Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Miss Celie and the Slapdash Sewist Chat: Family History

This time Cidell and I talked about how we started sewing, the sewing that has gone on in our families, her trip to PR Weekend in LA including a disastrous attempt at public transportation, and of course lots of other random stuff. It gave me a chance to talk a little about my Nana, who passed away about ten years ago and has been on my mind a lot lately for some reason.

We also propose some names for the podcast for you to ponder. I think you should consider voting for "Hemline Hotline" or "A Stitchable World," but that's just me. :-P

You can visit it for download here.

Vote for your favorite name!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Operation Easy Knits: Simplicity 3775

This easy knits thing is great! I've done three projects so far and am almost done with a fourth. Why didn't I think of it before?

Anyway, the first project I eased myself back in with was Simplicity 3775, one of Pattern Review's Top 10 Patterns of 2007. I had noticed this pattern in the books several times, but it was just enough off that I dismissed it. The midriff seemed a little too wide, the neckline of the t-shirt version a tad too high making it look like an icky crewneck t-shirt. Just a little off. But when I read the article and saw several examples that had been made from it, I figured I could spend the 99 cents at Joann's sale to get the pattern.

I'm glad I did!

Cute, no? And quite easy. At this point I have a pretty good feel how to do a small bust adjustment without muslining, so I fearlessly slashed and overlapped to prevent The Gape (the overlap along the diagonal front edge) and Empty Bag Syndrome (the overlap in the lower gathering section). I further fought The Gape by cutting the binding strip for the neckline pretty short--about an inch and a half shorter than the length of the neckline--and stretched the neckline to fit, so the binding pulls it in. And I further fought Empty Bag Syndrome by putting the gathers closer to (and across) center front, a couple inches in from the marking on the pattern where you're supposed to start the gathers. Nothing worse than having gathers in a place before your boobs actually start.

To attach the binding they want you to sew both raw edges to the neckline edge as one. This might be ok if you have a serger, but even then I don't really like it. Instead I sewed one long edge of the binding to the neckline, turned the seam allowance to the outside, folded the other edge of the binding over, and topstitched in the ditch. If I wanted to be really fancy I could have turned the seam allowance of the inner edge under so it would be enclosed, but I was only going for semi-fancy.

I also didn't like their instructions for the ruched midriff. They have you ruche the two sides of each midriff overlay piece, sew each overlay to its corresponding midriff piece, and *then* sew the midriff side seams. That seemed like a recipe for unnecessarily bulky seams to me (sewing two gathered sides and four thicknesses together). Instead I sewed the side seams of the midriff and the overlay, so that they were two separate finished pieces. Then I put gathering stitches, one on each side of the seam, on the overlay to within about an inch of the top. I did the method where you sew up one side, then turn around and sew down the other so you don't have to gather from both ends and the loop at the top holds your gather tight while sewing. I favor this method whenever possible.

Once the overlay was gathered, I pinned it over the midriff and topstitched at the side seam to hold the ruching in place. Then I took out the gather stitches and voila! The side seam is no more bulky than absolutely necessary. The busy print doesn't necessarily show off the ruching to its best advantage, but its tummy disguising properties were not negated.

Speaking of the midriff, I was a little skeptical about the sizing. I couldn't find a finished measurement so I cut up a size from normal based on my pattern size. Then I noticed that the overlay seemed narrower than the midriff and measured and it is indeed about 1/2 inch (as I recall) narrower than the midriff. So I cut it up two sizes. I don't know why I forgot how much ease Simplicity puts in their patterns because I ended up taking the whole lot in a couple of inches to get it to fit. Still not sure whether I like the overlay being narrower than the midriff. My feeling is that the ruching will make it tighter rather than larger, but who knows.

This was clearly the right project at the right time, because the next day I received a package from my mom with the adorable capelet! I asked her to crochet it for me a while ago and it just so happened to arrive when I had the perfect thing to go with it.

All photos are here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

G Street Fabrics (and other DC resources)

**Edit** I keep adding more to this post, so come back before your trip to make sure you have to most up to date information!

I am always jealous of people who get so many comments that they do entire posts responding to them. Then Sandy in W left me a post-worthy comment, so yay! Thanks Sandy! In response to my post about my most recent G Street indulgence, she wrote:

I'm going to be in DC in a couple of weeks and I'm trying to decide if I should go to G Street Fabrics while I'm in the "neighborhood" (I'd have to take the metro out, which, being from Kansas (no metro's!!), always causes me to wonder if I'll get hopelessly lost, never to be seen again!) Do ya think it's worth the trip out there...or, are there other places I might want to check out instead? Here in Wichita we just have Joann's and Hancocks...NOT too thrilling. A trip out to G Street would take a chunk of my precious DC time, so I don't want to do it unless it offers more thrills and chills than J's and H'!

I get this question a fair amount, and it's a little difficult to answer. I love having G Street as a resource, and I double love their free monthly Fashion Sewing Club meetings (missed the one for this month because I was touring the White House, which I will blog about eventually on my travel blog). But it *is* pricey and, unfortunately, difficult to reach.

The original G Street was presumably located on G Street in downtown DC, but that location is long gone. They currently have three suburban locations, two in Virginia and one in Maryland. The location I prefer is the Falls Church Virginia location at Seven Corners. I can head out to the 'burbs for the day to go to the nice, cheap grocery store (Shoppers Food Warehouse), the Target, the TJ Maxx, the DSW, the Trader Joe's, and all the other big boxes and chains we so love to abhor. Now that I have given up my car, I won't be going there too often! (DC has a for-profit car-sharing program that I will eventually break down and join.)

The Virginia locations are not remotely metro accessible, and the Maryland location is metro accessible, assuming you have a lot of time to spend on the metro and have no trouble walking a little over half a mile in each direction (uphill on the way back). If you prefer not to walk, you can easily find a cab at the metro stop; I'm not sure how easy it will be to find one at the shopping center, but Randolph Road is a major thoroughfare so it shouldn't take too long.

To reach the Maryland Location:

Start by taking the Red line in the direction of Shady Grove to the White Flint metro station.

Short directions:
Exit White Flint Metro and make a 180 degree turn to turn around.
Right on Old Georgetown.
Left on Nebel.
Left into Montrose Plaza.

Long directions with details and landmarks:
Come out of the White Flint Metro stop and make a 180 degree turn (turn around to face the opposite direction you got off the escalators).
Walk along Rockville Pike, the large main road that will now be running along your left side.
Make a right at the first street you come to, which is Old Georgetown Road. You will walk a fair distance on Old Georgetown (my random guess is a little under half a mile) down a hill, passing large apartment/condo complexes on your left. The road curves to the left at the Harris Teeter grocery store; stay on it. Old Georgetown dead ends at Nebel Street.
Make a left on Nebel and walk about 4 blocks through a complex of warehouse and retail space. On the way, you will pass Accents Beads on your left. If you have any interest in beads or jewelry you should try to fit in a visit.
Finally, you will come to a large traditional (as opposed to warehouse-y) shopping center on your left. It's called Montrose Plaza. You can't see the G Street at first, but you will see a Gold's Gym. Make a left into the shopping center and G Street will be on your left.

From downtown DC (Metro Center/Gallery Place-ish), you're looking at about a 40 minute metro ride to White Flint--it's quite a distance as you can see on the metro map. Give another 20 minutes or so for each direction to walk to and from the store and you're looking at round trip travel time of at least 2 hours (excluding shopping time), depending on metro wait times and delays (which are all too common on the Red line).

The Seven Corners location is bus-accessible. I think it is a nicer store than Rockville and there is a Joann fabric in the same shopping center, but if taking the bus would be nerve-wracking it's not nicer enough to justify the stress (I hate taking the bus in a town I don't know because how do you know where to get off???).

To get there, take the Orange line train in the direction of Vienna to Ballston and then take the 1A, 1B, 1E, or 1F bus (they originate at Ballston, so you can't accidentally go the wrong way); the 1Z bus will NOT take you there. When you exit the Ballston station the bus stop is around the corner to the left (bus stop signage is quite good).

Get off the bus on the first stop after it turns off Patrick Henry onto Leesburg Pike (the bus has an LED sign that says what street you're on) after about 20-25 minutes; you will see the large Shopper's Food Warehouse in the shopping center on your right. Note that the bus crosses Patrick Henry earlier in the route while still on Arlington Blvd--do not get off the first time Patrick Henry is announced as you are still 7-10 minutes from your destination. (NOTE:  Since I wrote this post new bus bays have been installed in the shopping center on the lower level, closer to G Street Fabrics.  I *believe* the buses all go down to the bus bay, but I cannot promise that.  I still get off at Leesburg Pike because I don't want to end up not being able to get off the bus at the shopping center.)

Walk toward the Shoppers and then make a left to go down the length of the shopping center. You'll pass a Michael's (general crafts) and a Joann Fabrics (generally has at least one brand of pattern on sale for $1.99).

At the end of the block of shops there is a set of stairs, go down them and turn right to continue along the shopping center. G Street is about in the middle of the row. This sounds complicated but I think it not will be terrible for someone unfamiliar with the area.

Catch the bus going back to Ballston on the lower level of the shopping center.  There are bus bays set up near the Chipotle.   If there is a bus that says Rosslyn (a 4 bus) you can take that one, as it also ends at a metro station (Rosslyn is Orange/Blue). The 1 buses terminate at Ballston so you don't have to worry about where to get off at the end. This takes about the same amount of time as going to Rockville or a little longer, assuming you are leaving from the city. If you're staying in Crystal City or one of the other large Virginia hotel areas it will be a little quicker.

You could also just splurge on a cab from the East Falls Church Metro (on the Orange in the direction of Vienna, past Ballston) to save time and aggravation; it would probably be around $10 or less as the station is a little under 2 miles away. I am a dedicated pedestrian, but in this instance I do not recommend walking from East Falls Church because it involves negotiating a complicated mixing bowl that has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the area. You'd probably have to call a cab to return, as I don't see them pulling in looking for customers.

Bottom line: If your time is really limited (just a few hours), it might not be worth it. If you have a free afternoon, it could be worth it.

It is a completely different experience than Joann or Hancock, for sure--lots more thrills and fewer chills (at least I get a cold shiver down my spine when I walk among all those bolts of nothing but polyester). There is no sickly-sweet smell of craft store. In fact, there are no crafts. It's just all fabric, all sewing, all the time. The locations are all quite large and have both apparel and home dec sections. In apparel you can find everything from knits to silk brocades to $200/yd bridal lace to men's wool suitings to every kind of faux fur to...the list is endless. Pretty much any kind of apparel fabric you want is there somewhere. I don't do home dec and have only been through the section a few times, but it seems similarly comprehensive.

All this quality comes at a price, of course. $12/yd is the cheap end, and it goes up from there. Way up.

However, there is a saving grace: the $2.97/yd table. I purchase pretty much exclusively from the $2.97/yd table. I'm not really sure how they decide what goes out for that price, because I once saw something I'd bought from the $2.97 table back out in the regular racks at $8/yd a couple of weeks later. A lot of it is crap, or perhaps I should be more charitable and say "stuff that doesn't interest me." LOTS of tissue-weight and fine mesh knits and just such randomness. But there is a lot to choose from and rare is the day I find nothing. Too rare, certainly, based on the size of my stash!

There is a similar table in home dec, I think it's $3.97 or $5.97 or something. I've looked a few times to see if there's anything I'd like for a jacket, but none of it has been to my taste. Others really like it though.

The notions section is really comprehensive. Two things I stock up on are zippers and double faced satin ribbon. The zips are "house brand" and come on just a little hang tag instead of more packaging than it takes to transport a carton of eggs. The overpackaging of zippers really bothers me. They're a little cheaper than what you get at Joann and Hancock and there are many more colors and lengths to choose from in both regular and invisible. Unfortunately, not too many metal zippers at this point even though the exposed metal zip is coming into fashion. The ribbon is Swiss, double faced, great quality, lots of colors and *cheaper* than awful Offray. It's in little cardboard box dispensers and sells by the yard. Don't breeze through the notions section, there's a lot of good stuff in there. They have fabulous buttons but the prices are too painful for me to bear.

Bottom line: (1) lots of good stuff to touch and squeeze and love and hold, (2) it's more expensive than the internet for the most part, (3) except for the $2.97/yd table, (4) don't miss the notions. Also, check out their class schedule. They have lots of one day classes on the weekends, and there might be something you're interested in while you're here.

The photos are projects made from the $2.97 table. The post was too boring without pictures!


ScrapDC at 52 O St. NW is a thrift store for craft supplies, including fabric, patterns, and notions.  I wrote all about it, including a virtual store tour, here.  It is 100% volunteer-run and has limited hours, currently every Thursday from noon to 8 pm, the first Friday of each month from 6 to 9 pm (April 5 is the next one), and the third Saturday of each month from 10 am to 1 pm.  Check the website before you go.  It has public transit instructions from the New York Ave. metro stop on the Red line; it is also about 1 mile from the Shaw/Howard University stop on the Green/Yellow line.


Exquisite Fabrics was a DC institution for many years.  Unfortunately, it has moved to Culpepper, VA, far far far beyond the reach of public transit.


If you do yarn crafts, you might enjoy a visit to Stitch DC.  They are currently located in Tenleytown.


The District is working to become a fashion destination.

Check out DC Threads Sewing Lounge on the second Saturday of the month. It offers a charity-focused project each month. This could be a good place to start if you're wanting to get into sewing. Information is on their website.

A source for sewing lessons is Singa (more information about my visit with the organization here--note that they have since moved to another location).  The website is not great; best to call them.

Bits of Thread studio also offers lots of different classes, many of them aimed at beginners, so it's a great place to start.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Miss Celie and the Slapdash Sewist Chat: BWOF

So, Cidell and I have been wanting to do a podcast forever. We see each other in person pretty frequently, but we always have too much going on to sit down with a computer and a microphone and record our ever-fascinating conversation. I finally joined Skype and while we were skyping Cidell realized that she could use the Garage Band software that came on her nifty Mac to record our conversation. And now we can podcast without limits! The technical stuff has taken the better part of the past two days, but hopefully we have it figured out.

For our first episode, we talk about Burda World of Fashion. How much we love it, the laughter, the tears, the joy.

You can visit and download the podcast here.

We hope you enjoy! If you do, please offer your help with name and future topic suggestions.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hey, it's ok...to sew easy knits

Glamour magazine has (or had--I haven't looked at one in a couple years) a feature called "Hey, it's ok..." with a list of things that are ok, like "to own more eyeshadow than you can possibly wear in a lifetime" and "to delete and any all chain e-mails--even those from close friends--without opening them." (These examples from June 2005--I'm finally going through old issues, tearing out the inspiration photos, and getting rid of them).

I hadn't sewn in nearly a month I think, other than some grocery bags from the fantastic craftster tutorial by queenofdiy and one blouse I need to photo.

Last night, I finally pulled out the knit print I bought from G Street last month and Simplicity 3775. Today I realized that I've been putting way too much pressure on myself to do hard, complicated, fancy projects when...you know what?...I really like to just sew easy knits. And you know what else? They're cute.

It is my personality always to strive to be A+ top-of-the-class, smarter, harder-working, and every other excelling superlative there is. But this attitude has been stopping me from sewing, because I haven't been in the mood to do hard time-consuming stuff that never turns out exactly perfect so I haven't done anything at all.

But there is no Goddess of Sewing in the sky keeping track of my projects, tsking when I get lazy and just do something easy. Nobody cares! Why should I?!?! And why *do* I? (That one is easy, because I'm insane.)

So I am reminding myself and giving you permission: Hey, it's ok to sew easy knits! Geez! You don't have to make fitted blouses if you don't want to. Just make some cute, easy dresses and *enjoy* what you're doing and wear them in good health.

Stashoholism Confessional: NYC Edition

Last weekend I was in New York for a show. My close friend and neighbor spent last year out of the country and I took care of her mail and various other things that came up while we were gone. As her thank you, she got us tickets to Xanadu (which I'd been wanting to see since I heard they were putting it on Broadway) and cashed in her Marriott points for a fantastic room Times Square. Lap of luxury, I tell you! You can read about the tourist portion of the trip on my travel blog.

We went down by bus on Friday morning so I was able to hit the garment district while all the stores were open. I didn't want to spend too much because (1) I already have a lot of fabric, (2) I haven't been sewing much lately, and (3) I'm going to Vietnam in two weeks and Paris in two months and hope to acquire some fabric in both places.

The best laid plans....

Well, really, I don't think I went *too* crazy.

First stop was a store with a Paron's sign over the door. I walked in and everything was total jumbled kind of dirty chaos and I was completely confused. I later realized that the sign over the door was leftover from when Paron and Paron's Annex were two separate places, so who knows what the actual place was. When I walked in some guy was talking to the owner talking about how "the women are going to love it." When he walked out I saw it was Ricky from Project Runway! I told him I was a big fan, and he smiled very shyly and said thanks. It happened too fast to get a pic, though. One of the guys that worked there took a shine to me for some reason. He kept saying I was pretty and trust me, I was not. It was cold and a little wet and I looked and felt gross and grumpy. Anyway, I got the blue roses shirting--I think a rayon and poly blend--for $4/yd. I got two yards, one for me and one for Cidell. Won't we be adorable in matching blouses? Actually she plans to incorporate hers into a dress.

Next stop was Paron, where I looked and didn't buy. But I couldn't get the red knit print (pictured below with the print from Stretch Universe) out of my head and went back later in the day. I also got the gorgeous teal/coral cross-dyed wool/silk/cotton/lycra fabric to the right. It is YUMMY. $6.75/yd, I got three yards. The red knit print was also $6.75/yd. I asked for two, there were 3 1/2 left on the bolt, and he gave me the whole lot from the price of 2 1/2 yards. Sold.

Then it was off to Spandex House. When I cleaned out my craft room I determined that I would really like to have a ready supply of plain knits for tops. I have not really loved Spandex House on past visits. I find it too jumbly and difficult to find anything, and the bolts are too big/heavy/buried to pull out. Also, the cotton jersey I bought at PR Weekend was just awful quality. It faded in the (cold) pre-wash and the hand is just not nice. But it is the easiest place to find knits so I went. I only found two colors/hands/fibers that I liked, the orchid and the blue. And I already have a million clothes in the blue but it is a color I always like so I got it. The black is for workout pants, as all my gym clothes are old and horrible. 1 1/2 yds of each of the colors, 2 yards of the black, total was $20.

From Spandex House I popped over to stretch world. They had the blue dots fabric also in green, red, and amber colorways. I didn't like the red or amber much, but I wonder if I hadn't ought to have chosen green instead of blue. I have a LOT of blue clothes. Too late! (But if somebody is going will you pick me up some green?) The girl gave me a price of $8/yd. That was more than it was worth to me so I walked away. She said $7. Kept walking. When it got down to $6 I turned around and got 3 yds.

I stopped by Chic for some white shirting (2 yds) and batiste (4 yds). Great quality and always useful, but too boring, for a pic.

Finally, it was time for the piece de resistance...my gift certificate to Mood. A while back I gave a friend some sewing lessons, and as a thank you she sent me a $100 gift certificate to Mood. On my own I probably wouldn't go into Mood because the prices, like the fabrics, are out of this world. When she gave me the gift certificate I was thinking maybe I'd buy some Pucci print just for the hell of it, as I'd certainly never spend $50/yd of my own money on some and I looooove Pucci prints. Well, they're up to $60/yd and I just couldn't do it.

After spending well over an hour in the store I settled on two yards of $25/yd silk jersey in a Pucci-like print and 2 yards of the yellow eyelet ($18/yd). I kind of wish I'd gotten 2 1/2 of the silk jersey, because then I could make a dress and a top out of it. I was thinking of a sleeveless version of the mock wrap dress in Simplicity 4074, but now am undecided. I love Simp 4074, but because it's princess seams it will break up the print. Which is fine, because the flowers are a probably too large a scale for my frame and they'll just read abstract (and therefore even more Pucci-esque) if broken up, but it will definitely take up the whole length. I want to find a pattern that will give me enough leftover to make the sleeveless cowl top from Simplicity 4539, but I don't know if that will be possible. Does anybody know how to care for silk jersey? The eyelet will be a sheath dress.

I didn't stop by Metro Textiles and see Kashi. I do like the stuff he has in his store, but his personality is a lot for me to take, and I couldn't face him alone. I have to be in the mood to spend a lot to go there, and I wasn't.

Total damage: 21 1/2 yards out of my pocket (which is all that goes in my tally as my stash damage control is about money not space), plus four yards from Mood. Oof, this is more than I've sewn this year. Must get busy.

The only disappointment was that I stopped by Around the World and they didn't have any Patrones in. Boo.

On my sightseeing day I went to Liberty and Ellis Islands for the first time (sightseeing photos are here), and it was not a day entirely without fashion/textiles. Part of the collection in the museum at Ellis Island is items that immigrants brought with them, that were later donated, including this gorgeous Italian wedding dress from the turn of the century:

It's hard to photograph something through glass, but you get the idea of all the trims and the shape. Loved it.