Monday, April 30, 2012

Grumbles and Flowers

I'm back.  Sort of.

My friends know I'm not particularly techy.  I have, thus far, managed to maintain a blog, an Etsy shop, and a presence on Facebook and Patternreview with dial-up internet service.

Yes.  Dial-up.

Know why?  It works for me.  I spend all day at work on a computer, barely moving from my chair unless it's to chase down a lawyer.  When I get home, I still want to do things online, but I don't want to spend my entire evening in another desk chair.  Thus, dial-up.  If it takes some time to load something, fine.  I'll go sew a seam, or throw in a load of laundry or spend some time talking to Mario while he watches TV.  The speed, or lack thereof, has never bothered me and it's actually caused me to get a lot more accomplished while waiting for it to accomplish something.

But now, with Blogger's new, evil interface, Google Chrome has entered my life.  It's entered my computer, somewhat unwillingly, and it's wearing my dial-up connection like a too-tight shirt.

I fear that higher speeds may be in my future.  But that's okay, I'll just let it do it's zippy, unnecessary thing and I'll still wander off and do other things.

The illustrations here have nothing to do with my technological mutterings.  Tuesday was Mario's 40th birthday, and all special occasions warrant a new shirt.  He picked this fabric out last year, it's a William Morris print that I ordered from eQuilter, and despite the fact that it's intended as a quilting fabric, it's actually a very nice lawn.  It's not Liberty, but it's close.  He refused to justify the cost of Liberty for a shirt.

The colors are much more the detail photo at left, but for some reason I couldn't get them to come up properly on the distance shot; it's really not a pink shirt.

And because this post doesn't have enough flowers, a gratuitous photo from my front garden, where all the roses have decided to bloom at once.  This is a particular favorite.  I don't remember the name, but it starts out this gorgeous golden-apricot, and by the time it's full blown, it's a pale honey-ivory shade.

So I guess I'm back.  Right now Chrome is grudgingly working, but I've been promised a bandwith upgrade thing by the weekend, and apparently then my life will change, the sun will rise brighter in the morning, angels will sing and my computer will move at something faster than the speed of mud.

Technology.  Humbug, I say.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Unplanned Blogging Break

I hate Blogger's new interface.  Hate-hate-hatey-hate it.  It's disagreeing with my computer, and it isn't even supported by the browser at work.

Will be back with goodies as soon as technology cooperates.  Which should be by end of weekend.

Happy sewing, all.  That's what I'm doing, since I'm not online!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Journey to a Skirt

A while back I had an idea for a skirt.  I'm not quite sure where it came from, but it was a gray skirt, and the bottom of the skirt was pieced fabrics in grays, silver and black, possibly lightly quilted.  The piecing was random, square, rectangular, wide, tall.  I had a vague idea that it might look like a skyline, so in my head I was calling it the Cityscape Skirt.

Fast forward to Tuesday night.  Mario has a class that night and I spend the 3 hours of his absence sewing like a demon.  I made a pair of my favorite TNT pants on Tuesday from some lovely charcoal gray RPL that I got from Gorgeous Fabrics a while back.  Before I started cutting, I realized that if I played my cards right and cut very, very carefully, I would have enough left over to make a pencil skirt.  I already knew I had the other fabrics in either stash or remnants. 

The pants were finished and I was hemming them by the time he got home.  I'd also cut out the pencil skirt and had a small chunk of fabric left over besides.  Amazing what careful cutting can do.

The next night, I cut out a bunch of pieces of black, light gray, silver (a metallic coated cotton) and self fabric and played with layout.  I could see my original idea in my head, but I couldn't make it come together on the table.  Everything looked forced and weird.  Eventually I cut a long strip of the silver coated cotton and the self fabric, sewed them together and cut them in 2" sections.  Those were sewn together in an alternating checkerboard, and I laid it across the bottom of the skirt to see how it looked. 

Hmm.  I couldn't quite tell from there, so I decided just to go with it.  I sewed the patchwork band on the skirt from the underside at the top, then folded and pressed the hem of the skirt and the band.  I had some quilt batting on hand that I didn't use for the 1912 jacket, so I cut a strip of that and put under the band.  I hand-sewed the hem, then topstitched the top of the band.  It looked raised, but not puffy. I was encouraged.  I did a line of stitching down the center of the strip, then started playing around with it.  I sewed X's through each of the gray squares, and then did spirals in the silver squares, pulling the thread tightly to add texture to the silver.  From a distance it looks somewhat like leather.

I'm still not sure where I'm going here, but it's an interesting journey all the same. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And the winner is . . .

Lily the Sewing Room Cat has spoken. 

And no one, but no one - especially me - argues with Lily.  She's tiny but mighty.  And somewhat cranky.  And if I argue with her, she'll eat scraps and thread and return them to me in an unpleasant form some time when I'm not prepared to step on them.

And she chose Beverly of Sew Much More to be the winner of my copy of I Spy DIY Style.

Beverly, please contact me with your mailing address and I'll send the book on to you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Afghan Farmer's Daughter

Sorry for the cryptic title; it's in honor of Kashi at Metro Textiles, who after he tried to tell me that these weren't poppies all over the fabric (I think poppies have some kind of negative drug connotations to him), then acknowledged they were and told me -- and I don't know if this is true, but it made for a good fabric story -- that Afghan poppy farmers receive their money from the drug lords before planting season, and then hope for the best.  When the crop is harvested, if he doesn't have enough to pay back his advance money, he has to hand over one of his daughters. 

I said that was horrible, and Kashi just spread his hands.  "They have a lot of daughters," he said, "but it's not good."

This has nothing at all to do with my fabric other than this story is going to be permanently stuck in my head whenever I wear this dress, so I've named it in honor of all those Afghan farmers' daughters, who, even if they were allowed to stay with dear old dad on the poppy farm, would never get to wear this dress.

The patternreview is here.  I love this dress way more than I expected to - I've had this pattern (V8633) since it came out, and wondered a few times since why I bought it.  At the time I remember liking the version with the straight skirt; when I started on it this time, it was the big skirt all the way.

Apparently some patterns, like fabrics, need to marinate in stash for a while until they're ready. 

I took my time on this one.  There's quite a bit of hand sewing inside the bodice, and because it's a circle skirt, I hemmed it by hand so I would have more control of the curve.  I don't know as I needed to do that much, but after working on the 1912 Project patterns for a while, I'm beginning to appreciate the meditative aspect of some hand sewing. 

Which is good, because the hem is the only meditative thing about this dress.  I think the loudness of my dress was the only thing keeping me awake this morning after my non-drowsy allergy meds kicked in.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

VPLL E0189 - Ladies Spring Mantle - Finished

Just in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I've finished my third garment in the 1912 Project, the Ladies' Spring Mantle.  The official patternreview is here; the review below is using a template supplied by the VPLL project to give them information they need in cataloging the work we've done and the work that may need to be done with these patterns.

1.  Pattern Name: E0189 Ladies' Spring Mantle

2.  Sewer's Skill Level:  Advanced.

3.  Pattern Rating and why:  5 - I LOVED IT!  It totally lived up to the pattern drawing.  Not only is it a beautiful jacket of its period, it's just as beautiful 100 years later.  I fully intend on wearing this as part of my day-to-day wardrobe, not as a period piece.

4.  What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why? This is another pattern that looks more complicated than it is.  While it might not be for beginners, I think an intermediate sewist with patience would have no problem making this at all.  Patience simply because these patterns expect a certain level of knowledge; there's no spoon-feeding here.  And while nothing in this pattern was particularly complex, like other VPLL patterns in the 1912 Project, there are fiddly bits (i.e., the trim) that take a lot of time. 

5.  Were the instructions easy to follow? If not, what needs to be changed?  The instructions were minimal (by today's standards), but clear.  One issue I had with the instructions was regarding the underarm gusset - the instructions said to follow the marked stitching line on the gusset, rather than using the seam allowance, and I just couldn't make that work no matter how I tried.  When I did what I instinctively thought was right, using the seam allowance, it worked and fit fine.  So there's something amiss there, unless it was just me.

6.  How was the fit/sizing?  Did it correspond to what you thought?  The pattern was sized for a 36 bust, and since that's what I generally require,  I was hoping for an accurate fit.  I actually cheated and didn't make a muslin for this jacket, I was so hoping that it would fit.  Hubris isn't always rewarded, so I'd better watch it next time I think I'm safe.

7.  Did you make any pattern alterations? If so, what alterations did you make? Were they fit or design alterations?  My changes were to the order of construction - rather than constructing and trimming the shell, then constructing the lining and sewing the two together, I constructed the shell and lining and bagged them together as I would a modern jacket, leaving a small opening at the hem to turn the jacket right side out.  I then made all the trim and hand sewed it on.

8.  Changes I'd like in this pattern:  None whatsoever.  This worked out beautifully for me and I intend on making another very soon.

9.  Changes to instructions:  I think some clarification regarding the gusset would be helpful.  Also, for those who aren't accustomed to older techniques, maybe providing modern alternatives would be helpful (as in bagging the jacket lining).  Though personally I like the challenge of figuring it out on my own, but I've been told before that I'm a little strange. 

10.  Discussion of fabric/trim, etc.  I used very historically inaccurate polyesters all the way.  The shell fabric feels a bit like taffeta, with a crinkled texture and embroidery/sequins.  The lining is copper poly charmeuse.  The two fabrics work well together, but I think I could have gotten a better texture on the shirred trim if I had used silk charmeuse; even cut on the bias, the poly is just a little too bouncy. 

11.  Description of technique - insertion, cutwork, etc.  The only unusual technique in this garment is the trim, which is a 10 yard long bias strip (I used the charmeuse lining fabric), sewn together, turned and pressed flat.  The instructions offer an option of threading strips of quilt batting into the tube before it is gathered, but I found the batting to be too thick when added to the already substantial fabric.  Maybe 1912 batting had a better texture? Stuffed or unstuffed, the bias tube is then gathered on both sides and pinned or basted around the edge of the jacket and sleeves.  To gather the trim, I used my machine's basting stitch, in 2 foot long increments.  As I gathered each section, I pinned it to the jacket and then I hand sewed it to the jacket.  I did the same for the sleeves.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pick One

The Titanic project is picking up speed. 

Hmmm.  That didn't sound good, did it? 

The Titanic project is getting under way.  (Better; it doesn't sound like looming icebergs this way). 

There are many more patterns available, and the rules have changed so that there's more freedom in requesting patterns - we don't have to wait for specific assigned patterns.  I'm thinking I may need to make another blouse, one for me this time, since I really enjoyed making the last one but didn't get to keep it.

Here are the patterns I have to choose from at this point.  The descriptions are from VPLL's website, and the colors/fabrics basically describe the source garment, not how I would have to make it up.

1.   E0335 - This blouse is made in a light weight fabric of muted blue, and is without a lining. It features groups of very small pleats in contrast to larger ones. The blouse is trimmed with white lace.

2.  E1000 - This beautiful ladies blouse features a pleated front with cutwork scallops and padded granitos at collar, cuffs and basque.

3.  E0219 - This blouse without a lining is made of checked fabric in blue, green and white.  The detachable collar is made of stiff white linen.

There are intriguing features in all 3 - I love the pleating on the first one, and the opportunity to use a piece of vintage lace (of which I have much) for the center front.  I also like all the pleats. 

The second blouse is probably the least likely to be worn, but the part of me that loves repetitive idiot work (I find it soothing) is intrigued by the cutwork scallops and whatever the heck a "granito" is.

The last one, well, that looks like fun, doesn't it?  Not the strangulating high collar, maybe, but the bias plaid and the interesting curved seam at the shoulder (and no visible armscye/sleeve seam) strike me as something I'd enjoy playing with.  Plus this one has a front closure, so I could actually dress myself.

Which blouse do you think I should tackle for May?  (1) E0335 - pleats with lace; (2) E1000 - pleats, cutwork scallops and "granitos"; or (3) E0219 - plaid, pleats and interesting seaming.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Spy DIY: Book Review and Giveaway

From the publisher:

Loved it on the runway? Seen it in a magazine?

Find fashion you love and do it yourself! With a few simple supplies and a range of clever ideas, DIY expert Jenni Radosevich shows you how to make style your own. Transform your basics into designer fashions. Turn hardware store finds into statement necklaces or embellishments for a chic dress. Recreate red carpet-ready looks and add your personal touch.

Filled with 30 step-by-step projects inspired by celebrities, designer runways, and classic styles, as well as tips from fashion insiders such as Rachel Roy, Olivia Palermo, and Rebecca Minkoff, I Spy DIY Style has everything you need for easy-to-make looks that will up your style quotient without sacrificing your budget.

Full disclosure, I received a copy of this book to review on the  blog. It'll be released for sale on April 17, 2012. If you follow Jenni Radosevich's blog, or are familiar with her work at Instyle, you'll already be familiar with her ability to take a RTW or runway look and replicate it for much, much less. The book takes her philosophy further, with a ton of fun projects and a lot of inspiration.

The project instructions are well-written and the photography is clear and helpful on the tutorials, and just plain fun everywhere else. The book is divided into sections:  Red Carpet Ready, Right from the Runway, A Touch of Classic and Update your Basics.  A few examples of projects: a grommet-threaded dress, rope belt, ribbon tank, embellished LBD, and many takes on necklaces, earrings and bags.  

For someone interested in DIY, sewing or crafts, but who doesn't think she can do it, this might be the perfect book. It's clearly illustrated, well-explained and completely non-threatening. None of the projects are overly complicated, and I can see this book being a huge confidence booster for someone who finds out that she can, after all, make things herself.

From the tweaking and tinkering of DIY, it's just a few steps on the slippery slope and your non-sewing, non-crafting, non-creative friend will be asking you for advice on purchasing a sewing machine and wanting to go fabric shopping.

And with that in mind, I'm offering this book up as a giveaway. If you want it - for yourself or as a gift to add one more person to the ranks of creative DIYers/sewists out there, leave me a comment telling me who it's for, and why you think they need it. Entries will close on Sunday, April 15th, and I'll let Lily the Sewing Room Cat pick a winner.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A good and patient man

He must be, or would I ever have these photos of Butterick 5008, the latest creation for the upcoming production of the Tempest? 

Here's the review, but I think the pictures really tell the story.

Pattern Description: Loose-fitting shirt has collar, long sleeves with cuffs, tie ends and narrow hem. B: neck and sleeve ruffles. C: sleeve ruffles. D: front flounce and sleeve ruffles. I made View B, without the ties.

Pattern Sizing: S-M-L in this envelope, XL-XX-XXL in the other. I made a medium.  Very handythat almost all the actors are in Mario's general size range.  I think that's why she's been giving me the men's costumes.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, remarkably so. All the reviews I've seen for this pattern say that it's very accurate to the drawings, and it is. I'm just surprised when it happens. I think I've sewn too many Burdas.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very clear and easy. "Easy and great for beginners" is definitely the rating for this pattern. It looks much more complicated than it is.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I'm doing a few costumes for our local theater company's production of the Tempest, and I was asked to do this one for the king. I think it looks sufficiently regal. (Although Mario was apparently channeling Hamlet in his poses here - I'm not going to argue, I got him to pose in a ruffled satin shirt. If he wants to pose with a skull, who am I to criticize?)

I really liked the collar band on the shirt, which snugs up close against his neck and holds the ruffles well. The costumer said not to bother with interfacing, but I couldn't . . . I just didn't use the good stuff. Still, this seemed to work with just cheap interfacing. I'll probably be seeing this in performances for the next few years. Certain costume pieces seem to live forever.

Fabric Used: Poly satin. A nice look, but slippery to work with and a bear to iron. Every hem had to be pinned before pressing, because unless I used scalding steam, I couldn't get this stuff to hold a crease. And after steam-scalding my fingers once, I decided that a few pin holes weren't going to be the end of the world.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None other than leaving off the ties, which aren't conducive to quick costume changes. The costumer said she was probably going to use a hook and eye at the throat, and I left it up to her whether she wanted a button at the cuff, velcro or a hook.

If I was making this for my own purposes, I would have doubled the neck and sleeve ruffles so that there were no visible hems. From the stage it won't be noticeable, but I hated hemming them when a folded ruffle would have been so much nicer.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I have no need to sew it again, but I'd recommend it. It's well drafted, clearly explained and went together very quickly.

Conclusion: I think this time I owe him more than dinner.  We may have ventured into the realm of "very special jacket that I have been promising and procrastinating about making since before we were dating."  Yikes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Too many projects

Right now I'm suffering from an overabundance of sewing projects. 

I handed off the pirate shirt to the costumer and she asked me if I could manage to make a second one by the weekend.  I can . . . but I'd rather sew for me.

I want to finish my poppy dress, which I'm really excited about.  Since spring won't stay sprung, I want another pair of work pants, and there's some charcoal gray RPL on the work table just waiting to be cut up.  (Plus I have a skirt idea marinating that would use up every scrap of the leftover fabric - how economical). 

And I just received the 0189 Mantle from the 1912 Project, and I'm surprisingly into that pattern.  I found two perfect fabrics for it, an embroidered/sequined brown crinkled taffeta-ish fabric from our Paris vacation in 2008 and a coordinating copper fabric for the trim and the lining.  I'd like to start working on it yesterday, because this is something that doesn't even need updating - I can see wearing that jacket, as drafted, in a variety of ways.  And it's 2 whole pattern pieces - a front/sleeve/back combo (cut 2) and an underarm gusset. 

Bottom left - the poppy dress!
 I took the second costume pattern to work today, and got the pieces cut out at lunch (different but similar pattern).  I was going to cut the fabric tonight, really, I was.  It's the poppies' fault, they called to me with their poppyish siren song and I looked up from my machine a few hours later to think, "Pirate shirt?  Ivory poly satin?  Was there something I was supposed to do tonight?"

Maybe I'll take the fabric and some pins to work tomorrow and I'll cut fabric on the conference room table.  Most of them already think I'm crazy; I may as well convince them once and for all.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Decisions, decisions

VPLL 0189 - Ladies' Mantle
 Now that I'm done (or almost done - I was asked if I could do a second piece) with theater sewing, I volunteered for another pattern from the VPLL's 1912 Project.

Isn't this a beauty?  And doesn't this, made in the right fabrics with the right trim, have an absolute place in a modern wardrobe?  I haven't seen the back yet, I need to print the sheets out tomorrow at work to see if there's anything unusual there, but I'm not expecting any surprises.

I have several fabrics in the stash that are really calling loudly to me that they want to be this jacket (VPLL calls it a mantle, which is 1912-speak for jacket, I guess).  The problem is that the fabrics that are calling most loudly will also fight hardest with the several trims I'm considering.

Decisions, decisions. 

In the meantime, I've also cut into my poppy fabric and am making something totally unplanned from it.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pirate Shirts - the next big thing?

It's that time again - theater sewing.  Our local group is doing the Tempest in April, and I was asked to take on a project or two. 

Here's the first, Simplicity 3758, modeled by a man who has apparently overcome (at least temporarily) his Seinfeld-induced pirate shirt trauma.

Full patternreview here.

Pattern Description: Misses, mens and teens poet/pirate shirt with choice of lace up neck, front ruffles, ruffled cuffs, etc. I made view B, with the plain neck and no ruffles.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It did, other than the color (the view that I made, view B, is the one shown in black on the envelope, and is almost invisible. Of course).

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very easy. I've made a lot of "standard" men's shirts, but because of the neckline and enormous amounts of gathering on this, I referred back to the instructions a few times to make sure I didn't get lost.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I didn't pick it out - it was given to me by the costumer for my local theater company, but I can't object to her choice. It's a great pattern, it will last them for many shows if no one destroys it, and it didn't take long at all to work up.

Fabric Used: White cotton, also provided by the costumer. I'd have liked something with a touch more drape, but there's so much fabric here it drapes whether it wants to or not.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None. She said that View B (without ruffles) was what they needed, so that's what I made. Since the actor is playing 2 different parts, she has a detachable ruffle and elasticated ruffle cuffs to swap off and on depending on which character he plays. 
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'd definitely recommend it if you need a poet/pirate or other pouffy shirt. I doubt there's a reason for one in my house - when I showed it to DH, he muttered something about a traumatic Seinfeld episode and left the room. He's posing here under great duress and the promise of a special dinner.

Conclusion: I think doing all the gathering took longer than constructing the actual shirt. A pretty impressive result for not a lot of work.