Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vintage Goodness

Sometimes when you're just walking down the street, good things come your way out of nowhere.

This is not my story.  This stroke of sewing good luck belongs to my friend Mimi (non-blogging sewist, so you'll have to take my word for her existence; she was at PR Philly so some of you might remember her).  Mimi was walking around Philadelphia recently and spotted a pile of trash at the curb.  (Anybody wonder why we're friends?  I'd have raced her to the pile).  In the trash was a huge bunch of vintage patterns.

Be still my heart!  Vintage patterns in the trash?  Not even in the recycling bin!  But they weren't in the trash for long, and Tuesay, they came to my office to visit.

Mimi's eventual intention for these patterns is to list them for sale on Etsy, but in the meantime, she brought a bag in for me to look through, kindly saying I could borrow any of them if I wanted to copy them.  Did I?  Yes, ma'am!

I held myself to 9, and trust me, I could have loaded myself up with twice as many, but I know me.  It's going to be hard enough to trace off the details of these 9 patterns.  Conveniently, almost all of them are sized for a 36" bust, so there won't even be much maneuvering.  Most of the patterns were late 50s and early 60s, which is a good era for me.  It's not necessarily my favorite - I love 30s and 40s - but a lot of the shifty, A-line 60s dresses look good on me, and it's hard to argue with a compliment.

On to the pretties:  there were 3 Advance patterns, which I've never tried before.  There were also 2 Butterick, 2 McCall's and 2 Simplicity.  I like all of them for various reasons, but I think my favorite is B2996.  I love the princess seamed front with the in-seam pockets and the back belt.  I'll lower the neckline just a smidge - that looks a little choky - but otherwise, I think it's nearly perfect.  And I have a black-and-white houndstooth silk suiting (ancient) that might look really pretty.  

Let's look at McCall's 9853.  Who has a waist like that?  Who wants one?  Even though the pattern drawing is unrealistic (and delicious) I think there's a lot to be said for the design.  I love the multiple darts and the under-bust gathers in the bodice.  It's worth a try, anyway.

Two of the patterns I chose just for their collars.   I love a good collar, and Simplicity 2971 and Advance 9546 certainly have good collars.  The collar on A9546 is even removable. 

Jackets are also good things.  Advance 9989 looks like it'll be a dream to fit - princess seamed with a bust dart and a fitting dart.  I love the bracelet length sleeves with gloves in the pattern drawing.  And I chose Simplicity 3887 specifically for its jacket.  It looks like a great little basic piece for covering up a dress, and I can always use oneof those.  Kimono sleeves just make it a better multi-purpose pattern.

Nearly last, and definitely smallest (the only non-36" patterns in the bunch) are the 2 shift dresses, McCall's 7419 and Butterick 3419.  Not like I don't have shift dress patterns, but the McCall's one has an  interesting French dart and Butterick's is a dress/jumper combination that I actually think just grabbed me because of the ridiculous clown ruffles (which I wouldn't make).

One final pattern: Advance 9927.  Now that's a suit.  I love the contrast satin running from the collar down the jacket and the skirt.  Yummy.  Though the black is divine, I'm seeing this in a color.  Raspberry?  Unwearable by me, but it would be pretty.

I'd like to say I'm going to jump in and sew one of these patterns soon, but don't forget, I still have to press them and trace them off.  So you won't be seeing one of these emerge from the machine right away, but they will come.

I'm not sure what it is with me and vintage.  It's not love/hate, certainly.  I love the styles, I love the details, I love that the instructions are usually still worth reading for technical bits that pattern companies now don't seem to think we need - one of these patterns, the Advance with detachable collar, even notes on the envelope that it uses the "Bishop Sewing Method" from one of my favorite vintage sewing books.  

I think my love of vintage yet lack of sewing vintage has something to do with laziness.  While there are quick and easy vintage patterns, those aren't the ones that set my pulse to racing.  Quick and easy comes right out of the pattern folders behind my sewing chair.  A good vintage pattern is a project that is worked on over days, paused, pondered, and returned to until all those details are perfect.  Vintage sewing the way I want to do it requires more focus than I have right now. 

At least I've diagnosed the problem.  Now to find a cure.  Everyone is only too happy to share a good fabric sale.  Anybody know where I can get a large dose of concentration, cheap?

When Mimi lists these babies on Etsy, along with their friends (including a few wedding gowns and some full-skirted 50s goodness), I'll be sure to provide a link.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Weekend Update

Wow, long time, no post.  I haven't been feeling bloggish larely, or sewish for that matter.  Or much of anything except play-in-the-dirtish, but I think after this past weekend, I've recovered somewhat. And maybe in a few days I'll get the dirt out from under my fingernails.

This past weekend was a double holiday - Easter (which I can pretty much take or leave) and Mario's birthday (which must be celebrated with all due ceremony, and plenty of wine and food).  Friday night was the opening of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead at the local theater - great fun and my costume looked really good onstage.  There was a first night party after that, and an after-party once the restaurant threw us all out.

After spending much of Saturday outside, we came in, scrubbed up and headed for NJ to have dinner with his family.  Since we were running early, he suggested we stop in the Tractor Supply store near his mom's house and look around.  They had baby chicks!  And not just because of Easter!  Leaving aside the visual of me traipsing around the Tractor Supply wearing my face-printed cowl neck dress and heels, I had a great time.  And next year, there will be chickens.

Sunday was almost completely spent outside.  Last week I had 2 rain barrels delivered.  I get a lot of overflow off the gutters of my large flat roof, and normally I just put buckets under the drip line and use that water for the vegetables.  But when it's rainy (as it has been) I run out of bucket storage.  Two 55-gallon barrels will solve that problem, and hopefully, I won't need to use the hose all summer long. 

Once that was done, it was time for dinner.  Seared duck breast with a sauce of port and dried cherries, a bucket of steamed asparagus and a salad.  And wine, of course.  Yum, if I do say so myself.  And the birthday boy did the dishes.

Not Max's best angle
 But enough of home and the homestead.  You come here for the sewing - of which there was none this weekend, but I did cut out a new project tonight.  Not the leather jacket, not something new to wear to Chicago.  When I bought my lining fabric at Karlin's this past week I also saw a black and white print that I thought would be perfect for a shirt for Mario.  I didn't buy it right away, and had to run back down on Friday after work. 

Yes, those are numbers all over the fabric.  In addition to being a news junkie, he's also a stock junkie.  So what could be better?  He approved the fabric when it came home, and even asked if the topstitching and buttonholes could be white instead of black because he didn't want the visible contrast to interfere with the print.  I cut the fabric out tonight, ran him sample buttonholes in both colors, so he could make sure, and then I stopped.  Work was exhausting today and I didn't want to screw up a project I could probably sew in my sleep by sewing when I was almost sleepwalking.

Shirt will be done by Wednesday.  In the meantime, happy spring, folks - the sun finally came out!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On to the next


I've now made a knit dress and another knit top (KS 3338 from my new Gorgeous knit) while still not finishing my two UFO dresses. I'm beginning to see a trend here - I'm getting a lot of sewing done while complaining that I'm not sewing those particular items. So let's keep going.

PR Weekend is taking place on May 13-15 in Chicago. I wasn't planning to make anything for the weekend, but the other night I decided that what I really want is a new leather jacket. I bought some beautiful teal lamb skin at Mood during the PR shopping day last year, and I've heard it whispering to me recently. Is it wrong that I want to use this leather to make another version of V7976, the same pattern I used for my black leather jacket? I don't think it is - I wear the black leather constantly, and it's an indoor/outdoor kind of jacket, one where if I'm cold in the office I don't feel like I'm wearing outerwear at my desk. And teal would just make it even more indoor wear. The pattern has really nice lines - basic, but interesting, and I think the teal will point out the interesting triple fitting dart on the front, which is kind of lost in the black.

Wait, what am I thinking? This is a pattern that requires 12 total darts, 6 in leather and 6 in lining fabric. I remember cussing at those darts when I made the muslin back in 2008, and then cussing some more when I got to the leather. So of course, what do I want but to do it again?

As a semi-political, semi-aside, and not bringing the whole unpleasant world of politics into a sewing blog (I have opinions and a lot of them but I'd just as soon not go into it here; let's just say I'd probably work for MSNBC sooner than Fox), one thing I really enjoyed during the 2008 election season was Sarah Palin's collection of jackets. Face it, other than that, there wasn't a whole lot of fashion going on among the candidates themselves, other than unfortunate pants suits. Hilary's comment about the "sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit" was one of my favorite election speech moments).

Okay, so back to the plan. I think, especially since I'm using a familiar pattern that needs no tweaking, I can get this finished before Chicago. The only reason I can't do it quicker is that leather needs glue, and glue needs time to dry, but if I plan the project out in sections, I should be able to sew sections and glue them and then go on to the next section without making a really long project out of it.

I ran down to Karlin's, my local store, at lunch today, because if I'm going to start on this today or tomorrow, I need to have lining on hand. Karlin's had some turquoise acetate lining that would have worked, some black poly charmeuse that would have worked, and an iridescent, double-sided taffeta that was peachy-tan/aqua on one side and a solid, deeper turquoise on the other. It had a nicer hand, and beat the acetate hands down. My black leather jacket has an orange acetate lining, and it's the only part of the jacket that's showing wear at this point.

When I planned to make McCall 6171, I got a separating zipper in the right color. I think that may be a little long for this jacket, but I do actually want to make the zipper come up a little higher, and I can always taper the zip into the seam and shorten it that way. (I'd get it shortened at Karlin's, which does that, but their only zipper stops are bright silver and gold, and both would be just a little jarring; I'll do it my way).

So that's the plan. Let's see if I actually follow through. And if anyone out there reading spots me in Chicago NOT wearing this jacket, feel free to ask if it's done. Sometimes I need a boot in the butt.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Good Day in the Garden

Pea seedlings
This is for everyone who has been listening to me gripe that if I don't get some decent garden time soon, I'll probably implode.

Implosion averted.  Yesterday we had decent weather in the a.m., which was good because there was a big city-wide tree planting.  About a year ago I received a letter asking if I would like a free tree in front of my house.  Now my block is really lacking in trees, so I said yes.  I heard nothing more until a few weeks ago, when I got another letter telling me that planting would be 4/16, and that I would come home one day to find a tree pit dug in front of my house.  They included a map and asked me to put an X where I wanted the pit.

I came home this week to a tree pit, dug in precisely the wrong place in front of my house - about 2 feet away from the water and gas lines, which had been clearly marked by the city.  I try contacting the tree people but never hear back.  I decide not to bother, because the letter also said smaller, under-canopy type trees, and I figure those won't be much competition anyway.

So yesterday arrives, and eventually, so does my tree.  It's a cercidiphyllum japonicum.  My tree Latin is lacking, so all I get is the Japanese part.  I look it up.  It's a Katsura, which apparently grows into one big sucker of a street tree.  Because I have no electric wires on my property front, they decided that I got a big tree - the utility companies have this tendency to cut big notches in street trees so the wires can pass through, and I guess the temptation to plant a 40-footer was just irresistable.

Nothing shows your faith in the future like planting something you won't be around to see full grown.  I decided not to care about the utilities under the sidewalk - they were redone with in the last 5-10 years and won't fail until long after I'm out of this house and the tree is a lot bigger.

Garlic's up!
 The back yard, now, is doing exactly as it's supposed to.  I dug in 40 lbs. of compost today in the veggie beds.  The garlic is about a foot tall now.  My peas have just broken ground in their pots.  The blueberry bushes all made it through the winter and are leafing out, as is the lilac.  There are still a lot of spring bulbs blooming.  A really hard rain yesterday beat the lilac up some, but everything else looks pretty happy.
And at least I won't need to water the new tree for a few days.

Now it's late, my back's too sore to sew, I'm so tired I'm too tired to sleep, and I'm happy.  (But whoever it was who spread the myth that gardening was a ladylike activity, obviously never got their hands dirty).

Tomorrow is another day.  One with fabric involved, if I can sit comfortably in the sewing chair.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Take That

I'll show you, Fatina.

Bore me, will you? Refuse to cooperate with me, will you?

Fine. I'll put you aside and make a knit dress instead. Knit dresses NEVER disappoint. By their stretchy nature, knit dresses RARELY refuse to fit the way you think they're going to.

This one was no different. What we have here is a Frankenpattern of the best kind - a favorite top and the skirt of a dress that I knew would work with it. I matched the two at the waist marking and cut, and 2 hours later, I had a new dress.

The fabric was my souvenir of Belgium this past October. It was pricy for a knit, but I haven't seen anything like this at home and I couldn't leave Bruges without it.

I. Feel. Better.

The top, obviously, is the well-loved, often made KwikSew cowl. In addition to thinking that the dress might be a little alarming made entirely in the print, I also didn't think I'd have enough left and so I cut the cowl in solid black.

I like it much better this way, so I don't think of it as a shortage of fabric at all.

The skirt portion was snagged from a 2008 BWOF dress with a waist drape (sorry, the pattern envelope disappeared shortly after I stuffed the pieces back in).

I didn't intend to make the entire thing last night, but it went together quickly, and when I realized I was grumbling about threading the coverstitch I almost smacked myself. That's all that's left to do - the hem? And you're too lazy to thread the coverstitch?

Coverstitch threaded, hem hemmed, dress done and worn to work today. I love it.

Now back to our originally scheduled UFOs. More to come.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fatina Fatigue

I think I may be suffering from a strange malady that I heretofore did not know existed. This would be a strange, wasting illness brought on by repeated sewing of a favorite pattern, something ostensibly a TNT and therefore a pattern that should not cause strange symptoms like multiple UFOs in the sewing room.

I have two unfinished Fatinas right now. One is the dress with the holes, to be explained fully whenever I finish it, and the other is my most recent UFO, a Fatina made from a charcoal gray and yellow windowpane plaid with bias accents. On the first, I misplaced my silk organza that I needed to make the holes, and by the time I found it, I'd lost something else - my interest in the dress. It'll come back, just not sure when.

For the second one, I had originally planned a cut-on kimono-style sleeve. This involved a minor change in the cutting out of the bodice, a change that failed to happen because I was cutting fabric at 10:00 p.m. and I was being very, very careful not to screw up and so I cut exactly around the pattern pieces. Thereby screwing up, since I needed to cut outward.

No biggie, I decided. I'll add sleeves instead. I had a perfectly good sleeve from my wedding dress that fit the Fatina bodice. I dug out the sleeve, I adapted it to the length I wanted, I cut. To make it interesting, and to match the bias band on the skirt, I cut the sleeves on the bias. I'm not sure if this was my mistake, or if simply adding a sleeve to have a sleeve was the mistake. The bias sleeves looked wonky. They fit perfectly fine, but I didn't like them. At all. So I cut them off, and bound the armholes with bias strips. That worked. And binding the neckline with bias worked. Right now, I'm not happy with the bias at the bottom. I think it may not be wide enough, but I'm letting that idea percolate for a while because I really don't want to recut the bias band and waste a ginormous amount of my remaining fabric, which has since informed me it would like to be a skirt.

I'm on the verge of making a quick knit dress to get over myself and see if that makes it better.

Have you had that happen before? A perfectly good pattern that you've made multiple times just suddenly up and misbehaves? Or worse yet, threatens to bore you?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's a long way down

Did you hear the almighty thud the other day when I fell off the fabric wagon?

I came to, sitting on the ground, rubbing my head, watching the wagon full of all the other fabric dieters jouncing off into the distance, while in front of me was . . . temptation.

What can I say? I gave in. Fabric is my cheesecake.

I can come up with lots of reasons: I've been really good about using up older stash lately; I've bought almost no fabric so far this year; I've even been nice and sewn for other people - repeatedly. I could even blame Ann for being a temptress and having such evil, beautiful fabric. But what's the point?

Mostly it came down to the fact that it's gray and dreary and cold and I want it to be spring, damn it. And then it happened. The email from Gorgeous Fabrics, announcing her 10% off sale. I looked at it, said, "Nope, don't need any fabric," and almost hit delete.

Then I saw it. The vintagey white cotton sprinkled with golden-yellow, almost orange flowers. It reminded me of something. It reminded me, actually, of some sheets my grandmom had when I was a kid, but this was a beautiful border print cotton, not sheet-like at all.

I had to have it.

And because fabrics don't cope well traveling on their own, I bought 2 more border prints to keep it company in tthe box, a black and white and a rather loud brown and multi-color one destined to be a maxi dress, and the last yard of the blue, green and brown dot knit pictured.

I'm still sore from the fall - it's a long way down off that wagonload of virtue - but my fabrics arrived yesterday and I know what almost all of them want to be already.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Clearing my head

Okay, sewing for others is over for a while. After I finished the theater costume (which is actually back visiting so that I can make minor adjustments), I quickly knocked out one of my favorite skirt patterns to make myself feel better.

BWOF 10/06 #117 is my go-to pattern when I want a quick skirt fix. I know it fits and it takes a yard of fabric. What's not to like? The simple style lines make it nearly perfect for some of the prints that I can't seem to resist.

Remember last year, when everyone was making wonderful things from madras patchwork? I saw the fabrics, I liked the fabrics, I didn't buy any of the fabrics. However, when I was in NYC a few months back buying fabric for my wedding jacket, I stopped to visit Kashi at Metro and picked up a piece of the patchwork that had ended up in his remnant bin. He actually gave it to me for free because it was slightly under a yard and he said I probably wouldn't be able to do anything with it.

Don't tell me I can't use a piece of fabric, it'll jump the line and end up on me before many other, more worthy fabrics!

Turns out there was JUST enough fabric to not only make the skirt, but also to make a change to my TNT pattern.

After I realized I would have some excess (nice wide fabric), I laid the pattern pieces on the folds, then pulled them back by about 2" and cut. The excess fabric in the center was pleated and stitched down, and added some extra fullness to the skirt. Since the pattern has a narrow yoke instead of a waistband, the pleats weren't sitting right at the waist so they don't make me look puffy. I did 6 pleats in front, 4 in back - same amount of excess, I just wanted it spread out a little flatter in the front.

I've already worn the skirt this week, and I can see this one in heavy rotation all summer and into the fall, because of the colors.

Next up: finished a set of curtains for a co-worker, so it's going to be a dress for me! I'm using another TNT - the Burdastyle Fatina - combined with some 3 year old fabric and trim purchased at the PR NY shopping day last year.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Month End Review - March 2011

I spent a good part of the month of March talking about my lack of motivation, but apparently it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it was.

And I did, at least, knock a few UFOs out of the sewing room, which are more important in the long run than the new projects, because they weigh on me.

This month, I finished a pair of khaki green Jalie jeans (sorry, still no photo); the BWOF 3/07 #122 bias cut skirt, which I love; the KwikSew 2935 "welcome home" shirt for Mario; the My Image M114 pieced skirt; and Butterick 4571, the Queen costume for the upcoming play.

I'm apparently having a skirt thing lately, because I'm currently working on my first project for April (yay, sewing for me!!) and it's another skirt. Part of the reason, I think, is spring and the lack thereof. I feel like dresses and bright colors, but even with the space heater, I can't get the workroom temp above 64, so that kind of puts a damper on my spring fever. Skirts seem like a good midseason compromise.

Today I was going to stop in at a community gardening event around the corner - they're clearing an empty lot and trying to establish a bird sanctuary - but when I went past on my way back from dropping off the costume, there were a surprising number of volunteers there already, so I kept going. Bad, I know, but at least I came home and put in an hour or so in the back yard, spreading compost and planning out where I'm going to put all the plants that will be arriving the first week of May.

And it's hard. Mario was visiting his family this afternoon and when I have the house to myself, it's difficult not to give in to the pull of the sewing machine, so that when he's home I can come out and be social and spend time with him, and hope that he doesn't hear the machine running as I continue working on my project in my head.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fit for a Queen

The dress is done! And just in time, since I have to hand it off tomorrow morning.

This was one of those projects that shouldn't have turned out as well as it did. Despite doing the fabric shopping myself, I still ended up with insufficient yardage - the pattern called for 6 yards of black brocade at the purchased width, but Jomar only had 4.5, and I decided to make it work. Tim Gunn would have been proud.

I'm grateful for non-directional prints, because I cut that floral brocade every which way to get it done, and in the end I only had to narrow the flare at the bottom of the skirt, and I think there's still enough skirt to get the job done. I literally had a handful of scraps left at the end.

The same went for the white brocade for the front panels and the white matte satin for the sleeves - one yard, and scraps left over. The rest of the underskirt is made of white muslin and will work just fine.

I used up almost all 4 yards of the trim as well. The costumer requested a "restrained" trim, something gray or dark. The character wearing this gown is Queen Gertrude (of Hamlet fame), though the play is Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. Okay, so Gertrude is in mourning, but she went from her husband's deathbed to her husband's brother's very live bed, so I think her mourning goes only so deep. A restrained floral should be just fine.

One of the design changes from the pattern was to eliminate the back lacing, and add some to the front. I was just going to do it for show, but I decided that it might actually help with the fit of the costume, so instead of using eyelets, I made buttonholes and laced the front of the dress up with black twill tape. They can always change colors but I thought that worked well enough.

I have to say that despite the challenge of working with too-little fabric (something I couldn't really gripe about because I did it to myself; we could have gone to another store after all), I enjoyed constructing this gown. The ginormous sleeves are almost too much, but they'll look great on stage.

The one thing I got out of it for myself was a new appreciation for a good square neckline, something that we don't see all that often, and certainly easy enough to do well if it's built into a princess-seamed bodice. Aren't princess seams the best thing ever invented? I know they're not historically accurate, but neither are invisible zippers, and no one's going to complain.

The play opens in a couple of weeks, and I'm looking forward to seeing this one onstage - both the costume and the play.

There's a full patternreview here, if you want more details. I'm off to sew something spring-like for myself now. Enough sewing for others for a bit.