Tuesday, December 29, 2009

BWOF 8/2006 #108 Jacket

This review should be subtitled, "One for him, one for me." This is the one for me.

Sorry for just lifting the review straight from Patternreview, but it's been a very long day (short-handed at the ioffice, crazy busy and I had a long telephone conversation with my aunt just to ice the cake) and I at least wanted to get the jacket up before next year. Since I managed to get it finished in 3 days, as opposed to more than 2 weeks for Mario's jacket.

So here goes:

Pattern Description: Close-fitting, princess seamed, lined jacket, with a front zip and tulip collar. There are pocket and piping variations, but I didn't use them.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF sizes 36-42. I made a straight 38, my usual BWOF size.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, other than my leaving off some of the details and having a slightly busier fabric.

Were the instructions easy to follow? More or less. This was the illustrated sewing course for the issue. That being said, I didn't think the way they did things made all that much sense and I followed the instructions for a similar Sandra Betzina zip front jacket pattern (V7976) that I've made a few times.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This pattern has been on my radar since the issue came out in August, 2006, but I never had the right fabric at hand. When I purchased this particular fabric back in October, I was pretty sure even before I got it home what it was going to be. I liked the clean lines of the jacket and I wanted another excuse for a zip front jacket.

Note: Another thing I really liked about this pattern was that BWOF very kindly put match lines on the pattern pieces for using the pattern with a plaid fabric. Much appreciated, BWOF. Much. Matching was pretty easy, except at the tops of the seams where they turned into the collar, where it turned into a bit of a wrestling match and I had to concede that good enough was, indeed, good enough.

Fabric Used: I love when the fabrics I use have more meaning for me than just "it's pretty, I wanted it" (though that's a perfectly valid reason for buying fabric, trust me). The jacket was made from a plaid boucle purchased on my recent vacation in Florence, and the lining is moss green silk charmeuse purchased at Metro Textiles during PR Weekend 2006. Custom 22" green separating zipper with ring from Zipper Source. Shoulder pads so minimal they hardly count, but they're there, and I can tell.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Almost none. My alteration consisted of simply narrowing the tops of the center and side panels in the back because my back doesn't appear to be the same shape as the body they drafted for and it made me look like I had a slight hump. Once that was narrowed, everything fit well. My design changes were to eliminate the optional pockets. I liked them, actually, but because of my plaid fabric, they just didn't work. I tried them straight on, matching the plaid, and they went invisible, and I tried cutting them on the bias and they just looked silly. So no pockets it was.

I continued on using Sandra Betzina's instructions for lining the jacket, and I have to say, despite the slipperiness of the charmeuse and the number of new swear words I taught my cat, Lily, this is probably the best bagged lining I've done yet. In other words, there was enough fabric at the bottom, there wasn't too much or too little, it lined up evenly in the facings, the facings were even, and hey, I remembered how to do the sleeves.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would probably sew this one again. I like simple zip-front jackets because they give me a lot of scope for interesting fabrics. This one would actually make a very nice leather jacket, though I think I would modify the collar to either shorten the tulip-ness or extend it into a more "normal" looking collar. This shape doesn't strike me for leather.

Highly recommend - it's a pattern with relatively few pieces, and after all, it does have illustrated instructions, which are not to be sneezed at from the cryptic people at BWOF.

Conclusion: This is my last project for 2009, and I think it's a winner.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What the well-dressed man wore for Christmas

So Christmas this year was pretty quiet. We drove to NJ to spend the day with Mario's family and be generally loved and overfed (or are they the same thing?)

Maybe he was a little overdressed, but since the jacket was finished, there was no way, come hell, high water or blizzard conditions, that he was getting out of the house without wearing it.

Of course, thankfully, there was no way he wanted to leave the house without wearing it, either.

His aunt Cathy came to dinner this year since her son and his family were out of town. She spent 30 years working in a clothing factory - assembly line stuff, mostly. She made lining sleeves for 10 years. 10 years. Jeez. She made shirt collars. She made cuffs. One after another.

She said that she never actually made a whole shirt, start to finish, unless she was sewing at home for her husband and son, who never wore purchased shirts while they lived under her roof.

When Mario told her that I made the jacket, she made him take it off right there and spread it out on the table. I was really glad at that point how much care I put into it, because his aunt is one of those older ladies who take pride in pointing out what's wrong with everything these days.

I like her though. I like her a lot. Especially when when she couldn't find anything wrong with it, though she did say it would have looked good with suede elbow patches. Thanks, give him ideas.

Now that the jacket is done, and almost more difficult, the review is done (and edited, and edited again), I'm back to working on something for me. It feels good.

I started cutting out fabric for my next me-project while I was working on his jacket. I'm using the plaid boucle I bought in Florence, and a pattern from the best BWOF ever - August 2006. It's actually almost done at this point, all I have left to do is bag the lining and do the finish work.

Why is it so much more complicated to make menswear? Our stuff has interfacing. It has linings. It has darts and buttons and buttonholes. My jacket even has a separating zipper. And it's a whiz, compared to the Beast.

I also fell off the fabric wagon just a little bit today - Fabric.com has some really great knits right now, in lots of happy prints for dresses in 2010. So I bought 11 yards. So what? I sewed a LOT this year.

Next up, I'll try to do a year in review, with numbers and statistics and pictures and all that fun stuff. Or a review of the Florentine jacket, whichever gets finished first.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yes, Mom, there IS a Santa Claus

Anybody who knows me knows I'm somewhat of a humbug at Christmas. I'm not anti-holiday, I just get a little tired of the alternate meanings of Christmas: competitive decorating; shopping so you're still in debt in June; gifting out of obligation; mandatory "festive" get-togethers. You know the drill.

The stuff that makes Christmas stressful, and that makes you almost unable to appreciate the real Christmas when it comes along.

Waking up with the person you want to be with, surrounded by a warm, safe home and critters who love you. Making a nice breakfast and sharing small gifts over coffee. Spending just enough time with family. Having a good meal with people you care about.

There was a thread on Patternreview about the holidays, and it brought up something that I always remember at this time of year. My mom was a big fan of Christmas. Big. Really big. As in the house had a radioactive glow from down the block because of all the lights she had my dad put up. Indoors, there were decorations and ceramic knick-knacks everywhere. Nothing in the Sears Wish Book was off limits - I was an only child, after all, and Christmas comes but once a year.

She was so into Christmas, in fact, that when I started school and a friend enlightened me that there was in fact no Santa Claus, it was the first time I ever went home and didn't tell her about my day. I didn't want to ruin it for her, because while I wasn't totally surprised about Santa's non-existence, I was certain that she still believed in him. Why else would she make such a huge fuss every year?

It couldn't have been for me, could it? My dad worked all the hours he there were leading up to Christmas so he could be home with us on Christmas Day, so the shopping, indoor decorating and general holiday indoctrination fell to my mom. And she was good at it. How else could I have woken up early one Christmas morning and seen hoofprints on the porch roof? (And how did she do that?)

And what about the bells I would hear just as I was dropping off to sleep? The sound would jerk me upright in my bed and I'd hear her from the doorway. "He just flew over. Go to sleep - he won't come while you're awake."

Years later she told me the bells were strung along the ceiling on fishing line, the "hoof" was on a stick and she pressed it in the snow while leaning out the open window, and when I did finally drop off to sleep, she went downstairs, ate all the chocolate chip cookies and had a shot of whiskey to wash them down.

So maybe she did still believe in Santa. Or at least in the meaning of Christmas. Mom and I had a lot of issues over the years, but I never doubted that she loved me. Thinking back on those childhood Christmases, I'm even more certain.

There was a Santa Claus.

Seasons greetings, happy holidays, Merry Christmas. Pick whichever one applies to you, have a wonderful day and come back soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BWOF 8/2009 #133

I got your Christmas miracle here. Mario's jacket is done. As am I.

Now, the burning question - what the hell am I going to wear for Christmas?

Here's the review:

Pattern Description: Our slim-cut sport jacket will catapult his outfit from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. Flapped patch pockets are eye-catching details. That sounds interesting, but it doesn't really tell you much. It's a 4 button, front-darted jacket with side vents and a center back seam, with two piece sleeves.

There will be photos of Mario wearing the jacket, but not until Christmas Day. I didn't want to wait until then to get the review up, because I still can't believe it's done!

Pattern Sizing: BWOF men's sizes 46-52. I made a blended size that basically runs the gamut from 46-50. Since he is 5'6", I shortened the pattern at several places throughout the body so that he didn't look like he was wearing his dad's jacket, which is always an issue for him in suit jackets. I also shortened the sleeves accordingly.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The general shape is the same, but I did change some details, such as swapping the pleated pockets for plain ones because of my fabric.

Were the instructions easy to follow? It's a 3 1/2 dot BWOF pattern. Since the instructions on 1 dot patterns can be convoluted, we won't even talk about these.

Well, okay, I'll talk about them. They were pretty bad, but by reading ever. so. slowly. I was able to understand now to put the collar together, and I was completely lost when I tried it last time. It's one of those techniques that makes absolutely no sense when you read it, so you just have to take it on faith that they know what they're talking about, and follow along. If you've made a few jackets before, you'll be able to puzzle these out.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I've been wanting to make DBF a good jacket for a while. He's been resistant, mostly because he doesn't like how he looks in suit jackets. That's because, since he's shorter, they're never the right length on him. Altering the pattern to fit his height made all the difference - the hem of the jacket hits where it should, instead of 1.5" lower.

I liked the styling of the jacket - a little bit edgier than his usual taste, but because of the fabric I chose, not as out there as it could have been. I like the slim fit and the 4 button front, rather than a more conventional "suit jacket" cut.

In the beginning, I really liked the pleated pockets. I made them and pinned them on, and I no longer liked them - in the check, they just seemed too . . . something. I didn't like how the checks looked when the pocket was folded. I made up one plain patch pocket and gave him the option, and so long as he could still have the button flaps, he agreed that the plain pockets looked better. Here's what the final pocket looks like.

Fabric Used: Wool houndstooth check purchased at Paron's in NYC with brown lining from Jomar. THe wool was on Paron's $5 per yard remnant table, so the fabric for the jacket cost less than $15. Lining, interfacing, shoulder pads and fusible hair canvas, well, that took the price up a bit. Buttons were from stash - I gave him a choice, and he picked the safest buttons out of the lot. That's what I get for offering options!

Of course, I also offered him a choice of thread colors for the buttonholes, and he did well there, picking the tan that matched the background color.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Very minimal changes. My original idea, back when I first got the magazine, was to do the upper collar and the pocket flaps in leather. I attempted to make this jacket back in September, and I used leather for the upper collar, and flaps, but I also messed up the collar so spectacularly that I chucked it out and started over. I would have liked to use leather this time - it would have jazzed the jacket up some - but the only leather I have right now is too heavy and I didn't want to put off working on this until I got up to NY for the right leather; at that point, the jacket would have been for Christmas 2011. I decided this time to take it slower and make it in a fabric where I could pick stitches if I needed to.

Things I wouldn't necessarily call changes: I cut the under-collar in two pieces and on the bias because that always makes the collar look better. I cut the collar band on the bias as well, and it went together very smoothly.

BWOF doesn't really get into things like interfacing or using hair canvas, but this struck me as a more tailored jacket than they were giving instructions for, so I used a variety of interfacings from light to fusible hair canvas to give my jacket the structure I wanted. I used 2 layers of interfacing in the collar and along the button placket and hems for the required crisp edge. I interfaced the entire jacket front with a layer of light weight interfacing, and, following BWOF's intructions, I interfaced around the armhole on the back and side back panel. I also added a panel of interfacing covering the entire upper back, because I hate it when I can see the shoulder pad line through a man's jacket.

Shoulder pads were standard men's pads that I'd picked up a while back and have been holding onto until I got around to this project. Before I tacked them in, I also added a strip of mohair around the shoulder area to help them look smooth.

BWOF recommends topstitching on the collar and pocket flaps, but I didn't want visible topstitching on this. Instead I top stitched by hand while watching TV, and while it barely shows, it adds a bit more body to the edges of the jacket, which was my intent.

The sleeves required minimal easing, which was good. I'm not a big believer in ease, but (a) this was wool, so it would ease beautifully, and (b) I wasn't being too adventurous in my construction of this jacket so I ddin't want to tamper with the sleeve draft - I wanted to finish this in time for the holiday. I pinned them in first and tried it on him, and was pleasantly surprised at the fit. (He was unpleasantly surprised at how much pins hurt). Then I inserted them properly and steamed them over my pressing ham, and they came out nice and smooth.

For the lining, I attached the sleeve lining to the sleeves according to Sandra Betzina's method that I learned many, many patterns ago. I always have to pull out the pattern instructions because I can't remember what to do next after I pin the lining to the sleeve and then pull both sleeves out through the open bottom of the jacket. And every time, I read them and smack myself in the forehead because I forget that the pin attaching lining to sleeve isn't permanent; I'm supposed to overlap the lining over the sleeve, right sides together, and sew close to the edge, and turn it out again. Since I hadn't ever lined a vented jacket before, I was a little iffy about how to line around the side vents, but I just bagged the sides and neck area of the lining the way I normally would and left the bottom open. When I turned the jacket right side out, I pressed the lining in place and hand-stitched it in those areas, making sure to reinforce the tops of the vents.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'm not sure if I'll sew this particular jacket again, but you never know. I've finally conquered a man's BWOF jacket pattern, and I only stopped patting myself on the back long enough to type the review.

Conclusion: This pattern had several firsts in it for me, which I always find interesting considering how long I've been sewing and how much I've sewn especially in the past few years. The collar method was completely new and different, and the result was even better than I'd hoped (considering I didn't do a muslin). I've also never lined a vented jacket before, and I was a little nervous about that, but it worked out well in the end. All in all, I feel really good about this project - it really stretched my skills, and he's thrilled, so how can I not be?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I don't want a lot for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is . . .


This is Fergus. He's male. He's orange. He's tabby. He's got freckles on his nose. He's hungry. He's (as good as) homeless.

Opinions that have been freely expressed are that I do not need another cat. I may not, but Fergus needs to have someone who will care for him, and that might as well be me.

If he doesn't get along with the herd, then I will find him another loving person, but my goal at this point is to tempt him into my clutches with a can of 9 Lives some time before the New Year.

(As far as that "as good as homeless," he lives in a wet cardboard box on the porch of a house rented by a bunch of middle-aged biker guys. They don't own him, they just put the box out there and don't shoo him off the porch, but they never let him in, they don't feed him, and they haven't shown any interest so far in the fact that Fergus and I have a standing breakfast meeting on their front steps.)

He will be mine.

Oh, yeah. The jacket. It's almost done. Pictures (hopefully) tomorrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The sleeves are on

And I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Or is that an oncoming train?

Sleeves are on, as I said, and the hems are hand-sewn up, waiting for the lining to be inserted. I hand-stitched around the collar, lapels, pocket flaps in the same light thread I used for the buttonholes. It's basically invisible, but it adds a little more structure and crispness to the edges.

The sleeves went in pretty easily, and there truly was minimal easing in these. I did two lines of ease-stitching by hand, and I barely had to pull the stitching. Lots of steam and my pressing ham did the rest. The left sleeve wasn't as nice as the right, and I ended up taking it up a little bit more at the shoulder - for some reason, I noticed that my seam allowance was wider on the right, which accounted for the difference.

The jacket is looking a little lumpy in these photos, but that's because it's colder than #*%& in my house and he wouldn't take his thermals off to try this on over a smoother-fabric shirt. With a better under layer, there's no horizontal crease at the upper back.

I think the thing I'm happiest with so far about this project is just what a huge difference there is between his other jackets and this one. The RTW ones may look better in some respects, but since he's not a standard size, taking almost 2" out of the length of the jacket and recalculating the location of the pockets means he doesn't look like he's wearing his dad's jacket.

So what's left at this point? The lining, obviously. At least it's all sewn together and I got the sleeves inserted without a problem. If sleeve cap ease in fabric is bogus, sleeve cap ease in lining fabric is just . . . impossible. Most of the time. This time, it went okay. Weird.

So I have to insert the lining. Not looking forward to that - I haven't lined a vented jacket before - but it can't be worse than the collar, right?

I have to sew on the buttons, do the last buttonholes on the front, add another layer of interfacing to the hem because it's a little floppy feeling right now, and do a lot of pressing.

Still have some time to work on it tonight, though I neglected sewing almost completely today. We're closing in on the end of the year, and all the unfinished projects in my house are beginning to get to me (as in the sewing room counter). Today I got Mario to rev up the circular saw and cut the butcher-block counter for my kitchen cabinet that has been sitting for over a year.

So much for power tools. The block is 1" thick oak, and it laughed at his saw. Loudly. It defeated both batteries, and when the battery was re-charged, then it knocked out the motor. Thankfully he'd at least gotten all the cuts started, because I sat down there on top of the counter and finished it with a hand saw.

I have blisters, but I also have a custom-cut counter that exactly fits my cabinet and the weird notch in the wall. Now I just need to build the support for underneath, which I think I can do at some point before Christmas. After the jacket is finished.

And what is there to say about the 18" of beautiful, but cold and very inconvenient white stuff outside? Not much. I shoveled, I had a bucket of coffee to recover from shoveling, and then I played with tools. With sewing yet to do, not a bad Sunday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The purpose of shoulder pads

Last night after posting about the collar progress, I decided to push on. The sleeves had been cut out for a few days, but I sewed them together (no surprises there) and pinned one into the jacket.

I had to be careful how I pinned, because someone doesn't understand that the price of custom clothing is the occasional pin stab. He still yells ouch every time it happens. I barely notice anymore when I stick myself.

Happily, these sleeves need almost no easing, which is only right. Menswear has so much less ease in the sleeves than womens wear, and I am a big believer in Kathleen Fasanella's Sleeve Cap Ease is Bogus. That article was such a sewing epiphany for me!

So I have the right sleeve in, and I bring out the jacket for its intended victim to try on. Of course I come armed with the camera, which he doesn't understand. It's sewing, right? Why do you need pictures?

What he doesn't get is the photos aren't just for posting here. I like having a visual reference of where I've gone with a project to keep myself on track if I ever encounter the same thing again. I wish I'd photographed the collar process, but I was afraid to actually put it down and take its pciture in case it got away.

The first photo above left is the sleeve without a shoulder pad. I intend to put pads in the jacket, I just like to see the difference - and there really is one. It's not like he doesn't have shoulders. I've done sloping shoulder adjustments on shirts for him but I didn't want to do that with the jacket; I thought I could fix things with appropriate padding, and it looks like it's going to work. The padded shoulder (second photo) looks much better.

The difference in fit is even more obvious from the back. Photo 3: I can see with the sleeve set in that I need to fiddle with the jacket back and the back of the sleeve, because there's just a skooch (serious technical sewing term) too much fabric there. And it's way more noticeable with the shoulder pad in, as seen in the last photo where I'm pinching out a little excess.

I guess empty it sat lower on his shoulder and the space was filled by his back, which is wide at that point. Raised, it leaves a little gap, which will soon be gone.

Not sure how much sewing will occur before the weekend - I have a girlfriend coming over tonight in need of wine and estrogen therapy. Aren't we all? Mario's office party is tonight, so he'll be a little late, and mine is tomorrow night, which means if I felt like it I could be out all night. They're quite the party crowd.

We have a friend's Christmas party to go to tomorrow night after I escape the co-workers, so Friday night is a sewing loss, though not a social one.

Saturday: shopping, cooking, working on a house project (another one), and yes, definitely sewing. This jacket may not be a Christmas gift, per se, but he's going to wear it for Christmas or I'll know the reason why.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Progress on the jacket

I'm moving along with the jacket, albeit more slowly than I would like.

Monday night I had the house to myself for the evening, which meant I could sew to my heart's content. On the other hand, I had the house to myself for the evening, which meant I couldn't try the jacket on him every time I felt the need.

I thought about switching projects and starting to sew something for me but I restrained myself, took a deep breath, and sewed the collar.

Last time I attempted this jacket, I knew what I was doing and therefore completely screwed up beyond all rescue (the upper collar was leather, just to make it even more impossible to fix). This time, I slowed down, admitted that I knew nothing and I was powerless against the pattern, and read BWOF's instructions word for word, letter by letter.

The instructions still made no sense, and I followed them anyway. And, apparently while non-sensical, they can build a pretty good collar.

I took all their suggestions, plus everything I've learned myself, from books, experience and Patternreview. The under-collar is two pieces, cut on the bias. The collar bands are also on the bias, which not only looks really cool, but it made the collar fit in much better.

BWOF's instructions were really bizarre. After the basic structuring of the jacket, you attach the facings, but only turn the corner onto the lapel by about an inch (there's a mark). Then you leave it open all around the neck to the other side.

Next, BWOF said to construct the collar, so I did. Collar bands to collars. Collars together, trim seams, turn right side out, press. Admire the fact that I got very nice points since I was so concerned about the rest of the process I wasn't obsessing about my collar points.

After that is where it got truly weird. You take your nice completed collar, which is by now one piece, and you treat it like it's two pieces. Starting at the mark where I left off sewing the facing, I pinned the under-collar to the neck of the jacket. Once that was basted (by hand), I sewed it in and checked for bubbles, wrinkles, creases - all the usual evils. Nada. For the upper collar, same deal in reverse. Starting at the facing mark, pin the upper collar to the facing (there's a back neck facing so the facing goes all the way around), end at the other facing mark.

Miraculously, everything was the same length and fit, end to end, like it was supposed to. I basted, I sewed, I trimmed and clipped. I turned right side out and pressed.

Ever put so much of yourself into a process that when you're finished you're almost sick to your stomach? When I got that collar right side out and saw the facing and the way the collar fit into it, I was so happy I did a little dance in the workroom.

Of course it wasn't perfect. There were a few spots where the seam was a little off, and I took another deep breath - not entirely sure I'd breathed out since the first one - and carefully unpicked the stitches and redid them. There's one tiny spot at the joining corner of the lapel that isn't as perfect as I would like, but I have given permission that good enough is good enough.

Once he got home and I put the jacket on him and walked a few feet away, I couldn't tell which side it was, and no one else will ever think to look.

And here we have Lily, agreeing with us that those pleated pockets just weren't the thing. She's holding them down for me so I don't accidentallyl sew them back on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

After a short delay . . .

I have a new place to work - at long last, my countertop made it out of the dining room and up the back stairs. (It's only been working its way in that direction since some time in the summer. Any longer and evolution might have taken over and it could have walked up on its own.

It's funny, this change has been in my mind for so long that once it was finally in place, it was no big deal. I'd been seeing it for so long that the reality was just . . . there, and why wasn't it ready to be used?

I pushed a few more things out of the way, picked up the coverstitch and the Juki and put them where I could actually use them without having to rearrange the cutting and ironing areas.

The cutting and ironing areas have now actually achieved their own sections of the table, the Singer I use most of the time (I don't know why, but it's still my favorite) is at the near end of the table and the vintage Singer with the buttonholer is at the far end.

Ah, organization. Yes, I'll be able to trash this room within an hour if I'm working on a project, but that's not the point. The more places I have to store things, the easier it will be to reassemble from a trashing. I don't promise neatness; I do, at least, like to put things back in order almost as much as I like taking them apart.

Though for some reason all this organization reminds me of an embarrassing incident from my childhood. I couldn't have been more than 5. My parents usually dropped me off at my grandmom's on Sunday mornings and I would spend the day with her and my aunt. My parents either got some alone time, or my dad went to work and mom caught up on her reading, and occasionally did house things.

On this particular Sunday, she apparently decided she could no longer take the trashed state of my playroom. (I was a spoiled brat, and the small third bedroom was my playroom, at least until my aunt moved in 2 years later and I had to downgrade to only enough toys for 3 kids). I came home in the afternoon to a room absolutely frightening in its neatness - toys on shelves, toys in boxes, all the furniture in the wrong places in the dollhouse, Barbies lined up like soldiers against the wall, their houses and ski lodge and cafe and boutique and camper all folded and stacked in a corner.

I went insane, to put it mildly. The kid who never said boo, who never misbehaved, turned into a whirling dervish and tore everything down that I could reach, upended all the boxes, turned the dollhouse inside out and stacked the Barbies up like Lincoln logs. I can't explain it even now, I just saw all my glorious stuff, handled by someone who didn't understand, and I had to touch all of it, right then.

After I tore it all down and my mom screamed (and then went out in the hallway and laughed until she slid down the wall), I very quietly put it all away again. Where I wanted it.

I guess maybe I haven't changed all that much.

Monday, December 14, 2009

BWOF 12/09 #114 Skirt

Pattern Description: This pencil skirt is anything but stiff, prim and proper! The deep, diagonal, unpressed pleat in front is both a special feature and the waist fastening.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF sizes 38-46. I'm generally a 38 in BWOF patterns and this was no exception. This would be a great skirt for grading either up or down, though - the pieces are really, really simple.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Absolutely. This is a pattern that by design can't stray too far from what BWOF intended.

Were the instructions easy to follow? For BWOF, they were stellar. That being said, if you noted the marks on the pattern pieces while tracing, they really weren't necessary. Though I do think their method of buttoning the wrap on the skirt was overdoing it.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I didn't actually like it at first. I made another one of BWOF's folded/pleated front skirts and felt a little like a wad in it, but after looking at it closely, and then seeing Elizabeth's review of hers, I decided that it was much more flattering than I'd anticipated. And off I went. I wanted a quick and relatively simple project, and this was, though that doesn't explain why I didn't sew the closures on it until this morning, standing in the sewing room in my tights.

Fabric Used: A wool woven (not quite wool flannel but that was the closest classification I could come up with) purchased 2 days before at Kincus Fabrics in Philadelphia. Possibly one of shortest periods any fabric has ever stayed in stash. I bought it, not knowing what it would be other than an eventual skirt, and by the time I took it out of the bag, it knew what it was going to be and I was just along for the ride.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I thought about lining the skirt, but I didn't. Mainly because I wanted quick and lining would have slowed me down, though not that much. I knew I had a short black slip around that wouldn't stick to the wool or my tights, so I allowed myself a lazy. I lengthened the skirt by a smidge - this puppy was shorter than I expected - and when it still wasn't quite as long as I wanted (I wanted it to hit the tops of my boots), I added a strip of black rayon seam tape from my aunt's stash to lengthen it and then hand-sewed the hem. Instead of using BWOF's laborious button/buttonhole through various layers method, I followed Elizabeth's brilliant lead and used skirt hooks instead. Much easier, and a smoother line at the waist. I'm probably never going to tuck a top in anyway, so it would have been a waste of a button. Because I have so few of them, ya know.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know if I'll sew it again, but only because it's pretty distinctive. Although it would be a GREAT black skirt. But for some reason, it really wanted to be plaid by the time I got to it.

If I made it again, I'd eliminate the whole closure kerfuffle and add an invisible zip in a side seam and just sew the fold down and add the waistband and not have to worry about hooks or buttonholes or any of that.

Conclusion: Quick and easy, two words rarely associated with BWOF. Add easy-to-comprehend instructions, and it's a winner.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So, it's been a while

Don't you just hate it when your life gets in the way of all the stuff you'd really rather do? Work and family and responsibilities - don't they know I'd rather be sewing? Though it says something about my life and state of mind lately that I'd also rather be cooking, cleaning and doing laundry than dealing with the stuff that's had to be dealt with.

But it's all a little more under control now, and I just have to get used to the idea that the phone is going to ring 5 times a day with random questions and the assumption that the world is going to end if said question isn't answered within the next five minutes.

Okay. Back to sewing. Which is why we're all here to begin with. I finally ran out of stuff to sew for the craft show - a lot of the first batch actually sold (!) and I made up some more and took it over - and now I'm back to working on Mario's jacket.

Ever have a pattern that you just think is cursed? Something goes wrong with it every time you work on it. This is one of those patterns. That said, this jacket is going to turn out. It's going to fit, it's going to look fabulous and he's going to love it. Or I'll hurt something.

What's gone wrong, you ask? Well the first time I attempted making this, I massively screwed up the collar. That in mind, I didn't get ahead of myself this time, and I still massively screwed up the collar - but at least I had fabric left over to cut a new one. How did I manage to sew the collar band to the outside of the collar, instead of the neck edge? Beats the hell out of me, especially when I'd sewn the top collar perfectly. And of course I'd cut the under-collar on the bias and in two pieces instead of on the fold, so making a new under-collar was much more of a production than it would have been if I'd messed up the upper. Oh, well.

Other things that have gone not quite right: the pockets. How hard can pockets be? Not hard, but BWOF's clever, witty, pleated pockets looked - as I feared - a little weird and way too girly on this jacket. That kind of detail only works on a solid color; folding in houndstooth check just looked like the bad kind of funky. So off they came and I made new patch pockets, which look much better. I'm keeping the flaps, though; we both like those, and they work.

The fun part about changing the pockets was Mario. I put him in the jacket to check for fit, and I had the pockets pinned on. I wanted to check the placement on him because I'd shortened the jacket at two points throughout and I wanted to make sure the top pockets weren't up under his chin. I adjusted the level, but he's looking at the pockets themselves, and he's not looking happy.

I ask what's wrong. Nothing's wrong. I take a guess and say that I don't like how the pockets turned out and I'm thinking about making plain pockets. He looks stunned. "Don't you have to keep them? Shouldn't we make it the way it was designed?" Note that royal we. Just because you get up off the couch to try this thing on doesn't mean we're making it together.

No, I assure him. The whole thing with patterns is that they're just a jumping off point. You take what you like and change the rest. He brightens up and says he doesn't like the folded pockets and . . . if it's not too much trouble, maybe I can make just one plain pocket so we can see how it looks.

The jacket has plain pockets now. Still four, still flapped, but no more folds. Much better.

Then today, while he was out running errands in the everlasting rain, I made up another challenge for him. Buttonholes are nearly upon us, and the fabric could handle several colors of thread. I made sample buttonholes in brown, dark brown, black, tan and goldish. I was expecting him to pick the dark brown, since he chose the safest button of all. Black and brown got elimlinated immediately as too dark and too warm. He considered the dark brown, since it matched well, but he went for the tan because it matches the background of the fabric and he wants his plain buttons to not be overshadowed by their buttonholes.

He's beginning to think like me. I was torn between the dark brown and the tan, and I decided to let him choose. He chose well.

So, okay, maybe we are making a jacket.

Up next, there are big doings in the workroom that don't involve sewing . . . at last.

Friday, December 4, 2009

And so it begins

Last night I took time out from stressing about the move to cut out the fabric for Mario's jacket. Since I wouldn't have gotten to see him all evening otherwise, I took the cloth upstairs to his office and laid it out on the cat-hair-free carpet up there. Much easier than trying to keep it hairless downstairs, and easier than cutting it in the workroom since the table is still completely covered with craft stuff.

All the pieces are now cut, and the buttons are chosen. The choices are laid out on the fabric. Because of the funky lighting in the workroom, none of the buttons are quite as pictured. The light ones ae nowhere near that light; the square ones on the right are not as reddish purple as all that. The plain, dark ones at the bottom, well, they're plain and dark. And his first and only choice, so that's that.

Trust a man to go for safe. It's already a houndstooth check jacket. It's traditional. BWOF has given it cool (their word would probably be clever) pleated pockets, and I really wanted to use those square buttons. But apparently square buttons are only for dress shirts, not for jackets.

Today was the aunt move. We got up there by 9:30, had the first load on the truck by 10:00, and returned the truck at 5:00. In between we hauled 4 truck loads, and I unpacked and put away the contents of about 50 boxes. Most of it even in the right places. The new place is a lot smaller than her old house, but sometimes there's a point to new construction - it has more closets and way more electrical outlets in 3 rooms than I have in my entire 100 year old house.

Tomorrow is a normal Saturday: farmer's market, cooking, laundry and some sewing. At 5:00, I'm going to stop in at the craft show for their opening and see how it looks. I dropped off my stuff and set it all up last night, but I want to hit the opening and see how things go. The guy running the show thought the bags would sell well and encouraged me to bring more in to restock if I had time to make any more.

We'll see. Right now I can't even think about making more, but on the other hand I do still have a hefty pile of fabrics that I didn't touch before the deadline.

Okay, that's all. I'm done. I can't believe I'm going to sleep at 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night, but that's where I'm headed. More later, when my eyes uncross.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

November: Month-End Review

November was a strange month. With all the goings-on with my aunt, I really haven't had the attention span to sew properly, but going by the loaded bags waiting to be dropped off at the craft show tomorrow, I've been able to sew something.

The totals for November are actually somewhat embarrassing for someone who's been claiming she's been unable to sew.

For the craft show: 5 scarves and 17 small bags of varying designs. Happily, all the materials, including interfacing, zippers, purse magnets and lining, came from the workroom. These were literally no-cost projects and had the greatly added benefit of keeping my mind and hands busy.

I sewed in the linings on the last 3 gold brocade circular bags tonight. Last night I took 2 orange and 3 blue brocade bags to book club, and sewed linings instead of falling on the snack table like one of my cats.

Other projects than craft show stuff: a pair of my TNT BWOF pants in olive green wool/lycra blend from Jomar and the refashioned sweater trimmed up with the last of Carolyn's argyle.

Totals almost not worth mentioning: 2 yards for the pants, half a yard of the argyle. I'm not sure how - or if I should bother - to measure all the remnants that I disposed of on these projects.

Now, to find my mind. The move is Friday, and recovery will occur rapidly after that. Which is good, because the Menswear Contest has officially started over on PR, and I bought new buttons and lining for the jacket. Now I just need to get off my duff and get started.