Thursday, June 30, 2011

Once upon a time

This was a dress. It was a dress that made me look like a sack of particularly lumpy potatoes, however, I chose to forget that unpleasant fact and remember only that I didn't like the sleeves. So I remade the sleeves, tried the dress on, and all the memories came flooding back.

And the dress came off. Quickly.

And I took scissors to it before I gave myself the opportunity to do the inevitable: It's a nice dress, it's Liberty, that stuff's expensive, I'll wear it eventually, and I'll find a way to make it work. Right. I'm not that good.

The dress pieces sat around for a week or so while I attempted to locate my TNT skirt pattern, which was hiding in the depths of the workroom. I actually had pulled out a lot of my TNTs so I could trace them off onto cardboard to make for easier repeat usage, and then I lost the stack of patterns under an avalanche of fabric. Who, me, a packrat? Say it ain't so.

So . . . Sunday night I finally cleaned up my space, found my patterns and cut out this skirt. The dress pieces weren't big enough to cut the standard front and back pieces, so I did larger center pieces and narrower side pieces. I used the contrast fabric cut from the dress facings as an insert between the yoke and the skirt, and I used the inside of the tie belt as a border/binding on the bottom of the skirt, enclosing the batiste underlining left with the dress pieces. The pocket I carefully removed from the dress and reattached. Invisible zipper up the side and now I have something wearable from my Liberty, and a nice pile of scraps left over.

I wore it Tuesday with a white tank and a pale blue cardigan for my ever-arctic office. Much better than an unloved dress in my closet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Second Time Around

Okay, when I make a dress twice in a short period of time, it's well on it's way to becoming a TNT. This is version 2 of BWOF 2/11 #101, made from a black and white border print I got a month or so ago from Gorgeous Fabrics. And it is indeed gorgeous. I don't usually wear much white, as it has magnetic dirt-attracting properties on me, but I managed to keep this dress clean all day. Hallelujah.

I changed the pattern slightly this time around - lowered the waist seam by about an inch, because the blue and white one was a teensy bit high (riddle me this- how can I be long-waisted at 5' 3"?), and I stabilized the neckline with fusible bias tape in addition to staystitching, because it gaps just the slightest.

And it still does, though not as drastically as the blue and white version. I may just take a tiny little discreet dart in each "corner" of the neck, to make it lay flat. Because it irks me just the slightest, and clothes that irk do not get worn.

Other than that, this is a quick and easy pattern (2 pieces - front and back, and a big old rectangle of a skirt).  Sleeves are cut on, looking much more sleevelike on than they do as pattern pieces.  Fully lined, with my favorite pain-in-the-butt technique of sewing armholes and necks together, then turning the pieces out through the open shoulder seam.  Love the technique but I can't be the only one who manages - almost every time, and despite fanatical marking and measuring - to have extra fabric either on the outside or the lining and have to fiddle that shoulder seam into submission.

I cut this out the other night because I couldn't be bothered to work on the dress I'd been thinking about all day, and, confession here, because I had white thread in the machine, and 2 other white bobbins standing by.  Whereas for the other dress, I would have had to dig out the dark brown thread and wind a bobbin or two, and find the brown lining, and . . . it was just easier, okay?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Works in Progress

It was pretty much a non-sewing week.  Work's been busy, and when I get home all I want to do is either crash on the couch or work outside until I'm too tired to do anything but crash on the couch.

Wednesday night, I got tired of myself, and I went in and cut out a dress.  I've decided I need a few more dresses with full skirts; if I can't have a smaller waist (and that doesn't seem to be happening without significant effort on my part), I'll have more skirt and go with the optical illusion instead.  It's my illusion, let me keep it.

I cut out NL 6587, a pattern I've had for years and never made, from a bitter chocolate cotton lawn with tiny peach-colored embroidered flowers.  I bought the fabric in Paris in 2008 (actually shopping with Trena) and it's been sitting.  Now it's sitting again, but on the table and in pieces.

I was excited about the dress when I cut it out, but I spent all day Thursday in work sewing it in my head and when I got home I had absolutely no interest in repeating the imaginary work I had been doing all day.  So I cut out another dress, a repeat of BWOF 2/11 #101, the scoop neck dress that I made in the blue and white striped eyelet.  This time I'm using a black and white border print that I got from Gorgeous Fabrics a while back, and this dress I'm just about finished.  There would be photos, but I'm hoping to wear it to work tomorrow, so I might as well wait for that. 

My other weekend project, aside from gardening and working on dresses, is Sophia.  Sophia is a stray kitty who hangs out on the block I walk down every morning to get to the train.  I've been seeing her for a month or so now, and she's been getting skinnier and dirtier as the weeks pass.  According to one of the neighbors, Sophia  used to have people, but they moved away and left her.  Bastards.  So she needs a home.  And I actually have 2 potential people for her (aside from me; I'd love to keep her), but now, of course, when I'm looking for her, she's nowhere to be found.  

We had breakfast together on Friday morning on someone's front steps.  She ate an entire bag of cat treats.  I know I could lure her into a carrier with food, if only she'd show up when I wasn't running late for work. 

Must get up earlier tomorrow. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sustainable Saturday

Yesterday I indulged in my other obsession, which I'm going to share; hopefully it's not too far off-topic for you - I've come to realize a lot of sewists are also mad gardeners, or would like to be, given the space and soil.

Several community organizations in my neighborhood have organized what they're calling Sustainable Saturday - The West Philadelphia Local Food Series.  The third Saturday of every month is going to be a series of garden tours, workshops and presentations on growing and preparing local foods.  Yesterday was the first day, and if this is what it's like, count me in.

This was also tied in with our Saturday farmer's market, which goes from 10 a.m. -2 p.m.  At noon, I went to an hour-long workshop on "Creating an Urban Homestead" at a local urban farm.  The farmer talked about how his original plan was just to grow a couple of tomatoes and have a little chicken coop in his back yard, but somehow the plan spilled over into the empty lot next door, which he and his partner have squat-farmed for 3 years.  It's gotten big enough that they have a weekly farm stand. 

They also have chickens and a turkey (raccoon attack took out the turkey's siblings), and they used to have bees.  The bees weren't happy there so they gave them to a local urban beekeeping group which has hives set up in the Woodland Cemetery. 

They talked a lot about raising vegetables and poultry, and what can and can't be done in an urban setting (apparently nothing is impossible) and they emphasized the amount of work involved in that kind of operation.  Funny enough, both men admitted to eating a lot of pizza because once they're done their day jobs, and come home and work on the farm lot, they're too tired to cook their own produce and they sell it and give it away to the neighbors.

After that, there was another workshop at a local community garden on Sustainable/Edible Landscaping, which talked a lot about fruit trees in the city and ornamental plants that people use for landscaping that can actually be edible, or what plants can be swapped in for ornamental plants that have a similar look and feel but also provide food.  The presenter was a big fan of blueberry bushes, which grow pretty well in our area, are covered in white flowers in spring, and turn bright red in the fall.  I have 4 of them and they're the brightest thing in the yard come October.

Simultaneous presentations which I missed out on: Irrigating with Stormwater (I figure I've got that under control with 2 55-gallon rain barrels in the back, both full at the moment), and Foraging for Edible Plants, which I thought was intriguing but it was at the same time as the Urban Homestead workshop.  There was also a trolley tour of numerous community gardens and restaurants which serve local food.

Upcoming events, which have Mario intrigued as well, are mushroom growing and brewing your own beer.  We got a wine kit from a friend a while back and have yet to try it out, but I could also see a wall of beer bottles in the basement.  Why not?

It was great to see so many people show up at these workshops yesterday; like sewing, sometimes my sustainable living obsession makes me feel like I'm the only one out there, but apparently I am not.  The presenters also were very clear that all this is an experiment: if you don't know if it'll work in your yard, give it a shot.  What's the worst that can happen?  You'll either have a few dead plants, which you'll have at the end of every season anyway, or it might actually work.

The theory of try it, you might fall on your face or you might do something really cool is how I've always tackled sewing, so it's nice to see it applied to something else.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

One more for the road

Thanks to everyone for your comments on my near miss dress.

I forgot to upload this picture last night and I do think it gives a slightly different view of the dress, so I'm including it here, partly to share it and partly because I've been a lazy sewist and gotten nothing at all done tonight that wasn't outside in the garden, and I don't always want to write about the garden.

And I just did a post with cat photos because I couldn't come up with anything else. 

So there you have it.  Gratuitous dress photo.  Lazy sewist.  Rained-on gardener.  Happy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Near Miss

My striped dress has been languishing on the end of the work table for some time now. I posted that we were having difficulties - following the pleating marks on the pattern, there was no way to get the stripes to line up, and while at first I didn't think that would be a problem, these really are awfully DEFINITE stripes, and they look awful if they're not lined up. I sewed the skirt to the bodice and HATED it. And put it down for a while.

My first thought was to simply lose the idea of matching entirely and just go buy more fabric and make the skirt in horizontal stripes; since it's not a tight skirt, I didn't mind the idea of stripes around my hips. But the store was out of the fabric. Who bought 20 yards of this? And what were they making? So the dress stayed on the table, looking at me every time I walked in the room, making me feel guilty.

I let it sit for a while longer, and then one night, I cut the skirt off the bodice and loosened all the pleats. Since there was no more fabric, I had to make do with what was there. I attached the bodice to the skirt again at the center back and at both center fronts, then at the side seams, making sure to line up my stripes. From there, I just pleated by hand, matching stripes and trying to balance the pleats on each side. The seam allowance this time was pretty minimal - I'd used 5/8" before, and had to cut it off, and since this dress has a dropped waist I didn't want to raise it to some weird, unflattering level. Thankfully the black fabric almost eliminated the seamline anyway, but I think that worked.

After that, things got a little easier. I put the sleeves in (hadn't bothered when I thought the dress might be heading toward Wadderville) and gave everything a good pressing. I like the sleeve cuffs. I had them pinned each way for a while, trying to decide whether I wanted that much gingham visible, but it seemed pointless to hide almost all of it so I used the gingham for the under cuffs, which are turned back. If I'm feeling more minimal, I'll use the striped side.
Feeling much more positive, I put it back on the table to rest again for a few days.

(insert lost weekend here, followed by useless Monday evening).

Tuesday night was a whole different story. I blew off book club, got a few things done around the house, and then retreated to the workroom after dinner. All of a sudden everything started to move. I marked and made the buttonholes and sewed on the buttons. I LOVE the buttons. I got them at Pacific Trims in NY the last time I was up there, and they were exactly what this dress wanted. I knew that before I had a complete vision of the dress - I had black and white stripes, red gingham and red domed buttons in my head but nothing else for quite some time.

I tried the dress on after I sewed on the buttons, and now I have another small issue - I need to figure out which bra will work best with this dress because my usual ones are a little much, and I can see a smidgen of the gingham when I look down. I need one of my more minimal bras, which the underwear drawer has apparently hidden from me. Grrr.

It still needed something, but I didn't know what. I put the dress on Evelyn to stare at it and it came to me. I went digging in my junk drawer in the workroom and came up with two cherry appliques that I got a while back for no apparent reason. Except, apparently, they look freaking adorable on the collar.

Last of all was the hem. There's a good bit of skirt here, and by that point (around 11:00 p.m.) I just couldn't cope with the idea of hand hemming. Problem: I also couldn't cope with the idea of visible black thread on my white stripes, or white thread on the black. What's a girl to do? Machine hem with white thread, that's what, and then spend some quality time with a black fine point Sharpie marker.

I know it's cheating, but sometimes - especially on a dress that's been in the works this long, and was so close to being trashed - cheating is okay if it gets something finished and wearable.

End result: I love it. It's going to be up there with the Cherry Bomb dress in the category of dresses I reach for on gray days, or cranky mornings. Cheerful!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lost Weekend

Is it really a lost weekend when you did a bunch of stuff you enjoyed, but also a lot more that you'd have preferred not to? And in any case, got none of the stuff done that you needed or wanted to? If that's your definition, then I lost my weekend.

We had dinner with friends on Friday night - long-planned and long anticipated. They're the ones I made the ridiculous pink velvet Easter dress for, and I haven't seen the baby since her christening, so she's 7 months old now and a whole different kid. We were entertained by her and her mom, and well fed by her dad, and we didn't get home until nearly midnight.

Saturday morning, instead of our usual quick breakfast and trip to the farmer's market before settling in to do Saturday house and garden chores, we went downtown to have brunch with Mario's sister and her boyfriend, who were in town. Very nice food, nice time, and at least there's a farmer's market on Rittenhouse Square (better than ours, actually) where we still did some of our Saturday shopping. I'd also promised to grab a cup of coffee with a friend on Saturday afternoon - a little girl time is a necessity and we hadn't gotten together in almost 3 weeks. It started to cloud over while we were out, so when I came home I got about a half hour of gardening done before the skies opened. Considering how dry it had gotten, I wasn't really going to complain. A good rainstorm refilled both my rain barrels, so I'm ready for the next dry spell.

The next part of my lost weekend was entirely my fault. I sat down with a book and fell in. We've been watching Game of Thrones on HBO and a friend lent me the first book of the series. I was gone for about 2 hours, or until it was time to have dinner. By that point, we were both so wiped out from running around that we didn't get off the couch for the rest of the night, and I read some more.

Max - another reason for not getting things done
Sunday involved a visit to my aunt. She's fresh out of 3 weeks of rehab and feeling about as pleasant as a pit viper at all the child-proofing that had to be done to her apartment to make it safe for her. No throw rugs, no piles of slippery pillows on chair seats, no minefield of rickety folding TV tray tables strewn everywhere. She has a deep and abiding love of folding tray tables, but in a 500 square foot apartment, do you really need 8 of them? I also got rid of her favorite (50 year old) chair and replaced it with a recliner with a mechanized seat that helps her get up. (She hates it).

At least she's on better behavior with Mario there, so I got off relatively unscathed, and some other people dropped in at the same time so she really couldn't lash out. Yay! On our way home (mid-afternoon by that point), we stopped and did the rest of the grocery shopping, got home, put it away, and went to visit a neighborhood friend whose mother-in-law had died this week. It was the next to last night of shiva and we wanted to stop by, and I knew there was very little chance I'd get there on Monday night.

Now that it's Monday, I'm even more sure. Tonight, between getting home and going to bed, we've dealt with the trash, recycling, 2 loads of laundry, making dinner, doing a little work in the garden, finishing that book so I can give it back tomorrow and, you guessed it, NO SEWING. Maybe tomorrow.

Cross your fingers for me, okay?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How sad is that?*

The other night, I decided that my aunt-induced stress levels could only be relieved with wine or sewing (or possibly some dangerous combination of the two).

I started with sewing. I ended with wine.

I decided not to do anything too complicated, since I was already vibrating at a frequency that felt like 2-3 glasses of that wine. I had pre-treated all my Liberty fabrics last week, and I decided to cut out the replacement sleeves for my dress. I found the wad of white batiste that I failed to fold when I put away, ironed it, ironed the Liberty, cut out sleeves and underlining for the sleeves and basted them together.

Then I sat with Mario for a few minutes and picked the old sleeves off the dress. They were cute, but they were a little too fluffy, and I don't do fluffy well. The new sleeves, even with a few gathers, seemed much more smooth and minimal. Sleeves off, pressed the seam allowances flat again, pinned on new sleeves, sewed, finished seam allowances, pressed again.

And then I tried on the dress.

And the memory came back.

Of how I didn't not wear that dress just because of the sleeves, but because it wasn't flattering. It made me look like I had no waist at all, and all the cute new sleeves in the world weren't going to give me one.

Guess what?

I'm making a new skirt out of some lightly worn Liberty fabric that used to be a dress. Photos to come.

* thanks to Andrea for the title of this post. That was her response to my email of what happened in the sewing room.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Clothes for small people

One last PR Weekend related post, and that's the end.  I promise.

Unless I think of something else.

This dress was made (and mentioned) several months ago, but I didn't want to post it until I'd handed it over to the recipient - Deepika - which I did at our Friday evening dinner at the Berghoff.

Here's the dress for the official Patternreview baby, based on Burda 9680, and made from a combination of Amy Butler remnants, a brown-and-white spotted man's shirt, lots of white eyelet ruffles and a handful of rosebuds. 

I was going for cute, and I think I succeeded.  Any cuter, and it might make your teeth hurt.

The best compliment I got on a garment during all of PR Weekend was on this - someone looked at it and said, "If I didn't know you'd made it, I'd know.  It looks like something you'd make." 

Which it does.  I hadn't really thought about my baby clothes being as me as my own clothes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Guy stuff

Otherwise known as the man has new pants.  I picked this pattern, Simplicity 5581, up at the pattern swap at PR Weekend.  Talk about madness.  Never dump a hundred or so patterns on a flat surface and then let a hundred or so women at them simultaneously.  Someone could get hurt.

Here's the pattern review:

Pattern Description: Men and boys shirt, cargo shorts and hat.

This review is specifically for the shorts. I have two TNT men's shirts - both KwikSew - and didn't want to try out a new one. But he's in dire need of shorts, and I picked this pattern up at the pattern swap at PR Weekend Chicago. Free pattern? I'll try it.

Pattern Sizing: Boy's S-L and Men's S-XL. I made size M, which corresponded to a 34" waist.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes! The pic of the shorts on with his shirt pulled up shows the faced waistband and belt loops, front and back.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Mostly they were very clear. There are 36 steps for these shorts, from start to finish. I was with them until step 33, a particularly strange way of handling the waist facing (the shorts don't have a waistband, but a faced waist that somehow - I did it and I still don't know how - is folded one way, sewn to the zipper area on either side, then flattened out and sewn at the waist seam. I think they neglected to mention the flattening out after doing the odd seam at the zip, which makes it look like there's no way the thing will EVER fit. Once I stopped puzzling over the instructions and just played with the fabric, it made sense. Almost.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I grabbed this off the pattern swap table because Mario has been complaining he can't find any shorts that he likes. Maybe if he went to the store, he'd find some, but he's enough like me that he goes to the thrift store, and they've been lacking in his size. Eventually the complaints turned into a request for shorts, and when I saw this pattern, I figured it was fate. I like that they aren't "standard" shorts - the faced waist was interesting and less bulky than trying to sew a standard waistband, and I liked the pockets. The upper pockets were applied, so no pocket bags (and no bulk) and then the cargo pockets were applied beneath.

No dislikes, other than the slightly unintelligible finishing instructions.

Fabric Used: Poly-cotton blend twill bought at Jomar. We went on a shorts-fabric buying expedition and got a nice tan khaki and a brown denim. I grabbed this piece to use for the first pair, not being sure they'd turn out. DH doesn't know what a wearable muslin is, and I'm not telling. I figured it was good enough for the first version, and a little lighter weight if the multiple thicknesses of fabric got finicky to sew. No problems, and the fabric looks better made up than it did on the table.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: No changes or alterations for this pair. On an unfamiliar pattern (especially when not sewing for myself) I usually try to work up a pattern exactly as is. This was very well drafted; everything matched up as it should and the only problem was one that I hadn't - and should have - anticipated.

Mario is 5'6". I'm 5'3". However, we both have a 30" inseam. I've only ever made shirts and jackets for him before, so it didn't occur to me that the inseam on a pair of SHORTS would need to be adjusted. But they do. The shorts, unhemmed and as drafted, hit him almost mid-calf. I'm not letting him out of the house in capri pants. I'm not letting him near the door!

Hemming them to the knee, and still a smidge longer than I would like, takes the length exactly to the bottom of the cargo pockets. I was going to pick out the bottom seam of the pockets, shorten them and restitch them (couldn't remove them entirely and move them up because the top pockets are applied, and they would end up on top of each other). He convinced me to leave well enough alone - they ARE a muslin, after all - so I did. But they bother me.

For some reason, there's only one back pockets on these shorts. I added another one for balance.

The BEST thing about this pattern, and something I will take with me onto the next pair of jeans I make, was the fly front. I hadn't made a pair of pants before with the extra flap sewn on the fly. I've done the fly shield, but using the extra piece adds more stability to the fly and gives more layers for the final stitching. Much better, and the zipper is set back like a proper RTW zipper, instead of the too-close-to-the-edge effect I've gotten a few times with jeans instructions. Here's the inside of the fly area.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? They have his approval, and mine, once I adjust the length to suit him. He requested that the next pair have different cargo pockets - instead of the neat, folded pocket that gives expansion without being bulky, he wants real bellows pockets with the extra strip of fabric around the sides. Okay, honey, whatever you want. Catch a woman adding lots of fabric to the outside of her thighs. Not very likely.

Conclusion: Great shorts, good fit and not a long process even with all the topstitching involved on the pockets.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Month End Review - May 2011

Despite (or because of) my 3 days spent with the wonderful women of Patternreview, May was an oddly productive month. Not everything has made its way completely out of the sewing room yet, but I'm going to list them here because unlike my recent UFO streak, these garments will be finished.
5 garments, 10.5 yards of fabric out of stash for the month (interestingly, that's just about how much fabric I bought in Chicago, so I may break even for May).

First off, I had to make another shirt for Mario out of the black and white stock market print. Andrea made a fabulous skirt out of the same fabric which she will review eventually.
I'm still working on Vogue 5382, the stripe/gingham dress. I had issues and had to take it apart because no matter how I maneuvered the fabric using their layout, I couldn't get the stripes to line up and it was making me batshit. So I just cut the skirt off last night and I'm piecing it together with what little remnants I have and I'm just going to pleat it on the dress form so that I can make it line up where I want. I don't need no stinking Vogue layout. Not if I want it to work, anyway. A perfectly made dress that I won't wear is less useful than an imperfectly made dress that I will wear.

For some reason, the new June Burda mag hit me hard. I made 2 pieces almost immediately, the #120 tshirt (to compare to my TNT KS 3338 shirt), and the #120 A-line shift dress. Which I promise, will be shown on me, or at least on the dress form, when it comes out of the laundry basket. Both of these projects were ridiculously quick and easy, and made me feel like I got a lot more done than I did.

The last project is almost completed, and I'll post a photo and full review soon.  During the madness that was the PR Weekend pattern swap, I managed to snag a man's pattern with a short sleeve shirt (I know, like I need one of those) and cargo shorts.  Now those, I need.  Or rather, he needs.  It's an interesting pattern with a new fly front technique I hadn't tried before.  Turning out very well, except that I really should have measured him before attaching the cargo pockets.  His height is mostly in his upper body, so I'm afraid at this point that the pockets might be longer than the shorts!  But that's what wearable muslins are for.  If I shorten the pockets and reattach them, he'll be none the wiser and I'll know better next time.

There is still inspiration brewing from PR Weekend, and a very specific project that I was hit by today which has nothing to do with PR Weekend. More to come on that one when the idea has jelled a little bit more in my head.