Sunday, November 30, 2008

Moving at the Speed of Mud

At least that's what it feels like to me.

I started planning this coat back when the Great Coat Sew-Along started, though I was too late to sign up. I don't think I'd have moved any further along if I'd been involved officially; I think I needed cold weather to kick my butt into starting. But here's what's next: BWOF 9/2007 #104 (with thanks to Kisha, who's planning to make it in fake fur and who brought the style to my attention after having looked past it for a year).

The fabric is a bitter chocolate textured wool coating from Gorgeous Fabrics. The lining is gold peacock-feather brocade from Jomar. The buttons are from Pacific Trims in NYC. The fabric and the buttons have been at least 3 different planned coats by now, but for some reason, this one made the cut.

It's a great basic shape, and I've made just enough changes to make myself happy - eliminated the sleeve cuffs so that the sleeves are full length, lost the invisible closure and added buttons (buttonholes to be made in NY at a later date), and lost the welt pockets for patch pockets - or side seam pockets, not quite sure yet.

This is not just because of my enduring fear of welt pockets, but because I don't think they're the best look for the coat I have in mind. Put it this way - if I tried the coat on in a store, I probably wouldn't buy it because of them. So they're history.

Isn't that the best part of sewing?

So far, I've got the lining constructed and it fits. Instead of doing a muslin, since I'm already running behind on this, I used the lining as the muslin and while it's not something I'd recommend for a more fitted garment, for a raglan-sleeve coat, I managed to get away with it.

Yesterday I cut the wool, having block-fused it last Monday. Holiday weekends are wonderful, except when you don't have any time left to accomplish anything. Today I attached the hair canvas to the fronts - and found out, annoyingly, that what my local store touted as "traditional hair canvas" was in fact "fusible hair canvas" which, if you're trying to do this the long and painful way, as I am, kind of defeats the purpose.

But because this is going to be a really busy week at work and I won't be able to make it down to the Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet on 4th Street, which is the only place I can think of that does have the real stuff, I went ahead and fused it. From the wrong (right) side, you can't tell the difference, and it really does give a nice heft to the fabric, so I'll get over it. But I'm a little cranky at Karlin's Fabrics right now.

For the back of the coat, I cut a piece of interfacing - slightly heavier, think men's suit-coat interfacing - and stitched it properly to the back of the coat. I figure since I won't finish this until at least January, I should have a little something extra to protect me from the cold.

Other than that bit of progress, it's been a really slow sewing weekend. I got all the fabric purchased last weekend washed and up on the stash shelves, I worked out a plan to partially destroy the workroom so as to make it larger and more efficient, and I took about 4 hours yesterday to lay waste to the back yard and get it ready for winter. A whole different set of aching muscles from the ones caused by leaning over the sewing machine.

And tomorrow is back to work. A full week, for the first time in a while. I'm not looking forward.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where to Start?

What do you get when you take friends, both old and new, add a hefty dose of fabric shopping, lots of conversation and a few good meals? One heck of a weekend, that's what!

It all started on Friday: first Elizabeth appeared, followed shortly by Connie, all the way from snow Canada (and she brought us some snow) and then, after we trooped across the street for coffee, we were joined by Trena and Renee.

No time to waste - we all crammed into Renee's car and were off to Jomar. Jomar is my favorite fabric store - even more favorite than Metro Textiles (sorry, Kashi!) - and it was as much fun watching everyone else's reactions as it was to hunt and gather for myself. I scored at Jomar - fusible interfacing and linings which I desperately needed, at $1 and $1.50 per yard, a 3 yard remnant of gray doubleknit, some beefy blue-gray jersey - probably going to be some form of workout wear, and much, much more. Once the pre-washing is finished, I'll take pictures.

Once we staggered out of Jomar and stuffed our big yellow bags into the trunk, we were off to Fourth Street. It used to be called Fabric Row, and it's a real shadow of its former self these days, but there are still treasures to be found. But first, we stopped at Jim's Steaks for lunch. Can't have people visit Philly and not introduce them to our cholesterol-and-fat-laden claim to culinary fame. Adequately refueled, we hit Kincus (pretty, pretty and pricy) and Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet (good buttons and interfacing). Finally we stopped at two stores run by the Baldwins, one where Renee fell in love with a plaid, and the second, where Connie bought leather like a drunken sailor and Renee charmed Mr. Baldwin into giving her a deal on said plaid.

We headed back toward my house, but stopped on South Street at two cute little stores called Spool and Loop, dedicated to quilting fabrics (mostly Amy Butler) and knitting. I don't quilt or knit, but it's always interesting to browse, and I'm happy to see any sewing-related stores opening instead of closing.

A brief stop at the house to rest and catch our breath, and then we went for dinner at my favorite Italian BYOB restaurant, La Locanda del Ghiottone, which roughly translates to The Place of the Gluttons. I love this restaurant, I've been going for over 10 years and taken loads of people with me. Most of them love it, though some find the abrasively personal attentions of the staff a little overwhelming. But then the food usually wins them over. Lee was able to join us for dinner, so she got a head start on Saturday.

By the time we got back to West Philly, everyone was falling-down tired and I took Trena and Renee over to a friend's house - she was kind enough to offer an allergen-free bed for the night to the cat allergic member of our group.

Saturday, Connie and I were up early. Lee arrived soon after, and Kisha picked us up and drove to NYC like the wind. And speaking of wind, it was COLD in NY. Cold as in if there weren't fabric on the menu, I wouldnl't have gotten out of the car.

When I started planning this weekend, I called Kashi at Metro Textiles and asked him if he could open for a few hours for us. He called me back to say that he was going to be out of town visiting his parents, but he would have his son open for us from 10-12. I promised we would make it worth his while, and I'm pretty sure we did. I could barely lift my big blue bag, and one lucky lady actually had two bags.

After that, we met up with LindsayT for lunch and more shopping - Pacific Trims, Paron's and Mood. She introduced me to the wonderful (and affordable) interfacings at Mood, and I was thrilled to find a rayon/cotton jersey that I had received in a remnant bundle from Emmaonesock and bought a yard to replace the top I had worn to shreds. LindsayT had to head home before we were finished, but it was great to meet her and to see in person her absolutely fabulous coat. If it looks good online, it looks even better in person, trust me!

Photo by LindsayT.

A few last stops: M&J Trim, because Connie needed wedding gown trim for one of her five blondes, and I managed to find a few goodies myself. Kisha deprived herself of M&J and stopped in a discount jewelry store, and I have to admit that I joined her there for a few minutes and picked up a few necklaces to go with some of the new tops I've made.

Sunday was spent going through issues of Patrones and BWOF, and many thanks to Connie for helping me to determine which jacket to make for my next leather jacket. And even bigger thanks for her hostess gift of an issue of La Mia Boutique - which looks like fun.

Connie left at 4:00 p.m. for the airport, and about 5 minutes later, my friend Jennifer showed up with her boyfriend, Kyle, and about 6 hangers-on to do a photo shoot in my bedroom. She's in a production of Angels in America next January, and they wanted a Victorian bedroom for the shoot. I was sort of volunteered, and somehow or other I didn't stop this from happening . . . though I nearly fell asleep in the middle. And even though I didn't really feel up for this happening at the end of my weekend, I have to admit it's a pretty cool pic. And you can't see the dust and the cat hair, so that's a plus.

Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Today I had off to recover from my fun weekend. So what did I do? I block fused 4 yards of wool, pre-washed 2 loads of fabric, and for a change of pace, helped Mario demolish the downstairs bathroom at his house. All in a day's work.

Tomorrow is Tuesday. In other words, a day of rest.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patrones 273-14 - Rene Lezard Top

Pattern Description: Sleeveless top with front pleats, folded collar.

Pattern Sizing: Patrones 38-42-46. I made a 38. I'm a 38 in BWOF, but in Patrones, I'm usually closer to a 42. But since I made this in a stretch fabric, I felt comfortable using the smaller size and I guessed right.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, surprisingly, except for the changes I made.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Well, no. Patrones' instructions are in Spanish, which I don't speak, and look pretty minimal. I go through the magazines looking for patterns that I like and then look at the instructions and line drawing to see if I can wing it.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The color actually struck me first, and then the pleating at the neckline. When I looked at the line drawing, I realized that (a) it was meant for wovens, and (b) it buttoned up the back. I almost changed my mind, but I really liked the pleats and the collar, so I decided to try it in a stretch fabric. No dislikes, though I think if I make it again, I'll add sleeves so I can get more wear out of it.

Fabric Used: Tan cotton jersey that's been aging in stash since before I started sewing with stretch knits. It seemed like a safe neutral color, and it is - it's almost boring, but it was also a piece of fabric I didn't mind risking if this experiment went south on me.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: You mean other than changing the type of fabric, eliminating the back buttons and adding about 1.5" to the length?

When I traced the pieces (only 3 of them), I was glad to see that the back piece was clearly marked for the edge, the center back and button placement. I used the fold line and cut the back on the fold as well as the front. The pleats and their direction were also clearly marked on the pieces, and the front was no trouble at all to construct. I sewed the back to the front at the shoulders and checked the fit before attempting the collar.

I'm not sure what the instructions actually were for the collar, but I sewed the two short ends, turned it right side out and pressed it, then sewed it completely around the neckline. This leaves the back of the collar open so that the collar points spread across the back. I think it's a pretty cool look. I pressed the collar seam down onto the top and topstitched it down all the way around, excepting the pleated area. The rest of the seam is covered by the folded down collar.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would definitely make this again, and again in a stretch. It's a very flattering neckline. I can't wear turtlenecks - don't like the look or the feel - but this has the height without the closeness, and I love how the back of the collar looks.

Conclusion: This was a very summery issue of Patrones considering that it was meant for October, but I think little tops like this have no season. I'm in the process of making a little black cardigan to wear over it - I needed something plain so that the pleats and the collar would still be front and center.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Mojo's Back

Inspiration is not at full throttle, but at least it's moving again, and my energy level is high.

Last night I finished my green plaid pants (rescuing my TNT pattern from the reject pile) and even got them hemmed, my least favorite part. Photo to come when I wear them to work.

I also started working on the BWOF 11/08 118 tshirt dress again. A few days after I got the issue, I cut it out in this black/white/gray fabric from I knew it had to have black accents somewhere because I couldn't just walk around looking like someone had thrown confetti at me and it had stuck.

Now when I first saw the dress, I wasn't that impressed with the shape, but I was with all the color-blocking. And when I read BWOF's description, "the lovely print on this straight-cut, short-sleeved jersey dress calls constructivist art to mind. It's quickly sewn, but cutting out requires time and patience, since the colour blocks must match perfectly at all seams for a harmonious effect." I really thought that they had used black, white and red fabrics. But no, their fabric requirements mention something called "scarf print jersey," like you trip over that on every corner. Cheating, I call it. I would have respected them more if they'd blocked it and pieced it - and marked the pattern pieces so that we could have done the same if we were feeling masochistic.

So, like I said, I wanted black contrast. But where. I tried everything, as evidenced by the photo below. Waist insert, waistband, ties, belted, borders on various portions. In the end, I decided that less was probably more with such a busy fabric (and the insert at the waist just made it look too ... sad), so I went with a standard band at the neckline and matching for the sleeves. The sleeves are a little longer than originally intended, but I also want to wear this with my long-sleeved black tshirt on underneath at work, so we'll see how this length works. I can always chop them off and start over. Tie belt for the waist and I was going to add a black border to the hem, but I think I'll leave it as is for now. I haven't even hemmed it yet because I'm waiting for my coverstitch (hand it over, Santa, if you know what's good for you!)

I'm not totally thrilled at this point, but I'm not un-thrilled, either. It's cute and it's wearable - it's something new to throw on my back next week. I'll see how I feel about it once I 've worn, and if there are any other changes I want to make.

FYI for anyone who wants to make this one - it runs BIG. I'm normally a 38 in BWOF. I cut this in a 38, ended up with very generous seam allowances, decided it was still a little too baggy and added a CB seam before I put the neck band on. I still tapered it in a litle further at the waist so I didn't feel like I was wearing a bag.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ever have a TNT pattern get away from you?

Actually it was mostly user error, but I'm annoyed with both myself and the pattern because the pattern (BWOF 6/07 #126) has always worked before. It wasn't drafted specifically for fabrics with some stretch, but I think as I've gone along, tweaking here, thinning there, the excess has been worked out and when I made them in a charcoal gray bottom weight with only minimal (almost non-existent) stretch, THEY. WERE. TOO. TIGHT.

It wasn't a weight or a body issue; it was an unthinking fabric choice combined with a specifically adjusted pattern that caused me to end up with a very nice pair of gray pants that I can't breathe in when I zip them up. And I'm not even thinking about sitting down. This isn't a problem that's going to be solved by losing a few pounds. The only solution for these pants is to find someone who's a bit smaller than me and donate them to that person's work wardrobe.

Thankfully I'm going fabric shopping on November 21 and 22 - someone, somewhere will have a nice charcoal gray double knit with some lycra so that I can remake these. In the meantime, I'm making a pair in a moss green plaid stretch that I got from Jomar a few months ago> It was originally intended for a BWOF dress, but I decided I didn't want to be covered all over in moss green plaid. Probably a wise choice.

It took me all of Monday night to cut these out, making sure I matched all the plaids, cutting extra-wide seam allowances in some places to give myself a little wiggle room for matching - just in case. It took me all of Wednesday night to get them pinned and the leg seams sewn so that the plaid matched. I almost pulled a complete blunder - on the inseam of the left leg, I matched the plaid perfectly and pinned it, and ended up with a very uneven hem. Huh? The I looked at the top of the pants and realized that somehow I had mis-matched the plaid by one row, so I would have ended up completely skewed and that would have PO'd me so much the pants would have ended up in the UFO pile.

That would have been bad - two unsuccessful pairs of pants from a TNT pattern, and through no fault of the pattern. I probably would have banished it to the bottom of the pile. So I'm glad I was paying attention and only had to repin. Got that last inseam sewn before bedtime and yesterday morning I pinned the center seam and tried them on for fit. Plenty of ease - actually a little too much, so I can adjust the seams a little - and the plaids matched. I had the house to myself last night, but I managed to distract myself with other things so that I still have to sew and attach the facings and hem the pants. But at least they're almost done, so I can get that badly-fitting pair out of my head.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just a little

retail therapy to perk me up in gray November. Last week, I wandered over to Fashion Fabrics Club, a site I can honestly say I'd never visited before (probably a good thing, considering the way their site is set up and my dialup connection at home - this was a rainy day lunch at the office) and I saw lots that I liked. I didn't jump in, wildly waving my credit card, and only bought one thing I absolutely needed, which was 2 yards of black poly doubleknit for a pair of work pants, and then two sale fabrics to keep the double knit company.

They're both summer prints, so they were reduced, and the whole order, including shipping, only came to a little over $25, so I don't feel bad at all. The two prints are going to be my favorite BWOF 10/06 #117 A-line skirt (see review here) which has pretty much replaced shorts in my wardrobe. It's a nice, easy style that takes next to no time to sew, even with an invisible zip and a lining. I've probably got 4 of this skirt now, but it's a basic shape that goes with everything, so I'm sure I'll have more beyond even these.

I may make these two skirts up some evening soon while I'm motivated to sew but not really to start any big new projects. It'll be a nice treat to have something new to wear next spring when the warm weather hits and I'm sick to death of winter clothes.

I wore the animal-print version of NL 6429 on Friday, and I liked it so much that I decided I needed another version. Since the weather's getting pretty cool (and it's always cold in my office, no matter the season), I made the long-sleeved version this time. I wore it to work today and was badly photographed (both me and the photograph) by the receptionist. Who I have to forgive because her younger sister came up with a pair of my favorite BCBGirls cowboy boots and let me have them for only $20! Wahoo, new shoes!!

Fabric: drapy stretch knit from A Fabric Place in Baltimore - purchased at the PR shopping day. Supposedly it's Diane von Furstenberg. That wasn't why I purchased it, but it was a plus on top of the fact that I loved the color, the pattern and the drape. It's a little too stretchy, though - the neckline, which fit perfectly during the fitting and the first half of the day, stretched out a little bit by the end. Which didn't happen on the last version of this dress, so I'm assuming it's a fabric issue. I may just take the shoulder seam up a titch, which won't change the early-day fit but should help with the late-day droop.

BTW, another PR connection with this dress - I used a jersey needle purchased at Greenberg & Hammer in NYC at the PR October shopping day. My local store doesn't even sell jersey needles. Since stretch needles haven't been all that cooperative for me lately, I decided to give this a try. The jersey needle didn't skip a single stitch and worked beautifully for this entire dress and most of a second one before dulling down. Another wahoo for using the right supplies for the right project.

I can feel the mojo creeping back. I think it was touching new fabric that did it . . .

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Moving Very Slowly

I think I'm still suffering from Big Project Hangover. The orange bag has been finished for a week and I haven't done much more than futz around with a few UFOs, and cut up an old (too small) skirt to be remade into something I can wear.

Yesterday, I started feeling the stirrings of industry, but I was afraid to start something completely new because I'm still feeling a little burned out.

So I cut up the Diane von Furstenberg sort-of-argyle print knit that I got at the PR Baltimore shopping day and it's well on its way to becoming NL 6429, one of my favorite dresses. I wore the animal print version to work on Friday and it just reinforced for me how much I love that dress.

I made this dress with long sleeves this time so I can get a little more wear out of it, and I'm also leaving it a little longer than the first one, because I want to be able to wear it with my high boots.

At this point I'm also leaving it unhemmed, because while there is a box with a Janome Coverpro 900 sitting in my downstairs hallway, I'm not allowed to open it until Christmas and I see no point in fighting with my regular machine and a double needle before then.

The photo here at the bottom is from a house a few blocks away - the kids started their Shrine to Democracy about 6 weeks ago, and have been adding to it every week. The Halloween decorations crept in, too, but it all seems to work together. I can't imagine by this point that they have a Barbie left in the house, since there are about 10-12 in the display, including the one at the far left, which is wearing a tshirt that says "Headless Dolls for Obama." Now that's being inclusive.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It Contains Multitudes

Honestly, I've never had such a big bag in my life. I walked to work today, and I didn't have to carry my boots in a separate bag - they fit inside the Orange Enormity.

Which got an interesting reaction at work, I have to say. Several people loved the bag, but hated the color. Others loved the color but thought it was a diaper bag (with studs? now that would be a cool mom).

Whatever. I love it. I said in my review on PR that this is the first major project that I have no lingering regrets about - no "I should have done this" or "damn, why didn't I think of doing that?" None of that. I like the pockets, I like the size, I like being able to find my keys and know that my camera and phone aren't getting beaten up in the bottom of the bag.

I like going shopping at lunchtime and being able to stow my purchase in my handbag. All of them.

What strikes me about this project is that earlier this year, when I completed my leather jacket, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to do a major leather project again anytime soon. But ever since the weather started turning cool, I've been wearing my jacket nonstop and realizing just how much I like it and how I'm probably going to want to make another one in the not-too-distant future. Maybe a brown one.

Funky colors are all well and good for accessories, but leather jackets are eternal and I don't want to make something I'll get tired of.

So this was my project to get me back in the mood, and it was a good one because I learned a few tricks this time that I hadn't before, including just how much heat leather will take if you have a decent weight press cloth between it and the iron. I also used large quantities of steam-a-seam rather than gluing seams flat - since I could use heat, it seemed silly to waste time waiting for glue to dry.

Also - and this probably won't do me any good if I make another jacket - I figured out the perfect backing for the leather in this bag. Coutil may be meant for corsets, but you can't tell me that. Slather on a decent coating of leather glue and it's fabulous backing for a lighter weight skin - it keeps all the flexibility of the leather while adding stability and strength. None of the rubble I carry around with me is going to mark this from the inside; for the outside, I can't make any guarantees but I'm going to do my best to keep this looking shiny new for a while.

Today was a very gray November day and carrying this around cheered me up no end.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Damn, this is a big bag

I have nothing else to add, except that my sewing machine isn't very fond of me right now. The feeling is mutual.