Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shy and Retiring

Or may be not.

But who doesn't need another Vogue 1250?  This is my fourth - I wore one to work yesterday and wore this one today and the only person who knew the difference was Andrea, who not only has made V1250 but also bought this fabric for me at PR Weekend Chicago when my plane got in late and I had to meet the group halfway through the shopping day - and therefore miss buying this fabric at Mood myself.  Which I would have.  Absolutely.

And Andrea has the same fabric, in another colorway, which she hasn't used yet.  Not that I'm hinting or anything.

She's also only made one version of V1250.  Isn't that enough to have your sewing license taken away?
This version isn't much different than the others, except for one change which I've been meaning to make since version 1 - because I'm fairly short-waisted, I took an inch out of the back bodice piece and extended the back skirt piece upwards by an inch.  It's amazing what a difference an inch can make - usually I feel like the back seam is sitting just a bit too low and causing the fabric to pool on my lower back.  This is much better.  I'm glad I got the dress done, and really glad I finally made this alteration to the pattern.

So now I feel better - theater sewing done, a head-cleaning knit dress for me, and I found the denim for Mario's jeans, hidden in plain sight.  Perhaps if I didn't come home, change my clothes and deposit my work clothes on the hallway stair railing, I would have noticed 2 yards of pre-washed denim (along with another fabric) hanging on the rail before a few weeks had gone by.

I'm in cleaning mode - tidied up part of the sewing room, got a bag together for the thrift store, obviously hung up and/or washed clothes - and now I'm feeling ready to face a bigger project again.

Which obviously has to be men's jeans . . . but also maybe a new pair of work pants for me.  I found a really nice, restrained brown glen plaid  I forgot I had.  It needs to be pants.  Soon.  It's fall, finally.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Theater Costumes and the Aftermath

This project took a bit longer than expected, and absolutely kicked my ass.  To be accurate, it kicked my back.

One of the best things about sewing, at least according to my body, is the fact that I have to get up every few minutes to press a seam, and therefore don't sit in the exact same position for hours at a time, until I try to stand up and realize I can't.

The problem with this pattern: poly velvet and poly satin, neither of which took nicely to pressing.  Actually, they took terribly to pressing - I tried a couple of test swatches and the velvet scorched and left indelible creases and the satin just melted into stiff black ridges.

So this project didn't get much pressing, just some light heat, some topstitching that sunk into the velvet and quite a bit of profanity.  Which I think worked best of all.

All in all, though, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.  As everyone assured me on Facebook, and which I know when I think about it straight, theater costuming is a whole different animal from the way I usually sew.  It's not going to get looked at from mere inches away, and hopefully no one is going to do the sewist's greeting and take her sleeve in their fingers to touch the fabric.

Even if they do, it feels nice.  It was just a bear to sew.

Oh, the other fun part of this project that I mentioned on FB - this was one of those cursed projects that didn't show its problems until thought I was done.  Then I put it on the dress form to get some pictures and the hem looked a little uneven.  I trued up the waist seam and smoothed the skirt with my hand and it looked . . . more uneven.

I took it off the dress form and measured the distance from the waist seam to the bottom of the hem band.  38" on the left side, okay.  And . . . 35" on the right?  WTF?  I've been uneven before, cut things slightly off or had the fabric grow a bit, but THREE inches?  The only part of this that was cut on the bias was the satin trim band, so that didn't cause the growth.

I have no idea what happened, and after a few minutes of hyperventilation (I had, after all, just sent a text saying "dress will be done tonight"), I carefully cut the hem band off, since it seemed to be the same width from end to end, leveled off the skirt so that it was the same length all the way around (what a concept) and stitched the band back on.

It doesn't look quite as pretty on the inside as it did first time around, but it worked, and it's done, and it went merrily off to tech rehearsal today for a trial run.
Since I haven't heard anything, I'm going to assume rehearsal went off okay and there are no tweaks to be done.  If there are, they should be minor.  I'm waiting until tomorrow to be sure, and then I'm going to have a serious cleaning of the sewing room.  And of the machine.  Velvet, yech.  It looks like someone slaughtered a burgundy teddy bear inside my sewing machine.

The room isn't much better.  Between velvet fluffs, shreds of satin and the self-inflicted mess of me dumping the remnant bin upside down while looking for something and not picking it up yet, my workroom is a soft sculpture.

This needs to stop, I'm losing things in there.  I've managed to misplace a manila folder full of embroidery transfers (almost an inch thick), a measuring tape, two seam rippers (or was it three?) and two yards of RED denim for Mario's jeans, along with the matching zipper, button and rivets, all of which were in a neat little bag with the fabric.

Which is nowhere to be seen.  Work tomorrow, then I'm coming home, having a glass of wine and going in after it.  If I don't post for a few days, you might want to send out a search party.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


No, this isn't V1250.  What gave it away?

It's Butterick 5544, one of their Wearing History patterns (though the envelope and website give you no clue as to what exact era of history it is you're wearing).

This is the time of year I generally do theater sewing, but I turned it down this year, thinking (erroneously) that I might be busy with my embroidery class.  Turns out it was a good thing I did.  An actress friend, the one I usually make costumes for, is in a different company's play this year and the costume she got wasn't going to work.

She needed a nightgown and dressing gown, circa 1850.  Since it's close to deadline, she found a nightgown online, and I'm making the dressing gown.  The pattern pictured here isn't exactly historically accurate, but on the other hand, it no longer looks exactly like the drawing anyway.

I've made the bodice a tad more fitted and lengthened it so that the seam lands on her bottom rib, rather than just below the bust.  Instead of lovely white cotton with quilted contrast, the bodice, sleeve and front and hem bands are maroon velvet, and the gathered skirt is matching maroon satin.  I have a yard of 3/8" cording for the waistband and we're experimenting with several options for the center front closure.

Oh, right.  It no longer overlaps and closes with a cutesy ribbon flower.  I've cut it at center front and it's closed with either a frog or a flower, both of which were home dec pieces, much more suited to something this substantial.

Deadline is Sunday, so I'll be sewing like a fiend and covering the sewing room with velvet fuzz.  No kitties allowed until the velvet is under control and off the table.  This will make for cranky kitties.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

That's 70s Couch

When I recently wrote about sewing and swearing, I got a comment from Melissa which struck a little too close to home.  She said, I can't look at that boucle without seeing a scratchy 1970s couch!"  

That was a thought I'd been trying very hard not to think right then, but after hearing someone beside me say it, it was impossible to ignore.

It was the orange boucle elephant in the room.  Which may be why it took me more than 3 weeks to make a jacket which I've made once before (successfully) and in less than a week.

There's nothing overtly wrong with it.  The fit is fine, the fabric (when I'm not thinking upholstery) is beautiful.  The boucle is soft and fuzzy and all things that boucle should be.  The lining is chocolate brown silk charmeuse.

And I feel like it should be sitting in my mother-in-law's paneled den, with a couple of throw pillows and maybe an end table with some glass paperweights alongside.

It's going in the closet to rest for a while, in the hope that those images fade and by the time fall starts in earnest I'll be ready to wear this most autumnal looking jacket.

Think autumn.  Think fall.  Think October, falling leaves, the scent of someone's fireplace in the air, brisk mornings, chilly evenings . . .

sitting on the scratchy orange couch in the den.

Damn.  It almost worked.

Next up, a pair of jeans for Mario.  It shouldn't be a bad project.  I've made jeans for me, and shorts for him.  I should be able to combine those two skills and turnout a respectable pair of pants, but we'll have to see.  It's amazing what one unsatisfactory project can do to your mojo.

The KwikSew cowl did make me feel better.  Maybe I need one more pick-me-up project before I commit to the denim.

Matter of fact, I think I hear Vogue 1250 calling my name.  Again.

One more quick knit dress and then the jeans, I promise.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Toast . . . to Toast

Color is most accurate in this photo.
I finally finished the orange boucle jacket, and I'm a bit lukewarm about it.  I've taken photos and there will be a post about it, probably tomorrow, but for now I'm sharing the project I made last night, mainly to get the taste of the jacket out of my mind, clear out the cobwebs so that I can start something else by the weekend.

I'm really beginning to become a pattern repeater, but there are certain patterns that I turn to when I don't know what else to sew, or in the case of this one, when I need a go-to piece that I know will turn out the way I want and make me feel better about sewing choices that don't always turn out right.

This is KwikSew 3740, the better of their two cowl neck patterns (the other one has cut-on sleeves and just isn't as good, at least on me).

It's not this boring, really
The fabric is a warm, toasty tan lightweight sweater knit that I bought last month at London Textiles on my fabric foray with Claudine.  It was a remnant, a little less than 1.5 yards, and as I recall, I got it for $4.

Shades of brown are always going to be a favorite - with my skin tone, brown is far more flattering than black.  I love the subtle variation of colors; the fabric appears more textured than it is, and it has a lovely hand.

It also looks far better on a body than it does on a dress form, but I forgot to get photos at work today and when I got home I got distracted and changed clothes before I went out back to deal with the chickens and potentially get straw stuck to me.

Chickens are doing well, for those who care.  They have a new favorite food - leftover baked beans from Labor Day weekend.  Watching a chicken toss a bean up in the air and then snarf it down in one bite is something I can just sit and watch.  And I did today, and it almost made me late for work.

But as for the top.  It may not be exciting, but it fits, it looks good, I wore it today, and I feel a sense of redemption after a lackluster project.  So it goes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A little frustrated

Gratuitous Max photo - no frustration there!
I spent 2 hours on Saturday afternoon at my neighborhood arts league, where I'm supposed to be teaching an embroidery class this fall.

I say supposed to, because as of Saturday afternoon, no one has signed up.  This could partly be because of advertising, and the near lack thereof, but I also think it's a fundamental problem in people these days.  Not all people - look who I'm speaking to here, after all - but allow me to vent and generalize a little.

They've had little or no interest in any kind of handcraft classes in recent years.  There are occasional painting classes, but none in the last few years.  Pottery and ceramics have an enduring popularity, but from what I saw, most are repeat students who have no other access to a wheel and a kiln.  There's yoga, of course, and flamenco, and a raft of kids' and after-school classes.

But no sewing, no embroidery, no textile based classes at all.  Not even knitting.  And years ago, when I was in my 20s, this very same place used to cover all of downtown Philadelphia with flyers for classes that included embroidery, quilting, trapunto for pete's sake.  Trapunto.  And now I can't even get anyone excited about embroidery, much less sewing.

I shouldn't say that.  There were quite a few women who stopped by my table and were interested in the pieces I had displayed and who wanted to talk about embroidery.  Not one of them was born in this country, and every single one of them already knew how to embroider.  I spoke to Muslim women from several regions, Indians, Chinese, South American American women . . . all of whom were interested and who told me about the patterns and stitches prevalent in their cultures.

While the women of our culture (or at least the one I visibly resemble) walked past the table without even looking, and when I did speak to a few women at the snack table, their comments were that their grandmothers did stuff like that, but isn't it great now that we don't have to do all that hard work and can just buy whatever we want, already made.

No.  No, it's not great.  It sucks that most people can't see that sometimes the effort of creating something is more interesting, more fun, more worthwhile than plunking down a couple of bucks at Walmart for something embroidered by a machine, most likely operated by a child, probably in some third world country that they wouldn't even want to visit on vacation.

First class is supposed to be Monday night.  They need 3 bodies for it to go forward.

It's cooler now, the sewing room is bearable.  I think I'm going to prep a few sewing projects this weekend.  I'll need something to do Monday evenings this fall.