Friday, September 30, 2011

My Palette Looks A Lot Like A Rut

Just the other day I declared that I would not be able to commit to a fall color palette because I like too many colors. Well I guess a palette chose me, because here are my last five projects.

Plus there was a green Duro-style dress and a green and blue Sorbetto blouse that I haven't posted. And let's not forget the all-green bedroom makeover. It's officially a rut!

I have always known that I liked greens and blues, but this is getting ridiculous. Okay, there's some black in there, but still. Plus I need to find a dress shape other than loose chemise with belt! I’m all for sticking with something that works, but I also like to have some variety in the wardrobe.

So, for the next few projects, no more blue and green, and no more dresses! Maybe some of those fall separates I keep thinking about even though it’s still over 100 degrees outside. Plus we’ve got men’s boxers coming up at MPB, and after that, lingerie with Mrs. Depew (must be underwear season!). There will be lots of opportunities for color.

Do you love working within a limited palette, or do you just use whatever color catches your eye at the moment?


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Placed Print Perfection

Yesterday I finished this simple dress with a mock-wrap bodice and gathered straight skirt.

I picked the style partly because I was inspired by some uses of African prints on similar dresses I found on Etsy, and partly because I wanted to be able to position the border print in different directions on the dress.

It’s got a bodice from Butterick 3786 (circa 1975, very disco-era) and just a straight rectangle with a single seam for the dirndl-style skirt. It took a little less than two yards of fabric at 54” wide and only $3.99/yard at our local discount fabric warehouse. This is a really nice lightweight fabric with a textured weave and dramatic print. It could be hand-printed or hand-painted, as the colors vary throughout and the design is uneven.

Front and back: it was a challenge to place everything properly, but I think I got pretty close!

The biggest effort went into the cummerbund or obi belt, because I wanted the design to be centered and embellished. I cut a waist-length oval shape centered over the most dramatic designs on the fabric, and a second piece for the back or facing. I basted a layer of cotton batting to the front and a layer of heavy weight interfacing to the facing. I quilted the front by simply tracing around several of the center designs with machine stitching, but it doesn’t really show up. I used black thread because I didn’t want the stitching to show, just the puffy-quilty aspect. I guess the single layer of batting wasn’t enough to make it puffy, but it is going around my waist, after all! No puffiness necessary there!

The stitching is visible on the batting side

But invisible on the outside!

On future projects I might try using colored thread, or quilt by hand using embroidery floss. That was actually my original plan, inspired by some of Gertie’s Stitch-Alongs at STC. But, all I had was pink and brown floss. Ugh!
After quilting, I sewed the top/front and the facing together, with right sides together, and turned it right side out. The ties are simply 4” strips folded and sewn over 1.5” twill tape which is then pulled through an open end.

You might ask why I used black thread when the background of this print is so obviously navy, and my only excuse is it looked black at the time. I’ve looked at it under sunlight (black with some blue areas), incandescent bulb (black), Ott lite (very dark navy), and fluorescent bulb (bluish navy). In any case very little of the thread shows on the surface, so I think it’s okay.

I’m very pleased with this one, but I swear I am not going to make any more dresses for a while!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shooting Down the UFOs

I’m slowly getting through a stack of unfinished objects, in spite of my tendency to jump into something new every time I walk into the sewing room. I finished the striped shirtdress today! Yaaaay!

This is a wonderful cotton blend fabric I got from FabricMart.
I have some confusion as to which designer it came from, as my packing slip says Jones NY and the fabric label says Calvin Klein. Probably I mixed the label up with something else in the huge piles of fabric. Anyway, it’s supposed to be a shirting but it’s got a nice weight to it, as well as a subtle sheen.

After struggling to make it into a loose-fitting dress, I realized it really would have been better used for a fitted dress with structure, or possibly even a lined pair of pants. I do think the dress came out nicely in the end, but it took some molding and carving to reshape it.

The pattern is a very straightforward button-front tunic from 1982. It has several collar and front band options that I like, plus it has the same straight-sided shape of my favorite vintage 70’s shirtdress.

First thing I discovered is that the pattern runs extra-large. I normally use size 14, but I always measure the pattern pieces to find out how much ease the manufacturer has included. (I still haven’t gotten into habit of making muslins. Someday I’ll learn.) In this case, there were eight to ten inches of ease – everywhere! I won’t go into all the pattern modifications and garment alterations, but I did post the details on Pattern Review. In summary, I tucked, folded, pleated, and darted almost everything.

Then there was the issue of the fabric – lovely, weighty, and stiff, it looked like a long cardboard box hanging from my shoulders until I did all the alterations. The pattern would do well in a drapey silk or a lighter-weight shirting rather than what I used. The inspiration piece in my closet is made of seersucker, which I would put into the same weight category as my shirting here, but it may be that 40 years of life have taken some of the stiffness out of it. I guess when this new dress is 40 years old it’ll be a bit softer, too. Ha ha HA.

The dress without belt, etc. Sleeves are still a bit stiff, and collar stands up almost too much.

I will roll the sleeves up, flatten down the collar, and probably wear a belt.

Shirt tail hem – this is one reason it took me so long to finish. Curves!

Eight waist darts added!

So that is another one down, many more to go.

I started on another UFO today, a mock-wrap African print dress that should be finished by tomorrow. Then I should take a short break to assess the sewing area mess. I still have three RTW items waiting for alterations, but I may justify putting those off because they are summer weight clothes in bright colors, so I’ll tell myself it’s okay for them to sit in the closet for another 6 months. I have two more dresses cut and ready to sew, but to be honest I’m just tired of dresses now. Also, they are very spring/summer (pink cherry print cotton, and apricot silk with painted florals), so it might be some time before I get an opportunity to wear them? I don’t know.

It’s great to get these projects done, especially while I’ve been fiercely cleaning out closets and dumping accumulated craft and sewing stuff. Lots of junk out, a few nice pieces in, and clean open spaces. Let’s see if we can keep it that way.

Have you been invaded by UFOs or do you manage to finish everything you start?


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One Advantage of Fabric Hoarding

There is very little positive to be said for having a sewing room that is stacked from floor to ceiling and almost wall to wall with yards of fabric. There are pieces in there that I haven’t seen for years, and I know I’ve unnecessarily bought additional yardage when I’ve forgotten (or can’t find) the stuff I already have.

But every once in a while it does come in handy. Just on those rare occasions when you need 10 to 15 yards of prints, solids, and varying weights and fabric content all in vaguely coordinating colors. You can easily redo an entire room!

Here are some bits and pieces from the guest room makeover that I did last week while putting off a dreaded task (the shirt alterations). The guest room is actually more of an office, and is only rarely used for guests. But since I work in the office most of the day, I like it to look kind of interesting, and I update it a couple of times each year.

Duvet Cover: formerly a faded peachy-orange, bleached white and dyed with Rit Kelly Green + Lemon Yellow (yes, that is a cute little dog in the pillows )

I like green! There's a lot of green in my wardrobe and my home, and possibly an excess of green in my stash. Plus I picked up several green and garden-related fabrics on my recent trip to Northern CA (how I miss those blue skies and cool temps!). So I was itching to use a few in a way that would get them out of the fabric piles and let me enjoy them regularly.

The colors are hard to see due to photography, but I would categorize them in the olive and chartreuse group, with some yellow and sage tossed in. A salad of green fabrics!

Shams: thrifted shower curtain (still in package!)

Pillowcases: 1 yard each of quilting cottons. I split the yards to make the case and trim out of contrasting fabric, and added the white and brown polyester lace at the seams. This was inspired by a cute set of pillows with crochet edging that Kathleen posted on her Grosgrain blog. I don't crochet, but...

Green – Deb Strain’s Bees in the Cherish Nature group by Moda. I got this at Fabrications, a small shop in Healdsburg CA.
Yellow – Jason Yenter’s Yellow Bee Hive in the Botanica group by In the Beginning that I got at Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley.

Throw Pillows: fronts – quilting cotton scraps from a previous project, backs – unused dinner napkins

Curtain: 2 yards of Michael Miller Papillon from, with shower curtain trim

Dog Blanket (yes the dogs get their own blanket): pieced T-shirt fronts in gold, green, yellow, olive

Total Cost: depends on how you look at it. All the sewing took less than a day so that’s negligible. The items that are recent enough to remember add up to about $45. And that’s not bad, but you can buy a decent bed-in-a-bag for not much more than that.

On the plus side, this was all stuff that was sitting in the sewing room taking up space, and definitely not getting any value for the money spent. So I’ve reduced the stash by approximately 10 yards, an old duvet cover, some napkins, half a dozen old T-shirts, and an old curtain. Plus I have bright new custom decor in the office/guest room. Win-win.

At some point I would like to finish this little makeover by covering the hideous faux-Southwestern style headboard, as well as my desk chair, which is not very comfortable. I know I have enough fabric in the stash to do it!


Monday, September 26, 2011

News and Notes for Smart Sewists

Woo-hoo! Two blog posts in one day! Actually the previous one was from Sunday even though I posted it today.

This is one of those catch-up, catch-all posts to keep you up to date on exciting happenings.

First, a reminder that my 40% OFF EVERYTHING sale in my Etsy shop ends on the last day of September, which is this coming Friday! Use coupon code "September" at checkout for the discount.

I do still have three large lots of patterns and a huge box of fabric listed, in addition to book collections, crafts, and vintage accessories.

Next, another Etsy seller and great blogger, Mrs. Depew, is having a fantastic giveaway here on A Few Threads Loose. Comment on her blog to enter.

Don't forget the MPB Men's Boxers Sew-Along, starting next Monday October 3! I am looking forward to this for several reasons: I think it will help me temporarily put aside my no-sewing-for-others mentality and get some holiday gifts sewn up. It should be a great stash-buster! And I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up with a couple pairs of boxers for myself. Win-win-win.

If there are any apparel-sewing types in the Phoenix area, please check in with me here or on the regional forum on Pattern Review. There are very, VERY few of us in this desolate desert, and one or two members are looking for others to possibly do a meetup. In addition, I have four boxes of destash fabric I want to give to someone local who can use it. I'll probably post it on Freecycle, but wanted to offer it to fellow seamstresses in the area first.

What else is new and interesting?

Have you tried making up a color palette yet? I first came across it on Coletterie where everyone is creating a wardrobe sewing palette for Fall. Well, I don't think I'll be able to stick to one group of colors (I'm shy of comittment, plus it would encourage me to buy more fabric - a big No-No!), but once I got started with this color tool at Colour Lovers, I got kind of addicted. these are a couple of my palettes I made from photographs. So much fun, if you have several hours to lose in unproductive creativity.

And that's all the news I can think of right now!

Procrastination Leads To Productivity?

I’m becoming more childish as I get older. I wanna do the things I wanna do, and I don’t wanna do other stuff.

So many shirts, so little interest in sewing them

Last Sunday my partner asked me to alter some of his work shirts, and I agreed to do it even though a wave of resentment took hold of me immediately.

Keep in mind, this is the man who goes to work all day every day at a stressful job, comes home after ten hours, and cooks dinner for me. He does the yard maintenance, the pool maintenance, the home repairs, the car repairs, and the weekly grocery shopping. On top of all that, he makes pies. Every week he asks me what kind of pie (or cookie, or cake) I would like, and he makes that exact thing for me.

But, and not to take away from my personal hero The Selfish Seamstress, I am REALLY selfish. ESPECIALLY with sewing. It’s way too much work to make something for someone else, especially when a) you don’t know that it will fit exactly right, b) you will never know for sure whether they like it, c) you personally will not get to wear it, or d) all of the above. So I don’t like making things for my partner and I don’t like fixing things for him. I didn’t want to do his shirts.

To make the alterations, I would have to switch needles, put in new thread, wind a bobbin, stitch the shirts, finish the seams, and press them. I was in the middle of a sewing project FOR ME, and the shirts would really slow me down. So I put it off.

For a couple of days I enjoyed making my shirtdress in a Jones NY striped shirting, really nice fabric to be detailed in a later post. Then on Wednesday I got to my least favorite part – I hate hems and buttonholes, they take sooooo long when you’re so close to finishing something – so I procrastinated by doing laundry Thursday morning. Then I thought instead of putting the old bedding back in the guest bedroom, it needed a makeover. So I sewed all new pillow cases, accent pillows and curtains, dyed the duvet cover, and installed everything.

At that point I realized I had spent the majority of the day changing threads and needles on my machine and still not done the shirts. So, yes, guilt made me do it. I put in a nice sharp needle, threaded in the white, and ran through all six shirts in about an hour. Geez! I could have had them all done on Sunday!

So now it’s the dress that’s on the procrastination list. I managed to push it off the entire weekend with such follies as trips to the Goodwill to drop off items (thanks to Peter's Daily Ditch!), and to the nursery to buy more seeds for the winter vegetable garden.

Shirt dress - sneak peek!

The challenge for this week will be getting that dress done before I start another, more appealing project.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Hot Flashes and Heat Waves

It’s still over 100 degrees here every day, and the forecast doesn’t give me much hope for a cooling trend.

107? Really?

I can barely tell the difference between having a hot flash and just being too hot. I have a premonition that I’m not going to like the winter much better, however, because I’ll be wearing heavier clothing. At least if I’m wearing a loose summer dress and sandals, the red flush and the burst of sweat from a hot flash pretty much dissipates in a few minutes. What if I’m wearing jeans, a shirt and sweater, socks and boots? We will soon see.

I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing layers year-round, because of the unexpected weather here and the tendency for large buildings to be either over-heated or over-cooled. I also stopped wearing wool (itchy) and polyester (sweaty) soon after I moved to Arizona, and since then I’ve started moving away from tightly-woven silks (hot) and rayon (wrinkly). Of course that leaves me with mostly cotton and blends, and so I layer several items during the “cold” weather.

I know I’m in the early stages of this menopause business, because the hot flashes are the only symptom so far. I really have no new aches and pains, depression, or anxiety, all problems which are widely touted as being common or even unavoidable. Of course, everything from my musculo-skeletal system to my cognitive function has been deteriorating rapidly since my mid-30s, so maybe I haven’t noticed whatever incremental damage menopause has wrought.

My weight is a bit of a challenge. I gained ten pounds last winter, but this year I never experienced the loss that I’ve come to take for granted every summer. So I was stuck with the new weight, which did help my baggy pants fit better, but did not look all that great in its current locations – belly and upper arms. So I’ve been doing a little more exercise (and for me that means any exercise) and paying attention to what I eat. I got rid of five of the ten, and now will attempt to keep it within a five-pound range.

But the hot flashes are another story, and I think it will involve a lot of patience, ice water, and changes of clothes, until this hormonal transition is over.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Saga of Minnie and Maxie

If you have a dress form, you probably have a saga. If you have more than one dress form, the saga may have developed into an epic. Mine’s more like a long-running sitcom.

Minnie (l) and Maxie (r) in their covers

I’ve had Minnie, a Dritz Twin-Fit, for about two years. She was a very inexpensive eBay purchase, and when she arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see she was clean, with all her parts, and my actual size.

At first I simply dialed her parts up to match my measurements, and fit my garments to her while sewing. When, after some time, I finally faced the fact that the garments that fit Minnie didn’t fit me, I had to take a serious look at myself. I ended up dialing her amplitude back down and padding her bust, belly, and low back (or as I like to call it, the upper butt) by winding strips of batting around until her ladylike dimensions had been converted into something that looked more like me.

I made a stretch jersey cover for Minnie and used her in the newly padded conformation for several months. But her parts started moving around. Blouses weren’t fitting well and I couldn’t understand where my sewing was going wrong, until I saw that Minnie’s right boob had slipped out of her padded bra. I went on, fixing boobs and repacking belly fluff but had my eye open for something better.

Then I had another miraculous find, this time on Craigslist: A Uniquely You dress form for only $75. One surprising stroke of luck followed after another, until I came home with a never-used UY Your Shape form, with the foam intact, cover and stand complete and like new.

But Maxie was not as easy as she seemed. Have you ever tried to wrestle one of these things into its cover? For that matter, have you ever seen what they look like without the cover? It’s hilarious!

Does anyone’s body look like this? Well, the idea is that you sew the cover to fit your own body exactly, then squash the gigantic torpedo boobs and the rest of the foam body into the much smaller cover. Ha. I probably lost a few inches myself with all the calories I expended pulling, pressing, stretching, smashing, rolling, and standing on the thing to get the cover on. It’s on now, but it seems to be growing - Maxie is now about 2 inches bigger than me allover!

I looked at the reviews on PR, and they do say that you need to keep adjusting the cover periodically, as the foam will continue to stretch the cover. I’ve only just recovered from the first time!

The status now is that Minnie isn’t quite right because her padding keeps sliding around, and Maxie isn’t quite right because she’s just too large. So I’m fitting my projects on myself in the time-honored tradition of centuries of sewists.

Do you have a dress form saga?


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September is also SOWING Month

We are all excited to have the entire month of September dedicated to National Sewing Month!

But here in the Southwest desert, it is also the month to sow seeds for the winter vegetable garden. Yes, you read that right. We grow vegetables in the winter, courtesy of the mild temperatures. My winter vegetables include beans and peas, lettuce, root crops, cole crops, and herbs like dill, cilantro, and parsley. The beans and peas usually come pretty quickly, starting in November and continuing through the winter. By January or February I should have a good crop of leafy greens, carrots, and broccoli. I’m trying beets this year too.

Desert gardeners also grow in the spring and summer, but it’s a painful struggle from May through August. You have to fight the sun, the heat, the drought, and the pests. By August you’re lucky if you have any survivors in the garden. After losing all the tomato plants and most of the herbs, all I have left from my February planting is basil and oregano, which are still growing vigorously, as if the rest of the world hadn't burned to a crisp around them.

I spent a couple of mornings last week clearing the planters of the sad detritus of summer, and I’d planned to go to my favorite nursery over the weekend to pick up some seeds. Unfortunately last week’s cool weather was just a brief respite and we’re now back to the low 100s. I’ll give it another week or two before I try to plant anything, but I sure hope I can get the garden in before the end of September!

Sowing and sewing.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Do Not Attempt To Adjust The Picture

"There is nothing wrong with your television."

That's a little homage to the Outer Limits television program from the 60s.

It might appear to be an alien invasion, but you’re actually looking at my last two completed projects, with the latest, a Pucci print, next to the Marc Jacobs I blogged about earlier. They are both simple chemise dresses with straight lines, which I’ll wear belted.

The Pucci is from in a line by Springs Creative Products. I love all the Pucci patterns in all the colorways, but there’s only so much Pucci you can wear in a single lifetime, so I settled on the aqua/lime combination. These are my favorite colors and I think the dress came out very nicely, even though the pattern is basically a casual housedress.

I made some changes: split the front yoke to give it the V-neckline (and a little flap collar which you can barely see), omitted the back zipper as it’s easy to pull on, lined the whole thing with lightweight black polyester (we’ll see if that gets too hot) and cut the sleeves at elbow length.


Without the belt, it looks like a muu muu. Give me some big fuzzy slippers and hair rollers and I could be a 60’s housewife (but only in San Francisco where the neighbors could make up stories about my wild reputation and I wouldn’t mind).

Anyway, I don’t intend to wear it loose because of the muu muu effect and I think it does look fairly presentable with the belt. And probably no one will even notice the dress style because their eyes will be burned out from the print.

Isn’t it nice how certain shapes never really go out of style? Both the McCalls 8991 from 1984 and the Simplicity 5225 from 1963 have the same straight shape, basically a shapeless rectangle with dolman or kimono sleeves. I don’t know much fashion history but I presume they are all successors to the simple shift that first appeared as acceptable daywear (as opposed to lingerie) in the 1920s. I liked the pattern because it was very easy, but I think I’m over the simple shift dress for a while. I want some shape. I still have time to do a couple of fitted things before the cool weather comes and we start thinking of shapeless clothes again.
For your enjoyment, some great vintage Pucci:

From left to right, from these shops on Etsy:
Platter Matter
Cool Vintage Finds


Friday, September 16, 2011

This Dress Is So, Like, The Eighties.

It was a weird idea that shouldn’t have worked, but it did. I think.

First, I’ve had this Marc Jacobs cotton burning a hole in the stash for months now and I felt I HAD to do something with it. It’s Marc Jacobs! Probably the only Marc Jacobs anything I will ever see in person. I got it in a super-discounted last-chance sale at FabricMart some time ago.

Then, I picked up this moderately ugly McCalls dress pattern from 1984 at a thrift shop, regretted it by the time I got home, and shoved it in the back of the pattern box.

I was looking at the fabric for the umpteenth time and thought it was clever that the stripes look like paint splatters.

Paint splatters brought back the shameful memory of my paint-splattered faux-dance attire of the years 1983 through 1985 courtesy of Flashdance. Did you not have a rainbow assortment of torn-neck sweatshirts to wear with bike shorts, fluttery wrap skirts, leg warmers, or all of the above? And did those articles of never-danced-in garments not have splatters, speckles or drips of paint which may or may not have been applied by you?

Well you can see how these thoughts logically led to the next step, which was to match the paint-splattered fabric to the 80s dress pattern. And that was my last logical thought.

This is a heavy denim, or possibly lightweight canvas. Why not a coat, you ask, the obvious choice for graphically awesome black fabric? Because I live in the low desert and on the coldest winter day here I am pushing my tolerance to wear a heavy sweater. Also I have at least ten heavy coats already, from when I used to live in a cooler place. Why not jeans, an even more obvious choice for very cool striped denim? Because the stripe is crosswise, from selvedge to selvedge, and there was not enough width to get a full-length pant leg out of it. See, I have my reasons.

The pattern suggests crepe, challis, jersey, silk, or lightweight linen, so my denim was almost as far off as I could get. Interestingly, I think it all worked out. The fabric doesn’t stretch, or drape, or do any of the things that the pattern requires, yet it fits great, I like the way it looks, and I think it will be great for our “cooler” weather, that is if it ever drops below 90. But the one remaining problem? It is very difficult to get in and out of! Since this is meant to be a slippery, soft, loose dress, it has no opening other than the wide V-neck. I can shrug it over my shoulders but it does take a bit of effort.

On the topic of the pattern itself, it seems that McCalls was mighty pleased with it.

Not only do they illustrate twelve different options on the pattern front, but there’s also a ten-page pamphlet included inside the pattern envelope, further touting the wonders of McCalls 8991. Maybe this extra marketing push was common? I’ve never seen it before. It’s a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, which is surprising because I thought their thing was fitting precision. This is basically two rectangles with sleeves, sewn together at the sides and shoulders. No shaping. Hemmed and done.

I think I like it. On to the next project.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Okay, I didn’t really have a vacation.

But I did create these fabrics on Spoonflower, and it was fun! I felt like I was at summer camp where they put a whole bunch of kids at a table with buckets of art supplies and then just let them have at it.

4 of my design attempts

You can make fabric from any image you can conjure up. It’s a good idea to get a test swatch before ordering a lot of yardage, because what you think you see on the screen is not necessarily what you get. My digital masterpieces looked couture-ready on my computer, but when I got my fabric it turned out that the design was four times larger than I expected and there were visible gaps where I’d tried to merge mirror images together in Photoshop.

I ordered fat quarters but you can also get 8” x 8” test swatches of your designs for $5 each. In my case it was lucky I got the 18 x 22 quarters because my images were so large I wouldn’t have been able to see them properly on a smaller piece!

I won’t be buying any more of these designs in their current state, although I might experiment with cleaning them up and resizing the patterns. The fat quarters I have will be perfect for pillows or for a book cover project I’m considering for holiday gifts.

So if you can’t find the precise fabric design you want, or you just want to try your hand at design, get on Spoonflower and have some fun!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Take My Patterns - Please!

I am trying to reduce the pattern stash a bit, and I have more than 40 patterns of various vintages up for sale on Etsy. They are in groups of 10 to 15, by bust size, except for these two 1940s patterns in size 34/medium.

I think they would make the cutest fall outfits!

Even better, everything in my shop is 40% off for the month of September. Use coupon code “September” at checkout. Easy!

See everything in my shop here .


Monday, September 12, 2011

Liberty of London fabrics - What’s the big deal?

Gasp! Sacrilege! How can I say such a thing?

Spurred by the passion and devotion for Liberty prints expressed by so many sewing bloggers, I’ve ordered three different fabrics on three different occasions recently, and I was completely unimpressed!

Part of the problem is that after paying such a high price per yard, I expect something really mind-blowing and possibly even life-changing. Then when I get it, it turns out to just be soft cotton in pretty colors. Sometimes not-so-pretty colors.

To be fair, I might not have made the best choices. For one thing, I’ve been ordering from , which has the Liberty Tana Lawn for $32.95 per yard and with all the discounts I can usually get it for around $27, the lowest price I’ve seen anywhere. For that price, it’s not surprising that they do not carry the entire line of imaginative and colorful prints, just a select few. If I were willing to cough up the few extra dollars at B and J Fabrics, I would get a much wider selection.

For another thing, I’ve been somewhat conservative in my color and pattern choices, which is odd for me. Why suddenly dial down my kaleidoscopic taste? I think it may be because when I’m shopping, I try to keep in mind what I already have. (Key word is “try”, clearly I don’t always succeed otherwise my stash would not be teetering in ceiling-high piles.) I look at the Liberty offerings and see flowered prints in pinks, blues, oranges, reds, and combinations of above. I see paisleys in peach, turquoise, and black and white. But I already have prints in all those colors! So I can’t justify buying something really cute and colorful like Mark or Mauverina when I have several other prints in the same colors already.

So I didn’t like my first two orders – they were Kitty Grace and another one which I can't remember.

Look how lovely this Kitty Grace is online – at least on my screen, the teal is bright and there’s a warmth to the background from the yellow and gold highlights.

But when I received it, it was so boring! The teal looked like navy and the burgundy looked like red, and the yellow tones didn’t show up at all. I was looking at red white and blue heart shapes. Hello patriotic quilt print! Granted, it was the softest, smoothest cotton I’ve ever felt, but I just didn’t like it enough to use it. I ended up sending it and the other one back, and got a refund (one thing I love about!).

I initially didn’t care for my last Liberty purchase very much either, but I could sort of see how the pattern could make for an interesting garment, and the colors were unusual enough to interest me.

This one’s poplin, and it says it’s 100% cotton, but it is very stretchy! Like 10% lycra stretchy! So I don’t know for sure about the content, but it does make for very nice sewing.

I made up this little blouse, since I’d only ordered 1 yard.

The pattern is New Look 6598. I didn’t bother posting it on Pattern Review since the pattern is almost 10 years old and there are already 30+ reviews of it. It's a very easy pattern and the short-sleeve version fits on one yard of 54" fabric if you are creative with the layout.

It’s not that I have anything in particular against Liberty of London fabrics, it’s just that I can’t see what all the excitement is about.

Are you in love with Liberty? If so, why?


P.s. If you disagree with my opinion and you want to send me, all expenses paid, to London to show me the wonders of Liberty in its native environment, I’m completely open to that argument.

Online Identity Crisis

I used to think it was hard to keep track of all my online passwords, but now the problem has spread to my online identities. There are too many of them! I have this Blogger identity which is my nom de plume, I’m on facebook under my actual name, my email id is a mashup of my name, I’m on Etsy as larkhenna, my eBay name is part of my email address, I post reviews on Pattern Review and several other websites as Casual Kate, my identity on some online writers’ forums is eyenow, and I’ve commented on other people’s blogs as Katrina, Kathy, or Katharine.

Recognize these?

I have at least six different avatars, and sometimes, if given the choice, I opt not to use one.
Is this what everyone does, or do you like to pick one identity and stick with it?


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Age Appropriate Wardrobe

How do YOU decide how to dress, speak, and behave? Do you try to mimic style icons, or other public figures? Try to fit in with the style of your coworkers or family members? Do you understand society’s expectations of someone your age? Do you have some innate sense of what “acting your age” means?

I’m curious, because I’ve never really figured it out.

As an example, I never know quite what to wear. I'm 52 years old with a closet full of clothes that I think are too young or too old for me. I have hundreds of sewing patterns and I can’t decide which ones might result in age-appropriate garments.

Too young?

Too old?

What the hell was I thinking?

What does age-appropriate mean to you?


Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Does the world really need another mediocre blog filled with meaningless comments? I would add my voice to the resounding chorus of “NO!” But I’m going to do it anyway.

I did a bit of blogging once before as you might have seen here and was completely surprised by how useful it was in my work. It helped me organize my thoughts, meet deadlines, and (maybe) improve my writing. Having everything exposed in a public forum gave me that little extra push that doesn’t arise when you’re just writing in a personal journal.

I’m at that point again where I have too many sewing projects in progress, too many story ideas fighting to come to the surface, too many abandoned art works, and too much procrastination. I feel overwhelmed and confused, and I have only myself to blame.

A cluttered workspace is a sign of ...

It’s time for a little organization and self-control. I’m expecting this blog to contribute to that effort! Also because I have a fairly short attention span, it may or may not involve my thoughts on age, gender, work ethic, television, literature, collecting vintage stuff, and most of all sewing, my favorite pastime.

Here we go!