Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Round-Up of Things

I was going to call it the round-up of awesome, but none of these links are actually about suits or Barney Stinson. So here are some things that caught my eye this month, not all sewing-related.
  • I don't know how I've never seen this page before now, but it has an excellent collection of illustrated, detailed sewing technique guidelines.
  • Amy of Sew Well made the awesomest jeans ever. I mean, check out the topstitching on the pockets! I look forward to seeing what C will be. I also look forward to the day that I will make my own awesome jeans. No word yet on when that will be. 
  • This tutorial from Esz of Kitty's Drawings on how to make a belt without turning fabric is the best, as I hate turning fabric tubes. And I love belts, so it's only a matter of time before I get up the gumption to locate some belt buckles.
  • Leimomi the The Dreamstress posted an excellent series of adorable photos of her cat, Felicity. That girl is beautiful. I'm pretty sure that if Walnut wasn't neutered (or an ocean away), he would totally have a crush on Felicity. I love seeing pictures of other seamstress' cats in action, so that post was as good as Cute Overload.
  • Speaking of cats, I seriously cried reading this post from Winston's ex-owner. I don't know what I would do if someone said I couldn't see Walnut again. If you love your pet and need a good cry (or masochistically enjoy having your heartstrings tugged), read it with a tissue handy.
  • LiEr of ikatbag had this excellent series of lists about things a competent seamstress should have under her belt, as specifically applies to her daughters, but also useful for adults. She also muses on what qualifies a seamstress as "beginner" or "advanced," something I myself have wondered. I've been sewing for two years-ish, and I've never made an evening gown or jeans, but I have made hand-worked eyelets on a tabbed pair of bodies. What does that make me? I wish there was a syllabus like in ballroom dancing, e.g. bronze level means you've mastered the natural turn and reverse turn, and silver level means you've got the reverse corte under your belt. I'm pretty sure tailoring your own coat is gold level sewing. 
  • The Animaniacs was a staple of my Saturday mornings for a good while, and Pinky and the Brain was a family TV-watching event, so I loved this article about them on Mental Floss. Especially the video of every single "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
  • This brilliant article comparing being a straight white male as the lowest difficulty setting in a game totally inflamed certain people, but my husband and I both thought it was an excellent metaphor. 
  • The NY Times wrote about the effect that clothes can have on self-perception. I have felt the same way wearing my lab coat, despite not being a doctor. I still remember how heartening it felt as a first year teacher to don my coat, and feel slightly more authoritative and competent, despite being only three years older than some of my students. Incidentally, I also feel both geekier and happier when I wear my superhero/geek dresses.
  • These articles are pretty old, but I only just came upon them this week thanks to a link from one of my former students. I was never a huge fan of Tom Bombadil, but I will never look at him the same way again. Even though I know these are just speculations (with their sets of issues), I love entertaining ideas like this. Also, I'm really glad I read these articles in broad daylight...if it had been midnight, I'm sure I would have been totally creeped out; I got the shivers as it was. Also, the author of the first article also wrote a piece about R2 and Chewie and their secret roles in the Rebel Alliance...I'm pretty sure this is now going to be my head canon since it makes Episodes IV-VI so much more interesting. 
  • Tomorrow, Colleen Atwood's Snow White and the Huntsman opens in theatres! Oh, it's not hers? Because I'm pretty sure her costumes are the only reason why I'm going to see it. Seriously, check out this slideshow of her work in's mind-bogglingly beautiful and intricate and everything costume design should be. And if you don't mind spoilers (I, for one, can enjoy movies a lot more when I know what's going to happen), this post also has a lot of excellent pictures and description of the costumes.

Also, this May marks the college graduations of many of my very first students ever. I still remember stepping into Room 16 for the very first time, being totally petrified of these sophomores, and wondering how I was going to teach them the basics of chemistry. And here they are seven years later, going off into the wide world, some of them with chemistry degrees (!!! was that my fault somehow?!), and I feel both proud and old.

This picture was taken during the Grand Canyon trip my very first year of teaching.
Are these kids really old enough to be done with college? They look so young here!

The beginning of June also means it's time to start packing up for the move to San Francisco. I don't know how I'm going to decide what to bring from my fabric/pattern stash. I'm thinking of bringing a couple of big projects (tentatively the VPLL #4016 dress, the The Duchess dress, the skeleton dress, jeans, and my Little Prince quilt), and maybe some embroidery. However, I will be leaving my machine and Cecily, which makes me slightly sad. It's funny how you get so attached to something as simple as a sewing machine, but I know all the quirks and tricks of mine, and even when I use someone else's exact same model (all of the people I've taught to sew either have the same machine as me, or are learning on my machine), it's not the same. If any of you have ever moved for just a couple of months, how did you deal with the sewing aspect of it? How did you decide what to bring, or did you even bring anything?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1930s Blouse: Yay or Nay?

Some time ago, my compulsive pinning self came across this scan of a fascinating vintage sewing booklet with directions for drafting and making a 1930s blouse. I'm vaguely trying to sew through the decades (inspired by the oh-sew-accomplished Debi, of course!), and I don't have any patterns from this era, nor am I likely to come across any in thrift stores, so I thought I'd give it a go. I like the idea of a pullover blouse with no buttons or zippers, but was skeptical about its shape, or rather, lack thereof.

Directions for making a Size 16 blouse (in 1935 this was Bust 34, Hip 37).

I used a lovely soft rayon with a tiny floral print, it being the most vaguely 30s fabric that I had that would also be suitable for such a blouse. Oddly enough, the directions call for a "cotton material in some interesting rough weave," which makes me think of burlap sacks. Is that rough and interesting enough? Anyway, I figured that the drapiness of the rayon would be suited to this mostly-shapeless blouse.

Making up the pattern was fairly simple; I was fortunate that the blouse measurements fit me almost perfectly. I did accidentally make my holes too large, though. Instead of the little slits shown in the diagram, well, let's just say that when I showed the finished blouse to my husband, he said it looked like there was a face with a huge nose at the neckline. Humph. I didn't bother with the collar or belt described in the pattern, as I didn't have any contrasting fabric in a suitable material/weave, so I settled for a chiffon bow stolen from another top.

Despite the minimal waist shaping, it's essentially a large sack.

It looks pretty shapeless this way, though, so I decided to take a page from The Dreamstress' book and try a sash tied at the hip:

Better? I think?

Back view. Hmm.

I'm still not sure about it. In its defense, though, it is ridiculously comfortable to wear, thanks to the soft rayon. Which, incidentally, slipped all over the place during the cutting/sewing, and especially as I tried to make the bias binding for the neckline and sleeves! In order to ensure that the rayon didn't fray like crazy, I had to bind all the seams. I am so happy with how they look! And in the realm of being clever/efficient/a cheater (thanks for all of you who chimed in to reassure me that you, too, use the selvage as a shortcut!), I used the selvage for the hem of the blouse.

Pink seam binding and self-fabric bias facing at the sleeve.

Fabric: 1 yard of 54" wide floral print slippery rayon
Notions: Just a tiny hook and eye for the top closure, and then lots of seam binding
Techniques used: Making self-fabric bias tape, top-stitched cut-outs
Hours: Three-ish? I was taking my time, though, since I wanted to make sure the fabric didn't get off-grain or otherwise misbehave. Also, binding everything just means sewing each seam multiple times, with trips back and forth to the ironing board every time.
Will you make this again? Probably not...I don't need more shapeless tops. Especially since there's one more coming up tomorrow...
Total cost: $3. Yay for nice rayon from the discount warehouse!
Final thoughts: Like everything else I've made from slippery fabric and shown this week, meh. Not bad, but not great either. Decent. Serviceable. I think I'm boring even myself. Is this what happens when one sews cake and not frosting?

Also, I think this is just what happens when you make patterns that only show illustrations, instead of actual clothes on a real person. I'm pretty sure the model on the pamphlet has 28" hips.

See, if I only approach people from the 3/4 view, I can appear to have no hips, too!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not-Quite-A-Taffy Top

Don't you like how Gollum's arm is waving creepily behind my shoulder?

I've mentioned before that when you've descended into sewing madness, words like "jasmine" and "rooibos" no longer refer to types of teas; they're obviously Colette patterns. Well, this Taffy-ish blouse falls into that category, especially since real taffy is sticky, and this Taffy knock-off was made with could-stand-to-be-a-lot-stickier chiffon fabric. Seriously, trying to line up chiffon on grain is a nightmare. What I found helpful, though, was laying out fabric on my living room rug. The chiffon doesn't shift nearly as much, thanks to the friction provided by the rug, and when cutting, the shears just slide underneath the fabric, in between the carpet fibers. And I even managed not to cut up my rug in the process!

This is so fabulously 90s; there aren't even words. Also, it is
impossible to find this pattern on PR, and it's not old enough to
be on the vintage pattern wiki yet.
I had to steal this image from an eBay seller.
Ever since I've seen Taffies popping up all over teh interwebs, I've been immensely curious. I have enough sewing books already, and honestly wasn't super psyched about any of the patterns in the Colette handbook, so I didn't want to buy my own copy. I need to save all of my book-buying budget for that copy of The Crisis, a romantic Civil War novel by Winston Churchill (not to be confused with The World Crisis, a WWII book by Sir Winston S. Churchill), that I swear I'm going to find someday in a thrift store or used book store. Anyway, I was unsure about the massive sleeves that, though they look fetchingly similar to wings, I'm pretty sure my wide shoulders don't need. So when I found a Simplicity 8986, circa 1994, I got excited because in one hour I could have my very own low financial commitment, Taffy-esque, View E blouse.

And then I had to go and complicate things by trying to use up this dusty rose, sparkly chiffon that I had leftover from my Dulcie dress knockoff. I ended up cutting a medium in the hips, coming in to a small at the bust and extra-small at the sleeves (so as not to overwhelm my already prominent shoulders). French seams were pretty much a requirement, as there was no convenient selvage left to use. Also, the size of the pattern pieces and the remnants of my fabric meant that I had to cut it on the cross grain instead of the straight grain, thereby making the blouse even boxier. Also, my facings are crap. So much so, I have to wear this blouse backward so as to hide the ultra-ripply "front" facing under my hair. Still, I'm pretty excited by my rolled hems on the sleeves.

See, it looks more or less normal with my arms down.

But this way, you can see how shapeless is truly is.

Back view, somewhat uninspiring.
Please don't laugh too hard at the facing.

A nice rolled hem on chiffon is a thing of wonder and beauty.

Sparkly fabric and French seams!

Fabric: 1 yard of 100% polyester crinkle chiffon, with silvery strands woven throughout
Notions: None.
Hours: More than an hour, since I used chiffon. Even so, I imagine that any fabric you'd want this blouse in would take longer to finish without a serger. I think this design pretty much requires a drape-y silk, satin, chiffon, or rayon something. And yes, I'm aware that satin and chiffon are not types of material, but rather types of fabric weave.
Will you make this again? I don't think this fluttery sleeve look is a good one for me, so probably not. And even though this pattern ends up pretty shapeless, I'm still tempted to try it again in the kimono-sleeve version, maybe in a rayon or something.
Total cost: Less than a dollar, since this is a remnant of a discounted by-the-pound fabric.
Final thoughts: Again, it's a basic top, but because of the sheer, sparkly fabric, it looks fancier than it is. It should be cake, but it's masquerading as frosting. This cake is a lie. Ummm, Portal references aside, I'm feeling okay about this top. It suffers a bit from an identity crisis not only in the cake/frosting realm, but also in that it looks sheer and airy and perfect for hot weather, only it's polyester and therefore doesn't breathe well. And the sleeves are too large to allow for a cardigan over it. Still, despite all that, it's a decent enough top and still serviceable. Kind of like yesterday's skirt. So far, slippery fabric week isn't going so well...good thing tomorrow's make is rayon instead of chiffon!

With sleeves like this, I believe I can fly! Wow, can you believe that that song is almost contemporary with this pattern?

Also, did anyone else watch the first episode of the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys last night? I'm not really sure what I was expecting, but I found it almost unbearably sad, and we haven't even gotten to the worst part yet. And apparently I had no idea what class the families are, because I was expecting costume inspiration, and yet found none. They all just look so incredibly...disheveled. Also, I was distracted by how much Johnse Hatfield looks like Draco Malfoy. I half expected him to suddenly start sneering at the McCoy boys, "You wait until I tell my father about this! He's on the board of governors!"

Monday, May 28, 2012

So I Guess It's Slippery Fabric Week

After the mental exercise that was my shorts adventure, I figured that I had better sew some easy stuff without a lot of fitting to do. But that felt a little bit like a cop-out, so of course I had to make things more complicated; hence, last week's sewing was all relatively simple things with slippery fabric. I had a lot of chiffon and rayon in my stash in relatively small quantities that I wanted to use up, so it worked out perfectly. But rather than writing a term paper of a blog post, with too many slippery fabric garment visuals, I'll space them out this week.

First up: a simple maxi skirt in silvery-grey sparkly chiffon. I originally got this fabric as a potential material for my GoF dress, but ended up going in an entirely different direction with it. This fabric just sat in my stash, taunting me with the amount of space it was taking up. There was just enough of this somewhat sheer fabric to make a double-layered maxi skirt. Apparently maxi skirts are all the rage right now, but I don't have any brightly-colored tops or weird platform booties to wear with mine. Instead, I just took this as an opportunity to practice some more with my rolled hem foot, and it was...somewhat better. And if I ended up with a wearable skirt, well, then that was just a nice bonus.

It's a little too long to just wear with flip-flops, but I refuse to get those weird strappy sandal/boots/platforms with absurdly tall heels.
You can see just a hint of the two layers at the bottom when it's helpfully poofed-out by the wind.

I used the waistband from Lorenna Buck's free pattern, and just made the tube of the skirt as wide as the fabric was. Also, I will let you in on a secret: I cheated and kept the selvage instead of trying to finish the chiffon at the seams. Also, I only had a white 9" zipper on hand, and this was supposed to be a stash-busting project, but it's not too obvious, I don't think. Simple hook and bar closure, and it's done!

Please ignore the non-matching waistband and zipper.

I'm pretty sure this seam allowance "finish" is the ultimate in cheating. Also, glurgh at my inability to do a rolled hem over a seam.

You can see the sparkliness of the fabric better here.

Fabric: 100% polyester chiffon in grey with silvery streaks, plus some leftover navy twill from my failed shorts muslin for the waistband lining.
Notions: Fusible interfacing, hook and eye, 9" zipper
Hours: More than it really should have, because of the chiffon's trickiness. This should really only be a one-hour project, but it turned into a more-hours project because of trying to line up the grain, figure out how to make it double layered, and wrestling with the rolled-hem foot.
Will you make it again? Probably not. I don't need very many long, floaty, tube-y skirts. In fact, this skirt feels almost costume-y.
Total cost: $3...yay for lightweight chiffon at Michael Levine Loft, where fabric is sold by the pound!
Final thoughts: This is such a cake-and-yet-not-cake skirt. I wear gathered-tube maxi skirts all the time, and yet I'm still unsure how to feel about this one, as the sparkles, length, and airy fabric inevitably make it seem more fancy than it really should be. I also made the waistband too large, so it sits below my natural waist. Tanit-Isis may be able to do the dropped-waist look (how fantastic is that dress!), but I feel like this just looks silly on me. Also, the tube isn't quite wide enough for me to take a full stride, so that's a little hampering. Even with all of those disclaimers, though, it's a perfectly serviceable skirt for when I'm not doing a lot of walking around, as long as I don't mind looking somewhat when I wore it last night to DM my first D&D session in much too long, and everyone in the party commented that I was the most dressed up DM they'd ever played with. Still, it was lots of epic fun and the adventure was full of ridiculous hijinks; I'd forgotten how much I miss table-top gaming! 

To be able to sit in this skirt without getting it all wrinkled, you'll need to perform a dexterity check.
Same goes for walking without tripping. Or using a rolled hem foot, for that matter.

Have you ever cheated and just used the selvage instead of finishing your edges? Or is that just me? If it is just me, please try not to throw too many tomatoes...because there's more of that cheating coming up. Maybe I should have just titled this "Cheating with Selvages Week."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Geek Pride Day!

Celebrating Geek Pride/Towel Day in my DIY Star Wars/Clone Wars dress!
Also, happy towel day, all you hoopy froods!
Hello, my name is Cindy, and I'm a geek. And proud of it! And what better way to show it than a return to my "roots," that is, a dress made from a geeky bed sheet. Although it's not quite as mainstream as Batman, Superman, or the original Star Wars, the Clone Wars cartoon is still sufficiently geeky and at least tried to give kids a strong heroine to relate to in Ahsoka Tano. How successful they were is not something I'm qualified to write about, not having seen much of the show, but I appreciate that they tried. If I had Katara sheets, I would've made a dress from those instead, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway, I'm in good company with this dress, as it seems that Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano, has also previously worn a dress made from these same sheets! I don't know if she made hers herself, but that is pretty awesome.

Clone Wars dress + dragon wrap ear wrap...doesn't get geekier than that.
If it looks like I'm wearing a bluetooth thingummy on my ear, it's not...
Dragon ear wrap from
I am in love with my newest piece of jewelry, the Dragon Ear Wrap from ThinkGeek. If only I had cartilage piercings so that my Smaug could have a hoard! As it is, my husband says it looks like the dragon is eating my ear.

Geek Pride Day pin from
The ear wrap came with this awesome pin. Can you recognize
all the fonts? I can't...I'm a bad geek.
So in case you didn't know, today, May 25, is designated as Towel Day/Geek Pride Day, and can I just say that I'm so glad that things like this are actually celebrated now? Back when I was in elementary and middle school, things were pretty miserably for me. At the school I went to,  if you weren't good at sports, you were a pariah; my inability to deal with round objects of any kind, along with my preference for reading over social interaction, ensured that I didn't really have any friends. In a school where the popular kids were the ones who could consistently make home runs in kickball games, my sole claim to fame was being Spelling Bee champion and the only girl in math club. When a couple of teachers took pity on me and let me hang out in their classrooms during lunch, I was ever so grateful. I mean, more time to read, less ridicule regarding my nonexistent catching skills? What's not to love?? Thank you, Mrs. Harris, Ms. Allen, and Ms. Lancelotti, for letting this girl intrude on your lunch hour. I tried to be as unobtrusive and helpful as possible.

Let's try jumping and throwing a towel at the same time.
So far so good...

With such a childhood, you'd think I would stay far, far, away from sports, but somehow I managed to find myself married to a sports geek; I am still amazed at how my husband manages to spout random stats associated with players a decade ago (then again, I guess I can recite lines from books I read years ago). Thankfully, he is quite patient with my lack of sports knowledge, and only makes fun of me a little bit when I can't catch anything round that gets thrown my way (I will walk over and pick up that lemon, thank you very much!). I've even managed to absorb a little bit about the mechanics of baseball and football through osmosis...although my fantasy football team two years ago was still chosen based on which players looked the most like thugs (reasoning being that the angrier they looked, the more likely they would be to tackle the crap out of the other team?). My first loves will always be dinosaurs and Star Wars Episodes IV-VI, but at least I know what "fourth down" means now. Thanks, husband, for bearing with my questions and helping me understand more mainstream topics.

Never mind. Even though towels aren't round, I still can't catch them.

insides of the Clone Wars dress
So pretty! And it's got pocketses, of course (no ring inside, though)
Anyway, I was really excited to find this Clone Wars sheet while I was thrifting with Shayna earlier this year. It remained in the un-prewashed pile for much too long (I forgot to add in my previous post that I hate prewashing fabric!), but Geek Pride Day was the perfect time to get my act together and sew it up. I used Vogue 8319 for the bodice pattern, my first experience with raglan sleeves, that is, if you can even call these sleeves. I couldn't bring myself to mix prints for last week's Sew Weekly challenge, but here's my concession: using two different fabrics. I used black fabric for the raglan part, and then appliqued the symbols for the Galactic Republic and the Rebel Alliance (cut from the sheet) on the left and right shoulders, respectively. You know, kind of like those devil and angel cartoons that help you make decisions. Is that cheesy or what? The rest of the dress was pretty straightforward; princess seams and the skirt from my TNT New Look 6723. I did go the extra mile and seam bind all of the insides, as well as facing the neck and armholes with bias tape, so this dress better last forever!

Clone Wars dress made from kids' bed sheets
It also says very courageous things like "Valor" and "Honor" and "First in, last standing."
Fabric: 60/40 cotton-poly blend, flat twin sheet...pretty atrocious material, actually, but hey, at least it's got a lot of body?
Notions: 20" zipper, thrifted checked rayon bias tape, seam binding (both pink and blue, since I ran out halfway through)
Hours: Ergh. A lot, what with wrestling with the bias tape on the very curved armscye (don't look too closely!) and adjusting for fit since this was the first time I used the pattern. All the seam binding also took extra time. So I'm going to say...about ten.
Will you make this again? Yes. I really like the fit of this bodice, and the raglan shoulders (I'm going to stop calling them sleeves now) and princess seaming means I could try mixing up fabrics even more in the future.
Total cost: $7 ($3 for the sheet, and I still have enough for another bodice, $2.50 for the zipper, the rest for the tape and binding)
Final thoughts: Now that I look at the pictures, it seems that the bodice is a little long. I think next time I want the waist seam about a centimeter higher. But other than that, I'm very pleased with this dress. It's nice to go back to what I know suits me after some so-so experiments with chiffon (more on that later). So while yes, unfortunately, it is yet another a fitted-bodice-full-skirt dress, it makes me happy, and proclaims my geekiness for the world to see, unless they're far away, in which case it only looks like a bizarrely patterned bright blue dress combined with *gasp* a baseball (oh noes! it is round!) tee.

I only found out about the Trevor Project's It Gets Better campaign a couple years ago, but I think it's a message that needs to be heard by all teens who have ever been on the outside looking in. As a geeky kid being picked on for my glasses and poor hand-eye coordination*, I could've benefited from knowing that it gets better. Because it did get better, and I think my geekiness made me a better teacher, as well as allowing me to have all sorts of weird but awesome experiences (steampunk zombie walk! Ren Faire as Belle!). Granted, non-geeky people are probably just as enthused about say, going to a baseball game with front-row tickets (is that even a thing? does one even want to be in the front row at a baseball game? what if you get hit with a ball like in A Prayer for Owen Meany?) as I was about going to the HP7II midnight showing as Bellatrix, but hey, to each their own.

*This is not to say that my middle school experience was anywhere near as bad as causing me to consider suicide or self-harm, but I definitely had some miserable days. I don't want to make light of the seriousness of bullying (and worse) by comparing it to my own relatively mild experience; I understand that things are so much worse for LGBTQ youth, especially in certain parts of the country, and I think the It Gets Better campaign is a much-needed message for them. 

Posing with Walnut. Walnut is not about geek pride.
Just to lighten things up a bit, here's my own Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

I can't see you, therefore you can't see me, right?
Walnut is NOT amused to be likened to such an immensely stupid creature.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

These Are A Few of My Least Favorite Things

Inspired by The Dreamstress' post on her most hated sewing-related task and my most recent sewing project (back to chiffon, that tricky devil!), I thought I'd trace my journey in learning to sew by looking at what tasks I hated most at the time. It's funny remembering what used to stall me, and how I learned to move past those barriers.

When I first started sewing, I hated pressing. I mean, it's called sewing; I couldn't understand why I spent so little time actually sewing! It seemed I was always heading over to my dinky little table-top ironing board, which, due to lack of space, was set up over the sink in our guest bathroom. Running back and forth to iron on that tiny surface and not being able to slip anything over the end (because of the arrangement of the little legs it stood on) was the pits! But once we moved to TCOCC, we had enough space for a full-sized ironing board in my sewing room, and I began to take pleasure in beautifully pressed seams. It's amazing how a good pressing makes even the wonkiest seam look better.

Once I got over all the time I spent at the ironing board, my hatred of darts bubbled to the surface. Literally. My dart tips were always bubbly or pointy, until I learned about how to angle my stitching line so that it would taper off correctly. But the good thing about hating darts was that I perfected my TNT princess seam bodice, New Look 6723!

After I figured out darts, I was able to properly focus my hatred on hems. They're just so...long. And tedious. But if you mess it up it might throw off the whole garment, so then I had to make sure I was paying attention for the whole nine yards (literally, for some of my circle skirts!). And to be honest, there wasn't anything that made me magically love hems; I just...stopped hating them one day. Which meant I was no longer leaving dresses lingering sadly on the back of my chair, waiting only for their hems so that they could be worn. Now, when I get to the hem, I get excited because it's easy and and when I'm finished, I'm done with the garment!

Oh, except for sewing hooks and eyes at the tops of zippers. I couldn't stand that either, or any hand-sewing for that matter. Then I took up embroidery because it was the most portable needlecraft I could think of for Christmas vacation up north, and now I find hand-sewing quite relaxing. Good thing, too, or else I never could have bound all the tabs on my pair of bodies, or worked all the eyelets on my kirtle by hand. 

My seam binding of choice.
While I was getting over hand-sewing, I was simultaneously falling in love with pretty seam finishing, thanks to the discovery of rayon seam binding. I've since gotten much better about taking care of my raw edges, either with the seam binding or by using French seams. Although, I must confess that if it's a sturdy fabric and I don't foresee wearing a garment that much, I'll still just pink the seam allowances.

And all this time, I thought that pants would be my Waterloo...well, that war is far from over, but I think I've got a good start. Let's hope it doesn't end up being a Pyrrhic victory (what would that even look like? Maybe I perfected fitting pants, but managed to stab myself in the femoral artery as I stitched the last button?)...

Which brings me to the current state of affairs: there are still a lot of parts of sewing that I'm not a fan of, haven't mastered yet, or haven't even attempted. In the first category would be tasks like gathering wide skirts (I can do it, but I don't like it), making pintucks (measuring constantly is not my forte; I'm more of a just-eyeball-it kind of pintucker), and rolled hems on chiffon (much better after my last two projects, but still not fun). Under the yet-to-master umbrella would be inserting invisible zippers (I just can't make mine look nice! Maybe I need to just buy a bunch and practice inserting them all in a row), getting the grain straight on slippery fabrics and ultra-drapey knits, and setting in sleeves (the few times I'm tried, they are always poofy at the top, or I can't raise my arms). And I haven't even tried working with wool or silk, or anything approaching tailoring. I managed to rescue a couple of lengths of gorgeous wool suiting from the thrift store, but they are sitting in a corner, unused and unloved (except by Walnut, who does them the favor of sniffing them every once in a while), waiting for me to work up the courage and skill to approach them. Maybe I need to make a silk satin dress with random invisible zippers inserted into all the seams, with pintucks everywhere and two perfect sleeves (with gussets, of course, because that's another thing that causes me to quake in my boots).

I just watched The Fall and absolutely fell (ha!) in love with the
costumes. I am kind of smitten with the idea of making this one.
I remember feeling so psyched when I made my first real dress a year ago, and that I could sew anything I could think of if I just tried hard enough. I still hold to that belief, but that is tempered with awareness now of what I don't know. Sewing is just like any other skill -- the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. But sometimes you just have to look back at what you've learned and overcome, and allow yourself to feel just a little accomplished, before you go back to staring wide-eyed at the work of Eiko Ishioka.

Incidentally, SHB is at the gosh-why-is-there-so-much-ironing stage. Not that my stages are the set progression by any means, but it's just the tiniest bit funny to me that that's her first sewing hang up, too.

Is there anything that you used to dislike about sewing that you've since moved past? Did you move through stages like me, and if so, what were they?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prom, the Reprise

How many people get the chance to go to prom with their spouse? Unless you're high school sweethearts, probably not that many. And if you were an ultra-nerd like I was in high school, you didn't even go to prom with a date. That's not to say I didn't have tons of fun at prom, though, as I went with my best girlfriends and had a blast being goofy and ridiculous. But I was still a little too excited when my husband mentioned that there was a prom at the end of the year in business school, of all things. 

Prom wouldn't be complete without photos, and of course we availed ourselves of them.

I had grand plans for making a formal dress for the prom, but in the end decided that if my memories of the dance floor at prom were anywhere near accurate, I didn't want to make something lovely and precious, only to get all sweaty in it while dancing, have people spill drinks nearby, and potentially step on the hem. So I "settled" for wearing one of my favorite thrift store finds ever: a long, slinky, sexy-but-not-too-uncomfortably-revealing-for-my-taste, swishy, bias-cut gown which just happened to fit me perfectly. It was in practically new condition and had only been in the store for half a day, so it didn't even have the questionable thrift store odor, and it was only $15! Gosh, I love thrifting.

My husband went old school with a white-tie-on-black-shirt, which was all the rage when we were in high school. Also, these are actual awkward prom photos, not the fake ones we usually take when we are at weddings!

Back when Charlie's Angels poses were still cool. This scan of a
wallet-sized picture doesn't dojustice to the blinding nature of my dress.
Also, I am wearing clear plastic heels. *facepalm*
This is the dress I wish I had worn to my actual senior prom in high school. Although I really liked my prom dress at the time, that aqua, be-sequined dress (seriously, up close I looked like a mermaid, or possibly a medieval knight, if they wore bright blue chain mail) was a last minute find and really not my style at all. I distinctly remember seeing a girl from my class show up for prom in a long, flowing, backless, cream-colored gown reminiscent of 1930s starlets. She and I both looked totally unlike anyone else at prom (which I'm pretty sure is the goal of prom dress shopping), but hers was classic and gorgeous and mine was a disco ball come to life. That is the first time I remember falling in love with vintage fashion, and here I am more than a decade later, making my own vintage-inspired frocks. I never would have guessed, then, that this is where/who I would be now.

I think I was unconsciously trying to emulate my old classmate's retro glamour as I did my make-up and hair, and even afterward as I PicMonkey-ed the heck out of our pictures. The lighting was pretty atrocious, so we didn't get too many viable shots of the inside of the historic Millenium Biltmore Hotel, which, appropriately, used to host the earliest Academy Awards. Hah! I say that as if the hotel arranged its history to accommodate my look, instead of the other way around.

There was an absolutely beautiful staircase, perfect for descending in a manner not unlike Belle's grand entrance in Beauty and the Beast. When I walked in and saw it, I turned to my husband and announced that it had always been my dream to descend a staircase like it. He graciously snapped a photo as I posed at the top, in front of the resplendent Spanish Revival door.
I think I had too much fun playing around with the filters on PicMonkey, trying to make my photos look appropriately vintage.
Unfortunately, the effect is spoiled by my green no-drinks-included-in-your-ticket bracelet.
I am in love with the back of the gown, as well as the bias cut drape. It swished and flowed beautifully when I walked.

I know this had nothing to do with sewing or making, but I just wanted to enthuse about getting to redo prom the way I would have wanted to, if only I'd had the confidence (to wear somebody else's old gown? High school me would have been grossed out by the idea) and knowledge (regarding classic style, how to thrift, and that the slip I was wearing on that night is still in use in my wardrobe today) that I do now. I would also tell high school me that while going to prom with a date is definitely fun, don't worry, you'll marry a very nice man one day whom you'll get to go to prom with anyway, so just enjoy spending time with your girlfriends.

Friday, May 18, 2012

High-Waisted Nautical Shorts

If I were a little more dedicated to awesome photos, I would've tried to figure out if I could sneak on board a yacht or something so that I could caption my picture "I'M ON A BOAT!"* But alas, I am not, so this will have to do.

Blatantly ignoring the age recommendations! (And yes, that is a tiny, functional spyglass I'm looking through.)

Too loose over that dip, and not quite fitted through the thigh.
As you can see, I've finished my high-waisted, vaguely retro, nautical-only-in-that-the-buttons-have-anchors-on-them, wearable muslin shorts! The striped top I tried to make to go with it was an utter and craptastic fail, so instead, I cut off the bottom of what used to be an extremely long (to the point of unwearability) RTW tee for a whole nautical outfit.

I started out with a McCall's 6266 pattern from 1978, but ended up modifying it a lot to get closer to the look I wanted. It was originally a size 8, which fit in the waist and nowhere else; I took out a couple inches in the back and added an inch in the front, brought in the inseam, increased the crotch depth, and errrr, unsteepened the curve of the crotch in the back. I am pretty impressed with how the pattern fits my swayback without any darts, and the changes were time-consuming (quality time with my seam ripper!), but not difficult. I'm still not pleased with the bagging under my butt; it looks like I'm going to have to check out the fish-eye dart adjustment that Liz mentioned. I also need to figure out how to correct the front crotch area -- it's too loose over the weird dip between my pelvis and bulging quads. The looseness there used to be a lot worse, but I could only correct so much without cutting and sewing up a whole new pair of shorts. The thigh area itself suffers a little from my indecisiveness regarding the style I wanted, as I couldn't decide if I wanted them super fitted, or flaring out a little like Justine's now they're this weird amalgam of questionable flattering-ness.

The shorts as originally shown in the pattern are very short, so with all the added length they sort of turned into this vast expanse of dark blue. I felt like it needed something to add interest, so I sewed on two tabs and some gold buttons. The back, however, is plain, except for the unfortunately visible centered zipper. Tabs on the back don't seem to make much sense, though, so I'm just leaving it as is. Honestly, I don't have to look at it, so I'm not especially bothered by it.

The one side is ultra-wrinkly because of the way I'm standing.
The waistband piece in the pattern was really just a long rectangle, but this results in gaping both in front and back, so if I were to make this again I'd probably try to draft a curved waistband. It's not too bad, though, and the back gaping isn't anywhere near as bad as the gaping I typically get with RTW low-waisted pants, so I'm willing to let it slide this time. I must say, it's remarkable not having to worry when I bend over or sit down! As for the cuffs, they took some spatial reasoning at night while I was supposed to be sleeping, trying to figure out how to attach them so that my pinked seams wouldn't show. I still need to tack them down, but I like this look much better than just blind-hemming them.

I'm on an elephant!! Check out the relatively small gape at the back...I would never climb on play structures in my usual pants because of the low waistbands. I totally get Steph of 3hourspast's whole thing about high waistbands now!

Side view.
Fabric: About a yard of slightly stretchy 54" cotton twill for each muslin...thankfully, this fabric was $1/yard (and the same as my 1912 scalloped skirt!)
Notions: Fusible interfacing in the waistband, 7" zipper, hook and bar, four metal anchor buttons
Techniques: Making alterations to a pants pattern? There wasn't really any difficult sewing here, just difficult fitting.
Hours: At least seven, including the 1.5 hours spent on my first, unwearable muslin. That pair (sans zipper) has been relegated to cat bed status.
Will you make this again? Not shorts, but I do want to make pants again! Almost immediately after finishing this pair, I wanted to try making slim-fitting capris, but (thankfully?) I didn't have any other suitable bottom-weight fabric. I want to get some stretch denim and heavier stretch cotton twill, possibly in some blinding color like kelly green or coral. But first, I should probably perfect my pants block.
Total cost: About $6, but I don't remember how much the buttons cost, as I think they were in a bulk bag from a discount bin (but I have so many gold-colored nautical buttons I could be remembering wrong).
Final thoughts: I think for my first foray into pants-making, these aren't bad, but they're not great either. They're comfy and I'll wear them, but I can see that a good pants block will take some time. In the meantime, these were easy enough that they're a good confidence booster. I'm not convinced that high-waisted pants are the way to go for my body type, but since I like high-waisted dresses and skirts I thought I would just start here.

Can I pretend I'm hanging off of rigging?
I mean, I guess technically I am, it's just that the rigging is all of a foot off the ground.

I'm wearing red flippy-floppies wedgie-wodgies?

*I'm not usually a fan of songs with excessive explicit language, but Lonely Island is my weak spot...I don't know why I find their songs so hilarious. I mean, "This ain't my dad, this is a cell phone!?" That's brilliant.