Sunday, January 31, 2010

Photo-Free Post

Today was my birthday. What did I do? Did I sew? Nope. Did I spend time with those nearest and dearest? Sort of.

Did I get anything done?

Hell, yes!

Mario and I went out for dinner last night, and this morning we got up and took the train to my aunt's duplex, where I met with a realtor, got the place listed, and started the final clearing out.

Honestly, that house is like the history of the appliance industry in the last half of the 20th century. When something broke, it got replaced. But the broken item never left, so there are 4 washers in the basement, including one of those old behemoths with a wringer. There are non-electric carpet sweepers, old upright Hoovers, portable vacuums and Dust-Busters, all deceased. There are half a dozen irons, one actually meant to be heated on the stove (okay, that one came home as a curiosity). It's a museum of broken stuff.

There were pink snap-on curlers, metal wave clips, bobby pins, hair pins, hair nets, cake rouge in alarming shades of apricot and fuchsia, powder puffs and lots of dried perfume bottles. I made the mistake of putting a spot of the pink rouge on my cheek, and 6 hours later, I still can't get it off. No wonder they looked like dolls.

One of my best friends met us there in the afternoon and we brought a load of stuff home - vintage sheets, old cookware, two old metal watering cans that are way too cool for my garden, doilies, gloves, hankies and yet more linens.

I also found my great aunt Violet's mink coat buried in the back of a closet. I don't wear fur, but this is from the 1940s - complete with Joan Crawford shoulders - and I couldn't let it go in the thrift store pile. There's some dry rot, but overall the skins are in good condition; only the silk lining is in shreds. I'll hang it up for a while and consider what I could do with it, if anything.

I'm tired, and I could have found more fun ways to spend my birthday, but I feel better for having gotten this process under way. Fingers crossed that it sells quickly and I can stop thinking about it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

We're almost there

Is there anything better than a sewing epiphany?

Right now, I'm not feeling like there is. It's reached the stage where it's no longer the Blue Atrocity. It's the blue something "that's not really so bad after all," which is one giant leap forward.

Last night we watched Project Runway and she tried on the dress with the pieces pinned to the bodice. The bodice still fit with the pins in, so that was good. After she left, I put the dress on Evelyn - it's remarkably too small for her, as I think I've said before - and I stared at it for a while.

The slightly dropped waist was beginning to bother me, but not enough that I was going to pick out the invisible zipper and move the waistline up. No, no, no. It's a costume. Repeat after me: it's a costume. Stop obsessing. It just has to last out the run. Which is blessedly short.

I took down the lightweight netting and fiddled with it again. I had one strip left over that I didn't use on the bodice, and I turned it into a waistband so I could put the net under it. Hmm.

Maybe we're on to something here? Dulls the shine, makes it look less bridesmaidy. Okay, keep going.

Tonight while watching the repeat of the President's question-and-answer session on MSNBC - a sad comment on the state of television in this country that politics is almost always more interesting than what's on the networks or cable - I did all the hand-sewing on the bodice.

Once that was done with, I made up an actual waistband. Then I took the 2 yards of netting, folded it in half and cut it, then gathered it and sewed it to the waistband. I sewed up the side seam as invisibly as I could, which was not very since the thread shows right through. Hopefully it's an active role.

Now all I have left to do is try the dress on her one last time so I can mark the hem, trim the netting, if necessary, and tack the waistband / overskirt to the dress.

Here's where it is right now, on the sewing table. Honestly, it's nowhere near as bad as I thought it was.

This project has taken way too much thought. Every time I lay hands on the fabric, I have another idea of how it might be able to work.

It's a good thing I'm at the end of the project, because I'm almost at the end of my supplies. I still have the lining fabric left, because I haven't lined the dress yet. There's 1.5 yards of blue crinoline net, which I'm not sure will get used at this point.

I can't wait to sew something for ME.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A little attitude goes a long way

It's still a blue atrocity, but there's a little hope on the horizon.

Having its intended wearer put it on and strike a few Norma Desmond-type poses, made me feel a lot better.

It's still a shiny, unattractive, wrong-colored mess, but this I can work with.

Since I was building the bustier portion of the dress without having her around to try the dress on, I didn't actually realize that I was pinning the skirt lower on the waist than I actually wanted to, and I could technically unpick the skirt from the zip and move it up a ways, but we decided, staring into the mirror and at the drawing and at each other, to leave it where it is.

Earlier tonight, I took the pins out of the skirt and sewed it to the bodice and ironed it down. It looked more or less okay, so that was good enough for that step.

We're also going for a narrower skirt, more like the original design than the pattern. I think that she can muster up an attitude that rustles without actually having a full petticoat to back her up.

I think she's ready for her closeup, don't you?

Now that the structure is finished, I'm playing with the leftover fabric to figure out how I'm going to make the petals/ strips/ whatever they are that overlap on the bodice. I'm going to wrap them down to the waist and drape over the hip, which will also disguise the dropped waist seam.

I'm also thinking - and I may be wrong - that the more places I can break up the flat shiny surface, the less egregious it will look. Yes?

I'm also still planning to alternate the bodice piecing with shiny and matte. Aside from the designer's request, I couldn't use as much of the reverse as I would like, because there were scuff marks on it (how long did Joann's have this stuff around, anyway?) and the perma-crease is more obvious on that side. But some of it will work.

As for the back, it will fit better than it does in the photo. First off, she was only in the house for 5 minutes and I didn't have the heat on, so there are jeans with pocket flaps under that skirt. Yes, in a perfect world I think she could have used a swayback adjustment, but I didn't know that and without street clothes underneath, everything will sit better.

Fingers crossed.

She'll be back tomorrow night to watch Project Runway - is everybody as happy with this season as I am? Compared to last year's crap? - and I want to have something for her to try on that's worth actually taking off her street clothes. That's not too much to ask.

Right now I'm doing laundry, watching the State of the Union, catching up on blog reading and checking in to see how the PR Weekend planning is coming along.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Curses! Foiled Again

Or, the underside of the fabric is marked upa nd I'm going ot have to use the shiny side of the satin.


So here we have the basic structure. I constructed the satin bodice, basted it to the denim, and installed the invisible zip on the left side. Which of course meant that I had to cut out the skirt from that crappy, shiny satin. Which has a permanent fold mark in it (thanks, Joann!) that I can't get completely pressed out.

The skirt isn't as full as the pattern drawing, but that's actually okay because big, gathered and shiny is just too nightmarish. The skirt is actually only attached right now on either side of the zipper - the rest is just loosely pinned to the bodice, which is still open on the right side in case I need to do any further fitting/tweaking next time I see the intended wearer / victim.

My dilemma now is what to do about the bodice. I can still do the petals or whatever it was that I was doing. I can even do them in the reverse of the fabric if I want - she okayed that - but I'm having a small reconsider. Being thwarted does that to a person.

One thing I'm thinking right now is instead of the petal effect, do something similar to the pattern drawing bodice, in the reverse side. The shiny will still show on the back and a bit in the center, and of course in all that skirt. Thankfully it will get hemmed and be considerably shorter, though still abominably shiny.

Another thought I had was to use the gauzy net (it looks almost like organza) and somehow envelop the whole dress in that. Overskirt, use it on the petals, the whole works. It's an interesting effect over the satin; it does at least minimize the worst of the shine and make it look a little less prom-ish.

You don't have to tell me - right now, it looks like a hot mess on Evelyn. The fact that I can't zip it up on her doesn't help. Neither does the shine, which emphasizes every crease I haven't flattened yet, and every ripple that will go away once there's a body in the dress.

I know it'll work, and I know whatever I decide to do with it will be an improvement, but I'm going to be really glad to send this one on its way.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Light Bulb Moment

The other night my friend wondered why we couldn't use the lining fabric for the outside of the dress, and while I liked the color, the quality and texture weren't really any better than the satin.

Friday night I was out to dinner with Mario, grousing about working on this dress, and all of a sudden I had an almost-idea - you know, that foggy feeling in your head that you know, if it clears, the answer might. just. be. behind. it.

I went home and stared at the fabric for a while, and then I had it.

Use the reverse of the satin. It's not flat; it's a matte finish, and has a bit of the nubby texture of the satin without the godawful glare.

I had already cut out all the pieces, so I pinned the front of the bodice on and looked at it. It still has some sheen, but without the extra shine, the color didn't look as drab.

I had the designer's sketch handy, and I started folding the other bodice pieces, alternating right and wrong sides, to see if I could somehow create the scalloped effect of the original design.

Obviously these pieces are just folded and pinned in place, but I think I might have something here. The alternating matte-to-shiny at least adds some variation to what would otherwise be a dismal, shiny dress. Once I get the bodice fitted on Jen and calculate how much fabric I need for the skirt, I can start playing with the leftover pieces and see if I can salvage something from this mess.

I'm beginning to feel just slightly hopeful.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Doing it My Way

If I have to make a dress out of crappy fabric, I'm going to make the dress I want to make and not use the pattern that the designer picked out. Yes, it's probably harder than just following the pattern instructions, but isn't the fun of sewing in the challenge?

The other night, prior to ranting here, I traced off a BWOF strapless bodice and pinned it together. Last night, my friend came over to watch Project Runway, and I pinned her into it. With only minor tweaking, it fit well enough that I felt comfortable going forward - and she felt comfortable with the idea of using this design instead of that McCall's pattern, which just doesn't look stable enough for a 2 hour performance.

I also felt better when she saw the dress fabrics on my table and wrinkled her nose. Her question was, "Can you use the nice blue fabric on the outside and line the dress with the satin?" That might be taking doing it my way a little far, but I would prefer it - at least for the color. That ice blue is really dreary.

After she left, I took the pinned bodice pieces apart and made the changes. Obviously I needed some kind of stiffening for the bodice, but (a) the designer didn't provide me with any interfacing and I'm running low, and (b) it needed way more than interfacing. I rummaged in the scrap bin and came up with a half yard of denim and traced around my pattern pieces onto that. With the dark side facing in so the color doesn't show through, I can sew the boning to the inside to add structure, and build the satin bodice and lay it right over this inner construction.

I sewed it all together, pressed it, and added a temporary side zipper. Once I get the satin on the outside and hang a skirt off the whole assembly, I'll add an invisible zip, but for now I just wanted to see the shape.

She's coming over again tomorrow to check the fit of the denim, and I'll either tweak it again or just start building the satin on top of it. Making it look better - and hopefully more like the original design - will come later. Right now, I'm concentrating on fit and keeping the dress up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear

At least that's what I'm hoping for. Fingers crossed, everyone!

Tonight the costumer dropped off the fabrics for my friend's costume for the upcoming play. Her design is at right. The only change she decided on was a fuller skirt, so it would make nice swishy noises while onstage. Okay. And I liked the nice vivid blue, though she said the final version might be a bit lighter. A bit.

At left are the supplies she dropped off. I was trepidatious even before I opened the bag, since the bag was from JoAnn's. I know they can have nice stuff, but the nice stuff is not in the budget for a local theater company. Their budget is polyester all the way. And she didn't disappoint.

When I first saw the pattern, I flinched. McCalls 5382 looks nothing like the sketch above, and not much like what I feel like making. I looked it up on Patternreview, though, and it got overall good reviews, and there were some cute dresses, so I'm not feeling too negative.

My problem: the costumer saw my expression when she showed me the pattern. I said that it was pretty, but I really preferred the original design. She said she did, too, but you work with what's out there. "Unless," she said, "you feel like making it your way."

Do I feel like making it my way? I've got 2.5 yards of ice blue cheapy satin, 2 yards of blue lining (also cheapy), a yard (a yard!!) of boning, some crinoline net and about 1.5 yards of very faux organza. Which is actually the prettiest fabric in the bunch.

Should I do it? Should I wing it and try to make something that looks like the original design, which all of us - designer, actress and seamstress - all like better? It's the straplessness and the fit that are the issues, really, not either of the designs. If I can get a good fit on a strapless bodice on Jen, the rest will do itself.

I looked through the BWOF archive, and came up with a basic strapless bodice on a wedding gown. I could still use the McCalls skirt, which is the fullness that the designer wants. I traced off the bodice onto Swedish tracing paper, pinned it together and pressed the seams.

Then I called my frien dand told her that when she comes over for Project Runway after rehearsal tomorrow, to make sure that she's wearing her strapless bra because we're going to spend the commercials building a bodice on her. If I can get the tracing paper bodice to fit her, I'll use it as the interfacing which the costumer failed to get.

Oh, and did I mention, they need it next week. Let's see, office happy hour tomorrow, Project Runway tomorrow night post-happy hour, family wedding on Saturday, meeting with my aunt's realtor on Sunday . . . yeah, I can knock out a strapless dress by next Wednesday or Thursday.

A strapless dress out of soft poly satin, with no interfacing at all and only one yard of boning? When pigs fly.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Things happen for a reason

The weekend: and a good time was had by all.

Yesterday we woke up and it wasn't January outside. I actually got to spend a few hours mucking around in my back yard, which always improves my mood. On the other hand, the unnaturally warm weather has my hyacinths above ground already, which isn't good for them. I covered them up with straw, and also covered my sprouting garlic, which seems premature as well.

Then I found out from a neighbor that it was half price day at the thrift store, so I headed off down the street to see what there was to see. I picked up a pair of pants for me to cut up - Talbots, silk/wool blend, pleated front and very full legs. I think they want to be a skirt.

Before we met up with some friends for dinner, I found out that my previously posted BWOF wadder isn't a wadder after all. It's my friend's new dress, when I get around to finishing it. To add insult to injury, it's actually too big in the hips and boobs, so I can actually use more than 1/8" seam allowances. Skinny b*tch.

But I guess it's better than throwing it out. I just made her promise she wouldn't wear it around me until the sting went out of it.

I also found out that I'll be making another dress for her - for an upcoming local theater production . Thankfully I have a while, because the costume designer came up with a pale blue strapless number that's going to be a bit of a challenge. After she sent me the drawing, she changed the design to make it a full-skirted cocktail dress, because the character has to make a grand entrance and there needs to be some skirt-swishing. She also suggested taffeta, which set my hair on end. Can we not? For one or two wearings, maybe, but for a 3 hour show, under hot lights, for 24 performances? How about a rustly taffeta petticoat underneath and a more durable fabric for the dress?

Today I spent slogging around in the rain, visiting my aunt, thawing out in her tropical 80 degree apartment, then going back out in the rain. I spent 3 hours traveling back and forth, and only 2 hours visiting. Somehow that's just wrong.

MLK Day tomorrow, but I have to work. Law firms like holidays when the courts close - it gives them time to catch up.

Tomorrow after work is the first official planning meeting for Philadelphia's Patternreview Weekend, which is going to be held on May 14-16, 2010. Details to follow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Riddle me this -

Did I make a wadder? Is it a new dress for my size-smaller friend with similar coloring? Or is it a pencil skirt waiting to happen?

When January's BWOF arrived before Christmas, I dove right in. As has happened a lot lately, I wasn't tremendously impressed. I did, however, like #117, the petite faux-wrap dress.

I've had some good results with BWOF petite patterns before - I am under 5'4", after all - and the one time I made a petite top, I un-petited it and got a pretty good result. So for this dress, I decided to wing it and not muslin.

When the sewing gods decide to pay you back after a string of successful projects, they have a particularly dark sense of humor.

I'm a 38 in BWOF. In BWOF petites, I'm a 19. This dress was for dress fabrics with "some stretch." The fabric I had on hand had some stretch, but I wasn't certain that it had enough stretch, so I cut really wide seam allowances.

But not wide enough. Apparently. Since I look like a sausage about to split out of its casing. Especially the back view - check out that rippling hipline. Ack.

I don't look like that.

As for the top, it's tight. Tight, I tell you. While I did un-petite, I didn't do an FBA. I've never done an FBA with BWOF, so I didn't even consider it. Plus, even though it's not a true wrap, the structure of the faux wrap looked like there would be plenty of room for the girls. But thinking about it now, maybe BWOF petite people have petite boobs. Mine aren't. They're not more than average, but they certainly didn't fit well in this dress. I think I managed to achieve the always-attractive mono-boob look here.

And can I tell you that I'm annoyed that I put in one of my best invisible zippers ever here, and the dress is so tight around my hips that the zipper actually looks skewed. It's not, honest and truly.

At this point, while the sleeves are cut out, they're not being sewn on. The sides are only basted together, at the furthest edges of the seam allowance. I haven't hand-stitched the facings in place, either, because I'm really assuming that this will get torn apart and made into the skirt this fabric was probably intended to be anyway.

I emailed my friend Jen, who got married last year in my great-aunt's wedding dress, and asked her if she wanted to come over to watch Project Runway tomorrow night and try the dress on.

She made me promise not to mutilate it until she tried it on.

Okay, I promise. But get here soon, because this is really bugging me.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fear not the pocket

Everyone has that one thing that they're afraid to do. The mental block you can't climb over. The one sewing trick that makes your stomach knot up and sweat break out in your bra.

Mine is welt pockets.

It used to be invisible zippers, but that was before I got a good invisible zipper foot and realized that welt pockets were within my grasp. Once I realized that I could do them, the idea of doing them made me queasy.

Still does.

I've been talking about learning to do them for ages. I even did a faux-welt pockets on my recycled jacket last year. In leather. So I know that technically it's possible to do them, but I got off the hook on the jacket since there was no space to actually put a pocket; I just needed something there to break up the tweed and leather welts seemed more interesting than a pocket flap. And since they were just ornamental, I didn't have to worry if they were technically right.

But New Year's came around, and my only real resolution this year was to beat these little suckers into submission. I dug out all my best sewing books, all my back issues of Threads that had welt pocket (or bound buttonhole) tutorials, and I read until my eyes crossed. I printed out Kathleen Fasanella's tutorials, which everyone recommended highly. Again, I read until my eyes crossed.

I'm sure that Kathleen, and all the books, and all the Threads articles were very clear. They have to be, or no one would know how to make welt pockets. But can I tell you that I just could not get my head around some of the directions?

Which is ridiculous. My one thought on starting this whole process was, "I'm too good at what I do not to be able to do this."

So back to the bookshelf I went, looking for some other source that would explain it in a way I could understand. I pulled out an issue of Vogue's pattern magazine from August/September 2009, and there was an article called "No Fail Welt Pockets" by Pati Palmer. I read the (profusely illustrated) instructions. I didn't get it, completely, but I got enough of what she was saying that I decided this would be the method I'd try.

I dug through the remnant bin and came up with some cotton left over from one of Mario's summer shirts. Loaded up the machine with leftover bobbins and thread - I figured the more visible the thread, the better - and started in. Pati's instructions are actually really good. I was able to follow along, occasionally stopping to scratch my head, but I got from Step 1 to Step 22 in . . . 2 hours, the first time.

All in all, not a bad first result. You'll see where I circled at the outside corner - the stabilizing stitches are showing, and I can't figure out exactly why. Did I cut too far? Not far enough? Should I have backstitched on the long sides of the welt to make sure it didn't wiggle like this? The pocket itself is stable - I pinned the whole construction to my dress form, dumped some notions in it and left it to hang overnight, and it didn't bag - so that at least is good. Any ideas what's wrong in that corner, though?

Pocket #2 (in the scraps from Mario's jacket) only took 40 minutes, so apparently at least there's a learning curve here! In the instructions, Pati only mentions interfacing/stabilizing the fabric that you're inserting the pocket into. I think interfacing of the welts themselves probably depends on the fabric you're using. In the crisp cotton of Pocket #1, it wasn't necessary. In the heavier, more drapy wool of Pocket #2, the welts would have benefited from a bit of beefing up because they seem a little wishy-washy and inclined to not hold their edge.

And again, look where I've marked at the corners. It did it again. Grrr. Need to figure out what I'm doing wrong here.

Maybe now that I've absorbed one person's way of making welt pockets, I can go back to the other sources and see the difference - try out one or two of theirs and see if I get a different result. But for now, that's enough.

I faced my fear. I made 2 pockets. I did not get sick on my cutting table. That alone is good enough right now, as are the pockets. Good enough can, sometimes, be good enough. The more I make, the better they'll get. And if I stop using contrasting thread, that little line of stitching won't be as obvious (until I figure out how to make it go away).

Last, and loudest, one more quick KS 3338 tshirt from a 3/4 yard remnant I got at Jomar last summer. I loved the print but I wasn't sure there was enough of it to do anything with it. I was figuring on one of those Ottobre tank/camisoles I made last year, but when I flattened it out and laid out the t-shirt pattern pieces, I managed to get them all on, so long as I used the shortest sleeve variation. It'll be good for either warm weather or under a plain jacket. That's a fabric that would fight back paired with anything else.

And yes, Evelyn has grown arms. My housemate had a display body that she used as a dress form, but now that she no longer sews I liberated its detachable arms and they're pinned to Evelyn's shoulders. If they get repossessed, I'll make her a new set - it really helped with working on the plaid jacket.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Collars

When Mario and I went to Florence in October, he bought shirts. Maybe that seems like a silly thing for him to buy, considering how many I make for him, but I was all in favor of it. The man loves shirts; I can only make so many before I get bored, and nice, affordable shirting fabric is hard to come by.

Besides, I was interested in Italian shirts and what - if anything - makes them different from American shirts, so I encouraged his purchases.

The shirts are slim-cut, as opposed to the more classic straight cut that he normally favors. I've measured the difference between his new shirts and his old ones, because even though he always claimed to not like fitted shirts, he likes these better. And they look better on him.

But it's the collars that really got me. The photo at top right is one of his old shirts (old as in thrift store, not as in made by me). But either way, the collar is the same. Straight edge, standard.

The second photo at left is one of his Italian shirts. Look at the shape. The outer curve may look a little funky with a striped fabric, but when it's buttoned, it lays better and has a much nicer fit.

When you look at the two collars together (3rd photo), you can really see how different they are. Not to mention that the Italian shirts feels like its interfacing has interfacing. Those collars and cuffs are stiff - but somehow not uncomfortable. (He'd have mentioned that).

Look at how different they appear buttoned, even just on my cutting table. Sorry, couldn't get my model for this. He'll try on a garment and let me take photos if I'm working on something, but posts for the sake of talking about pattern drafting, he doesn't get.

Besides, he's tired of hearing me obsess about welt pockets and he went upstairs to his office so I could go off to the workroom to practice them without feeling like I was neglecting him. So what am I doing? Stealth typing. Nary a welt pocket in sight.

Do I even need to mention that in addition to noting the changed measurements in the body of the shirt, I've traced off this new and interesting collar and there's another shirt in the works for him shortly. You know how it is - you see something new, you have to try it out, right?

By the way, voting is open for the Menswear Contest over at Patternreview until January 11th. Mario would be thrilled if you cast a vote in favor of "his" jacket, but either way, head on over there and look at some of the fabuluos garments some very lucky men are going to wear this year. Now that we've all finished sewing for them, there's gonna be a whole lot of selfish sewing going on.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sewing Resolutions for 2010

Interestingly, I looked back at my blog to see what my 2009 resolutions were, and all I found was a recap of my 2008 resolutions, with a promise of 2009 to follow, except they never did. Was I not feeling very resolute?

What I also noticed was that several of my 2008 resolutions still hadn't been met. Sewing new curtains for the dining room and the kitchen, despite having the fabrics on hand - and actually buying replacement fabric for the kitchen curtains that I liked better back in October - had not been done. I've been letting them linger for more than 2 years why?

I don't know why. I sat down yesterday afternoon, cut into my nice new Marimekko fabric I bought in October at the Crate & Barrel outlet in North NJ, and made new kitchen curtains. 3 windows and a valance. In an afternoon. It took me 2 years why?

Other than that, I seem like I'm sticking pretty well to the goals I set for myself 2 years ago: I've sewn a LOT of stash. I added up my purchases and yards sewn for 2009, and I came pretty close to parity - yards in, 151.5; yards out 148.75. Of course, that doesn't include the scrap fest which was sewing for the craft show, and it doesn't count all the refashioned/recycled projects for the year. If they'd been "real fabric" (cuts of at least 1/2 yard), I could have counted them.

And the last 11 yards of fabric I purchased are actually for next year's craft show items, so I'm debating whether I should subtract them from my totals because they were bought with craft show proceeds, not my sewing budget, and for the specific purpose of selling next year. I really only consider it stash when it's fabric that calls to me. That would take my yards in down to 140.5, which I think sounds a lot better.

I've also done a bit of sewing with the "good" fabric this year. I think I'm finally over buying good fabric and not using it. Buying good fabric and holding on to it until the right project comes along is one thing, but not holding onto it forever. There IS a right project out there, and I can find it, if I try. Quite a bit of fabric this year has come in and gone right back out, which makes me happy in one sense but worried about the elderly stash in another.

So the resolutions for 2010 are:

1. Make those damn curtains for the dining room! I'm not going to give myself a goal of doing it in January, but by spring, at the latest.

2. The welt pocket thing. Why do I have such a mental block about them? I have some nice wool scraps. Fear not the pocket.

3. Continue to sew stash. Look through it again with an eye toward sewing up some of the stuff that's been sitting the longest. If I loved it enough to buy it, then I should sew it. If not, then it goes into the giveaway bag.

4. The giveaway bag. Decide what to do with the contents of same.

5. Pattern magazines. I almost gave my up BWOF subscription because they haven't been exciting for the last several months, but at the last minute I caved and renewed. Sew more from my BWOF (or whatever it's called these days), and from the few La Mia Boutique, Ottobre and Patrones magazines I have.

6. Downloaded patterns. I have quite a few Burdastyle and Hotpatterns that I've downloaded. I don't actually mind taping them together, I just haven't gotten around to it. But there are some cute patterns there, and some of them I've even paid for. Tape while watching TV with Mario. I can call it spending quality time.

7. Neatness counts. Keep the workroom at least semi-neat. I made a lot of upgrades this year - added the larger table, good lighting and the new counter space. I have two small dressers with labeled drawers for specific things. I have 2 shelving units and a stash closet. There's absolutely no reason why the room should look like a trash heap half the time. The stuff all has places; try at least once a week to put it in those places.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

For every action

There is an equal and opposite reaction. Isn't that what they say?

Well, apparently the reaction to two highly structured, interfaced and fitted jackets in a row is a knit top binge.

Two days, two tops . . . and a third top on the table on the third day. Somebody stop me!

I did give myself this weekend to start the year off right, though, and sew to my heart's content. Mario's had plenty of his own stuff to do, so we've been meeting up over dinner and for an hour or so on the couch before bedtime, but he's been puttering on the computer (being off work for the holiday is getting to him) and I've been happily sewing.

Since I ordered some new knits from, clearing off the knit shelves seemed like the obvious thing to do - and besides, I wanted instant gratification here. Which I got, except for the twisted bands on the first top. BWOF's instructions there made me a little batty.

It's based on a BWOF plus size pattern (4/2008 #128). I was thinking about using this style for a dress with one of the new knits, so I decided to give it a test drive with this remnant that I bought last year from Spandex House. The smallest size the pattern came in was 44, and I'm generally a 38 in BWOF, so I guessed/ graded it down to my size. Fairly successfully, but I don't know that my half-assed technique would work as well in a woven. Knits are much more forgiving.

I also pulled a Carolyn and decided not to reinvent the wheel and grade the back pattern piece to my size when I already had my TNT tshirt pattern (KS 3338) on the table. It's already fits, and I could guesstimate the accuracy of the front pieces by it. I also ended up using the KS sleeves, leaving them at 3/4 length because of fabric limitations and adding a wide band of the same contrast fabric I used for the twist.

One modification I made which was not entirely intentional: the gathers/drape under the twist aren't meant to be there. I'm not sure if I made the the lower panel too wide, the twist band too short, or somehow misjudged in between, but as I was pinning the lower to the upper I found this extra fabric in the middle. I debated taking the pieces apart and narrowing the lower panel, but then I thought about how the whole top would look as snug as the upper bodice is, and decided that a little extra fabric might actually be flattering. The top is seriously boobs-on-a-plate, but without obvious cleavage. Interesting.

The second top is KS 3338, straight out of the envelope. I also ended up with 3/4 sleeves here, because I had not quite a yard of this fabric. There was enough left over along the sides that I could cut 2 pieces, gather them and add flounces to the sleeves for a little something different.

Obviously I'm not going for shy and retiring on either of these tops. The second top isn't a keeper, in the long run. The fabric is a fairly cheap t-shirt knit from my local shop. I bought it because of the colors and the print reminded me of something I had when I was a kid, but the quality isn't as nice as I thought and I'm not sure how many washings it will survive.

BTW, on a completely different topic here, can I ask you all where men come from, and why their brains are so different than ours?

Mario has been obsessing about the Menswear Contest over on Patternreview. Is it done yet? Is there voting? Can I see how many votes his jacket has gotten? Yes, the contest is done. No, voting isn't over, and no, I can't see how many votes your jacket has gotten, and if it doesn't get any, or it doesn't win, is that going to invalidate the jacket completely so that you won't wear it?

Why do they judge things differently? I entered the contest so I'd have to finish the jacket; he's all about the competition. And money. Can't forget that - of all the stuff I've made this year, he thinks the craft show items were the best because I got money for those. I could get money for anything I make, if I felt like working my butt off for sweatshop wages. One of the women in my office admired my new plaid jacket the other day and asked if she gave me $40, could I make one for her sister.

Honey, that wouldn't even cover the fabric.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Best of 2009

A lot of fabric went through the machine this year. A lot.

I looked at the numbers for the year: garments made, yardage in and out, and I decided to concentrate on my favorite pieces for the year, and why.

Like numbers on the scale, yardage and numbers made don't mean all that much, so long as you're happy.

I'm happy with what I made.

In and amongst the 10 jackets that made their way out of the sewing room this year, one of my favorites was the raspberry iridescent trench jacket. It's not one of the most frequently worn pieces, but I enjoyed the process on this one more than the result - wrestling the sticky-backed vinyl, the quilted lining, adding the trench details, finding just the right buttons.

Sometimes it's about the process.

Though it's better when you wear it, of course.

One of my other good moments this sewing year was conquering jeans. There was definitely a run on jeans sewing over at Patternreview, and I caught the bug a little late. I also never got around to trying the famous Jalie jean pattern (I'll get there yet), but I made several pairs of the Ottobre jeans, and I like how they fit me. Considering how hard it is to find a pair of jeans that fit, this alone makes these worthy of the year-end list. Finally, a pair of black jeans that fits.

Wahoo for sew-yer-own.

Quite a few things for others got sewn this year as well. The final numbers were 7 pieces for Mario, shirts and t-shirts and, of course, the Christmas jacket. 'Nuff said on that particular project.

Most recently is the BWOF zip front jacket that literally was the last project of 2009. Nice to end on a high note. For those who wanted to see it on me, here you are. There are a few more pictures over at the PR review, as well.

I love this jacket. Not only is it part of my pledge to use the good stuff, it's made more meaningful because I bought the fabric while we were on vacation in Florence, so it's a wearable souvenir that is exactly what I wanted.

As far as using up the good stuff, I think that was covered by the vest I made with the Versace embroidered velvet I purchased at A Fabric Place during the PR Baltimore shopping day in summer 2008. It was, hands down, the most expensive fabric I've ever purchased, and I couldn't even afford a yard. So it stayed in the stash for a while, partly because I was afraid to cut into it, but it also needed a very specific pattern. I haven't worn this a whole lot, but now that it's cold out - and cold in my office - it will be a good extra layer. I'll take it out of the closet so I remember to wear it this coming week.

2009 was also a big year of refashioning and recycling for me. I can't help it; I have a great thrift store down the street and recycling gives me an excuse to buy lots of stuff made from beautiful fabrics that aren't my size. The jacket pictured here is a BWOF pattern constructed from a pair of men's tweed pants and some remnants of leather. And it has my only successful welt pockets to date (okay, so they're faux welt, because there's no depth to the jacket to add a pocket bag, but still, the welts are there, and they're relatively even. It counts).

Another favorite this year, which has gotten worn a few times but not as many as it deserves, is the black and white pinstriped Fatina dress from Burdastyle. It's a cute little pattern that I made twice, but what makes this one special to me is the trim. And since I'm generally embellishment-challenged, I was really pleased that I took the risk and decorated the hell out of the neckline on this one.

Most summer clothes aren't as challenging, and since one of the things I really love about sewing is the challenge, not many summer pieces make it onto my year-end personal best list. My cherry dress did, because it also encompassed a challenge - making my own piping, and inserting it everywhere without blowing a blood vessel.

I made this dress twice, once without the flounce and in a more subdued pattern, and then I made this. Every once in a while you just need to make a dress that makes you smile every time you put it on. This is one of those dresses. It cracks me up, and it makes everyone around me smile.

So there we have it. My personal best of 2009. There are a few runners-up that didn't make it on to the list, but while they were good - and while I wore some of them (like the lined cardigan) more often than a lot of these pieces, they didn't have the challenge factor involved. Every piece pictured here caused me to sweat for one reason or another, and that's a big part of what I love about sewing, the mental challenge.

Though right now, after 2 fitted, lined jackets - his and hers - I'm all about quickie knit tops. It's the first of January, and I'm on my 2nd top.