Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes it's okay not to sew

It's October now, and even though we're having 70 degree temperatures, my mind has turned to the inevitable fact that in 2 or 3 weeks, I'll be huddled in my house, shivering.

I live in an old house. It's drafty. I can caulk all the gaps and the windows, and cover them in plastic, but that doesn't do much to combat the cold coming in through the walls which, being brick, lath and plaster, are uninsulated and cold as all hell throughout the winter.

Somehow for 10 years now, I've managed never to make curtains for the living room. Don't ask me how; there are valances up there, so the windows don't look entirely naked, but the rest of the curtains never materialized. I think that by the time I got to the living room, I was just so sick of making curtains (15 large windows within the first few months of home ownership) that I just stopped.

But now that I'm focused on winter, the curtains come to mind again. And I'm buying them, ready-made. I might need to hem them, but I'll manage that.

Why buy curtains? Even the Selfish Seamstress is making curtains these days, so why not me?

Pick one:
  • A I'm not going to do it now that it's cool; I still won't enjoy it.
  • B I found something that's inexpensive and will work well enough.
  • C I'm still doing craft show sewing and that seems like enough obligation sewing at one time.
  • D All of the above.
Yep, it's D. I found some chocolate brown foam-backed insulated draperies for $22 per window, and they're standing by, waiting to be run through the machine.

Though I'm sorely tempted to just let them hang down the wall behind the radiator and the big chair, respectively. It would cut even more draft. And justify my laziness.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The trouble with Brussels

Actually, I don't know what the trouble with Brussels is. Have you ever met someone who you thought you'd like but you don't? Someone liked by lots of people, and who you fully expect to like as well. There's nothing at all wrong with the person, they have lots of good qualities and no visible bad ones, but you just can't warm to them?

That's me with Brussels.

Seven years ago, we didn't hit it off, but I thought maybe it was just that it didn't stand up well against Bruges. This time, I was hoping that by going with Mario, he'd like it and I'd be able to experience it through his eyes and see somethign I hadn't seen last time.

I was also looking forward to meeting up with 2 online sewing friends for coffee and some fabric shopping. After you buy fabric in a place you can never feel neutral about it. And then the trains went on strike.

So Brussels suffered because by the time we got there were were tired, frazzled and cranky from sitting on buses for hours. I was cranky because I'd missed my fabric shopping expedition (though at least the iPhone earned its keep by allowing me to email the ladies and let them know) and Mario was cranky because he'd planned on going to the comics museum without noticing that it was closed on Mondays.

So we walked around and did some sightseeing instead, and he did get to see some great wall cartoons and hit an apparently world-reknowned comic book store, and we visited a few chocolate shops and had another good dinner, but I still feel like Brussels and I just keep missing each other.

We left early on Tuesday morning, got home mid-afternoon here, and collapsed. From there it was back to work, back to house fun - the roofer came again about the leak in the dining room, and also repairs to my front porch roof - and I had to take 20 pounds of Archie cat to the vet on Saturday because he has a head cold so bad he sounds like a vacuum cleaner.

Situation normal.

Bits and Pieces

One of the cool things we did when in Bruges was take the canal boat ride. When I went before, I didn't and always regretted not doing it. Sure, it's a little touristy-cheesy, but it's also the best way to see the town the way it was intended to be seen.

The tour takes about a half hour and takes you through all the canals that are still accessible by boat. The bridges can be really low and the guide makes sure everyone has ducked their heads before he takes the boat under.

We also walked a long part of the ring road around the town. The ring road is bordered by a canal which, once upon a time, was a moat that protected Bruges from invasion. There were gates all around, though now only one is left.

There were also windmills, which didn't look like the Dutch variety I have in my head. It was a beautiful day for walking, mid-60s and breezy, and we worked up quite an appetite by the end of the day.

Most of our meals were from the prix-fixe menus at restaurants, 3 courses for whatever, but on Sunday night we decided to splurge on a seafood restaurant which we'd passed every day on our way through the main squares. The prices were a little higher, but we decided to eat off the menu, not the set priced one, and get what we wanted but maybe not 3 courses worth. That was the best idea, and the best meal, of the trip. Mario got a platter of grilled langoustines, something he particularly loves and aren't much seen at home. I got the waterzooi of North Sea fish, which was a big piece of salmon, some smaller pieces of monkfish, a few scallops, shrimp and mussels, all in a cream sauce with potatoes. With a bright red languostine perched on top of the bowl.

It was beyond heavenly, and I scraped every drop of sauce once I was done the seafood. After that, we didn't need dessert.

We walked around for another hour or so, and then went back the hotel, ordered 2 espressos and took them upstairs to our room where we spent way too much time trying to read an article from a Belgian magazines about the vagaries of American politics.

It was in French, not Flemish, not that that really helped much. My French doesn't run anywhere near that far, and Mario has even less. The iPhone was much used and I think we got the gist of it, if not all the details.

Needless to say, despite the way they poke fun at Sarkozy, I think we're still the best entertainment the Europeans have.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tales of Beer and Chocolate

Saturday morning we were awoken by clanging and banging under our hotel window. When I looked out, a market had been set up in the plaza outside, underneath the naked man. Well, I don't mind someone waking me up for that!

After breakfast, we explored the market. It was a nice mix of food (serious outdoor stall trucks, nothing like what I see at outdoor markets at home, much more like mobile stores), clothing, household goods and . . . sewing goodies. I was so happy to see the craft truck, even though I couldn't decide which buttons I needed. Probably because I don't need any.

Bruges is a town built on canals - not like Venice, there are streets and you don't have to cross water to get everywhere - but it was a big center for trade up until the late 1500s when the harbor started to silt up and ships couldn't get in anymore. The former harbor is now a lake at the foot of town near the train station, full of ducks and swans, and surrounded by tiny step-gabled houses, a church and a convent.

I read somewhere that there are 50-odd chocolate shops in Bruges alone. I believe it. Sometimes there were 3 or 4 in a row on the same street, which means that the smell was almost overwhelming. There were chocolates in every color, shape and size (and cup size, if you'll note the photo; I almost brought a set of those home for my boss, but a photo will mean the same thing and not cost 20 euros). Sorry.

Beer is everywhere in Belgium. I don't like beer; I think it tastes (and smells) like fermented gym socks. But there are so many different beers in Belgium that I was willing to try them out, generally by taking a wrinkle-nosed sip of whatever Mario was having. Kriek, a cherry beer, was actually kind of tasty, but still nothing I'd drink by choice.

There's a working brewery in Bruges, and for the 5.50 euro admission, you get a full tour of the facility and then a glass of Brugse Zot (translates to the Fool of Bruges) in the brewery's cafe afterward. Before you pay for the tour, you're confronted with a sign in many languages that warns "not recommended for those with vertigo or fear of heights." They should have also mentioned not for those with hips exceeding 34", because I got into some exceedingly tight spots climbing up and down narrow metal stairs in between brewing vats and up onto the roof. They also weren't kidding about the vertigo thing. I don't have a fear of heights, but let's say I have a discomfort when I don't feel that the surface under my feet is secure. Stairs and platforms made of metal mesh would count.

The view from the brewery roof was great, out over all the red tile roofs of the town and across to the basilica, where the Michelangelo Madonna statue lives. It was the only piece of his to leave Italy during his lifetime, and though it't not large, it's impressive. It sits glowing in the huge, cold, barnlike church.

Lunch and dinner involved yet more seafood - another bucket of mussels (I think at that point we acknowledged we were trying out every preparation on the various menus) and yet more fish for dinner. Yum.

I'm not so sure that vacations are about vacationing as they are about eating food I can't get at home.

And so, the vacation

First off, I'll say that Belgium wasn't our originally planned destination for vacation this year; it was Paris, again. Paris, however, did not go on sale and Belgium did.

I've been to Belgium before, about 7 years ago, a really brief trip, but I liked what I saw. We flew into Brussels but decided to spend most of our time in Bruges, which is about 60 miles away. Bruges is almost painfully picturesque. Two world wars rolled by the town on either side with only minor damage, and all in all, it looks like a trip back in time to my favorite childhood fairy tale books.

We stayed at a hotel which for some reason had a large naked man floating in the air almost directly outside (portrait of the artist, apparently). It made it very easy to find our way back to the hotel.

After we settled in, and had a very well-earned lunch (starting my seafood extravaganza with fish soup, while Mario had his first batch of mussels), we walked. Bruges is a great walking town; there are a lot of parts that are pedestrian-only, though the unpredictability of the driving in the regular parts of town make up it.

We walked over to the Markt Square, which has an enormous tower (anyone who saw the movie In Bruges will remember it). Mario wanted to climb the tower, which was fine by me. I gave him the camera and decided to stay on the ground. It's 366 steps to the top, which wouldn't kill me, but they're very tight and circular, and that might. My knees do not like circular stairs. Go figure.

We also managed to find, while window-shopping and drooling at windows of the chocolate shops, . . . a fabric store. Christiaen, on St. Amindstraat, was one of the stores recommended to me in Bruges, and she's definitely worth a visit. The owner, a redhead wearing lime green and purple, who looked no more than 40, said she's had the shop for 25 years and is pleased that there seems to be a renewed interest in sewing. She said that young girls are taking it up out of nowhere, because most of their mothers don't know how to sew. Her fabrics were beautiful, if expensive, and she had a selection of Burda, Knip Mode and Ottobre magazines, most of which I had and all of which were in Dutch.

Because I can't manage to go anywhere without snoop-shopping store windows and following people with really cool clothes, I had to take a picture of this woman's coat. A LOT of the prints I saw in Belgium were this large and almost photographic, and while it might not be a coat you'll wear for years, putting this on would definitely cheer me up on a dark day.

After covering what seemed like most of the town, we wandered back to the naked man (a/k/a the hotel) for a nap before dinner. Though we'd slept on the flight, the time change was catching up to us, and a 2 hour nap put us right. We ventured back out around 7:30, refreshed and in search of food. We found a restaurant not far off the Markt Square where I had salmon in a mousseline sauce and Mario had rabbit braised in beer.

It was raining lightly, but not so much that we couldn't walk around some more and admire the floodlit buildings, and plan what we were going to do the next day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Vacation Fabric, Part 1

I'm back. I've had a little trouble getting myself re-acclimated; work's been busy, the cats missed me and I missed them, but I did manage to find some time to get reacquainted with my sewing machine (someone else was re-bonding with MSNBC, so I don't even think I was missed).

Because it turns out fabric prices in Belgium are pretty frightening, I only ended up with 2 pieces, both knits, both prints. One was a remnant (washed but not yet photographed), and the other was a panel intended to be made into a tshirt. I obediently turned it into yet another KS 3338 tshirt. Their idea of a shirt seemed a little short, so I cut the fabric from the bottom and pieced some extra up at the top, right below the shoulder seams. It doesn't show, and neither does any part of me I don't want showing.

My purchases were made in Bruges, despite my intention of meeting up with other sewists in Brussels. No such luck.

Apparently the French are not the only ones who strike. When we got to the train station on Monday morning, the trains weren't there. The employees were, and a few policemen, but they were all clustered around a case of beer and with no intention of driving a train anywhere. Maybe after the beer that was a good idea.

Long story short(ish), there are no direct buses, probably because the trains are so good - when they're running. 3 buses later, we arrived in Brussels over 4 hours late. No meeting, no shopping, just finding our hotel, doing some sightseeing, eating one more seafood-heavy dinner and bed. With fingers crossed that the train would be there to take us to the airport in the morning.

They were running, but not on time, and it was raining, and I was over the whole public transportation thing. I blew my last euros on a taxi to the airport. Sometimes enough is just enough.

All this is not to say we didn't have a fabulous time. Belgium (especially Bruges) is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and the food was better than good. What can you say about a country that specializes in beer, chocolate, french fries and waffles. Plus they're so close to the coast that the seafood is fresh and almost constant. I ate well, and often.

There will be vacation pictures, once I finish uploading them. Hopefully sometime this weekend.

I enjoy going away, but I'm always glad to be home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Almost ready

So much for sewing book reviews, or anything else. Everything has gotten sucked into the pre-vacation vortex.

The coat is relined, and I'm glad I could justify some sewing in the vacation madness. There would be a photo but the camera's on the charger, just in case I can't find the electrical adapter before we leave.

Once the laundry was done, I took some "me time" and headed off to the workroom with Lily in tow. She knows I'm going away; she's clinging tighter than usual.

What did we work on tonight, while someone else was supposed to be packing and instead was sleeping on the couch, snoring like something escaped from a zoo? (He's got a head cold, oh joy to travel with, oh joy to sleep in the general vicinity of, oh joy).

Welt pockets. After I mentioned my ongoing fear of welts earlier this month, and Carolyn took it up, asking sewists what techniques they feared, turns out I'm so not alone. Many, many of you fear the welt, and with justification. However . . .

I made one. And while it's not perfect, it's the closest I've come yet, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Best of all, I can see where I went not-quite-right, and it's fixable on the next one. It was mostly a supplies issue, which I have already rectified.

How did I do it, you ask? Well, in response to Carolyn's post, Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics re-posted a welt pocket tutorial of hers that had appeared in Threads - an issue I didn't have, or this whole welt pocket hyperventilation might have been a non-starter.

I can't get into the whole process now - and Ann says it so much better anyway, right here, that there's really no point. I'll post photos of my samples when I get home, but for the time being, get yourselves over to Ann's blog, read the tutorial, and practice, practice, practice!

With the right instructions, all things are possible.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Party Dress Book

A new addition to my bookshelf is The Party Dress Book: How to Sew the Best Dress in the Room, by Mary Adams.

The Party Dress Book wasn't quite what I had in mind. I expected a book on party dresses as formal wear, with lots of couture details and technique, but what Adams has produced is that and more and, by the way, a hell of a lot more fun than the book I expected to receive.

Adams' dresses are fun, flirty, and definitely non-traditional, as is her attitude. This, from the preface, made me warm right up to her:

"When I'm creating a dress, I like to work spontaneously, picking and choosing color, fabric and style without much planning. There are no rules, and if there are, they're mine: I can change my mind throughout the process. It's important to remember that imagining something is a whole different matter than seeing the actual elements together. . . . I have a 'no-throwaway' policy, and never give up on a project or its parts but merely set them aside until they can be reinvented at another time (and remain available to pick through with each project)."

I don't know about you, but, "There are no rules, and if there are, they're mine," is going to get a lot of use in my life, both in and out of the sewing room.

Adams' background, which she covers in Part 1, is in art, not sewing, though she learned to sew at age 12. She talks about her inspirations: hippie patchwork, fifties glamour, color, and starting out in the fashion business.

Party Colors, the next section, is pure candy store. Nothing is off limits. Adams works with a lot of transparent fabrics - organdy, organza - layering colors and fabrics and turning out fanciful, candy-colored dresses that make you smile.

In Part 3, Party Tricks, the author goes through techniques essential to executing her dresses. Some, such as french seams and pintucks, maybe beyond the skills of the novice, but Adams' tone is both patient and friendly, and the techniques are well illustrated with both drawings and examples of her work.

There's a full-size pattern in the back of the book, sized 4-14, and the last section, It's Your Party, provides 3 distinct options for making the dress. Each fabrication (silk taffeta, cotton, layered organza) can be constructed with a variety of necklines, skirt lengths and trims, allowing the you to completely customize your dress. There are tips on meauring, though only the "big 3" measurements are required for the dresses. Also noted are yardage requirements for each dress, and a list of notions and supplies.

The illustrations for constructing the dresses are very thorough, and again Adams emphasizes that it's never too late to change a design, to be patient while waiting while your ideas come together, and to enjoy the process.

The Party Dress is a fun book with luscious photography which I think will really strike a chord with younger sewists who are ready to venture beyond "safe" projects into something really special. The projects in this book give a lot of bang for your buck: with patience, even a sewist with less experience can turn out a party dress to be proud of. I'm glad to see a book that doesn't talk up or down; if you're not up to a technique yet, try another one, but try something, make a dress!

As someone who's sewn for more years than I care to admit, Adams' attitude is a breath of fresh air and the dresses shown in the book were an inspiration - while a lot of them aren't my style, that didn't matter at all. Her techniques (piecing, pintucks, the completely insane bias strip method) will definitely be seen in my sewing room in the near future, and her attitude toward creativity will stay with me for even longer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Okay, so I lied

I said there wasn't going to be any more pre-vacation sewing, but it didn't work out that way.

Does it ever?

The first thing to emerge from the workroom this weekend wasn't a complicated project. Matter of fact, I've made the KwikSew tshirt so many times that it basically sews itself. This one is in a light aqua (a little brighter than in the photos) and it was made specifically to go with my charcoal gray and aqua plaid pencil skirt, which was lacking a specific top and let me know it wanted one.

As far as the embellishment on the top, who knows where that came from? It was finished, all but the hems, and I decided suddenly that it needed fluffle. Two layers of fluffle, to be exact, hand-gathered, pinned down and stitched over the neckline seam. The knit keeps the ruffles from being too fluffy and out there, and I can always pick them off if I get tired of them. For the moment, I like it.

The monster project, the one I can't believe I did - and I'm not done yet - is to reline the jacket I decided to take on vacation. It's a navy blue pea jacket, bought last year for about $10 at the thrift store. Beautiful jacket, all the buttons still there, warm as anything . . . but the lining was completely ragged on the bottom of the inside. I meant to reline it last year, but I wore it instead.

When I put clothes away for the summer, I left the jacket out, intending to reline it over the summer. Nah. Summer clothes got in the way. We looked at the weather forecast for vacation and it looks like about 10 degrees cooler than here, which means I'll need a substantial jacket. Like my pea jacket.

Which still needed relining. But what better way to force myself to do something I've been putting off than give myself a deadline like vacation? So tonight after dinner I laid it out on the table, carefully sliced out the remains of the original lining (and why did such a well made jacket have such crappy lining fabric anyway?) and made a pattern from it. The basic shapes were still intact, just most of the bottom portion was shredded in the middle; I still had seams left to add seam allowances to.

The lining fabric has been in stash for a while now, not sure what its original project was. But I think it will jazz up basic navy blue quite nicely. I got the lining constructed and inserted it into the jacket. That is some seriously bulky wool, what with all its added interfacing and the buttons already sewn on to work around. Tomorrow I'll sew the hems, but I think rather than trying to burrito fold this baby I may take the easy way out and do it by hand.

And then there will be no more sewing before vacation.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips

I got a few new sewing books in the mail yesterday, and while trying to wedge them in with my overflowing collection, I realized that while I'm a complete sewing-book-junkie, I rarely write about them.

And since we're getting ready for vacation and I think all sewing (other than the mental variety) is at a standstill until we return, sharing a few favorites, old and new, will give me an excuse to think about sewing and not leave the blog empty while I'm away.

Even though this book is making its way around the blogs these days, I'm going to add my own enthusiastic recommendation.

1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips, by Deepika Prakash and with the tips of many, many Patternreview members and experts like Susan Khalje, Kenneth King, Sarah Veblen, Anna Mazur and the late Shannon Gifford, is a great read. It's been on my bedside table for the last 2 weeks.

The way the book is organized is logical, giving you information in bite-sized portions that leave you wanting more. The chapters are Sewing Gear, Set up your Sewing Room, Design & Pattern Prep, Layout, Cutting & Marking, Fitting, Sewing, Finishing and Embellishments, but each chapter has a number of subsections, making it easy for you to find the solution to your specific dilemma.

Since the tips in the book are compiled from many sewists with many years of different experience, sometimes there are several ways to do the same thing, and a more or less "try this, and decide for yourself" attitude which I appreciate, since I tend to balk when shown the "one true way" to do anything. The section on invisible zippers is particularly telling - there are the proponents of sewing the seam, then inserting the zip, and the others, who sew the seam after the zip is inserted, and are pretty sure that's the only way.

There are tips for getting around common problems like gunk on your iron, working with knits and specialty fabrics, tips for sergers and coverstitch machines, making and using piping, turning tubes, and a lot more.

Considering the amount of time I spend on Patternreview, it's probably a very good thing that the best tips were put between covers so that I can spend some of my sewing time actually sewing, or at least reading about sewing away from the compouter, instead of reading about sewing online.

Particularly timely during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the author's royalties and much of the money paid for the tips submitted, has been donated to breast cancer research.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Month End Review - September 2010

Talk about productive; talk about mostly uninteresting. September was an all time high of 25 items sewn, however, most of them (20 of them) were for the upcoming craft show and therefore while they count as sewing, they don't really register with me as interesting sewing. Once I developed those patterns, I lost interest and just go on auto-sew. Which at least makes the repetition go faster.

In the interesting-sewing category, I made 2 more of the BWOF 9/10 turtleneck, one in a charcoal gray with black and white stripes and also a sleeveless version in black rib knit. Quick and very, very useful. The black would have had sleeves except after cutting out the front and back, I realized I only had scraps of fabric left. But this is actually good because it will go under a lot of my heavier jackets and I won't melt at the office.

I made myself a pair of black TNT pants after chucking the old ones. These had a longer inseam, for heels and boots. Now I need to make a shorter pair, for the days I wear flats or low heels. For you lucky tall people, a long inseam for me is 31". The second pair will be 29.5". Funny, I feel like my legs are longer than that.

Last, and smallest, but certainly not least, is the pink velvet baby dress and matching bonnet. We're going down on Sunday to visit parents and baby, and I can't wait. I don't have any siblings, but these friends are close enough that I'm going to get to be Auntie Karen once the little widget can talk.

Now I'm just basking in the (relative) tidiness of my workroom and trying to figure out what, if anything, I need to make prior to our vacation. I can go to Europe for a week with less clothes than some women take for a long weekend, so I think I'm probably good. Which does not mean I won't be making something new to wear the night before we leave. for Belgium.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A conversation about sewing

"Isn't she going to regret giving you that pattern?" he asked, looking away from the combined allure of the television and his iPhone.

"It's not a pattern," she explained, thinking that the phone's bluish glow was not all that flattering. "I just took a picture of her skirt and drew out the design. I'm using my own pattern."

His brow crinkles, he looks confused. "But I thought you sewed because you didn't want to dress like anyone else?"

Hmm. Proof of listening, at least on some level. Perhaps she will allow him possession of the remote for another hour, though that will sentence her to time alone in the sewing room.

Patiently, she said, "Well, that's true. But the other reason I sew is when I see something I want - that I can't have - I can come home and spend a weekend making one for myself."

"I don't understand." He changes the channel while simultaneously reading his email.

The conversation does not so much end as it is drowned out by the other voices in their heads. His voices sound a lot like Steven Colbert; hers are muttering very quietly about future projects.

She leaves, so she can listen to the voices in peace.

As you can see, I finished the skirt Sunday night. When I woke up this morning, it was chilly, rainy and I didn't want to get out from under the covers. Since I had to, I decided to wear my new skirt to cheer myself up.

Not much changed since yesterday. I got the skirt put together, I debated adding centers to the yo-yo flowers (and decided not to), searched the trim stash for something that would replicate the original crocheted trim, didn't find anything and decided against it anyway because at my height, I don't think anything that might end up looking like a ruffle is a good idea.

Unless of course it's my good idea, and I'm adding 2 layers of ruffles to an entire skirt.

But that's a different thing entirely.

And in other news, Denise of the Blue Gardenia blog has asked me to participate in her Sewing Spaces series. Yikes. I've enjoyed the series and loved peeking into the creative spaces (and the minds) of my fellow sewists, but allowing you all into my messy world?

Let's just say I did some really fast organizing. When Denise posts my space, please don't look too carefully at the floor or in the corners.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's coming along

First of all, let me say it: I LOVE HAVING A STASH. Remind me of that when I grumble about occasional workroom avalanches, okay?

From my last post, you all know I was mightily inspired by Andrea's embellished skirt on Friday, to the point where I sketched out the design and then enlarged it on the copier for ease of transferring it to my skirt. (Carolyn, I didn't actually have the free time at work, I just pushed a pile of stuff over to be dealt with Monday, and didn't get caught!)

When I got home, I went to the shelves. I wanted something of a similar color, not so much to be a complete copycat but because Andrea's skirt would fit really well with my wardrobe. Up on the top of the shelving unit I found several yards of a tobbaco-colored linen purchased years ago for a specific project. After I'd washed and dried it, I found that the wrinkles it sustained in the wash had set into the fabric as it dried. It's a nice distressed look, but not what I wanted at the time. I used another fabric, but this stayed on the shelf, waiting . . . apparently for this skirt to come along.

I cut out the pieces for my skirt, and then got my design and put it on the reverse of the skirt front. I had some old tracing carbon but it was too tired to transfer, so I borrowed some charcoal from Mario's art supplies, rubbed it on the back of the paper and then went over the design with my tracing wheel. The charcoal transferred well, if a little smudgily, and I went over the lines with white tailor's chalk. I quickly thread-traced all of the design that was going to be embroidered. I didn't bother transferring the flowers and leaves; they're embellishments to be added later.

Since I don't have an embroidery machine, all the green part was done with my standard Singer's zigzag stitch, set on a narrower width. I practiced a bit to get the curves down. It's not perfect on the final version, but I don't mind that. It's meant to look hand done.

On the inspiration skirt, the leaves are embroidered. That wasn't going to work for me - no way was I doing that much hand embroidery, and even if I were willing, it wouldn't look that good. Applique was the way to go. I had a chunk of chocolate brown suede left over from a craft show project, so I cut all my leaves from that, stuck them down with leather glue, and then anchored them with a line of hand-stitching in the same shade of green as the satin stitch. It works for me.

The flowers on the inspiration skirt were three dimensional. Crocheted, I believe. Something I do not do, though Andrea keeps threatening me with lessons in all things yarn. I'm afraid of another skill that would cause me to acquire a stash, so I think I'll stick to sewing.

I went with something fairly obvious, but by the time I'm done I hope they'll look like what I want. I made yo-yos (or granny circles, depending on what the older women in your family called them) using a leftover ivory lining fabric, and then I spritzed them with tea to take the color down a notch.

They've now been hand-sewn down (no photos of that yet) and I'm taking a break so I can figure out how I want to do the centers. The last photo here is pre-flower; I was using buttons as place-holders just to get an idea of how it was going to look.

This afternoon, I'll probably sew the skirt together. All the work that needs to be done flat has been finished at this point. The centers, when I decide on them, can be done by hand on the couch.

I'm noticing a trend here of a lot more handwork. I've never minded hand sewing, I just don't know where it's all come from lately.

And I guess by this project we can conclude I've overcome my fear of embellishment.

What's it going to take to get me over welt pockets? I can't even imagine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Inspired by a friend

I've been a fairly unspired sewist lately. No question, I've been turning out the work, but it's been focused mainly on the December craft show in my neighborhood, projects that I can do without thinking too hard, and after a while, I stopped thinking well about sewing.

The other night, I went into the workroom and pulled out the half dozen bags I had decided to finish off. I looked at them, picked them up, and put them on the other table, pulled out my TNT BWOF pants pattern and grabbed a black RPL off the stash shelf. By the end of the night, I had a new pair of pants, and I felt so much better.

Back story on that project: last week, I wore my old pair of black TNT pants. They were made for the Patternreview Wardrobe Contest in spring 2008, so they're well over 2 years old. Black stretch twill isn't meant to be worn and washed weekly; it ceases to be quite black, and its stretch gets a little inconsistent. I was miserable in those pants all day, and when I came home from work, I took them off and threw them away.

Mario was a little mystified, throwing away what he thought were perfectly good pants (perfectly good meaning no obvious holes and I could still zip them). I told him there was no way I would ever make a replacement pair when I still had those in the closet, so they had to go.

And now I've replaced them. Yay me!

And now for the inspiration of the title. Andrea wore this skirt to work today. She says she's had it for well over 10 years (though it doesn't look like it), and I think she said it was either Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters.

I. Must. Have. This. Skirt.

And short of sending her home from work in her drawers (which I did threaten), I have to make my own. I have a BWOF TNT skirt pattern (ever notice how the words "BWOF" and "TNT" end up side-by-side?) that will work really well for this skirt. I took these photos of her skirt during lunch, and spent the rest of my hour drawing out the pattern, then spent a little quality time with the photocopier until I got it to the right size to transfer to my skirt fabric.

I didn't get any further on the project tonight because we had plans, and by the time we got in, I was beat. It was a long week, and even coffee couldn't wake up my mojo. I'll let it sleep, and tomorrow, we'll focus on that skirt.