Posts Tagged ‘sewing’

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!!!!!

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.

sew sew sew…skirt.

August 24, 2008

I finally got it together and consummated my relationship with my new sewing machine. I decided I would try and sew something “for real” this time. In the past I’ve always kind of winged it…sometimes with relative success, but usually…not so much. I never really knew the right way to make a piece of clothing (like what’s this thing called interfacing??), so I would just kind of cut according to a piece of ready-made clothing I had on hand with some non-fabric, blunt-ish scissors, and then just kind of put it all together with whatever stitch seemed to look nice. Needless to say, the outcome would look quite home-sewn, which I don’t think anyone ever strives to accomplish.

So I used my first pattern! I have to say I was kind of nervous, since I had seen some before and the dozens of different lines made me think it was way more complicated than it actually is. But — it was totally easy and worked so well!! I printed this skirt pattern out (for free!) from Burdastyle, which is an open source sewing site, sort of like Ravelry for knitters, taped it together, cut out the pieces and a couple of hours later had this lovely skirt made of a gorgeous navy cotton lawn (not organic, sadly).

I even used interfacing for the first time to make a real waistband. Burdastyle is a great resource for sewers, with tutorials on various projects and general techniques, and a decent library of free (or at least cheap) great patterns. I’ve already bookmarked quite a few that are definitely worth attempting.

I’ve also come across some other great resources for sewing techniques, since I know practically nothing except what I’ve invented (the art brut approach, if you will, until now). You may be able to notice the currently screwy hem on the skirt. Since the skirt tapers at the end, the hem was pretty much a nightmare. I redid it several times, until I came to an intermediate solution of just sewing down a few points of the hem — I sewed a couple of inches, left a couple of inches unsewn, and continued as such to leave space for where the fabric has to bunch. But now I’ve found this: the faced hem. When I have the patience, I plan on doing this with some leftover scraps of some printed cotton lawn. I’m still discovering all the resources that are out there. It’s amazing how much easier sewing can be when you learn techniques that people have already figured out for you. I guess that’s not amazing at all really…but what is actually kind of amazing is that seemingly complicated garments are actually far more doable than I had thought before.

So, like I said, the fabric I used was not “green” in any way. I haven’t found too many resources for green sewers yet, but Amy Karol at Angry Chicken (a blog I have been really loving lately for amazing things like homemade deodorant — that I have made and can attest to its wondrous efficacy) has mentioned an online resource for eco-friendly fabrics, yarns and sewing supplies: NearSea Naturals. They have organic cotton thread, natural elastic and the like, and also fabrics like hemp silk charmeuse. I will be partaking soon. When I have convinced myself that I am indeed in control of my spending habits and therefore do not need therapy to uncondition myself from the feeling that spending money does in fact make me feel better…sigh.

An explanation

July 29, 2008

I’ve been absent lately, which I feel requires some level of explanation. Especially since I was really good about posting before…sometimes 1 (or even 2!) a day. But now…now it’s summer. And I have new toys. So I’ll take this “opportunity” of being one of the few people who can manage to catch a really bad case of the flu in the middle of July to write something for once…

Before I reveal the new obsession of late, I also want to note that this time of year marks the one year anniversary of me and knitting. It’s been a beautiful year and our marriage was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

But exclusivity was never in the vows. So I’m seeing someone else on the side.

The Bernina Activa 230. We’re pretty much in love. My parents actually set us up. A graduate school graduation gift (a year late, but this is a pretty amazing gift, so I’ll let that slide).

I don’t think my knitting stash knows what’s going on yet, but they may have noticed that I play with them a little less since my new acquisition. And so, I’ve had the great opportunity to revisit some fabric I’ve been waiting (years!) to do something with.

Like this paper-like silk I bought in India in 2006.

And this newer splurge: a yard of Liberty of London cotton lawn.

While I’ll never divorce knitting — or even get a separation, I think a year of monogamy is generally all I can handle with an activity/profession/etc. (NOTE: Luckily “etc” doesn’t seem to apply to personal/romantic relationships with me. For me an open relationship would only work between me and my hobbies…). So, though I don’t think I’m ever done with the things I start doing seriously, like knitting, I’ve come to realize a pattern: I pick things up with intense enthusiasm, continue obsessively for about a year, and then as would be expected, I burn out.

Ultimately the result is positive. I let go for a while, but then resume my interest at a more healthy, non-obsessive level. But this eventual indecisiveness also leaves me with constantly wondering what I’m going to be when I grow up…which with this line of thinking I’ll never be. In the summer of 2006 I was working in India for a local consultancy and my boss asked me what I was going to do when I graduated (from grad school). I told him all the different options and that while I had narrowed it down I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted to be doing. He expressed surprise that at my age (never a nice phrase to use with anyone ever) I could still be wondering. I know things are different in India and that these decisions are made quite early, but it still hit a sore spot.

I’ve accepted this part of my character to some degree and know that my life will just always be full of change — which is just the way I like it.

So onto a new chapter of sewing with a fancy machine (which I’ve never done before). I now have the task of finding “green” fabric now, which doesn’t seem too easy to come by. I’m sure it will just require some fun discoveries.

Out with the new, in with the old.

May 6, 2008

I’ve been doing pretty well with my shopping rules, meaning I’ve been doing pretty well sticking with organic and/or local and/or second-hand purchases. The only problem is I haven’t been doing so well on cutting back the unnecessary things I buy, which is definitely the most important of all those goals.

While I have been doing extremely well in dampening that gut reaction to buy something brand new by looking to Ebay or Craigslist for something used instead (like my new tripod or my new sewing book), I’ve recently been faced with something harder, but possibly more responsible in the long run: making used things work (thank you, Tim Gunn). In some cases I mean that literally, like this old Remington typewriter that my Tim (not Tim Gunn, because he’s clearly not mine) got from his now-deceased grandmother’s attic.

It weighs like a million pounds.

That’s obviously an exaggeration. But it weights A LOT. I think it’s cast iron. I know it’s pretty much absolutely gorgeous. Although I feel like I was raised on computers, I was actually on the generational cusp of having to use typewriters. I remember using them for college applications because just a mere 10 years ago not all schools offered PDFs of their applications that you could fill out online.

This is actually a terrible example, because the typewriter isn’t going to keep me from using a computer…it’ll just be a fun thing to test out and play with every once in a while. Could be fun to make prints and art with or something…

There are other things that are a better example of using the old to make something that will hopefully prevent me from buying something new.

Like this dress he also found in the attic:

I think it’s from the 30s (his great grandmother’s). Right now it’s a huge sack, but the rhinestones are actually quite nice–they’re set in brass in a way that, like everything else, seems to be done of a high quality you never see now. The plan is to seriously alter it into a fancy-ish dress. If I ever get my hands on that sewing machine.

So in preparation for my new life of altering old things and making them new again, I thought I would look for some tutorials on altering old clothes…and I found something even better. Did you know you can get incredibly old New York Times articles online? I found one from 1915: “Altering Frock Often More Expensive Than New Suit; Frequent Changes in Styles Likely to Make of No Avail the Hard Work of Reconstruction.”

Haven’t you seen a woman work for over a week over a frock that should have been discarded, and which never gave a moment’s satisfaction after it was finished? This condition implies lack of judgement.

Ouch! That’s totally me usually….

One of the greatest financiers, when asked to what especial quality he thought he owed his success, answered: “The elimination of the non-essential.”

I agree. But 1915 was a different time (amazingly profound, right?)…and the elimination of our non-essential would probably refer more to our purchase of new things rather than our need to more readily throw away old things…which most of us seem to have zero problem with. Remember when people used to fix things?

I guess maybe if this was what I had to make, I wouldn’t be considering rehabbing that old dress.  Luckily I can get away with a simple design and call myself deliberately minimalist.