Monday, July 30, 2007

The Wardrobe

It is done. Well, at least the wardrobe contest entry is done. There will still be a lot of tweaking before the suitcase is sat upon and zipped. I need more skirts that will travel. Really only the blue knit skirt will travel well. I wore the green bias skirt to work today (with the Burda blouse) and it wrinkled even faster than my face is trying to do (I am, shall we say, a little aware of my age spots and wrinkles).

I did everything but the four dresses and the swimsuit in an 11 day period, of which 8 were sewing days. I did the scarf and started the blue knit skirt during the week; everything else was done on a weekend day (counting the night before the official weekend starts and remembering that the first one was three day weekend). I don't usually sew during the week because I get too obsessed and can't fall asleep. I generally have to finish a project in one day, or at most cut it out one day sew it another day because of this problem. It's kind of annoying and it sometimes keeps me from starting complicated projects. On the other hand, I have very few UFOs. Not to say none, of course. But few.

Looking over it, I can see why people are fascinated/horrified at what a prolific sewist I can be. I am kind of fascinated/horrified myself. But I promise I am not a sewing hermit! The first weekend I had movie/dinner plans with a friend Friday, movie/wine & cheese plans with a friend Saturday, and farmer's market plans with a friend Sunday. The second weekend I admit I didn't do anything social Friday because I stayed up all night reading Harry Potter, thereby turning down an invite to a wine tasting party. Saturday I went out dancing. Sunday I had farmer's market plans with a different friend. But I will concede that other than these events I was sewing or asleep (with occasional stuffing of nutrients into my face).

I am clawing my way to yards purchased/yards sewn parity, one hard-won yard at a time. I am now up to 88 yards sewn, 93 yards purchased. So very, very close...

Way too many details about the wardrobe in the review. I am as prolific a writer as I am a sewist.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Using Up Scraps

So, sewing the whole wardrobe from stash was quite a challenge. I have been aggressively buying fabric this year--I totally can't deny that--but I have also been aggressively sewing. I'm at 83 yards sewn in my rough tally on my PR profile; there are about 4 or 5 yards not counted in it yet; purchases are recorded at 93 yards. I had plenty of stash built up before the year started, of course, but I have outgrown a lot of it/become more of a fiber snob. I was really scraping to get enough fabric in coordinating colors to fill out the wardrobe, which helped me look creatively at some smaller pieces of fabric I had.

The floral print here is a beautiful print in colors I love on a hideous fabric. It is almost impenetrable by a needle and is a misery to sew (though a stretch needle, knock on wood, seems to work almost well). It has a great drape, though, and the print is really nice. I bought it to accent an infinity dress I made last year. I lined the straps with it and made a reversible tube top of the dress fabric and the print fabric. It was kind of a disaster. Lining the straps made them way too thick and ugly where they were knotted together, so I ripped out the looooong long seams of the straps. The fashion fabric is really cheap and thin and rolls together really terribly so I started ironing interfacing along the edges to give it enough body to be hemmed but got bored of it and gave up about 1/4 of the way through. I guess I can pull it out for the UFO contest.

Anyway, this is why I had only a little bit of this print. I had just enough to cut out the upper bodice. The scraps from it were quite small. It was pretty serendipitous. The blue heavy knit is from my Mermaid Parade costume and there was more than a scrap left of it, but less than a full yard (I still have plenty to make a skirt). I was pretty pleased with my resourcefulness in combining them, using up stash, and making something to fit in with my wardrobe colors.

What's slapdash about this project are the sleeve bands. I didn't measure how wide the sleeve openings were, just cut binding pieces that "seemed" long enough. They weren't. Rather than measure and re-cut I stretched the bindings to fit the sleeves. This looked horrible so I ripped it out. Again, rather than actually measure I cut some extension pieces. The bindings still weren't quite long enough so I stretched them to fit on the under part of the sleeve. They don't look horrible like before, but are not quite right if you know to look for it (which nobody but you will). This is an instance where being slapdash is pointless and stupid. It would have been *easier* and *saved time* to measure in the first place. I even knew that at the time. I just like my slapdash ways.

You can read the review if you'd like.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Here's a story...

I finished up my entry for the One Pattern, Multiple Looks contest. I wanted to play around with collages because I'm going to have to make a big one for the Wardrobe contest. I conceived of the Brady Bunch idea and decided I HAD to do it. I'm disturbed by how shrewish my tank incarnation looks on the lower right. I was smiling in real life, but somehow it looks like a grimace on the camera.

This made me start thinking about how they did the credits in the Brady Bunch. At first I was all, well you just drag everything into a window on the editing software.... Um, no. That's not how they did it then. But how did they do it? Before I went to law school I worked in public radio in Shreveport, Louisiana (where I had gone to college). We were a dinky station, and still edited sound on reel-to-reel tape. I did arts reporting and cut my tape with a razor blade and then spliced it together with special blue tape to create my pieces. I felt very cool having such an esoteric and archaic skill. But simply cutting frames out and putting them together wouldn't have worked to create a multi-frame image. However they did it, I'm impressed they did it without computers.

I have to confess, there isn't much slapdash about these projects. They were too easy even to take shortcuts. You can read the review if you'd like.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Final Tally

I accomplished everything on the list over the weekend.

-three skirts
-four tops
-one convertible skirt/top
-one (reversible) hat to go with everything
-1:15 marathon photo session. I think I still have flash spots in my eyes.

I want to add one more skirt (easy peasy knit tube), a belt with hidden zipper compartment for credit card security, and a scarf that can be used as a shoulder cover for entering churches. I may not finish all these before the contest deadline.

Then there's the little matter of doing all the reviews.

I am tired.

And now I am ready for Harry Potter. My copy, according to USPS tracking, was delivered to work at 7:00 this morning. I have not seen it yet. The mailroom is about to get acquainted with me if it doesn't arrive soon.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wardrobe in a Weekend?

The productivity is insane. So far, three skirts, one blouse, one knit top, and one convertible item that can be a skirt or a top. Two more tops cut out and ready to sew. My shoulder hurts and I think my sewing machine is getting tired. Taking pictures of all of this is going to be an ordeal. I live alone and have no boyfriend so it's just me and the timer function of my camera. Over and over and over.

This post brought to you by the fact that I'm a night person and have stayed up this late just because I can.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tragedy! (of minuscule proportions)

So, I decided to go ahead and see what I could get done this weekend for the wardrobe contest. I spent Thursday night inaugurating my three day weekend of sewing by cutting, perhaps my least favorite task. I managed to get two skirts and most of a blouse cut out while watching NBC reruns of The Office (I keep hoping for Phyllis's wedding because I missed that one during the season--no, I don't have TiVo, or even cable, much to Cidell's chagrin) and 30 Rock. Luckily Cidell called and spared me Scrubs. I used to love that show but now it gets on my nerves. Cidell went to bed and then I spent Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham's show trying to fit a skirt pattern onto a piece of fabric that was really not large enough. I refuse to call it a reality show, because even if it accurately reflected Posh's life (doubtful), her life is not reality. I'm curious if the American "personal assistant" is actually a producer for the show. She certainly seemed to do more assisting to create camera-friendly situations than assisting in the sense of being helpful. I will now think of Posh every time I wear that skirt and the blouse.

Anyway, woke up this morning around 10 feeling really good. I'm not a morning person and in general waking up any day at any time is sheer agony for me. This morning I was awakened by the generator that has awakened me for the past several mornings. Apparently a neighbor across the alley is having an electric gate put in, and apparently such work can only be done between 6 and 8 in the morning. Gah. This on top of the roadwork on my street every night starting at about 10 pm. Somehow despite all this I was chipper and ready to sew!

The first skirt, a Patrones project, was going well (in the sense of coming together--I'm not hyper-enthused about the way it looks) until the very last step, putting a buttonhole in the waistband. My sewing machine did *not* want to sew through all the layers and kept tossing off the thread. I finally got the entire buttonhole in and went to open it up with the seam ripper. My old seam ripper finally died a couple of weeks ago; the metal part came loose of the plastic handle. I switched to a new one and was amazed at the difference! It was like butter! Seam ripping became almost (I did say almost) a pleasure. Well, RIP New Seam Ripper.

The metal just broke inside the buttonhole. It looks all sad, like a hand that has lost a thumb. I was quite upset. First, because New Seam Ripper and I were just getting acquainted, and so far we were getting along quite well. And second, even more tragically, I had to halt my sewing to go get a new one. I went right then and there because I know myself too well. Had I not gone to the fabric store right then I would have started a new project, and then reached a point where I needed a seam ripper and would try to use scissors absolutely *knowing* that it was a dumb idea and then I would snip the fabric and ruin the project and be mad at myself.

I live in the District, which I love. I can walk downtown, to DuPont Circle, to the U Street Corridor, to Adams Morgan, to Union Station, even to Georgetown in good shoes and nice weather. However, I cannot walk to a fabric store. They are all* out in the suburbs and require driving. I hate driving.

*This is not technically true. There is a place called Exquisite Fabrics on K Street, but I have never found anything in there I'd like to buy.

I have also made a vow of NO FABRIC IN JULY AND AUGUST. I must shout this at myself, so pardon my tone of voice. The easiest way for this to happen is not to go to a fabric store. Not so easy is not to go on the internet but since I will be imposing a Harry Potter Media Blackout as of now that will be easier too.

I went out to Seven Corners in Virginia (20 minute drive there). I went to JoAnn instead of G Street because I knew I was not going to be tempted by any of the polyester crap there. I bought four spools of thread and two seam rippers (I will not be caught unawares by this type of tragedy again) and felt quite virtuous about my restraint. Not even any interfacing or quick glance in the remnants bin! Since I was already out in the boonies I went to Trader Joe's and got a few items I needed. There was traffic on the way home (for some reason 395 going *into* Washington is terrible in the afternoon rush, which starts around 1:00 on Fridays), so the total round trip cost me 1 hour and 30 minutes. *le sigh* I was meeting a friend for the 4:20 showing of Harry Potter followed by drinks and dinner so I was racing against the clock when I got back.

I still managed to finish three skirts, and have cut out two tops for tomorrow (in addition to the blouse cut out during Posh). I have decided on the fourth top and will cut it out tomorrow.

I might actually finish this wardrobe thing. That would be kind of fun. I am not going to get too excited though--counting chickens and all that. I haven't even started to attempt to tackle the hat.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wardrobe Contest/Greece Trip

So, when the Wardrobe Contest (then called Sewing with a Plan, which raised somebody's copyright hackles) was announced I was all gung ho about it. I don't have a plan, that's part of being slapdash, so at first I objected strongly to the idea of *planning* sewing. It seems to defeat the fun. But I do go through color themes/manias (take your pick as to whether you prefer the cheerful or the psychologically loaded term) and I was hoping to make this an orange and yellow summer and call my wardrobe "Orange Juice and Lemonade." I bought a lot of fabric, natch, but couldn't find enough yellow to slake my thirst and of course wandered off to do a bunch of other projects. I completed only my orange plaid dupioni self-drafted skirt and then gave up on the idea (well, technically the jacket in the previous entry was also part of my plan, so I didn't give up on it wholly. And I'm not buying any fabric in July and August so eventually I'll probably get around to some of the orange and yellow fabric previously purchased).

Now I am trying to decide whether to revive the dream. I leave for Greece in about six weeks and it's time to start planning what to wear. On my trips is the only time I do create interchangeable wardrobes. At home I have a giant closet full of goodies to choose from and abhor looking the same from day to day. Traveling, I choose a color theme, buy or make a bunch of tops and bottoms that go together, and make an accessory to tie it all together. To honor the blue and white architecture of Greece that I love so much (in pictures anyway), my colors are blue, green, and white. For Italy my colors were black and pink and I made a purse (using my ultra-spy burglar detector of choice in the remote chance of a pickpocket--velcro) out of a pink sparkly fabric, the remainder of which I just gave to Cidell, on which I embroidered a big flower when I was going in for surgery.

For Scandinavia, my colors were green and brown with a little bit of purple, and I made a sash belt with a hidden zipper in the lining I used to store my extra credit card in, again in case of pickpockets. I do not believe in money belts, that seems way too extreme, but I do like the idea of having two credit cards and separating them (I travel alone). For Italy, I sewed tiny velcro pockets into the waistbands of my skirts that held the extra credit card.

I have now found out that the rules for the Wardrobe Contest have been changed to coincide almost exactly with my philosophy. 10 items total, one of which must be an accessory that goes with everything. 3 bottoms, more tops than bottoms (meaning at least 4), 1 accessory, and the rest can be filled out with dresses or jackets.

I am stuck on tops. I really only have one blouse I know I want to make in my queue, an eyelet (using up the rest of those "curtains") one based on a Marc Jacobs dress. I have some great vintage fabric in a sheer that I have been looking for the perfect pattern for, but I still haven't found the perfect pattern. I also have some green/blue knit leftover from my 80s top that I could use for a top, as it matches my blue/green/white theme. I just don't know what pattern to use that's worthy of the cool fabric. I've been thinking of making another twist top but I don't know if that's special enough. And I don't even have any other ideas. Well, thinking about it, I think the top I'm making for the one pattern, multiple looks contest will match the plain skirts, but I don't think it's *quite* in the right colorway to really go with the rest of the group (it will be teals and browns with some green).

Skirts I can make a plain green bias skirt (should be easy--it's an elastic waist pattern), a skirt out of some Ikea upholstery fabric I got, and a skirt from Patrones out of some linen-ish fabric that's been in my stash since who knows when and needs to be used or tossed.

I've already got three dresses (made since May!) that will fit in, which is one too many (as there are only 2 free slots after 3 bottoms + 4 tops + 1 accessory).

The accessory will be a big sunhat, for which I purchased buckram when I was visiting Cidell in Baltimore.

The catch, of course, is the deadline is July 31! It started May 1. I have a three day weekend of sewing planned, but I'm pretty sure there's no way I can finish everything this weekend, and I'll be spending every night next week (not that I sew during the week anyway) reading Harry Potter. I will also have next weekend but it's only a two day weekend that I think will be filled with sociability and catching up on sleep lost to staying up late to reading Harry Potter.

Well, I never officially click "enter contest" until I have something to enter so I can ponder this for a while longer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Raglan Sleeve Jacket

Jacket Front

I am finally getting around to doing my entries for One Pattern, Multiple Looks! A two month contest and I do all the sewing the last two weeks. Typical. You can read the official pattern review here.

A note on the pic--I made the dress I'm wearing for my 22nd birthday! Eleven years ago! I hadn't worn it in *years* but held onto it this long because I made it the summer after I graduated college, when I was a live-in nanny for one of my professors. His daughter's birthday was also in August and I made us matching dresses. Although I was very close with the family when I lived with them, for some unknown reason (I mean really unknown) they stopped communicating with me when I moved away for law school. It was quite painful to lose what felt like "family," especially because I didn't know why, and this dress was one of the few links I had to them and that time. Well, everything really does come back in style because with the current maxi-dress trend I wore this work Monday and felt completely stylish. I'm glad I never got rid of it.

Pattern EnvelopeThis is the first variation on this vintage 1978 Stretch & Sew pattern (#1582) purloined from my mom's sewing room.

I have been using this pattern for over a decade now, which is a little scary! I think my first version was for a costume based on the 1990s Kenneth Branaugh/Emma Thompson movie version of Much Ado About Nothing, a really lovely movie if you haven't seen it. Try not to think about what happened between them afterward. Then there was the orange floral calico one I still miss. It is bad for me to be able to remember--much less miss--specific garments I have gotten rid of. Cleaning out my closet is emotional and difficult enough without knowing that I won't necessarily forget about something the moment it's gone and realize I was silly for getting all sentimental in the first place. I just need to remind myself of the hundreds (hundreds! I tell you) I have gotten rid of that I don't remember. Like the gray v-neck sleeveless t-shirt dress that was a little too short. Wait, I remember that one, don't I?

So, what's slapdash here? Mostly the matchup between the lining and the fashion fabric. I'm pretty sure I put the fashion fabric sleeves in the wrong sides (meaning backwards--left sleeve in right side, back of sleeve to front of garment and vice versa), because I had to trim down the sleeve at the neck a *lot* to get it to line up with the front neck edge. There appeared to be some major iron shrinkage going on, even though I pre-washed and dried, so that made the matchup wonky too. I had to pin the two pieces together at the neck and then trim off the bottom, then sew the sides and back together, turn, and then do another trimming & trueing before sewing the neck casing. And then I had to get the sleeves the same length! I don't know if this counts as slapdash because I actually did try to get it right, and I think I did ok because I don't notice any distortion anywhere.

Here's the "official" picture of the front curve topstitching.

Top Stitching

Here's the other side:

I think that little point counts as slapdash.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Making Your Own Dress Form...

...or trying to, at any rate.

Over the weekend I went to Baltimore to hang out with Cidell. As we are sewists, we were not content just to eat and drink and shop (though we did a fair amount of each). We had a mission: Mission Paper Tape Dress Form. We figured we'd alter a few t-shirts, slap on a little tape, slide together some PVC, and voila! Perfect us-es!

Not quite so easy. Apparently this is an iterative process with quite a learning curve. Right now that curve is bulging out at my double's waist. We're learning so you don't have to.

One thing we did conceptualize and realize to (almost) fruition is the stand. We conceived of a three-way convertible stand/dress form, spent half an hour in the PVC aisle at Home Depot flirting with and mystifying the (very obliging) Home Depot guy. We drew, we measured, we sawed, we glued with foul foul PVC cement, we malleted and in the end our crazy dreams (almost) came true (we are missing a few supplies).

The drawing below shows how the completed stand/dress form works. It can be used either on a tabletop, on a traditional stand, or hanging to fit pants at the hips and waist. I listed the materials needed on this page. (NOTE: Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

This drawing shows the nitty gritty of how to put everything together.

Cidell has put up some details of how to do the taping of the dress form itself, and I'll write more later (I'm worn out from our weekend!), but this will get you started.

Blogger only accepts JPEG and GIF format for pictures, and unfortunately the scanner cut off the edges of the drawings. However, I have also scanned them into PDF form, which looks great, and I will happily email you the PDFs. If I don't already have your email address, leave it in the comments in the form:

janedoe[underscore]sewist at hotmail

If you write it out like this web spiders can't harvest it. If it's a common domain name that I'm going to know ends in dot com, don't include that, just to keep your address safer from harvesters. You can also leave a comment for Cidell, who has set up some sort of fancy commenting system that asks for your email but doesn't publish it and she will send me your info or just send you the PDF (um, I hope you don't mind that I'm committing you to this, Cidell).

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Patrones 253, #40 Philosophy Shirtdress

Another pattern from Patrones. I am addicted to this magazine's patterns! Thanks a lot, Cidell. The official pattern review is here and the web album is here.

I said it in the review and I'll say it again here: I was verrrrry doubtful about this dress as it was on the sewing machine. Usually I love the process of trying on a garment as it slowly goes from flat fabric, to cut out pieces, and on through the process of assembly. It's so fun to see it take shape and become real clothes. With this one, at every step I was afraid I should just cut my losses and abandon it. It did not look good until the only things left to do were buttonholes and hems. Then I started really liking it, and now I love it.

I never wear anything with a fully buttoned neck, partly because I think my collarbones are one of my good features and partly because I love to make and wear jewelry so I always wear a necklace (this dress gave me an excuse to fire up the torch and make the earrings to go with it). I think with the buttoned up placket, rounded collar, and wide belt the style is a little Gothic Lolita (here are some photos from flickr for examples), which is not normally my style and plus my age makes it kind of laughable, but I am drawn to all things costume-ish so I guess it's not that surprising that eventually I'd end up with something Gothic Lolita in my wardrobe. I will not be carrying a teddy bear while wearing it, but I cannot guarantee I won't carry a parasol. I got one last summer that I carried a few times, and was told I was fabulous while walking around in Logan Circle (a gay area of town). That's my stamp of approval. Actually, I think I get catcalled more by gay men than by straight men. Perhaps this is another piece to the puzzle of my singleness. Straight men do not appreciate my style.

So I'm sure you're sitting there going blah blah blah yadda yadda, let's get to the good stuff! So here's what's slapdash about this project: the tucks. I carefully chalk marked the tucks on the inside of the underlining. I considered thread tracing, as Cidell did for her eyelet dress. That lasted about 8 seconds and then I laughed and went back to chalking. I pinned the tucks as drafted, and it seemed it make the front too small, so I made them half as wide as drafted. The dress didn't have enough shape when the tucks were the same width all the way down, so I took them in a little around the bust (why not around the waist? It just didn't feel right. I think taking them in at the bust somehow makes it look bigger because they curve around it.) The slapdashedness comes in where I didn't take out the old stitching. So there are two rows of stitching where I took the tucks in. You can't see from even two feet away, so I figured eh, I'd save myself the work. Also this fabric is quite delicate and I didn't think it would take well to the seam ripper.

In fact, the delicateness of the fabric is my only grip. I don't know if it came like that or happened in the wash, but there are two large holes in the fabric near the hem in the front. They are each about the size of a quarter and the fabric has just disintegrated there. I didn't notice them in cutting and didn't have enough to recut the entire front. I patched them from the back with fusible interfacing, but after a few washes I think they will be out of control and ruin the dress. I am pretty upset about that. I guess I'll have to hand wash this one, not getting the hem area wet (and certainly not agitating it) if I can help it.