Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Month End Review - June 2010

June was productive.

What June was, mostly, though, was hot. And heat makes me retreat to the sewing room, where the air conditioning is.

June also had a few empty spots, which I filled with craft show sewing. Because I'd been neglecting that lately and I need more stock if I'm going to participate again this year, which I am.

So the highlights for June are here - the Chocolate Swirl dress, on me (headless, of course). I wanted to wear it yesterday, but yesterday was 95 and tropically humid, and even though the dress is lined and I know that linen wrinkles, I really didn't feel like looking like a crumpled tissue. Today the temperature dropped back to June, so it went out for a test drive.

I like it.

Another project for June is another version of New Look 6429 in a completely atypical print. When was the last time you've seen me in bright pink? With purple? Photo to follow soon, hopefully. Had a little difficulty with the neckline facing on that dress, which is annoying since I've made it twice before, but every once in a while a familiar pattern throws you a new curve ball. I got it to the wearable point, but I might pick the neckline out again and redo it.

Then again, I might not. It all depends on how I'm feeling about it the next time I put it on.

Mario's shirt is one of my favorite projects in recent memory, (a) because I like making shirts, and (b) because of the color. I like the contrast fabric I used on this project, and I think even though it gave me a few problems, it came out well. Going by his reaction, it's one of the best things I've ever made him.

The craft show sewing consisted of 14 pieces. Yes. 14. I bought an embroidered brocade gown at the thrift store recently, thinking I could cut it up into a few of the small bags I made last year. It stretched to 11 bags. Can I tell you just how sick I was of that fabric by the time I was done? On the other hand, the cost of materials for each bag, including fabric, lining and zipper, was about $1.00 apiece, so I can't argue with that.

Lastly (or actually firstly, since I think it was the earliest project of the month) was the Burda pencil skirt in the stretch black with eyelet border. I've worn this a few times already and can see it becoming a summer favorite.

Once again, I have no specific "next project" lined up, which means I should either trace or do craft show sewing, but neither of those things is how I want to spend my upcoming holiday weekend, so I'd better come up with something in a hurry.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chocolate Swirl Dress

It's 11:30 p.m. and it's still a balmy 85 degrees outside. Inside, it's about 95, at least in the rooms without AC. Which explains the name of the dress, somewhat.

I gave in today and turned the AC on in the workroom, which made at least 3 kitties even happier than I was. Who knew they could sleep that long - and get along so well - all for the sake of a few cooling breezes?

As you can see, I did manage to get the linen dress finished, and if the overall linen-y wrinkledness is any indication, it should look a treat when exposed to outdoor humidity! But that's what linen does, and I'll accept that. At least it doesn't have a waistband to get all baggy.

The final version of the dress ended up being slightly different than my original sketch - there are five panels on each side, not 3, because 3 just seemed to be too wide and I thought I'd end up feeling like a barrel. Five - 6 in the back, with an invisible zip in the center - seemed like a more reasonable width.

Despite getting good advice to line the bodice with cotton batiste, it turned out I didn't have any. Since the linen wasn't too heavy, I used it for the bodice lining. Admission: I also already had an extra bodice cut out, because I cut the first one without a seam allowance at the bottom. So when I realized I had no batiste, I took it as a sign to get rid of the evidence of my mistake.

The skirt lining is made from a poly blend voile I got from a PR member for cheaps. I wouldn't have used it if the dress was more snug, because I'm not sure how much it breathes, but since there's some air in the skirt, I decided it would be okay.

The hardest part was figuring out the eventual length of the dress, and the width of the hem band. I cut about 3" off the dress as it was last seen here, and cut a 4.5" wide band the length of the hem. I pressed 1/4" on one side, and used a 1/4" seam allowance when attaching it to the dress. I could have maybe gone a tiny bit wider, but I think a 2" band works well.

One of the things I like about the dress is the way the stripes are tapered. I started in the center and used straight lines, but I wasn't sure what to do about the outside edges, where the pattern pieces curved. I decided not to change the width of all the stripes to reflect the outer curve, which in the end gives the effect of me having more shape than I do.

Yay for optical illusions!

I got the June Burda yesterday, and I'm considering what to make next. There are, as I thought, a few pieces that interest me, but I think the next project up is another variation on my all time favorite knit dress, New Look 6429. I bought some inexpensive knits recently from an Ebay vendor and one of them is clamoring to be that dress. We'll see if it gets its way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Not as much done as I would have hoped, but considering that when I came home from work today I had to spend an hour or so in the back yard clearing up the wreckage from this afternoon's storm (50+ mph winds, hail, way too much rain, all occurring in near 100 degree heat), and then there's this pesky thing called eating dinner, and then we decided to make raspberry sorbet, I didn't get into the workroom until after 9:00 p.m.

On the plus side, the AC is on in there, I didn't have to sew in my underwear, and I didn't stick to my dress as I worked on it.

Last night I put the strips together to form the skirt pieces. Tonight I sewed the bust darts, sewed the tops to the bottoms, inserted the invisible zipper after a long search to find where I'd put my new zipper stash, and then I spent a painful hour hopping in and out of my pinned-together dress.

Somehow - again - this dress has gone from shift-shaped to sheath-shaped. Interesting how in my quest for a specific shape, I always choose the same one, even when I don't intend to.

Tomorrow, the lining, and figuring out the width of the hem band.

Stay cool, everyone.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It comes from the strangest places sometimes.

A week or two ago, I stopped in Dress Barn, a store I generally don't frequent. I needed a necklace to go with something and I knew they'd have racks of useful costume stuff. (I'd already been to H&M, but you know you're having a bad day when even the beads look too young for you).

Surprisingly, not only did Dress Barn have what I wanted jewelry-wise, they had a crapload of really cute clothes.

I checked, and the quality still isn't there, but whoever is doing their designing these days is doing some really fun stuff. And it's the kind of clothes that I can visualize on most ages and sizes, with some variation, as opposed to the clothes for really skinny 20 year olds that they then grade up to size 20 and age 40.

Obviously, a lunchtime camera safari needs to take place soon, but one dress stuck in my head and I drew it out quickly on a post-it when I got back to the office. I even knew what pattern I wanted to use as the base.

The original dress is black and white, and it's a knit. My dress is going to be linen, and brown and ivory. Or milk and white chocolate, as I see it. The color change wasn't planned; when I went fabric shopping the other weekend with Andrea, tops on my list were black and white linen. But I didn't like Joann's linen, and Jomar didn't have white. The ivory caught my eye, but next to black, it looked dingy. Then I saw the brown - which, in my wardrobe, acts as my chief neutral anyway. Brown is my black.

A new idea was born. Who says a knockoff has to be exact - especially if it inspires something better than the original idea?

I decided to use Burdastyle's Fatina dress as the base. I've made the dress twice before, and it's a good basic shift that can be played with - obviously, from the photo. That's Lily, by the way, giving her feline seal of approval to my pattern dismantling. And above is a piece of Katie, curled around the post-it sketch.

They're such helpful girls.

I would have started this sooner, but the house ate my pattern. Really. One of my few bits of organization is that all my traced patterns (or the printed-and-cut variety) are folded up into big brown envelopes and stored in magazine organizers, by category: skirt, knit top, dress, etc.

Except Fatina wasn't in with the dresses, knit, woven or formal. I know I didn't lend it to anyone - I would have just sent them the PDF. So I had to wait out the weekend and print another one when I got to work Monday. This is what I get for not having a printer at home!

I pretty much know what I'm giong to do here. I cut the pattern apart at the "lengthen here" line, right under the bust dart. I did the same thing for one of my other versions, and that was good . I measured the width of the skirt and divided it into even sections, and sliced the pattern into thirds, front and back. (My bad paint sketch is backward - the center panel will be white, with brown on either side, so that in back I can run the invisible zip down the brown center panel - I have brown invisible zips but don't think I have a white one handy).

The only part I haven't decided on at this point is the width of the hem band. I think that will come later, after I've got the dress pieced together. I can always whack a chunk off the bottom and add the band then, when I know what width will look best on me.

Too late in the evening to do more now than put the pattern pieces away for safekeeping - sorry, Lily! - and get started tomorrow. Here's hoping I have some white lining fabric in the stash.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not your granny's circles

Let me preface this post by saying: DON'T GET ANY BRIGHT IDEAS.

Just because I am posting photos of bridal-type stuff does NOT mean I'm intending or planning to wear any of it any time soon. I just saw this on Sunday and had to share it because it certainly made me look at granny circles in a whole new way.

I gave up the better part of a perfectly good sewing Sunday and went downtown in the 90-plus degree heat to attend a friend's book-signing. Somehow the bus got me there early, and rather than wait around, I wandered around the neighborhood and window-shopped.

This dress was actually in the front window of a flower shop that specialized in bridal flowers, and there didn't seem to be any information on the maker that I could see. I crossed the street to look at it - my first thought was, "Pretty, let me see what the embellishment is." When I got there and realized that the entire train and a good part of the dress was made up of granny circles in silk and organza and tulle and random other fabrics, you could have knocked me over with . . . well, a granny circle.

I've seen them upscaled before, but I have to say never to this extent, or with this much sophistication (did you ever think you'd hear that word applied to a granny circle project? Really?) The colors were so muted and lovely, and the thick application of circles made them look like something other than what they are, at least from a distance of a few inches.

From across the street, I have to say it was stunning.

There were a few other stores in the area, and I did take a few more photos of interesting embellishments, but I'm going to save them for a day when I can't think of anything else to say.

For now, I have to say that while I don't have a use for this technique, and certainly can't imagine decking myself out in what has to literally be thousands of granny circles, I appreciated the opportunity to see something I've never taken seriously in a whole new light.
What about you? What do you think of when you see granny circles? Kitsch? Fond memories of grandma? Wedding gowns?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Finished Shirt

While I wait for the AC to rev up and cool off the sewing room, I'll bring you all up to date on Mario's shirt.

I finally pinned him down yesterday to put it on so I could take photos, but as you can see, I was only partly successful. I got it on him, but I couldn't get him to tuck it in or put a belt on . . . because it was too hot! Waaaaah.

Though somehow I got him into the Christmas jacket. Go figure.

One thing I'm not loving about the shirt is the fabric. The color is fabulous, and I think it looks great on him, but it's made from kona cotton from Joann's, which is a little heavier and way wrinklier than the shirting fabrics I've used before. Actually Beckenstein's in NYC has shirting in this exact color that I've been lusting after for years, but I never thought I'd get him into a purple shirt.

Again, go figure.

Because it was hot, the shirt stuck to him a little bit. It does lay flatter when he's not sweaty, though there seems to be a bit of extra fabric in the front at the armhole. Apparently I need to study the shape of his Italian shirt a little more to get rid of that.

Next time.

I almost ended up taking the shirt apart this weekend - as I was sewing the buttons on the other day, I realized that I'd somehow set the collar just a little off center. It's not noticeable with it buttoned and when he's wearing a tie, but when I put the two edges of the collar band together, there was about a 1/8" difference as to where the collar itself started.

I really did consider picking the topstitching off the top of the collar band and then easing the collar out and adjusting it. First I thought about removing the entire collar band, making a new one and doing the whole thing over again, but I'd already clipped the seam allowance of the neck and I hated giving up the collar band buttonhole.

So I sewed the button on the collar band and got my semi-willing victim (he did not want to hear anything about his new shirt being taken apart). Seeing it on him, as opposed to on my dress form or flat on the table, the discrepancy was much less noticeable, and once he put a tie on, it was barely there at all.

He's not much of a tie-wearer, but I made this shirt so he'd have something plain to wear under his good jacket, and that would work with his ties, none of which are plain colored either. So since he'll more or less always be tied in this one, I decided to let it go and call it finished.

This is at least my 10th shirt, and it's the first time this has ever happened. Not sure if it was because of the slightly different collar I used (though that shouldn't have made a difference) or if I've just made this pattern so many times I stopped paying close attention.

Either way, it's done, he's happy, and I'll live with it - until I get to Beckenstein's one of these days and buy some more vibrant violet shirting for when this one inevitably starts to show its age.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sleeve Placket Tutorial

Because you asked for it. I haven't tried writing out the steps for some of these things before, and for the life of me I can't find the sewing reference I got this from (other than knowing it was one of my old ones), so here goes.

First, your sleeve. There'll be a mark on the pattern piece for where and how long to cut the opening where the placket will be inserted. Note the measurement of the opening, because you'll need it when cutting your placket pieces.

I don't have any set-in-stone measurements for the placket - depending on what you want and where you're going with the shirt, it could vary. It's generally about 6 1/2" long for a man's shirt.

The under-placket will be the length of the opening, plus 1/4". The width can also vary, but I like 1 3/4." Wide enough to make a statement, not so wide it's showy. On a woman's shirt, you could probably go narrower, though I haven't tried it yet.

The second piece, the overlap, is going to be about 2 1/2" wide. As far as height, it needs to be 1/4" higher than the top of the finished placket, which is to say the peak or square over top of the opening, where you stitch to hold the whole shebang together. Another 2 to 3" is safe to work with. If it looks like too much when you pin it, then just shift the excess down to the bottom. You can always cut it off later.

For the overlap, fold it to the shape you want - see the first photo for what I did, which was the point construction. Leave 1/2" of the overlap the same height as the underlap (1/4" will be for the seam and the other 1/4" will be for turning the fabric over the seam). Before pinning the pieces to your sleeve, iron 1/4" seam allowances on the outside of both pieces and the top of the underlap. You won't want to do it after you sew; it'll be a complete pain. And shaping the overlap then will be impossible.

Easy to remember - the narrow underlap is for the narrower part of the sleeve; the wider overlap is for the wider part of the sleeve. For the first step, you're going to pin the pieces to the opening, right sides of the pieces to the wrong side of the sleeve. Stitch 1/4" from the edge and press.

Starting with the underlap, fold it out through the opening and over so that it covers the raw seam you just sewed. Pin it and stitch. The second photo is the the wrong side of the sleeve, with the underlap pressed over the seam, but not yet folded through the opening.

The third photo is the right side of the sleeve with the underlap folded out, ready to be stitched.

Next, on to the overlap. Fold it out through the center (the fourth photo shows the overlap pulled through the center, but not yet folded back or pinned into place over the underlap) and get it settled into position on top of the underlap.

Once you have the overlap secured on top of the under, press it nice and flat, pin it with more pins than you think necessary, and sew the box (or triangle, or whatever) at the top, making sure that you catch the top of the underlap in your seam. The fifth photo is the finished placket from the right side. Go slowly around the top of the placket - it's a little hard to judge the point sometimes, especially with a totally inadequate sewing machine light.

At this point, if you're going to put a buttonhole in the placket, you should do it You can, of course, add the buttonhole after the sleeve is sewn up and the cuff is attached, but there are a few more contortions involved.

The sixth photo is the finished placket from the wrong side. See how neat a finish this gives? I admit, I don't always obsess about the inside of my garments, but since my shirts are usually worn by someone else, I'll go a little further because I expect him to show them off . Besides, he spends a lot of time with his sleeves rolled up and the underside of the placket shows.
Here's the final shirt sleeve, cuff attached, topstitching done, buttons and buttonholes complete. I copied the pleating detail from one of his Italian shirts, which has 2 pleats on the overlap side and one small pleat on the underlap side. I didn't make my sleeve any wider, just tweaked the size of the existing pleats to make it work.

At the end I've included photos of a shirt I made him several years ago. The outside looks pretty good (though look at that soft and squishy interfacing; that was obviously pre-Pro-Woven) but the inside really shows the messiness at the top of the placket where there's just no way to turn the (cut-on) underlap and keep it flat when you sew on the separate overlap.

I'll admit, this is a longer method than the one piece placket, but it's one of those times where the extra steps give you a better result and actually take less time in the long run because once you get comfortable with this, it goes pretty quickly and if you press and pin everything before stitching, there aren't many ways to really go wrong. The top of the overlap gives a professional, clean finish, and you can personalize it by making it square, diagonal or whatever.

I also like the two piece placket because, as here, I can use two different fabrics. If I were using a stripe, this is where I'd turn it horizontal, or cut it on the bias for some interest.

Let's face it, a man's shirt is a man's shirt is a man's shirt. All that saves it from complete ordinariness is fabric choice and your level of finishing. This is a step up from most pattern instructions, and I feel like it's definitely taken my shirtmaking to another level. I've read quite a few books and every one has their own take on how to do this. While I love David Page Coffin's shirt book and think that overall he walks on water, this is still my preferred way of doing a sleeve placket.

Here's hoping that although long-winded, this makes sense. If you try it, please let me know how it turned out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shirt in a day

Someone recently made the mistake of telling me he needed another shirt. The justification was that he doesn't have any solid-colored shirts (at least none made by me) that would work with the jacket I made him for Christmas. Okay, I can go with that one.

What color? I ask. Doesn't matter, he says. Just a solid color that will work with the jacket.

Telling me to choose my own color is like letting a kid loose in a candy store. Plus, a solid color shirt doesn't have to be solid, it can still have contrast in all the good places - undersides of cuffs, inside collar band, inside yoke, under-collar and my new particular favorite, the underlap of the sleeve placket.

The hunt was on.

Andrea and I went on a little fabric safari on Sunday, going to JoAnn's, which had some very nice stuff (I admit to being a little snobby about JA, but I actually bought things that weren't on sale, including a nice stretch denim (hello, Jalie) and 3 yards of Kona cotton in a color called "Crocus."

Yep. I made him a purple shirt. I think it's more orchid than purple, but the intent is there. The contrast fabric is purple, a dark shade with an abstract floral pattern in a coordinating orchid. The thread matches the body of the shirt, and comes out as contrast on the undersides of the cuffs.

I took a mental health day yesterday and pre-treated my fabric. Once it was dry, I thought maybe I'd cut the shirt out, so as to be ready for the next time motivation struck. I mades ome changes from my standard KwikSew 3422 shirt pattern - I used the collar from one of Mario's Italian vacation shirts, because he really likes the shape. I also laid one of those shirts out on top of the KS pattern pieces and altered the pattern to match the Italian shirt, more fitted.

Once it was cut out, I decided that maybe I'd just start in on the body, and see how it went. It went pretty quickly, so then I decided that I'd interface the collar and cuffs. I gave the collar 3 layers of Sew Exciting's Pro-Woven interfacing, which gave the finished collar the exact stiffness of his RTW shirts. The cuffs only got 2 layers, because I'd like to get buttonholes through them.

On to the sleeve plackets. I used to do them by KwikSew's instructions, but it just didn't look finished enough, so I've started doing a two-piece placket and I doubt I'll ever go back to the old way. This looks so much more professional, and it gives me the option of using a contrast fabric on the underlap, which I think looks really cool. If anyone is interested in a tutorial on the two-piece sleeve placket, leave a comment. I did take photos throughout but I haven't gotten together to write it - but I will if you want it.

When the sleeve plackets were done, I took a dinner break with the shirt's intended wearer - who at that point still didn't know what color his new shirt was going to be. And I wasn't sure I wanted to tell him before it was closer to being done. Just in case, you know?

After some carbs, I went back in. The collar went together surprisingly well considering it's almost as stiff as cardboard. Thankfully I remembered to cut the interfacing off at the points so I didn't have to wrestle to turn them. Collar and band went together, and then the band got sewn to the shirt. I had to unpick and resew one end of the collar, which pissed me off exceedingly, but it doesn't look raggedy, so I guess the sewing gods were feeling lenient.

By this point, we're nearing 9:00. It seems a shame not to keep going, so I made the pleats on the sleeves - again copying the Italian shirt, which had pleats on either side of the placket, not just on the front side. Attached the cuffs, did two rows of topstitching around the cuffs.

I gave in then and stopped for the night. Tonight, since I had to stop in and visit a friend who just had double knee replacement surgery, there wasn't much time for sewing, but I hemmed the shirt and made all the buttonholes. Following the Italian shirt as a model again, I did something new and different and sewed the collar-band buttonhole on the diagonal. It's the first time that buttonhole has ever turned out that well. Not only does the diagonal look more interesting, but it avoids the seam allowances inside the collar band and the machine doesn't get hung up on all the layers of interfacing that way.

Some people would think that was a crazy use of a day off, but I enjoyed myself no end - and when I took the shirt upstairs at the end of the night, HE LOVED IT. Who knew he wanted a purple shirt?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A little sewing

As I said yesterday, sewing for others began to get to me a little and I had to break out and make a little something for myself.

My local fabric store, Karlin's, has been a wasteland for years. I'd go there for zippers, interfacing, lining, but rarely for fabric. Recently they said they were going to be making a change, and it's certainly one for the better. I went in this past week to get some lining for the bags I'm doing for the craft show, and I could have left with half a dozen different things.

I confined myself to this one, a black cotton/lycra with a white embroidered border. I debated a dress, but I knew from the start it wanted to be a pencil skirt. A nice simple one. I checked the skirt pattern archive, and found one I'd made before, which is BWOF 9/2008 #120. No details at all, beyond darts front and back. Faced waist. That's it.

Just what I wanted. I cut it out quickly, and started sewing. The fabric is a little beefier than I would have expected for cotton/lycra, so I decided not to line it. Not my normal choice, but this fabric could definitely handle it.

The skirt went together in an evening. Very satisfying after a week of repetitive sewing of small, unusable-by-me objects made in a particularly shreddy and annoying brocade.

I've paired it here with one of my favorite summer tops, BWOF's cutaway-shoulder blouse, 3/2006 #104, and a new necklace I picked up this week to go with it. First the fabric, then the jewelry, then the skirt. Sometimes it happens in reverse.

In closing, I leave you with Alice, otherwise known as Little Alice Roundhead, Alice Marie, the Alleyrabbit and, after a particularly vile trip to the litterbox, the A-Bomb. She's the only cat I've ever met who looks truly worried, all the time. She moved in 0n Valentine's Day, several years ago, arriving on my porch roof at midnight, scratching at the storm window.

Could you say no to that face?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Burda July Preview

Okay, who are you and what have you done with Burda?

After a stunning, almost year-long run of bland (at least in my eyes), Burda has come back strong in recent months. May had that fabulous collection of plus-size dresses, and June had another 4 garments I wanted to make. Only one, the so-called "saggy boob" dress, has been finished, but I'd like to get to a few more before the next issue comes out.

Except now, according to the preview recently posted, Burda has added another couple of things to my endless list of things I want to sew.

And what they've come up with this time . . . am I alone in thinking that they've been possessed by Patrones or La Mia Boutique? Except, of course, for the bizarre fashion photography, especially in the "college" spread, which is classic Burda.

Some of this stuff, while interesting, may or may not be wearable by this 40-something body. I'm reserving judgment on a few designs until I see the line drawings.

I'm liking the leather jacket at right. I've got some leather put aside that has mentally worked its way through at least 4 patterns. It would be nice to finally use it. And I like the side zip. Wonder if Burda calls it "witty" or if they've come up with another word.

I'm not sure about my feelings for the two white dresses. The one-shoulder one has the potential to be stunning, but I want to see how it's constructed before I commit. The other one, with the straps and gathers and shaping in the middle, could be one of two things. "Oh, what a great dress," or "watch out, she's gonna blow!"

I'm really afraid things just wouldn't stay put in that one. The one-shoulder drape looks like it could conceal some serious structural components, if need be. And there would be need.

The dress at the bottom feeds into my usually unrequited love of fluffiness. I like ruffles. I like girly fluffy dresses. I just think I look ridiculous in most of it. That dress, however, is more gathered than fluffy, and while ruffles abound in the "romantic" section, especially the ruffle-shoulder blouse, which the Selfish Seamstress has so satisfyingly mocked already, I think I could carry that off. The neckline is severe enough that it counterbalances any excess fluff.

In the realm of wearable ruffling, I'm thinking that I'm going to try out that first skirt above. Not the pink ruched wonder, the more straightforward skirt at the top with all the busy-ness located at the hem. Which is not to say I won't tinker with the length and shape of the skirt to suit me; it's the frou-frou that I like, and I can put that on any kind of skirt.

Possibly I've developed advanced mind-reading skills on my sewing journey, and the reason that gray pinstriped, ruffled skirt has been on my mind is Burda was about to give me this? No? I knew you were going to say that.

There has been sewing going on, but until tonight, nothing particularly interesting. I didn't have a project started, so when I felt like sewing I forced myself to do some pieces for next year's craft show.

Tonight I couldn't take it any more, and I took one of my new pieces of fabric - yes, there's been some shopping going on - and I turned it into a pencil skirt. Burda has a pencil pattern for every fabric, and this one was completely plain, for my fabric that . . . wasn't. Pictures to follow, hopefully soon.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Meet the pretties

Not much sewing going on this weekend.

Summer has finally arrived in my sewing room and the temperature is somewhere between the southern corner of purgatory and absolute Hades. I hate putting the air conditioner on so early in the season, but it's not even comfortable to sew in my underwear in there. And the cats refuse to keep me company.

So this weekend I've avoided the workroom and gotten off my otherwise unmotivated butt and listed a load of my old vintage stuff in my Etsy shop. I love it all, but most of it no longer fits my body, and none of it really fits my life. So I'm letting it go.

But I wanted to share some of them with you, because they are, after all, so pretty.

And if anyone is interested in anything, please let me know through Etsy that you found the link here, and shipping will be free. (I like knowing the stuff is going to a good home!) US only, though.

What do we have here? Several silk sheath dresses with intersting bodice construction, the draped dress that I've always called the Flower Bomb, an aggressively cheerful aqua floral with pleated skirt, and a ridiculous boiled wool jacket with chenille embroidery.

The jacket, unfortunately, has some moth damage on the front, but I've been keeping it all these years thinking I'd remove the embellishment and reuse it. It's not gonna happen, but that's not to say someone else wouldn't be more likely to do it than I am.

There's still more in the closets, but I can't face dressing and undressing Evelyn in this heat. I think it even bothers her.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Once upon a time

I made a skirt. (No photo). It wasn't a very good skirt, and the fabric wasn't very good either - it was a medium gray pinstriped poly gabardine. But it handled well, it washed well, and I wore it to death during the first few years I was working (we're talking early-mid 1980s here).

Sewing was always important, but it came and went depending on what else was going on in my life, and for a while, it wasn't around very much.

Strangely enough (or perhaps not, to those of you like me), I never stopped acquiring fabric. Nor did I get rid of any remnants large enough to be used for something - like the 1+ yard remnant of that gray pinstripe fabric.

Flash forward to 2006. Sewing and I are back together, and it's fairly hot and heavy. I've done a lot of home dec sewing for my house and am getting back into garment sewing because if I make one more curtain I'm going to hurt someone.

I'm at the point where I'm beginning to suspect that my skills have not kept pace with my ambitions. Which does not keep me from attempting another skirt, Burda 8680, from the remnant of that gray fabric. The first time I used the pattern, I made a denim skirt. That's what it was for. But next, due to my limited pattern stash (how much has changed in 4 years!) I re-used it for this skirt.

Actually, I had planned a pair of pants from the fabric, then decided that I was definitely not up to making pants yet, so I veered sideways into a skirt. I found out partway through re-cutting the fabric - because of course I'd cut the pants out before changing my mind - that I wasn't going to have enough fabric to make the skirt.

I give myself credit. I took a deep breath, looked at the pattern pieces, and tried to figure out how I could make it work. The back yoke got cut on the bias. The pocket bags got cut out of something else entirely. The skirt itself, though, was where I ran into trouble. There just wasn't enough fabric to cut out the back of the skirt. Every way I tried, I came up about 2" short.

I let it percolate for a while, and had a small epiphany. I cut a separate 2" (plus seam allowance) piece for the bottom of the skirt back, and I used all my scraps as ruffles. I cut them on the bias, seamed them together so that they chevroned, and then just zig-zagged the edges because they weren't big enough to hem.

I wore this skirt like I wore the other skirt - a lot, and then one day I looked at it and realized that we'd grown apart. I still liked the fabric, I still liked the idea, but my execution just wasn't where I wanted it to be. Plus, if I'm being honest, I'd shapeshifted and it no longer fit as well, either.

Last year the skirt moved to my friend Jen's closet, and I was happy to see it get a new home with someone who doesn't sew and therefore doesn't think it's a little wonky. She told me she wore it the other day and felt very Parisian (she's just back from vacation and she said Paris is wearing ruffles), and it's been bugging me ever since.

So today I went on Ebay and found a likely looking gray pinstriped poly gabardine, and it's winging its way to me. Let's see if I can look at that idea through the lens of 4 more years sewing experience, and turn it into something I'll want to wear a lot. Again.