Sunday, January 30, 2011

If I can't have spring

I'll have new sweaters instead. With all the snow we've been getting, my office has been very understanding about wearing jeans to work. And then refusing to change out of them. And while a recent trip to the thrift store did expand my jeans wardrobe up to 4 wearable pair, I started to run out of decent sweaters to wear with them.

Don't get me wrong; I have sweaters aplenty, but my jeans, while not low rise, do still sit lower than my dress pants, and there was often an uncomfortable breeze up my back (and that's from the office's inadequate heat, not from being outside). I needed more sweaters, and longer ones.

Enter KwikSew 3740, one of the few KS patterns out there with a nearly non-frumpy pattern photo. Really. I've never seen a pattern company with better product and less appealing advertising.

We had a snow day on Thursday. Not an official one - the text I got from the office administrator said "dont kill urself 2 get in." So I didn't. I did 3 loads of laundry, made a fabulous dinner, finished my BWOF 1/2011 #107 blouse, and knocked out one version of this cowl necked top in a gray ribbed sweater knit from Metro Textiles. I made the first sweater in a medium, though I'm generally a small in KS knits (medium in woven patterns). I decided to err on the side of caution, and that particular fabric would work in a more oversized top.

From cutting out the pattern pieces - yes, I cut my KwikSews, I know, I'm going to hell - to coverstitching the hems, I think the whole thing took me about 90 minutes. At least 10 of which were spent searching for a 3rd spool of black thread for the coverstitch.

What I love about KwikSew patterns that makes up for their dowdy envelope illustrations: their pattern draft is a beautiful thing. Everything always lines up, everything tends to fit the way I think it's going to, and I'll always be grateful for making my first knit tops from their patterns so they could let me know that sewing sleeves in flat was a good thing, and not some form of cheating.

The second sweater, which I cut out on Friday evening after wearing the first one to work that day, and which I finished Saturday afternoon, is from PR Weekend fabric. I got this wonderful Italian wool blend sweater knit at London Textiles in Cherry Hill, NJ. I had purchased some previously from EOS in a different color, and while I don't remember the fabric care, I believe it's hand wash, dry flat or make a serious mess of your garment. So I'll be kind to this one. I think it's gorgeous, and it feels wonderful.

And hey, no drafts!

I think I'm still recovering from the wedding sewing, and then the lack of sewing surrounding the wedding. There's nothing to get you over an intense project or time away from the sewing machine (much less both!) than a good instant gratification project.

If that project fills an actual gap in the wardrobe, then so much the better.

According to the forecast, we're due for more snow. I looked out the window a little while ago, and it's flurrying again. It's not even pretty anymore when I see it floating down, because I already know it's going to hit the ground, get dirty, look awful and cause me to fall on my ass walking to the train in the morning.

Hmm, that sounded a little negative. I think it was. I think it's also probably the same thought floating through the minds of almost everyone on the East Coast, if they're feeling truthful.

Backing away from the computer to go play with more fabric. At least it's not arctic in the sewing room; that would make me even worse.

Friday, January 28, 2011

If I sew it

will spring come, so I can wear it?

This is BWOF 1/2011 #107, and because it's Friday, and because I'm tired, and because it's freaking flurrying AGAIN outside, I'm going to be lazy and copy my patternreview here, rather than wracking my brain to think of new things to say.

Pattern Description: Burda's description says nothing about what's so special in this blouse. Fitting darts (2), front and back make for a smooth fit. Attached button plackets give the opportunity to play with fabrics. Inset collar-band (shown below) makes the collar lay smoothly. Above-elbow sleeves with band, pleats and 2 buttons. Best of all, an interesting pleat down the back of the blouse stitched partway down and allowed to flare open below the waist. The line drawing below makes it much clearer.

Pattern Sizing: Burda sizes 36-44. I made a 44 without alterations; I'm a 38 in Burda knits and a 40 in wovens. One of the things I love about them is the consistency of their sizing.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? I think so. Their photo didn't show any of the blouse's best characteristics, in my view.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I only used them to check myself as I went along, since I find that Burda's instructions only serve to confuse me. On the other hand, they've made me a much better sewist over the years as they've forced me to puzzle out things that I couldn't understand, and this has served me well. These instructions actually look pretty clear for Burda.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I'm thinking spring, even though there's a foot of snow outside, and this blouse really called to me when I first saw it.

Fabric Used: Liberty-esque floral cotton lawn from Metro Textiles in NY. When I bought it the fabric looked like it had a black background, but now, either due to a difference in lighting or putting it through the wash, the background color is a deep, dark brown. Either one works fine with my wardrobe, so it's all good.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: No major changes except for one. I make a lot of men's shirts, and when I saw that the shoulder yoke piece was cut once, on a fold, I wondered why. Men's shirts are made with two yokes, one interior and one on the outside, and I find that it adds stability to the garment and I'm sure a longer life overall. It was easy enough to cut a second yoke and put the blouse together the way I would normally construct a shirt. Especially since the blouse front is gathered (a great way NOT to to have to deal with the FBA issue), I didn't want the gathers just sewn to a single yoke and topstitched down. Sandwiching them in between the two yokes and then topstitching made it look much neater.

I loved my fabric, but I decided that it was a little much, all on its own, so I cut one of the button plackets from an olive-green solid cotton I had on hand from another project. I liked the contrast with the floral, and it's the same color as the leaves. I also cut the inside collar band from the same green.

The collar is interesting. Rather than a standard collar-and-stand, the stand is sewn along the bottom curve of the collar, making a one piece construction that is then sewn to the shirt. Very neat and tidy, and no nail-biting sewing of the band to the shirt, hoping everything lines up. Can you tell that's my least favorite part?

The back of the shirt has an inset pleat - the fabric is folded and stitched at the neck, then pleat is left open down the back, sewn closed for about 3", and allowed to open again below the waist. Very flattering, and a great way to tweak the fit if you don't sew that middle part of the pleat shut right away.

The sleeves are just above the elbow, and despite the line drawing, they aren't poofy at all. There are pleats, one on either side of the sleeve opening, and a substantial sleeve band, but it all manages to look smooth and not too cutesy, which I was afraid of. I had enough fabric left to make a different sleeve if these didn't work. Now I have another remnant.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'll definitely sew this one again, maybe with a less distinctive sleeve. I like the sleeve, but the body of this blouse is something I can see using again and again.

Conclusion: A great little spring blouse - now if mother nature would cooperate and give us a little spring, so I could wear it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Totally Tubular

I could have taken the easy way out while waiting to post wedding photos and done another post on the random pretties I've accumulated over the years, but I didn't. I wanted there to be some kind of flow to all the wedding posts, and besides, I was still too tired to string words together in a coherent fashion anyway.

But I've had this piece on my sewing table for a while now to show you all, and it finally nagged at me enough the other night that I took a few pictures to share.

This was an embellishment (faux pocket) from a vintage dress I bought years ago. Probably 20 years ago, and it wasn't in good shape then, but I loved the color and fit, at least until the seams gave out from age and mistreatment prior to my ownership. When the dress died, I removed the embellishments thinking that I would eventually put them on something else. It hasn't happened so far, and I'm not likely to find anything to match these. The color is much more of a solid than it shows up in the photos - not sure what happened with the camera when I took these. The color is very similar to vintage face powder; think of one of those 1940s rhinestone studded compacts and this was the color of the pressed powder inside.

As far as construction of these pockets, can you even imagine spending that much quality time with the tube turner? Or whatever passed for a tube turner in the 1940s? Looking at them, I can see the stitching line and it's machine, so they were somehow turned out, and then curved/curled into position and hand-stitched together around a central piece.

Very elaborate embellishment on what I recall as a very simple dress, but that's the point, isn't it? An elaborate dress would have eaten these beauties alive; a dress with simple,sleek lines would show them off to perfection.

I might consider constructing something like this out of a pre-made trim, like rat-tail, but I can't imagine doing it from scratch, can you?

Monday, January 24, 2011

And finally

what I wore. Unless you're all tired of waiting to hear me talk about it by now? Because I am.

No? You still want to see the whole shebang? What I wore, what pattern(s) it was, what I did to it?

You're sure?

Well, okay, if you insist.

The dress started out with BWOF 2/2009 #104 as the basis. I made it last summer and I loved the front and back necklines. I wasn't, however, in love with the cut-on sleeves, which made it really difficult for me to wear a jacket with the dress. I decided that the dress needed some re-drafting so that I could add sleeves.

Instead of completely re-drafting the BWOF dress, I took a dress with a similar bodice structure (Burdastyle's downloadable Fatina pattern, still free) and morphed the two. Fatina had the bust dart and side seam structure I needed to add sleeves, and it was easy enough to transfer the BWOF necklines to the new pattern piece.

It still took a couple of muslins to get the fit where I wanted it, but I was only muslining the bodice - I knew that the skirt from the BWOF dress would fit, and if it didn't, it was simply going to be a matter of shifting the hip curve.

Originally I had a line of piping at the joining seam between bodice and skirt, but after thinking on it for a few days, I removed the invisible zipper and cut the seam out entirely, removing the piping and also raising the seamline of the dress to the bottom of my bra, which was where I'd intended it to begin with. Sometimes these patterns, they get minds of their own and you have to yank on the leash a little to make them behave. Once I got the seam redone and the zipper back in, I was much happier with the overall look of the bodice and I just had to smooth out the hip curve again.

It took a little while to figure out what kind of sleeve I wanted, but I eventually settled on a below-elbow length fitted sleeve from a vintage pattern. I liked the minimal ease in the sleeve cap, and the gathers on the inside of the elbow to make the sleeve fit better.

The BWOF dress as drafted is a bit of a wiggle dress, unless you leave a walking slit in the back. Well, obviously I needed to walk in the dress, but a slit was too basic, and I didn't decide I wanted something more elaborate until after I'd cut and then I would have needed to add back on to make a proper walking pleat. Instead, I stole an idea from the January issue of BWOF and cut a godet out of the last of my silk and sewed it into the opening.

After I pressed it, I felt kind of . . . meh. I hung the dress up and thought about it again for a few days, and took up the iron again. Some folding, some pressing, and what I ended up with was the godet folded and pleated inward, pressed and sewn flat across the top. It looked much more elegant than my original idea, and moved very nicely when I walked.

The finish work - sleeve hems and the skirt itself - was all hand-sewn. The fabric, a silk, cotton and lycra blend, was very forgiving of machine stitches, but I didn't want anything to show on this one, so I did it by hand. I'm remembering how much I like hand-sewing, so long as I have the right glasses on and good light nearby.

As for the jacket, after several unhappy muslins, I mentioned that I cut up a second hand jacket I'd picked up and made a pattern from that. This jacket, cut straight from the final fabric, turned out pretty well. There's no good picture of me wearing it, somehow, so you'll have to take my word that when I'm not turned oddly, as I am here, it fits me quite well and doesn't stick out the way it is in the photo. Go figure.

My favorite part of the jacket was the part I swore at the most in the making. After I got the fit comfortable on the jacket, I was faced with the fun of lining it. I had enough of the silk left to make the lining (this was before I cut the godet for the skirt), but as I was about to cut into it, I changed my mind.

Ever make a garment that fits perfectly well until you get the lining in, and then something goes just slightly wrong and the thing never fits right ever again? I had a sudden fear that I would get the lining in the jacket and it would cease to fit, and then I would have to rip it out, and somehow the seam ripper would go through the center front of the jacket and I'd have nothing to wear and . . . well, I got myself into a lather about it and decided that discretion was the better part of, if not valor, then at least the better part of appearing fully dressed in public.

I went for something I hate to do.

For every visible seam in the jacket, I did a Hong Kong finish. I hate Hong Kong finishes. I love how it looks - who doesn't? - but I hate to do it. Tiny fiddly annoying work, and that's before you decide to make your own seam binding. Which of course I had to do, since I still wanted to use the leftover dress silk, even if it wasn't going to be for a full lining.

I did the final hand work on both pieces - tacking down the facings on the dress, hemming the sleeves on the jacket - last Friday night after work, giving me time on Saturday morning for a leisurely breakfast, a run to the farmer's market and a quick shower before we headed off to the wedding.

Whew! I'm tired all over again just thinking about it. I hope you all enjoyed the back story on the dress, and more photos of me than you will probably see here for months to come - grinning like a fool is easy on your wedding day, but flattering work-in-progress photos? Not so easy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Invitation to a wedding

I know, I'm a tease. You can say it, but here are a few photos, even if they aren't the long-promised details on the dress.

Those will come. Really. They will.

I just got the disk with the photos today, and there aren't as many dress shots as I would have hoped, but I'll be able to put together a post in a day or two.
For now, I leave you with the happy couple. Apparently very happy, going by the expression on our faces.

But then again, how often do you get to stand up in front of 15 people who will never let you forget it and say that you want to spend the rest of your life with your best friend?

Hopefully only once.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Details, Details

I know, I know, it's been a week. But the pictures trickled in slowly, and then they needed to be tweaked, and hey, as a newlywed, I have to admit I had a few other things on my mind.

Something Old

I needed something to perk up my jacket, and while I briefly toyed with the fabric flower idea, I didn't want it to look too crafty and I didn't have time to make a few samples. Rummaging through my messy house, I came up with this pin, which belonged to my great-grandmother. I barely remember her wearing it, but I do remember coming home from her house with it after she died. My mother and the aunts divided up everything, and what was left in the jewelry box got handed to me to pick over (or to dump wholesale into my bag, which is what I recall doing; I was 8, but the packrat gene is strong). It took a while to find this - apparently I'd pinned it on the dress of one of my antique bed dolls, and she was up on a high shelf in the workroom. But I found it, and I think it's perfect.

Something New

Like the jacket, I originally wanted aqua shoes. Guess what? It's not really the season for aqua shoes. I did find turquoise heels at the Norristown Jomar when I was there recently with Lee and Annette, but they were turquoise patent, and they had an almost stripper platform/heel. Not tremendously bridal. Same day, same place, I found these chocolate brown suede pumps with strap and flower detail. They're comfortable, and I have to admit I'll get a lot more wear out of them than turquoise patent.

Something Borrowed

I didn't originally have a something borrowed, which appalled quite a number of people and loaner items of various purpose came flooding in. I chose an ivory satin handbag lent to me by a co-worker. She had used it at her own wedding, and was very apologetic that it had a small spot on it, but that just made it less worrisome to me that I would get something on it (which I didn't).

Something Blue

I found this aqua feathered 1960s headband on Etsy. Because my dress struck me as vintage-y, I wanted something for my head, but I don't generally like me in hats. And I didn't want a veil. This seemed like the perfect compromise piece, and it matched beautifully.

There will be more photos, obviously - of me, of us, of the dress, but this is what I've managed to get together so far.

Thanks to everyone for all congratulations and good wishes. It's been such a treat checking the computer and finding all of you there, wishing us well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Big List for 2011

This is not a list of goals, or sewing resolutions. Those may come, but now that I've met and shaken hands with welt pockets - I'm not saying mastered, that's just ASKING the sewing gods to whomp my ass - there are no specific challenges I feel I have to meet. I'll make them up as I come to them.

This is that most basic of things, the to-do list, brought on by my recent cold-shower encounter with the vastness of my stash. There are things I need, and I have the fabrics to make them. This is at least the starter list of pieces I need to make to fill specific gaps in my wardrobe.

They may not be things I feel like making, but every time I check something off this list, I can rid myself of more RTW that I'm tired of or that doesn't fit as well as I would like, or I might just save myself another load of laundry because I'll have enough pants to wear to work when it's cold outside without having to wash on Thursday night so as not to shiver in a skirt on Friday.

1. Black TNT pants. I made a pair fairly recently, but I need a second pair to wear with lower heels. Fabric in stash, several times over.

2. Black pinstripe TNT pants, longer inseam, slightly wider leg. Fabric in stash.

3. Jeans. Combine the best of the Ottobre and Jalie jean patterns to make the perfect non-stretch jean. Fabric in stash, which was a surprise to me.

4. Turtlenecks. I need the BWOF turtleneck in basic solid colors: black, gray, brown, cream, olive, teal. Fabric in stash.

5. Sweaters. I have several patterns to try, and various fabrics in stash.

6. Chanel-ish Jacket. Maybe I don't need another one, but it turns out I have 3 beautiful boucles in stash. So I need to make a jacket out one of them.

That's just the beginning, but it could keep me sewing for months, and most of these are fairly immediate needs. Okay, so the jeans aren't, because the thrift store recently had a half price day and I picked up a couple apir, but the dress pants are, and I'll feel really silly sewing turtlenecks in June.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snug as a Ladybug

So this is what I made myself sew when I couldn't think of anything to sew.

I've got to start sewing for me - first it was the drinking shirt for my boss, which he wore at Friday's in-office happy hour, now a sleeper for my friends' baby, who is getting christened the weekend after the wedding.

I got this ladybug print fabric a while back at PA Fabric Outlet on 4th Street. I'm not generally big on printed flannels, except for PJ pants, but ladybugs are a special thing with my friends and one of their nicknames for baby Claire. So I had to buy it.

Then I stalled on what to do with it.

A few weeks ago I made a trip to the Norristown Jomar with friends, and I really didn't find anything. Which is good, since I don't need fabric. But I did pick up a yard of tomato-red fleece, thinking I could tie it in somehow with the flannel. I'm not a big fan of fleece, and now that my cutting mat is filmed with fleece fuzz, and my machine is coughing it up, I remember why.

But it served the purpose here, which is to keep Claire toasty warm. This was put together from several different pattern ideas and some of my own.

The hood is lined in fleece and I made the liner a little larger so that I could topstitch the edge and pull a little of the fleece outward to act as a border. I edged the sleeves in red and put a big red zipper down the front.

It looked a little open at the neck area, so I added a fleece tab that snaps on one side with clear snaps.

Here's the full review.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Call me Dorothy

This isn't one of those posts wherein I am half buried by my stash and come to with the epiphany that I have way, way too much fabric and I can never buy fabric again and I'm at SABLE, and I'm a terrible person for wasting so much money on fabric when there is hunger in the world, and how many clothes does one person need, and (fill in your favorite recrimination here).

It's not one of those posts.


I did mention, didn't I, that I finally decided on a project the other day and then I couldn't locate the fabric. The stash hid it from me.

Saturday was the day of reckoning. I took down every single piece of fabric in the shelving unit, rearranged and organized it according to methods only understood by me, and not necessarily even me, and put it all back.

I found the missing fabric.

I also found that (a) I'll never need to buy black fabric again; (b) the heavy non-stretch denim nobody sells which is keeping me from making the jeans I want to make . . . is on my shelf, times 3; (c) you can have too much boucle; and (d) unlike wine, does NOT always get better as it ages and some of this stuff pre-dates me. If I have issues, they're inherited.

So this isn't one of those self-hating, stash-hating posts. I LOVE my stash. But how much fabric do I need? It tells me something that I spent two days unable to decide what to sew next. Really? . If I can look at that much yardage and not be able to think of something to do with it, I don't deserve to sew. And you know I'm not going to stop sewing.

I'm not saying I'm not buying any more fabric. That's self-defeating right there. Even the most austere fabric fast allows you to purchase what you need to complete a project; how else do you ever sew down the stash?

I've decided to go to PR Weekend Chicago in May. I've never been to Chicago. I'm sure they have good fabric there. And my goal right now is to not buy any fabric until I'm in Chicago. We'll see how I do. It seems like a manageable goal - it's the fabric dieter's version of deciding to cut out dessert rather than vaguely swearing to lose 20 lbs.

So that's it. Just call me Dorothy, back from Oz. I don't need to go looking for my heart's desire, it's right here, in my own back room.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Something Completely Different

Not a lot of sewing this week. The dress is basically done except for some handwork, but I'm going to leave off posting about it until after the wedding. If Mario can't see it yet, no one else should; it's only fair.

I didn't sew for 2 nights because I couldn't decide what to make, and then when I did finally pick a project, my stash ate the fabric I wanted to use. Isn't that the worst, though, when you have the will to sew and you can't decide what to sew?

Yesterday some inspiration arrived in the mail. When at the bookstore last week, I flipped through Natalie Chanin's Alabama Studio Style. I already have her first book, and it's a lot like the Mary Adams Party Dress book - not really my style, but the creativity and energy are contagious. Alabama Studio Style's projects and stories are similar to those in the first book, but for some reason they really intrigued me this time. I think things strike us differently at certain times, and maybe this resonated because I had a lot of pent-up sewing energy and no direction.

Chanin works mostly in cotton jersey - tshirt fabric. She started out working with tshirts and has expanded into larger projects that require actual yardage, but it was the projects that involved taking apart and piecing and applique that really attracted me. As I was rummaging in the workroom last night, fruitlessly hunting that elusive fabric, I came across my bag of thrift store donations. (Actually I tipped it over). These are the clothes I'm taking to the store, not all the ones I bring home.

What fell out of the bag was an olive green V-neck tshirt from Old Navy. I liked that shirt. I wore it a lot. And I wore it while painting my hallway last year and didn't notice the smear of terracotta paint on my left side until it was dry. I couldn't clean it, but I didn't get rid of it either. When I saw it on the floor, something in the back of my head said, "You don't have to throw it away, you can cover it. With an applique."


The book was out in the living room, and I decided that rather than attempting to directly copy something I would work with what I felt I remembered. I started digging through my box of knit scraps and I pulled together 3 colors that coordinated with my shirt. I cut circles in random sizes and then cut them into spirals and stretched them out.

I put the shirt on Evelyn and started pinning. I had no set design, I just started by covering the paint smea with a spiral, then working outward so there were no obvious spiral-on-boob issues. I took them over the shoulder and partway down the back. It seemed a little empty in spots, so I cut tiny pieces, like leaves, and pinned them in the gaps.

I stood back and looked at it, and realized that the right looked more than empty, it looked lost. I didn't want to take the entire 3 color design onto both sides, so I cut one larger spiral and pinned it so that it extended over the shoulder and down the sleeve. At that point I decided more might be too much (though I wasn't sure the whole project wasn't too much already). I retreated to the living room to watch TV with a shirt stuck full of pins and 3 spools of thread.

Each applique was whipstitched down in a contrasting color: orange with dark green, tan with brown and green with tan. It should have been annoying, but it ended up being a very pleasant, contemplative way to spend a few hours. I forget how much I enjoy hand sewing, especially when there's no requirement for perfection; if anything, uneven stitching just added to the feel.

By bedtime, I was pretty certain that I was on to something interesting.

I finished it last night and tried it on. The handstitching keeps the appliques stretchy, so the shirt fit just the way it had, and it's certainly wearable again. The colors work with most of my wardrobe, even if the shirt will probably only get worn on weekends, and in nicer weather.

I admit, it was kind of pointless to do all that work on a shirt that was destined for the rag bag, but you know how the sewing gods are - if I'd made a snazzy new tshirt or pulled a good top out of my drawer to try the technique on, it would have been one huge cheeseball mess of cutesy. And I woudl never have thought to try it on a nice shirt - it was the green one falling out of the bag that sparked the whole process anyway.

As it was, this was an interesting project for me - it stretched me to try something different, to do a technique (applique) that I haven't done since grade-school sew-on patches, to save a shirt from the rag bag, and to practice a technique that I can absolutely see myself using later on a more serious project. Not to mention the almost meditative hand sewing time - I really enjoyed that.

Can you see a dress with an almost tone-on-tone floral applique? Or maybe a little black dress with a vivid white flower? Maybe there's a reason for all my remnants after all.

This may just be a really strange progression from my last post where I lusted after Schiaparelli's roses. Things go into the brain on one side, and by the time they make it out again, they aren't recognizable. But wherever this came from, it took me to an interesting place, and one I don't know well. I think I'll visit more often.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Nothing succeeds like excess

Because of the recession, everyone's talking about austerity. I totally get it - and I'm the first one to admit that making my own clothes isn't always the best way to save money. But think about the Great Depression. Okay, so normal women were making do and mending, and using feed sacks and whatever else they could lay hands on, but what did they want to see when they could scrape together a nickel for the movies? Glamour. Fantasy. Fred and Ginger.

I was looking for a photo tonight and realized that I have a ridiculous number of totally random pictures of embellishment techniques I'm never likely to try - or have a reason to wear, which is a whole different issue.

So in order to share the joy (insanity?) of my collection, I'm going to try to share a few with you on a fairly regular basis and solicit your opinion as to whether or not there is any way that this technique (or simply this particular garmental gorgeousness) can be incorporated into a normal, 40-something, business-casual office environment or a mostly home-and-garden-and-kitchen oriented weekend life. Can I sew in sequins? Do Dior roses actually work in the garden?

Right. And I start with Elsa Schiaparelli. (Actually, quite a large chunk of my collection is Schiaparelli, but how can you talk about embellishment without mentioning her? This is, after all, the woman who gave us the lobster telephone. And who said something to the effect of, "Women dress alike all over the world. They dress to annoy other women.")

Well, I'd be annoyed if I saw that rose-embellished beauty walking down the street ahead of me. At least until I knocked her down and ran away with her jacket.

Looking at the photo at right, you have to give her this: she's no skinny model type, and she's not twenty-something either. Proving you can be forty-plus and still wear a circus jacket.

Of course, who would have dared tell her she couldn't?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best of 2010

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope 2011 has gotten off to a great start - mine has, and now I'm ready to close out 2010. For a lot of reasons, 2010 was a very good year.

Sewing-wise, 2010 was a very, very good year.

I went through the month-end reviews and picked out my favorites to share with you. Not every project made the top 10 for the same reason - some, like the piped Burda dress, are relatively simple, while others, like the plaid and leather jacket, were complicated patterns even before I complicated them further.

Leading off in January was a Burda pattern (4/2008 #128). It was a plus but I loved the twist front and decided to grade it down. Partway through, I realized that reinventing the wheel was silly and I only graded down the front, using the back and sides of my TNT KwikSew pattern. I've worn this really often and I think it's my favorite knit piece for the year.

February made me step out of my comfort zone. I have a love/hate relationship with ruffles (I love them; it's not always mutual) but I really wanted to try McCall 5522, and for some reason, the ruffled version really struck me. I decided if ruffles were good, then bias plaid ruffles were better. And in orange! I had a lot of fun matching the plaid and playing with the bias, and while it's not something I wear often, I got a good fitting blouse pattern out of it and I've come to accept that while ruffles may not be my best look, I can get away with them once in a while.

Especially in orange.

April's notable garment was the BWOF 2/2009 #104 V-backed sheath, a great dress on its own, but it apparently made a good impression because it's the basis for my frankenpatterned wedding dress. In its original form, it wasn't a difficult project - unlined, no sleeves to set in, but it's one of those projects where the end result has very little to do with the amount of effort put into the construction.

Sometimes it just happens that way.

In May, I finished a project that I'd been thinking about since some time in summer 2009, if not earlier - a Chanel(ish) jacket, based on KwikSew 3258. I'd made a muslin, tweaked it and put it down. When I found some black boiled wool, I was inspired to pick it up again. I paired it with the almanac-printed silk which had been in stash for another year or two, and had a lot of fun playing with buttons and trim.

It was definitely more labor-intensive than its predecessors on the list, but that was part of the fun for me - I like all the fiddly steps involved in making a jacket, and unless I'm pushing myself, I'll linger over it a few weeks so I can enjoy the process.

And I finally got Chanel out of my system. Though I can feel a relapse coming on. Can anyone say boucle?

Sometimes the best patterns are the simple ones, styles that you can customize to your heart's content. For me, the Burdastyle Fatina dress is one of those. I've made it 3 times now, but the Chocolate Swirl dress is a good example of how to take a basic pattern and tweak it to get the result you want. I saw a RTW black and white dress (knit) in a store, but by the time my dress made it out the workroom, it had turned cream and brown, and linen. Not where I started, but definitely more me.

Another repeater, and another simple pattern, is BWOF 2/09 #113. I've made it 4 times now, but this version was driven by the bright floral fabric I chose - fabric that had only been in stash for a week.

This was also a year of using my newest fabrics first, and only fishing into stash when I'd exhausted the more recent purchases. My stash deserves to be treated better than that, and I have apologized.

When I first paired this fabric with this pattern, I was iffy because there was no way that the seamlines weren't going to break up the floral and look funky in all the wrong ways. I hit on the idea of piping the seams and the neckline, which turned out to be the great choice, and a royal pain to actually do. I love piping; I just haven't used 5 yards of it on one project before.

This summer I also tackled an engineering project. Literally.

Back in January, I made a strapless dress for my actress friend. Even though I didn't like the dress that much, I was intrigued by the challenge it posed. I'd never used boning before, and I wanted to see what actually made the dress stay up besides will power. That dress stayed up through 20 performances, which gave me hope, but I wanted to try the theory out on a figure a little closer to home.

The pattern I chose was an older one, BWOF 5/2002 #111. There's a lot of boning - front darts, side seams, back darts - but it was comfortable, and it stayed up. Actually, it barely shifted when I wore it, which was a pleasant surprise after years of watching girls in strapless dresses tugging and adjusting and looking, well, tortured.

August's effort was a remake of a skirt I'd made years ago and outgrown. When I ran across the perfect pinstripe during Deepika's post-PR Weekend visit in July, I decided to recreate my lost skirt. Instead of normal ruffles, I used a technique from the 7/10 BWOF which consisted of lots and lots of circles, cut and folded and hand-sewn down to approximate ruffles. I lgot really tired of sewing those little circles but I loved the effect!

One of my absolute favorite projects for the entire year was also one of the fastest. Andrea wore an embroidered, appliqued skirt to work on a Friday, and I took one look at it and knew I had to have one of my own. I took a few pictures, drew out a diagram of the embellishments and spent some quality time playing with the photocopier to enlarge the design to the correct size.

That night I transferred the design to some distressed linen from my stash, and then the games began. I embroidered the stems, cut the leaves out of scrap leather, and made yo-yo flowers out of ivory lining fabric.

And I wore it to work on Monday, totally confused my co-workers, and made Andrea smile.

Things like that are WHY we sew.

Last but not least is the BWOF 1/2008 #127 shawl collar jacket, otherwise known as the jacket that made me face my fear and just sew the damn welt pockets already and stop whining. And I did sew them, and I stopped whining, and then for good measure I figured out how to do bound buttonholes in leather as well, and they worked, and now I have to find something new to complain about.

I left out a few categories when making this list, like men's shirts and baby clothes, one a longstanding like and the other one quite recent, because, after all, it really does come down to sewing for ourselves. That's where most of the hard lessons are learned

I'm calling the projects above my 10 best, though they aren't necessarily the "best" I did all year. For one reason or another, they're my favorites, either because it's a pattern I know well and can turn into something flattering without tearing my hair out, or because it's as project that challenged me to learn something I previously thought I was incapable of learning, or reminding me that I enjoy fiddly hand sewing while watching Mario watch TV.

That's my roundup. What about you? Did you have any projects last year that were particularly memorable? Did you learn something from them, or did they make you learn something about yourself?