Wednesday, January 30, 2008

UFO Watch 2008: Burping Up Slugs

So, you know that scene in the first Harry Potter movie where Ron is burping up slugs and Hagrid tells him, "Better out that in"? And Ron says, "It's horrible" with the most pitiful expression? Finishing this dress was like burping up slugs: totally grim and unpleasant, and yet I felt helpless to just stop and chuck it in the trash. I felt like there was a virtue to perseverance. I think the end result is totally wearable (though by no means perfect). By the time Spring rolls around, I'm hoping this dress doesn't make me think of slugs at all.

Item: Butterick 3078 wrap dress

Stage: This had once been sewn, with the result that it looked like the "before" picture above. Obviously, that was never ever going to be wearable in a million years. For last January's UFO contest I took it apart. It stayed that way for a year, and when I picked it back up it was in pieces.

Reason Abandoned: This is possibly the worst pattern ever drafted. It was ugly in the first place (see pattern photo at right), what with that hideous bagging at the waist. But the pattern exceeded (deceeded?) even the terrible drawing. It was like they gave a blindfolded child a crayon and used the resulting crude outline of a wrap dress as the pattern. When it came out of the box looking like the before picture above, I knew it was going to need so much work to be wearable that I totally lost interest.

Time as a UFO: Three years. Two years sewn, one year in pieces, all three kicking around on my craft room floor. I gotta give props--that is some durable polyester right there. It was unwrinkled and unharmed by three years of walking on it.

Time to complete
: Around 6 hours.

Work done to complete:

-Shortened the front shoulder by about an inch at the shoulder and two inches at the neck. This created fitting wrinkles radiating diagonally from the shoulder and downward toward the bust. I don't care.

-Sewed the seams with a 3/8" seam allowance.

-Put it on Violet, my dressform, and cut it apart at the waist. I just eyeballed it.

-Took two inches off the bottom of the bodice front at the waist. This makes a total of four inches of length removed from the wrap. It does not gape.

-Bound the raw edges of the bodice and the right half of the skirt (the half that shows). I cut the blue crepe into strips four inches wide, folded in half, sewed right sides and raw edges together, then turned to the inside and hand-sewed in place.

-For the tie, cut the blue crepe 10 inches wide and two 45" lengths, sewed together (I would later unpick the center seam so the left side/underlayer of the skirt's tie could come out through it at CB), made a tube, turned.

-Sewed the bodice to the tie/tube.

-Made a skirt extension for the underlap, sewed to skirt, sewed skirt to tie/tube.

-Set in sleeves. This was originally supposed to have long sleeves to be an early spring dress, but it didn't look good. I kept shortening the sleeves until they were OK. I still didn't like them because the fit of the sleeve was too close to look good--not uncomfortably tight, just unattractive--and they needed *something* to deal with that. I bound the hems and that added the needed something.


If you're interested, you can read more about this project in the PR review or browse through the photo album.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Green Coat: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I already exhaustively catalogued the emotional issues surrounding the green coat, now it's time for the nitty gritty.

The Good

This jacket has really exceptional design. Now, I'm not talking about the style here, although that is fun and a little different than anything else on the market. I'm talking about the actual pattern draft. Sewing it is a treasure hunt, searching for the next really cool bit of design. I was truly humbled by the skill and ingenuity of the drafter, and I felt like it was really a sewist's pattern--the result is great, but it's the almost invisible features that keep you interested.

This was exemplified most by the sleeves and the collar area.

The three piece sleeve is just ingenious. It is the hybrid love child of a raglan and a set-in. The movement ease comes from the design--there was no easing involved, which was a big part of why I chose it. Easing heavy fabric is painful, and even with three pressing hams to choose from I knew I wasn't going to get a good eased sleeve cap.

It's sewn in using an alternate in-the-flat construction (I have recently been converted to inserting sleeves in the flat). You sew the middle sleeve to the back sleeve, then sew the front and back sleeve units to the garment, and last sew the shoulder and front/middle sleeve seam as one. Very clever and very much easier to construct in heavy wool than a traditional sleeve.

The collar area also has a lot of moving parts that add up to a really interesting design.

This was a little confounding at first. I couldn't get the pieces to fit together. The back facing was the problem. I hate facings and haven't used one in so long that I had to call Cidell and make sure that the narrow part of the facing goes around the neck. She said yes. But it wasn't working. I turned the facing upside down and everything went together. There was no indication in the instructions or on the pattern (such as through the use of seam numbers) that this was correct, but Melissa at Fehr Trade reached the same conclusion in a different BWOF jacket so at least I am in rareified company!

I was nervous about doing both parts of the collarstand in the heavy wool--it was a thick fabric for such small pieces--but in the end decided using lining for one of them wouldn't look right. It turned out not to be as difficult to wrangle the fabric as I feared, and when it was done I saw the cool disappearing collarstand effect that gives a nice collar roll in back (after I hand sewed in the ditch between the collars as shown at right) while maintaining the tidy little 60s collar look in front.

The Bad

Other than not understanding some of the instructions, I only had one beef with this pattern. There was some sort of issue with the sleeve draft. You know how when a knit shirt gets stretched out by a hanger and has a weird bubble on your upper arm a couple inches below the shoulder? It looked exactly like that about three inches down from the shoulder at the front/middle sleeve seam. I kept flattening the curve more and more; in the end I think I flattened it about half an inch and I think I still see a bit of a phantom pooch.

The Ugly

The ugly is all me. I couldn't get the back point straight and centered.

I ripped it out a couple of times but that was the closest I came. I ended sewing one leg of the point by machine and the other by hand because I couldn't even get the machine to go in there. Check out how many layers I was working through there! I clipped the point of the upper back all the way to the stitch line, but it still didn't give me enough room to get it right. I am sure a more skilled and patient sewist could have done it, so I'll call it what's slapdash about this project.

Making it Mine

I had to add some little touches to make this coat mine. And what's more me than pink? Rather than the depressing lining I originally chose, I ended up with a bright pink paisley poly print from Joann.

I used it for my pocket welts, and wanted to bring it into the rest of the coat somehow. I found a place for it on the back belt, cutting it about 1/2 inch wider than the coating so it would roll out over the seam allowances. Then I got the idea to add a sleeve belt, as I wanted to do something fun with the sleeves and I like sleeve belts on RTW coats. But I was in sort of a quandary. I knew I was going to use my Pacific Trimmings closures instead of buttons, so I didn't want to introduce buttons on the sleeve belts. But how to make sleeve belts without buttons? By sewing the ends into seams. I debated which seams to use for the sleeve belts and finally decided only to do little ones over the middle sleeve. It's an unusual look but I think it works. I also brought the lining fabric near the face by cutting the undercollar of it.

If you just can't get enough of my endless prattling about this coat, you can check out the review. If you just like pretty pictures, you can visit the photo album.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Too Good to Use

So to my mind there are two types of Too Good to Use fabric:

1) My poor skill level is not capable of executing a project worthy of the fabric.

Which is silly, of course. It's an inanimate object, and the money I earned at my real job was certainly worthy of buying it. But I'm not going to pretend there aren't any Too Good to Use fabrics of this nature in my stash.

2) The platonic ideal perfect project for this fabric has not been located in any fashion style thus far conceived by (wo)man.

This one is probably worse for me than #1. I've gotten better about cutting into good fabrics by repeating to myself until I don't quite believe it but can at least repeat it that the fabric is more expensive to me sitting in stash than it is in even a less-than-exquisite-and-haute-couture garment.

The second one is more tricky. You can't accuse yourself of low self-esteem with that one, thus bullying your low-self-esteem-and-easily-bullied self into using it. You're not opposed on principle to using the fabric. It's just a matter of finding the right project.

Thus it was with this green wool and cashmere coating I purchased from FFC in July of 2006. It wasn't quite the right fabric for me in the first place. I was rather new to the world of online fabric shopping (oh to be young and innocent again), and when I saw wool/cashmere coating for $12/yd I felt that I should buy it right away before they noticed they were selling wool/cashmere coating for $12/yd. I was legitimately in need of a new winter coat, my old one being a camel colored wool/poly blend that was on its last legs, filthy with shredded lining that surely could not last me another winter.

It arrived. It was a lovely fabric, just not *quite* my color. To match the color, I chose a lining I was so not excited about because I thought it would "match better" and "be more proper." The colors are close to my colors, but just dark enough that I find them somber and depressing. (All is not lost, Cidell saw this poly crepe in my stash and loved it, so it will go to a good home.)

I had just discovered the fitting joys of princess seams. Though I had been sewing for most of my life at that point, discovering Pattern Review profoundly affected my skills in all areas; I finally realized that I was going to have to do something about patterns not fitting rather than trying them over and over out of the envelope and being disappointed every time, so I wanted a coat with princess seams. I got Butterick 4665 and dreamed.

That winter I wore the filthy, disgusting, worn-out camel-colored poly blend coat.

The next winter (the winter we're currently experiencing) I wore the filthy, disgusting, worn-out camel-colored poly blend coat until December when I was finally grossed out enough to muslin Butterick 4665 in a wearable cordouroy with fleece lining. In the interim, I had of course sewn dozens and dozens of items of clothing I have to literally shove onto the rack of my closet, while one of the very few items of clothing of which I was in actual need remained in the flat-fold stage. The cordouroy jacket was surprisingly warm, and took me all the way down to freezing point, at which point it kind of peters out.

While I liked Butterick 4665, the sleeve cap ease is disastrous. I had a hard enough time easing cordouroy; I knew that even with my now *three* pressing hams I'd never get a good sleeve head in the wool. Also, it was a little boring.

At PR Weekend I fell in love with Vogue 8307, and even went so far as to get it for my free Vogue pattern. But then I thought that it really needed to be in a dark color and wouldn't work in my light green.

Ugh. So, at this point I had been talking myself out of making a much-needed coat for a year and a half and finally over the weekend I decided the end of the Wool Contest was the kick in the butt I needed to just MAKE the thing. Any coat would be better than none!

I looked through my designer inspiration folder and found this Giambatista Valli babydoll coat and decided to just go with that as my starting point. I could easily cut a yoke into one of the patterns I already had, but then would find myself with the same gathering/easing problem I had feared with the sleevehead. Also, this above-bust babydoll style works great in a cropped jacket, but the proportions wouldn't work in a hip-length coat.

Keeping the style in mind, I tried to figure out how to translate it to a longer coat based on the patterns I had in my home. I went through all my Burdas (I love having a BWOF collection!) and found #115 in the 8/2007 issue. I have plans to make this as a cropped jacket for a kind of silly 60s outfit but it wasn't until I saw it with new eyes that I saw its possibility for a coat.

A decision had been made. I would be paralyzed no more. While the pattern doesn't translate perfectly as a long coat in a heavy wool the point's done.

That Too Good to Use Fabric? It's not so high and mighty anymore. Now it's just keeping me warm.

UFO Watch 2008: Cowl/Funnel Neck Tank

Item: Simplicity 3830 cowl/funnel neck tank

Stage: Technically the side seams were sewn, but not securely (see difficulties with sewing). So basically everything.

Reason Abandoned: This was probably my most legitimately abandoned project. This poly knit is damn near impossible to sew. I couldn't get my machine to leave a stitch in it to save my life, no matter what kind of needle I used. It was too hard to pierce the fabric with a hand-needle to complete it manually. I finally gave up in disgust.

Time as a UFO: Approaching three years. I know I started it before I joined Pattern Review, which was May of 2006. After joining PR I attempted a project in a similar horrible knit and again couldn't get my machine to lay down a stitch. Some helpful sewists recommended a stretch needle (I was using a ballpoint, which wasn't working) and it was like magic! Once I actually acquired stretch needles I have no excuse for not picking this back up.

Time to complete: About 30 minutes.

Work done to complete: Resewed the side seams; sewed the shoulders; attached the collar; hemmed the bottom, armscyes, and neck edge; hand-tacked the collar down at CF, CB, and shoulders.


My sewing resolution list changes very little from year to year, and one of its perpetual chestnuts is:

-learn welt pockets.

I can now officially cross that off the list.

-learn welt pockets.

Over the years I have read many, many tutorials, instructions, musings, directions, philosophizings, and all manner of writings on welt pockets but I could never make heads or tails of it. One of my big problems in sewing is that I do *not* have a 3D mind. I am a verbal person; I think in script, not pictures. Trying to mentally put together a three dimensional object makes my head explode. When I'm trying to figure out a construction problem I have to cut out little paper shapes to make sense of things.

But somehow, someway, all that reading and thinking about welts finally sunk in and a few weeks ago I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep and thinking about sewing (of course) and suddenly it seemed that they made sense. It seemed so simple and obvious, in fact. You sew the welt to the fashion fabric right sides together, clip, and then turn the welt through your clip and it's done. I was excited but cautious--could it really be so easy?

I didn't have any reason to try it out until this weekend when I finally made the coat I've been needing for a while. I could either put pockets in the side seams, or I could try my hand at welt pockets. If you, too, are struggling with the welt, hopefully this will be a cumulative entry in your quest to *get* it. I certainly would not have done it had not many, many before me helped me out.

First I decided to practice. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? Welts! For reals! I did several to make sure I had the technique down and then I was ready (scared, but ready) to put them into the coat.

My technique for the combo welt/pocket piece is non-standard and a round pocket is nicer, but for my first attempt I really was not in the mood to be fussy about the pocket shape.

First I fused heavy interfacing over the welt line on the wrong side of the coat and the welt.

Next step was the first place I got stuck. I had marked the stitch lines on the welt and the location on the wrong side of the coat. I couldn't see both of these sets of markings at once. Even transferring the location line to the right side of the coat wouldn't have done me any good because my welt fabric wasn't transparent. I thought and thought about how to deal with this and finally realized that I actually didn't need to mark the stitch lines on the welt, the only important line was the placement line. All I needed to do with pin the welt so that the two interfaced bits were approximately on top of each other, and the pocket was facing the direction it would eventually want to face (i.e., angled down and toward the front). Remember, right sides together!

With the pinning over with, I still wasn't quite sure how to mark the stitch lines. Then I hit upon hand basting. I am not one to baste anything, ever, and I am *definitely* not one to hand baste. But in this instance, it was the best solution--and of course it took less two minutes. I did the hand basting exactly over the placement line. Now it was easy to see where to put the stitch lines.

I ran the inside of the foot along the baste line for the first leg, and then I turned it around ran the outside of the foot along the first set of stitching to get a 1/4 inch width between my stitch lines. I was very careful to make the lines exactly the same size; at the end where I turned around I was able to see what I was doing, for the other end I marked the stopping point with chalk. All the tutorials I read emphasized the importance of having identical lines.

Next you take your scissors to your project. This is the moment of truth. I started at the center and slashed down to each end, clipping a triangle at the outer edges. The legs of my triangles go exactly all the way to the ends of my stitch lines. It's important to clip as close to the stitch lines as possible.

Now open out your slashed line and sew the two layers of your triangle together. None of the tutorials I read were very clear on how deep you need to sew within the triangle. I figured it was safest to sort of close up the two stitch lines. To do this I moved my needle one click to the left so I could get deeper into the triangle. After doing that stitch line, I did a tight narrow zigzag on closer to the point of the triangle to make it as secure as possible.

Now you turn your welt to the inside (unfortunately, I didn't think to get a picture of that, and this was the biggest hurdle I had in visualizing the process). Smooth the welt over the slit seam allowances and pin in place. I stitched in the ditch to keep my slippery poly welt from moving around. This was my first time to use a blind hem foot to stich in the ditch.

Next, fold the pocket in half and sew all around.

Voila! A welt pocket!

And now that welt pockets are crossed off, can a fly front be far behind? (Answer: Yes. Very far.)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

UFO Watch 2008: Pillowslip

Item: Pillowslip

Stage: Needed to be stuffed and crocheted closed

Reason Abandoned: I didn't like it much, and yarn is not my strong point

Time as a UFO: about three years (I think it got it at Christmas 3 years ago)

Time to complete: About 30 minutes (not counting trip to Ikea)

Work done to complete: Bought a pillowform from Ikea, stuffed it in, crocheted closed, wove in the ends

So, in the Great Craft Clean Up Event of 2008, many UFOs were unearthed. Y'all know I make no bones about my habits and slovenliness, so I'm not trying to make myself look unwarrantedly good when I say I don't make many UFOs. It's my one saving grace as a sewist and crafter in general. There are several factors involved: I get obsessed with whatever I'm working on and can only overcome the obsession by finishing it; I generally work a project to completion before going on to the next; and...ok, maybe there are only two factors involved. But "few" UFOs is not none. I knew they were in there, but they were kind of blending in with the mess. When I picked everything up, I had to face them.

Some of them I tossed, mostly of the "if I alter this fairly hideous article of clothing it will become less hideous but not actually wearable" variety. But there were a few I wanted to finish. I bagged them up in individual bags so I could have the satisfaction of ceremoniously putting the bag in with the re-use pile after it was emptied.

One of the first I tackled was a pillowslip from my grandmother. Now, I come from a family of women with exquisite yarncraft abilities. My mother wields the crochet hook with intimidating speed, and my grandmother's knitting output is phenomenal. Their work keeps me warm while I watch TV on the couch. My grandmother knitted the purple afghan in the background, and my mother made the multi-colored one in the foreground to match my condo decor for my birthday.

Clearly this amazing skill skipped a generation. I can allegedly "crochet," by which I mean plain single crochet chain stitch. Please observe the washcloth below. Also note that I tore the entire thing out not once but *twice* to get it so "nice."

When my grandmother gave me the purple afghan she gave me a matching pillow. Since my family lives in Texas and I received it in person, it made no sense to give it to me with a pillow form in it, as I just had to shove it in luggage for the plane ride home to DC. The pillow isn't really my style (I'm not hip enough to do ironic kitsch, so in my hands it's just kitsch) so I didn't bother dealing with it. For about three years it sat on the floor, waiting to be tossed or finished.

It seemed too rude to throw away my grandmother's work, so I decided to finish. I bought a pillowform from Ikea, shoved it in, and--with fear and trembling--set to work with the crochet hook and yarn my grandmother had thoughtfully provided. I had no idea what I was doing so I just kind of made it up as I went along, but amazingly it turned out pretty well.

I should have washed the pillow cover before closing it up as it was rather dusty from sitting on the floor all that time. Oh well. It's done! And it appears very happy to be with its sibling the afghan.

I just won my auction on eBay for the black version of the red boots I'm wearing here, which I got at Ross for $15 and have been wanting black ones ever since. I saw some at Marshall's for $40 and have been kicking myself for months for not getting them, but now I got them on eBay for $25, including shipping, so patience is a virtue? Or cheapness was rewarded? Or something. That means I can go to bed. I'll leave you with one of my favorite TSA jokes (which I think is an ironic comment on racism rather than racist itself; I certainly do not mean to offend):

Q: Why was the grandmother denied entrance to the airplane?
A: Because she was knitting an Aghan.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Grain? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Grain

When I was writing my review of this Simplicity 4074 dress it was nagging me that I couldn't remember how I arrived at the length. I am petite (i.e., short), long-waisted, and can't wear any skirts between knee and lower calf because they make me look stumpy so as a general rule I shorten skirts a lot. Normally, I fold some length out of the skirt about halfway down, and then chop a bunch off the bottom before hemming. For some reason, I couldn't remember taking any off the bottom before doing the hem finish. Now, I did do this project in two hours on a Tuesday night well over a month ago, so it's not surprising I don't have much by way of clear memories, but it was still needling me that I couldn't recall.

Then I remembered! And I remembered that when I had been making it I was like, Hoo boy, that's one for the blog.

I learned to sew from my mom. She sewed a lot when I was a kid so most of it was by osmosis rather than formal instruction. When I started doing proper sewing with real patterns (rather than hand-sewing barbie clothes) around age 13 or so, she helped me out when she was able but unfortunately she suffered from unmedicated bipolar disorder so most of the time she didn't have the patience and I just muddled through on my own rather than risk her unpredictable wrath. So there are large gaps in my sewing knowledge. In a way, this was freeing. I had no idea knits could be intimidating, for instance. If I wanted to do something I'd just wade right in and do it (except for fly fronts, which still TERRIFY me). But I was certainly doing a lot of things "wrong."

One thing of which I knew nothing was grain. I mean, I knew you folded the selvages together for cutting, but I didn't realize you were supposed to be all precise in doing so. And I didn't know there was a difference between grain and crossgrain. I just laid out my pattern pieces any which way so as to do it the most efficiently.

Joining Pattern Review and coming in contact with other sewists--which I do not do in my real life--has been a real education for me. I am not quite fastidious about grain, but I am certainly aware of it. I try to get the proper grain when folding my fabric for cutting, and now if it is at all possible I cut everything on the same grain and nap.

Well, this dress calls for 2 3/8 yards. I think I had 2, but it may have even been a generous 1 1/2 yard cut. Even shortening the skirt and the sleeves left me unable to fit all the pieces on. I was *determined* to make this dress so I took a deep breath, pretended I didn't know better, and cut the front on the crossgrain.

Since this knit, while not actually a slinky (too lightweight), has a slinky-like hand and rib I knew I could be setting myself up for disaster. Slinky is notorious for growing and growing and so there was a distinct possibility that the different components of the dress would grow at different rates and I'd end up all misshapen. That was part of the reason I did the zigzag finish on the hem. I figured it would be easy to just cut off any part that had grown and re-zigzag (instead of having to take out a hem, recut, and rehem). Well, that and the fact that I'd had to cut it to the exact length I wanted it because of my limited fabric. So far so good, though. Maybe the fabric is lightweight enough that it's not going to grow.

I'd say cutting a piece--in a knit, no less--on the crossgrain counts as slapdash.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Project Runway Canada: Canadians are Adorable

I needed something to distract me while I did some hand finishing this weekend, and I decided to watch Canadian Project Runway on YouTube. The only question is, what took me so long! It's a lot of fun. Well-edited, good designers with personality but not drama, interesting challenges...and also, it turns out that Canadians are adorable. I don't know why I never noticed this before.

Some people find it annoying to watch on YouTube because each episode is in six 8 minute segments. My computer falls asleep after about 8 minutes so actually it works fine for me. The only thing is, you have to keep your eye from wandering down to the comments as they often contain spoilers. I hate spoilers! I hate knowing *anything* that's going to happen. Even knowing what the challenge will be on the next PR is a spoiler to me. Likewise, I refuse to look at the preview of the next Burda World of Fashion issue online. I want to be surprised!

Anyway, the podcast is my reaction to the show. It contains no spoilers!!!! It's about seven minutes long, so I don't know that it's worth the trouble to download to your iPod, but you can do so here if you'd like.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Decrapifying the Crap, I mean Craft, Room

So, when I bought my two bedroom condo I was completely over the moon. I would have a sewing room! A room! Just for sewing! Where I could leave my sewing machine set up all the time! Very exciting. In addition to sewing I also make jewelry, do mosaic, make polymer clay beads, and just generally do a lot of crafts, so I needed a lot of storage room. I got shelves and plastic storage bins and had all kinds of good intentions.

But let's get real. I am a messy person. I feel cheated because I got the Virgo uptight gene, but not the Virgo tidiness gene. So my sewing room very quickly looked like this:

That, my friends, is a craft room that is *lived* in. My craft room has looked good exactly one time since I moved into my condo three and a half years ago. I never got it *quite* put together when I moved in before I started using (and destroying) it. But then about six months after we moved in (a good friend bought the condo next door) we had our housewarming party, during which all rooms had to be accessible. Fortuitously, a friend was staying with me and did me the huge service of just sitting in the room with me and keeping me on task until it was clean. Staying on task is not something I am good at, and it's multiplied by a thousand in the craft room where there are so many supplies to "sort" and "organize" rather than actually doing any work.

I really don't know why I got some kind of wild hair a couple weeks ago but somehow I felt the time had come to clean out my craft room. Well, I kind of do know. So, I had the brilliant idea of using hanging storage for my fabric stash. I got the Stolmen system from Ikea and it worked pretty well...for the stash I had when I started. But then, as stash does, it grew. There was too much to hang. So I started stacking it up along the hallway part of the room (it's a terrible teeny tiny room with a long narrow hallway that opens out into the modest room part). And then I started stacking it up in the hallway of the condo next to the washer/dryer after the fabrics had been pretreated, and that's when it became unacceptable. Craft room mess is allowed in the craft room, but (theoretically) it's not allowed in the rest of the house.

I have a friend who is very neat, very patient, and very entertaining. I asked if he would accept a home-cooked meal in exchange for sitting in my craft room keeping me company and helping me convert the hanging rods to shelves. He was willing and agreed to come over on Sunday.

I had been teaching another friend to sew (more on that later) and we finally finished her project at 11:30 on Saturday night. I went into the craft room to start prepping it for cleanup. I became overwhelmed. I became anxious. I became panicked. I wanted to immediately call the friend who was going to babysit me and cancel because I Just Couldn't Do It. It was Too Much. Somehow, though, I found it in me to give myself the calm-down pep talk--there are no deadlines here. Just do what you can. The worst that happens is that it looks the exact same. Even a small change will be good. I worked for about an hour, started to get rid of some crappy stuff from stash, and then went to bed.

My friend who was going to babysit me planned to arrive around 3. I went in the craft room and saw how truly disgusting it was and realized I could not let this neat friend--who had been wanting to see the craft room for some time and I refused--see it in its current state. So I began to work. Just knowing he was coming over kept me on task. I worked steadily from about 9:00 on. I got rid of hideous fabric and all kinds of alteration projects for clothes that I didn't even like in the first place. Why???? Most of them were from clothing exchange parties and I took them because I *almost* liked them and they were free. But seriously, I'm not hurting for clothing. Geez. One of the things I've been working on the past several months is not taking things just because they're free. It's a hard habit to break but I'm proud of how well I've been doing. I gathered up the UFOs I was interested in finishing (a whole series of them will follow).

And somehow, slowly, magically, the craft room became clean. I was even able to vacuum the floor! It felt truly like a miracle.

By the time my friend arrived everything was clean, all the fabric had been pulled out and arranged by type (wovens and knits) and color (ROYGBIV, approximately) in the hallway and was ready to be put on shelves as soon as we put them up, pretty much the only thing left to do. The chili was even already on the stove.

Here are the wovens:

And the knits:

I realized that when I complain that i don't have a lot of knits I'm not really lying.

We put up the shelves (which involved moving the poles around; I had put them up alone when I first installed them and they were pretty wonky but I gotta say even with the two of us it was hard and I felt like one tough chick for putting them up solo the first time). I had only bought three (why?) so I couldn't put away all the fabric but still, it was awesome.

Then I made cornbread and apple pie and we ate dinner.

I had the next day off work. I normally get every other Friday off, but on what was supposed to be my off Friday I had a meeting in Baltimore. I decided to take that Monday off because I knew I was cleaning Sunday and would probably want Monday to finish the job. This was perfect. I needed to go to Ikea to get more shelves, and while I was on such a euphoric decrapifying high I filled my Taurus's entire and generous trunk with stuff for Goodwill that had been cluttering up my bedroom. I nearly shed a tear of relief when I dropped that stuff outta my life.

At Ikea I got some more shelves and looked for a storage solution for my notions. I had them all in plastic tubs, which is great in theory and was an improvement on just throwing them loose on the floor, my original storage system. But in reality--dude, I use my notions all the time. So the bins were always open and were full of dust and debris and weren't organized.

The best option at Ikea was the Fira wooden storage drawers. They come in three configurations: nine small drawers, three long drawers, and two deep drawers and a long drawer. I use these for my beads and while they are fantastic I vowed never again because they are such a huge pain to put together. But for the price ($12.99 per unit, that is two units stacked up in the photo) you're not even going to touch the quality. They're real wood and will last forever. I figured a little effort was worth sparing the earth some cheap plastic crap. There's a drawer for elastic, one for zippers, one for velcro, one for shoulder pads, etc. etc. and I was very excited to use my elastic drawer for the first time last weekend.

I got home and built the Fira drawers and put up the rest of the shelves and shelved the rest of the fabric. The only bad thing? My stash looks totally reasonable, even small, on the shelves. When it was all done I just breathed a sigh of contentment. Every time I walked by the craft room I just had to poke my head in and savor it. I was inspired to finish several UFOs.

I am a realistic person. I know I have not been transformed from Messy with a Capital M to a Neatnik (ahem, the rest of my condo proves that). I'm not even going to pretend I'll keep my craft room nice in perpetuity. But conquering the anxiety and just DOING IT (as Nike would say) felt so great. The best part is, it only took me a day! Come on! It was not insurmountable, horrible, impossible, Sisyphean. So this is a post to my Future Self: you can do it. You can make the craft room look like this:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Very Belated PR Weekend Post

I went to my second Pattern Review weekend in November. This was months ago now, so my memories are hazy and pleasant of fabric, food, and friends. Well, the fabric itself gives me pleasure. A full day of fabric shopping in the Garment District is kind of brutal. After 2006 and fearing that the weight of the bags of fabric would break my arm I vowed to bring some sort of wheeled contraption, but I didn't actually think to look for such wheeled contraption until I was packing. Oops. I did bring my big Ikea bag (the kind you can buy for 59 cents at the register), so I could at least carry stuff on my shoulder rather than in the crook of my elbow with plastic carrier bags. It helped marginally but I think my spine is still a little crooked!

There were some people from last year and new faces as well and everyone was just a doll.

It was Cidell's first time and she magnanimously arranged for my lodging with her friends and family. As the hotel was prohibitively expensive, I greatly appreciated that! I would not have been able to go had she not provided places for me to lay my head.

Blah blah blah, let's get to the fabric haul and the reason I'm finally posting this (I used the CHEAP ASS MOOD FABRIC, so I figured I should show its provenance):

Top row: green velvet from Metro Textile, purple and black striped shirting from Paron (Vera Wang), pinstriped silk dupioni from Paron, green silk/cotton blend from Paron, navy stretch wool with orange windowpanes from Metro Textile, knit print from Metro Textile, grey pinstriped cotton with a sheen and stretch from Mood

Bottom row: white batiste from Chic, lightweight black wool from Chic, white shirting from Chic, knit print from Metro Textile, two way medium weight textured blue stretch woven from Paron, magenta cotton knit from Spandex House.

The trip of course included a stop at Metro Textiles, where JodiB, Cmarie12, and Cidell posed for a picture.

Karen6790 and I arranged to swap some BWOF issues, and she surprised me with these fantastic vintage patterns! I love the illustrations on old patterns so much, and to imagine the women who made them at that time and where they wore their clothes.

Before we left town we stopped off at Crumb, a trendy cupcake bakery with a dizzying array of choices. I got Raspberry and Snickerdoodle, though I should explain that by Snickerdoodle they meant Snickers. There is a big difference between the two flavors and I was surprised a bakery would get mixed up. Devastatingly, I left the cupcakes in Cidell's car when she so generously brought me all the way into DC. She saved them in her freezer and I had them last month and they were still delicious. I guess filled cupcakes are their thing. The raspberry was filled with purple, and the snickerdoodle with chocolate mousse-ish.

On the way home we stopped by Cmarie12's. Seeing her clothes in person is really breathtaking. She puts so many details into everything and all the construction is perfect. She definitely won't be catching a look of the inside of my garments. `-) Her fabric closet was very inspiring. There is a lot there, but it is all organized by color and very visually stimulating. We were petting the fabrics and this crazy green that looks like astroturf really caught my eye. She gave it to me! I am thinking a 60s shift and a cropped jacket from BWOF. She worked for a button manufacturer for many years and has sooo many great buttons, and she insisted Cidell and I fill our pockets with them. It was so much fun! For someone who only got over her fear of buttonholes last spring, I sure do love buttons (and have a lot of them).

It was definitely another successful PR weekend. Though I got quite a bit of fabric, I felt that I showed remarkable restraint. Of course, I've only used two of them (well, three because I've used the batiste for underlining). There's still time...