Thursday, October 25, 2012

So much to do

Vintage hat with pheasant feathers
So much to do, so little time, even less interest.  There's been so much going on lately, what with work, my aunt, Max and random other things that I've really been neglecting the workroom.

I have sewing projects stacking up like planes waiting to land on a rainy day, but almost none of the projects are calling to me.  Which doesn't mean they don't need doing, I just need to get a little discipline, sit down in the workroom for a few hours and start knocking this stuff out.

What needs doing:  the Burda turtleneck - I need solid colors, and I have chocolate brown, teal and a nice mid-range green that would work.  Once they're cut, they take no time at all.  An evening's work for all 3. 

My TNT work pants in a nice deep brown plaid with faint lines of teal and green.  Would work with all 3 non-existent but planned turtlenecks, a few of my sweaters and the fabric is pre-washed and bagged with the pattern.  This also would take no more than an evening to complete.

Ivory linen picture hat
Flannel pajama pants.  I know, boring, but I have the flannel and my only remaining pair has developed holes that are no longer fixable.  Besides, there's no fluff left to the flannel.  It's time.  I hate sewing elastic, so I'm pretending that's why I'm putting these off, but actually it's because they're boring (although necessary).

Casual stuff for around the house.  I bought 4 yards of a wonderful heathered gray jersey at PR Weekend in NYC.  From Kashi, of course.  I need comfy, easy pieces to wear around because my other stuff has all been worn out in the garden.  And looks it.  Must replace.  A few evenings work, nothing complicated. 

And of course, the craft show is just around the corner.  You would think that avoidance of craft show items would make me start sewing for me, or even possibly sewing for Mario, but he has more shirts now than he has closet space, and oh, right, I still haven't started in on his jeans, although I have at least located the fabric and all the notions and thread that I need.

Anybody got any mojo they're not using?

** Photos from my Etsy shop; blatant advertising, perhaps, but also - how do you illustrate a lack of sewing?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

VPLL #0200 Skirt with Scallops - Finished!

This piece has actually been done for a while now (since June, approximately), but I got derailed in posting photos and a review.  Not to mention that it was too hot to actually wear the skirt I spent so much time on - even the "abbreviated" version that I made.

This is another piece for the 1912 Project, which has not been active lately.  Therefore I'm not pushing on the patterns I still have to complete; I'll get to them when I'm inspired to work on them, which is how we'd generally all prefer to work anyway.

VPLL Pattern Checklist

Pattern Name - Ladies Skirt with Scallops, #0200

Sewer’s Skill Level:  Advanced.

Pattern Rating: 1-Not a Fan, 2 – So-So, 3 – Good/Average, 4-Better than Average, 5-I LOVED IT! and why?  I'd give this pattern a solid 4.  It's got good lines and would look nice made up in a variety of fabrications.   

What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why?  I would say this would be best for an intermediate sewer simply because of the amount of bias trim and patience required to get a good result. 

Were the instructions easy to follow? If not, what needs to be changed? The instructions were good.  I really liked the description of how to construct the scallops and their facing - I had originally imagined it would be sewn right sides together, turned and pressed, and then the bias binding put on, but having them basted wrong sides together with the raw edge being bound made the edge much smoother.  The rest of the instructions were pretty clear, although I omitted the original side opening at the scallops and inserted an invisible zip in the left side seam instead.  

How was the fit/sizing?  Did it correspond to what you thought?  The measurements seem accurate to what's on the pattern.  I tapered all the pieces at the waist just a touch (my waist measurement isn't all that much smaller than the pattern, which I was somehow surprised to discover).  The fit is really good, it drapes well over the hips and hangs very nicely.

Fabric Used - Raw silk in a herringbone pattern; it feels like a very smooth tweed. This has been in stash for at least 10 years, and possibly longer.  I don't want to think about that.

Did you make any pattern alterations? If so, what alterations did you make? Where they fit or design alterations?  Minor alterations to fit at the waist.  I added scallops to both sides, because I just couldn't not do that much bias binding.  I like the look, though I can see where it would be a bit much, depending on fabric.  With my black and ivory herringbone, I think the black binding looks good.  I also added boning at the high waist because I sit most of the day and the skirt would never survive that without the waist getting all wrinkly.  I had 5 pieces of 6" long boning in my workroom, who knows why, so that's what I used.  I made tubing from the leftover muslin, cut it to size and hand-stitched these channels to the inside of the muslin skirt underlining.  I didn't insert the bones until after the facing and been sewn on, then I slipped them into their casings and tacked the facing down so that the bones were enclosed and couldn't work themselves loose.  There is one bone at center back, as the least stressed area, one in each side seam (sewn in along the zipper on the left), and two in the front beneath the scallops.  They're not uncomfortable at all and really help keep the skirt looking like it should.  I also used 14 black velvet buttons to ornament my scallops, since I didn't make them functional.  Just to keep it all looking neat, I hand tacked the points of the scallops to the center of the skirt.  There was a LOT of hand sewing in this skirt that I hadn't intended.  

Other notes:  I made a muslin of this skirt so I could get the waist fit and length adjusted.  My guesses on the muslin were good, so I used the muslin pieces to cut my silk.  The silk was a bit drapier than I wanted for such a structured skirt, and I didn't think lining it was the solution, so I used my muslin pieces to underline the silk.  It gave just enough extra weight to the silk that I didn't get any stretching or pulling anywhere.  I used purchased bias binding for this skirt, since I wanted black; if it had been a color or print, I would have made my own.  This took a 3 yard packet of bias and used up most of it.  I pinned and pressed the scallops one at a time, and then hand-sewed them down, catching both sides.  Painstaking, but much nicer and neater than machine sewing would have been.  I also used black seam binding on the hem and put that up by hand; aside from it matching the exterior - all those nice black lines - I just feel that seam binding makes a hem hang better than actually hemming fabric-to-fabric.  

** Annoying note.  I took a TON of construction photos while putting this skirt together.  However, that occurred back in June, and I now have no freaking idea what happened to the pictures.  They're not in the camera, they're not on the computer, they're not on Photobucket, they weren't attached to the draft of this post. I hate when I do all that work and then have no idea what happened to it.  And some photos, like the boning, can't easily be reproduced because all that is now hidden by the facings.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

So Near, and yet So Far

More radio silence. It's gone from cat crisis to aunt crisis, and I will leave you to guess which one is easier to deal with.

My aunt apparently went into the hospital at the same time as Max did on Friday, however, no one thought to let me know about it until Tuesday. Now there's a bit of drama I'll spare everyone, as I can finally now think about it without wanting to smack people. Currently she's in hospice, and not likely to come out, and I'm dealing with closing up and emptying the apartment we moved her into 3 years ago. And she has exercised her family packrat talents to the max - I had her so pared down when she moved in that there was space everywhere, and now all the closets and drawers are overflowing. Again.

But enough of that. My weekend away, which apparently I was not meant to have but I enjoyed every moment of despite that. I do read more blogs than just sewing blogs, and one of them is Cold Antler Farm. The author is a 30-something originally from suburban PA who had the epiphany that what she really wanted to do when she grew up was be a farmer. So she has herself a small farm in upstate NY with all kinds of livestock, and part of the way she makes ends meet is by hosting workshops at the farm. This was her big yearly two-day affair, called Antlerstock. I wanted to go last year but the timing didn't work out; this year I paid my fee in February and had been waiting impatiently ever since.

Upstate NY was definitely closer to fall than we are in Philly; the locals apologized for the lack of fall color, but to us it was breathtaking. So was the temperature. Saturday it drizzled for most of the day and didn't get above the mid 40s. We were outside the whole time, and even though my boots didn't leak, standing in semi-liquid mud to your ankles makes for some cold feet. Sunday morning it was clear but only about 38. I could see my breath when I went outside in the morning to call home.

In those two days, we got workshops in soap making, home brewing, herbal remedies, making sourdough bread and cheese making.  All of which are less complicated than they look, especially soap (at least once you get over the idea that you're messing with lye).

All the cooking workshops were done outside on a propane grill or camp stove, but it all turned out so good that I can only imagine how much better it will be in my kitchen.

 Livestock classes were backyard chickens, rabbits for meat and fiber, sheep and wool, and working with draft horses. She has two milk goats but they were off at another farm for breeding, so we got a tour of that farm during our lunch break and got to meet her goats, as well as check out their greenhouses and chicken and duck breeding operations.

I was also rather impressed with her sheep, especially one ram lamb who followed her around like a fluffy, hooved  puppy.

Oh, and did I mention she has pigs? One of them got delivered while we were there and it escaped shortly thereafter. Probably the unintended highlight of the whole weekend was the pig chase and capture. I can't even describe the sound that little critter made when she grabbed him and returned him to his pen in the barn.

There were also two evening bonfires, a good bit of imbibing and a lot of conversation with like-minded people from all over - local NY and New Englanders to someone all the way from Australia.

 My friend and I had a blast and I have a whole lot of new interests to try out this winter when I can't go out and play in my garden. Not to mention that my condition, which the writer/farmer has aptly christened Barnheart, has gotten much worse and I really, really want my own goats now.

Monday, October 8, 2012

And then there were 9

Maxwell Peapod, 1998 - 2012
I was away this past weekend.  Left Friday a.m. and came back Sunday night.  On Friday afternoon, right after I'd arrived at my destination, I got a call from our housemate.  She'd come downstairs and found Max, laboring to breathe.  I called Mario, who was on his way home from work.  Our housemate got Max into his carrier and together they drove him the 10 blocks to the University of Pennsylvania's vet hospital.

They got there.  They ran inside.  The vet looked at Max and said that he was already gone.  He must have died in the carrier on the way there.

I think Max planned it that way.  I was away.  Mario was at work.  He didn't expect to be found; he certainly didn't want any more quality time with the doctor.  I think he was tired and wanted to rest, without any more help from us.

It still rips me up that I wasn't here for him.

I leave you with the best of Max.

He was a chick magnet.
Who still had time for his buddy

He took joy in sunshine
He had opinions on literature

He had no false modesty
He enjoyed a good pizza. Or any pizza.
Social media made him tired.

He could be comfortable anywhere

He thought deep thoughts

He took a gold in synchronized sleeping

He will be missed.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Artist vs. Seamstress

Saturday was an interesting day.  It was a busy weekend all around, but Saturday is what I want to share here.  After breakfast and the farmer's market, we went off to a craft show held at the local cemetery (rarely in use, except as a jogging track, yoga spot and picnic area).  There was a wonderful variety of vendors and a great selection of stuff, very inspiring.  I came home ready to do battle with the workroom and prep for my holiday craft show again this year.  I have a few new ideas bubbling, but for the moment I just cut out half a dozen of the small travel/cosmetic size bags that always sell well, and I'm almost done with them. 

I spoke to one of the craft vendors and she gave me an interesting perspective on her work.  We were talking, and she commented on the jacket I was wearing, and she said, "Oh, are you a seamstress?"  I said yes, because I don't generally care what you call me: sewist, sewer, seamstress, whatever.  I'm a woman obsessed with her sewing machine. 

She says, "I'm not.  I'm an artist who sews.  I'm no seamstress; have you looked at my seams?"  And I had, some of her sewn pieces were uneven and unfinished and looked handmade.  But because of her style and fabrics, it wasn't noticeable right off, and the people who were buying from her (she made 3 sales while we were talking) didn't seem to notice or care.  But isn't that the way?  

She also showed me something she was wearing that she made for herself, and the inside was freaking immaculate. 

I thought about it all Saturday night until my head hurt.  I grant that my craft show sewing is sometimes too complex for the item and the pricing.  But I think the way to go is to simplify something in the construction so that it's not as much work for me, rather than do the same thing, but in a shoddy way that would embarrass me to show it. 

Like the little bags I'm making. When I did them the past 2 years, they were made with a Chinese brocade exterior and a fully lined interior.  The brocade was a nightmare to work with and the lining had to be hand sewn in along the zipper because the bags are just too small to get the lining sewn in by machine.  That added a significant bit of time and profanity to the project. 

So I found a middle ground between "seamstress" and "artist with a sewing machine."  I found about a half yard of black pre-quilted lining fabric leftover from my black raspberry trench, and some good remnants with a decent weight, texture and color (but not the ability to shred when looked at).  I cut the  pieces out of both fabric and the quilted lining, zig-zagged all the pieces together, and then constructed the bags.  They're still lined, and anyone who's buying a small pouch bag for under $20 is going to be happy that they're lined, even if it's a self-lining with neatly zigzagged edges inside. 

I'm still producing a decent product and I don't feel like I'm cheating or trying to scam someone by calling myself an artist because I can't be bothered to do something properly if it's not for me. 

So, what do you think?  Do you use less care for your "art" than for your "sewing?"  Do you use less care for others (who won't notice) than for yourself?  If your business is hand sewn items, don't you think they should be made to the best of your ability, instead of passing yourself off as an "artist with a sewing machine" when it's perfectly clear that you sew very well when it's for something that matters to you?