Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leather Jacket, Pt. 8: the Post-Game Wrap-up

In most respects, working with leather isn't really all that different from working with fabric. I wouldn't recommend it for a new pattern – make a muslin first or use a TNT pattern – but once you're familiar with the fit of your chosen pattern, using leather instead of fabric won't make a huge difference in how the garment is constructed.

What I liked about working with leather:

1. Cutting – it responds equally well to rotary cutter or scissors .

2. Marking – ink doesn’t bleed through the leather (unless maybe you're using white?) so you can mark directly on the wrong side of the skins.

3. It doesn't fray. You can cut into it or notch curves and it keeps the cuts.

4. It smells good.

5. Leather needs glue. Glue needs time. Sometimes it's nice to have a project where you are forced to take your time and think about what you're doing.

6. The feeling of accomplishment of making something that you thought you could only buy in a store.

What I don’t like about working with leather:

1. It can stretch in unexpected places. Skins, like fabric, have a grain that you should respect. Sometimes, however, it stretches because the skin may be a little thinner at a certain point, or just because it wants to!

2. You can't use pins or baste because the holes will be visible in the leather. You can, however, use pins or baste if you're doing it in the seam allowance and can accurately guesstimate fit from that point in.

3. You can't pick out stitches because the holes will be visible. And if you do pick out stitches, you can't re-stitch in the same place because if you stitch the leather too often, it will tear like perforated paper.

4. Leather needs glue. Glue needs time. Therefore, working with leather is not for when you need an instant gratification project.

Personally, I really enjoyed this project. I've worked with leather before, but only for bags and things like that. I've never attempted a garment and I feel like this project has really stretched my sewing skills. I like tackling something new and figuring out ways to do things – I've never taken sewing classes because my favorite way to learn something is like this, figuring it out as I go, making mistakes and figuring out how to make it work. What I did on this jacket may not be the"right" way, but it's my way, and it worked for me.

The main thing I learned from this, aside from patience, was not to fear tackling something new. Leather isn't that different from fabric, and in some respects it's actually easier if you treat it properly. All in all, I’ve made something I'm really happy with, and that's the best possible result.

coming soon: something completely different!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Leather Jacket, Pt. 7: All good things must come to an end

It's done. I can't believe it's done. I keep picking it up and turning it over, waiting for something to jump out at me that I forgot to do, but I think it's actually finished.

The lining went in relatively easily. Betzina's instructions have you doing the normal "right sides together, sew the lining to the facing" routine, leaving the bottom open. Okay. Then you pin the sleeve hems to the sleeves and pull them inside out (this is supposed to keep the sleeve from twisting when you sew the lining to the sleeve hem - actually, it still twists, but so long as you do untwist it prior to turning it right side out, you'll be fine. If you don't, then your sleeve will be right and the lining will be twisted up. Ask me how I know.) The sleeves get pulled out through the bottom of the lining and sewn, hems together. Then the whole coat gets folded up like a leather burrito and the lining hem gets stitched to the garment hem. I did end up using interfacing along the hem of the lining so that it didn't rip when I turned it right side out. I also sewed a strip of black hem binding to the very top of the jacket hem so that if I couldn't manage to get the last bit of lining attached to the leather, I could slipstitch it to the fabric binding. One of those lightbulb moments. Combination of lining fabric to leather was a little weird, mainly because the leather needle kept snagging the lining fabric, but when I tried a finer needle, it snapped. So there are a few picks in the lining and I will have to live with that.

There will be a full recap of the project soon, once this has had time to digest in my mind. I liked this project, I learned a lot, I entertained myself no end, and I ended up with a jacket out of it. How cool is that?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leather Jacket, Pt. 6: One more naked picture

Before the jacket gets its lining. If nothing else, the drying time required is making me take my time with this project, which is always a good thing. Who doesn't pick up speed when the end is in sight? And isn't that when we make some of our most memorable screw-ups? So slow is probably better.

I picked up some new glue yesterday. I've been using rubber cement on the flattened seams, but I wanted something stronger for the hems since they will take more abuse, both in the wearing and in the lining installation. When I wasn't able to get any at the fabric store, I tried buying some off my local dry cleaner, but she wouldn't let go of hers. The fabric store finally got in some Aleen's Leather Glue, which looks and smells a lot like Elmer's but is stickier and dries pretty quickly.

Last night I got the sleeves in. Surprisingly, they actually went in without stretching, without any accidental pleats, folds, tucks, wrinkles – any of those nasty things that can happen to set-in sleeves when you're not looking. And even when you are. After I made sure they were right and the jacket fit comfortably, I cut off the seam allowance on the jacket side, notched the curves on the sleeve SA and glued it back into the jacket. (I figured I'd normally be pressing the seams into the jacket, so this made logic and gave me a thinner and more protected seam.) I should have taken a picture of the sleeve, glued and then shoved down over my foil-wrapped pressing ham to dry. It was one of the more bizarre sights of this project.

Next up, the lining. Because of the heaviness of the leather (relative to fabric, anyway), I'm going to iron a strip of interfacing along the bottom of the lining so that when I turn the jacket inside out through the opening the entire lining doesn’t shred from the strain. The pattern instructions have you doing this through an opening in the side of the lining, which would be easier in that I could attach the whole hem at once, but I don’t see turning this jacket inside-out through a 6” opening in a lining seam.

Supplies used in this project not generally kept in my sewing room: binder clips, paper clips, bobby pins, tin foil (for keeping the pressing ham glue-free), wax paper (for keeping the cutting area glue-free), rubber mallet. I'll be glad to be finished so I can get this crap out of the workroom and back into the desk/toolbox/shed where it all belongs.

In the realm of non-leather-jacket activities (yes, there are still some!), I finished the second pair of pants for my Wardrobe. They've been mostly finished for the better part of a week, but other projects have distracted me. Wonder what? So here's my second pair of BWOF 6/07 #116 pants, this time in a black stretch twill from Paron's. The photo was taken at the end of the day and after getting rained on, so they don't look their best, but they're good basic pants, comfortable, flattering and a fairly easy sew.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Leather Jacket, Pt. 5: Congratulations, it's a jacket!

The most gratifying part of a project to me is when the pieces finally come together and start to look like something to wear. The project doesn't have to be finished, but I have to be able to see the final result, the light at the end of the tunnel. Friday evening, when I started on the zipper, the jacket still consisted of fronts, backs and sleeves. Now I have a jacket. The sleeves may only be pinned in, and it's not hemmed or lined yet, but it's definitely a jacket. I also have a lining. I need to introduce them to each other sometime soon.

I love it when things fall into place. I was fretting about how I was going to get glue into the hems of the jacket through the not-very-large opening in the lining, and I completely forgot that part of Sandra Betzina's instructions for this jacket include sewing (or in my case, gluing!) the hems at the 1" point, leaving the top 1" free to be attached to the lining. I've already glued the sleeve hems, so tonight, after I sew in the sleeves, I'm going to glue the hem and weight it overnight so that it doesn't come detached when I bag the lining tomorrow.

By the way, the sleeves fit. Hallelujah! Even though I measured and measured again and pinned with fingers crossed, I was still afraid that somehow the ease I had removed from the sleeve would return to bite me in the butt. However, it did not; the sewing gods must be holding back their spite for another project. There's still plenty of room to move my arms in this jacket. It may not be the most spacious sleeve I've ever encountered, but since I can't ease the sleeves, a little wiggle room has to be sacrificed to get the look I want. And it’s not enough room to make a difference in the wearability of the jacket, so I’m satisfied.

And because I'm having so much fun with this - a nice complicated project that makes me think always causes me to lose interest in the quick-and-easy projects - I broke my fabric fast,visited Gorgeous Things' anniversary sale and bought 4 yards of medium brown basketweave wool coating so that I can make up the trench in the 1/08 issue of BWOF for next fall/winter. I'm figuring that a full-size lined coat with all the buckles, buttons, bells and whistles, should make for a nice long project once the Wardrobe Contest is finished.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Leather Jacket, Pt. 4. – things are coming together

One thing I failed to mention in my previous post, which was, after all, mostly about the zipper: I love the zipper I put in this jacket. It's nothing special, really, just as 12" black/silver separating zipper that I got at Pacific Trims during PR Weekend, but it beats any zipper my local store has by so much that I don't even want to buy zippers there anymore. This zipper has more weight and feels sturdier than the zippers I normally see, and it slides like it's been greased. It's a pleasure to zip.

Things are definitely moving along. Yesterday I fought my way through my least favorite seam – the under-collar/pivot/shoulder seam. One side came out perfect; the other side is just slightly off but not so far that the collar/facing piece didn't fit, so I decided to err in favor of keeping the error rather than picking out stitches. Fear of leaving holes in your project will do that to you!

After I got the collar/facing piece on, it really started looking like a jacket. Before I gave up for the evening on Saturday, I spent much time with the glue bottle. I'm going to have to apply more in these areas before I'm done, but I wanted to leave myself some flexibility when bagging the lining. I glued the collar and one facing, weighting them with books overnight. The second facing is yet to be done, but you can see the difference that a little glue can make. The kind of heat you can use on leather just wouldn't get that level of flatness.

So today's projects, if I can tear myself away from the computer, are to glue the second side and cut out the lining. I don't know what I’m waiting for there. Of course, before I insert the lining, I have to face . . . the sleeves. Don't we all just love set-in sleeves? Don't we all just love a set-in sleeve when there's no way to ease it? When I made the fabric version of this pattern, I did my best to eliminate ease from the sleeve, and got it down to almost nothing. This time, I took a deep breath and lost the rest of it. I measured last night, and the sleeve opening and the unsewn sleeve measurement (minus SA, of course) are almost the same. The sleeve opening is about 1/4" bigger actually, but that's okay because the leather will stretch that much in sewing. It would stretch more if I allowed it, but the sleeves are going to get very closely pinned so they don't get away from me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Leather Jacket, Pt 3. - zippers and other random thoughts

Moving right along, sort of.

Since I last reported in, I sewed the center back seam. Actually, I sewed it twice, because apparently the leather on one side was of a slightly different thickness than the other and stretched when I sewed, and all of a sudden I had a tail on one side that was over 1/2" longer than the other. I very carefully picked the stitches out, flipped the jacket over and slowly (turning the wheel by hand) re-sewed the bottom 2" of the seam, carefully guiding it so it didn't stretch again. I was glad to get that seam glued down. A few tiny stitch holes show on the right side, but I think they'll be on the hem anyway.

Last night I didn't get much opportunity to sew - despite the wretched weather, we had tickets to a local theater group's production of the Odyssey, and since I sew costumes for them sometimes, it's really bad form not to show up. Right before we left, I started putting in the separating zipper, and I did something this time that I didn't when I made this jacket in fabric form - I figured out that the way the way to make the zipper disappear into the facing seam is to curve it at the top. Last time I sewed it straight and I had to cut the zipper above the stop. It doesn't really show, but it bothers me. And it's one of those "duh" things not explained in any of my sewing books.

I got the left side of the zipper in and then had to leave. And during the entire performance - which I enjoyed - I was doing zipper insertion in my head. And then we went to the cast party afterward, and by the time we got home it was 11:00 p.m. Probably not the best time to start sewing, so I gave up and watched Bill Maher for an hour and went to sleep.

Got up early this morning and pinned the other half of the zipper and got it sewed before breakfast. I ended up using pins on the zipper instead of binder clips because any holes made by the pins won't show and I didn't want another stretching incident with the zipper. I've also been using my zipper foot for most of the straight sewing on this jacket because it gives me better visibility along the seam line.

After I dealt with the zipper, I sewed the side seams. I checked the fit again before I sewed, and I decided to take the sides in another 1/2" from what I did with the fabric jacket; seeing that leather does stretch a bit more with the heat of your body, I didn't want it to end up too big. Another thing with leather: when you clip your curves, you really have to clip them because of the gluing process. Normally I just cheat and take little nips along the seam, but since I have to glue these flat, actual clipping has to occur.

This jacket has an interesting way of handling the collar and facings - the whole collar is actually a part of the front pattern piece and after you sew the side seams you sew the center back collar seam together. Then the corners are clipped and you sew from the CB seam to the clipped corner, pivot, and sew along the shoulder seam. I taught my dress form a few new swear words the first time I did that little trick; can't wait to try it again. Once that bit of sewing gymastics is accomplished, I can sew the facing together and this thing will actually start looking like a jacket.

While the glue is drying on the CB neck seam and the side seams, maybe I'll go out out my lining fabric. I'm really looking forward to sewing lining to leather. That should be loads of fun. And I'm still working on how to flatten the hem and sleeve hems, because technically there should be some glue happening in there to keep the leather together, I'm just not sure if, after bagging the lining, I can get my hand down the sleeve to schmear cement into the hem. But I'll try.

So this is where we are now - zipper in, side and back seams done and glued, just waiting to sew the shoulder seams. All in all, I'm pretty happy with the jacket so far, and particularly happy that I've only had to pick out one seam.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Leather Jacket Pt. 2 (in which the sheep runs short)

Tuesday night was not very productive, considering the amount of time I technically had to sew. The television was turned on by others and somehow the endless primary process sucked me in again and I sat there and watched pundits repeating themselves, interspersed with occasional speeches by candidates, almost all of whom got cut off so that the next, more interesting speech could air. Shouldn’t we all be tired of this by now? But I’m not.

Which is good, because He Who Controls the Remote finds politics endlessly fascinating. He could watch sports. I’m not complaining.

Around 10:00 p.m. I gave in and went to the workroom for a while. I was too tired to sew at that point, but I cut out the rest of the pieces for the jacket. Only one issue with cutting - try as I might, by the time I got done cutting the big pieces (both backs, both sleeves and one facing - there wasn't along enough piece of leather to cut the second facing in one piece. (Close your eyes, imagine spectacular hissyfit. Then double it).

It's the problem with working with leather - animals don’t come in standard sizes, and that little lamb apparently was about 2" shorter than he needed to be. It's pretty much a non-issue, though - I pieced the facing, sewed it and glued the seam flat and it will hardly even be visible in the finished jacket. It's at the very bottom and there will be a lot going on there anyway with the lining attaching there. But grrrrr, anyway.

Now I have lots and lots of decent-sized leather scraps. I foresee a few things trimmed with leather in my future, yes I do.

Wednesday morning I had to get up early to send someone off to work, so I got a few minutes of peace in the workroom and sewed the back darts - 2 on each side. Then that night, after Project Runway, I split them and glued them flat. I thought I'd have time to clip-fit the jacket and see if I'm still on track as far as fit goes, but I was tired again. My entire office has the plague and I'm trying my best to stay healthy, but staying healthy seems more tiring than being sick.

There is a pattern piece for front interfacing, but none for the back. I recently read Palmer/Pletsch's "Easy, Easier, Easiest Tailoring" and liked their explanation for putting interfacing in jacket backs when the pattern doesn't call for it. I decided that the leather I'm using is so soft, a little stabilization couldn't hurt, so tonight I cut an interfacing piece for the back based on the shape suggested in the book.

I have plenty of iron-on interfacing, both knit and woven, but no sew-in for some reason. Since I can't iron the interfacing onto the leather, I figured I should venture out to buy a yard of sew-in and use that. Besides, the only interfacings I had at the moment were white, and I was afraid that would show through the lining as a color variation.

After all that, I do intend to do it my way and brush a light coat of adhesive to the back of the leather and adhere it to the interfacing rather than putting any more holes in the leather by basting it on.

I also picked up 2 yards of acetate lining the same color as the satin I had intended to use. I took a good look at the satin last night and realized that it was older than I thought and I didn't want to risk shred after all my hard work. Lining a leather jacket is going to be tough enough; replacing a lining is further than I'm willing to go. And I'm not paying someone else to fix a garment that I've made.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Leather Jacket, Part 1

I'm not supposed to be working on this - I still have to hem the black pants that are #4 of the Wardrobe Contest. The jacket is supposed to be the last piece of the wardrobe, not the piece that derails my train right in the middle. But I started thinking a few days ago that my wardrobe plan wasn't ambitious enough, and a leather jacket that coordinates with the other pieces certainly qualifies as ambitious.

I got 40 square feet of black lamb leather at Leather Suede Skins at PR Weekend in November. I liked Global Leathers (where we went in 2006) better, but they weren't open this year and LSS was. The saleswoman said that all prices were firm, but her father, bless his heart, played the calculator game and finally landed on a price that didn't make my breakfast want to exit my body at high speed. He asked what the absolute least was that I was willing to pay for the leather and then came in right above it. I love people who are willing to play "let's make a deal."

It physically hurts to take scissors to those lovely unmarked skins. I picked the biggest skin and laid out the main front piece of the jacket, drew right and left sides on the back of the skin, and then marked all the darts and the zipper insertion point.

I probably should have kept cutting, but I felt like sewing a little so I started marking the darts. Since you can't pin leather, I like to use baby binder clips. They’re great for "pinning" seam allowances because they're not big enough to get in the way yet they can hold a 5/8" SA (or more or less, depending on the tweak) without difficulty. They're good for darts because you can see if you've got the dart folded evenly and they don't slide off the leather. I leave them on until right before they reach the presser foot and none of my darts are off skew that way. I did all 6 darts in the front of the jacket, then took the rotary cutter and sliced open the tops of the folds. Normally I'd press the darts flat, but while you can get away with a little heat on leather (obviously with a press cloth between), you can't flatten a dart that way. I picked up a jar of rubber cement last weekend and once I had the darts opened, I slapped some glue on, let it air dry for a minute and then pressed the darts down flat. I weighted them overnight with some heavy sewing books and this morning they were fine.

Monday, February 18, 2008

One small rant, then back to sewing

My mom died a few years ago and my stepdad still lives in upstate NY where she schlepped him after he retired. We're not close, but I still generally check on him by phone most weekends. Last weekend, since we'd already exhausted the weather as a topic of conversation, I told him about the plumbing mess. His immediate response was, "Good thing I don't have any of your mother's insurance money left!"

This, from the man who asked me to pay for mom's cremation because I was, after all, her blood relative and he'd only been her husband for 26 years. Okay, fine. Whatever.

Next day, my aunt called. She and my stepdad speak rarely, but apparently they spoke that weekend, because she calls out of nowhere to tell me that she's old, she's poor, she really doesn't have any money, and it makes her uncomfortable when people ask her to borrow any.

What the hell, people? Would it be elder abuse to knock their heads together, just a little? By the time my aunt called I'd already written a check for the plumbing. I'm hardly going to hit either of them up for a loan. But it's nice to know that my closest living relatives are right there, willing to help out.

Okay, moving on to things that don't make my brain hurt. The Wardrobe Contest entry. So far, I've finished two pairs of pants from BWOF 6/07 #126 (tan RPL and black stretch twill), BWOF 2/08 #122 tunic and KS 2694 in an orange/brown/black jersey. I'm especially happy with the pants because I love the fit and the fabrics - these are pants I would wear without the motivation of the Wardrobe Contest.

My original plan had the jacket (pattern as yet undetermined) made out of either tan twill or tan linen, but I think I'm going to go ahead and make up V 7976 in black leather instead. It's on my project list anyway, and I'm beginning to feel like my Wardrobe Contest entry is too full of easy basics, even though those coordinating basics are what I actually need in my wardrobe. I don't want the whole wardrobe to be made up of 1-2 day projects. I made V 7976 as a very wearable muslin, so I’ve worked out the kinks in the pattern. I've got a few yards of a brilliant rust lining fabric that I stash-swapped with my roommate, so the lining will tie in with the colors of my wardrobe without being too "basic." I couldn't line it in black; I'd be bored to death before I wore it. Must remember to grab a box of baby binder clips from work - they're great for holding the leather while the glue dries!

So that's my project for later tonight, unless I get too tired - lay out the pattern and take scissors to that gorgeous PR Weekend leather before I get too scared to do it.

Repeat after me: it's not too good to use, it's not too good to use . . .

Because we're thinking about going back in November, plumbing be damned,
and I need something to make me smile right now.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

And the gang's gone home

I can't believe they're finished already. I'm missing a large chunk of sidewalk, there's mud all over my street, but most importantly, I have running water. Lots and lots of running water, both hot and cold.
It feels so . . . modern.

In the 7 hours that they were here, I got into the workroom and finished off my BWOF 6/07 #126 pants (they only needed pressing and having their picture taken) and the BWOF 2/08 #122 tunic (hand hem, press and photo). These are the first two pieces in my PR 2008 Wardrobe, and I'm pretty happy. The pants don't look like much on the dress form, but they look great on and they feel even better! I may wear the outfit out to our belated Valentine's Day dinner tomorrow night at my favorite Italian restaurant.

I also got out into the back yard to do the cleanup I should have done back in November if I hadn't gotten too busy with Christmas sewing, organized all the laundry I'm doing later, and piled all the dishes in the sink now that I no longer have to use it to wash my hair.

And now, I'm off to take the world's best shower.

The Gang's All Here

It's begun. By 8:30 a.m., there were four trucks, seven men, a generator, two jackhammers and a backhoe in front of my house. How much fun can a girl have on Valentine's Day? I'm going to go sew now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

But not a drop in my house. Okay, maybe a trickle, but that's it.

I think this plumbing thing has damaged more than my budget. I haven't been able to get out of my own way all week. Not only have I not done any dishes or laundry (difficult, without water), but I've done hardly any sewing, and there's no excuse for that except my preference would be to remain fetal in my bed until all this is over.

But tomorrow's the big day – I get to spend Valentine's Day with my plumber. Of course, when your big V-Day fantasy involves a long, hot shower (alone, I'm not sharing the water when I finally get it back!) and loads and loads of laundry, maybe the plumber is the right man to spend it with. Mario and I are going to go out on Friday night to celebrate. I just know I won't have it in me tomorrow after they're finally done.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Project Runway Goes to Fashion Week

I was cruising the Getty Images site looking at the photos from the Project Runway show. I'm sure I could track down whose designs were whose, but I'll sit on my hands and wait until the finale. For now, I'm just posting a few goodies that I like (and I'll be very upset if they belong to Christian).

I'm betting that these two striped pieces belong to Jillian. They just seem like her aesthetic, particularly when given enough time to do a good job.

This dramatic although slightly ridiculous ruffled collar is either Christian or Chris, it reminds me of both of them. And there were a few dresses that looked like they were trimmed with monkey fur, which I'm assuming has to be Chris.

Why, why, why can't they get their scheduling right and show a finale at or near Fashion Week so they don't have to have ringers in the final show? Not that I mind seeing all the extra clothes, or that the also-rans got to show in Bryant Park after all, and under the banner of Project Runway, but get it together, people, this is Season 4. You should be able to schedule these things by now.

Painful plumbing date: $4500, I still don't have running water (at least, not my own - I have a hose stretched across the back yard to my next door neighbor's hose, "borrowing" his house's water), and it won't get fixed until freaking Thursday because Philadelphia has ridiculous permit requirments, and the utility companies (those highway robbers) require a 3 day period to spray paint lines on my street before the plumber can finally arrive with a backhoe and dig in betwteen them. The 3 day period doesn't begin same day as the request, doesn't operate on weekends, doesn't make any sense.

On the plus side, he's going to let me drive the backhoe. Somehow, if I'm already paying him $4500, I probably shouldn't want to do any of his work for him, but come on, it's a backhoe. How often does a girl get a chance like that?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Maybe I'm fabric fasting for a reason

Turns out it's good I haven't been spending money on fabric lately. I came home from work yesterday to find the street dug up. One of my neighbors had to have their water line replaced. I sympathized, having been through complete sewer line replacement 8 years ago when I bought the house. Later that evening, I discover we have almost no water pressure.

I call the water company to report this, and they sent someone out who discovered that one of the street valves was still half off. He fixed this, but not my water pressure issue. I called again this morning (after having visited the coffee shop down the block, and its bathroom), and they came out again. The inspector turned off the water at the street, listened to the pipes and said, in that maddening way people have when they're about to tell you something really upsetting, "There's still water running in your pipes. Your line's shot too." Turns out when she inspected the work across the street the day before, there was a lot of water in the hole that wasn't from the line that was repaired. But no one thought to mention that to me or my neighbor, who it turns out has the same problem.

Panic-stricken phone call to plumber. Plumber visits by 11:30 a.m., confirms diagnosis. Says that while the work yesterday may have exacerbated my line issue, it's a 100 year old lead pipe and there's a good chance it was already failing, because my water pressure has never been fabulous. He's right, of course. And of course my homeowner's insurance doesn't pay for street piping. Of course.

I won't know until tomorrow what the damage is going to be. I'm hoping that by sharing the job with my neighbor we'll get some discount - at least we'll only need one permit from the city to open the street. That little piece of paper costs almost $700. I'm clinging to $5000 in the hopes that it will come in way under that and I'll be doing the dance of joy, but I don't know.

And we were planning to go back to Paris in the fall.

I love my old house. Just not very much right now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Who's driving this bus?

Don't you just love it when the fabric tells you what it wants to be, and how to go about it?

I got the February issue of BWOF the other day. Didn't think much of the issue and I hate their photography that disguises the most interesting details of the clothes. This ain't Vogue, people! It's about the clothes that we might want to make and the details we might want to look at beforehand.

That night I was in the workroom, finishing off a pair of tan pants from the 6/07 issue. For some reason, a fabric deep in the stash called to me and I pulled it out. Blouse weight, diagonal striping in black, gray, brown, tan and white. I don't remember buying it, though apparently the subconscious shopper remembers it well, and the date on the selvage says 1997. The fabric says it wants to be a top with those pants. I drape it on Evelyn and think about it, and before I know it, it says it wants to be the retro-fabric tunic from the February issue.

Really? That top? In that fabric? On me? You're sure?

Apparently. So I cut it out and pinned it together. This is another one of those patterns where Burda just doesn’t think: how can they say glibly "blouse weight fabric with or without elastane"? In a pattern that fits snugly across the chest and shoulders, there's a big difference between with and without stretch. I cut this in a 38, according to my usual size in Burda and also a flat measure of the pattern, but it was too snug in the front and the CB pieces barely met, much less had enough leftover for a zipper. I recut the top piece in a 40, and it was better, but I just didn't like it.

Stopped. Thought about it overnight. Went in last night to futz around a little bit and the fabric told me it didn't want to be the top of the tunic, just the sleeves and the bottom part, and I should get myself to the remnant pile and find a piece of black stretch fabric for the top of the tunic. So I did. I had a nice piece of heavier weight black left over from a skirt, with just enough stretch, and enough body that I decided (it decided?) not to line the bodice but just to edge the neckline with bands of the striped fabric. Do you cut bias-striped fabric on the bias? Wouldn't that make the stripes go straight?

I guess it'll let me know tonight when I pick up the scissors.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The PR Wardrobe Contest

Since I've gone and entered the Wardrobe Contest on Patternreview, I'm hoping I actually have it in me to complete 10 coordinating pieces by the end of April. I know that my current plan is to make each garment coordinate with the preceding one, so in theory it should work, but signing on to do it may guarantee it not happening.

On the other hand, it might really provide the boot in the butt that I need to keep going with my plan.

It also has to be made completely from stash (my rule, not theirs), with the exception of lining fabrics. I’m not breaking the fabric fast to do this.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My mother made me do it

My mom was obsessed with gypsies. (Okay, she was obsessed with a lot of things, but there's a point to this; bear with me). When she was a kid, in the mid-1930s, it was a normal parental threat to say, "If you stay out after dark, the gypsies might steal you." Apparently this worked with some kids. My mom, never one to follow the rules, packed up her Shirley Temple doll and a few odds and ends in a bag and sat on the curb, hoping the gypsies would come by in their caravan and take her away. They never did, but she kept hoping.

As an adult, this should have subsided into a love of hoop earrings and peasant tops, but no. When I was 8, she befriended a family of gypsies near my grade school. No caravan: they sold carpets and drove big old beat-up cars, but they were gypsies and she was entranced. So entranced that one day when they took off for their yearly wanderings, she bought their pet monkey.

A real monkey. A small, skinny, patchily bald monkey with some really unpleasant personal habits. She brought him home in a cage and put him in the kitchen, hoping my dad wouldn't notice the odor. (He was a fireman and most smells were beyond him, but trust me, he could smell monkey.) The monkey didn't last a day before it moved on to the pet store.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with sewing? Well, I never ran away to join the gypsies or bought a monkey, but I got the love of hoop earrings and peasant tops. Go figure.

So this one's for her. All the other versions of BWOF 1/08 #122 I've seen are beautiful, but solid colors. Every once in a while mom fights her way to the surface and demands colorful, sparkly, garish . . . which is why I said this top was either going to be great or scary. It truly could have gone either way, but I think this is a nice compromise between her taste (turquoise, hot pink, sequins, massive amounts of cleavage) and mine - definitely colors, but not those; cleavage, but not that much; and no sparkly bits, though I did consider a bit of discreet beading on the front.

This is also a nice save from one of my bad buying habits - too little fabric in too many colors. I fell in love with this cotton voile from Emma One Sock about 2 years ago. Couldn't make up my mind if I liked the brown or the orange better, so I bought a yard of each. A yard! What can you make with a yard, realistically? So it waited until a pattern came along that actually worked well with two colorways of the same fabric.
On to a practical reivew of this pattern: I love it. Love. It. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will make it about 2" longer, because even with a really skinny hem it hits at the wrong part of my hip/thigh, but other than that, it's great. I didn't have the too-low problem the other reviewers have had (being a little big in the shoulders is apparently good for keeping the girls out of the public eye), and I love the overall look of this. The back yoke that turns into the top of the sleeve (only brown part on the sleeve) is a really nice touch - it's almost invisible on the back, but it's the major part of the shoulder and it gives the sleeves a bit of interest. Even done in a solid color, it's interesting.
This one's definitely a winner. I was no more than halfway through when I knew it would be label-worthy.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Feeding the Beast

Since I went on my self-imposed fabric diet on January 1, I've been feeling surprisingly un-deprived. Before, when I went into the fabric store, something always made me buy fabric. Even when it was too expensive. Even if I didn't need it. Even if I didn't know what to do with it. Even (my personal favorite) when it was a color that didn't suit me.

The only fabric I've purchased since the beginning of the year is lining. I've looked at the newsletters from Gorgeous Fabrics and Emma One Sock, and I've even wandered over to the sites, but I'm not tempted. (I discontinued's newsletter because it was an almost daily occurrence and though it's the least tempting of the lot, I figured the frequency might make me fall). What has gotten into me?

It's hard to believe that I'm getting the same rush from shopping my stash as I did when I shopped to create the stash. And it's making me re-think my plans for certain fabrics. Not too long ago (okay, well maybe 6-8 months ago), I organized the "better" stash and tagged quite a few fabrics with their potential pattern numbers. Yet for every fabric I've pulled out so far this year, the fabric has gone to something completely different than what I'd had in mind. And I'm not missing any of those pre-planned projects: the spontaneous ideas I'm getting are working much better for me.

I really think fabric shopping feeds the beast the way eating junk food or drinking too much or (insert your bad habit here) feeds the beast. It's not necessary, it's not even always fun, but it relieves the pressure and makes you feel better. Turns out the beast also feeds on creativity. Who knew?