Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sweater + Ottobre Woman = Wool Knickers

So I went to the thrift store a while back (I have no concept of time right now with all the travel) and bought a bunch of sweaters to chop up for sweater recon and refashion. Like a lot. Like way too many. I was in some sort of sweater buying haze. I don't know what I'm going to do with them all.

I bought this one because it was a men's XL so there was plenty of fabric to work with, it was a really soft merino wool, and it was a light color that should dye well if I ever want to try dyeing. As a sweater, it has no redeeming features. Not only did it have some (light) stains and several moth holes, it is hideous! That tight hip band is not going to be kind to anyone's figure. (In this photo you can see the bump I gave myself on the forehead with my ill-advised shelf-moving technique. I finally put up the last shelf on Sunday and moved the last of the Carol Collection out of my living room and into the sewing room.)

I threw this one in the wash to felt and it didn't (although the holes became more prominent), it remained a soft, lightweight knit but it was surprisingly warm when I put it on for the photo. I finally hit upon the perfect use for it. I hate having to give up wearing skirts when it gets cold and was trying to think of a solution. Making a warm slip really wouldn't do any good because as Carolyn experienced the other day wind goes right up your skirt! Then I thought of some wool knickers, and this sweater was absolutely perfect--lightweight, warm, washable without felting, and plenty of it. I was going to have to draft the pattern, which would be pretty simple but I just hadn't had the time or inclination to do it yet.

One of the things Karen loaned me is an Ottobre Woman from Spring/Summer 2008. I liked several of the items but what I was immediately thrilled about were the fitted knit exercise pants, #15.

Wool Knickers Pattern

Based on a quick glance at the picture I knew they'd be a perfect fit because I thought the line drawings were a front and back view, and that the back view showed a really curvy bum. Only when I looked closer did I realize that the "curvy bum" was actually a front view maternity bump. LOL. So I didn't know how the bum would fit, but stretch patterns are very forgiving and that's why I love 'em.

I had to wear pants to work on Monday and it was horrible. One of my co-workers came to my office and said, "I'm sorry I can't stop staring at you, I've just never seen you in pants." Hee. This is not exactly true because at some point every winter I devolve into pants and am like a bird that has lost its plumage, all sad and droopy, until Spring comes again.

My serger was already threaded in cream so I tackled the knickers on Monday night. So far I haven't really gotten the hang of timing my projects so I don't have to change serger thread with each one. I'm on a roll now, though. I had it in cream to make Simplicity 3775 out of the G Street plaid knit, then I did these knickers. Next up will finally be the Butterick 4589 off-white silk pinstripe blouse from the professional wardrobe plan I posted a while back. And after that a BWOF blouse in the silk print leftover from Vogue 2858. Then I'll change the thread color. At least this is the plan. We know how good I am with plans.

The pattern was quick to put together, just an inseam and a crotch seam. I made them long enough to go over my knees so that for really cold days I can wear them long to keep my joints warm, like the traditional poodle haircut with fluffy balls of hair where he needs to be most warm (I had no idea that haircut was utilitarian until a poodle-owning friend explained it to me). As an aside, yesterday was officially the last day for that epic fail of a skirt, Vogue 8037. What a horrible pattern. I kept the skirt because I love the colors, but it is lumpy and bumpy and generally hideous and I am totally over it.

To get more length in the leg I cut sections off the sleeves and seamed them in. I used the turtleneck ribbing for the bottom of the legs, and the hip ribbing as the waistband. The fit was actually quite good on a size 38 right from the pattern sheet, I just had to take the CB seam in a little bit at the top for a swayback.

I really need to figure out how to dye them gray, as they look terrible in this light color. I was trying to get a shot of them and could only think of that line in Bridget Jones where she says, "Have bottom the size of Brazil" and an acre of cream fabric over said bottom doesn't help. There will be no closeups. (I'm not fishing for compliments here. The shot on the right is very flattering and I like it, but the other ones I took were horrifying and immediately deleted.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So Much to Show Off!

I have tons of acquisitions to share!

Last Thursday I valiantly trooped my suitcase to work after one night in my own bed and headed to Baltimore after hitting the gym for my one workout for the week. Cidell and I had cake, podcasted, and divided up our tie silks. It was some tough negotiating. Tears were shed, and maybe some blood. I'm pleased with what I ended up with (and Cidell isn't complaining too loudly so I think we'll survive); my favorites are the bright stripes on the far end and the multicolored stripes with wide blue-gray bands.

One of these will be worked into a vest. I wasn't really feeling anything as the body of the vest--I'd feel like a casino dealer--but hit upon the idea of using one as the back of the vest with the front a sober wool. Love it! Cidell was going to use the wine corks as practice fabric because it is hideous; when she described it to me on the phone I was expecting little wine corks that you couldn't see except really close up that would just look like a geometric design from afar, like you sometimes see with golf clubs or whatever. Boy was I wrong. I pointed out it'd make great wine gift bags and she agreed but said she'd never do it. I need to get some maroon serger thread and get cranking.

Tie Silk 11-08

I also got some buttons; they weren't too interesting. You can see them on Cidell's blog.

Cidell very generously loaned me a bunch of copies of Knip Mode, as well as a serger book and a book on hats (yay hats!). Among the Knip Modes is the April issue with the fabulous gather front tee Melissa has made her own. Can't wait to make it! There is all kind of great stuff in there. Knip Mode does fantastic skirts, the one area in which I feel BWOF is a bit deficient. She also loaned me a Patrones, which I realize isn't in the picture because it's on my bed as nighttime reading.

Loans from Cidell


Then we were off to Philly where we hit Jomar first. It's a good idea to go while you're still fresh! There's so much there and it's, ahem, not light-flooded gorgeously maintained high end shopping experience. Which is how they keep the prices low so I'm not complaining! I ended up with a ton (if not a ton at least 10 pounds) of fabric for under $50.

The purple wool called to me. I tried to ignore it but couldn't. The texture was a bit like felt and when I got it home I decided to see if I could full or felt it further. I put it in the wash and geez it stank! It had some kind of really horrible sizing in it. I had to wash it twice. It didn't shrink much but it became a little floppy. I'd call it wool fleece, if there is such a thing. I don't regret taking out that sizing because the off-gassing probably would have killed me. There's a coat in the Patrones from Cidell that I'm thinking will be good with this less structured fabric. The purple print is a rayon I'll use for lining the coat. The wool on the left is really high quality and was on the clearance table as a 2.5 yard bundle at $6.50!

And if you saw the exquisitely gorgeous lace dress recently made by Claudine of Couture Details you know why I was inspired to buy that navy lace. I asked for three yards but somehow ended up with five? That's a lot of lace. The selvage is only finished on one edge and it's 60" wide, so I'm wondering if it was a super wide home dec and the roll got chopped or something? I don't know. I just like the geometric pattern and that it's navy instead of black. I feel like that mitigates or counterbalances the frippery of lace to create an interesting contrast.

Jomar 11-08

We headed off to fabric row, but as I was already way too laden to comfortably get my suitcase home as it was I refrained. By the time I got home I felt like I'd done nothing but carry my suitcase up and down stairs for a solid week (Paris Metro has very few escalators, FYI, and I live in a third floor walkup) and was very glad I hadn't bought more than I did.

But! That still wasn't all. We gathered in Karen's FABULOUS Victorian with all its little nooks and crannies and non-square rooms and moldings and amazing details everywhere and she gave me *another* hat book (I think I get to keep this one, Karen?) and loaned me an issue of Ottobre Woman. I'm really excited about both, and particularly the hat book as From the Neck Up had been recommended by several people when I was researching millinery. I've already read several of the chapters and found it most educational.

From Karen


And speaking of my recent millinery obsession, my hat block has arrived but it's still at work because it's HEAVY and I don't have a great way to carry it home. My neighbor is letting me use his car this week so I think I will bring it home by car. I was able to carry home the wool felt hoods I ordered from Hats by Leko. I'm sure you can guess that the fuschia one is my favorite! I can't wait to get started!!!!!


Finally, I know this is a long post but I hope you're still reading because I've saved the best for last. You might have seen an a-mazing brocade shift and jacket combo straight from Jackie O's closet on Riange Creation's blog. I was out of the country when she posted it so I missed the original post BUT!!!!! She emailed me and asked me if I wanted it!!!!!! OMG the word yes could not come out of my mouth fast enough.

And it is PERFECT. It's in amazing shape and the fabric and details are just exquisite. The fit is almost to a T on me, I just need to take it in at the waist a little. This is the kind of vintage find people dream of and Riange gave it to me just like that. Thank you so much! I adore, adore it. Here are a few pics, and don't miss them all here.

I had too much fun being Jackie. The suit is from the DC area. I have no idea how to date it, but I am going to believe there's a possibility it came from the closet of Mrs. Kennedy-Onassis herself, hence me practicing the First Lady wave. I told my boss I need a speaking engagement ASAP so I can wear this to it.


Believe it or not, I have actually been sewing. You wouldn't know it based on the last time I posted a project. I made a very practical item from the Ottobre woman that I'll try to show off tomorrow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Back Home, Off Again, and a Podcast

After my very quick trip to Paris I finally made it home yesterday. I didn't get a chance to do much in Paris but work, but I did get to have a lovely evening with Isabelle of Kitty Couture! I got to see the little bits of sewing space she has carved out of her Paris apartment while we drank our kir and then we headed off to dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to meet up with Karen as she was sick but next time!

I finished the skirt and wore it with the suit and it looked lovely, though the wool wrinkled like crazy. I need to find some kind of sizing or something to give it more body. I lined it, so that's not the issue. I also knocked out a quick cowl top in the morning before being picked up by the Super Shuttle.

As soon as I got home I started a version of Simplicity 3775 from the plaid knit I got at G Street last time. It kept me awake until 8 (as late as I *had* to stay up to fight jet lag) and I finished it this morning when jet lag woke me up at 6.

After one night in my own bed I headed back onto the road, taking the train to Cidell's where we ate cake and podcasted (you can download it here or on itunes under trenabdc). In the morning we're off to Philly for a sewing meetup. Wish my credit card luck. `-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


If SABLE is Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy SAALE means, of course, Stash Accumulation Affecting Life Expectancy.

I got my first stash-related injury over the weekend. I needed to add more shelves to my stash shelving unit. It's one of these modular Ikea systems (Stolmen; I recommend it for its flexibility), and to make room for more shelves (which I had already purchased) I needed to move the existing shelves around. Rather than do the smart thing and take everything apart, I figured I could just shimmy the shelves up and down while still fully loaded. Um, no. It was incredibly difficult and frustrating because as soon as I'd shimmy one side up and go for the other, the first one would fall down.

Then I was trying to loosen some screws using two allen wrenches. One of the wrenches came out of the hole in one of the screws and I'd obviously been exerting a lot of force on it because this sudden change caused me to fly forward, slamming my forehead directly into the corner of a shelf. It hurt so much that I sat there for a minute trying to decide if I wanted to cry. I have an incredibly high pain tolerance and haven't cried over a physical injury since I was a child, including when I had surgery in a delicate place and was sent home without painkillers and (because of various circumstances) I was five hours post-op by the time I finally got some. That's how much it hurt. I had a huge goose egg on my forehead, which has luckily subsided, plus two marks that look like giant zits, which have not, underlaid by a very faint sheen of chartreuse.

I still didn't learn my lesson from this. The next shelf I actually took all the fabric off it, but I still didn't want to take it apart. I couldn't budge the height, no matter how much I loosened the connectors. So I decided to exert some force on it. I got my shoulders up under it and pushed up as hard as I could. I managed to break the shelf.

After this, I grudgingly admitted that I had to take the darn thing apart, plus I had to go to Ikea for another shelf. Oy.

Let this be a warning to those for whom there is still stashing hope!


And speaking of stashing, there is no hope for me. When I went to Goodwill several weeks ago for my striped sweater, my eye was caught by an adorable bright blue houndstooth suit, which turned out to be from United Colors of Benneton and had been very well cared for and was my size. Or so I thought. The jacket fits great, but the size 38 skirt fits approximately half of my right thigh. I'm a BWOF size 38 (as near as I can tell) on the bottom, so I don't know what kind of crazy sizing those Italians use. I figured I would try to save the skirt with tuxedo stripes down the sides, giving me an extra five inches or so, but wanted enough fabric to make a whole 'nother skirt if that failed.

On the day I bought my serger I metroed out to Pentagon City with my old lady cart to get the serger, went to Trader Joe's for groceries, and then headed over to Exquisite Fabrics to try to match the fabric. Exquisite is having an inventory reduction sale--50% off most fabric--in preparation for its move to The Shops at Georgetown in January (I've updated my DC Fabric Resources post to reflect this); this brings their prices from stratospheric into about what I would expect to pay for fabric of that quality in the NYC garment district. And, behold! I found the absolutely *perfect* shade of blue wool to go with the suit.


Burying the lead here, I'm going on a last minute work trip to Paris--leaving Saturday!--and I'm using the same wardrobe concept I used for Germany. For that trip I had one suit and four dresses that matched the jacket. I wore the traditional suit on the day on which I had the most formal responsibilities and dresses with the suit jacket the other days. Paris is only two days so I'll wear the jacket with a skirt of the blue wool from Simplicity 5914 one day, and a dress the other (one of the same dresses that went with me to Germany, one of many many many items I have not yet photographed, a Vogue assymetric hem mock wrap knit dress that is so old it's not even on the website under out of print patterns anymore).

I *love* Simplicity 5914; this will be my third version of it. I made it in the boucle at left for my black and pink wardrobe to Italy five years ago as well as the pink version with the ruffle back I showed a couple weeks ago. I also have one in a black rayon with tiny subtle metallic pinstripes that's a perfect basic. I have the blue wool cut out, including lining--I just have to find time to make it before Saturday.


So I think the above wool was an excusable purchase. The suit was an amazing $11 and I really do need more professional clothes. My G Street $2.97 table purchases of Saturday are not excusable.


I love the colors and print of the jersey on the left. It made me think of my Vogue 2787 vintage S-curve dress, but the print is really large. I haven't decided on a project for that.

The plaid jersey is a nice heavy weight for a dress. No pattern chosen yet, though I'm hoping to wrangle the April issue of Knip Mode from Cidell long enough to trace out the top that Melissa keeps making me jealous with. Not sure if it will be suitable for plaid, though. Suggestions? I never have enough knit dress patterns.

And the blue is because I love lace and I love all shades of aqua. And I have no plans for it either.


I am not supposed to be purchasing fabric for which I have no plans. I've been good--since being gifted with The Carol Collection this is the first fabric I've bought. I need to continue to do well. However, pretty much as soon as I get back from Paris I'm heading to Philly with Cidell to meet up with Karen et al. I need to make sure jet lag doesn't sap my will power!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Reviews

When I got my serger I checked some books out of the library, as I don't have much experience with them. The library doesn't have a very comprehensive collection of sewing books (more's the pity), but there were a couple that were promising.

I was a big fan of The Complete Serger Handbook by Chris James. The instructions were clear and useful, and she is a woman after my own heart, the slapdash sergist if you will. She illustrated concepts with several different models of serger, and gave detailed instructions on stitch width, length, and tension for various techniques. I am almost tempted to actually *gasp* buy this book. The amazon listing is for a paperback, which wouldn't be as useful; the one in the library was hardback spiral bound.

I didn't find Creative Serging by Nancy Bednar and Anne van der Kley as useful, mostly because they are writing for top-end machine owners and were most delighted in the coverstitch function. My machine doesn't have coverstitch so at least 80% of the projects and instructions were inapplicable to me. However, their section on flatlocking added a bit to what Chris James had said and it made a little more sense to me.

I also checked out Second-Time Cool: The Art of Chopping Up a Sweater by Anna-Stina Linden Ivarsson, Katarina Brieditis, and Katarina Evans. Some of the projects are a little too cool for me (it was in the Young Adult section, and the YA librarian looked at me a little suspiciously when I entered his section), but it gives good information in an easily understandable way. There were a few really clever things, like their method for making yarn buttons, and lots of inspiring pictures. They also tied their work to what's on the runway, which I appreciated. I went to the thrift store on Friday before I went to Ikea and got a bunch of wool sweaters and am enjoying playing around with them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wow. Just wow.

I avoid subjects political and controversial on this blog, so I apologize for bending that rule today.

I believe that we have witnessed the most exciting day of our generation. When I went to vote yesterday I was looking forward to doing my civic duty, blah blah blah. I've voted hundreds (or at least dozens) of times before so I was more focused on what I was going to bring to my neighbor's potluck dinner for watching the Comedy Central election coverage than on the ballot. After all, I already knew how I was going to vote and it was just a matter of filling in the bubble.

Until I got into the booth. I had no idea how *special* it would feel to vote for the first African-American president of the United States. I don't think I've ever felt that way while voting (though voting for Clinton's second term was close). I came out walking on a cloud and with a huge grin on my face.

Not that Obama is *just* the first African-American president. He is a consummate orator, a man of measured reason, and truly wishes to heal the partisan schisms that have made us almost into two countries. Having lived in both countries (Texas/Louisiana and California/DC), I can assure you that we are one nation, indivisible.

My neighbor and I were not wedded to one station's coverage and when NBC wouldn't shut up as Obama and his family took the stage we flipped until we found a network that was just letting us enjoy their victory lap. It happened to be Fox News. There was no commentary during his speech and the commentary afterward was extraordinary--beautiful, poetic, and carrying Obama's message of healing to the disappointed viewers of one of the most conservative media outlets in America. K and I said to each other, "I can't believe Fox News just made me cry!"

It was an amazing night. I have been practicing denial about the election because every time I thought about it I got sick to my stomach. Last night it was time to face the music. It was beautiful music for me, and though I know it may be difficult for those who supported the loyal opposition I thought McCain's concession speech was gracious and commendable, and Obama's pledge to be everyone's president was reassuring (after all, my family is strongly partisan for the loyal opposition and I don't wish my happiness to be their oppression).

I have been leaking tears of incredulous elation since Jon Stewart announced, at 11:00 Eastern Standard Time, that Barack Obama is the next president of the United States. I'm sure they'll stop at some point, but for now I am enjoying the the hope that is filling me so full that it's welling out through my tear ducts.

What an exciting day.

I just thought to add something sewing related to make this somewhat relevant:

So which American designer do you think Michelle Obama will choose? I think it's going to be someone exciting, interesting, and fresh. I can't wait!!!!!! I assume we'll find out when her inaugural ball dress debuts.

(And to be bipartisan, while I think Cindy McCain's highly polished, high fashion look was perhaps not most apt for this campaign, I love her style, think she's gorgeous, and always enjoyed seeing what she had on.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Millinery, or Do I Really Need Another Hobby?

I'm back from Germany! I didn't actually get anything sewing related. When I got to Frankfurt the hotel clerk at the Quality Hotel Kaiserhof was extremely friendly and helpful, so I hazarded to ask her if she knew anyplace to find sewing supplies. She said I merely needed to go to the big fancy department store and find the sewing floor. Imagine! I know that at some point in the not-so-distant past department stores in the US had sewing sections, but I don't think any vestige of such a thing still exists.

So I was quite excited to hit up the Kaufhof and see if I could find some of BWOF's beloved Vilene bias tape. Alas, while there was a small sewing section in Kaufhof, it was more like the sewing section in a Michael's than an elegant couture destination--needles and thread, iron-on patches, embroidery floss, that sort of thing. No real notions and no fabric at all. I actually found a couple of fabric stores in my wandering, but they were quite small and I wasn't in the market for fabric so much as notions and they had no notions at all. Alas.

On the non-sewing front, I wanted to get a 1920s cloche type hat and a pair of long leather gloves to wear with my cape. I don't prefer to wear leather, being a vegetarian, but for items that will last a long time and give good wear I will buy it rather than cheap things that will clog up a landfill.

I looked all over for hats, stopping into all the secondhand stores. But they were more high end contemporary wear than vintage. I couldn't find a hat store to save my life. I followed some signs to a market for local designers. The "market" turned out to be a few tables with hand-knit goods and hand-made purses--which were nice but not what I was looking for. There was a little shop nearby, Ton in Ton, that had a few hats. I got one that wasn't the exact style I was looking for, but is cute. It was made on a serger and looks kind of hand made (I mean that in a good way, not in a Loving Hands at Home way) and I figured the artisan appreciated my purchase. Of course, as soon as I bought it I found a hat store, but shops close at 4 on Saturdays(!!!!) and it was closed, so it was just as well. I haven't had a chance to photograph yet, but I'll try to show it off soon. I found the gloves at Promod, which is sort of a Contempo Casuals or The Limited of Europe. They're cool though--they have tiny buttons up the side.

I really love hats, always have, and the problem is that I have a tiny head (but a big brain, LOL). It's impossible to find hats that fit. I have been wanting to make hats, proper hats using a hat block and steamer, for ages. This vision of a 1920s cloche just won't go out of my head so I'm going to try it.

New hat blocks run $350-$500, but there are many vintage specimens available on eBay. I was clicking around and found this set that I just had to have. The aluminum is definitely not a traditional material, because pinning/nailing your felt to the block is part of the process, but how much do you love it? And love that it comes with both a cloche and a pillbox block? I don't plan to become a consummate haberdasher. I mean, I'm The Slapdash Sewist. How likely is it that I'd be The Meticulous Milliner? (Though if one were perfectionally inclined and made hats I think that would be a cute name.) So it will serve well enough for my purposes.

Of course, the first place to go for hat-making information is the internet. I've been a fan of La Bricoleuse for quite a while. She is a professional milliner/haberdasher for the stage as well as a professor and generously gives a lot of detailed information on her projects.

I really liked the Wannabe Mad Hatter , especially her series on making a 1920s style cloche.

Here is a more slapdash approach to making a hat (for stage purposes), that gave me ideas for making a hat without a big investment in a block (though I decided to go ahead with the block anyway). This is from The Costumer's Manifesto by Tara Maginnis

Supplies are not available from so many sources as for fabric, but this list of online millinery suppliers from Something About Mary is as comprehensive as I can tell.

Now I just have to (im)patiently await the arrival of my block and find some wool felt. You can buy felt "hoods," which are roughly blocked into a hat shape but need refinement and final shaping. You can also buy wool felt, though it's hard to find 100% wool felt--it's mostly 20% wool/80% rayon (which won't do at all!). I have some roving I purchased in Sweden three years ago and there are some good sources on Etsy so I think I will probably end up making my own felt. Then I'll have to dye it. Then block it. This could be quite a process. But I had to confess my obsession and, more importantly, its resulting purchase on the blog to make myself do something with it!

A serger last month, a hat block this month. What will December bring?