Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Thousand Words

The scrap hamper
For anyone who thought I was exaggerating about the state of the room, here's proof positive of what's in there.

There are actually worse bits, but I can't maneuver sufficiently to get a photo. 

And did I clean up tonight?  No, I did not.

Floor alongside sewing table
What did I do instead of cleaning my workroom? I made applesauce.  And when that seemed like it might end soon enough to send me upstairs, I roasted a butternut squash and some golden beets for tomorrow's dinner, scooped the squash guts, peeled and sliced the beets, then voluntarily did the dishes.  Rather than go upstairs. 

I haven't gone into it, but my house gave me grief for Christmas, along with an obscene and still-to-come plumbing bill. 

Have I ever mentioned that my house is a vindictive, ungrateful pile of bricks?  Well, she is.  And if she doesn't knock this crap off, I may never clean my workroom again.  Serves her right.

Dredging the Swamp

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my workroom has gotten into such a state that I can't sew there.

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have the spare bedroom in our house as a playroom. Which was good, because it kept my bedroom neat, and bad, because with a door to shut behind me, I could turn my playroom into, well, a swamp. A toy-filled swamp. With a rug almost completely covered in crap, with little islands of clear space so I could hop from place to place. If only my mom had seen my potential as a ballerina . . . She did, however, see my potential as a slob.

Between one thing and another (work, housework, house projects, craft show, life and sewing), I haven't neatened up the workroom in several months. I don't notice how bad it's getting until I realize I can't lay out a piece of fabric on the cutting table, because there's not enough room on the table to eat dinner.

The other night, I noticed that I was actually hopping from one little island of space to another, with my carpet almost completely covered in fabric - bags, remnants, whole cuts waiting to be put on shelves.

Bad. This is very bad.

I can't sew when it's like that. I can't even find my next project in my head, much less on my shelves.

I have another long weekend coming up, and I would love to start the new year off right - with a (mostly) clean sewing space. I'm not promising perfection, but I'd like to get the floor cleared and vacuumed, enough space made on the table to cut out a pattern, and the shelves restacked so there's no further risk of avalanche. That should only take me until New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Over so quickly

Harriet says "Happy Holidays"
 Both the holidays and my long weekend.  But isn't that how it always works?

I had such plans - lots of quality time in the sewing room, time with Mario, time with family -- more time than I actually had, as it turns out.

We visited my aunt on Friday, had Christmas Eve dinner with his family in NJ, and spent Christmas Day on our own.  We cooked our big dinner, as planned - seared duck breast with port wine and cherries, garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed wild mushrooms. Yum.  I took a nice long break from the computer, did some work out in the yard, cleaned out the chickens (who are adapting well to to the cold and their new high-protein diet) and, somehow, got almost no sewing done.

Annie says "Humbug."

Today I finished the black pants I started before my break, but that's it.  I think I need to clean up the workroom. It's still trashed from working on craft show projects, then bringing back the items that didn't sell, then having yet another small avalanche . . . you get the picture.  It's a swamp.

And I'm back to work tomorrow, so of course now all I want to do is stay up all night rearranging my sewing space.  Which I can't do, and which I probably wouldn't want to do if I had off tomorrow. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

We have winners!

Thanks for all the interest in my book giveaway.  It should always be so easy when I'm trying to clean out the house.

And here are the winners . . .

for the Fantastic Fit book, the lucky sewist is Alicia

And for Do One Green Things, Amy is the green goddess! 

Ladies, I've sent emails to you both - please get back to me with your addresses and I'll try to get the books out before Christmas.  (No guarantees, as it looks to be a hellish work week, but I'll try).

And in answer to Karen's question on my Pants for Christmas post, RPL is the abbreviation for rayon poly lycra, which in my opinion is the best fabric ever for pants - hardwearing, washable and barely wrinkles. 

It's cold here.  The chickens are cranky, but they're still laying.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pants for Christmas

We don't exchange Christmas gifts.  Our holiday tradition is going out shopping the weekend before the holiday, picking out all the ingredients and either on Christmas Eve or the Day (depending on dinner-with-family scheduling) putting together a seriously kick-ass dinner that we eat in the dining room, with candles, tablecloth and napkins, like civilized humans. 

The other thing we do is treat ourselves to something we want, without guilt.  It doesn't have to come right at the holiday, but if it does, so much the better.

What else would I get myself but fabric?  I had a recent avalanche in the workroom and as I was reassembling the stash wall - why did I not think that if I pulled a piece out of the bottom of a stack, the rest of it wouldn't slide down on my head? - I realized that I am woefully short of solid colors.  Woefully short, I tell you.  

And of course, I'm also woefully short of decent pants to wear to work.  This thought process occurred on Tuesday, when I was off from work, so I dutifully traipsed up to the computer, went to Gorgeous Fabrics, and quickly purchased 10 yards of Ann's best RPL - 4 yards of black, 2 yards of gray, 2 yards of maroon and 2 yards of what she called "British tan."  Which is kind of caramel, but cooler.  And lovely.  Maroon isn't a color I normally wear, but I was on an RPL roll.  I love that stuff, and figured if I was going to spend money, and have to pay for shipping, I might as well get everything that I wanted.

So I did.  And now, with a couple of long weekends coming up for the holidays, I will be sewing pants.  Probably my TNT BWOF side zip pants pattern, but I do want to try those Colette Clover pants again, a bit smaller and with a better fabric. 

Maybe that's why I got 4 yards of black, so I could make one of each.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Highland Fling

Tomorrow is my firm's holiday party.  While it's supposed to just be a "lunch" - beginning at noon and ending sometime before the bars close - it still involves much preparation and overdressing among my co-workers.

As in sequins before noon overdressing.  Ahem.

Me, I'll be ridiculously under dressed tomorrow, at least in their eyes.  Because I haven't gotten my winter dress finished, and I don't want to rush and try to finish it tonight, I'll be wearing my recently completed (but not yet worn) plaid jacket.

It's green.  It's red.  It has shiny red and brass buttons.  It has a freaking olive green silk charmeuse lining. 

I say I'm dressed up.  I don't care what they call it.

This pattern is mostly McCall 5859.  I made a sleeveless version last summer (because I ran out of fabric before I cut sleeves).  This time, I had just enough.  Literally, I couldn't have made a vest for Lily the sewing room cat out of my scraps, and she only weighs 7 pounds. 

Here's the revised patternreview:

Pattern Description: Princess seamed peplum jacket with collar, pockets, short and long sleeve variations.

Pattern Sizing: Some variation between 12 and 14.  I tend toward the 14 these days, but it's princess seamed front and back, and doesn't have to button across the bulkiest part of me, so I went a little more fitted.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? More or less.  The lines are the same, though I de-poofed the sleeves and took some of the cute out of it.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very easy. I looked them over the first time and this time I just went for it. I did check back regarding the collar, because collar and lapel are two separate pieces, not meant to be sewn together.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I loved it when I first saw it, and while I really like my gray pinstripe summer version, I hadn't planned to make another.  But the last time I wore the pinstripe, I caught a look at myself in the mirror and decided that the peplum look was really flattering and gave me a bit more waist definition than I usually can achieve from a jacket.  Good enough reason for a re-sew in my books.

Fabric Used:  Oh, yum, the fabric.  Mossy green wool/cashmere flannel wonderfulness from Metro Textiles.  It was in Kashi's remnant bin and it just drew me across the store.  There wasn't much of it, so this jacket took some creative cutting.  Lining: olive green silk charmeuse purchased at PR Weekend NY 2006.  I got the last 5 yards on the bolt, knowing it was a color I'd always wear.  This is my second jacket lining, and I think there's enough for one more, if I choose my fabrics carefully.  Buttons are vintage, brass with a rusty painted overlay.  I buffed them with an emery board to let a little more of the gold show through.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I changed the sleeves.  With the gray pinstripe version, I only had enough fabric for the tiny sleeves, and I hated them.  This time I had enough for real sleeves, but the sleeve as drafted was still too puffed for my taste, so I fiddled with it and took out most of the ease (not all; I was working with wool, so I knew that I could get away with some). 

I also cut the peplums on the bias, because I knew there'd be no way to match plaid both coming and going on the princess seams. Because the peplums were bias and I didn't want them to stretch out, I interfaced them with a fairly crisp interfacing.  It also gives a slightly structured vintage feel to the jacket when worn.  I also interfaced both sides of the collar and lapel, the facings, the center back panel of the jacket, and fused strips of interfacing at the hems of the jacket and sleeves. I used very minimal shoulder pads and made sleeve heads from some puffy shoulder pads I took apart.

I was actually going to treat myself and take the bus up to NY and have my buttonholes done at Jonathan's.  They do the best buttonholes.  And I'd started this jacket before we went to Paris, so this has been hanging around literally for almost 2 months.  I don't let projects linger this long.  But I decided against NY - because I know myself.  I wouldn't have held it to buttonholes, and then there would have been more fabric in my house.  I sat down at my machine, took my beautiful jacket in my hands, and made 4 perfectly good buttonholes all on my own.  (Okay, so they're not Jonathan, but I'm fine with them.  Really.)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  Absolutely, on both counts.  I hadn't planned on sewing it a second time because of the distinctive collar, but when I got my hands on this fabric, this was the first pattern that came to mind.  You have to trust your fabric's instincts; it knows what it wants to be.  And it doesn't pay to argue. 

Conclusion:  One of my favorite garments for the year, and I haven't even worn it out of the house yet.  I'm a sucker for a good jacket, though, and every time I make it one step further along in my journey toward the perfect jacket, it just makes me want to keep going.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Extra, Extra

Books, that is. 

During my days off, I also went on a bit of a cleaning and organizing frenzy.  (There might be some hormones involved in all this, but who am I to object that parts of my house that haven't seen the vacuum in ages are now breathing dust-free?)

In pulling together all the random books that had migrated to far corners of the house, I discovered 2 duplicates that I'd like to share.

First is Gale Grigg Hazen's Fantastic Fit for Every Body.  Here's what the reviews say on Amazon (and look at the reviewers):

"Finally someone has written an in-depth fit book that is reader-friendly and reality-based with excellent photos of real people. If you read if from cover to cover, you will understand not only the concept of fit but also why you have experienced frustrations in the past."--Sandra Betzina

"At last, Fantastic Fit for Every Body reveals that fitting is every bit as creative, fun, and satisfying as sitting down at the sewing machine and sewing. This book is crammed with fitting solutions--many I've never seen in print--and each one has been tested on a real person. Fantastic Fit for Every Body not only makes fitting fun but also is full of ideas and inspiration."--Marcy Tilton

The second book, Do One Green Thing, is for those who are trying to green up their lives, but just can't tackle the commitment to do it all at once.  Who can?  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but most of us don't get that far.  This is a book for the ones who would at least like to make a good start. 
This, from Amazon: 

If you can only read and reference one green thing, make it this book:  an easily comprehensible, clearly presented source for green living. Everything you need to know is right here at your fingertips. Unlike a lot of other overwhelming green guides on the market, this is green decision making in bite sized pieces.With chose it/lose it comparisons throughout, now it's simple to figure out it’s worth switching to a green detergent, what kind of plastic your sports bottle is made of, or which fish is safest to eat.  Rather than spending time trying to figure out how best to go green, use this book and devote that time to making the difference.
If either of these strike you as interesting, please leave a comment and let me know.  I'll pick names on Sunday for each book, and pop them in the mail next week.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Progress on all fronts (and backs)

All days off from work should be this productive. 

I got up earlier than I would have on a work day, treated myself to breakfast at the coffee shop across the street, and promptly at 10:00 a.m., my contractor arrived to do the attic window. 

While he hammered and sawed and generally made noise upstairs, I put together a batch of soup and made wine jelly, which is going to be handed out as holiday giftage this year.  I'm tired of non-reaction to sewn gifts; this year they'll get cooked ones instead.  It was the first time I'd tried the recipe, and it came out well.  We sampled the first jar after dinner tonight.

Window was finished in 3 hours, and then the rest of his crew showed up and re-coated my front and side bay window roofs, which were showing wear but not yet leaking.  Sometimes I get them before they get me.  Sometimes.

Best part: because he got a good deal on the window, my total was actually $50 less than his estimate.  Who does that?

I also got the entire first floor vacuumed, washed the kitchen floor (first time in way too long) and did all the sticky, jell-covered dishes. 

I spent some time with the chickens, who actually don't seem to mind the cold weather.  They stopped laying for over a week, but some internet research convinced me that upping their protein intake would fix it (like molting, cold is stressful and the first thing that goes when they're stressed is the eggs).  In addition to their standard food, I'm giving them dried worms, raisins and nuts (all protein sources).  They love it, and I've been rewarded with eggs for the last few days, so it seems to work. 

Finally, after dinner, I got into the sewing room.  The dress is now beginning to look like a dress, not just like a good idea in my head.  I sewed the darts in the skirt front and backs, and sewed bodices to skirts.  I got the invisible zip inserted, though I somehow inserted the cream zipper I had instead of the tan one which I deliberately went out and bought on Saturday.

All scheduled "work" is complete.  Tomorrow is mine, all mine, and you know where I'll be. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Don't look up

It's that time of year again. I don't mean the holidays; I mean the wonderful, expensive time of year when I bond with contractors to keep my house from falling apart. I had my roofer out recently because when it snowed in October, I had some dripping through my new porch ceiling. The ceiling was done by someone else, but I think when he jacked the roof up, he might have popped a seam in the roof. The roofer fixed that, and left me an estimate for a job he and I had discussed last year, but I'd never gotten around to following up on.

My house has a full attic, with 4 dormer windows. The windows on the sides and back are in reasonable condition (i.e., mostly air tight and not leaking when it rains), but the front window is a horror. As you can see. And my roofer gave me an estimate for a replacement window, with all new wood trim and structural repairs that was much lower than expected. Apparently with roofing season pretty much over (except for emergencies), he wants to keep his crew busy and discounts other work to keep them working. That works for me.

I had Monday and Tuesday off as scheduled vacation days anyway, so we set up the work for Monday. He said it wouldn't extend into Tuesday, and that would be good because then I have all of Tuesday to work on my dress. I'll probably get time on Monday, as well; he's very well trained and will call my cell if he needs to get out of the house because he knows I don't like contractors opening doors when the cats are loose.

It's time. I've spent so much time and money on the visible parts of the house, but what good does it do if the attic's taking on water? Besides, if you just look up, it looks like an abandoned crack house up there. Not any house's best look.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let it snow

Don't worry, the next post won't be titled "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," or anything cheesy like that, at least, not unless this dress takes a drastic turn.

Yes, it's a dress.  It was actually on its way to becoming a dress by late last evening, but I had the post scheduled to publish and never got back to tweak it. 

And once I decided what pattern it would be (BWOF sheath dress with V back, the one I based the wedding dress on), it immediately started to bother me that it needed something else.  Something . . . more.

And since it is the season of glitter and excess, I had some beads leftover for the craft show and decided to put them to use here by adding some "ice" and "snow" embellishment on the bare branches.  I think it's fairly subtle, and it strikes me as somewhat vintage, as well. 

I started playing with the beads last night around 10:00, and all of a sudden it was midnight! I guess that proves that you can do some things successfully after 10:00 p.m.  I'm glad I got the cutting over with earlier; I don't think I'd have tried that since there's almost no fabric leftover.

I underlined the bodice front and back with white batiste, for structure, comfort and also because when I decided to add the beads, I knew it would work better that way. 

Tonight I spent another 2 hours beading the bodice backs.  So that's 4 hours down now, and not a machine stitch has been sewn, other than to baste the two fabrics together, and to sew the bust darts. 

Tomorrow night I would actually like to start sewing, but that may not happen.  The neighborhood theater is having an opening, and whether or not I've been involved in the costuming (I haven't this time), I still like to go.

On the other hand, I'd like to wear this to a holiday party next Friday night, so I'm going to have to wedge it in somewhere.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter Wonderland

This was the home dec fabric I bought at Jack B's at the Philadelphia PR Day in November. I didn't know quite what it wanted to be, I just knew I had to have it. I love the cold and wintry feel of the bare branches, and the spare colors.

Interestingly, there was a colorway with a green background and more color, and it left me completely cold. And I normally love greens. But it was the mood of this fabric that got me, and it still does.

Not sure yet if it wants to be a dress or a skirt. There's 1.5 yards of it, and it's home dec width, so at least that means I've got a good bit of it to play with.

Any suggestions?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Month End Review - November 2011

Well, by the stats it looks like a productive month, but I think that depends on your definition of productive. In number of items made, it looks fabulous: 23 pieces. Yardage, because of what they were, not so much: 11.5 yards. In the number of pieces for me versus pieces for the craft show: the craft show won by 22 to 1.

The only item I finished for myself this month, start to finish, was the gray and black ruffled sweater. Okay, it was a really good piece, but it was one piece.

I also finished my plaid jacket that was almost finished in October, but it was so close to the end that month that I counted it for October. Silly me. It took almost the entire month to do the finish work between one thing and another. Full review of that coming later in the week when I can wear it to work and get photos taken.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Craft Show 2011

The University City Arts League holiday craft show opened on Friday night.  We stopped by for a bit of the opening and I'm now anxious to do a bit more work.

We're generally promised a 4x4 table space (not too much, not too little) but there are apparently a few less artists this year as there was a bit of extra space and the wicker sled holding my velvet scarves (which started out on my table) was relocated to the stand next to it.

Well, okay, if you want me to expand to fill my space, I can.  Also, last year there was artwork on the walls above each table; this year , not so much.  I'm going to think of a fast way to go vertical on the display.  Why have extra merchandise in boxes under the table when I can have it on the table?

The bottom photo is a closeup of some of the baby clothes I got done on my sweatshop day off Wednesday.  

There was a lot of interest tonight, but since we couldn't stay long, I didn't see if or how much money changed hands.  I'll check in Saturday afternoon when they open up and do some rearranging.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The circle widens

Now that I have my head above water, I can mention the fact that the sewing world got just a little bigger last weekend. Gaylen of GMarieSews, was in town over the holiday weekend with her husband and we were able to meet up on Sunday morning for coffee (but alas, no fabric shopping; she did that on Monday).

Not surprisingly, she is another lovely, interesting woman whom I felt like I'd known for ages - about 5 minutes into the conversation. What is it about sewists? We're a very likable bunch. Her husband was also a good and patient man, tolerating sewing and other conversation with nary a sigh or an eyeroll. Sewists also apparently have likable husbands.

Another sign that she's one of my people - we were talking about knitting (which I'm still resisting, mostly for fear of another stash) and she showed me her very gorgeous socks that she had knit herself. And she let me touch them, and didn't think it was weird.

That's what I'm talking about.