Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

You complete me.

July 12, 2009

Dear Colette Patterns,

Thank you for making such beautiful patterns in such beautiful packaging with such clear and thought out instructions and such interesting construction where I learn new things.

Thanks to a great pattern, I was able to make something that one particular coworker of mine (and fellow sewer) did not immediately ask: did you make that?  In fact, she never asked.

All because you made a pattern that (a) looks current and chic and super flattering, (b) allowed me to understand proper tailoring just enough to make a work-appropriate, suit-like garment, and (c) had pattern pieces that just made sense and fit together so perfectly that I did not once swear or intentionally break something during the entire construction.  Not once. At least not once as a result of or directed to the garment, the pattern, or the sewing process.

This skirt was also a success because of my fabric choice, which you had nothing to do with, but thanks for making a pattern that complimented my fabric choice so nicely.

So thank you Colette Patterns.

I’m already scouting for fabrics for your other patterns and am anxiously awaiting new designs.


The proud owner of the newly sewn, Green Beignet.

The fabric is a midweight wool that I bought 50% off from Exquisite Fabrics in DC during their most amazing moving sale.  The buttons are Le Petite.

(The bike is my new baby, a Jamis Sputnik single speed–my first real new bike…I keep it in my bedroom…and look at it from time to time…)

The lining is a grey silk habotai bought on ebay for super cheap–which is also used for some awesome pockets at each hip.  Did I mention I LOVE this pattern?  The paneling is gorgeous, the button front is adorable, and the high waist is right on style.



April 19, 2009

Dear Friends,

I want to apologize for my extended absence.  I have been in a weird little funk for a few months now…I think perhaps called “winter”.  A few days ago something turned–shifted–in a major way.  I was home sick in bed Sunday watching unbelievably and unjustifiably bad “reality” TV on (yes, I clearly sought it out enough to first see if MTV showed the episodes online and then to subsequently watch them online) and then magically decided to sew a shirt.  It sounds minor, but there was a palpable click, turn, shift in my mental state of being.  Like I was re-excited, re-motivated and reinvigorated.  Going to work the next day didn’t seem so painful and it actually got interesting for me again. All the extra obligations in my life stopped feeling so burdensome and actually seemed like the opportunities I thought they were when I first took them on…not that I’ve really gotten moving on them, but at least my mind and spirit are on board again.

A lot of this is really just seasonal.  I think it’s getting worse as I get older and I’m seeing why people retire in Florida.  I’m always ok at the beginning…even hopeful that I’ll enjoy it a little.  But it never sticks.  The bare branches, the grey skies,  the fact that I literally would get around 15 hours a week of exposure to even a hint of sunshine, all concentrated on the weekend (I work in a windowless office where it’s easy to forget that there even is an outside with weather and sun).  And although spring has taken a long time to come this year, once it did, my will to live made a full 180.  What’s strange is every year it’s such a surprise as though I have absolutely no long term memory.  Maybe it’s because I do feel like it’s getting worse, but maybe I only feel like it’s getting worse because I can’t seem to remember that this is obviously going to happen every year…so I’m caught off guard and then strangely shocked that I could be so seasonally affected.  It’s the hope that gets in the way–the hope that this year I will like winter.  I’m not much of an optimist, so whenever I attempt it it really throws the rest of my brain functions, like logical reasoning, out of whack.

And now, I will share the first piece of physical proof that things are looking up.

I think I’m getting more patient, detail-oriented and just better at this with each project…which is ****ing fantastic.  On this one, I made up the (relatively simple) pattern using an old shirt for fit and an Anthropologie shirt for the design.  I’m still in the copying stage, so I can build up techniques and then go crazy with my own designs later.  My case in point that I don’t know what I’m doing yet is facings. Facings!!!!  Arghh!  I didn’t realize until I had no fabric left that it would have been far better to have done an all-in-one facing than separate armhole and neckline facings, which when overlapped get a little bulky.  It’s not too bad in this case since the fabric is Liberty of London cotton lawn, which is very light.  But I also had a lot of trouble keeping the damn facings down, which forced to me do some research on proper techniques.  Hence the (organic) lace trim to weigh the facings down a little and this simple, yet surprisingly effective little trick called understitching.  Ultimately, this was the first time the inside of the piece looks just about as neat as the outside. Maybe my laziness is seasonal, too.  Here’s hoping…

Speaking of hope and change…I’m hoping to come back to this space with greater regularity…my life has been consumed lately with the purchase of a new bicycle (or I should say the saga of an attempted purchase), which is a story/issue I want to share soon…

Until then, happy Spring!!!!!

Day #11, Lucy, I’m home…

January 15, 2009

My favorite show in the whole world is I Love Lucy.  I’ve seen every episode a million times. Literally. One million times.

My friends are always a little surprised at my strong, unwavering love for the show.  I suppose it’s unusual for someone of my generation, but I always watched it as a child and it just never loses its appeal with me.  The affinity is so strong that it extends to others that feel the same way about the show…there’s a kinship.  Like I have some sort of understanding with other Lucy fans…

Really when it comes down to it, I just love Lucy.  Seriously.  She was funny, witty, beautiful, quirky, and (because I’m that kind of lady) I loved her style–the 50s style.

So here is my attempt at channeling Lucy, except with some patent pumps, which I’m not so sure Lucy would’ve been so into.

I found the pattern for this 50s-60s style Vogue dress on Ebay, a Vogue Couturier pattern by Belinda Bellville.  When you go back that far you’re really confronted with how sizes have changed to make women feel skinny and buy more clothes (the old conspiracy theory I’m so fond of).  I’m often shocked at the small size I am in today’s sizes, mainly because I’m not that small relative to many people I know so I’m not sure what sizes are left for them…do they go into the negatives?  Must they walk around in sack-like size 0s?  Perhaps they delve into kid sizes.  In any case, the old sizes, where I’m well into the double digits, make far more sense…even if it does hurt my ego for a short minute.

The fabric is a Japanese double cotton gauze by Nani Iro.  It’s quite nice–more substantial than normal gauze, but light.  The dress itself is very fitted on top with a satin charmeuse yoke and armbands, puffy sleeves, and a very gathered skirt (mostly gathered in the back). The front is pleated with a pocket tucked in one of the pleats.  I love the hidden pocket–nothing is more gratifying than when you buy something unaware that it has a pocket and then one day you just discover it…and the whole day is perfect from that point forward.

The shape I found to be very reminiscent of Lucy’s house dresses that were so adorable to me. She always seemed so lovely and dressed up at home.  Whenever I came home from school, my parents would make me change out of my good school clothes into “house clothes.”  Just having that rule in place (which makes complete sense and is one I abide by now on my own) made me want to dress nicely at home.  It makes no sense, really–but I wanted nice house clothes.

This will not be a house dress.  I really love this one.  I tried hard to finally make something where the inside looked just as neatly done as the outside.  So I used french seams, yoke facings (which in the past I’ve been too lazy to do–but should always be done!!), and (this will sound horrible to sewers that it isn’t something I always do) matching thread.  I’m actually relatively careless with a lot of sewing projects, but lately I’ve been really trying to exercise some patience.  It generally pays off…

See you tomorrow-ish for the final Day…

Day #5: Waves of Glory

January 1, 2009

This is my latest sewing endeavor that I think is the most detailed work I’ve done to date.

The pattern comes from Burdastyle: the Jennifer Blouse.  It’s made of a peachish silk, which is crepe-like, but I think knit.  I loved this pattern for it’s nicely placed pintucks that add subtle, but feminine detail. The cuffs are also entirely pintucked, which does take quite a bit of time and patience, but looks quite nice and polished.

The inset is not part of the pattern, but was entirely inspired by the creation of another Burdastyle member, CarotteSauvage.  Her creations generally give me inspiration and a level of artistic quality that I hope to infuse into every future project.  This was a lesson in how the addition of simple shapes, placed in interesting, 3 dimensional ways can really make an otherwise plain pattern into something artful and beautiful.

The finished product came out a little big, though I do like the loose-fitting shape.  The inset and neckline could also use some little refining touch-ups, which I will get around to…someday. Overall this enters my list of favorites–it’s my masterpiece of the moment.

Ok, see you tomorrow for Day #6…I’m running out of things to share, so the format will have to change slightly.  I will also be out of town for the weekend, so some days off will also have to be had.

Happy New Year everybody!

Day #4, I come to suck your blood

December 31, 2008

My humor has never been particularly sophisticated.

This is Cape Dracula, a free pattern on Burdastyle, courtesy of Geri of Sewable.

It’s made with a beautiful heavy black Marc Jacobs wool that I got half off at a designer fabric store closing sale.  The belt buckle comes from Etsy, the buttons from the same aforementioned fabric store, and other than that all I used was a pretty dark blue thread (to add a tiny bit of subtle color) and some medium weight fusible interfacing I got very cheap on Ebay.

This was far easier than I ever would have thought.  Heavy, but smooth wools like this are actually very easy to sew on a machine, which often determines the level of swearing (and ultimate success) of a project.  It took me some time to get some strange bunching in the back to desist, but eventually it settled down.

The ease of making what looks like a pretty tailored piece really stems from the fact that the pattern was drawn, diagrammed and written very clearly and nicely.  For someone just doing this on her own time and for free (!!), it was really quite impressive–and very much appreciated.

The shape is no doubt unusual, but it’s actually very flattering and easy to wear.  It’ll be great when the weather here in DC is just a little warmer…and when I get around to putting in a lovely lining.  One thing I wish I hadn’t done is put interfacing around the hems of the sleeves–which resulted in a strong flared shape.  Without the interfacing, the wool draped very nicely on it’s own.  I may try and rip it out if the flare doesn’t begin to ease.

The result of constructing this was actually a huge boost in my confidence–I would normally shy away from making coats or anything with complicated/tailored construction.  This was simple enough, but tailored enough to get me started.

So onto Day #5!  See you tomorrow, hope you had a fantastic 2008, and Happy New Year!

Day #2, Candy Canes of Silk

December 29, 2008

This is a simple little dress made from some red and white striped sandwashed silk, thin elastic for the waist, and FOE (fold-over elastic) for the armhole/neckline borders.  FOE is a magical material I discovered through a tutorial at one of most favorite blogs, Angry Chicken.  It made the polished look of the silk more playful and casual, which was exactly what I was looking for.  Using it as a border definitely took some practice to get the right tension, the right amount of gather in the silk, and to get it to just generally sit right.  But it was a nice alternative to having to tailor the dress with darts or princess seams, which can make pieces feel more dressy than was my intention in this case.

This dress was completely improvised as I went along.  I knew I wanted a racerback (which I will cut a little differently the next time around) and that I wanted it to be very simple and casual.    I’m also clearly still obsessed with the blouson shape, and so this is what transpired.

In terms of design, I basically just added an  inch or so to all of my measurements and cut accordingly.  I generally use a top that fits the way I want the new garment to fit as a guide for the armholes and collar.  The elastic was used for shaping and I really didn’t do much more than that.  Very simple and exactly what I wanted.

See you tomorrow for Day #3!

It is what it is.

October 23, 2008

and that would be a mistake:

I realized that I generally post successes here and I should be honest and post some horrible decisions I’ve made as well.

To be fair to my ego, most things have been pretty successful lately…but this.  This was a rushed, impulsive decision.

The one great fabric store in the city is moving (still in the city) but as a result is having a huge moving sale.  So I bought this nice silk charmeuse and some silk chiffon for 1/2 off.  I’ve been a big fan of greys and yellows together and thought this would be a great opportunity to try something nicer out. Basically what happened is I was excited about the fabric and went nuts…

I picked a Burda pattern, from this past Spring or Summer magazine–I forget which…and kind of knew it was ugly, but for some reason was attracted to it.  It happens sometimes.  Attracted to that which we normally would be repulsed by…what can you do?  It is what it is.  And I wasn’t even drunk…

Actually it’s not even that the pattern is that hideous…but it’s also my terrible judgment with the fabric.

Overall I’m proud of the construction…at least for the top half and think I can salvage it.  I’m planning on getting rid of those horrible ruffles and have a straight bottom piece with continuous pintucks.  I also need to adjust it so it fits better…because apparently I’d like to believe I’m a bit smaller than I am…

So, in sum, I think this was just a bad decision.  I took two terrible trends of late (80s comeback and maternity wear) and put them together into one flashy disaster.

Let’s never speak of this again.

(Unless the salvage attempt is successful and then we can all look back and laugh and commend my ability to make something good out of something gross)

(Also, I spent some serious cash on fabric, so hopefully I’ll have more exciting things to share in the future…I’ve learned my lesson though and am trying to spend more time on the planning process).

It’s been a while…

October 12, 2008

but I’ve at least been busy constructing things that I can now share.

First, Wenlan Chia came out with her 3rd book, Twinkle Town & Country Knits, which led me to knit this:

(a couple of more pictures in the flickr gallery and on ravelry)

It’s the Belle du Jour Tunic made with 2 skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas Brushed Suri in French Roast on size 15 circular needles.  I had a really tough time finding yarn that fit in with my 2008 yarn goal (the eco/socially conscious thing).  The only one I found was Be Sweet’s mohair, but I couldn’t find the right color.  Knitch had it in black, but each skein was $24, which was not acceptable given that it was thin enough to require the double stranding recommended by the pattern.  I settled for this (which did not require double stranding), since it has bamboo as part of its core instead of acrylic or nylon.  Also, BSA is a company I respect given all of the organic products it sells.

I also sewed the dress underneath on the fly, which is made of a paper silk I bought a few years ago in Bhopal, India.  It’s a simple cami dress with gathering at the back waist and a grey chiffon lining, which extends out on the bottom.  Both were worn together on top of a flowy black silk skirt to the opera the other night.  It all turned out pretty well I think.  Although to be completely honest, this was my second version of this.  The first I made a little too long and big, but the hairiness of the yarn doesn’t really allow for frogging.  So in literally 5 hours or so, I made a new smaller, shorter version.  I like both for different purposes/occasions and overall it wasn’t a huge splurge for the yarn given that it only takes 2 (or 3 at the most) skeins of the yarn.

I’ve also been sewing more since I’m absolutely in love with my sewing machine.

This skirt is a modified version of the Sidonie skirt from Burdastyle.  It uses a beautiful heavy silk, kind of almost like canvas.  I’m not sure what the type of fabric is called.  It’s woven I think.  The buttons are gorgeous glass vintage ones I found for like $3 on Ebay.  It turned out pretty well…just needs a little ironing maybe.

As does this creation:

This is a wool suiting fabric and a lovely plastic button I got at Mood a couple of years ago.  I used the Alexis pattern from Burdastyle.  It’s a good office skirt, but the fabric isn’t my favorite.  I’ll probably make this skirt again out of a nicer fabric.

I’ve strangely not felt the urge to blog lately…I honestly care about this election to the point where I feel like I won’t have my normal perspective back until this is all over.  And I can’t wait.

election year calls for a new dress.

September 13, 2008

I have been obsessed with politics lately.  In a very bad way.  In a way that during one of the party conventions which will remain nameless I found myself screaming out my window how miserable of a human being a former mayor of New York City is.

Seriously insane.  And then a later development in the election really almost killed me…and I rediscovered the meditative, calming wonder that is knitting.  I had known that in preparation for winter I would need some mittens and so I had already decided on Norah Gaughan’s Target Wave mittens from her beautiful Knitting Nature book and some Frog Tree Merino Melange that I ordered from The Yarn Tree in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I love Norah’s book because it speaks to the same dichotomy I have in my own life–love of science (traditionally masculine) and a love of some things VERY domestic (traditionally female), and it blends the two seamlessly (pun completely intended).

The Target Wave mittens “were inspired by the look of traveling chemical waves”.

This was the first time I used Frog Tree yarn, which I decided was more than suitable to use given my social/eco conscious goal since the mission of the company is “to supply meaningful and continuous work to various artisans and non-profit groups. Purchases Made by T & C Imports helps by supporting families and their communities.  Funds from our project are used to support worthy educational causes.”  I mostly like it because they’re a non-profit cooperative.  I used the Merino Melange, which is very soft and lovely and will definitely be using it again (it’s also relatively inexpensive).

After a few days, my insanity over the political goings-on of today (which is hard to escape when you live in Washington, DC) started to thankfully dissipate.  And so the knitting frenzy subsided and I returned to sewing and accomplished an FO that I’m extremely proud of.

I’ll be wearing this to a more casual wedding I’m going to next week.  I’m very excited about it.  It’s a gorgeous, almost silk-like cotton lawn.  I’ve only started using patterns and this was my first time making my own pattern, which I modeled after some clothes I currently own.  The collar was shaped off of a shirt I own with a somewhat similar collar and the shape of the dress from another dress.   I just recently discovered the wonders of elastic and have been really into blouson shapes, so I was excited to try that out, which I think went relatively well.  I also have never done the fabric covered button thing before which I may be overly obsessed with from this point forward. It’s also got other fun details like my first try at faced hems.

The whole idea came from this J.Crew shirt.  But I wasn’t about to pay no $88 for a shirt that I can clearly make for less than $20. And even better, it’s a whole dress. I did use their pictures to guide my own creation…their zoom tool is quite handy.

There’s nothing like that feeling when you realize that there’s so much you can do for yourself…like make your own pretty dresses.

I don’t need a bag, thank you.

September 2, 2008

This is another Burdastyle pattern: the Charlie Bag.  It’s technically a shopping bag, for groceries and the like, but I modified it to be my new purse.  I made the pattern smaller and used a heavy, shiny twill for the outside and a charmeuse for the lining, with some nice contrasting yellow topstitching.

I have to admit I thought the lining would add more pizazz than it did…but I still use it everyday now.  I actually really love it.  It’s the perfect size.

But what’s really great about it is not only that it’s big enough that when I buy small things at the store I can say, “I don’t need a bag, thank you”, but really because I now buy less unnecessary things at the store.  When I see that nice bag, pretty skirt, or a nice dress, I mostly think, “I think I could find enough patterns to cobble together to make something pretty damn close to that and therefore not have to spend more money than I have on it.”

That is a truly beautiful thing in the name of reducing my personal consumption.  And it’s also a beautiful thing in the name of curbing my addiction to handing my money over to others for things I don’t need or even really want that much.

Sometimes I think many people (myself definitely included) forget that reducing consumption (and thus conserving precious natural resources) is the most important way to do the ever-so-sexy reducing our footprint thing (I say that sarcastically, but I’m thrilled people are all about it actually).  While I don’t think it’s helpful to scare everyone with the concept of overhauling our entire lifestyle, I think most people are not against the idea of changing their behavior within reason…changing those lightbulbs, unplugging things when not using them, taking transit when the option is there, and so on.  I also think people would not be against larger changes if planned and transitioned into properly.  So what really gets me is people that think they’re progressive, that they “get it”, by simply acknowledging that climate change is a problem — that it actually exists, but then refuse to make those changes that so many other people are willing to make.

My case in point here is, well….Al Gore.  Yes. Al Gore.  Nobel peace prize be damned, that man has made my job (my actual rent-paying job) so much harder.  Al Gore has done more for spreading the science of climate change than any individual and I more than appreciate that.  However, when asked about his 10,000 square foot house, he seems to brush it off as some sort of inconsequential and understandable choice he’s made.  As though one should just disconnect his crusade from him and have sympathy for his inability to put outrageously extravagant personal desire aside.   Instead he offers electric cars and the equivalent of $1/gallon gas as the bright solution, so he and many other auto-addicted Americans can maintain their current lifestyles.

The renewable energy portion of his plan is fantastic, but the problem with this is that the traction that climate change gave advocates for compact, transit-oriented development almost vanishes when people can point to the most famous climate change advocate and say they’re being told by environmentalists themselves that nothing needs to change (with transportation at least) except the engine in our cars.   Advocates for walkable neighborhoods and compact development aren’t just advocates because of the climate change benefits — there are many benefits associated with this kind of development:  lower energy consumption from denser development (less heating and cooling per person as opposed to heating and cooling 10,000 square feet just for Al and Tipper), which clearly does have climate change benefits; an urban form that people can connect to outside of an automotive bubble; the ability to walk and bike places and thus stave off that ever-present issue of obesity and diabetes; freedom for children and the elderly to get around their neighborhoods without depending on people aged 20-60, who I think can be overwhelmed as chauffeurs in the current suburban reality; and a more vibrant place to live in where people may actually see their neighbors and pass them on a walk through the neighborhood, sort of like my neighborhood now, which is not some crazy Manhattan-like zoo riddled with high-rises and concrete, but a place that probably resembles a 50s suburb more than that oppressive, intimidating city so many people are turned off by.

So now, when people I already have to argue with about climate change solutions can point to Al Gore and say, “Look, we don’t have to change a damn thing, we can still get fat and overuse because electric cars will save the day” I can only sigh and begin the tirade all over again…

Why must each crisis be fixed with tunnel vision?