I wore the dress to work today - and was able to be mostly decent thanks to the loan of a shrug from the housemate (she of the "thick"comment).I think she's trying to atone.

Whatever; it's the perfect shade of aqua and kept me mostly covered at work, in both an appropriate and a defense-from-air conditioning sense.

The photos were taken in the back yard when I got home. It's been raining, it's been hot, it's been humid. Things are growing. A lot.

Dinner was a big salad of mixed greens from the yard, some fresh asparagus and chicken from the farmer's market with fresh herbs from the back yard.

Up until this year I mostly grew ornamental stuff; I didn't realize what I was missing. I'm unbearably smug when I'm eating food I've raised myself.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shoes, Glorious Shoes!

One sure sign of spring, no matter what Mother Nature is doing - and she's been doing some pretty weird stuff this year - is that all of a sudden I hate every shoe in my closet.

Boots are boring. They're too hot and sticky, and they're . . . black. Or brown. Which suddenly seem like the most boring colors in the world to put on my feet.

Heels can be interesting, but once again, black and brown predominate in the fall/winter closet.

Flats are . . . flat, and don't really look good on my legs with shorter skirts.

Begone with you.

In the last week or two, I've made a few lunchtime excursions, and what you see here is what I've brought home.

(The other good thing about spring/summer shoe shopping is that I give myself permission to buy cheap shoes if they feel good. But only if they feel good. I'm rough on shoes to begin with, and summer ones just tend to fall apart faster, whether or not they're "good" shoes. So if Payless has something that makes my heart go pitter-pat, how can I say no for under $20?

Here, from Payless: brown and tan wedges, strappy and cute, only a little uncomfortable by the end of the first wearing. In my books, that's good. A real summer shoe can make you bleed.

Also from Payless (it's a block from my office) these strappy blue babies. Higher heel, but also chunkier and well balanced. No blisters on first wearing, wahoo!

From a little discount place on Chestnut Street whose name I shamefully don't even remember (because I was drawn in by the scent of shoes and failed to look at the sign), these Linea Roma pewter faux-snakeskin sandals - with skinny heels this time. Too cute. I looked at the black, then I looked at the brown. Then I looked at the balck and white faux snakeskin but of course they didn't come in my size, so I ended up with the pewter, which I am justifying to myself as very nearly gray. Just more metallic.

Last - but oh, so not least - from Buffalo Exchange, my favorite consignment shop, these. Kenneth Cole. Reaction. Adorable.

I have clothes that go with all these shoes, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to make more. See, I managed to bring it back to sewing. It is, always and forever, about the fabric.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

That's what friends are for

Anyone can tell you that you look bad, but can anyone but your oldest friend know exactly what to say to set you off?

Small pointless rant since the person I'm ranting at doesn't read my blog, or know that it exists (a person has to have some privacy, especially when ranting).

I finished all the work on the dress this afternoon during a marathon of hand sewing. I had it on and was in front of the full length mirror, trying to decide on a hem length when my housemate - and oldest friend - wanders past. I ask her opinion about the length, and she steps back and looks at me. And I can see it coming.

"Weeeeeell," she says, one hand on her bony hip (she compares herself regularly to a hippo, but I've got 30 lbs. on her, so that tells you). "It makes you look kinda . . . thick."

I wasn't asking if I looked thick. I wanted to know if the hem should stop above or below the knee.

But wait. She's not finished. "It must be the combination of fabrics," she says, and I can tell she's thinking hard. "This is your muslin, right?"

All together now. Deep breath, and . . . and SCREAM.

Okay, I'm better.

This isn't excusing her behavior, which was appalling and hurtful, but she's miserable. She hates her life and rather than working to make any of it better, she puts her efforts into bringing everyone down to her level. She wasn't always like that. It's kind of like a bad marriage; I spend a lot of time remembering the friend I loved, instead of the one I want to whomp over the head with my coverstitch machine.

On the plus side, the dress is done except for the hem, which I'm still thinking about. I really like it. I left off the belt loops because I'm thinking about doing the sash, either out of leftover bodice fabric or a chocolate brown that I have somewhere in the stash, but for the sake of the photos I added a belt.

Does it make Evelyn look thick?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jumping the line

So much for the jackets. I went into the workroom the other night, pressed off the green corduroy, pressed the creases out of my pattern pieces, and then started to cut out . . . Simplicity 2724.

Which, as you can see, isn't a jacket.

And these weren't even the fabrics I planned to use when I did make this dress.

On the other hand, I'm really liking the dress so far. I'm using the pleated neckline (I like all 3 variations, but I think I have a bit too much boobage for the ruffled variation), and I went for the full pleated skirt.

The next version of this dress - oh, and there will be many, because I love the idea of blouse-and-skirt without having to actually tuck anything in, and I love the idea of a high-waisted skirt without having to deal with the discomfort of wearing one.

One weird thing about this pattern - I don't know if it's because it's a Project Runway pattern and they're aiming for the slightly less experienced sewer, but the dress was unlined. That's an issue for me. When I first started sewing seriously, I would do anything to avoid putting a lining in a garment. It just seemed like such a pain.

Then I thought about it and realized that neatening a garment so that it looked good without a lining took even more work. Plus there's the practicality issue; it will wear better, last longer and wrinkle less if it's lined. And what's the point of spending all your time making something that you're not happy to wear? So I learned to love lining.

The fabrics here are tan RPL from Metro Textiles (I accidentally bought this fabric on two consecutive visits to Metro, so I have a lot of it), and an orange/cream/brown floral also from New York, purchased at a little store on 35th Street called Hollywood Fabrics. I think it's a poly crepe. I'm not 100% sure, but it refuses to hold an edge when pressed and it frays like crazy. On the plus side it's pretty, it drapes beautifully and it works with the RPL.

It was also sheerish, which made the lining absolutely necessary. (I guess I could have underlined, but I wanted to line the skirt as well, so what would be the point?) I'm using the 3/4 sleeve, without a lining, and I actually got the sleeves set in a little bit ago without too much fighting.

Note to self: I hate easing sleeves possibly more than anything else, definitely more than lining.

The dress has a nice vintage touch of having a side zipper, which I turned into an invisible side zipper. It's a little tough to get in and out of, but I saw that mentioned on Patternreview in a couple of reviews, so I know it's just part of the dress and not something I did.

All I have left at this point is mostly handwork - stitching the bands on the inside of the sleeves, tacking the lining to the zipper, tacking the lining to the dress at a few points to keep it from creeping, and hemming. At least I can machine-hem the lining, but I'll do a hand hem on the skirt.

Oh, and the big decision: length of skirt. Longer and it strikes me as more vintage, but it's a less flattering length. So there will be some thought put into that.

And BTW, that back view - those ripply, bubbly bits at the back waist? That's the lining not sitting properly. When I saw the photo I ran back into the room to look at the dress, and of course it doesn't look anywhere near as visible to the naked eye. But once the lining was smoothed down and pressed, it was nice and flat.

So I wonder which one of my two jacket patterns would look better made up in the tan RPL to match the dress I hadn't intended to make?