Thursday, January 31, 2008

44? When the hell did THAT happen?

A small birthday grumble and on to better things. Yesterday I received a call from my aunt. "Happy 45th birthday!" she says. "Thanks, Betty," I say. "My birthday's tomorrow and I'll be 44." She’s only my godmother.

Last night I get home from work and there's a message on my machine from my stepdad. Since my mom died he doesn't send cards. "Hey, it’s me. Call me on Thursday so I can remember to say happy birthday."

What the hell, people? Since they're both elderly, they're surrounded on every wall by clocks and calendars. A side question here: when you start running low on time do you automatically become fixated by it? My aunt has at least 10 clocks in her tiny apartment, and a calendar in every room, except the kitchen, which has 2. My stepdad's almost as bad. I don't get it.

As for the better thing, first of all, this was what I found when I got home from work tonight: my roommate and oldest friend went to the local fabric store and got me every fiddly notion that I either don't have, don't have enough of (seam rippers) or hadn't thought to buy yet. She also considerately included a $20 gift certificate, which I'm going to hold onto for a while.

The other better thing: when I discovered Project Runway was a rerun last night, I started working on BWOF 1/08 #122, the potentially great/scary poet's blouse. It's heading more toward the great than the scary. I really like the combination of the two fabrics - the orange color is toned down by the depth of the brown, and so long as I don’t use any of the border, I think it will all work. The border on the orange fabric is a somewhat virulent green that makes my teeth hurt even to think about.

Other than ironing and basting the pleats in the front in the wrong direction (easily remedied, at least), I got the front, back, side seams and the sleeve seams done last night. I pinned the yoke to the front and put the shirt on Evelyn to try it out. I just stuck pins in her along the back/yoke seam to get an idea of how it was going to look and I’m really pleased.

I read the reviews on PR and took the pattern in to a 36 (I'd cut a 38), but I don't think I'm going to have as much trouble with the shirt being too low because I'm a little fuller in the shoulders than it looks like the other two women are. Of course, I could be wrong and the girls could be out there, front and center, but isn’t that why they make tank tops? It'll work.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The February 5

It really didn’t take much thought to get the next 5 projects together. Actually, one of them is technically part of the January 5 - the BWOF black skirt made it in so it could be worn for my birthday dinner on Saturday night.

A top (pattern yet to be determined) out of this amazing jersey from Gorgeous Things. Thinking maybe the KS twist top, though the last time I made that I was less than impressed. Need to go through my patterns to find a worthy one for this.

BWOF 8/07 #126 pants. This was supposed to be in the January 5, but it got bumped for another project, plus I wasn’t feeling like fitting pants in my very cold workroom because it usually involves sewing in my underwear instead of getting dressed and undressed all the time. The fabric is a fabulous soft and drapy caramel-tan RPL I got from Kashi on my first visit about a year and a half ago.

BWOF 1/08 #122 artist blouse. I love both versions of this that I've seen on PR, though since both of them are solids (white and pale blue), I'm not sure how I came up with this combo. I have one yard each of these two border prints from EOS, and they’ve been aging on the shelf because a yard wasn’t enough to do anything interesting. I decided to combine the two colors into this top (they coordinate better in person than onscreen, trust me), along with some turquoise cotton that matches the paisleys. It's either going to be absolutely great, or absolutely scary. Right now, fingers are crossed for great. But I don't rule out scary.

BWOF 1/08 #116 wrap top. I don’t usually like wrap tops (they tend to unwrap at inopportune moments), but this one got me. I loved seeing all the reviews on PR, and I have this fabulous stretch jersey (Gorgeous Things, who also sells it, calls the pattern “Holy Hollyhocks!”) that I bought at PR Weekend. At the time, I wasn’t sure why I bought two yards, except it was inexpensive and I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it. (Yes, this is a mindset I’m trying to get out of, but it’s really hard to do at Metro Textiles, when confronted with a store full of pretty and a Kashi full of persuasion.)

BWOF 9/07 #116 – skirt with front pleats. I think this is a fabulously interesting skirt, and I really want to do it the way they did in the magazine, in plaid and cut on the bias, but when I found myself in need of a short black skirt for a night out, this looked fast and easy, and doing a muslin before I cut into my good plaid never hurts. I like this skirt, it turned out well and took minimal time. Only change I made was to narrow the yoke a bit so that it didn’t ride exactly at my waist.

So this is the queue for the next 5 projects – a basic black skirt and several more pieces to combine with the January 5. And about 9 more yards out of stash. Because it’s a short month, I gave myself a few easier projects. I see another jacket in my future, though. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 25, 2008

In fashion, one day you're in, and the next day, you're . . . in

Did everyone see Project Runway Wednesday night? Don't even get me started on the "Happy Hands at Home" and "home sewn" comments – do these people not realize that (a) most of their audience probably sews, and (b) two of their sponsors are Brother and Simplicity, companies which obviously do know that the audience probably sews.

Not to mention the fact that we all know plenty of home sewers who turn out more professional looking work than the PR designers on a regular basis. I think this week's show was almost the first time that Ricky didn't produce something I couldn't have done while simultaneously watching reruns of Project Runway.

No, what has me irked this time is Tim's and the judges' swooning response to Rami's denim dress. You know, the one with the innovative, fashion-forward, zippers-as-piping trim. Which would be the same innovative, fashion-forward, zippers-as-piping trim that Jeffrey used on his green striped dress during the finale of Season 3. Which YSL used years before, and I'm sure has been done many other times that my tired brain can't think of.

This isn't a slur against Rami; I love his draping, though it gets repetitive, and I was pleased to see how well he worked with a structured fabric like denim. And I couldn't stand Jeffrey, but I did like that striped dress. At the time I thought the zippers were interesting, and for a while I tried to figure out how to use them myself on a garment, but I ditched the idea because by then it was so "last season." Who knew that "last season" would still be in this season? And that Tim Gunn would be almost unreasonably excited about it? (Michael Kors I can understand; he gets excited about the weirdest stuff, and just look at the recent butt-ruch pattern he released: I'm not blindly following that man’s sense of fashion any time soon).

So what gives, Heidi? You throw around the words "fat" and "home sewn" like you're hurling spears at your audience, and then even your tag line isn't accurate. Apparently, one day you can be in, and a year and a half later, you can still be in.

Auf wiedersehen, credibility.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just when I'm trying to behave myself,

Vogue is having a sale. I didn't join their BMV club, mainly because, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I didn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member. They would be more than happy to relieve me of my money, but no, thank you very much, I can live without that extra 10% off.

Most of the new patterns didn't do diddly for me - did everyone see the Michael Kors dress? what was he thinking? On the other hand, there were a few that I really liked. I've narrowed it down to one - which has the added draw of having several appropriate fabrics already in stash. I've decided I might need V8480 because (a) it's a jacket, and I have a massive weakness for jackets, and (b) in the most recent cleanout, I gave the thrift store all my old denim jackets. Face it, they weren't doing anything for my figure (being either men's or so generically cut that they might as well have been menswear, and after a certain age, a lady needs all the help she can get to remind herself and others that yes, there is a waist under those clothes). This could be made up in several fabrics, but I think it would be cute in denim, and I do need a generic throw-over-everything jacket that doesn't look like a candidate to be taken to the thrift store anytime soon.

There's also V8473, which once again I like for the jacket, though the dress is cute on its own. I love the collar on the jacket, and I think (once again) that I have several fabrics that would do it justice. I don't have enough to make the dress and jacket as a set, and that's the main reason I'm not buying the pattern right now - I'm afraid I'd click "buy" on 6 yards of something I don't need to make a dress I won't wear until warmer weather anyway. Maybe if I can sew down the stash and earn 6 yards of fabulous fabric, I'll treat myself to this pattern at the next sale. I have to remember that it's not like this is the last time Vogue will ever have a sale.

Also, fabric stores will never run out of fabric, buttons and zippers will not disappear off the face of the earth, and patterns won't stop being made anytime soon - especially since I have a Burda subscription. This thinking is how I've gotten into stash hell, and I've got to claw my way out somehow.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The dinner party that ate my weekend

I'm just not excited about my shirt. Which isn't to say it's not turning out well - everything fits nicely and I'm pleased with how the collar and cuffs look. But shirts/blouses are something I have trouble getting worked up about, even with a good pattern and fabric I’ve been hoarding for over a year. Don’t know what the problem is. I think my mojo's just cranky right now from fabric deprivation. 22 days and counting . . .

Still, I worked on it for a bit last night - the first sewing since Friday due to the dinner that ate my weekend. It's really cold outside, which means it's really cold in the workroom, so all I managed was setting in the sleeves (properly, this time) and attaching the cuffs before frostbite began to set in. Hard to sew when your fingers are that cold.

Dinner on Saturday was really good. Somehow or other I've had a big old house with a dining room for over 7 years, and this is the first time I've had people in for a meal that didn't take place either on the coffee table or standing around the kitchen. I've come to the realization that I have to do something ambitious to get excited about cooking, otherwise I'll make pasta every night and begin to look like the poster child for "No Carb Left Behind.” (Hmmm, any correlation between ambitious dinners and complicated sewing projects that make me happy?)

It was my first time doing roast duck. Actually, it was my first time roasting anything, and I realized that morning that I'd actually given my mom's old roasting pan to the thrift store so I had to run out and buy a cheap foil pan. The sauce took longer than the roast - in segments, probably from 11:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. But it tasted like it took 6 hours, too, so it was worth it. I shooed Mario out of the house for the day - even though he was more than willing to help, sometimes having a second person in the kitchen just complicates things.

For dessert, we had a cheese plate that our guests brought, along with two bottles of dessert wine, and sat around looking at their wedding pictures. I hate having my picture taken, and that comes through; this time, miracle of miracles, there's actually a picture of me in there with the boy, wearing the dress I made for the wedding, and it's a good picture! Hopefully I can get a print so I can share it.
A little something I ran into at Loehmann's today at lunch that I'd like to duplicate. That's the kind of blouse my head is thinking about right now, not Sandra Betzina's nice little shirt.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stupid, stupid, stupid

Couldn't sleep, so went back into the workroom to futz some more with the shirt. Know when you think you're wide awake, but then you do something so stupid that you realize you shouldn't even be walking upright? Pinned and sewed both sleeves on the shirt - left sleeve in right armhole, right sleeve in left armhole. Gah.

Put it down, turned off the machine, turned off the iron, turned off the space heater, turned off the lights.

At least I didn't automatically trim the seam without having tried it on first. I'd have a sleeveless blouse, and that wasn't what I had in mind.

No sewing at all today: having my newlywed friends over for dinner tonight, and I just finished cleaning the dining room:

The menu: French bread with tapenade, goat cheese and cornichons for starters, roast duck with olives and potato/gruyere gratin for the entree, and cheese plate for dessert. Just a little French.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Getting back to normal

After I threw away that knit top, I considered my next project. I decided that part of my discontent with the wadder was not only the crappy fabric, but also that I found the project itself uninteresting. I didn't really care one way or another if it I finished it, so I didn't bother to look for a way to make it work. I needed a project that I could actually get interested in.

After my success with Sandra Betzina's jacket pattern, I decided to try her V 7903, a darted shirt/blouse with sleeve and collar variations. While I really like her thorough instructions and the draftsmanship of the patterns, I don't find most of her designs interesting. This one is a good basic shape that has definite TNT potential, and it gives me an opportunity to practice some of my shirt-making skills that I have thus far only used on making shirts for Mario. Plus I finally started experimenting with my new machine last night, and topstitching with it is going to be a wonderful thing.

I chose an Italian cotton shirting that I purchased at Beckenstein's in NYC at Patternreview Weekend 2006 and which has been staring at me from the "too nice to cut into" stash shelf ever since. It's a light blue/navy/tan/white combo (all colors much nicer than in the picture, which looks really, really drab for some reason). It works with all my browns and with the tan twill pants that are up next in the queue. I love this fabric. Love. It. It feels wonderful against my skin, it holds a knife crease without steam, and it sews like a dream.

Thus far I've only done the darts (10 altogether – SB loves her fitting darts!) and the main seams at the shoulders and sides, but it's fitting well in the size C without alteration. The pattern instructions call for French seams, and while I would absolutely do that if I were using a sheer, I don't find it necessary for a crisp woven like this. Yes, it would look better, but it's not going to affect the wearability of the shirt in the long run.

It was difficult to put this pattern ahead of some of the fabulous ones in the January issue of Burda – I want to make at least 3 of the shirts, plus that trench and the wrap top – but this particular fabric wanted to be this particular shirt, and all the great detail on the Burda shirts would have been lost on this fabric. Most of those will be made in solids which, other than white, exist in my stash in some abundance. I somehow don't have any white shirting at all, but I'm not going to buy any, either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's a Wadder!

As a follow-up to my recent discovery that I have sewing standards, I actually pitched a project last night. As #3 in my mini-wardrobe, I was doing a KS 3093 turtleneck out of a cream-colored rib knit from The fabric had been on my stash shelf for so long it was dirty along the fold line, but I figured that would come out in the wash. I probably should have washed it straight away, because that smudge annoyed me every time I looked at it, but that's not why the project was doomed.

I cut the pattern in my usual KS medium, then cut it down to a small because it looked big. I did the basic steps – shoulder seams, sleeves, attached the collar. I had been afraid the collar was going to be tight, but it wasn't. In fact, it stretched as I sewed it (and I wasn’t stretching it) and when I pulled it over my head, the collar was downright floppy. I folded it over to see if I liked it as a modified funnel-neck, but it didn't thrill me. Put it aside for the night and cut out my next two projects – it was too late to start sewing but I was awake enough to be trusted with the rotary cutter.

Last night I went in, looked at the top, tried it on again, and threw it out. It just wasn't worth continuing to work on it. The style wasn't interesting enough to attempt salvage, and the fabric wasn't good enough to handle the abuse of any ripping and re-sewing anyway. All I could see was another one of those projects. You know, the ones you finish against your better judgment, wear once to say that you wore it, and then hide away in the back of the closet where you can’t be annoyed by your failure to make it work.

Hey, sometimes it's not our failure. Sometimes the pattern's not right, sometimes the fabric is crap. And sometimes it is our fault. But either way, life's too short to finish projects that aren't worth wearing.

I actually feel good about this.

And now for one salvaged from the wreckage - the absolutely adorable box-pleated jumper/dress #105 from the October Burda. I wanted it as soon as I opened the issue, and despite reading several reviews on Patternreview about its snug fit, I went ahead and cut my usual 38, thinking that because my fabric had some stretch I would be safe.

Ummmm, no. It looks fabulous on Evelyn, but she wears her boobs in a better (shall we say, less natural) place, apparently. There was no way to re-cut, and I used 1/4" seams as it was. I still lined the dress, but I didn't line the sleeves, thinking that would make it even tighter, and just to be on the safe side, I made a matching jacket out of the leftover fabric. There wasn't quite enough fabric for the jacket, so I cut the side panels on the bias, which I think makes it look more interesting anyway. The two pieces together are totally cute.

The dress is snug across the top, but certainly not unwearable. Since it's a fall/winter faric, I'd most likely have worn something over it anyway, not really being the turtleneck/blouse under type. I'd like to make a spring/summer version, but that time I'll cut the bodice in a 40 and give myself room to breathe.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Brown is the new black

It has only recently come to my attention that the bulk of the clothes I have made in the last year are brown. When did brown become my new black?

If you don't believe me, following along here are some of the highlights of my last year's sewing. See what I mean?

It took years, but I can finally acknowledge that a lot of the colors I like aren’t flattering on me. Blues I can wear, though I don’t have a lot of them in my wardrobe – unless they’re paired with brown. I’ve given up on most reds, pinks, purples – and I can’t wear yellow unless I want to look lemonish myself. But most of the fall colors – greens, tans, browns, golds, rusts, oranges – look good on me. So I guess brown is the black of that category, the color that goes with all the others, and like black, stands well on its own.

Having a limited palette of colors that look good on me makes shopping easier, so long as I obey my own rules. At Patternreview weekend, a few women commented on how well all my fabrics went together, and that’s simply because I’ve finally given up on the colors I can’t wear. (Or not completely, but I’m using up some of my unsuitable colors as linings. Who cares if a purple silk lining makes me look sallow? It’ll look fabulous on the inside of an olive green jacket.)

One of my co-workers, who thinks he has both fashion sense and a sense of humor – and he so doesn't have either – says my wardrobe runs the gamut from dirt to mud. Charming. This from a man who believes the infamous lie "every man looks good in Dockers." And I prefer to think of it as running the gamut from milk to dark chocolate.

I am hoping to move slightly beyond my earth tones. My new plan of operation is that each project I make has to coordinate with the one just cmpleted. So project #1 this year was the brown jacket, followed by the BWOF 2/2007 #113 skirt above, which will be followed by a cream ribbed mock turtleneck from KS 3093 (if I can get the cheap fabric to work - more on that later), then BWOF 6/2007 #126 pants in tan stretch twill, and finally, at #5, is one of the fabulous blouses from the latest issue in a tan/white/pale blue I picked up at Beckenstein's in last year.

When I hit five projects, I’m allowed to start over. I haven’t thought as far as the next series yet. I think having a queue of five in my head is enough for me. The hard part is not cutting out fabric for the next project while I’m still working on the current one, but I know my bad habits, and they include putting one project aside to work on another, and ending up with UFOs all over the place.

My current threat to myself is if something stays a UFO for more than 3 months, I either have to finish it or throw it away. I hate to throw things away.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mistakes I (mostly) didn't make

Selected gleanings from the inherited stash. If you can give me a reason why any of these fabrics shouldn't go up in a puff of greasy, polyester-scented black smoke, I applaud you.

I dug into the stash tonight because I was looking for lining fabrics. I had to buy some this week to finish a project, and it bugged me when I'm trying so hard to behave myself and sew strictly from stash. I assumed in all the tubs and steamer trunks full of fabric, there had to be a few lining-worthy pieces. I was right. And then I found these.

Frighteningly enough, I remember when my mother bought all 3 of these fabrics. It was sometime in the 70s, but as I recall, there was no purpose to the purchase, they were just pretty. (What's pretty to some people might give nightmares to others; I flinched when I dug this out of the trunk and I apologize in advance to those whose sleep I've affected.)

This stuff has been traveling around with me through more moves than I can count, and I think it just hit the "use or be pitched" pile. Of course, in addition to being downright scary-looking, none of these fabrics is even in a color I can wear.

To make it worse, only the purple and silver is lightweight enough to use as a lining. Since I am short on lining fabrics, I probably will end up using that one - it might look interesting, depending on the garment it lined - but the other ones, that metallic thread makes it almost impossible to think of a purpose. (If you think of one, besides the aforementioned fire, let me know).

And now, hanging my head in shame, is one of my own aged purchases. Going by the look, I'd say somewhere in the mid-80s. I think it was meant to be a blouse. I'm almost sure it was meant to have humongous shoulder pads. It still strikes me as a happy fabric, but once again, other than as lining, what would I do with it? Even the other fabrics in my stash don't want to hang around with this one. They think she's showing her age and making them look bad, too.
It's always embarrassing to run smack into your past, especially something you thought you'd put behind you, like an unfortunate taste for unsuitable colors. But wasn't that part of what the 80s were about? And aren't we glad we survived?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I have Standards; Who Knew?

It's funny, I've always been extremely critical of RTW. I'll go into a store and paw through the racks and find a design I like, only to discover a mis-matched plaid or a crooked seam and put it back, muttering about shoddy workmanship and lack of care and how can anyone expect me to pay money for that.

So why have I put up with some of these same things from myself? Why haven't I held myself to the same standards that I hold the "pros" to?

Sewing is something I've done since I was a kid, but only in the past few years have I taken it really seriously and understood that a lot of the work I admire is actually within my range if I'm willing to do it (i.e., my long refusal to deal with linings and invisible zippers, without which a lot of garments can't be completed properly). It was always about the process for me, and it didn't matter so much that I didn't wear my clothes all that often – I enjoyed making them.

I'm past that now. Why am I doing all that work, whether I enjoy it or not, to have to still go out and buy unsatisfactory retail when the clothes in my closet that I have made should be good enough?

In the last year I've turned out a few things that I want to wear, and a large number of things that I will wear quite happily, though not with the same glow of pride. I discovered something that actually makes me step it up, and while it's kind of silly, it's been working for me. I ordered a batch of labels last year, thinking that I should start sewing them in all this stuff I make.

Don't ask me why, but seeing my name on a garment makes me take it more seriously, like it's more real for some reason. I've found myself hesitating about sewing labels in work I'm not totally satisfied with, and even taking things apart and correcting mistakes that are only visible to me before I'm willing to mark the piece as mine. Interesting.

All this time, I thought I was objecting to the imperfections, but what I was really objecting to were the imperfections that someone was willing to put their name on and release out into the world.

So that's an addition to my resolution list: only sew things that I'm going to be proud to put my name on.

Monday, January 7, 2008

It's in the bag

The jacket is finished! And despite having done this "slowly," not cutting any corners and going what I would normally consider "above and beyond," I think this was record time for me for a lined jacket. I started fusing the fabric on January 2, and I finished pressing last night somewhere around 11:00 p.m. And promptly cut out the next project.

FYI, if you're looking for a pattern with good instructions for bagging a lining, this is the one. I've gotten the bagging part down before, but not that well, and I've never figured out how (despite instructions in books or in patterns) how to go about machine sewing the sleeve linings to the sleeves. Sandra Betzina explained it very clearly, and this is definitely the best lining I've ever done.

That said, there is a lining issue, but it's not in how it was sewn. It lies in the fact that, once again, I put rotary cutter to fabric after 10:00 p.m. It took a little while to convince myself to sacrifice the Kashi silk for this jacket, but isn't that just another variation on the "too good to use" theory? When is the project ever going to be good enough? Just cut into the damn fabric already. So I did.

The problem being, when I went to sew the darts the next morning (8 in the jacket, 8 in the lining – can I tell you I'm tired of sewing darts?), was that I had cut two left backs. And there wasn't quite enough silk left to cut a right back that exactly matched the left. I almost chucked the whole thing and used a plain lining, but (a) I didn't have enough plain lining for a whole jacket, only sleeves, and (b) I decided that it was just the sewing gods being malicious because I hesitated to use good fabric, and I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of pitching it. It's not that far off and the pleat in the back covers some of the mismatch, so I can live with it. How well the lining went in was my reward for not giving up on the silk.

I pressed everything one last time and was trying it on when the boy got here last night. Sometimes his cluelessness is cute; sometimes not. This was one of those not times. He has this idea that the clothing we make should cost less than the crap you buy in the stores. He said, "What did this cost, about $10?" Yes, per yard for the fabric, so that's $25, and then $12 for the silk lining, a little more for the acetate sleeve lining, and 2 yards of flannel for the underlining, and a separating zipper, and about 10 hours of my time. But that's not why I do it. He doesn't understand why I would go to all that effort unless I'm getting it for pennies on the dollar.

It's not even really about the clothes, it's about the process. Clothes are just the visible reward I get for doing something I love.

Next up: BWOF 2/2007 #113 - a skirt to be worn with the jacket, fabric stash-swapped with Trena. I think that's going to be the theory for sewing this year (unless I'm interrupted by something like a gift or a special occasion outfit) - each project has to be able to be worn with the previous project. This will ensure that everything I make will work together. I'm pretty good about my colors now (as opposed to in the past, which explains some random purple stretch velvet deep in stash), but this will definitely keep me from those occasional "but it was so pretty" color choices that make me look like death sucking a lemon.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Houston, we have achieved sleeve

However, we have also achieved dead camera battery, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Last post I was worried about sleeve ease in this jacket vs. the leather version yet to come. I measured the sleeve cap against the armscye, and there was 2" of ease there. I decided that as a test run for the next coat, I'd see how this worked with 1". I wasn't sure it would work this way, but since the sleeves were already cut out there was no going back - I measured how much I would have to take off the top of the sleeve cap to lose an inch of ease, closed my eyes and cut. I put in two rows of ease stitching and pinned it into the jacket. It fit, and looked okay, so I tried it on. No binding or pulling, and I could raise my arms, so I did the happy dance, took the jacket back off, took the sleeve out, and steamed it into shape over the ham. I was right - the flannel backing on this makes it shape like a dream.

Did this for both sleeves, re-pinned and sewed them in. The instructions call for a 2" wide strip of lambswool or mohair extending beyond the seam to add shape to the sleeve head. Having neither lambswool nor mohair around (nor even batting, after the Christmas quilted bag extravaganza), I cut a strip of the lining flannel, doubled it, and hand-sewed it into place. It worked again. Probably not as well as the recommended material, but it worked.

Those shoulder pads I tried the other day no longer worked for me when I tacked them in. I had already shifted the shoulder seam a little when I first made the jacket, and with the extra flannel at the seam head, every size pad I had still seemed too bulky. So I'm going with my own shoulders, which seem to fill the jacket just fine.

After that, I hemmed the bottom and the sleeves, and said enough for a while. Tomorrow is another day, Scarlett.

Sir Thomas Gray, one of my best helpers.

Friday, January 4, 2008

And so it goes on

I stayed up way too late Thursday night. I got a late start on the jacket because I was reading sewing blogs and buying a new sewing machine. (I've been threatening my not-quite-two-year-old Singer with violence for some time, and when it abruptly refused to buttonhole and made strange noises at me, I knew the end was near. The end of my patience, at least.)

I've been looking for a new machine, for the first time giving myself a real budget - I've had a succession of $150-$199 models and beaten them into the dirt, all the while muttering because they don't have all the features and functions I want. I finally acknowledged that sewing is important enough that it deserves to be done on a quality machine. And I deserve a quality machine, not another rattly piece of junk that will do nothing but frustrate me. I'd much rather be frustrated by a complicated pattern than the machine I'm working on. I had narrowed my decision down to 3 machines, and then I meandered over to Dressaday last night and found that Erin had purchased one of the same machines I was looking at. She said such nice things about the Juki E80 that it sent me right over to Sew Vac Direct to buy my own. (And now, having spent $599 on a machine, I can justify not buying fabric for a while. The lengths we go to . . . )

What I eventually got done: realized that I had already flannelled the sleeves, so the interface/flannel decision had already been made, just forgotten. Interfaced the facings/back neck facing, but after they were sewn together because it had another one of those tricky reverse corners and I didn't want the added bulk when I sewed. It worked. Sewed the facing to the jacket, having only minimal problems with sewing over the zipper, and one super-dramatically bent pin. Pressed, pressed, pressed. Tried shoulder pads, found a pair I liked. Decided to use the Kashi scarf-square silk for lining (originally intended for the leather version of this jacket), because I don’t have another lining fabric I like and I can't buy any. Pressed again, and pinned the entire edge seam for one last press and then basting. Don’t think I’m going to topstitch, but maybe? I don’t think the style or the fabric would benefit from it but it's not over yet, so who knows.

Really pleased with how the collar turned out (it's basted in pink thread right now, so I can continue to press the living crap out of it.) Not so happy with the zipper, but that’s a length of zipper thing vs. a pattern or skill issue. I think for the leather version, the zip is going to be a good bit longer, but I’ll determine that when I’m finished this one.

I've been reading a lot about sleeves, because I realized there's no way I can ease a sleeve in a leather jacket. Sandra Betzina's patterns are drafted with a better shaped sleeve, I’m just hoping it's a sleeve cap with minimal ease or I'm going to have to draft a replacement sleeve and try it out again before I make the sleeve in leather. In the current fabric, it will be fine – the flannel especially will add the kind of body that will make it steam into shape very well. Spent most of the morning stealthily surfing Kathleen Fasanella's site. I should have bought her book on Amazon instead of some of the other stuff.

Shopping (but not for fabric)

I got $75 worth of Borders' gift cards for Christmas. Last night, when it was no longer safe for me to sew (you know when you reach that point), I went online. Caught up on Patternreview, posted a UFO, read some blogs, and then settled down to the serious business of spending $$.

$75 doesn't go far on Amazon/Borders, but I opened in a new window and checked everything I was interested in on both sites. Here are the results:

From Borders:

The Zapp Method of Couture Sewing: Tailor Garments Easily, Using Any Pattern - Anna Zapp

Easy, Easier, Easiest Tailoring - Pati Palmer

Theatre de la Mode: Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture - Edmond Charles-Roux

The Tudor Tailor – reconstructing sixteenth-century dress - Ninya Mikhaila

I had to have the Tudor tailoring book. I'm a sucker for historical costumes and I love knowing how the real stuff worked.

And from

Chanel : Amy De La Haye

The Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts : Claire B. Shaeffer

Bridal Couture : Susan Khalje

Distinctive Details: Great Embellishment Techniques (Threads)

Dressmaking : Leila Aitken

The Dressmaker's Dictionary : Ann Ladbury

How to Start Making Money With Your Sewing : Karen Maskowski

Sew to Success : Kathleen Spike

Not sure about the two "make money from your sewing" type books, but the last 4 on the Half list were under $2 each, so it's worth the browse. All in all, I spent about $10 over on Borders, and the Half haul only cost me about $40, with postage. And now I have 12 new sewing books to read in my abundant spare time.

Hey, it's better than fabric. I never swear off book-buying.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

First Project of the New Year

Somewhat of a UFO, but only just - I had the fabric, the zipper and the pattern together, but scissors were not yet involved.
This jacket is going to be an exercise in slow sewing. One of my resolutions was to to take my time and do more quality work on my projects. So what if I don't make as many garments in 2008? If they turn out better, and I feel good wearing them, why should I trade that for more that feel less good? If I wanted that, I'd buy retail.

This jacket is technically a muslin. I bought some black lamb leather at LSS during PR Weekend in November and I want to make it up as this jacket, but no way was I cutting into that leather without a trial run in real fabric. So far, this is behaving well.

The fabric is a lightweight wool/silk blend from my local fabric store. The owner said it was a roll-end from Burberry. Whether that's true or not, the quality is way better than his usual fabrics, and I bought the last 2.5 yards (this was in October, so it doesn't count against my Fabric Fast). My problem was that I loved the color and the look of this fabric, but the weight was all wrong for what I had in mind. And yes, it would have been easier to just find the right weight fabric, but what's the fun in that?

I had some fusible web in the workroom for no apparent reason, and 2 yards of cotton flannel bought as interlining for a project that hasn't happened yet, so I block fused the three together and came up with a fabric that had approximately the same body as my leather. I didn't just want to use the flannel as interlining; I wanted the hand of a heavier fabric, and this worked surprisingly well, despite being a royal pain to do. I did like that I could write all my pattern markings and fitting adjustments on the flannel. It made the fitting process much easier. I haven't decided whether I'm going to use regular fusible interfacing on the facings and the sleeves - I don't want the sleeves floppy, but I'm not sure if I want them in as structured a fabric as I had concocted for the body of the jacket.

Leather being what it is, I wanted to get it right the first time, so I chose this pattern because I thought it gave me the best chance of getting a good fit. There are 3 side darts on the front, back shoulder darts, low back darts and a center back seam. If this jacket doesn't fit, it's not because there weren't a dozen different ways to alter the pattern. That being said, I didn't make too many alterations. I lengthened the low back dart by about 1" and took in the CB seam toward the bottom because the jacket seemed particularly spacious in back (front fit fine, which just proves my dress form and I have entirely different breasts). I sloped the shoulder a bit at the outside and ended up taking in the side seam at the very top, but only a little, and altered the sleeve accordingly.

Something I'm pleased I took the trouble to do: when I finally sewed the main pieces together, I pressed all the seams open. (Hey, I even used a pressing cloth - going all out for the new year!) I peeled back the fusible and the flannel and trimmed them to the seam line, then I hand-sewed the seam allowances to the flannel backing only. I also did this with the back darts, which are pressed open. All the seams are completely flat. It really made a difference in how the jacket felt when I tried it on, and I like knowing that the seams aren't going to rumple up once they're under the lining.
So this is where we are right now - darts sewn, back and front sewn together, zipper in, collar and shoulder seams done (contortionist sewing at its best; it was one of those hellish pivot-on-the-small-dot moments that we all hate. Sleeves and facings are interfaced, they just haven't met the jacket yet. I want to work on taking some ease out of the sleeve head because I'm not going to be able to ease the leather.
Right now I'm also thinking about linings. I don't have anything in the lining drawer that works with this - except the silk scarf square print that I bought from Kashi, which was intended as the lining for the leather jacket. Or maybe not. What if I never get around to the leather? That silk shouldn't sit, unwanted and unloved, in a dark drawer. It should probly sacrifice itself to be sewn into this jacket - if the jacket continues on its current path of worthiness.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

One of my favorite Christmas presents . . .

After the Mood gift certificate, and the Lowe's gift certificate, and the three (!) Borders' gift certificates. The boy tried his best this year to get me sewing-related books, and when he couldn't find anything new at the store, he improvised. I'll take a good used book any day. In addition to this one, I also scored a book on Art Deco textiles, which made me drool. This book is just plain fun - it's all reproduced pages from old Sears catalogs from the 1920s.
The only thing that would make it better would be patterns, but a lot of the things I really like have fairly simple lines and I like to think that maybe, just maybe, I could reproduce them without too much hair-pulling.

I love the coat on the left. Those insets in the skirt make it look more like a dress than a coat, and I love the wrap-around cuffs. Much as I loathe working with fake fur, I could deal with it long enough to do a collar. I think.
This one I had to add just for the giggle value - does that look like the "New Freedom in Corsetry" to you? I don't think so. All they did was go from pushing the girls up under your chin to squashing them flat, and Mother Nature will do that quickly enough on her own, without laces, elastic panels or any other instrument of torture. I'll remember this next time I complain about a poky underwire or the constriction of shapewear. Not so bad after all, right, ladies?