Monday, April 30, 2012

Ye Olde Renaissance Pleasure Faire

We got up super-early so that we could get out there in
time for the opening ceremony. Here I am in my full garb!
On Saturday, Elaine and her fiance, Mu, came with me to the Ren Faire in Irwindale. Mu is a real faire person, having worked at the faires in both NorCal and Tucson, and he got Elaine into it, and she got me into it, and The Dreamstress made me believe that I could make my own costume, and that is how I ended up at the faire in my own home-made garb! It was seriously so much more fun (and accurate) than my first Ren Faire dress-up experience.

Oddly enough, my black unlined unfinished-seam polyester fake suede bodice from last time (which was really so many kinds of wrong) was made using the same pattern that I used for my kirtle. This time, though, I have three additional years of sewing experience under my belt, and more knowledge about historical costuming thanks to many hours of research. Last time, I thought one could just throw things together in a generic, vaguely historical fantasy wench sort of look; knowing what I know now, I look at my uncovered, unsecured hair and crimson tiered skirts with a sort of cringe-face. I have to say that Mu was incredibly gracious last time in lending me a hat to cover my head and a belt for my pouch and generally helping me make the best I could of my thrown-together costume. This time, I still had to borrow his belt (not having located a suitable one in my thrifting adventures), but I felt much better about my whole outfit.

It was pirate weekend at the faire, so there were many, many people in generic pirate-y things, and I have to say that I was very tempted to just go as a generic pirate queen, but I'm glad I went as I did. We had lots of fun wandering around looking at the wares (I did indulge in a tiny working brass spyglass), eating overpriced faire food (a surprisingly tasty cottage pie), admiring the nobility's costumes (and wondering how they could stand so many layers on a sweltering day), watching various naughty minstrel shows (I especially enjoyed the Merry Wives of Windsor and the Poxy Boggards), and watching demos and learning about various artisanal crafts (leather stamping, quill pen making, blacksmithing, weaving, and blackwork embroidery).

One of the first things we did was make little stamped leather necklaces at the kids' table. Yup, that's right, and of course I chose a triceratops horned dragon. I'm just a kid at heart, what with dressing up an all.

With a "real" dragon.

Don't drop the Queen! The procession was very grand, and the costumes incredible.

The Merry Wives of Windsor, with some incredible stripe-matching to make the chevrons in their bodices.

The very nice lady at St. Ives who showed us how to clean, temper, hollow out and carve feathers for quill pens.

Blackwork embroidery on a standing frame.

Spinning and weaving.

Totally random: there was a Nazgul wandering around! I snagged a picture with him and his incredible armor.

We came home hot and dusty and tired, but it was so much fun. To cap it all off, Elaine and I indulged in all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ, thereby adding another layer of smoky smells to our wandering-around-sweating-in-crowds smell. All in all, an excellent day. I'm so glad that Elaine and Mu were willing to drive out from Tucson to go to the faire with me!

And because I've been forgetting to post poems, for this last day of National Poetry Month, one of my absolute favorite geeky poems:

The Day the Saucers Came, by Neil Gaiman

That day, the saucers landed.
Hundreds of them, golden,
Silent, coming down from the sky like great snowflakes,
And the people of Earth stood and stared as they descended,
Waiting, dry-mouthed to find what waited inside for us
And none of us knowing if we would be here tomorrow
But you didn't notice it because 

That day, the day the saucers came, by some coincidence,
Was the day that the graves gave up their dead
And the zombies pushed up through soft earth
or erupted, shambling and dull-eyed, unstoppable,
Came towards us, the living, and we screamed and ran,
But you did not notice this because

On the saucer day, which was the zombie day, it was
Ragnarok also, and the television screens showed us
A ship built of dead-man's nails, a serpent, a wolf,
All bigger than the mind could hold, and the cameraman could
Not get far enough away, and then the Gods came out
But you did not see them coming because

On the saucer-zombie-battling gods day the floodgates broke
And each of us was engulfed by genies and sprites
Offering us wishes and wonders and eternities
And charm and cleverness and true brave hearts and pots of gold
While giants feefofummed across the land, and killer bees,
But you had no idea of any of this because

That day, the saucer day the zombie day
The Ragnarok and fairies day, the day the great winds came
And snows, and the cities turned to crystal, the day
All plants died, plastics dissolved, the day the
Computers turned, the screens telling us we would obey, the day
Angels, drunk and muddled, stumbled from the bars,
And all the bells of London were sounded, the day
Animals spoke to us in Assyrian, the Yeti day,
The fluttering capes and arrival of the Time Machine day,
You didn't notice any of this because
you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
not even reading, not really, just
looking at your telephone,
wondering if I was going to call.

And if you wanted to hear it read aloud, I like this version because it sounds so grave and important. Thanks for bearing with all the random poems this month!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sew Weekly Challenge: Kirtle?!

As you can see, I managed to get pictures in my finished Ren Faire garb! I'm wearing just the chemise and kirtle here, though, and not my petticoat or pair of bodies (or my hat and caul and other accoutrements). After checking the weather report for tomorrow, I've decided against proper underthings (I know, how scandalous!) since it will be just too many layers. My torso will just have to be unattractively un-conical. 

Hmmm, am I still fit to see the queen?
I've already mentioned the hand-sewn eyelets, but I did want to make a couple of other construction notes. This is the first time I've ever cut and sewn an entire bodice all from one flat pattern piece! That's right, the back, straps, and front are dart and sideseam-less; I obviously had to sew the shoulder straps together and the front opening has a modesty panel added in and all, but I never would have expected a pattern like this to fit so well without any shaping. I know it's only possible because I, errrr, have such a small apple dumpling shop, but that had better be good for something, right? Anyway, it looks properly conical over the pair of bodies. The skirt portion is just a giant tube very tightly gathered (I was so scared my gathering threads were going to break!); I didn't feel like, nor have time for, cartridge pleating. 

And in case you're thinking, gosh, that blue-on-white combination looks awfully familiar, let me show you my outfit in another context.

Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar/ I wonder if she's feeling well/ With a dreamy far-off look/
And her nose stuck in a book/ What a puzzle to the rest of us is...

Yes, that's right, I deliberately chose to make my garb look like Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. I'm pretty sure that the organizers of That's Sew Cinematic didn't have cartoon characters in mind, but hey, when I make impractical clothing, I really make impractical clothing. Go big or go home, right? Anyway, this falls into the "Frocks from the Flicks" category. How did I even decide to do this? Blame it on this example of a kirtle that caught my eye from Google image search, and combined with these historical Disney princess art pieces, my brain somehow spit out "hey, make your garb look like a Disney princess." I am aware, of course, that Beauty and the Beast supposedly takes place in the 18th century, and my garb is more appropriate for the 16th century, but hey, Belle's little town is extremely provincial. Like two-centuries-behind provincial.

Okay, that's all well and good, but how does this have anything to do with the Sew Weekly challenges? Well, last week's (yes, I know, I'm behind) Sew Weekly challenge was supposed to be inspired by a childhood photo/outfit. Here is my first inspiration photo.

I'm the one with the scary 80s-era eyeglasses.

Hmmm...cornflower blue overdress with a poofy-sleeved white shirt underneath? That works awfully well for what I was already toying with...and hey, a few pictures later:

Tie-dyed sweatshirt with Belle and Mrs. Potts. Oh dear.

Yeah, so, apparently I really loved Belle. And no wonder, as she's the nerdiest of the Disney princesses.

That inspiration was the main reason why I chose to make a collared shift, and not the square-necked
or drawstring-encased one that seems to be more common.

Fabric: A twin extra-long bedsheet from my college dorm years was barely sufficient for making the entire kirtle. When I was drafting my pattern, I quickly realized that if I wanted my skirt to be sufficiently full, I wasn't going to be able to afford any seams on the bodice, nor even any attempt at paying attention to grainline. I lined the bodice with that stiff linen-rayon blend that I had originally bought for the chemise.
Notions: Two plastic cable ties for the bodice opening, a hook and eye for the skirt opening.
Techniques: Drafting an Elizabethan bodice pattern
Hours: Seven, but that's including all the eyelets. I listened to several months' worth of Radiolab podcasts.
Will you make this again? Unlikely. How many such outfits does one need?
Total cost: The blue sheet I've had in my stash for at least a decade so I'm counting it as free, and the eyelets and lacing were made with a $0.39-skein of embroidery floss, so with the cable ties and lining, I'll say $3.
Final thoughts: I really, really, really love dressing up. I really hope my kids like dressing up one day, because goodness knows, Walnut doesn't.

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere...

It looks a little bit like I might be flying here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

This Week in Fabric

After spending a day recovering from the awesomeness that is Oonaballoona (more like telling anyone who would listen about how much fun I had with her), I finally got to work on 1) documenting the fabric I bought, and 2) working on that kirtle that I thought I had so much time for.

Beautifully embroidered chiffons, and an almost matching piece of rose-colored satin. I still have black chiffon left over from my GoF dress, so I'm thinking a black and pink evening gown. The cream colored piece will be perfect for an afternoon tea gown.
 1) I came home with a good 20 yards of beautiful fabric, enough to make that Downton Abbey-esque evening gown and that Edwardian tea gown that I have so many places to wear to. Did that sentence make sense? Right, I need to stop making costumes that I can't wear on a regular basis. I promise, just as soon as I finish up the aforementioned two gowns and my chintz 18th century gown.

I also got a bag of trims that will be perfect for embellishing this imaginary evening gown. Of course Walnut had to investigate these new trims. Doesn't that brown beaded stuff make him look so distinguished? Actually, he looks more round than anything else.

Better picture of the trims. The whole bag was $5!

I also got some jersey for making maxi dresses for the summer, as well as a red and blue stripey woven shirting fabric that will be perfect for yet another nautical look. I think I could do a Me-Made-Nautical week.  *Crosses fingers that SF will have some warm days this summer* 

Fuschia and white knit with a huge lily motif (I know, this is a terrible picture), teal jersey, nautical striped woven.
Purple/blue/turquoise/indigo/black/white/gray rayon, a navy striped knit, and a hunk of real fur. Still attached to a very living cat.

As Oona mentioned, all of this at the astounding rate of $1/yard!

My new kirtle, hastily arranged on Cecily, who is a good half foot shorter than me, hence the green IKEA stool legs sticking out.
Laced with anachronistic braided embroidery floss.
2) My kirtle is done! It took a while just to figure out how I wanted to put it together, and the resultant garment isn't anywhere near as historically accurate as I wanted it to be, but hey, when you're on a time and fabric crunch, you've got to pick your battles, right? I decided not to pick the fabric choice, bodice pattern, or construction battles, and went for the hand-sewed eyelets battle. I've fought that battle before and know how to fight it well. I also went for the spiral lacing battle, and I think it worked out better than the first time I fought that battle, seeing as how this time I didn't make a random extra eyelet.

As you can see in the first set of pictures, I also thrifted a nice straw hat and made a little caul for my hair. And to top it all off, I even made myself a little leather pouch for my 21st century items (iPhone, ID, credit cards, lipgloss, etc.), using yet another scrap from the leather grandma pants. Seriously, those are the pants that never stop giving, as I still have a whole calf and several pocket scraps left. I guess in that way it's very grandmotherly, since grandmas are supposed to always be giving out cookies and milk and hand-knitted sweaters? Anyway, it's very non-historically accurate, this pouch, being bound with embroidery floss and fastening with the most vaguely medieval-ish metal button I had and an elastic hairband. Even better, the inside is lined with poly-cotton. I also put two straps on the back so that I can thread it onto my belt.

I'm going to try to make my husband take pictures of my wearing everything later. We'll see if it happens. Still left to do: hem my petticoat and figure out the shoe situation. I am so excited about tomorrow though!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sewasaurus Rex Collapsible Tote Bag

Yesterday afternoon, I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of meeting up with the incredible Oonaballoona. I have to confess, I felt a little bit of awkward-kid-gets-an-invitation-to-go-to-a-cool-kid's-birthday-party anxiety. After all, Oona's Oona Does It! series is pretty legen -- wait for it -- dary, which is how I ended up being sucked into reading (and being reduced to giggle tears) her blog, and I haven't looked back since. So I was a little nervous when we started throwing emails at each other about meeting up to do some fabric shopping in the Fashion District. Would she like me? Would I be able to stammer out anything other than incoherent sentences about cats? Would my dress of the day not contain enough bright colors? I realized that the obvious solution was to bring her an offering. Like when the awkward kid is only allowed to eat lunch at that table in the cafeteria because she can do all the math homework.* Well, being that I have her (well, actually Ruggy) to thank for the term "sewasaurus rex," I decided to make her a thank you bag. And fill it with the Oona-est fabric I had in my stash.

Yup, it's one of those newfangled collapsible bags that are so popular among plastic bag eschewers.
Confession: that orange jersey was donated to me, and I was pretty sure that I would never use it.
This is what the bag looks like when collapsed in on itself. This is not what it looks like with the fabric inside, though.
It is not a Tardis or a wizarding tent.

She was really so gracious and kind about my little arts-and-crafts bag, not to mention ridiculously fun to hang out with. We traipsed around the Fashion District enabling each others' sewing purchases, talking up a storm about sewing and cats (yes, Walnut managed to sneak into the conversation), and reminding each other that "it's only $1/yard!" at crucial points. All in all a satisfactory day. Anyway, if you would like to be as cool as Oona and also sport this bag, here's how I did it:

Sorry about doing the whole thing in red pen; it's what I had. Also, gray shading = wrong side of the fabric, and the other colors were just to distinguish between the pieces. Obviously you are allowed to make a non-blue strap and non-pink outer bag.

Go here to get the download for the Sewasaurus Rex image. In the spirit of full disclosure, this is just the outline of the T.rex from Dinosaur Comics, blown up and traced by me, with the addition of a seam ripper. Once you print it out, you can trace it onto freezer paper with the use of the cheapest lightbox ever: tape and a sunny window.

Trace onto the non-shiny side of the freezer paper.

This is what mine looked like while it was drying.
I won't go into detail about making freezer paper stencils here, as there are quite a few out there on teh interwebs, but for a brief overview, I cut out the design, ironed it onto my fabric (a donated 70/30 poly-cotton blend IKEA curtain that was too hideous for apparel), then went to town with fabric paint (Tulip brand from Joann's). I free-handed the words "SEWASAURUS REX" in fabric marker, ironed to heat-set all the pigments, then got to work making the bag. This project also marked the first time I have ever made bias tape myself, and gosh, I don't know what I was afraid of. It's so easy and kind of addicting; now I'm sad about all the times I wasted money buying the packaged bias tape.

That moment when you peel off the freezer paper to reveal the finished image is kind of magical.
Also, ignore my blotchy paint job. It was only my first time ever making one of these!
The bag, all sewn up, before I added the drawstring.

With the drawstring.

This is what the inside looked like. Confession: I used blue because that's the only color where I had the correct combination of fabric paint, seam binding, and suitable ribbon.

So there you have it -- you, too, can have a collapsible bag that will fit in your purse for spur-of-the-moment fabric buying! And obviously you can put whatever you want on your bag; you don't have to put a seam-ripping dinosaur if you want to say, make a nice one for your mom for Mother's Day.

*At no point did Oona label herself as or act like the cool kid who copies homework. All my insecurities about my self-perceived awkwardness are my own, and Oona is a lovely, lovely person.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Four Sew Weekly Challenges in One Dress!

I have fallen dreadfully behind in Sew Weekly Challenges. I think it started when I couldn't think of anything to make for the inspired-by-art challenge; my favorites all lend themselves to costume-y pieces, and good heavens, I've got enough costumes as it is. Then I got into getting ready for the Ren Faire, and things just fell further and further by the wayside. Well, I'm remedying that situation by completing four challenges in one fell swoop: is that a record? Please let it be a record! Anyway, here's the potentially record-setting dress:

An ocean-y dress for the city surrounded by ocean on three sides!
Look! I'm a giant! With a giant, but perfectly fitted butt.

Side view: I am so happy with the fit!
Challenges accepted:
  1. Mad Men: This is the curve-hugging sheath dress of Joan's, as I knew I should have just done in the first place, only in a totally not-Joan fabric. But I took the time to really fit the dress, even in the above-the butt area that usually ends up saggy. Because Joan would never wear a saggy-butt dress.
  2. Pantone Colors: Here are Cabaret, Starfish, Sweet Lilac, Driftwood, and Cockatoo, all in one fabulous fabric (Odyssea by MoMo for Moda).
  3. Very Important Pieces: I only had 1.5 yards of this fabric because I got the end of the bolt, and it's so unique that I knew I had to save it for something deserving of its awesomeness. This was the kick I needed, and I had barely enough for this sheath dress. 
  4. Local Color: A marine print for the city of my heart, The City By The Bay, San Francisco, where I grew up and am so excited to be moving back to for the summer! I was so thrilled that it was a gorgeous weekend -- so sunny and warm and clear and totally unlike its usual foggy self -- when my husband took pictures we were able to see all the way down to Ocean Beach and all the way over to the Colma Hills. That is very rare indeed! I wanted to hike up (because there are four huge hills) to the reservoir so we could get a shot with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, but we had a wedding rehearsal to get to, unfortunately. 
Staring down at the ocean while my husband worries about us getting run over.

This dress, in case you don't recognize it, is yet another version of my TNT McCall's 5845.  I finally got around to recording my changes to this pattern: wider and lower armscyes, lowered front neckline, raised back neckline, narrowed center back seam at the top, longer and more scoop-y back darts in the skirt.  I also attempted to put in a back vent, but was thrown off by the lining. It's a little wonky inside, but nobody will see it, right? Oh wait, except that I once again tried flipping it inside out to wear: when I walked out into the living room, my husband's first comment was "Goodness, how many dresses did you bring with you?!" See, I did such a good job with lining it, he thought it was another dress! Okay, the fact that I used an old patterned sheet for the lining probably had something to do with it, but come on, give it to me.

It's like Miss Lavender goes to Hawaii, the sheath dress version!

The hem is finished with seam binding and invisibly catch-stitched. I love how it looks from the outside! The inside...ehh. I tried following Sunni's tutorial but was totally confused, so I ended up just winging it. And here's another question: when you make something with this many colors going on, how do you choose a thread/zipper color? I went with a cockatoo-ish thread for the fuschia zipper because that's what I had...I guess I could have hand-picked the zipper and switched colors for every section of color.

A closer look at the inside.
The back with the zipper and non-matching thread. Hmm, I should probably put a hook and eye at the top there.

Fish-scale belt! And a close-up of all the phaeophyta, and the weirdly branched sea creature tentacles?

Fabric: 1.5 yards 44" wide 100% cotton twill for the shell, poly-cotton blend sheet for the lining
Notions: 22" zipper, seam binding tape
Hours: Six-ish, mostly because of zipper issues (I had to rip it out and put it in several times), trying to figure out the vent, and hand-finishing the hem
Will you make this again? Almost certainly, as this is my sixth incarnation of this pattern, albeit only the second one with the actual skirt pattern, and even then with some significant changes...
Total cost: $8 for the fabric (yay for end-of-the-bolt discounts!) and $2 for the zipper, so $10! When I showed it off for my very frugal dad and told him how much it cost me, he approved (actually even my dad, who tends not to care about/notice clothing very much at all, was impressed with the level of fit I managed to get on this dress). 
Final thoughts: This dress is what a bizarre Joan+Ms. Frizzle cross would wear for teaching about marine ecosystems. In other words, I love it. I am also pleased that I have a fish-scale belt to go with it! I think Ms. Frizzle would approve, although I'm still working on aquatic earrings and shoes. I only wish sheath dresses didn't get so wrinkly across the hips from sitting, but oh well, you can't expect to have your cake and eat it too (and this dress is definitely cake!).

My city is so beautiful when it's not shrouded in fog!
And for the perfect San Francisco poem (only the fog tends not to move on):

Fog, by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on. 

Now I need to get started on that kirtle that I thought I had all that time to make. We're going to the fair(e) this Saturday, eep!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Changes Are Afoot!

I'm in San Francisco yet again, for yet another wedding, and it is but a preview of this summer's madness. Wait, what? Didn't you just move to TCOCC not too long ago? Yes, yes I did. Well, and guess what, we're moving back to the city in June! My husband has a summer internship in downtown SF, doing who knows what (wearing suits? sitting in a skyscraper? getting to eat lunch at the Ferry Building every day?!), so we're moving our clothes and Walnut up to my parents' house for a few months. It's going to be an adventure, that's for sure! I haven't lived at home for so long (since high school); it'll be interesting to see what it's like being a married adult, but back under a parental roof. But, as we do hope to relocate to the Bay Area eventually for the long term, this is the way to go for the summer, and it's hard to argue with free rent.

So what does that mean, practically speaking? I excel at making lists when it comes to moving, so here goes:
  1. Walnut will have a very long, torturous car ride, then two other firmly established family cats to deal with. Fenxi, the older cat, already has issues with our younger cat, Gummy (Fenxi's kindergarten report card would have the dreaded unsatisfactory "U" under the "getting along with others" category), so Walnut, who is larger than either of them, will be an interesting wrench in the mix.
  2. I can finally meet some of the other sewists who live in NorCal! I'm excited for potential meet-ups with Sew Weekly or VPLL 1912 Project people. That said, who wants to be my sewing buddy while I'm up here for the summer? I can promise lots of awkward interactions sprinkled with way too many comments about cats! Wow, I really know how to sell myself, don't I? 
  3. I can make my mom help me with sewing something other than dresses. She claims to not remember anything, but I'm pretty sure that's a lie. 
  4. I'm excited to hang out with my family again. I've been far from home for so much of the last ten years, so it'll be nice (I hope) to be around them again on a daily basis. 
  5. I will live a block away from Elaine again! We used to run over to each others' houses all the time in high school, and now we are doing it again a decade and half later...gaaah, we're old! Speaking of getting old, two of my former students (from the first chemistry class I ever taught) just got engaged to each other this month...part of me is so happy for them, part of me wants to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and demand "HOW ARE YOU EVEN OLD ENOUGH?! WEREN'T YOU 15 JUST THE OTHER DAY?" Umm, anyway, Elaine and I are planning all sorts of dress-up parties, because goodness knows, there aren't enough days in the year for dressing up. We're already planning a pirate party and a Downton Abbey party. Who wants to come? I promise, Elaine is much better at social interaction than I am. 
  6. I am going to be separated from my stash for over two months. My mom has her machine, and I'll probably bring some fabric and patterns with me, but it'll be different. I know the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of my own machine (should I name it?), and of course I'll miss Cecily and all her help. 
  7. I'm sure there are other things, but that's what comes to mind for now. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts as the time draws nearer. 
Oh wait, one other change: I'll have more cats to help with the sewing.

Oooh, what's this? Can I help?
I like this new crinkly cat bed. I accept your humble offering.
 And yes, I brought new patterns up with me so I could cut them out in case I got bored. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thoughts on Teaching and Sewing Confessions

That is exactly what it looks like: a neon pink
leopard-print nightgown (fabric donated to me, then gladly
re-donated to her, because when would I ever use it?) She
loves it though -- wears it every night, according to mom.
So I've been going over to Small Human Being's home almost every Wednesday since the beginning of the year, and it has definitely been a learning experience for all concerned: SHB, of course, SHB's mom, SHB's younger brother, and me! This is the longest series of sewing lessons I've ever given -- before I left San Diego, I held a biweekly sewing club with some friends of mine, but we only ever made non-apparel items over a couple of months. With SHB, her young age, and her goal of "being a fashion designer," I've had to think more carefully about how to approach sewing with her. We started out with making up our own simple patterns based on her pre-existing clothes, which works pretty well since she's a SHB, and therefore mostly cylindrical without the sticky-outy bits that we grown women must put in darts for.

Anyway, after several sessions involving a pillow (non-fitted), a purse (non-fitted), a muumuu (non-fitted), curtains for her room (non-fitted), a gathered knit skirt with an elastic waist (non-fitted), and a nightgown (non-fitted: are you seeing a trend here?), we have finally moved onto something that is not elastic or slip-on: Butterick 5443, an actual zippered dress. Thankfully, it is also something that I excel at: the sleeveless fitted bodice and full skirt look! This project is actually more of a me + SHB's mom kind of project right now, as she has expressed a desire to learn how to use patterns. I think my sketch-a-rough-pattern-on-wrapping-paper-and-think-apart-how-it-might-go-together approach scares her. As we started going over how to decipher the yardage charts on the back of the envelope, the layout diagrams in the instructions, and the pinning and cutting, I realized that I am not a very disciplined sewist.

See, despite having a science background, when it comes to my sewing, I'm very fly-by-the-seat-of-those-pants-that-I-have-never-made. I'm all about fudging things when I can, considering the measurements to be mere suggestions (much like lane markings in rural Taiwan), and making very, very good friends with my seam ripper. Tim Gunn's "make it work" is my mantra not because I try complicated things, but because I wasn't paying attention to the recommendations in the first place. You know all my Pattern Review reviews? They all say "I didn't use them" as the answer to the question about the clarity of the instructions. I think that's why I'm so hesitant to tackle sleeves and pants: those things require meticulous measuring and marking and cutting and following directions. Anyway, all those issues came to the forefront when I tried to explain things like matching the grainline arrow on the paper pattern to the fabric, or making sure to pin before cutting. I had to remember not to just eyeball it; I want other sewists to learn good habits from me, which they can then discard later if they choose.

So here are my sewing sins, as were brought to light through teaching; please don't judge me too harshly!
  • I usually don't pay attention to grainline. I usually eyeball it and try to get close, but when one uses old sheets as yardage, cutting layouts usually don't apply.
  • Okay, let's face it, I never look at the cutting layouts, even when I do have standard-sized yardage. I think today was the first time I did so seriously, and even then I managed to screw up on one piece. 
  • I don't pin before I cut. I just arrange things more or less right, and then cut carefully with a couple of books as pattern-weights, and hope things don't shift too much. 
  • I'm really bad at marking my changes on patterns I plan on making multiple times: every time I've sewn M5845, I've had to bring in the top of the back bodice when inserting the zipper...I guess I have a narrow upper back? Anyway, I was sewing yet another version of it yesterday night, and I guess it's been awhile and I forgot about that, because I had to rip out my zipper eight times to get it right. Also, my knit tee block invariable ends up too loose at the waist, which is an easy fix, but it's still a little silly to have to redo the side seams every. freaking. time. At least now I've documented these changes, so hopefully I won't have to make these mistakes again?
  • I never used to finish my seam allowances, but I've tried to change that since seeing Neeno's and Leimomi's glowing examples. It's still a bit of pick and choose, though, when I use seam binding and when I just pink, but at least I'm thinking about it? My consolation is that I've seen blouses from the 30s that survived just fine with pinking only, so I'll just wash my things carefully...
  • I don't trace my patterns. Not even the vintage ones. I cut them out, but I will say that I don't make changes to the pattern tissue. Those changes all happen as I'm sewing on the actual garment, which might explain why I don't have any of them documented for the future. 
See? Just pinked! And it's survive
I conclude my sewing confessions by saying (hopefully, knock on wood) that none of my garments have turned out terribly despite the grainline ignorance (well, minus a couple of slightly wonky knit tees that didn't matter), and nothing has fallen apart in the wash yet, but I suppose I should really try harder to be careful, especially now that I'm teaching others the art of dressmaking. It's kind of like the one time that a student walked in on me prepping for lab without my goggles on (my excuse being that it was all in the fume hood and the partition was almost all the way down). I will say that the one area I never skimp in is ironing. I always press my seams flat, to the sides, and then open from both sides. But then, that might just be because pressing is what saves my garment from looking as terrible as the fudged meaurements/cuts/seams would have predicted.

Do you have any sewing confessions? Or are you all just super-duper angelic sewasaurus rexes?

See, that's all of you perfect little sewasaurus rexes over there in your clique, with your pattern instructions and pins and tracing wheel and cutting diagrams, while I'm the awkward one in the corner cutting up vintage patterns and eating Fray Check.

And finally, one of my favorite poems about teaching: 

Did I Miss Anything? by Tom Wayman

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been gathered

but it was one place

And you weren’t here

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Look at an Edwardian Lingerie Dress and Some Other Random Pictures

I've been out of the sewing room for over five days, and boy does it feel weird! I never thought sewing would be such a big part of my life; I'm pretty sure the last time I did an activity almost every day for such a long period of time was play piano, and that was waaaaay back in high school. The reasons for the sewing hiatus were mostly good ones, though: my dear friends Ryan and Jeanine, of our-Hunger-Games-photo-shoot-fame, got married on Saturday. I must say, I don't think I've teared up so many times in one day for a very long time -- all the speeches were poignant and heartfelt without being too sappy, and maybe it's the teacher in me, but I just don't have a lot of patience for drawn-out talking without a clear point, so these toasts were all really excellent. Anyway, since this was our very own fake Katpee getting married, I went so far as to draw them a personalized card, instead of just picking up some generic greeting card from Target.

The inside of the card says "Haymitch applauds your kiss and finds it worthy of the sponsors' parachutes. Happy Hunger Games Wedding!" I know, teens killing each other is a terrible theme for a wedding card. So sue me.

Besides the wedding, I've also been having some bizarre pain/extreme soreness in my dominant (right) shoulder, so I've been doing a lot of sitting around on the couch reading the LOTR Appendices instead of wrestling with the iron and hand-cranking through the multi-layered parts of my latest sewing project. Since I don't have any of my sewing to show, have some photos of an authentic Edwardian-ish-era lingerie dress with lots of pintucks and lace insertion! I took these at an antique mall in historic Orange, where I also found some other sewing goodies that I'll be sharing later.

Apologies about the lighting and quality...I was using my iPhone in a basement.

Pintucks in the skirt portion.

Closeup of the lace chevrons and the pintucks.

With flash, but you can see how silky the material was and the sleeve cuff's details.

I'm hoping to get my hands on a nice blouse pattern from the VPLL 1912 project so that I can work on my own lace-inserting and pintucking, but that's going to need to wait for after this weekend's wedding and the Ren Faire the following weekend. And just in case you're wondering, I wore my not-so-little LBD to the wedding this past weekend, but managed to get no good pictures of me wearing it. So instead, have a picture of me at IKEA wearing my IKEA hippos dress. I was a little surprised that no one said anything about my dress; I think I felt slightly (and inexplicably) offended that nobody, not even the employees, found it comment-worthy that I was wearing a dress sprinkled with extremely IKEA-y hippos all over it, in IKEA.  Come on, people, I'm a walking advertisement for your textiles section! 

IKEA red Barnslig hippo dress
It was actually my husband's suggestion that I take a picture with this couch. People, this is why I love that man.