Monday, December 27, 2010

Theoretical Clothing - The Blue and Gold Edition

So I still need some cold- weather clothing. Despite the fact that I live in The South and it didn't actually start acting like winter until the beginning of November the weather has decided to make up for lost time. So what to do? Well I am going to make another knit dress, but this time it will be out of this lovely blue wool knit pictured below. And that gold knit? That happens to be an Italian silk knit that I got at a pretty sweet deal and it feels dreamy. I have enough of it to make a long sleeve cowl neck, like this one, and a camisole. These items are from my TNT patterns and I can knock out both in one afternoon. Even after modifying the dress sleeves to be elbow length (Of course now that I've said that I've jinxed myself... I just know it).

And the final bit to this theme of blue and gold is this fabric I picked up in Nashville, TN while there to see the "Golden Age of Couture" exhibit at the Frist Museum*. I have enough to make about two items out of this fabric. The first will be a high-waist strait skirt, but the second? Not a clue. Any suggestions?

*I highly recommend going to see at least one exhibit at The Frist. The building alone is worth the trip. Its a beautiful example of Depression era Art Deco. Here's a picture of me and my daughter outside after the tour. And in keeping with this being a sewing blog, I made both dresses!

(Looking at pictures from earlier in the year I am definitely seeing the progression of weight loss. Not to toot my own horn or anything.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Revisting Old Inspiration

I admit it, I'm writing this at work. I know, I know. I'm a bad employee and setting a poor example. But honestly there's a network black out (I'm a Junior Sys Admin/Fourth Level Escalations for a LARGE communications company) company wide. Most everyone is on vacation and anything that is 24/7/365 is on skeleton crew so no changes outside of emergencies are being done. No upgrade, nothing... emergency fixes only. S0 I um... I'm testing to make sure customers can get to! Yeah THAT'S IT! You believe me,


So back in Spring of 2010, which in the Fashion World (please note ironic use of capital letters) that's like eons ago, Ralph Lauren came out with this dress in his RTW collection. I just fell in love with it. He was taking inspiration from The Great Depression (these capitals are not ironic). I loved the blue with the red buttons, and the matching belt. I went in search of a pattern that would be a close match. And almost nine months later I found it. I bought the pattern on the left from Midvalle Cottage on Etsy. She has wonderful taste, especially for the 40's and 60's. And if you are in the market for vintage patterns for children, she has a lot of those too.

But in any case, I am quite pleased with this find and I am going to add it to my list of spring "To Make" dresses. This is going to be a spring and summer full of dresses for me. The pattern itself has three different sleeve variations, the short sleeved version will be the one I use. I think I might have to try the cap sleeves as well. I have the red buttons but now to find a blue print that I actually like. One that is small enough to work. And maybe I'll even be able to use some of vintage cotton thread. Not sure how wooden spools are going to work in my machine, though. I'm sure it will be OK. In any case, looking at these two pictures really brings home that there is such thing as "classic style". Taking a piece of advise from Tim Gunn (paraphrased, of course), if you want to do a vintage look but keep it modern, pair it with modern accessories and hairstyles. There's no substitute for class, that's something you feel inside.

Speaking of those vintage spools of thread, I did some stress tests on it to see if they were any more brittle than my modern poly thread. Nope, it took about the same amount of tension to snap either, so that's good.

That's all for today. Stay Fabulous!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Or Happy Yule, A Late Solstice, or whatever winter holiday you might hold near and dear to your heart. I did very little in the realm of sewing other than to trace a pattern for my knit dress. And then another for the shirt version of the Vogue 8679.

But what I did want to share was a picture of all the nifty vintage sewing loot I got for Christmas. Cotton thread on wooden spools, lace, a tailor's tack marker, and then some tailor's chalk, spare needles, and a bracelet pin cushion my daughter made for me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Theoretical Clothing - Part 1 of Wardrobe Planning for Fall and Spring

So like many people that love to sew we also love to shop for, and collect fabrics. Because ONE DAY we're going to make them into fabulous clothing. Every single piece we buy, honest. "You believe me honey, right?" I say to my husband. "I dunno, what's in it for me?" he asks. The rest of that conversation is not meant for this blog, thankyouverymuch.

In an effort to keep myself motivated and actually have, ya know, something to post I intend to do a series of wardrobe planning posts. The fabric I have and what I plan to make with it. Its good to have goals. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway. In any case, I have some sapphire blue wool jersey that I am going to make another dress like the polkadot one. I plan on lengthening the sleeves and leaving it at "just below the knee" length. I have found it to be one of my favorite dresses patterns as it provides a lovely backdrop for so many accessories.

But I also really need some blouses and camisoles. I have two patterns in the stash for that. Both of them are out of print McCall's patterns and both will require a good bit of adjustment for the bust. The good news about the actual blouse is that it has multiple sleeve options. Hooray for multi-season workhorse patterns! I might also take another crack at the Sencha Blouse. And last but no least for winter I want a black cotton velvet cropped jacket. I have this New Look 6564 and I want to make view E. Though I haven't decided if I want to add trim or not. I don't think I do.

But before I do ANY of that I am going to sew together my daughter's robe and make a pair of PJ's for my son.

There will be pictures later, PROMISE!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Polka Dot? Why not! (More Pictures Too)

Hi Again! Remember I said I had made several other garments including a polka-dot dress. Since I was all dolled up and we still had some light left I had my husband take pictures of all the other garments as well. You will see there's a theme here. Namely, polka-dots. I sent off to have a bow belt professionally made to match the dress. And really the blouse is one of my current favorites. I need to make a couple more long sleeve cowl necks because they go so well with the high-waist skirts. But first, I need to think about Christmas for the kids. Christmas. Bah. Humbug. ( I'm trying not to keep my lack of enthusiasm from spilling over to the children but its hard.)


Dress + Belt + Hat = I should be at the Kentucky Derby

This Skirt I have dubbed "Charisma Bonus Skirt"

Booty, I has it.

Here's the dress paired with the Karen Cardigan from Its too big, I'm going to do the non-plus size next time.

What I do like about the Karen Cardigan is that you can belt it with things other than the tie the instructions have you make. I think it makes the dress much more playful, and also gives me the ability to wear it in colder weather.

For those of you that grew up with Animaniacs, you probably can't hear about PolkaDots without thinking of this episode. Oh you don't? Well now you will! Stay fabulous!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dragon Scale Skirt Success!

I am so happy its finally done! I ran into some difficulty when putting in the lining. Things did not line up the way I wanted them to which leads to a bit of weirdness in the back but honestly I'm the only one that's going to notice. So you know what, I'm not even going to point them out! Also I'm wearing it with my polka-dot blouse made from Silhouette #550, the cowl neck blouse. Its been modified for a full bust and I can make it in either a woven or a knit. I also have self-drafted a butterfly sleeve to use with it that I love. In fact I have some more fabric in the wings waiting to be cut out of that pattern. Its possible I'll end up with a closet full of cowl neck blouses (Which is why its a TNT pattern). Variations on a theme... But anywho, SKIRT! Here it is!

I also have decided all my future pencil skirts will have a lining. The difference in the way it lays and moves is quite significant. and it feels scrumptious. And while this looks only vaguely like the original inspiration, it makes me very happy. And I have just enough of the fabric left to make a little matching clutch using one of my Thread Magazine tutorials.

Honestly, I can't wait to wear out!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Elusive Creatures

Meet Bai Long, our elusive half Siamese. Her name means 'white dragon', and yes I realize she's all black. Except a small white patch where she was shaved when they fixed her. My roommate at the time said we should shave zebra stripes in her, cause wouldn't it be cool if it all came in white? My response "Go right ahead and try, that's all you. Let me know how it works out." Needless to say, this never transpired.

Bai Long was born three weeks before I met my husband and she's been with us ever since. That makes her 14 years now. Why am I bringing this up? Well the fur that I chose to use for my Dragon Scale Skirt looks and feels just like her. In fact, Felicity asked me what I had done to Bai Long that made her hair go all over the place. My very helpful roommate told her we had a disagreement. Really it was cause I had trimmed the seam allowance on the piece of fur and it got EVERYWHERE. But walking in from work to be accosted by a seven year old going "What did you and Bai Long argue about?" was not what I was expecting. But to the right you might be able to see what I mean.

So I managed to sew on the fur trim (my husband does the Beavis laugh every time I say that, no idea why...) and I also got the darts sewn in the back. I tried it on and my roommate said "Hey, it makes your butt look smaller". Cool? Maybe? I kinda like my butt but I guess that's OK. I took some pictures of it in the sun. (The skirt, not my butt. Get yer minds of the gutter, sheesh)

See what I mean? When the light hits it just right it does not look like anything I've ever seen. I wish I could have been able to get more of this fabric cause its just so cool.

I do wish I could offer up a better picture of Bai Long but she does not photograph well. I've never met a cat that has quite such a talent for being invisible. So many times we've walked through the room searching for her and can't find her until we sit down and realize she's there on the white pillow and languidly opens one eye at us. Some part of me thinks she really was a dragon in a past life.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How to Acquire More Sewing Machines

Well the first thing you need is a family full of pack rats that also happen to sew. My first sewing machine acquired was my Grandma's portable quilting machine that my Aunt Kristi sent me after she passed away. I cut my teeth on it but found myself very frustrated cause I wanted to work with knits and other fidgety fabrics and quilting machines really only like cotton.

The next machine was a Brother SE-270D that Mom got for me as a Christmas present. That doesn't really count toward the pack-rat tendency, but that put me at two sewing machines. Ok, cool. I packed up the portable for emergency backup sewing machine purposes. But this only made me lament for a serger. I really wanted one badly, but they are expensive so I made due. But then my husband's grandmother passed away and my mother-in-law now found herself with THREE sergers. So I inherited one of them. I have been very happily honing my skills with knits thanks to Gertie's guest poster.

And this past weekend my Mother-in-law brought me this (just the machine, Manga* was already there. In fact he's still there. I'm not sure he's moved in two days):

Its an old Sears Kenmore made out of solid metal and I think it might weigh 40 pounds. Thankfully no one had to die for this one to come to me. HAHAHA *ahem* Right, tasteless jokes. Anyway.... All it does is a straight stitch and SUPPOSEDLY its heavy duty enough to sew leather and denim. This is good cause I have some projects coming up that need to do just that. One day... maybe, in my dreams.

So add this to my daughter's sewing machine (One of the last of the Singer Featherweights) and That makes five sewing machines. FIVE AH AH AAAH!

Speaking of tasteless jokes:

*If you are wondering about Manga's one eye looking all weird its because he survived a coyote attack earlier this year. We thought he had lost the eye all together but it turns out he's still able to use it. It get weepy from time to time and I try to put medicine in it but then he gets mad and won't come home for a day or two.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Check Out This Zipper!

As promised I took some pictures of the Skirt-In-Progress. I have decided that I am going to call it the "Dragon Scale Skirt" because the way that it reflects light gives it an ethereal sheen and makes me think of the Blue Dragons from the Pern Series.

I found this fabric at Gail K's. There was only one bolt of it and it was a whopping $30 a yard. The plus side is that at 60 inches wide I figured I could squeeze the fashion fabric out of just one yard. The down side? After washing and laying it out I discovered that it was very badly off grain on the cut so I had more like 7/8ths of a yard. I knew that it would be four inches shorter than usual, since the bottom will be trimmed with fur. It took some serious fabric origami but I got it cut out. And after my last skirt I learned that one should put the zipper in the back pieces FIRST before sewing the rest of the skirt together. I decided to machine stitch in a metal zipper because I'm rather hard on my clothing and hopefully I will be able to wear this skirt a lot. I'm really proud of how the zipper turned out.

The pins you see in the skirt to the left are marking the darts I need to take. I have... well I have what my husband affectionately calls "ethnic booty" and a sway back that curves into a waist that's almost 10 inches smaller than my hips (and my bust and hips are almost the same circumference, especially now that I've been putting effort into working out and weight loss). This is one of the reasons I learned to sew. RTW doesn't make garments for the true hour glass shape. So four darts in the back of the waist to take in four inches. Hopefully without puckering.

So now I have to finish the darts and sew on the fur trim at the bottom and then start on constructing the lining and the waist band. And since I don't have enough fabric to do ONE solid piece of fabric I am going to use a men's tailoring trick in which you have the seam go through the waistband as well. This will make it three separate pieces sewn together but also allow me to take it in if necessary (or out, but who wants to think about that?).

Monday, December 6, 2010


(Princess and Pirate at the Renaissance Festival two years ago. Have I mentioned I love my kids?)

And here I realize that my last post before the Dec. 5th one was about going to take a nap and then finishing my daughter's costume. That was over a month ago! Man, I've been in a serious funk. Aside from the lack of sunshine in the winter, the back to back big family holidays stress me out. Why? Its hard to explain, they just do.

So I had to work the day of Halloween. This was the first time I hadn't managed to get the day off at my job. Since I have had most of the other holidays off I just decided it wasn't worth arguing. I did get pictures of the costume I pulled out of my ass at the last minute for Felicity. For reference, she wanted to be Aang, from "The Last Airbender". The cartoon on Nickelodeon, not the movie. This was a very very important distinction for her. Simon wanted to be a ninja warrior and since I was pressed for time and couldn't imagine improving on it, I just bought one. I felt a little dirty doing so as I have NEVER EVERY actually bought a costume before. That's totally cheating. He wore it for three days straight until I forced him to take it off and put it in the wash for fear it might become sentient on its own and walk away whilst he slept. But I digress.

(Reference Photo)

So you see Aang above? He's the Avatar, or the only one that can control all four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water. His job is to keep balance in the world and there's one born every generation. Except that he went missing for 100 years and everything went bad. Now he's back and ready to make things right! He's the hero of the story, and that's who my little girl wants to be for Halloween. My daughter is a sword wielding princess or a bad ass martial artist who controls all the elements. Me thinks I must be doing SOMETHING right. So... costume. Right.

I wasn't allowed to shave her head so I improvised with a bald wig cap. The cape I made out of a large circle and I used brown leggings for the basis of the pants. I had this idea of making the body suit out of yellow broadcloth but threw that out the window and hacked up a couple of yellow t-shirts and made it work. The end result was not perfect, but it was better than this piece of overpriced crap. She wore it to church and several of the kids recognized her right off even though the parents were clueless. But the end goal was realized, which is to say both children were very happy and got lots of loots!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm not dead yet!

But I just might be by Christmas. Well no, not really. The seasons really do effect my mood and after almost a month of the entire household having one illness after another I just wanted to crawl into bed and hide under the covers. Except a couple Friday's ago I managed to go out dancing with some girlfriends and ended up with a new friend. And a commission. Probably the ONLY kind of commission I'll take cause its a SCARF. Seriously, scarves are a strip of fabric, how bloody hard can that be?

How did I agree to doing this? Don't ask, that's classified information. But let's just say that this friend really likes Burberry Scarves, which are "HOLY CRAP $200+ FOR A STRIP OF FABRIC REALLY?????" expensive. I can get you two yards of nice cashmere for half that. But since he wanted it to be the same colors in a plaid this involved going to my favorite fabric store in downtown Atlanta. And since my niece and sister were in town for Thanksgiving I got to drag them along. (My niece looking through the shiny section. All together now, OOO SHINY!)

That's my family for you. They come into town and we go to the fabric store, or the music store (like, the kind that sells SHEET MUSIC, remember that stuff?). Or comics... Geekiness is inherited, of this I'm certain.

Anyway, I also was there to get some cotton velvet for a cropped jacket, or bolero, whatever you want to call it. But after combing through the massive table full of wool suiting weight material I found what looks to be a perfect match. Its a Pendleton Wool, very VERY soft. I was hoping that I'd have enough left to make a skirt but I'm making it double thickness so no.. no dice. But there it is to the right. They had several bolts of the stuff so I might just go back for more. As it is I can probably make a plaid skirt for Felicity.

OH, you want to know if I've been sewing other things? Why actually I did manage to make a few garments but I can't post any pictures because I don't have a way to take them myself and good lighting + me + husband at home don't happen often at the same time. If anyone wants to donate a decent camera with timer and tripod to the cause it would make me REALLY happy!

The two days before I went dancing I had an overwhelming urge to make a black and white polka-dot knit dress. I finished the dress in time for Friday night thanks to a wonderful bout of insomnia. That would be View C from Vouge8679. The dress was apparently successful since I made a new friend the night I wore it out. I also made a black double knit skirt from View E on Vogue8672. I've decided that this skirt adds +10 to my charisma bonus and must be worn with caution. I'm still gonna make more.

All the kidding aside, though, I have found myself somewhat crippled by the skirt I want to make inspired by Oscar de la Renta. Knowing I have everything needed to make the skirt while at the same time feeling overwhelmed by the undertaking has led to a lot of delaying on other projects or avoidance of sewing altogether. Friday and Saturday this week I took a deep breath and dove in. Cutting out the fashion fabric proved to be a feat of geometric proportion. But I did it and I serged the edges, got the lining pattern drafted and cut out, and also cut out the fur (fake) trim for the bottom. I will say that this is probably the nicest faux fur I've ever worked with. Last thing I did last night is trim the seam allowances and it kind of felt like I was snipping fur off of my cat. So I'll try to take some construction pictures of that and I will feel so much better once I have that silly thing conquered.