Friday, September 28, 2012

The "Winter Is Coming" Maxi Dress

My attempt to make sunny TCOCC look all moody and wintry.
Do the ravens help? If PicMonkey had wolves, I would've added those instead.

I know, I know, this dress doesn't look suitable for winter at all. But those little white and silver flecks and the swirling grays, don't they make you think of snow flurries? Okay, obviously I don't know anything about snow. Actually, I don't know much about Game of Thrones, either, since I've never felt motivated to pick up a notoriously violent, plays-with-your-emotions-by-killing-everyone-you-care-about-in-an-astoundingly-Joss-Whedonesque way, still unfinished fantasy series, but I do know the phrase "winter is coming" is the motto of House Stark. And somehow there are wolves and Daenerys is the queen of dragons. Yup, that pretty much sums up what I know. So, I'm sorry if GoT is your particular geekdom and I've just offended you by arbitrarily tacking an important phrase onto my dress just because the irony tickles my fancy.
I love the fullness at the bottom. I have fond feelings for this mermaid-style because it's the same as my wedding dress.

This dress came about as a result of my husband's request that I make another maxi dress, plus my own stashbusting quest. This poly-spandex/Lycra fabric has been sitting in the stash for over two years, and has been a source of despair every time I looked into my bin of knit fabrics. I bought this for about twice what I normally pay for knits, and it's not even natural fibers! I blame the fact that I was pretty depressed about my previous teaching job and would prescribe myself retail therapy in the form of haunting the thrift store that was on my way home. On the day that I bought this fabric, I'd had a particularly crappy day, and an hour of browsing the women's, housewares, and shoes sections had yielded nothing. To salvage the wasted time, I brought home the likeliest piece of fabric I could dig up. At the time, I thought it was dramatic and beautiful. I still think it's beautiful, in a "I'm pretending to be a snow leopard in a blizzard" sort of way, but it's so dramatic that it pretty much had to be made into a full-length dress. And I only wear maxi dresses in the summer, so sleeveless it is!

Check out the Friday afternoon traffic before Carmageddon II!

Even though I liked my previous maxi dress just fine, I didn't want to just do the same thing. Flipping through my Patterns of Fashion 2, I came across this dress on the very last page:

I liked that it was totally something one could wear today, and in a jersey to boot! I decided to try my own version, but without the ridiculous ruching up the middle. I'm sorry, but I think it looks silly. Yes, I just called a Schiaparelli dress silly. I'll just step away from the keyboard now and wait to be struck by lightning.

Here's how I made the pattern:
(My piece of paper wasn't big enough to fit the whole thing once I started drawing, so the very back of the skirt got cut off.)
Measurement A = 1/2 bust with 10% negative ease. So my bust is 33", subtract 3", divide by two to get 15" across at the top.
Measurement B = distance from the neckline to the narrowest part of your body/natural waist.
Measurement C = 1/2 waist with 5% negative ease.
Measurement D = distance from your waist to the floor in whatever shoes you plan to wear with this, plus hem allowance if necessary. Mine is 40" long and I'm 5'5". I just sort of used a yardstick and pivoted it around to get the skirt lines drawn.
I made my back curve much more pronounced than the front curve due to my swayback. To get more fullness in the back, I brought out the line of the skirt. In order to get the straps right, I actually didn't cut them out to begin with. I cut out the box at the top (dotted line), with a slit down the middle, then sewed up front and back seams. I tried it on at that point and used chalk and pins to mark where exactly I needed to cut the straps to get the look I wanted. The little box on the right shows what my layout looked like on a 60" wide piece of fabric.

After cutting and sewing my dress, I did still have to make tweaks to get the exact fit that I wanted, but the diagram above is a good starting point.

Fabric: 2.5 yards of some kind of poly-spandex stretchy knit with excellent recovery, thanks to all the artificial fibers...
Notions: none
Techniques: Lynda Maynard's V-neck knit binding technique
Hours used: 2.5. Have I mentioned enough how much I love working with knits?
Will you make this again? No, I don't think I need too many dramatic maxi dresses. Between this and Mucha, I think my wardrobe is good for now.
Total cost: $8
Final thoughts: This is a pretty impractical dress that I doubt will get much wear, much like my prom dress, but it makes my husband happy, and I've cleaned out a pretty big piece of fabric from the stash. It's fun for swanning about the house, but the whole look doesn't really fit anything I do/go to these days, so I've told Mr. Cation that he needs to take me somewhere where this dress wouldn't be out of place. As it is, we got lots of weird looks going up to the top floor of the parking structure for pictures, and then fetching the mail afterwards!

It's good for twirling though. There's been a lot of twirling in my life these days.

And now that I've finished my husband's request, I can do a 180 and make something totally different!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Blue Roses, or Pleurosis, Tee

No fun locations this time; it was strictly an errand-running day.

My mom left school at an early age to work in a garment factory, but that didn't stop her from getting an education. She went to night school to get her GED equivalent in Hong Kong, then continued with community college in SF once my siblings and I had all entered full-time schooling. I remember her taking introductory piano lessons at CCSF when I was just starting piano lessons as a little girl. I loved getting to visit her grown-up piano classroom and plonk away on the keyboard next to hers. My favorite of the classes she took, though, was the intro to American literature course. By that time, I was maybe in fourth grade, and turning into quite the voracious reader. I read every book we had multiple times, always borrowed the maximum number of books allowed at the library, read cereal boxes, my dad's Newsweek and LIFE magazines, and even tried the Wall Street Journal briefly before I gave it up as drier and harder to understand than nutrition facts. I got in trouble at school for always reading under my desk instead of paying attention. My first F ever was on a spelling test, when I turned in a blank paper because I hadn't even realized we were taking a test, I was so engrossed in a book about pirate ships.

Anyway, all this to say, when my mom started bringing home short stories and plays from her classes, I was thrilled to have new reading material. The three things I read that stand out to me the most were William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily, Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, and Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. The first two were definitely questionable reading choices for a nine-year-old, but they were also riveting and short enough that I finished them with no problem. The play, though, was much longer and more boring (even now, as an adult, I have to admit that it can't hold a candle to the drama of sleeping with a preserved body or a mob stoning party), so I didn't get very far. I did remember, though, that Laura's crush had mixed up "pleurosis" and "blue roses."

I didn't take note of any of those stories' titles at the time, so I couldn't exactly look them up later when I wanted to re-read them. As I went through high school, though, I eventually rediscovered each of those pieces, with The Glass Menagerie coming last, in my senior year. Each time was like meeting an old, if somewhat creepy, friend, and I was so excited to finally find out the ending of the blue roses girl's story. Well, it was disappointing, to say the least. To wait all those years, only to find out that Laura never did have a real gentleman caller? And her brother just abandoned her to her overbearing mother?

So this top is my happier ending for Blue Roses. It's another stashbuster, made from turquoise-and-white striped knit, leftover from this top (which has since been retired after an unfortunate laundry mishap), but dressed up slightly with gold rose buttons at the shoulders. Conveniently, it fits the Sew Weekly blue challenge this week! It fills a gap in my wardrobe, too, since it replaces, colorwise, another turquoise-and-white-striped-knit-with-gold-buttons dress that I got last year in Paris, which I promptly spilled beet juice on once I got home. Sucks. Anyway, this top is a more versatile version of that dress, since it's a separate that goes with skirts or pants.

I made it from my Not-A-Renfrew pattern, and it might have taken longer to position and sew and reposition and re-sew the buttons than it did to make the actual tee. It's funny, I never thought I'd sew such "normal" things, but eminently wearable knit tees are just as satisfying to make as quirky dresses. Okay, almost as satisfying. 

Fabric: A little less than 2/3 yard of some mysterious cotton-blend knit from a thrift store
Notions: Six plastic rose buttons, spray-painted gold
Hours used: Two-ish, but only because this knit curls like no other, plus stripe-matching
Will you make it again? Oh, don't you know it!
Total cost: $2.50
Final thoughts: When I wore it today for running errands, my husband thought it was a RTW shirt that I'd just added buttons to. I think that means I win. I also love the turquoise/teal+gold combo.

It just looks so real!

I actually finished this on the same day that I finished my husband-requested maxi dress, which also went together like lightning. I looooove knits and their no-unraveling business. I've got a sneaking suspicion, though, that I'm going to finish stashbusting my knits and then discover that I don't know how to insert zippers anymore. Seriously, between knits, buttons, and bias-cut garments, the last zipper I inserted was almost two months ago! Ah well, things could be worse. I could have a dead body in my bed, or discover that I'm up next for public stoning, or *gasp* not have any gentleman callers. Horrors!

This handsome gentleman is available to call on you, but he's a limited edition only, so call now!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Stashbusting Olive My Knits Dress

Apologies for briefly turning into ModCloth -- what with the Put a Bow on It! top and now a ridiculous homophonic pun (also called a polyptoton) -- but I really couldn't resist. 

After getting back to TCOCC a couple weeks ago, I had to do some major cleaning in my sewing room. Since we had subletters at our apartment over the summer, I kind of just threw everything into the sewing room for storage. Well, while I was tidying up and re-inventorying my stash (I'd kind of forgotten what I had while I was away), I was slightly horrified at how many knits I had from two years ago -- before I started blogging, and before I really even got serious about sewing, in fact. Back then, I didn't know anything about natural fibers or wardrobe planning/coordination; all I knew was that knits don't ravel and oooh! that's inexpensive and pretty! Since we're going to have to move at the end of the school year, and after reading about other sewing bloggers having had to pack up their stash and move, I decided that I need to do some pretty serious stashbusting now. I've got a lot of wovens, too, and quite a few wools that I should also tackle, but stashbusting knits takes less energy and thought, so I'll start there. Also, the knits are the oldest items in the stash, and the more time passes, the more danger that I'll never get to them. Mind you, I still like them, but they're just not as shiny and attractive as newer fabric, so I don't ever reach for them first.

Ummm, let's talk about that skirt hem for a sec.
So, in my quest to use up my stash, I pulled out this teal, olive, and brown print that I've had forever. I actually bought it three years ago because I loved the colors, and then I realized (and rightly so) that my skills weren't up to par yet and I would only destroy this lovely knit the way I almost did with my salmon-colored disaster. However, I didn't have this epiphany this until after I'd cut out the skirt, and crookedly at that. But that's fine, I'll pretend that the asymmetric hem is totally on purpose. I was originally going to fix it, but now I kind of love it.

It's called a design element, okay?

The top is just a cap-sleeve tee, the same pattern as this dress, but a little longer so as to get the slightly bloused look on top of the belt. Putting it all together was pretty ridiculously easy, especially since the top of the skirt perfectly matched the width of the bodice, so it was just a matter of pinning it together and sewing a zig-zag stitch. And now that I've done so many neck bindings, even this one went on super quickly! Seriously, I busted this dress out so fast, my husband couldn't believe that I'd just made a whole new dress (and a presentable-looking one at that -- nary a hippo or lion or superhero in sight!) during his nightly COD:MW3 session.

I'm so glad that I picked up this vintage belt just this summer, as it's the only one in my fairly extensive belt collection that works with this dress! Somehow, all my other ones look wrong. Thankfully, the dots on the fabric are also dark blue, so it mostly works with the belt elastic. When I purchased the belt, it was much too big, but that was an easy fix -- just unpick, measure, cut, and stitch -- done in five minutes. Gosh, I love knowing how to sew.

Fabric: 1.5 yards of cotton-blend knit, printed with teal, olive, and brown shapes that remind me of actual olives
Notions: None!
Techniques: Neckline binding
Hours used: Dare I say, one?! Yes, it was that fast, to cut a top from a pattern I'd already vetted, and sew literally less than ten seams. I am falling in love with knits and how they don't need seam finishing all over again.
Will you make it again? Yes! If ever there was an instant gratification dress, this is it.
Total cost: I bought this fabric such a long time ago, it feels free. But to be honest, it cost $4. The belt was $7.
Final thoughts: I loved Aleah's nautical dress that's versatile enough for any occasion, whether that be work, hanging out, or going out to dinner. I think this dress fits that bill, although the colors definitely read more autumnal in my mind. Wearing knits is so comfortable, and this cut/style is like cake for me, but fun cake because of the colors. I can't wait to pair it with boots and a teal cardigan for fall!
I'm seriously in love with all different fractions of circle skirt -- have you noticed that all my latest projects have been deliciously twirly?

I've got four other major knit projects planned, but the next one up isn't going to be quite so cake-y (although if you're looking for cake dresses, check out the Tiramisu dress pre-sale!). See, I wore my Mucha Maxi this weekend, and my husband was so taken with it all over again that he actually put in a request that I make another form-fitting maxi dress. This is the first time that has ever happened; usually the request is that I not make such weird things...

Have you ever gone about systematically stashbusting? Where/how did you start? Has your sig-o ever requested that you make more of ____? 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Put a Bow on It!

Mr. Cation and I just recently started watching Portlandia, and we've been giggling madly at how spot-on it is when it comes to mocking trends. Their "We Can Pickle That!" and "Put a Bird on It!" sketches had us in stitches, especially since we just went to a cool new sandwich place that had pickled eggs and cauliflower, and I don't need to tell you how many items on Etsy have birds or feathers on them. Anyway, I noticed while browsing ModCloth for sewing inspiration that bows are the next big thing. Or maybe they're already over and I don't know it. At any rate, I wanted to try making a top with an ostentatiously large bow, kind of like this top or this top. Also huge right now (or recently, at least) is pink with black accents. Well, I had this salmon-colored knit fabric from my third sewing project ever that needed to be salvaged, as well as some leftover black knit after my Ariadne tunic. Perfect!

So, in possibly the second trendiest sewing project I've ever done (here's the first), I present my Put a Bow on It! Librarian Top -- because for some reason, it seemed vaguely like something a librarian would wear? Don't ask how that made sense in my head.

I had to use Machine of Death as my book to offset the sweetness of the top.
Excellent book, by the way, and available as a free download to boot!
My friend Emily got me this sticker, which is pretty much perfect.
Grabbing a book minifig from the top shelf. And yes, if you've been wondering about that Lego set on top of the bookcase, that is in fact the completed Helm's Deep!

I was so glad to be able to use up this fabric. I had just enough leftover to cut the body of the top, and the sleeves were cut from the original, failed top. I also barely managed to squeeze all the binding out of the remains of the black knit, so that's some ultra stash-busting right there. The pattern is my not-a-Renfrew, and the bow is just a rectangle that's been gathered in the middle by a tube of fabric. I tacked it down at the corners and center, and thankfully the pink is stable enough and the black is light enough that it doesn't get weighed down at the neckline.

Ahh, doesn't that look so much better than my previous attempt?

This very feminine top goes nicely with all the black and dark gray RTW skirts in my closet, although I like it best with this one because of the equally girly lace at the hem!

Better yet, that lace is detachable! I suppose I could sew up a skirt that utilizes it, but I really don't need any more black skirts. Unless it's a circle skirt, but then the lace wouldn't fit that hem anyway.

It's still a little warm to wear sleeves and a non-breathing skirt right now, though, so I'll be saving this outfit for Real Autumn, which, knowing California, probably won't be until November!

Apparently, autumn is approaching from the direction of the kitchen.

Have you succumbed and put birds on things yet? Would you wear such an ostentatiously large bow?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dolman-Sleeve Top Roundup!

It's been a month and a day since I released my dolman sleeve top pattern, and I've been so thrilled to see the versions that other sewasauruses have made! Seriously, it's exciting to be able to help other people sew comfy but cute tops. Here are the ones I've seen:

Aleah of No Time to Sew was the first to make it up, and I love the graphic black and white pattern she chose! And the solid-colored armbands are just perfect.

Giggles in the Sun's version is a lovely feminine floral:

Gail of Today's Agenda has made not one, not two, but three. I [heart] the bold stripes she chose!

Kim of Punkmik's green polka-dot version is just too awesome for words, especially when paired with a dinosaur necklace!

And the only person to have tried it as a sweatshirt, Dapper Duds! I'm loving that bow!
From her instagram.

Now, even as I've been enjoying seeing all these pictures pop up on teh interwebs, I've also been pleased to receive some constructive feedback about the actual pattern. As it turns out, apparently my arms are ultra-spindly, as several people have said that the arm bands needed to be widened significantly. Okay, point taken, I need to work out more before I draft more patterns based on my own measurements! ;) Also, apparently the neckline can be a little wide -- even a tiny bit of stretching out might make it unwearable. I always knew I had wide shoulders (it's one of the things I can reliably count on my grandmother to comment on), and the pattern is meant to just barely cover my bra straps, so it's totally understandable that this might be too much for some/most people. So take note, it might be a good idea to cut the neckline smaller and then enlarge it later if necessary. If you've had the misfortune of already cutting it too wide, might I suggest a center pleat to bring it in? I'll be adding these comments to the original pattern download page so that new victims are aware, too.

Anyway, if you've also had a chance to try out my pattern, let me know! I just picked up a cute scale-print knit that I might use for yet another version of this top -- it's seriously so comfortable and perfect for showcasing fun fabrics!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Dug This Out from My Stash

If you ever need to feel better about your sewing, check out what I just found:

There are so many things wrong with this picture, starting with the one-inch seam allowance...

Fellow sewasauruses, this was my third sewing project ever. Drunk on the success of my first and second dresses, I decided to jump headlong into sewing a top. Should be simple enough, right? After all, there are tons of tutorials out there showing how to trace one from a RTW tee, and knits don't require seam finishing, so all I needed to do was sew four seams! I purchased a length of knit fabric from the remnant bin of the local fabric store, didn't bother with matching thread, and started stitching. This was before I knew about ballpoint needles, and while my first two projects were with very stable knits, this salmon-colored nightmare insisted on diving into the depths of my machine. I did some quick googling and learned that tissue paper under the fabric could help (oddly enough, I forgot that tip in the intervening years), so I proceeded to dig into my gift-wrapping stash.

Well, none of those helpful websites warned me about the difficulties of picking tissue paper out of a zig-zag stitch. Oh, that's fine, I thought, it'll just wash out eventually. Unfortunately, when I attempted to try on the shirt, I couldn't get it on. Somehow, I'd missed the memo about knits that only stretch in one direction! So if I had a weird extendable torso like the Slinky dog from Toy Story, this would've been the shirt for me. Uhhh, yeah, right. I may have cried, and I definitely had a tiny tantrum, then I crammed the half-sewn top and the remaining fabric into the bottom of my first box of fabric (there are now several more boxes), hoping to forget that I ever spent time and money on it. It worked pretty well, too, because I really did forget about it until last night when I was digging through my stash.

In case you thought it looked okay on the other side, here's the "right" side of the top.

It's kind of hilarious, looking back at this project from my sewing infancy, especially since I just made a series of knit tops with much more success, and even wrote a tutorial for sewing one! It just goes to show, you gotta start somewhere. Now, two years and a few months later, I think I have the necessary skills to turn the remaining yardage into a wearable top...

Do you have any laughable first sewing attempts hidden away? Or did you just chuck 'em and move on to better things? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The "Roaring Twenties" Dress and Another Free Pattern

Trying my best to look gamine.

Lion heads! Looking awfully calm and non-predatory, totally
unlike Darth Vader's eyes on Star Wars-themed bedsheets.
Actually, the lions aren't so much roaring as they are quietly staring, but the Quietly Staring Twenties Dress just doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? I thought about calling it the Gryffindor Dress, too, but then I've always been more partial to Ravenclaw and Slytherin myself (if I ever found a fabric printed with ravens or snakes, I would be so thrilled). I also thought about calling it the Meatball Dress, as in lion's head meatballs (one of my favorite Shanghainese  dishes), but then decide that that might be too obscure. Besides, Roaring Twenties invokes the dropped waist look. Although I guess if you ate enough meatball, your waist would drop too.

Back view.
Once again, this dress is a late Sew Weekly Challenge, not quite in time for the Great Gatsby picnic. Not that it matters, since I'm not in the Bay Area anymore! But hey, since I don't need to make a dress that passes muster with any historical authenticity sticklers, I can be as ridiculous as I want -- and that means terrible punning with a bed sheet. When I first saw this vintage lion-printed sheet at the Thrift Town in San Leandro (I'm telling you, that place is a treasure trove! When I was getting this sheet, I also saw a curtain printed with castles, but unfortunately stained, and a duvet cover with fighter jets all over it. I nixed the jets and their dubiously pro-war message in favor of oddly peaceful-looking big cats), I had no idea what I would ever do with it; all I knew was that they were large versions of Walnut, and therefore it had to come home with me. Well, after the Spiderman dress reprise with the drop-waist, I decided that I had to go for a full-on twenties-inspired dress. The lions were an obvious choice, even though they weren't roaring.

I don't know why Walnut was so glum about wearing a lion-print bandanna. After all, doesn't every housecat secretly think he's a lion? Maybe he's grumpy because I woke him up from his nap (on top of freshly laundered beach towels, no less).

A sketch of what I did for the skirt pieces.
I tested my bias-cut bodice pattern again, made some more changes to accommodate the weight of the skirt, and then made my pattern into a printable pdf. I don't have the time or energy (or knowledge, really) to grade it this time, so this will only work for you if you're a size small with a tiny apple dumpling shop, as befits most of the fashion plates of the 1920s. I've also included the swayback adjustment that I ended up making for myself, as well as directions for adding the skirt to the top. Since the lions already put me out of the running for an authentic twenties dress, I didn't try too hard to get the skirt accurate; I just drafted a half-circle skirt like last time, but added diamond-shaped godets at the sides to get the asymmetrical hem. I know the bias-cut top doesn't give the right shape for the era, but I didn't want to go totally shapeless.

Looking at that neckline makes me so happy.
After the blogger meet-up at Canada College, I purchased Lynda Maynard's Couture Sewing Techniques book. The section on binding a V-neck came in very handy! I don't think I've ever made such a perfect-looking one before. The rest of the insides of the dress are either left as is, if it was on the bias, or pinked, if cut on the straight or cross grain. Really, this dress was more of a wearable muslin than anything, so I didn't stress myself out about seam finishing. Besides, it was 90+ degrees and humid in the sewing room, and the thought of standing near my iron for any longer than necessary was unbearable. But don't worry, I still pressed my seams properly!

Look at how pretty that corner is!
Fabric: 50/50 poly-cotton blend "no-iron muslin" vintage thrifted twin flat sheet
Notions: None! I used self-fabric binding for the neck and armholes, so no need to dig into my bias-tape stash.
Techniques: Binding a V-neck, mitered corners to finish my skirt hem
Hours used: I sewed for about eight hours straight on Saturday, thanks to three football games and a baseball game keeping my husband occupied all day. Walnut was just about knocked out from the heat, so even he didn't demand my attention.
Will you make this again? I'm toying with the idea of making this again in a "real" fabric (read: not a bed sheet), like chiffon or something luxurious so that I can have a slightly less ridiculous twenties-ish dress, but knowing me, it probably won't happen. I do love this skirt, though, so I may use the diamond-shaped-side-godets trick again.
Total cost: $3 for the sheet
Final thoughts: Despite popular (and probably saner) opinions in the sewing blogiverse, every time I make something from a sheet I get really excited. And, in fact, the more ridiculous the print, the better. I was so happy wearing my lions, and the skirt is so deliciously twirly, and how perfect that I had a long string of pearls in my costume jewelery collection! My only gripe is the black shoes, but somehow I don't have any brownish heels. Or brownish shoes of any kind, actually. Hmm, this is a situation that needs to be ameliorated.

I love how swishy this skirt is even when I'm not twirling and just walking normally.
Also, my foot/leg looks totally bizarre in that bottom right picture.

Anyway, if you want to try your hand at my bias-cut top and skirt pattern, you can download it here:

Pattern (9 pages)
Instructions for sewing the top and making the skirt

For those of you who aren't my size, but are interested in how the pattern compares to a knit tee block:
  • The front pattern piece ended up being 1.25" larger at the side seams than my knit block
  • The back pattern piece is about two inches larger at the side seams right under the arm, but tapers to nothing at the waist; the center back seam is scooped at the waist and flares out at the hip, meaning that it can't be cut on the fold like a tee-shirt back piece would be
Hopefully that gives you some ideas if you want to try making a bias-cut top from your own knit tee block. As always, if you end up trying this out, I'd love to know! Thanks to those of you who have sent me pictures and feedback about tmy Dolman Sleeve Top pattern; I'll be doing a roundup later this week!

I couldn't resist antiquing a couple of the pictures for a more vintage look!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cowl-Necked Top from Swimsuit Fabric?

My apologies if you actually like any of this and I've accidentally insulted you.
At the beginning of this year, I got a donation of several bags of fabric from a lady at church. Most of it was home decor and sequined fabric samples (i.e. unusable squares), and some of it was weird but still usable (oddly enough, three pieces got made into corsets). I think the lady was some kind of swimwear or old-lady-wear designer, though, because there was quite a bit of spandex in there labeled "five rolls" or "four yards," presumably listing available yardage, all in errrr, old lady prints (what my mom would calle "古老" or "老土" prints). Better yet, they all felt like the fabric you would see in swimsuit shells. I was going to donate all of it in my stash purge -- I mean, why hold onto things that you don't think you'll ever use? Especially in hideous prints and fiber content? 

I did save this one piece, though -- it's a border print, and not quite as garish in color or print as the rest. I thought it could at least be used as a (wearable?) muslin for a cowl-necked top. I took my not-a-Renfrew block, traced, slashed, and spread according to this tutorial, and ended up with this top. For a quick experiment in a meh fabric, it turned out pretty well. In the future, I'm going to spread my slashes a little more for a more pronounced drape, as well as lower the front neckline. Right now it looks a little odd, like I started tying a bandanna around my neck, only it somehow expanded and morphed into an entire top (oh gosh, doesn't that sound like the worst horror movie ever? You find a mysterious bandanna, so you try it on, only to find that it envelops your body and you can't take it off, ever, and the worst is that it's non-breathable, shiny polyester! Duhn duhn duhn!!!)...but then, that might just be the admittedly Walmart-bandanna-esque kelly green and floral print. 

The back is pretty uninspiring. Also, if I'm adding so much extra fabric to the front, is there
a way to get the top to be less baggy, while still being able to cut the pieces on the fold?

Paired with my Leonora shorts.
I didn't bother finishing any of my edges, since this was just an experiment, and also because my machine hates this material with a passion (could it be that my sewing machine is like the loyal dog that tries to warn its master, only to fail miserably because of the pigheadedness of the master?). I tried to do my normal knit-edge finish, but machine just chewed it all up and spat it out with holes in it. I ended up just cutting off that part and leaving all the edges raw. 

Fabric: 2/3 yard of a border print poly-spandex fabric. Tissue-thin, slightly shiny, and mortal enemies with my machine.
Notions: None
Hours used: Less than one, since there was no finishing was literally four seams, that's it!
Will you make this again? I would like to try this again with a better fabric, but with the changes I mentioned above. And I am definitely never using this type of fabric again, not even if it's printed with kittens vomiting Lego bricks onto a stack of SF/F books. Well, actually, this imaginary fabric I just described sounds pretty compelling.
Total cost: free!
Final thoughts: For an experiment, it turned out fairly well, but I'm not convinced I want to keep this top. I'd like to think I've moved on from me-made garments with raw edges, you know? I'm also dubious about the color and print -- after reading Steph's posts about colors that flatter, I'm trying to pay more attention to the colors that work for me.   

So, do I keep this top, or send it to join the others of its kind in the donation pile?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Make it a Geek Day!

If you're an avid fan of The Big Bang Theory, then you may remember when Sheldon suggests that Raj's sister "make it a train day" for her one day vacation in Los Angeles. Well, yesterday I had the day off from school, and my husband hasn't started school yet, so we made it a geek day! We started with amazing pastrami sandwiches at Langer's Deli, which admittedly isn't necessarily geeky, but gosh, their pastrami is enough to inspire an eccentric devotion, which is one of the definitions of geek...

It's Cera! Did anyone else watch all the Land Before Time movies?
Anyway, afterwards we had a nice, leisurely afternoon at the Natural History Museum. Now, ever since I got my first dinosaur book at the age of seven, I've loved those huge beasts; one might even go so far as to say that dinosaurs were my first geeky interest. I enjoyed the dinosaur hall a lot, but definitely experienced a bit of a letdown when I realized I wasn't learning anything new. The problem with having geeked out about dinosaurs so early is that I've had plenty of time in the intervening years to read up about them (and dream about being an archaeologist paleontologist [thanks for the correction, Claire!], until I realized that almost all digs are in hot, dry, dusty locations, and I hate being outside), so when I go to the nth natural history museum that's primarily aimed at kids, the information gets a little repetitive. Same goes for the mammals exhibits, although I do enjoy a good diorama.

Aaaaah, Sharptooth! I'm sorry, but I cried way more when Littlefoot's mom died than when Bambi's mom died.

Walnut: I'm about to be ignored for hours in favor of these little plastic bricks, huh?
Still, it was fun to go to a museum that wasn't uber-crowded (unlike everything in the UK!) -- I'd almost forgotten what it's like to have plenty of time to read the plaques and take pictures. And if a museum wasn't enough geek fun, we ended the day with watching Sherlock, my new favorite TV show, and working on the brand new Lego Helm's Deep! One of the first truly "adult" books I remember reading was the Sherlock Holmes anthology that my uncle got me in fifth grade, and for the longest time I tried (and failed) to make SH-esque observations and rational deductions about my classmates. And of course, my childhood was all about Legos and saving up for the big sets, building them, then taking them apart to build new things, so a 1000+ piece set is always exciting! Also, I don't need to tell you all that I love all things LOTR. This might be an unpopular opinion, but TTT is probably my favorite of all the movies...but only the bits with Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas. I'm always tempted to fast-forward through all the slow bits with Frodo wibbling. I really just love the Rohirric design aesthetic, so Helm's Deep was a logical first choice for my future LOTR Lego collection.

Walnut inspects the as yet unfinished Helm's Deep.

If only Theoden had a giant cat on his side!
Those Uruk Hai would have been no match for a thick-furred, claws-like-daggers, spider-killing feline monster!

Okay, confession time: these pictures were totally staged, with the help of some strategically placed, tuna-flavored treats.

So yeah, no sewing to show here, but it was an excellent day nonetheless. We weren't able to finish Helm's Deep in one evening, but that only means the fun continues tonight!