Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fabric Shopping in NYC

So I was in New York over the weekend for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade (of which more later, but you can get a sneak peek at the pics if you're dying to see). This of course meant fabric shopping!

I took the Chinatown bus for the first time, about which I was oddly nervous. I don't know why. But I bought my ticket in advance beforehand and showed up on time and gained admittance and rode the wheels on the bus going round and round for a long long time and then arrived near Penn Station. Two hours later than scheduled, leaving me only a short time in the garment district.

I started with Kashi at Metro Textiles. First, a word on that. You may want to cover your ears and say la la la. But I have to say, it's not my favorite fabric shopping experience. Yes, he has an uncanny ability if you describe a fabric to magically produce it in the manner of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. That's a skill not to be undervalued. But then he goes on to the hard sell. I do not like and do not respond to the hard sell as a matter of principal, because I don't want to encourage that behavior. If you show me something and insist that I buy it, even if I want it very much I won't buy it. He kept pulling out fabrics I didn't like and insisted they were perfect for me. I don't wear navy blue, or brown (except for my recent shirtdress, which I like very much), or purple made of too-wide stripes of various laces and fabrics. I am very particular about what I wear and that's how it is. When I rejected the third or so fabric he brought to me, he asked in exasperation, "But what do you wear?" I said a lot of pink and blue. He scoffed and said I was wearing the wrong colors for me. As much as I don't respond to the hard sell, I definitely do not respond to insults of my personal style. Insult my hairstyle, my (highly insultable) housekeeping, my legal profession...but don't *even* talk about my clothes. I also think his prices, while good, are not all that. He has some GREAT bargains, like the $4 shirting, but I know I could have gotten a better price on the silk charmeuse ($8).

OK, rant over, you can uncover your ears. And now that the rant is over I can rave about the wonderful fabrics I did get. I hereby Flash My Metro Pass.

Clockwise from left: a sand/taupe silk charmeuse (which is exactly what I said to him and he pulled it out before I was even done speaking) to make a skirt out of some silk scarves inherited from my beloved grandmother, a red swiss dot for a shirtdress with wide pleats/tucks, a blue and white striped shirting with a little silver line running through for a Patrones blouse with giant sleeves (the aforementioned $4/yd bargain), a cotton batiste (so soft!) to line the swiss dot (it's white, the lighting is just bad), and a beautiful wide white crochet trim because it was only $1/yd. Now that was a bargain. Total damage: $60. And not only did I get some great fabric, I got to meet some PR folks who also happened to be there! It was Mardel, who has a fun picture on her blog of us in the store, Carolyn, Diane E., and their friend Joanna. It was so fun to have other people to fabric shop with!

Next I was off to Paron. Their annex is a treasure trove of excellent fabric at excellent prices. I was trying to be selective so I ended up only with this gorgeous wool suiting (only 1 1/2 yards left, unfortunately) and some rayon/acetate lining for it. Even at half price, the suiting was $11/yd, but a really excellent quality. Total was only $20.

I stopped into Daytona to get some a trim for Cidell, of which I did not take a picture before sending it off but you will see it on one of her projects eventually.

My last stop was at a store going out of business. It appeared to actually be going out of business, rather than having a big sale called a going out of business sale. It was already picked over, but there was plenty of good stuff left. I restrained myself to 3 yards of the seersucker (which he said was $3/yd), 4 yards of the stretch cotton print (sign said $2.50/yd), and 3 yards of this wacky satin/matte ice blue thin fabric that is probably something for curtains for $1/yd. However, when I got to the register my total was...$10. The cutting guy seemed to like me, but no wonder they're going out of business! 10 yards of fabric for $10. I wish I had gotten more. And of course I can't tell you where it is or what it was called because I paid in cash (so no checking my credit card statement) and lost the receipt. I'm very sorry about that. It's somewhere in the garment district. It's the one with the fabric. There's a sign outside that says Going Out of Business and Silk for $1/yd (which for the record was a hideous upholstery looking fabric).

Very satisfying, though I am getting nervous about fabric actually taking over my house. It could happen. I live on the third floor, too. I wonder how much fabric my place can hold before the floor falls in on my neighbors. At least there will be plenty of cushion when I fall.

Vogue 5766

This fantastic bathing suit comes to you courtesy of the lovely Sherril Miller of Pattern Review. I posted on the message board looking for an Ethel Merman style swimsuit, like those on mybabyjo.com. I google image searched Ethel Merman before posting my question, and came up with a number of drag queens and many pictures of a stately, handsome older woman. I was curious that there were no pictures of her in a swimsuit, her signature look, but figured that she must have grown out of her bathing beauty phase. It did not, of course, occur to me that I had the wrong person. Several people gently pointed out to me that I meant Esther Williams. It's the historical pop culture questions that always stump me on the crossword, too.

Anyway, Sherril said that she believed she had in her possession such a pattern, inherited from her husband's grandmother. And offered to send it to me! That is a generosity of spirit! She was laid out flat with back spasms, and even still managed to send her husband to the PO to send it off to me with a quickness. I was so touched and amazed, and knew I had to make the pattern immediately.

I used the fabric I got from NYC during pattern review weekend that I had leftover from my Alberta Ferretti knockoff. Having finished it, I don't think the pattern is shown to its best advantage in a print. The print is all distorted by the ruching and I think that distracts from the lines of the suit. Oh well.

So, what's slapdash about this project? Rather than do any pesky measuring, or perform algebraic geometric surgery on the pattern to get it to, you know, fit, I just cut out the lining as drafted and then kept taking the darts and seams in and in until it fit. That's why they invented lycra. Then I kinda sorta figured out where I had taken it in the most and cut out the fashion fabric layer a little smaller in the those places, and then sort of ruched the whole thing together. It worked out great.

You can maybe see a little bit of how much I took it in in these pictures of the lining after all the sewing but before I trimmed away the seam allowances.

I don't think this swimsuit can actually be worn in the water. With all that fabric it's pretty constricting, and I think the weight of three yards of wet lycra would pull me under like a riptide. But I will look freaking adorable sitting on a chaise longue at the beach with an umbrella drink in my hand, no? Anybody want to offer their beach house on the French Riviera (with cabana boy) in which to practice my styling and profiling?

You can see the web album, with way more poses and angles than is necessary, here.

The pattern review is here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Patrones 252, #4 Celine Blouse

Another project from Patrones, a Celine blouse. And a really terrible picture of me. I look stoned/greasy and my eyeliner is a little smudged. I promise this was taken after a sewing binge, not a substance binge.

What's slapdash about this project? Mostly the yoke area. I really did try to decipher the Patrones directions, but ultimately could not make heads or tails of them. We'll blame it on the fact that I haven't taken a Spanish class in 15 years. And the fact that that means I am old and not as sharp with the mentalness now.

What I ended up doing, which you can read about on Pattern Review, was to finish the inside edges of the yoke and the placket, and then just sew them together. Four layers of fabric and their seam allowances? Not a really great looking seam. Also, the seam allowance of the four layers of fabric and their seam allowance peek outside a little, as you can see here.

Luckily my sad little wilty bow mostly covers that up.

Also, the hem is uneven (two different lengths at the placket) and I am too lazy to fix it. Yes, I am that lazy.

I am enjoying nit-picking myself. I guess confession is good for the soul.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Patrones 252, #53 Calvin Klein Dress

Let's play: What's slapdash about this project?

You can read what's not slapdash about this project on Pattern Review. This is where I lift up the hems and reveal the dirty secrets.

Speaking of hems, that's what's slapdash about this project. I knew I didn't want a stitched hem because it would be too obtrusive. I was hoping for a raw edge hem--this is a knit, after all. But I can't cut straight, especially on bias cut fabric with dull scissors. I really need to get them sharpened. But that would be so un-slapdash of me. The problem is I don't know where to go to get it done, except occasionally Joann has someone come in and do it. But I'd have to leave my scissors there (the person, naturally, is not there on the weekend when people who, say, have a job can come) and I don't think I can live without them for a week.

Annnnyway, after a lot of patient chopping I realized the raw edge was never going to work. In the chopping there was a little, um, unevenness created. I decided I actually liked the top being shorter than the lining. Much of being slapdash involves labeling a mistake a "design feature" and calling it a day.

To finally make the hem I resorted to the ultimate in slapdash: fusible web. Even I hate resorting to fusible web because it says "I give up" in the biggest possible way. But hey, the hem doesn't look half bad!

This is also slapdash in that the back lining is cut on the grain, while the front, front lining, and back are bias. I didn't have enough! And this is a knit, fer crying out loud. Bias knit? Those crazy Spaniards and their incredibly awesome pattern magazines.

My Philosophy

I am proudly a slapdash sewist. I think it stems back to my childhood. My dad was yellling at me and my sister about having our clothes strewn all over the floor. He told us about a girl he went to high school with who didn't have much money or many clothes, but the few clothes she did have were quality and she cared for them very well and she always looked classy yadda yadda. I told him I'd rather have a bunch of cheap clothes than a few nice ones.

I sew more in quantity than in quality. Sometimes I think I should care more about getting the exquisite details right. But I kind of don't. I'd rather take the 10% chance that it won't come out right than cut my volume in half by muslining every project.

In Tim Gunn's new book, A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style, he explains the origin of his catch-phrase "Make it work." He was disturbed, he said, by seeing so many of the fashion students scrapping a project when it didn't go as they wanted or they got bored of it. His point was, who's to say the next project is going to be any more successful if you don't know how to see a garment to its conclusion? So I am relying on an authority no less than Tim Gunn to support my slapdashedness and make-it-work-ness. (I suspect that he would not actually approve of my work habits, but unless he weighs in I'm still counting him my mentor.)

So, some things never change. The floor? It's still covered in shoes.