Monday, August 29, 2011

If Burda gives you lemons

make Sorbetto with them.

I wanted to deal with the remains of my BWOF 9/11 #132 dress before it became a crumpled silk UFO taunting me from the floor of my sewing room - or worse, a crumpled silk sleeping mat for Lily, no longer taunting me because it's full of cat hair. 

What can make you feel almost as good as a successful sewing project?  Taking scissors to an unsuccessful one. 

I cut off that unfortunate upper portion and threw it out.  That left the lower section, and once cut along the side seams, I had a very large piece of fabric for the front, and a reasonbly-sized piece for the back. 

What to do with those pieces?  I looked through a few patterns, but most of the ones that appealed wouldn't work with the fabric (either the size or the print), so I reached for the Colette Sorbetto pieces which were still on the table from the other week. 

I guess there's a point to being a slob.

When I made this pattern a week or so ago, I thought it was a quick, easy, cute top, and now I can add one more positive to this list:

It's a quick, easy, cute top that saves me from having to look at this failure of a dress crumpled on the sewing room floor

Take that, Burda.  It may not be the dress - or even a dress - but it's a wearable, finished garment and I can now put the Burda dress behind me.

Hurricane update:  I really thought with the weather we were going to have this weekend, I'd get a ton of sewing done.  Not so; I got about as much sewing done as we got hurricane weather.  (I'm glad about the weather - this is one of the times when I was happy the weathermen were wrong - but sad about the sewing).

Philly got about 6" of rain, which is less than we got two weeks ago.  The winds were rough but nothing the house couldn't handle, and for the first time in many, many years, we took on no water.  It's comforting, knowing that the house is finally just about watertight. 

For anyone who's curious, the chickens made it through the storm just fine - it was, after all, less water than they've had several times since moving into the back yard.  In what turned out to be an excess of caution, we took a fashionable blue tarp, some bungee cords and a few bricks, and made sure that the girls were as close to protected as we could manage.  All that did was keep them relatively dark all day yesterday, and so they laid no eggs, but at least they were dry. 

Tomorrow is a vacation day for me, though I'm not sure now what we're going to do with it.  Originally it was supposed to be a shore day but I think the shore's still closed, and even if it's not, most of the roads between here and there probably are.  So maybe it'll just be a vacation at home day, sleeping late, cleaning up some debris outside, . . . getting a little bit of sewing done?

Hope you all made it through the storm unscathed, and got more sewing done than I did. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Not for the faint of heart

Or, apparently, for the big of boob. 

I'm not going to call BWOF 9/11 #132 a wadder, and it really isn't the silk twill potato sack I feared it would be, but I think that I'm going to cut my losses before it becomes either, and reserve what's left of this beautiful fabric for some other project. 

The back of the dress doesn't look too bad, and the front doesn't either, but I made one mistake that I've made before - I love dresses with that nice straight line above the bust, and I have too much bust beneath that nice straight line for it to look, well, . . . nice. 

The drape looked good on the dress form.  It doesn't look bad flat on the table, either. 

But on me, not so much.  The drape just wouldn't drape properly - it centered itself over one boob and stubbornly refused to drape the way it did on the form.

Anybody ever see that Julie Andrews movie called Thoroughly Modern Millie?  This dress reminds me of the scene early in the movie when her strand of pearls kept locating itself over one or the other, until she finally went out and got the 1920s version of shapewear and flattened herself out.

Flattening would work, but it's not happening, and I don't think generic shapewear woudl be enough.  Certainly my most minimal bra made almost no difference at all.  Shapewear and I aren't particularly good friends, and this isn't the dress to push me over the edge into wearing it. 

Despite having absolutely the worst Burda instructions I've ever encountered, they were right about one thing - this is definitely a dress that would look better on a taller woman.  A taller, thinner woman.  A taller, thinner woman with smaller boobs. 

I couldn't bear to get Mario involved in taking photos of this dress.  He thinks I walk on water, or at least sew that way.  Some projects don't need witnesses.
On the plus side, I got the spring and fall Ottobre magazines today.  Their patterns never do much for me in the magazine, but I always tend to really like them made up.  Off to trace something practical and keep myself occupied while the hurricane attempts to wash away my chickens.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Progress

I'm still wrestling with this dress (which is BWOF 9/11 #132, since I forgot to properly identify it last time around), and I think we've reached some kind of agreement.

What you see in these photos is the upper bodices sewn together at the shoulders (self-lined on the upper bodice), piping basted to the seam, and the lower front folded and pinned to the piped seam. 

There's a bit of sag at the fold, but I think this is mostly caused by (a) the weight of the fabric; (b) the fact that there's no back on the dress yet to balance out the weight; and (c) the upper bodice linings aren't pinned or stitched to the lower part of the dress yet.  I think once everything is together the way it should be, I'll have a straight line across the front.

I tried several different ways to get the drape the way it was in the magazine.  You can see here that you can fiddle with it and get several different looks.  I'm not sure if you're supposed to be able to do that, and I'm not sure what (if?) I've done wrong that is giving me about an extra inch of fabric around the lower armholes, but I think if everything is draped properly and looks like a dress when it's hanging on the form, I'm just going to work with it as it is and see what happens.

It's looking much less like a potato sack than I thought, or at least it's a rather elegant potato sack.  I love the fabric. 
I'm questioning now whether or not I want the piping on that seam or not.  It's nowhere near as obvious in real life as it is in the photos, where it looks like I drew across the bodice with a black Sharpie.  The black in the fabric rises up to join it and it makes sense; on the other hand, I wasn't thinking how the weird shape of the lower front piece would play with the grain/pattern of the fabric and I'm not sure I want that interrupted by a line, however straight (or not straight) it may be.

I also may not want that black line there just in case I can't get everything to balance exactly.  Hmm.  Another reason to possibly unbaste.  I'll think on it; I'm probably not going to get any sewing done tomorrow night anyway.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In a dark wood wandering

Burda has done it again - delivered the English translation of their magazine with instructions that might as well be written in the original German, that is.

Or possibly not - I could probably feed the German instructions into the Google machine and get back something resembling instructions to make this dress.

Why do I want to make this dress?  That's another thing entirely, and I'm not completely sure why, but when the September issue arrived yesterday, that was what jumped out at me.  I hated the photo - the model was so contorted you couldn't tell what the dress was supposed to look like - but I found the line drawing intriguing, and when I looked up the online photo, I decided to go for it.

And then of course I see that it's a TALL pattern, and last time I checked, I'm still not tall. 

I decide I still find the pattern intriguing, though there's a chance it will make me look like a bag of potatoes.  Maybe that's why I find it intriguing?  Because most of the time I can't just head straight for a flattering pattern; I have to wrestle with something first to make it work?

I trace it off, noting that the front pattern piece is so ginormous (to account for the drape) that it's wider than my fabric.  Thankfully I've chosen a non-directional print (a silk twill from Paron's) so I laid out the pieces the wrong way and still had enough left to cut the front and back upper bodices, armhole facings and hem facings.

How did Burda go wrong this time?  Let me count the ways.  First off, the diagram where they tell you which pieces to trace - it specifically states to trace pieces 1 through 7.  Which I do.  And fold the page up and put it away, not noticing until later that the list of pattern pieces in the written instructions also includes piece 8, the back hem facing.  This is when I start muttering under my breath, partly because I should have realized that there were 2 facings. 

The swearing starts when I have all the pieces assembled (minus the missing facing) and I realize that the instructions begin with the drape.  There's no mention anywhere about the upper bodice.  Ever.  It's beside the point that I don't need them.  They're instructions - instruct, preferably from the beginning.  Someone will thank you, and not write cranky blog posts about your inadequacies.

Then I read the instructions for the drape.  Twice.  Three times.  That they are awful is an understatement.  Riddle me this one:  "For the draped fold on the front, fold the front along marked fold line, right side facing in.  Stitch along the upper edge from the fold edge to the seam mark (seam number 1), then stitch upward to edge of seam allowance at the seam mark."  Still with me?  "Here, clip allowance diagonally into the stitched corner.  Pull the draped fold out and push the pointed upper corner to the inside, approx. 8" wide."

From there, they deal with the back.  "Gather the upper edge of the back between the asterisks to 9 1/2 ins."  (They neglect to mention that pesky back upper bodice that you're supposed to connect it to.  Details, details.

After that, they cover side seams, the zip and some sketchy description of the armhole facings.  If I didn't know what I was doing, I'd be so stinking lost.

I finally figured out my mistake - the "marked fold line" is an almost invisible straight line next to the diagonal line where the 2 pieces of the front pattern piece are taped together, and it's noted on the pattern sheet with large words in Russian and German, and a discreet "fold" written below, so I missed it.  I'm still confused, but it's becoming clearer.

More later, when I finally get the drape draped.  And then decide I look like I'm wearing a silk twill potato sack.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More than a UFO

UFOs are Unfinished Objects.  What do you call an object that's never been started, only obsessively planned and talked about and delayed and procrastinated and ignored . . . and reminded?

Whatever we want to call it, I've got one.

Way back when Mario and I first started seeing each other (friend stage; not even dating yet, though I had plans) he asked how hard it was to make a jacket.  I said that it would depend on the jacket, plus I hadn't started sewing for men at that point.  Why?

It seems he's always had a yen for a particular jacket.  Anybody remember the jackets Jimi Hendrix wore, the funky, velvet, Sergeant Pepper bandleader type jackets?  Pseudo-military with too much gold braid?  Frock coat on acid? 

That's what he wanted.

I thought, "No way, dude.  We're not even dating."

Fast forward 5+ years. 

What's my excuse now?  He still talks about it.  There's a TV commercial with a quick flash of Hendrix wearing one of those jackets and he points it out.  And he's not normally like that.

I ask if he'd really wear the thing if I made it.  "Absolutely!" he says.  "I'd probably never take it off."

I'm not sure how that would fly at work, but whatever floats your boat.  I guess I really need to start thinking about how I want to make this jacket.  I have a few mens patterns around, but nothing that's going to come close to.  Time to look at the historical patterns and see what I can morph into something resembling what he wants.

He looks so quiet.  Here I am all this time trying to liven up his wardrobe with print shirts when what he really, really wants is a frock coat on acid. 

Go figure.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chicken Update

Update to the update - the girls are earning their keep:

Something to do on a rainy day.
Thanks for all your comments on my new venture.  I'm glad I could provide so many with so much amusement - including me.  I was laughing like a fool the entire time, so I can see how anyone else would find it funny.  Let's just say I never expected the first time I touched a chicken would be by tackling it in a thrift store.

A few of your comments need/deserve responses:

Elaray:  I'm going to ask stupid questions: Don't you also need a rooster? Does having no rooster mean you get eggs, but no chicks?  Don't you work in education?  There are no stupid questions.  I don't need a rooster (and probably wouldn't have gotten the go-ahead from my neighbors if I wanted one). 

Chickens operate basically the same way we do; they have eggs, but they only turn in to chicks if they're fertilized by Mr. Rooster.  Otherwise, they're just eggs.  Much tidier and more useful than us, actually.

Marysews:  Good story! Where did you get your coop? We are in the planning stages to have hens next year. We live in a residential area where we are not allowed to have livestock, but we can have a pet that just happens to have feathers and give eggs - two, if the neighbors don't complain!  I got the coop from Hayneedle.  It was a little pricier than I wanted - I actually had wanted to build my own - but short notice means less choice, and they had free Fedex ground shipping.  I saw the same coop on several other sites for the same price, PLUS shipping.  It wasn't difficult at all to build - it took the 2 of us about a half hour, and that's using screwdrivers because of course we couldn't find the philips head bit for the drill.

Lisette:  By the way what happens in the winter time? Do you have to get a heater for the coop?  Some people do.  Chickens actually don't do too badly in cold weather - they're more at risk in the extreme heat we've had - but if it gets below zero and stays that way for a while, it's hard on them, plus their water freezes up.  I'm going to re-use something we used to use for the stray cats on the porch.  I forget what they're called, but they're these plastic things that look like the ones you put in the freezer, except these can be microwaved and stay warm for 6 hours or so.  A deep bed of straw and a couple of these should keep them warm enough, and I can always tarp off some of the screening if it's really blowing.

The girls seem to have settled in, but it's hard for me to tell.  After way too much dry, now it's absolutely pissing down rain out there.  I've gone out a couple times just to make sure they're not standing in mud and they seem okay, if a little offended by the dampness.  I gave them a handful of lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes that were knocked down by the rain, and that cheered them right up. 

And since it's raining, I'm sewing.  I guess that's one positive - the next thing you read will be a post about sewing, for a change.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chickens Coming Home to Roost


I've wanted chickens for a while, but we didn't think it was time.  I did a lot of re-landscaping in the back yard this year, the point of which was to make room for next year's eventual chicken coop. 

Then serendipity got in the way.  A week ago, we went to a party at a friend's house.  I got to talking to a friend of hers who keeps chickens.  It made me think again. 

The next day, a message came through on our neighborhood listserv about a local CSA farm that was getting out of the egg business due to severe raccoon problems (they are still in the city but more suburban than my area).  They had 14 chickens who were looking for new homes.

I emailed Mario at work and told him.  Wonderful man, his only question was, "Are we ready?"

Is anybody ever ready when change comes along?  I figure things happen for a reason, and when they do, you roll with it. I emailed back, and asked for 3.  Within a matter of hours, they only had 2 chickens left - in a city that doesn't allow backyard chickens.  When I stop finding dime bags in my front yard, I'll start worrying about who's keeping illegal poultry.

Two days later, a chicken coop was on its way, and on Thursday, we got it built and installed in the back yard (in a completely different but much more practical area than I had originally planned).  On Friday, we raccoon-proofed it - hardware cloth stapled to the entire floor of the run, then covered with dirt and bedding, and spring hooks on the doors. 

We were as ready as we could be.

This morning, we picked up the girls.  They were bundled up in a big cardboard box, taped shut.  We drove them home, and I carried the box up the alley to the back yard while Mario parked.  I untaped the box, put it down in front of the open coop door, and shook the box.  The smaller chicken (the one in the front of the picture) walked into the coop.

The second chicken, bigger and darker, flew straight up in the air, landed somewhere behind me, did 2 high-stepping laps around the yard, tearing off mouthfuls of leaves from every passing plant, rose up again and flew over a 4 foot chain link fence, ran down the alley next door, out through their locked gate and out of sight.  In a matter of seconds. 

During this time I ran and swore and dove at the bird, but she was too fast.  I ran down the alley after her, only to find that Mario locked the gate because he would, obviously, be coming in the front door.  Thankfully he got back just then, saw me and unlocked the gate.  I run past him, see an older man standing outside the karate studio down the street.  "Have you seen my chicken?"  Completely unfazed, he points left.  "He went that way, ma'am." 

We track the chicken by the people standing on the sidewalk, either puzzled or laughing.  We track the chicken through the double doors into the thrift store where I do a lot of my shopping.  We eventually track the chicken into a corner behind a rack of hangers.  With an authority I didn't really feel, I got hold of the chicken and called for a box.  Mario found one, and for good measure, we put the box in a trash bag and carted her off home.

This time, she went into the coop.  A little huffy about it, if you ask me, but she went in. 

They're a little stressed right now, between multiple raccoon attacks at their old home that killed over 2 dozen chickens, then being moved to a temporary home, then moving again today.  (Plus that little unplanned adventure).  But they're eating, they're drinking, and eventually, they'll be calm enough to lay us nice pale blue eggs. 

I noted when I was hunting the chicken that it was half price day at the thrift store.  I went back a little later and spent some money, just to make up for the fuss we'd caused.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New (Old) Patterns

I mentioned in my previous post that we went flea marketing last weekend and I found a few vintage patterns. 

These were found in a little store in Lambertville, NJ, which had a heavy inventory of vintage clothes, jewelry, knicknacks, toys, magazines, and the kind of stuff that can keep you occupied for hours.  The patterns (there were probably about 25) were stuffed, standing up, in an old jewelry box.  Mario pointed them out to me and disappeared off into some back room to look at comic books.

I settled down in a corner and spread them out.  Most were gorgeous - there were a few of those cute romper-with-skirt combos, bathing suits, loads of dresses, a few pairs of pants.  I'm a sucker for a vintage dress, though, and that's where I focused my attention. 

They had two Hollywood Patterns, the Evelyn Keyes 1041 pictured here, and a Betty Grable which I couldn't afford (the random pricing didn't make much sense except for that one).  Despite wanting the Grable because of the photo and the great pattern drawing, I ended up with Evelyn, Scarlett O'Hara's little sister, because it was overall a better pattern. 

Here's the description:  Fitted jacket-blouse with or without square collar. Shoulder yokes in one with center front and back sections.  Bracelet length or shortsleeves.  Slim six-gored skirt.

A little girlish in the drawings, perhaps, but I think it has a lot of possibilities - look at those interesting curved shoulder seams.  They're hidden under the collar on the center figure, buried in floral print on the left, and ruined with ruffles on the right, but the style line in and of itself is interesting.  Best of all, it's a 38" bust, 41" hip.  No grading up, hallelujah!  (Though can you believe that I'm a size 20 in this vintage pattern?) 

The second pattern is McCall 8040, another dress.  There's nothing tremendously special about this one (other than the 40" bust measurement; I might have to grade down) but I liked the plaid version with the collar on the bias.  And I just plain like the shape of the collar which, by the way, is cut on, not a separate piece.  And they give pattern pieces for the shoulder pads. 

I love old patterns. 

The third and final pattern, Simplicity 2780, is my favorite, because I know I'll get a ton of wear out of it.  I may be a sucker for vintage dress patterns, but jacket patterns of any era always pique my interest. 

The pattern description: Misses bolero. The bolero is fitted with darts and the lining is optional.  Style 1 features a shawl collar cut in one with the front.  The lower edge is curved, and the long sleeves are trimmed with cuffs.  A Peter Pan collar edges the high neckline in Style 2, and the lining is in contrast.  The sleeves in Style 3 are three-quarter length.

I think that's a lot of jacket for one pattern.  And for a seemingly simple pattern, ther are - count 'em - 10 darts.  Back darts, bust darts, back shoulder darts (I LOVE those) and 2 darts in each sleeve.  I can't wait to make this one.

Simplicity called this a bolero, but I always think of boleros as really cropped.  According to the measurements on the back of the envelope, the length from back of neck to bottom of jacket for my size is 16 1/4".  Longer than what I think of as a bolero, but also way more useful than those cropped jackets that are absolutely adorable but don't work with the clothes I want to wear under them.

Where was this jacket in January?  It would have saved me three muslins for the wedding jacket. 
These patterns were all in the lower price level ($7 each), which I thought was a little high, but I convinced the seller to let me open the envelopes to confirm that the instructions and all pieces were there, and they were.  The envelopes have had a little wear and tear, but the pattern tissue is still intact and the instructions, if a little brown and crispy around the edges, are there as well. Can't wait to dive in and read them; I always learn someting new from vintage instructions. 

Not bad for a day otherwise spent enjoyably wandering 2 flea markets, looking over everyone's old goodies, getting a nice sunburn,and then having lunch outdoors under a tree that made the sunburn worthwhile. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Instant Gratification Sewing

Or, I still haven't worked on Mario's shorts. 

I had very little time to sew this weekend, and I wanted to make something for me, me, me.  I chose a quick project, because I knew otherwise I was at risk of creating a UFO.

But I chose a good fabric, because I wanted to make it worthwhile.

I know I'm late jumping on yet another popular pattern bandwagon, but better late than never, right?

Here's my version of the Colette Sorbetto top, in Liberty paisley in a variety of blues and greens, neck and armholes bound with blue seam binding.  The fit on the top isn't perfect, but it's good for a first shot. Next time, I'll change the dart - it's a little long for my personal configuration; also a little high. I like Colette patterns because they're drafted for curves, but I think their draft might still be for younger, higher curves than I have. But that's an easy enough fix, and I'm even going to tweak the one I wore today and shorten the dart so that it ends in a better place. Other than that, the fit was good - I added a little to the length, because I always do, but no morechanges except to add buttons down the front pleat, for extra interest. They don't really show well on the paisley, but I know they're there.

That's my weekend sewing for you. We did go flea marketing on Saturday and I scored a couple of really cute vintage patterns I'll share soon - the joy of finding vintage patterns with a 38" bust. Talk about fit for real people!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lemonade Stand

Not a lot going on in the sewing room - Mario's shorts are all cut out, and while I'm interested to see how my pattern alterations turn out, I've been distracted.

It rained yesterday - all night and into this morning.  A nice, slow, steady rain, instead of these slash-and-burn thunderstorms we've been getting.  I sat on my back step this morning and smelled things growing, which beats trying not to brush up against a tomato  for fear that the brown and brittle leaves will crumble.

Tonight there were peppers when this morning there were none.  This nature thing is really something to reckon with.

A good part of tonight was spent in the kitchen.  I went to Reading Terminal today, which for the non-Philadelphians is a huge indoor food market, with prepared foods, restaurants, butchers, fishmongers, and several fruit and vegetable markets.  There's also the Fair Food Farmstand, which is where I get all the local and organic I don't grow myself.  But today, one of the other markets had a special on cherries.  I happen to have a major weakness for cherries, and their season is so short.  These were a good price, so I bought . . . 5 pounds.

After pitting 5 pounds of cherries, my fingers are too stained to deal with fabric.  2 pounds were halved and frozen, quite a few were consumed while standing in the kitchen, about a half pound are going into a batch of cherry vanilla ice cream, and the rest are going into my new food dehydrator this weekend as an experiment.  I love experiments.  Especially when they yield food.

One last thing before I go:  I'd like to thank my packratty family, who left me with such an abundance of shiny stuff that I will never, ever be able to wear it all, and whose bounty, offered on Etsy, has retroactively paid off a nice chunk of my porch bill.  Shop on, people, shop on. 

I think what makes me happiest about the Etsy sales is that when I first got the bad news about the repairs, I had a small meltdown and was upset at the house for being an ungrateful pile of bricks (actually, still a little pissed at the house).  Then, after I calmed down, I realized that I had at least some of the means to make this less of a burden, and all I needed was to get off my duff and take care of myself. 

That's my pollyanna thought for the day, folks.  When life gives you lemons, squeeze 'em.  Someone's bound to be thirsty and want to buy your lemonade.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Month End Review - July 2011

July was a productive month for me, probably because it was hotter than hell and my workroom is air conditioned. It makes a difference.

The totals for July are 10 items and 15.5 yards. Most of the numbers are taken up with t-shirt fest 2011, which was 5 for me and one for Mario, because he said he felt left out. His is a solid army green, and is in the laundry already, so no photo.

The rest of the month's sewing consisted of dresses: the brown embroidered dress; the yellow border print; and two versions of V1250.

Starting a special project for Mario tonight that will be revealed when he sees it. Not likely he checks in here, but just in case, I'll keep it to myself for a while longer. Let's just say it's one of the most frightening fabrics I've ever seen, and he'll love it - because of that fact.

Also on the list, and also for him, is another pair of cargo shorts. I'm not deliberately sewing for him rather than me; I think I may be getting over summer sewing but a new project hasn't announced itself yet, so I might as well be a nice wife, right?

I've spent some quality time with that shorts pattern I test drove recently, measuring it against all of his favorite shorts. The Simplicity pattern was drafted for a MUCH taller man, which means I removed 3.5" from the length of the leg.  This meant I couldn't attach the pockets where I wanted, but that's okay because I've moved the upper pocket to an inside pocket instead of an applied one, so now they'll look (hopefully) much more RTW. 

Not that he'll care - he just wants them not to fall down and to be able to put all his junk in the pockets.  Style?  That's just a plus.