Friday, September 30, 2011
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
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.
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!
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.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
This is a wonderful cotton blend fabric I got from FabricMart.
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
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.
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.
Curtain: 2 yards of Michael Miller Papillon from fabric.com, 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
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.
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!
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.
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.
The challenge for this week will be getting that dress done before I start another, more appealing project.
Friday, September 23, 2011
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
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
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
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 fabric.com 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.
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:
Friday, September 16, 2011
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.
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?
I think I like it. On to the next project.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
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
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
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 fabric.com , 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 fabric.com!).
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.
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
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.
What the hell was I thinking?
What does age-appropriate mean to you?
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
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!