Monday, August 30, 2010

And then there were the fabrics

For those who are interested in the loot I lugged home from NY on Saturday, here we go:

First photo: 2 yards blue/white palm print stretch knit and some nice remnants of cream suede (both from Metro Textiles). The blue and white knit is destined to be a dress, though it hasn't decided which one yet. The suede, who knows. But it was two nice sized pieces and he only charged $8 for them, so who am I to say no to cheap leather?

Second photo: Possibly my favorite fabric of the day, and the most expensive (and totally not my colors, and I didn't care). Italian knit (aren't Kashi's best fabrics always Italian?) with a lovely stretch. I had originally said 2 yards but when he told me the price, I downgraded to one - from dress to top, in one easy move.

As far as which top, it's actually on the cutting table right now, well on its way to becoming the knit turtleneck in the otherwise bland September issue of BWOF.

The turtleneck is still pretty blah, but nothing about these pink, white, gray and black ladies is bland. Nothing. And it's fabulous to work with. I'm looking forward to the end of the heat wave so I can wear this one.

Third photo: Stretch woven, also from Metro, orange, black and teal stripes with bizarre bubbly-dots. I'm not sure what it wants to be yet, though it did have a friend purchased by the end of the day. 2 yards of this baby.

Fourth photo: The last of the Metro Textiles haul - bottom right, 2 yards of medallion-print silk for lining, bottom left, fabulous paisley remnant (free because it was under a yard), and top, aqua crinkled fabric that has absolutely no purpose but I have a weakness for the color and I'm sure something will come up. That paisley remnant has already been earmarked for the back of the gentleman's next vest. Definitely not a neutral.

Last photo: My one piece of fabric from Elliott Berman, a store where I would like to spend some serious quality time. I saw 5-6 different fabrics that really called to me, but when I unrolled this one and looked at that splotchy paisley design - in all my favorite colors - all the other fabrics went right out of my mind.

Italian cotton, they said this was. It feels almost as good as Liberty, and definitely washes as well. I think it's going to be a dress, probably for next spring-into-summer-into-fall.

All these fabrics have been pre-treated (if they can be) and are stacked up with the rest of the stash in the workroom, waiting for inspiration to strike.

I did make one purchase at Mood, completely unintentional. I blame Andrea, since she dragged me downstairs to help her look at leather. Somehow I went from looking at her leather to drooling over things I liked.

Long story short, I now have a jacket's worth of teal leather reclining comfortably on the shelf. It wants to be a jacket - after the big orange bag, I've had my fill of using expensive, brightly colored leather on something that will get put on the floor, dragged around everywhere and show marks in about 2 weeks time. Some leather looks good distressed; that did not. Definitely a jacket, but no ideas on style yet.

I briefly thought about swapping in the teal leather for the leather I had planned for McCall 6171, but I already have a matching zipper and lining, so what would be the point, other than using up the newest, shiniest piece of stash? Admittedly that is sometimes reason enough, but I left NY without a teal zipper of the right length and I'm certainly not going to find that here.

Just to make sure I didn't derail myself, I went in last night and started drawing out all the pattern pieces on the back of the leather I already had. It just fit, and I think the teal might be a little smaller, so leaving well enough alone was probably a good idea.

Lots of plans for the weekend, but not a lot of sewing. Labor Day Weekend is generally my time for getting all the last-minute outdoor house projects done, and this year will be no different. Plus we're going to go up and visit my aunt on Sunday and then on Monday I'll do more stuff to the house.

Who am I kidding? There will be sewing, and probably a decent bit of it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

PR NYC Shopping Day - August 28, 2010

Look at all those happy faces. Is it something in the fabric, do you think, or is it the fabric itself? Or is it the camaraderie, the sharing of ideas, projects past and future, the creative boost I always get from one of these get-togethers?

How about all of the above.

And I bought fabric, too. (More on that later - it's just out of the dryer and I need to fold it and pet it a little, introduce it to the rest of the stash).

Friday, August 27, 2010

When is a muslin not a muslin?

When it's wearable! I'm planning a new leather jacket for fall, and I chose McCall 6171 for the reasons set forth in the pattern review below.

I would go on at more length but I'm off to bed soon, to conserve my strength for the retail therapy excursion that is the PR NYC Shopping Day tomorrow.

Pattern Description: Misses lined, princess-seamed (front and back), zip front jackets, w/optional mandarin collar and sleeve variations. This is one of McCalls adjustable cup-size patterns.

Pattern Sizing: I made my standard size 12, which fit better than usual due to the adjustable cup-size option. Why can't they reissue all patterns with the FBA done for us? Why?

Did it look like the photo/ drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't look at them until afterward - and then they were fine. This is a very straightforward pattern. If you've ever made a jacket with a separating zipper before, this is a piece of cake.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I'm planning a new leather jacket for fall and was looking for a simply styled jacket pattern, preferably with princess seams, that would work for that purpose. Simple lines because I don't like fussiness in leather, and princess seams because I'm limited on how many skins I have and I need a pattern with lots of smaller pieces. This has princess seams front and back, and an upper back yoke, so it's perfect for leather.

I also thought the lines were interesting in that the back yoke is more of a shoulder yoke - it extends over the shoulder and down the front, so there's no shoulder seam. It's little things like that that make me happy.

Fabric Used: Denim. This is a very wearable muslin for my next leather jacket. I like using denim to try out leather designs because the weight and lack of stretch are similar. Acetate travel print lining purchased at Jomar during PR Weekend Philadelphia.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I made this straight out of the envelope in my size with only one exception - since I'm planning to do this again in leather, and since leather has no ease, I measured the armscye of the jacket and adjusted the sleeve cap accordingly. I took 2.5" of excess off the sleeve cap and was able to insert the sleeve completely flat.

Wonder of wonders, the jacket fits and I can raise my arms, so I really think they add WAY too much ease to these patterns. I also split the sleeve into two pieces, for ease of cutting on leather. I also think that depending on your fabric, a two-piece sleeve can be more flattering. This is the final pattern piece for the sleeve.

FYI for the lining - there are no separate lining pieces, you use the same princess seamed pieces as for the jacket, which to me is a little odd since the back yoke makes up a large portion of the lining and for stability's sake I did it in denim. For the leather version, I'll use lining fabric and just interface it.

For the leather version, I may or may not keep the collar. I'm a little iffy on it mandarin-style and prefer it folded down. I'll also add about 1.5" to the length of the jacket. I think this length is cute in the denim but for a true "outerwear" jacket, I might like it a bit longer.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely. I have 40 square feet of leather sitting on my sewing table waiting to become the next version of this jacket. As soon as I saw this pattern come out, I was excited - a leather jacket needs good, simple lines and lots of smaller pattern pieces, and this really fit the bill.

I'll do a separate review for the leather jacket and link back to this one, since they'll be similar but the structural issues will be different.

Conclusion: A streamlined princess seamed jacket. Definitely a winner!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gravity, Defied : BWOF 5/02 #111

Pattern Description: Gigantic blossoms, skin tight! Elastic gabardine guarantees absolute comfort for this figure-hugging bustier dress. Boning is worked into the bodice seams for optimum fit and shape.

In plain English, that means "plain two piece pattern bustier dress, version A has straight front and is knee length, version B has notched front and is full length. Boned front and back darts, side seams, invisible back zipper.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF sizes 34-42. This is meant for stretch wovens, so I went up a size and cut a 40 with a little extra on the side seams for insurance.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? More or less, yes. Here's a back view and views with two different sweaters, brown and belted, for work, and a cream embroidered DKNYt thrift store sweater, for evening.

Were the instructions easy to follow? It's Burda. When have they ever been easy? The initial instructions were fine: sew the darts, insert the zipper, sew the side seams. Their instructions for installing the boning were a little odd, so I did them my own way, which may or may not be correct, but it worked. The lining instructions were incomprehensible as far as attaching the lining at the back slit, so once again, I did it my way. It's an uncomplicated shape; building the inner structure was the only difficult part.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I really wanted to try to make myself something strapless, but I was more interested in it as an engineering project, having never attempted boning and/or defying gravity before. There were a lot of cute strapless dresses out there, but the patterns were more complicated or the designs more intricate, and I really just wanted a simple shape to experiment with. This pattern consists of a front, a back, 4 darts and a zipper; it fit the bill exactly, and justified my purchase of a back issue that seemed so out-dated that I'd never wear the clothes.

Fabric Used: A brown embroidered cotton blend from the fabric swap pile at Philly's PR Weekend back in May. Whoever brought this fabric, thank you! It called to me across the room. It wasn't a big piece, so I knew I'd have to find just the right project for it. I'm surprised I came across something so quickly.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: No real changes. I constructed the dress, darts first, then zip, then side seams, and inserted the boning at the front and back darts and side seams. It felt secure, so I kept going.

The fabric itself wasn't off grain, but the machine embroidery was a bit skewed, so I decided when cutting the dress out to follow the embroidery and not the grain. The only place that made a difference was a bit of pulling at the top of the bodice, and I disguised that by using the last leftover trim of the embroidered border and turning them into appliques.

Once the appliques were sewn on where I wanted them, I found some brown beads and did a little beading on the appliques (but not the rest of the embroidery on the dress because enough of a good thing is enough, and I wanted to wear the dress this summer).

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? If you're looking for either a simple strapless dress or an easy first strapless project, and you can find this issue, I'd highly recommend this pattern. Now that I know what I'm doing, if I get a yen for another strapless, I'd probably go for something with more interesting lines. But this was a great learning experience, and I'm glad I finally justified the purchase of those 2002 back issues.

Conclusion: No wardrobe malfunctions here! It survived a day at the office, a long walk to the restaurant afterwards and a very good dinner, with (almost) no shifting.

Here's the full pattern review, with more detail and construction shots.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Updates, Shopping and some Enabling

I know I've been MIA for a bit, but I think I'm back now.

Sometime last week, while working on the gray pinstriped ruffled skirt project, I decided that it would be fabulous if I could finish it - and the matching jacket - in time to enter the outfit in the Natural Fibers Contest for the American Sewing Expo in Novi in September. Entries were due by midnight on Sunday.

Of course, when I decided this, I hadn't forgotten we were going away for the weekend, but I believed that I could do all the necessary hand-sewing while riding in the car. Then all I would have to do on Sunday evening when we got home would be to make the buttonholes and sew on the buttons, get cleaned up and get pictures taken, uploaded and entered. Right.

I really thought I could hand sew the lining into the jacket in the car. Or that I'd have time at night after spending Saturday afternoon and evening with my upstate NY relatives, who I haven't seen in years. Somehow sitting around a bonfire, drinking and talking and watching shooting stars was more interesting.

Even the getting cleaned up and getting photos taken part wouldn't have worked. When reality hit, somewhere around 5:00 p.m. when we were sitting in traffic on the PA Turnpike, I gave up nicely and then didn't get around to finishing things until Thursday of this week. Why miss a deadline by 10 minutes?

Done now, still need photos taken.

Yesterday was half price day at the thrift store, my favorite time. I also hit the local flea market in the morning and got this great set of vintage pink and white sheets (that want to become a shirt using the contrasting pink edging for cuffs and collar) and 10 rolls of rayon seam binding. The seam binding was 50 cents a roll and the sheets were $1 per. Not bad.

At the thrift store, I accumulated two tshirts - one with a fabulous Peter Max print, the other an old Gloria Vanderbilt with a Philadelphia themed print. Both of these are going to be turned into different tshirts. Ones that fit me, first of all. The Max shirt is a size 4, which looks more like a size 0. Honestly, if it was a little more kid-friendly, I'd cut it up into the world's funkiest onesie for my pregnant friends.

At the bottom are more supplies for craft show bags - a size 4XL faux-suede long skirt, and two silk quilted jackets, both with minor damage. No qualms at all about cutting them up.

In the enabling department, at the back of the store are small appliances and random other goodies. Yesterday's goodies included a Singer Touch-n-Sew in pretty nice condition, for only $29. I didn't need this machine, but I wanted it. I wanted it to not be in the store, to be with someone who would appreciate its tank-like awesomeness. I called a friend, because I remembered she needed a backup machine. She still needed the machine, and was at my house in under 30 minutes, and went happily home with her new acquisition sitting snugly in the back seat.

Right now I'm sitting, listening to it rain, and feeling quite smug becuase (a) the tomatoes are getting watered, and not by me, and (b) it doesn't appear to be raining at all in the dining room, so maybe the roofer got all the leaks after all.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It’s a Cat’s World

I just sew in it.

There has been progress on the pinstripes, but you can't see it because the camera battery died and it hasn't finished charging yet.

Instead, I give you a photo of the ladies of the workroom: Lily, sprawled on the remains of the pinstripe, a few pattern pieces, some lining and other fabrics and, it turns out when I couldn't find them, my pinking shears. In the rear is Katie, from her perch by the ironing board. She's not quite as malevolent as she looks; red-eye reduction doesn't work well on cats.

Thank you to everyone who was concerned and outraged on Alice's behalf. She's feeling much better and her breath is downright pleasant now when she breathes on me in the morning. She's back to eating her regular food and has gotten over that sedative-induced affection that was the only pleasant part of the whole experience. She's naturally skittish and has gone back to her old ways, but since I know she's no longer in pain it's okay.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Coming Attractions

Things are moving along steadily now with the pinstriped skirt. I've gotten past the boring straight sewing and am now into the mindless embellishment process.

I'm using the technique from BWOF's July issue. Remember that fluffy pink skirt I was in love with? It looked like ruffles or flowers or something embellishing the hem. Well, turns out it's nothing of the kind. BWOF being what they are, it's something completely other.

Try circles. Lots and lots of circles. Cut and folded and folded again and then stitched down. Think fabric fortune-cookie, without anything inside.

At last count, the 2 layers of trim on this skirt consist of 81 circles.

But you know what? I like it. It's idiot work, but I like it.

It's completely different than what I'd intended, but it still has the same feeling, and it's a lot more interesting than the original ruffle that I'd planned on more-or-less duplicating.

And since I have an abiding love of (and inability to successfully wear) ruffles, this has a girly sensibility without being all pink and fluffy about it. I like cute done in a traditionally non-cute fabric, to soften the blow, and I'm pretty sure there's no fabric less "cute" than lawyer's gray pinstripe.

While I was mulling over exactly how I wanted the trim to look, I decided that for all this work, this skirt needs to be part of a suit, and since I knew there would be limited fabric left, I went searching for a pattern that would take as little as possible. I came up with McCalls 5859, the short-sleeved version. I fell in love with Kisha's version last year. (Even with short sleeves, I'll still be cutting the inside peplums from lining fabric, not pinstripe, there just wasn't enough left. Might have had something to do with all those damn circles.)

I'm partway along on the jacket now, but nothing complete enough to show yet. If I decide to blow off book club tomorrow night, I might get something finished. Then again, it's supposed to be 94 tomorrow, which means it'll be 94 in the workroom as well. So maybe not.

BTW, will the Anonymous who left a comment on my last post please email me - you said you were in Belgium and I'm going there in October. I'd love to pick your brain for any fabric stores in Brussels/Bruges. Thanks!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Does anybody know

what the hell's up with Burda? For the last 2 months, I've had an item traced, sewn and worn from the issue before the month actually started. Now here we are, 8 days into August, and no magazine in sight. According to what someone posted on PR on Friday, it hasn't even left freaking Germany yet.

Maybe they should send it together with September, which will be due before you know it.

Mario thinks it's funny, watching me go through withdrawal. He's fully expecting me to develop the shakes or start hallucinating or something.

If that happens, I'll try to do it in the workroom, where not a whole heck of a lot else is going on. I am working on the recreation of my gray pinstripe skirt, a project I was really looking forward to, but I started it because I didn't have anything I wanted to do more. Not a good enough reason, as it turns out, because while I'm more than halfway along, I'm also only about halfway enthused.

There was also some more veterinary drama this week, which wore me out. Getting all worked up really takes it out of me. I wonder if it's because most of us - at least most of us of a certain age - were raised not to express anger and really let the deserving have it when they screw up. When I allow myself to let loose, it really takes it out of me.

This is Alice. Alice went to the vet (my normal one, not the ER) because she was she was having trouble eating and I suspected dental issues. I put down a deposit, got a little dizzy at the size of the estimate, and went to work. They called in the afternoon - she was awake and coming out of the sedative, she'd had 7 teeth removed and she could come home that night.

I picked her up that evening. They brought her out snoozing in her carrier, explained that she'd had IV sedation so her arm had been shaved, and gave me some pain meds. Once we got home, I let her out of the carrier, and she staggered across the floor like a drunken sailor, partly from the sedation, and partly because - deep breath here - they'd forgotten to take the IV out of her arm! She's sporting a big white bandage from paw to shoulder, with tubes sticking out of it.

I call the vet. They basically say, "Oops." Oops? I paid the equivalent of a mortgage payment to have Alice fixed up and no one looked at her closely enough on check out to notice that she was bandaged and dragging some plumbing behind her? And no, I can't bring her back in, it's close to a $20 cab ride at rush hour and Alice is skittish to begin with, so another car ride would make her tiny brain seize up. And no, I can't don't feel comfortable pulling an IV myself. Sorry. After the tech starts to cry, I suggest she send someone out to me, which eventually they do. One of their techs lives in the neighborhood and happened to be home ande came right over to help out.

The next day I called the doctor, whose response was, "Things happen." Really? She said she couldn't think of anything she could say or do that would make me feel better - really? - and I agreed she probably couldn't; I needed to have confidence in my vet, which I no longer did, and I'll be in to pick up the records for all 10 of my cats. Ka-ching!

I wasn't looking for a refund, or even a credit. I was, however, looking for a sincere apology that I didn't have to call and solicit and an admission that they screwed up and it wasn't somehow my fault for catching it and pointing it out to them. I've been a client there for 10+ years, and have taken 10+ cats there during that amount of time. Someone should have been on the phone to me first thing in the morning to apologize. It just seems like sucky customer service, in addition to carelessness on a really big scale.

I'm not one of these people who says my cats are my children - they are, but I do know the difference - but it's the same principle. I dropped off something small and helpless and trusted them to take proper care of her, and they didn't. Imagine if that was your pediatrician.

But Alice is fine now, at least. She no longer has death-breath, and after a few days of pain meds and soft food, is back out with the others crunching up a storm. She recovered from the whole experience much more quickly than I have. Plus I now need to find a new vet.

And none of this would probably have been as irritating if I'd had my Burda fix!

Monday, August 2, 2010

July: Month End Review

Considering the number of unbearably hot days this month (worse in the workroom than anywhere else, even with AC) and the fact that I had a houseguest who distracted me from the act of sewing, if not from talking about it, a total of 5 pieces for July isn't too bad!

This month marked my first attempt at the Jalie 2908 jean, an attempt that will definitely be repeated because these will get some wear if and when it's ever cool enough to wear jeans again. I've got some stretch khaki in the stash, though, and I'm thinking about doing a pair in that because I need a pair of casual work pants and I can improve on the jeans with a better fly front zipper this time. And I still want to try them in non-stretch denim as well.

I also made the purple ladybug baby dress for my expecting friends, and have promised another dress for the upcoming baby shower. I haven't figured out which pattern I'm going to use yet, but it's got to be in a 6 month size because it's going to be her first Easter dress.

In the true experimental sewing category, I finished my first ever strapless dress for myself (proper review to follow). Now it just needs a matching shrug or jacket because it's not going to get a lot of wear as is.

But as experiments go, it was pretty successful.

In other words, I haven't fallen out of it.

Last but not least, I made 2 versions of one of my favorite dresses, BWOF 5/09 #113. The striped dress came out well, considering how it fought me, but the piped floral version that I just finished will definitely make it onto my year-end review as one of my favorite pieces for 2010. I LOVE that dress, but I think I'm going to retire the pattern for a while.

I also put together 6 beaded velvet scarves for the Christmas craft show, but those are just busywork for watching TV and don't count too much as "real" sewing.