Thursday, May 31, 2012

Max in a Million

We interrupt our regularly scheduled sewing to share the latest veterinary crisis in the household.  It's tubby tabby #2, otherwise known as Max, Maxwell Peapod, Moo, Meow Cow, Cowkitten, Max-in-a-million and the Portly Gentleman.

When I got home from NY, Max wasn't his usual slow-moving self (he's 14, and he likes a quiet life); he was downright lethargic.  When he didn't do his usual tapdance for pizza the next night, I got worried and took him to the vet Friday.  Since it was a holiday weekend, his blood tests didn't come back until Tuesday.  Nothing like pins and needles . . . and not the sewing kind.  It was a long weekend.

Turns out my big boy is diabetic.  Vet says it's pretty unusual at his age, but he's pretty healthy otherwise and we're going to try to manage this so it has as little impact on Max's life as possible.  Today he went back to the vet to provide a urine sample (which he failed/refused and/or didn't have any of to offer last week) and once that's back tomorrow we'll work out his treatment plan.

Can you believe they have glucose meters for cats?  I didn't either.  What I could do: prick his ear every morning and test his blood to determine his exact dose of insulin, which then gets injected into the scruff of his neck where there's lots of loose skin.  Or I could just use the baseline dose that the vet will determine and inject him while he's chowing down on his new high protein, no-grain wet cat food.  Not quite as accurate, but a lot easier and less painful on both of us in the early morning.

I had a diabetic cat years ago.  It didn't end well.  But Max is a very different personality, and I think this will be okay.  I've chosen the less intensive treatment because he's 14, and whatever time he has left (and it could be years), I'd prefer it not to be filled with the stress of his illness; he can tolerate a needle stick while eating in the morning.

Here's hoping they don't find anything else unpleasant in his test results tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Rooster Crows at Midnight

I feel like my sewing is changing.  I've always loved prints but I now think that maybe part of the reason I love sewing with them is because they serve the purpose of embellishment without having to go to the trouble of actually doing anything.  Who would embellish a garment that already had that many colors or patterns going on?  But lately I've changed - I'm enjoying the work of making my garments more interesting, not relying on a print to make a statement.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up on prints - you only have to look at my stash shelves to realize that's not happening - but I'm thinking about ways to make my garments speak softly, and say interesting things, instead of being a somewhat loud and rowdy party.  Does that make sense?

In that regard, here's my latest skirt - certainly not a print, but definitely not just a boring blue linen skirt either.  The pattern is Burda 8677, and it's one of the first patterns I bought after I joined Patternreview and discovered there were pattern companies out there other than the Big 4.  It's a pretty good skirt on me - not a full circle, so I don't have to deal with all that bias sag, and from a wide yoke rather than a waistband, which is always more comfortable.  And since I generally wear my tops untucked, no one will be the wiser, except you all.

Why a rooster?  Why not, I guess.  Because even though I don't have a great emotional attachment to my chickens, I think they're cool-looking and there are even more interesting looking ones than my girls.  I've also been looking at a lot of vintage embroidery lately, though most of that has been linens.  And I've been doing a lot of picky handwork because of the 1912 Project but I didn't feel like working on one of their patterns.

The original idea was to do a reverse appliqué (a la Alabama Chanin, whose projects are all over the internet these days and whose work I like, though I don't know as it's totally me).  I've tried reverse appliqué in a knit and didn't much like it, but I thought about doing it on this linen skirt (which is sturdy enough to have holes cut into it), and then when I was rummaging around for an appropriate background fabric - I wanted loud stripes - I ended up finding this vintage yellow cotton from my great grandmom's remnant bin, and it had chickens on it!  Perfect, right?

Except as I started outlining the stencil (which I made), I started liking how just the red outline of the rooster looked on the linen.  I chose red initially because there's some red in the vintage cotton; I also think it looks good on the gray/blue - it perks it up a little.  When I realized my bright idea might be going sideways, I just kept going.  What else was there to do?  When I finished the rooster, I decided I really liked him plain.  Then I added some green "grass" on either side of him.  Then I got another idea.

I could still do the reverse applique, but in a less obvious place.  How many people are going to look at this skirt and think "rooster?"  They're going to think "chicken."  And chickens lay eggs.

Coolest vintage fabric EVER?
So I drew an egg on the back of the skirt, embroidered some more grass around it, and outlined the egg in red thread.  I backed the egg in the vintage chicken print, and this time I cut the linen away - an egg with a chicken in it.  I guess that makes it a fertilized egg, and I guess that means the rooster needs to be there after all. So where's the chicken?  Maybe that's the subject for another skirt.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

PR Weekend - The Recap

I know there are variations on this photo on many blogs and Patternreview; Meg was kind enough to take a handful of cameras and keep us all in place until every photo was taken.  I think she now knows what it's like to herd cats, because we kept hearing the siren song of the fabric and starting to creep out of the frame.

Kenneth King - courtesy of Lisette
My train got into Penn Station at 8:10 a.m. on Friday.  I came up from Philadelphia with Mimi, who could only stay for Friday.  We got to the hotel in about 15 minutes and immediately ran into familiar faces.  Much squealing ensued (how is it we can still all revert to 13 that easily?) and I took my bag upstairs to the room.  Back down again, I threw back a coffee and we went shopping, which I've covered in my previous post.

After shopping, I went back to the hotel and put my feet up for a while.  Even though we hadn't walked that far, or carried that much (I love Kashi for shipping my fabric), I'd been up since 5:30 a.m. and was wiped.

One of the PR Weekend events most people were looking forward to was the Simplicity Patterns tour.  I have to say, I wasn't one of them.  I don't know why; I'm not anti-Simplicity, I just didn't feel up to it and I was conserving my energy for one of the true highlights of the weekend, which was the Schiaparelli / Prada exhibit at the Met.

Lunch at Crisp - photo by Bonnie, by way of Lisette
It's not the Alexander McQueen exhibit from last year, but other than that comparison, I have nothing negative to say.  I also realized I like Prada more than I thought, and I just adore Schiaparelli.  Sometimes it was hard to tell which was the vintage piece and which was the new; her things were so timeless.  Out of time, maybe.  Amazing pieces, though not as many as I would have liked.  I didn't get the book, but mainly because I didn't want to have to carry it.

Afterward, the seven of us (me, Elizabeth, Claudine, Connie, Lisette, Jeanette and Andrea) went to dinner and then gelato.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for finding a place that would take us all in and feed us.  And for pointing us toward gelato.

Pattern Exchange - courtesy of Kyle
Which is only topped by wine.  Our hotel had a lovely outdoor patio which our group commandeered every evening to sit and talk and drink wine.  I'm still surprised no one complained, but we really weren't out there that late; we were too tired.

Saturday was workshop day.  We managed to find a NYC cab driver who couldn't find Pace University, so we were a few minutes late, but thankfully Kenneth King can pack enough information and entertainment into a morning that I don't feel like we missed too much.  That man is amazing.  He did a "greatest hits" slideshow and talked about how he started his career, how he puts his pieces together, and generally got us all inspired.  Sometimes it's not what he tells us that gets me; he just puts my brain in a place where it starts spinning all on its own, and I know for certain I still haven't processed everything he told us.

Annoying the neighbors - courtesy of Kyle
Before lunch, we hit the pattern exchange.  I was good.  I brought about 25 patterns and only took home 10.  I wasn't planning on bring home any, but it's better than 25.  I guess.

After lunch (which was at Crisp, and was falafel, one of my favorites, followed by macaroons at Financier), we listened to Diana Rupp.  Though she's about as different as you can get from Kenneth King, parts of her story were remarkably similar.  I missed the last part of the presentation because a few of us wandered off at the break, walked down to the South Street Seaport and then went back to the hotel to change for dinner.

Dinner was at Tony DiNapolis up in Times Square. Great family style presentation and the space to take on 100 howling sewists who not only ate and drank like champs but also made speeches, took pictures, handed out prizes and loudly sang happy birthday to someone across the room.  Afterward we walked back to the hotel, stopping to drool over M&J Trims' window, and we ended the evening on the patio.  Again.

What, no night hours?  Photo courtesy of Kyle
Things start to break up on Sunday morning.  After breakfast, Lisette and Liz and I walked down the street to a flea market.  We each found a a few goodies (because obviously we didn't have enough souvenirs), and then we all headed our separate ways.

I love going to NY, and I'm always happy to get home.  The city starts to wear on me, the size, the noise, the people.  Add an extra 100 people and it's a little overwhelming, but in a good way.  I got home, kissed Mario, kissed the cats, unpacked my fabric and took a well-deserved nap.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pattern Review Weekend - The Fabrics

I can't talk about a PR Weekend without talking about fabric.  It's as essential as the friendships that are made and the friends who are re-encountered year after year, having aged not a bit, but whose wardrobes have expanded exponentially.

Since I had just been to NYC recently (remember the trip with Mario, when I wasn't going to buy any fabric and Kashi basically knocked me over the head and when I woke up there was a UPS box on my doorstep full of goodies?), I didn't plan on buying much.

Except for a few specific things.
You see, I had a few gift certificates.  Yes, a few.  Back at Christmastime, two of the lawyers I work with gave me gift certificates to Mood, always welcome because the stuff I generally fall for in Mood isn't the stuff I can afford, so other people's money is always welcome.

Also, at Secretary's Day or Administrative Professionals Day or whatever PC term we want to use these days for throwing a gift at the person who cleans up your messes all year long, Andrea convinced my lawyers to chip in for a gift certificate to Metro Textiles.  I'm only sorry I couldn't convince her bosses to do something that imaginative.

So I had other people's money to spend.  And on Friday, I chose to start out - where else - at Metro Textiles because I wanted to hit up Kashi while he was fresh and before the store turned into a total trash heap.  There were about 10 of us there right after he opened, and I think we did him proud.  I know I did.

I got 7 fabrics from Kashi, most of them 2 yard cuts.  The prize, at least to me, is the fabric at the top right.  The underside is fleecy, but the top feels almost like a close-cropped fake fur, and the leather texture is printed.  It's soft and cuddly and drapy and strange.  I love it.  It was the most expensive piece, and it's going to take up a crapload of space in the workroom, so I'd better decide what jacket it wants to be soon.

Other than that, I went knit happy, as I always do at Metro.  The second photo, left, is two knits, different prints but exactly the same colors.  I couldn't resist, and I'd love to find a way to mix the two that wouldn't make people dizzy.

Third, my loud purchase of the weekend.  I loved the orange/brown tones of the print, but the solid was the perfect contrast orange, so I had to have that as well.  I also had to have the wonderful faux tie-dye stripe, if that's what you call it.  Blues and greens and browns and ivory.  Mine.  Lastly, I got two yards of a black cable sweater knit, and four yards of a wonderful soft heathered gray knit that I intend to use for around-the-house clothes.  (My lounging clothes are just . . . beyond awful.  My flannels have lost their fluff, my sweatshirts have holes, and face it, sometimes I'd like to still look decent when I'm at home).

From there, we went to Mood, where Meg was a very gracious hostess and turned us loose on the store like a bunch of ravening wolves.  Having money to spend, do you know I wandered that entire store - three floors - and couldn't find something I wanted.  Or something I wanted enough to make me turn away from the other fabrics I considered.  Finally I went downstairs to their lowest level, where the leathers live, picked out a gorgeous supple olive green lambskin, and plunked the roll on the table. The Mood guy asked how many skins I wanted, and I said, "$125 worth."  Except then I saw the Persian lamb and had to have one of the honey-colored skins for a collar, so I scaled back on the green.  There's enough of it, that's all I care about.  And it's a less "sticky" color than pictured; it didn't photograph well with the flash.

After Mood, we broke for lunch.  After hitting Metro and Mood that quickly, and that hard, it's a wonder we weren't broken.  But after a restorative glass of wine and some fish and chips, we were off again.

I've lost track of the order here, but I know we hit up Pacific Trims, my favorite trim store in the Garment District.  I know there are others, and I've purchased from them, but there's something that keeps me coming back to Pacific.  But this time, all I got were two lengths of chain for two upcoming (eventually) jackets.

I haven't been to Paron's since they moved.  It's bizarre - it looks like they picked up the old store, gave it a good shake, changed the light bulbs and put it back down.  It doesn't have the narrow side Annex anymore, but there are a good selection of half price fabrics in the back  Of course I did not find a half price fabric.

One of the things I had been looking for at Mood was a moss or olive green boucle.  For yet another jacket.  At least count, I have three boucles which are still awaiting jackethood.  But I needed another.  And Mood didn't have the exact thing I pictured, which is how I ended up with leather.  Oh, the hardship.

But Paron's, they had the exact stinking green fabric that I wanted at Mood.  I waffled.  I showed it to every PR woman in the store, and everyone, everyone, said I should buy it.

Isn't it nice when your friends validate the choice you've already made?  So I bought 2 yards.  And in real light, without camera flash, it's beautiful with the Mood leather.  If I wore leather skirts, I would step back from the green leather jacket idea and make a leather skirt.  I'm still vaguely considering it; I just need to find a "me" skirt that would look good in leather.

Which means both boucle and leather will go into the stash, to marinate for however long it will take.  Maybe I'll take down one of those other boucles; I can hear them talking up there, on the high shelf.  They're plotting an avalanche, and I'm afraid the new one will just jump right in and help them.

So that's PR Weekend fabric.  There will be a full Weekend recap, but my camera died as soon as I walked into the workshops on Saturday, so I'm still waiting on a few photos from others, and I'm still digesting some of what I heard that day .

Moral of the story: if you have the opportunity to attend a PR Weekend, be it in your area or across the country, DO IT.  You'll get so much more from it than it could ever cost.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bits and Pieces

The VPLL 1912 skirt is done, but I'm not going to do a post or a review until the weekend is over.

What weekend, you ask?

Patternreview Weekend, that's what.  It's an all-out fabric-and-friend-fest, taking place this Friday, Saturday & Sunday in New York.  This will be my fifth weekend (2006 and 2007 in NYC; 2010 in Philadelphia; and 2011 in Chicago), plus many random shopping days and meetups with friends made online who were so immediately familiar that I felt I'd known them for years.

Friday is a free-for-all, fabric shopping in small groups, a tour at Simplicity Patterns and a meetup at the Met for the Schiaparelli/Prada exhibit, which is already one of the highlights of my weekend and it hasn't happened yet.  (I haven't yet recovered completely from the Alexander McQueen exhibit; if Schiaparelli leaves similar mental scars, I will be very happy).

Saturday is workshop day, including a morning spent with Kenneth King and an afternoon with Diana Rupp and Jill Ralston from Fabulous Fit Dressforms, plus a pattern exchange and a group dinner that evening.

I'm tired just thinking about it, but I also know I'm going to come back energized, inspired and, yes, tired.  But with a load more fabric and some new friends too.

Photos, since you can't see the skirt yet: my front yard roses trying to take over the block.  My next door neighbor (with the concrete front yard) is only too happy that my rose is trying to eat her front porch.

Back soon with stories, photos and fabric.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Almost done

Just a little teaser to prove I'm still here, and I'm still sewing.

I'm also, at this point, just about done.  Today we visited my aunt, then went to NJ for dinner with Mario's family and barely made it home in time to watch Game of Thrones.  I am done.

The skirt, not so much.  But close - it's further along than this, I've got the buttons on, the waist facing is done, and for some reason - possibly to add complication to a project that was going too smoothly - I added boning to the high waist.

And because I hate bias binding so much, I did the scallops on both sides and used twice as much of it.  The scallops are more even than they look in this photo; the skirt was draped over a pile of rubble on my sewing table.

And now it's 11:00 p.m., practically Monday again already.  Wasn't it just Friday?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Skirt in Waiting

Yes, another skirt.

Yes, another 1912 Project pattern.

But I can't work on it yet.  And because I can't work on it yet, I want to.  As much as I want to work on anything right now, which admittedly isn't much because I've had house trauma for the past couple of days.  (Nothing too awful, considering what the house has done to me before, and it's all repaired now, but I'm thinking I might have sealed my mojo up in the new drywall I hung in the living room.  Oops.)

But to the skirt.  Do you love the scallops?  I love the scallops.  The scallops, however, are going to be an absolute bitch to sew, because they require yet another mile of bias trim.

The instructions state to cut the scalloped portion of the skirt, and then to cut the scallop facing.  Then, instead of what you would normally do with a facing - right sides together, sew seam, turn, press - you put the wrong sides together, and baste the two layers so they approximate the finished garment.  This eliminates all the bulk of the turned seam, which is wonderful (can you imagine how picky it would be to turn all those scallops?) but instead you bind all those scallops with bias trim.  Obviously this must be done by hand, because you can't (or at least I can't) miter bias trim and sew it properly by machine.

I have a few fabric options in mind, but nothing is calling loudly enough that I'm reaching for the shears.  PR  Weekend is coming, you see, and I'm hoping that at Pacific or M&J or some other wonderland I will find a bias trim that is not cotton, not boring, and not made by me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tumbling Blocks Skirt

A funny thing happened on the way to this skirt . . . it turned into a different skirt.

Funny how that happens sometimes.

This was supposed to be the Cityscape Skirt, with blocks and strips of grays and blacks and silvers mimicking a city skyline.  This, obviously, looks more like a prehistoric computer game clumsily dropping blocks onto a grid.

If it was in color, I'd call it the Tetris skirt.  You get the idea.

Anyway, it's done, and I wore it on Tuesday.  This is the stunning bathroom shot which is actually the best of the 3 photos I had taken.  The ones outside came out awful, and usually those are the best ones.

I used a pencil skirt from an old issue of Burda for this - not sure which one, offhand, but it's completely unadorned by random seamlines or any of their other "features."  This just has darts, front and back, and a waist facing.  The bottom 3" or so of hem is alternating blocks of gray RPL skirt fabric and silver coated cotton, with a light layer of batting and then some quilting stitches.  I gathered the silver blocks to enhance the metallic effect.

And then, for good measure, I added  the few tumbling blocks on the left front just to break up the thickness of the hem.  Those are my favorite part of the skirt, and I'm thinking about maybe just a few more . . . or maybe not.  I think I need to decide how much I like this skirt before I commit to tinkering any more with it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Month End Review - March/April 2012

March 2012

It wasn't a bad month, but apparently at least in my mind, it wasn't a memorable one, because I forgot to do a review of what I made.  Since these are as much for my records as your amusement, I'll do my belated one now, and follow up with the current month.

March's sewing encompassed 7 projects and 13.5 yards of fabric.  The fabric count would have been higher except that I was given the fabric for the pirate shirt by the theater costumer. 

In March, I made the My Image long cardigan (which I like, but have only worn once); a drape neck top from an old issue of Ottobre (it was sewn just to sew something, and this is apparently a bad idea; I don't like it, it doesn't fit properly, and it's already gone); the muslin and the striped silk blouse for the VPLL 1912 Project (given to my friend, and she loves it); a new muslin of the Fatina dress for an upcoming project; the very pouffy pirate shirt (which premiered last Friday evening); and my favorite, the BWOF 5/08 #104 knit dress.

Wow, two muslins in a month.  The 1912 Project is teaching me patience, among other things.

April 2012

In April, there were only 6 projects but 14.0 yards left the building (not including the satin for the second pirate shirt).  Also, several of these projects are things I'm very happy with, which makes it even better. 

I made the V8633 poppy dress (destined to be a favorite, I can already tell); the second pirate shirt (which also made its debut this past  Friday); the VPLL 1912 Project mantle (all that ruched trim; I love it anyway); a pair of charcoal gray BWOF pants (which I've already worn twice); an embellished skirt made from the leftover gray fabric (jury's still out on this one); and last, but far from least, a shirt for Mario's 40th birthday made from a William Morris print.  He picked out the fabric, and I wish I'd bought enough for myself. 

Upcoming in May:  Another 1912 pattern, this time a skirt.  I'm going to adapt it to below-knee length; all the structural components are above the knee anyway, so while it won't look historically accurate in length, everything else will be correct.  I'm debating fabrics at the moment and will intro the project as soon as I make a choice.