Monday, March 29, 2010

Where the vest came from

Before I show you where the Burdastyle Jason vest is going, I thought I'd show you what caused me to want to make Mario a new vest.

This is his dad's vest, made by his grandfather, in approximately 1955. Loud plaid, yes, and quite a loud backing fabric, but this was obviously made for a man who could stand up to clothes that stood up to him.

In some respects, it's very close to the Burdastyle pattern - same number of buttons, welt pockets top and bottom - but the cut is considerably different. The armholes are cut further in, and there are a few other notable features.

Check out the neck band - the plaid fabric from the vest front is bound all the way around the back neck, eliminating the risk of wearing the lighter weight lining fabric.

Not that the lining fabric is all that light weight. The splotched (red) silk vest back is underlined with a layer of cotton, and then there's the ivory lining.

The lining is somewhat sheer - note that you can see all the structural stitches of the absolutely freaking perfect (and perfectly matched) welt pockets that haven't aged a stitch in 55 years.

Also, notice the little notch under the bottom button? It looks ornamental, but it makes the vest spread a little when it's on and buttoned. Very smooth.

I think granddad also had access to an industrial buttonholer, because this vest has had a lot of wear over the years, and the buttonholes are still perfect. Ack.

Sometimes all it takes is a good piece of vintage to make you feel that your skills and your nice modern equipment really don't count for a hill of beans.

I also like the fact that this vest has no back tie or buckle. I'm still having a disagreement with the Burdastyle vest about that, plus I can't find a vest buckle to save my life. And the old vest, without buckle, ties or darts, fits better. Grrrr.

The vest is coming along. I tried it on Mario last night, took it apart, tweaked and tried it on him again tonight.

I decided to give this pattern a shot because the only other review I heard made it sound - and the photos appeared to show - that it would fit Mario pretty well.

Or, possibly not. He generally wears a 40, which in Burdastyle sizing is (I think) a 52. I could be wrong, but I'm not going back into the workroom to check because the cats are sleeping. Even with full 5/8" seam allowances, the front was a bit large, and the back needed to be cut down at least a full size, and possibly two.

The back armholes were huge; I shaved some off the underarm of the vest back, and also took it up a bit at the shoulder. I know that's not necessarily how to go about it, but I got the idea pretty early on that this was going to be a muslin. The back darts, into which the vest ties are sewn, got taken up two sizes.

The vest mostly fits him now, but I'm just not liking how it looks. I've still got to sew the shoulder seams shut and add buttonholes before I make a final decision on its future.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Always have a project


Because what happens when you don't have a project lined up is that you'll get an overwhelming desire to make something, followed by the equally overwhelming realization that you don't want to make any one particular thing. Which leads to sewing just to sew. Which is okay, except when you decide that, since you don't have anything you really, really want to make for yourself, you should make something for someone else.

Preferably something quick, so that if sanity and normal motivation return, I can finish it off and go on to what I want to make.

I decided to make a vest for Mario. He's got a vest. He likes it. It was his dad's, made for dad by Mario's grandfather, who was a tailor. It's a beautiful piece of workmanship, even at its advanced age of 50ish (his parents hadn't even gotten married yet when this vest was made). Problem is, it's not the best fit. Mario's 5'6", and I think his dad might have been a bit shorter. If not, it was definitely the era where men wore their pants higher (think Cary Grant, the only unattractive thing he ever did), so this family-sewn heirloom sits about an inch above his waistband.

It's not a look. He wears it over an untucked shirt so it's not as obvious, but still. It's not a look.

I offered a while back to make him a vest. Not to replace his, but to add on. Thinking if I made it in colors more appropriate to his wardrobe, slowly but surely it would replace the other vest in the rotation, if not in his heart.

He thought it was a fine idea.

I got the Jason vest from Burdastyle. I was going to search my BWOF archive for something, but then I saw the Selfish Seamstress's post about making this very same vest, and all the reasons that this vest didn't fit her husband are the reasons it WILL fit Mario (he's not 5' 11", he's not built like a Banana Republic mannequin, etc.)

Of course, I fail to note that the vest has welt pockets. Four of them. Guess who didn't fail to notice when I showed him the line drawing?

"You're going to make those pockets for me?"

So how could I not, when he knows I dread them and he thinks I'm doing something hard and unpleasant for him? I suggested just doing the lower two pockets, that having upper ones would look a little too elderly.

So, without a project - or, apparently, a clue - I wander off to the workroom to whip out a vest. Or be whipped by one.
It hasn't been that long since I made those welt pockets that almost turned out perfectly. I knew where I went wrong. I didn't like Burdastyle's instructions all that much, and I wanted double welt instead of single welt pockets, so I went ahead with the instructions I'd used before from the Vogue pattern magazine.

Except that somehow, something went terribly wrong. I used Burdastyle's length for the welts, but I swear (really, I do) that I cut the width as recommended in the instructions. Measure twice, cut once. It's not just for carpentry. I got everything marked and stitched, and I got the welts attached on both sides. I did the basting, and then I went to fold the welt up to make the first welt, and there wasn't enough fabric. Somehow, I'd cut them almost 1/2" too narrow, and there was nothing to do but unpick them, while not losing my original stitching lines, cut out new welts from the last scraps of fabric, and start over.

Two days later, and I've got one welt done. And I think I still have the first night's headache.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I have an orange pencil

I made this pattern before, back in January 2008, and I was so unimpressed that when I found the pattern during my recent pencil-skirt hunt, I really didn't remember that I had sewn it. I only realized it when I searched Patternreview tonight to see who else had made it and discovered . . . that I had.

At least I gave it "recommend, with modifications."

No modifications this time. When I made it before, I cut the fabric after 10:00 p.m. and somehow omitted to add seam allowances. The only way the skirt went together at all was because it was very stretchy fabric. This fabric isn't as stretchy, but with seam allowances, it doesn't have to be.

Like my recent plaid pencil skirt, this pattern also has interesting lines and piecing, and again, it's a back zip with back pieces that wrap around to the front to fit into a narrow, curved front panel. There are hip yokes front and back which, if you're not careful, will bubble over your hips. They took a bit of tweaking to get to lie flat, but once I had them where I wanted them, I did two lines of topstitching on either side of the seam.

All the seams have double lines of topstitching, none of which is particularly visible because of my slightly vibrant color choice. I hemmed the skirt with my coverstitch machine.

I've turned one of the detail photos to black and white so that the seamlines are visible.

The last time I made this, I drafted a facing for the inside rather than lining the entire skirt, but I think I also suspected that the skirt was not long for my wardrobe, and therefore, it would be a waste of lining fabric. This time I lined the skirt in a matching red-orange lining, and it feels good. It's a snug-fitting skirt, but not tight.

When I wore the other skirt, my boss told me it reminded him of one of Mrs. Wiggins, the tight-skirted secretaryfrom the Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s. Since I've never considered any of Carol Burnett's characters to be my fashion icons, I rapidly reconsidered and the skirt went into the scrap bin.

The pattern, by the way, is BWOF 6/2007 #113. And yes, this time, made with seam allowances and from a better fabric, I would recommend it.

And just think how many orange-based pieces I have in my wardrobe which will be automatically toned down by this vibrant piece of skirtage!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BWOF 1/2007 #111 Plaid Pencil Skirt

I love a good pencil skirt pattern, and no matter how many of them Burda puts in their magazine, I just keep tracing them. I have pencils with applied bands, pencils with strange piecing on the sides, plain pencils, pencils with walking pleats, pencils with pockets. You name it, I've got a pencil for that purpose.

This particular skirt, 1/2007 #111, is one of my favorites. I've made it once before, in black, and I've worn it to the point where I'm ready to make another one.

But this time, I used a special fabric that I've been holding onto since PR Weekend 2006. It's a wool/lycra blend (extremely minimal stretch), gray and black plaid with just a tiny turquoise metallic thread running through it. I got it at Paron's, and as seems to be the case there every time I fall for a fabric, it was the end of the bolt so I got the last 1.5 yards of it.

I've been holding onto it ever since, waiting for a project that would use the plaid to its best advantage.

Last week I wore my black skirt, and partway through the workday it struck me that if I cut the U-shaped insert in this skirt on the bias, it would display the plaid nicely and I'd get a really cute plaid skirt out of the deal. Sold!

This pattern doesn't even use a yard of fabric, but because I was being fanatical about the plaid matching down the back and on the yokes, and because of the size of the bias piece, I really only have scraps left from my 1.5 yards.

I also made the inside yokes from the plaid - it's not the heaviest fabric, so I thought that making the entire lining from lining would make the skirt feel too insubstantial.

This is a pretty easy pattern, but for once Burda actually includes a few helpful hints in their instructions, reminding you to interface both the curved top of the insert and the curved opening it gets sewn to, so that the curved seam sews smoothly. I also used twill tape at the waist seam to keep it from stretching out when I sit all day.

For the lining itself, when I went into the deep drawer of lining fabrics, I came to the shocking realization that I had no black lining fabric. How does this happen? The elves don't come in at night and do my sewing; do they instead come in and steal my lining fabric?

Then I kicked myself because while we were at Paron's last Saturday, I pulled a bright turquoise lining and showed it to Elizabeth as an example of the color in this plaid. Why didn't I get a yard? Anybody?

Thankfully I had some of the blue lining left from the theater costume I made last month, so that got put to use. It's not the right blue, but it works well enough.

I've posted pictures of the lining so you can get a better idea of how the piecing works in this skirt; my old link to the Burda line drawing isn't working (when are they going to fix their website?) but this shows it pretty much. There are no side seams on the skirt, only on the yokes, and the from the center back seam the side pieces wrap all the way around to the front where the inset is put in.

I topstitched the yoke seams and around the inset with black thread. I couldn't find my topstitching thread - I'm sensing a theme here - so I just used regular black thread and the stretch stitch on my machine so I had a continuous line.

I'm going to have to make this skirt again, because the pleat in the back came out so much better this time than it did in the black skirt.

Thinking this one deserves to join the TNT pile - it's definitely something I'd make again, and you can either hide the piecing in a solid, or show it off.

Nice to meet you, Karma!

I'm sure some of you remember my post about my aunt giving away her vintage sewing machines, and how I resisted, with all my strength, shaking her like a martini.

Apparently my efforts at self control paid off.

It's nice to know that karma's not always a bitch.

I got a call at the end of last week from a neighborhood friend (named Karen) who said that her friend (also named Karin) was cleaning out her house and was looking for a home for her aunt's old table model sewing machine.

I said yes before she'd finished the sentence. She laughed and said, "I said yes for you before she finished asking me."

Last night it moved from Karin's house to Karen's house in Karen's car.

It's pretty. It's a White Rotary table model, seafoam green, with lots of shiny dials and levers and a whole big plastic box full of feet. Why is it that these old machines remind me of cars? My tan-and-brown buttonholer looks like an old woody station wagon, and this is 1960s Pontiac if ever I've seen one.

There was a sewing box with it, and in addition to the box of feet, there was yet another buttonholer attachment (Kenmore this time, but I think they're interchangeable), some thread and some random interesting glittery buttons.

Oh, yeah, and the patterns.

Did I mention the patterns? She said she thought they were from the 40s, and my heart leaped, but they're from the 60s. Oh, well. Since they're all itty-tiny (31" bust on most of them), 60s styles are much easier to grade up to the size of us mortals with boobage.

I'll post photos of some of the patterns tomorrow; I just had to share the loot with you all and to let you know that if someone (like your aunt) shuts a window in your face, soemone else (like a friend) will open the door and hand you in a sewing machine.

Welcome to the family. You may be my sixth, but I love you all equally, and I can't wait to get acquainted with you and discover what your special talent is.

If anyone out there has a similar model, I'd love to hear about its strong/weak points and why you either love it or want to throw it off the roof.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Escape from New York

I had other titles for this post, but I decided to stick with the one that felt most like the situation we were in yesterday.

Was it only yesterday?

Last weekend, when it was spring, we got the bright idea to go to New York on Saturday. And bought the bus tickets online. We didn't buy round trip tickets because we weren't sure when we wanted to come back. We decided we'd take the train home.

The day didn't start off well: leaving the house at 6:30 a.m. when it's bucketing down rain is a Bad Idea. Then the bus was late, apparently due to the first bus breaking down. I think, "Well, at least we weren't on it when it broke down." At this point, I'm still wishing we'd slept in.

We got to NY on time and had late breakfast with Elizabeth and a young man named Jack who was sporting a very dashing mustache. I also got to meet Elizabeth's blue trenchcoat. We went to Paron's, where this lovely silk panel print followed me out. I also got some lining fabric. So far, so good.

Elizabeth and Jack had to leave, but Mario and I continued on. A brief stop at Pacific Trims got me some bamboo bag handles and a zipper (on the list). We stopped in at the FIT Museum to see their exhibits: American Beauty, which reminded me of the Isabel Toledo exhibit because it made me want to go home and sew, and Night & Day, which had a lot of beautiful pieces. I only set off the alarm once by leaning too close to a vintage Dior day dress. Take a walk through the exhibit. Try not to drool on your keyboard.

For Ralph Rucci fans, the American Beauty exhibit is a must - you can lean and see all the wonderful detail that doesn't always come through in photographs. Carolyn and LindsayT, I'm talking to you!

After that, we went to the Chelsea Flea Market, where some vintage buttons and a couple of Bakelite buckles insisted on coming home with me. Late lunch at a little French restaurant recommended by Mario's co-worker, and we were ready to go home. The play I helped costume was closing last night and we were invited to the stage strike and closing party.

All the while, it's been raining. The wind is so bad walking back to the station that I gave up on my umbrella and got soaked, because we'd be home in a few hours. Or not, as it turned out.

Because apparently this wasn't a rain storm. This storm was freaking biblical.

We left Penn Station on the 3:52 p.m. express to Trenton. Because of flooded switches, it took us almost 2 hours to get to Newark. For those who don't know their East Coast geography, that's spitting distance from New York. From there, it took another hour to get to Rahway, NJ, where the train suddenly stopped making train noises and started to coast into the station, and the female conductor's voice came over the speaker saying, "Oh, no . . . ."

Oh, yes. New Jersey Transit had lost power. Electric trains go nowhere without electricity, you see. So we were stuck there. Still wet, growing crankier by the minute. It's going on 7:00 p.m. by this point. We comment that we might be late to the party.

Two hours later, we're still sitting there. They've promised us a diesel train - to take people back to NY - or some shuttle buses, to take us on to the rest of the station stops. But the buses haven't arrived. All of a sudden, everyone gets up. It's like watching an entire flock of birds take flight at the same time. We all get up and go downstairs to look for the buses. When they come, it's like something out of a disaster movie, pushing, shoving, screaming, one poor transit cop trying to keep order.

We end up on the second bus out. The driver, who came down from NY after a full work day, had been told he was bringing people back to NY. The transit cop and station personnel informed him otherwise, and about 100 wet, angry, frustrated travelers were more than he could argue with. Besides, he needed our help to find the stations, because he wasn't familiar with New Jersey, and half the roads he needed were (a) flooded out, (b) had trees lying across them, or (c) were flooded out and had trees lying across them. We were also driving in pitch dark, because hardly anywhere had power.

We made it to Trenton at 12:30 a.m. The last train to Philadelphia left at 1:00 a.m. Trust me, we were on it. We got home at 2:00, which promptly became 3:00 a.m., because the clocks went forward.

All I could think of, as I finally got into dry socks, dry clothes, and my bed, was if I spent 10 hours cramped into an uncomfortable seat, I should have been getting off a plane in Paris.

Know what, though? I think I had a good time yesterday. But like labor, I think the memory of the pain needs to fade before I can really appreciate it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Inspiration Central

So as I hinted yesterday, the postman (woman? android?) brought me a goodie last week. Actually, it was handed to me by my next door neighbor, who took it in for me when she saw them trying to mangle it into the mail slot.

A copy of Cadena Mode from Cennetta!

Let me rephrase that. A copy of Cadena Mode from the Fabulous Cennetta. That's her new name, at least in my house.

I've looked with longing whenever she's posted about this magazine on her blog, and now I have one of my own!

And it's at least as amazing as I hoped, and what I've posted here are only (my) highlights. There are many, many more inspirational pieces here, and I'm trying not to even think about the fabrics, because I'm sure I couldn't afford to touch them. Ever.

But what about some of these? I love how many prints they use, and the combinations - and yet none of these girls looks like she's wearing a patchwork quilt, my own personal fear when I put a few too many prints in one outfit.

First photo - look at that jacket on the left. Is that an interesting use of stripes, or what? I can see something like that wandering out of the back room one of these days.

Second photo: sorry for the blur, but I think the fabulousity of that middle jacket - lovely neckline, and how exactly do I make that collar - shows through.
Third: there are many, many boucle jackets here. This yellowy-green one on the right is just one of them. I like the contrast fabric for trim instead of the usual trims one would use on boucle, when the brain automatically goes "Boucle = Chanel."

Apparently not always.

Photo four: that white-and-black jacket on the left. Love the collar, love the print, loev the buttons. Love the attitude. Love the dress under the jacket. There was a lot of black and white in this issue, prints combined in many ways, and I liked quite a few of them.

Photo 5, on the left, isn't really anything I want to make, but isn't the fabric beautiful? And the dress on the left, while unwearable by anyone who's not a twig, is really interesting with the twists in the fabric.

In the sixth photo, I didn't really get where they were going, but I liked the green plaid jacket anyway. The asymmetric closure is interesting, but I'd change those puffy sleeves. Not my look.

Nor, actually, are the layered peasant skirts - I did them for more years than I care to recall, and they didn't do a thing for my shortness except make me look short.

Seventh, another outfit I don't know anyone who can actually wear, but if I were tall, and thin, and blonde, this is a skirt I would indeed wear. Because once again, they're doing interesting things with stripes. I wish there was a way to make that work on a real body, but I'm really not sure I want to inflict that on an unsuspecting world.

And, of course, my life has so many opportunities to wear something like that.

The eighth photo is mainly about the garment on the left. The neck/shoulder treatment is interesting, the fabric is beautiful, and even though it's ridiculous, I kind of like the big goofy flower at the waist. Don't ask me why because I doubt I could explain it.

In the ninth photo, looky at the little trench jacket on the left - shown over the uber-cute knit dress in the center.

And the purple wrap blouse with the cutaway shoulders isn't anything to sneeze at.

But WTF is with the hair?

I recently purchased 2 yards of Persimmon Princess boucle from Gorgeous Fabrics, and I thought I knew what I wanted to do with it. All these cute little jackets are making me reconsider - new necklines to consider, new challenges in figuring out how to draft them and what Burda patterns to use as the base.

Thinking sewing. My favorite kind.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Playing Catch Up

First off, I wanted to let everyone know that I survived my aunt's closing on Thursday - and so did she! Trust me, it was touch and go for a while there.

I'm just about over it now, but I have to share one detail about the closing. The buyer is about 25, a nice young guy who works as a contractor and is planning to live on the 1st floor of Betty's while fixing up the upstairs, and then eventually fixing up - and renting out - the downstairs and buying another property. A little Donald Trump in the making. With better hair.

At settlement, as he's signing page after page of loan documents, his dad joked that he was signing his life away. At that point, my aunt, who'd been pretty well under control until then, sniffling into her tissues and muttering under her breath, comes out with, "Signing his life away? What about my life? That house was my life. Why don't you just kill me?"

Poor kid looked like she'd stabbed him in the chest. I caught him on the way out and said that with everything he was going to have to deal with in that house, he was going to need something to look back at and laugh. I hope he does.

But it's over. And after I left, I took the train right back into town and got off at 5th Street, with every intention of going to Fabric Row and buying myself a treat. I deserved one, after that, but could I find one? Not a thing called out to me. I went in 4 or 5 stores, and nada. So I bought myself lunch and tried again, but feeding the hungries didn't help. Still nothing. I went home defeated and took a nap, which was probably what I really needed.

Saturday made up for Thursday. It was half price day at the thrift store. Maybe I didn't find any fabric I liked for a reason, because I cleaned up. Pale aqua suede skirt (destined to be a bag), pleather snakeskin jacket (probably at least 2 bags), 2XL orange boucle skirt (cut down to fit me), another 2XL skirt, this time in a brown/tan/blue print (also being cut down) and random other goodies. How cute is the camel print shirt?

And speaking of other good parts of the weekend, it's WARM. Well, not warm, but 50-something, so all the poor frozen plants in my garden are waking up at last. Today we went for a long walk in the cemetery, then I came home and got up and patched the porch roof, which has been leaking. I also patched the bay window roof, which hadn't begun leaking yet. This is in preparation for next week, when I get up on the main roof. I'm not afraid of heights so long as I feel secure, but I have to remind myself of it every year. The worst part is actually coming back in through the trapdoor into the attic, sun-blinded and feeling for the ladder with one foot. I hate that part.

After that, I spent almost 3 hours cleaning up the back yard. I'm sore, I'm happy and my hands are a wreck. I was actually too stiff when I came in to sew, but after a good stretch, I managed to go into the workroom and turn the boucle skirt on the right into the boucle skirt on the left. I'd intended on completely dismantling it, but it had a neat waist treatment and a back slit with a nicely done lining, so I just cut it up both side seams, brought it in until it fit, and sewed it back together. A few anchoring stitches and the waistband and it went from a 22 to an 8(ish). And it's getting worn to work tomorrow.

I got some fabulous inspiration in the mail the other day - something I'll share later in the week.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Come on Summer

Because I want to wear my new blouse!

I have my aunt's settlement tomorrow, so I'm going to be lazy and lift my pattern review over here, even though some of it has been said before. (It's okay, some hasn't).

Pattern Description: Simple, versatile blouse perfect for creative embellishment, with deep tucks at the front and back waist for a loose but curvy shape great for tucking in. Version 1 closes with snaps, making it the easiest to sew. Version 2 has neckline tucks and buttons up the back. Version 3 has a keyhole neckline with tie closure and buttons up the back. I made version 3.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 0 - 18. I made a 6. Colette Patterns sizing is pretty reality-based - bust size ranges from 33" to 46". The size 6 I made is 36-28-38, which is pretty accurate for me.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Very much so.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Aside from coming in an adorable little booklet instead of the standard folded sheets or BWOF's cryptic instructions, these were stellar. This pattern is rated beginner and I can't imagine a beginner who would have a problem. There are 3 versions of the blouse in the pattern, and EACH version has its own instructions, no hopscotching back and forth, "see version 1, paragraph 3, then go to version 3, paragraph 5." Each one is complete in itself, and even as an experienced sewer, I appreciated that. The drawings are well done and very clear, and the pattern drafting is good - everything fit together cleanly.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I've been wanting to try Colette Patterns for a while - I saw some really nice things made up from the first series, but although I liked them, the dresses really didn't feel like me. Now separates are always me, and when I saw the Sencha blouse, I jumped. The first few versions I saw were from silky fabric, but I decided to start in a cotton and work outward. I like the 3 variations, they're all useful in their own way, and it's nice to have something to put under all the jackets I make.

Fabric Used: Fabric with a story, my favorite kind! The striped cotton I used is from the 1960s - it's a Souleido curtain gifted to me by a co-worker. Her father passed away recently and she's cleaning out his house, and she brought this in to me a few weeks ago, very apologetic because it was faded and dusty, but she knew that I sewed and she thought the colors would be something I might be able to use. She's in her late 50s now, and she said it was in her parents' sunroom when she was in college.

I liked it right off, though I didn't expect to use it so soon. But since we're still in the Winter That Will Not End, I'm compelled to make summer clothes. And when I decided to make a muslin of the Sencha blouse, this is what I reached for. I showed her a picture of it today and she teared up - and then sent the picture to her brother, to ask if he remembered the curtains.

The buttons on the back are from a local sidewalk sale, and they're NOT as yellow as they photograph, they're more of a Velveeta cheese orangey color. It works in regular light.

The fabric recommendations are: lightweight fabrics such as silk or rayon crepe, silk charmeuse, silk habotai, jacquard. Medium weight fabrics such as cotton poplin or light twill.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I traced this in a straight 6 and did everything as instructed, just to try it out. I deviated only in one place - the instructions have you interface the front and back facings, but not the center back where the buttons and buttonholes will be. I decided that especially with the huge buttons I had chosen, not to interface that area would be a dire mistake, and unless you're using a very lightweight fabric, I would recommend interfacing along the back fold line for most fabrics.

Because my fabric was a bit heavier than recommended, I'm not going to tie the ties. I tried it and they make for a lumpy bow. I like the hanging ties anyway - I cut them cross-grain so the stries would go in the opposite direction of the rest of the top.

The instructions also recommend hand-hemming the sleeves and the hem, and under-stitching the facings to keep them flat. For a delicate fabric, that would definitely be the way to go, but since this was (a) a muslin and (b) a casual summer top, I went ahead and topstitched in red. I think it looks happy.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'll definitely make this again, maybe Version 2 with the tucks at the neckline. That has possibilities . . . I would recommend it - even for a more advanced sewer, it's a good basic shape that can be changed up depending on your fabric choice.

Conclusion: Definitely a winner in my book. Colette Patterns have a good vintage/retro vibe to them, without trying to be accurately vintage or costumey as some retro patterns can be. This feels like a best-of-both.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sencha: more than a muslin

Okay, let me say first that I'm not completely done with the Sencha - I have to rummage through the button stash for the exactly right buttons that I have, but just can't quite locate.

I'd say I'm at 90% here, and I'm pretty happy with the result. I think it looks as good bit different than the other versions I've seen online, but that's also because most other versions are made in the recommended silky fabrics and I went for a slightly more substantial cotton. Then again, it was supposed to be a muslin, and my theory was that if it worked in cotton, it could only look better in something with more drape.

But I'm really liking the cotton. Maybe it's because it's red-gold-orange (notice I only change colors when I go for green or brown?) but I also like the casual summer feel of the almost awning-stripe print.

The fabric was a gift from a co-worker, an older attorney in my office whose father recently passed away. She's cleaning out his house, which apparently contains the rubble of the ages, and she brought this into work for me a few weeks ago. It was a curtain, she thinks from the sunroom or kitchen, and going by the depth of color inside the hem, it was once considerably brighter. It's still bright enough for me.

I wasn't sure what I'd do with it, but when I got the idea to muslin the Sencha blouse, I thought it was a perfect use for this fabric - I knew that it would work, at least well enough for a summer top, but I was hoping it would turn out like this - a top that I'm definitely going to wear this summer.

A note on Colette patterns: the sizing is different than BWOF or the Big 4 (I was a 6 in Colette), but the measurements seem very accurate. The instructions are beautifully clear, with nice illustrations. After playing hopscotch with too many pattern instructions, it was nice to open the little booklet included and see the instructions written out completely for all three versions, even though, except for specific details, they are very similar. There's no "see instructions for Blouse 2," or "see nos. 5-7 for Blouse 1." Thank you.

More on construction and the dirty details when I'm finished.

Monday, March 1, 2010

February: Month End Review

Short month, high stress, low productivity. That about says it all.

Three garments, six yards of fabric.

One I love, one I like (a lot), one I'm iffy about.

In that order, the Heidi dress, the McCalls blouse, and the BWOF hooded tunic.

Since when, in my world, does BWOF come in last? It must be a full moon.

On another topic, I don't know about you all, but I was a bit inspired by Peter's post about having a "look" over on Male Pattern Boldness. I understood what he meant right off, being another who rarely has a defined "look," but usually some amorphous, shifting thing in my mind, which of course the wardrobe has to encompass.

I tried to decide what it was that prevented me from having a "look," aside from just . . . not. Sometimes I think you have to be a very definite type of personality to have a look, and I'm not the type. I don't know. But one thing I've always felt held me back from any specific look was my hair.

We have issues, my hair and I. Very definite issues. What I want it to look like is rarely what it wants. It curls under on one side, and up on the other, while still having barely enough wave to keep me out of the poker-straight category. It's fine and weighs itself down quickly, so below shoulder length is impossible because it always looks lank and dirty. All my stylists have told me they'd rather shave my head than give me a perm, and having lived through several poodle perms in my life (even body waves turned poodle, until they fell out), I totally agreed.

So last Wednesday I walked into the salon with a photo taken of the other actress in my friend's show, and said, "Do this."

Stylist: "Really?" Rubbing his scissors in anticipation.

Me: "Yep, and quickly, before I change my mind."

Stylist: "Is everything okay at home?"

Me: "Yes, why?"

Stylist: "Because a woman only wants to change her hair that much when something's out of control."

Because of course, when our life is out of control, we reach for the one thing we can control: our hair. Been there, done that. And maybe I'm still doing that, but at least things are okay at home. I think it's just been stressful at work and more than stressful with my aunt, and I needed to get a handle on something, even if it was just my head.

Then he took my glasses, without which I can't see diddly, and went to town on my head. After the first chunk of hair fell - a sight which even my eyes could see - I asked for my glasses back, but he sensibly refused to give them to me on the grounds that it was too late and he might as well keep going.

Soon it was all over, and . . . I love it. I feel lighter, neater, and a lot more like what I want to look like. I know that the common wisdom is that after you hit a "certain age," you should go short. I don't think that's the case for everyone, but I feel like it was the right choice for me - on days when I'm feeling tired, having my hair drooping alongside my face made me feel like my face was drooping right along with it.

Feeling droopy is more aging than looking droopy, sometimes.

So there it is, new hair. Now I'm debating changing the color a bit, and there's some new makeup in the bathroom because, as it turns out, if I'm not hiding behind my hair, I have to paint myself up a little bit to go out of the house in the morning. But then again, I have all that time that I'm not fighting with my hair, so it evens out.

Elizabeth, these pictures are for you. I hate having my picture taken, so DIY with the camera in the sewing room is the best you're going to get.

Next up, the muslin of the Sencha blouse. It's almost done, but I've got to go off and recover from the trauma of posting hair pictures.