Thursday, July 31, 2008

Putting On the Glitz.

All right. You demanded details. Growl. Here are some more pictures and details on Sandra Betzina top no. 2 (Vogue 2977). I made my first in a black and white cotton jersey, which in some ways I actually like more than this top. For one thing, the print is busier than the Michigan and Chicago Avenues intersection in that it really doesn't draw attention to any one body part. This glitzy gold Liz Claiborne knit that I bought at Vogue Fabrics last year looks like a melted metal on my not-very-Dara-Torres body. It's so eye-catching, I might as well paint arrows in every direction in Photoshop and point them to my abdomen. So there.

That said, I did complete this top, which I didn't do with the first one. The initial rendition never got its twin-needle stitching - I was that eager to wear it. I'm not sure I'll ever do it, since it will be difficult given that this stitching really needs to be done before you sew the major parts together. Here's how I constructed the golden masterpiece:
1. Sew one shoulder seam.
2. Tack down the neckline with Lite Steam-A-Seam2. Twin needle stitch all around.
3. Attach my "Handmade by Mary Beth" label at the back. It's actually easier to do this part early when there isn't as much fabric to manhandle around the sewing machine.
4. Attach bottom part. Do the twin-needle stitching on the hem, setting the tension to 3 rather than my ordinary 2. Very little tunneling. Hurrah!
5. Keep the twin-needles on, and stitch down the hem on the sleeves. Take appropriate email and bathroom breaks. (This is very important!)
6. Zip up with sewing machine from the very bottom to the spot where the twin-needle stitching begins on the sleeves with my faux serger stitch on my Viking Husqvarna 735.
7. Done. Celebrate with a 99 cent iced coffee (no sugar, skim milk please) from Dunkin Donuts. Relax.
Now I've told you how I made the second version of this top, here's what I might do differently next time around to get rid of the somewhat unsightly (depending on your point of view) seam right at the tummy.
1. Draw front and back pieces all as one piece. (This was Vogue Fabrics ace seamstress Mac Berg's suggestion) In other words, take that bottom, separate piece and tack it onto the top part. Tape it together if necessary. Cut that all out as one unit. Now the drawback to this approach is that you can't do funky things by sewing these parts separately. I've thought about using this wondrous green grass/fuchsia knit from Vogue's $1.99 a yard table and orienting the bottom part in one direction, the upper half another. Think wayward traffic patterns. That's not possible with the simplified plan.
2. Line the front part with self-fabric so that I don't have to worry about using my beloved Lite Steam-A-Seam2 and making that V-neck just so. It'd be much easier to sew two fronts together face to face. Flip one section over like you're tossing a pint-sized acrobat at the Olympics. V-neck done! Perfection achieved (I think)! I'd probably still twin-needle stitch the back neckline. Then attach my label. Ego trip accomplished.

Conclusion: I adore this top, particularly the first one. It looks great with low-rise jeans. I don't have to worry about sitting down and exposing any flesh and/or underwear. I also don't have to add inches on the pattern for my long-waist, which I usually do. This top is also fabulous with low-rider yoga pants. Now I'm officially in love with this pattern (should I say we're married on Facebook?), I'm ready to make one more, then it's time for new adventures. Maybe the pull-on skirt in this same pattern? We'll see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Patternreview Invasion Aftermath*

Wow. Yowza. Oh my. It's so hard to believe that so many of you shop at Vogue Fabrics yet I've never bumped into you. Not once, not even to fight over a precious bit of remnant. Yet I think it's so cool that some of you (Applepiemom) come as far as Genoa, Ill. (near DeKalb) to visit Vogue. But once you've been here, we all can fervently agree this is truly Worth the Trip, in every way. So I completely understand those who come as far away as Iowa to buy fabric.

As someone who makes fabrics and notions shopping at Vogue a twice-a-week treat, I wasn't sure I should go to the special group tour. I mean, sometimes I feel like I can give the tour. Really. Bathroom? Right here near the bridal fabrics. Notions? Next to the Silk Room. Home decor textiles? Um, next to the sewing machine department.

Yet I learned so much about Vogue that I didn't know before. I don't need to see every corner to appreciate this place (yes, I'll take a pass on the basement which was flooded recently). Who knew that you could become participate in the associates of Vogue Fabrics program, which essentially means the store can link up to your blog? I can benefit (so can you once I get more details from store manager Charlotte), and so does Vogue. Or that the store employees will gladly put out the royal welcome mat for any group visit, even one with as few as 10 people? And the goody bags! I recognized virtually all of the stuff (polyester ribbons, a little stuffed dog, scalloped lace embellishments, a button birthday card, and much more). I especially liked the 10 percent discount on just about anything in the store (save naturally the sewing machines and other hardware). I applied my savings to a plush pink piece of stretch lace from the remnant department - those fabrics never go on sale.

First, a little bit backtracking. I knew folks were meeting up in the notions department. I looked for a line by the Burda World of Fashion magazine rack. Nothing there, apparently you all must have that issue or scoured it and took a pass. I peered further back to see a whole group of women (no men, darn it!) sitting at the pattern table, they were so quiet I didn't know what to think. Were these ladies really studying the McCalls, Vogue, Burda, New Look and Kwik Sew patterns? Then I recognized Deepika and I knew I was in the right place. Phew! Deepika is much prettier than her Patternreview profile photo, and much shyer in person than online! She showed us her gorgeous lace for a skirt (see above).
Deepika and I were both blown away (not physically, just metaphorically) by this student's dress. (I'm sorry I forgot her name already) We made her model it. Yes, we forced her to go into the Silk Room bathroom and change into her work of art. Aren't you glad we did?

The back is just as cool as the front. I love the lacing; one day I will attempt this.

After we got the "tour," we all scattered to the five winds to buy, buy and Buy! Deepika purchased fabric to line her skirt. My Chicago neighbor, Terry, just about cleaned out the $1.29 a yard table with her assorted finds. She also managed to find a remnant of the famous Paisley Panel jersey made into clothes by Cidell, Gigi, and others. (Terry's fabric is in a blue colorway, not the green/pink one plastered all over the Internet right now). Josephine, I forgot what she bought, but it was nice to meet someone who actually knows where the Portage Park Theater (current site of the Silent Film Festival) is.

Of course, no group fabric-buying is complete without eating out afterwards. We went to the Lucky Platter where at least a half-a-dozen of us got a homemade Cream Soda (just writing about makes me want another one now).
* I'm wearing my second version of the Sandra Betzina Vogue 2977 top in a gorgeous gold knit (it's not as heavy as it looks) in the top photo. I'll write up more about it in the future....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Vogue Fabrics Here We Come: The Patternreview Invasion

I feel like a little kid who knows she's going to the Museum of Science & Industry tomorrow on a field trip. I can hardly sleep. In my mind I'm already on the bus, up the stairs, inside the museum, aching to see all my favorite exhibits yet again, especially the mammoth train set with a miniature Chicago. That's precisely how I feel about visiting Vogue tomorrow. I go to this store at least twice a week, Monday nights for the free sewing demo and some other random day to pick up notions and/or fabric. But tomorrow night is different, way different. Deepika, founder of Patternreview, will be there. Other sewers who I only know from their thumbnail-sized photos will be there. Usually we just comment on each other projects online: "Nice job. Where did you get that fabric???" and "Wow. That looks like something you could buy in a store." or "I hate this pattern. I'm tossing it out NOW." For the first time, I will be able to put a face with a name (or handle) on Patternreview. I'd like to think we won't have any of that "first date" awkwardness: "Uh, what do you do?" or "Why do you sew?" or "Did you make that?" I imagine we will just chatter away like we known each all our Internet lives, or at least as long as we've been on Patternreview (three or so years for me....). I look forward to seeing what you've sewed, what you plan to sew. It kind tickles my funny bone (which is located right by my navel) that I will be part of the group tour that gets a private tour of Vogue Fabrics when I know the store layout better than my own storage unit. I'm actually quite curious about where the store employees will take us. I'm guessing we're not going upstairs to the break room, which I went for the first time in my short life last year after I got stung by a wasp in the store's classroom. I am certain we'll get to see the main room where there are all sorts of fabulous deals on knits and cottons, like what you see above. That lovely lusciously soft and drapy pink print is $1.99 a yard. It's on the Spring Knits table (or it was on Saturday, they tend to move around fabrics a lot in this store) right across from the cutting table if you need some guidance. I've been waiting long enough to buy this, but I keep putting it off. I see it as a wrap dress or as Valerie's top. You, however, could benefit from my buyer's reluctance and snap it all up.

Next up: the Silk Room, so named for all those fabrics there created by silkworms. Now there's other stuff besides the silks, like the Soft Touch Jersey (above), which as you can see by the neon orange sign is on sale. The assymetrical skirts I've made came from this fabric. The selection's a bit picked over now, so all the incredibly vibrant hues are gone, but there's still plenty of other likeable stuff. I've thought about picking up a yard or so for a beige full-length slip trimmed with matching stretch lace. Let me know if you need help finding these jerseys, I'm not above clambering on bolts of fabric like a scene out of a Jackie Chan action movie. Wait! I could pretend that these are logs in a water, and spin them as I walk across them, and do my best not to fall to the ground (although I much rather fall into the water, but this isn't physically possible inside Vogue.)

Also in the Silk Room are these big bold OFK (One oF Kind) jersey knits, priced at $8.99 a yard. I especially like this one with its grand geo print and incredible color combo: Orange! White! Beige! This is a very "Look at Me Now!" print that I could see as a totally tubular, ankle-grazing summer dress much like the one Adriana made. This is across from a cutting table toward the back of the room, right by the exit (not that's where you want to go, I'm just telling you). Again, I will happily show you the way, even help you bring the bolt over to the cash register. I will try my best not to hit you in the head or in the rump with it. I must say I'm a bumbling shopper, given to tripping on my own hem, and hitting myself in the noggin with fabric. You see why Vogue Fabrics likes me so much? By the time I actually get about credit card out, my head is spinning and I can't remember what I've gotten, so I actually end up getting more. Now you know why closet is bulging with fabrics, most of it from Vogue.

Back to the tour. Beyond the Silk Room is the Notions Room, where we're all meeting. If you need a copy of Burda, maybe there'll be a copy of one there. There wasn't on Saturday. But as we all know in the wonderful world of sewing, tomorrow is another day with all sorts of surprises (mostly good!) including overnight deliveries of great sewing magazines such as Burda World of Fashion.

If you're sew inclined, there's the Home Decorating Fabrics section just beyond the Notions Room. I almost never go there, in fact the employees in that part tell me, "Aren't you in the wrong part of the store?" I mean why sew clothes for unappreciative pieces of furniture when you could make dresses, skirts and tops for humans who will most certainly appreciate what you do! Take that unappreciative window!

That's all for now, folks. See you tomorrow. Me? I plan to wear another version of Vogue 2977, stitched up in a golden Liz Claiborne knit bought you-know-where.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Playing Footsie *

I haven't really been inclined to knit socks. Why do it when so many look so functional, and er, like something Rosie the Riveter might have worn to work? I'm all about nice-looking and feminine, and socks for the most part just don't seem to go with skirts and dresses! I mean do you see the models in Vogue wearing socks or even celebrities at the various movie premieres? No, socks are just too practical to be pretty. They're just something to wear to bed or when it's so cold you might freeze some digits down there.

But I've been rethinking my position, only because my fingers are so bored on the bus and the train these days. There's only so much you can read or text to Twitter. So I want to knit something that's easy on the debit card and lightweight to carry. But I want a challenge. I'm thinking I might enjoy making these Pom Pom Peds (or these footlets) similar to the dozens and dozens of cotton Liz Claiborne ones I've bought at Marshalls over the past years. I'd imagine the ones I'd make would be so soft and comfy that I would never ever buy any more anklet socks. I'd love 'em so much that I would be inspired to make them for my mother, sisters, friends and bloggers I've befriended over the years. I could even see myself buying those antique darning eggs you often see at the antique shop. (I swear the Antique and Resale Shoppe has a few in a 1940s-era sewing basket I can picture now). Then I would lovingly repair all my homemade socks. (I should tell you I already stitch up any holey socks on my Viking Husqvarna. I just push the heavy knit and 'faux' serger buttons, and stitch away with made-for-knits needle on my machine. Done in 30 seconds.)

So I could see myself phasing out the machinemade in China or Viet Nam sockies in favor of the knitted-at-home ones that can be worn with flip-flops, slippers or my Natural Sport slip-on sneakers (so wonderful for dancing!). But I will never ever wear Crocs (I'm a member of I Don't Care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like A Dumbass club on Facebook). I might, just might make lacy socks but none of those multi-colored ones that look something the Seven Dwarves might wear to cut down wood in the forest.

Will it be cheaper to make my own? Probably not. But it will keep me entertained on the bus, which I think is almost more important. I'll become one of those knitters who memorize their patterns and can crank out these things like somebody's business with impromptu variations. Wanna a leaf at the ankle? Done. Your initials on the bottom? Consider your John Hancock duly noted. So stripes or even an argyle pattern? A little trickier, but give me a couple of weeks and your feet will be decorated by you know who. And we're not talking about tattoos, a whole other topic.

I figure one of the patterns above will be easy enough to learn. If not, I can pester my mom who has aced the sock-making process to the point she's got a few pairs saved up for Christmas. I won't have to go to the local sock-making store or even yelp for help at the local SnB. I can go to mom's (and raid the refrigerator in the process). And the cost of the yarn - even a nice 100 percent merino wool variety - won't bust the checkbook. I can master those wobbly double-pointed needles. (I had trouble trying to make a pair of fingerless gloves with those things and I ripped up the project without guilt and made a sweater instead.) I can stash, needles, yarn and my ego all in my to-go bag.

Now I must check on all those clean cotton anklet socks drying on a rack in my living room. They feel a little stiff, but wait til I get little socks - handwashed probably - on the same rack. Any of you who come over for dinner on wash day Wednesday (which is really any day I have a $1.25 in quarters and enough detergent) are in for a Show N' Tell. See pretty socks! Touch the little pom-pom I made. Isn't that sooo cute? Bop me on the head if you get such a lame presentation, but don't do it before you eat, ok? If you do, you might not get dinner or even an appetizer. My pride might be sorely wounded if you act disinterested or even laugh at my sockies. You know Chris Evert would love to have a pair of these? She'd probably would have really appreciated two or four back in the day when she wore the machine-made ones on the tennis courts. Now of course that she's married to Greg Norman, she doesn't care a whit about foot comfort on the court except when she's padding around the house late at night nibbling or watching "Dancing With the Stars" (I don't know if she really does this; I'm just imagining.)

Do you think if I made a pair for Rachel Ray, she'd wear them on her show? Seriously. (For those of you who don't like this woman, skip this part.) I thought about sewing her a surplice-wrap top (think the popular Kwik Sew pattern), but I don't know her measurements. I might have to do a FBA (I don't need to do one myself - I'm in the small-bust club). She looks a little short-waisted too. Would her public relations staff give me her measurements if I asked or would they just consider me a wacko? Or could I just get away with asking for her foot size without people thinking I have a foot fetish? But would she show her new socks with gusto pre-cooking on her show? I can't see that. But a top! That would hog the show big time, especially is she spilled some pesto sauce on it at some point. Then it would end up as a clip on the People Magazine funny moments on TV site. But it would be a complete disaster if my handiwork didn't fit right or looked mousy. What's the point of making something that just gets tossed in the Salvation Army donation pile? Pointless, I say.

Really. I'm better off making anklet socks for friends and family who I can actually give to in person. Watch their eyes light up in delight (I hope) and appreciation (they better, or take my knitted loveliness back faster than Batman can fly to the moon.) Now would I make socks for a man. Maybe. But not my brothers - not one of the seven. They wouldn't even put them on unless they were chained to a hospital bed. Then they might. So I'm not even going to go to the Socks for Men department right now. It might be a long while if I ever do. Let's just master the gusset first, ok? I'm going to go order my yarn for Knitpicks. Impatiently wait for my order to arrive in the slow-cooker mail, then go eat at the family household, and then bother the matriarch. I can't knit on an empty stomach or I might go poke someone's brown eye out with a double-pointed needle. Gosh, writing about food made me hungry. Oddly enough, it didn't exacerbate my desire to knit.
* The bag you see above? I crocheted that on a silk shantung lining from Tilli Tomas, which I can't find online anymore. Next time, I'd use more yarn and crochet a little looser, so the bag wouldn't look so pointy...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Silent Scream....

Yesterday was the absolute last day I could do something with my about-to-expire American Airlines miles. Since I only had about 7,000 or so miles, the company offered me a bunch of complimentary magazine subscriptions. "There's absolutely no cost!" the flyer reads. While I love reading magazines (other peoples' particularly), I don't like having them all over my apartment. If they're on the floor, I end up slipping on them. They're like paper bananas, I'm telling you! Otherwise, they sit in a stack where they grow upwards, almost as fast as a 5-year-old boy going on six (that would be one of my nephews, although I forget which one right now). However, I can't stand to pass up a good deal. This feels like one, although I can tell you right now my daily trip to the mailbox downstairs is going to look like one Buster Keaton silent film with me opening the tiny, slender little box, and magazines spilling out onto the floor. I'll pick 'em up, simultaneously flip through them, drop a few, pick them up AGAIN, drop them still another time. Slip on a page or two on the way upstairs. Balance a couple of magazines on one arm while I unlock my apartment door whereupon I dump everything on the entryway rug. Watch Hamlet cock one ear, and settle back to sleep.

Honestly, all I really wanted was Lucky Magazine (pegged as 'Ultimate Shopping Guide'). That's it. I don't care as much for Elegant Bride (no imminent wedding plans); W (that tall magazine won't fit into my mailbox although I do like reading it) Travel + Leisure (also too big - where are the slim little periodicals when you need them?). Since the pickings weren't slim, besides Lucky, I chose Condé Nast Portfolio, Condé Nast Traveler, the aforementioned Travel + Leisure and some other business pubs. I wish I could send a few subscriptions to family members for Christmas or a birthday. However, American Airlines didn't offer that option. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given it's battling high gas prices, cutting staff and adding fees.

I'll probably end up cancelling the subscriptions on all but a few. I am really looking foward to getting Lucky, probably my favorite source of fashion inspiration if the all the tearsheets piled on my daybed are any indication! But I also like getting ideas from (don't laugh!) Victoria's Secret, Anthropologie, Free People and Nordstrom's catalogues, which also sneak into my mailbox sometimes. What magazines inspire you to sew or knit?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Model Moments At A Knitting or Fabric Store Near You*

This post got me thinking (generally hard to do in the a.m., but it is doable). If you read the article, you'll see that customers are encouraged to try on clothes and pose in front of an in-store camera. They leave and later receive a print of their modeling sessions, which are also automatically uploaded online, a natural boon for bloggers worldwide, of course. A new link for their readers! Now the shop mentioned in this Springwise story fervently hopes that the customers like the outfit they're wearing in the pictures so much that they buy it or their friends snap it up after admiring it on the Internet.

I'm just wondering how all this could be applied to the netherworlds of knitting and sewing. Both fabric and yarn stores are known for hanging handmade garments on the walls or dressing up mannequins. Now what if they encouraged shoppers to try on these same clothes and had a camera set up nearby so they could see how they look? I'll bet my well-worn U.S. dollar that these same folks are more likely to buy the pattern, and the fabric too. Knit Daily has regular folks trying on the actual sweaters, dresses, skirts, etc. modeled in the latest issue of Knitscene. Some of what I thought was ho-hum in the magazine actually looked spectacular on different shapes and figures. It was eye-opening in a way that sometimes my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee isn't.

I know there's a risk in letting people slip on one-of-a-kind garments. They can get ripped, stained or worst yet (but perhaps the ultimate compliment) stolen. But if you can deal with these kind of risks, the rewards can be great. For example, did you know that Vogue Patterns Magazine has an alliance with the Vogue Fabrics? Yes, some of the same fabric you can find in the store is used for the actual garments in the magazine! But the store doesn't promote this very well. There are some links online, but that's about it. Imagine if an in-store model wore the Vogue 1020 dress with the fabric featured on the pattern, perhaps while balancing a bolt of the fabric in one arm, with the pattern in her other hand? Not terribly graceful, but what a statement! If she did that a couple of times, the fabric would disappear in nanoseconds along with all pattern copies even though they're never on sale at Vogue. If customers could test out the dress (perhaps in a temporary exchange with their driver's licenses), I'd bet more even more sales could be rung up at the cash register.

While ready-to-wear shoppers have the advantage of actually testing out clothes they like in the store, sewers and knitters don't have that opportunity, making sales a little more difficult, especially for dress fabrics (in fabric shops) and yarns (knitting stores). Dress fabrics, even nice ones, are at least available in different price points; that's not the case in the stand-alone yarn shops. Nearly every skein (all of it generally great, I might add, which is not the case for the department-store variety).

Whatever yarn store owners can do to close the gap for knitters would be very helpful, especially when it comes to pricey, pricey fiber. These days it's a little difficult to buy $60 worth of Noro for a pretty (but untested) knitted skirt, especially when that same amount of money can buy a tank of gas. However, I'd might actually make the leap of faith (with my wallet) if I got to twirl around in the actual skirt I'm dying to make in front of a mirror and a camera. The camera set-up wouldn't be expensive either - just as an inexpensive tripod and digital camera in front of a blank wall works wonders. Upload the images to the store's blog later that day or week when time permits. Print up the picture for the store's mailers or postcards. Let people use 'em as Christmas cards, birthday cards, you-name-it cards!

Anyhow, I'm ready to get off my Cascade Soup box. Weigh in (or out) if you're so inclined.
* I have Vogue 1020, maybe I'll whip it up in time for the PatternReview invasion on Monday night.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This N' That Sunday

Nobody sent me these links, I just like 'em anyhow. I've been thinking about hats a lot, especially since I returned the Romantic Hand-Knits books without even copying the hat patterns in it. But I wanted to return the book on time so I wouldn't get fined (extending the due date wasn't an option because someone else had already reserved the book.) Here are go some hat-related URLs I like. Some of you may know,Manny's Millinery has gone kaput after a quarter-century of serving hat-lovers. Consequently, Judith M Millinery is trying to pick up the slack. (By the way, Hat Magazine has finally arrived in the U.S.! Read about it here.) Since I'm not making any hats, somehow dishcloth-inspired cocktail hats are locked into my brain. I like a bunch of patterns on Ravelry, unfortunately, I bookmarked one as a "favorite, " but there's no place for non-members to see this cutie. Sorry. However, you could always pick up a vintage variety at an antique store, stitch it to pre-made hat form, line it, and embellish with a lots of Russian veiling. Instant conversation piece!

I'm also constantly adding new blogs to my Google Reader. Recent additions include: Ann Marie Horner (gorgeous fabrics caught my eye!) and Casey's Musings got me hooked onto Liebemarlene Vintage (I'm a sucker for 1930s dresses).

Of those already on list: White Lies Designs has a post on vintage-inspired beading on those old 1950s sweaters and how to recreate that look on new projects. (For what's it's worth, I have a few old patterns that show you how to embellish ready-to-sweaters. I should dig 'em out sometime and show y'all.) Purl Bee talks about using those distinctive Japanese prints fabrics for purses and skirts, the Princess Seam has an impressive pair of self-drafted sailor pants and I'm loving this California old-button store at Craft Magazine's blog. Here's another Craftie link about kimono tops for babies and kiddies. I won't try that until I do something already about knitting pants for my latest nephew who no doubt be ready for kindergarten by the time I'm finished. If you're not into tomato pin-cushions, this whale-inspired one might rock your boat.

On the local front (as opposed to the national back), those of you in Chicago who sew might be interested in the get-together at Vogue Fabrics on Monday, July 28 that threatens to explode the Evanston store's walls. I'm thinking about being there wearing something new (as opposed to something old, which would be okay, but as said before I like a challenge, especially one that's posted to the Internet). Hold your breath (but not too long, you might pass out)....I'm pondering sewing up a top (not the spinning variety, the kind you wear). That's a cop-out (as opposed to a cop-in) when I really could be stitching up a dress, but I'm newly afraid of zippers (don't ask me why). If you can't make it to Vogue Fabrics but you like to like to knit in the Windy City, save the date for this event at Loopy Yarns.

Before, I go here are the latest poll results. It appears that most of you are currently knitting nothing, which is exactly what I'm doing. Great grey cells think alike! Don't you love knitting nothing? No gauge problems, mistakes, splitty yarn to deal. Best of all, it's free. Now I'm going back to reading the blogs on my Reader, namely Peacock Chic's Montreal adventures.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Too Hot for Modeling, Hamlet Says

Hot Hamlet, and we're not talking about a hot ham sandwich, which wouldn't appeal to me at all on this overly humid day. Anyhow, here's the groomed doggie reluctantly modeling. I'm wearing this dress. I'm about to call it quits, get some ice cream and head on over to this Evanston event with my dancing shoes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Turning Totally Tubular

Between my Dunkins Donuts iced coffee (no sugar, skim milk please) and a bowlful of my pre-lunch lentil soup, I made myself this little tubular jacket. It went laser-quick on my Viking Husqvarna 735. If I could only grow the sleeves with the textile equivalent of human growth hormones, I'd be all set. Well, I'm still all set, although I don't have a set dinner table although I could have a set TV tray if I so chose.

Why the heck am I quibbling about when this project cost me all of $1 (about 92 cents less than the drink I mentioned above)? Here are some things that made it quickety-quick for me:

1) Set the foot pressure to 4. This is a very thin woven fabric, so it constantly wants to slip away, especially under the sewing table and play footsie with the pedal. Don't let it!
2) For those with advanced Viking machines, use a J foot to create a faux-serger stitch. I "serged' all raw edges because this flamestitch fabric is soooo ravelly.
3) Play up any scallops to your advantage. I love the scallops here, even though some of them looked liked they were falling apart. I've use them as the sleeve hem.
4) Fiddle with the neck opening. I did, and it's quite fitted in a way that 1950s seamstress could appreciate, but I'm content with that.
5) Use the iron to finish the project! I pressed out those scallops and the little bit of water in my iron flattened out the scallops and made them pointy as you can see in these photos.

I'm wearing this wearing this with a black top and skirt I made, but it could work with a pair of jeans (and some kind of top obviously). I'm thinking it would be spectacular with a white sleeveless jersey top and matching wide-legged linen pants. Smashing...perfect for a trip to Ravinia, which is where this train line leads if I'm so inclined to make that trip tonight. What are you sewing this weekend?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Spurn After Reading - The Crazy Daisy 50s dress

What's not to love a dress named Caprice? It makes me think of Capri, where I've never been. What if I wear Caprice on Capri, of course, that would depend on whether I could fit this dress in all its fluffy wonderfulness in my carry-on luggage or if I would have to pay to pack (not stuff) it in something considerable larger. But even if this dress never made it off the North American continent, that would be ok, as long as I wear it. Let me amend that: as long as I make it. I just go the 1955 instructions in the mail the other day, after I won it on eBay. It calls for woven edge silk organza ribbon, 10-12 150-yard spools and Morell L'Opera 6-7 balls in color to match the ribbon. Now I'm in a thrifty mode these days when it comes to knitting or crochet and crochet calls for tons of yarns, not unlike this project, but Hancocks has spools of narrow ribbon on sale for like 77 cents right now. Maybe that would work for me and my checking account. That would be just one part of my task. The other part would be to make about 600 two-inch double petal daisies on a Crazy Daisy winder. That would actually be easy to do, especially on a slo-mo no. 22 bus pacing through a post-game Cubs crowd at the intersections of Clark and Addison Streets. I'd probably be done with most of those petals by the time I'd reach my home. Really, I think 600 would go quickly if I just set my mind to it. Somehow, I see this dress as as wedding dress, and I'm not getting married. Not even close. But who needs a wedding to wear a dress like this? It would make a pricey trip to the grocery store more tolerable (our Cook County sales tax just went up). I'd be so busy getting compliments that I would have trouble getting all my coupons in order for the cashier! Who wouldn't like to have such troubles? I would.

Anyhow, this post is going to be super-sweet and short. If you know of any nice and not too expensive 1/4-inch ribbons that might work for this project, just let me know. I need like 1,500 yards worth. If you're interested, in the latest poll results, here there are: 66.7 percent of you have extra large fabric collections; 33.3 percent has what they consider small. Congrats to both groups! I belong to the extra-large collection group. If you're keen on vintage patterns, Woodland Farms Antiques is having a sale.

Shorn, Not Shaven

Today has been an ice cream kind of day. I did have the opportunity to get a $1 fudge sundae at McDonald's earlier, but it was just too soon for something so scrumptious, but I might treat myself later, particularly after I pick up handsome Hamlet in a few hours when he's groomed at Bark Place. I suspect he will be a lot more comfortable in the humid weather once he's trimmed. If you're wondering, I will not be using his fur for yarn. That's gross, besides, he's not my dog - I'm a foster mother, and his real mama might not approve. Anyhow, isn't there better yarn out there?

Which brings me, in a bad segue, to the fabrics you see above. I've been thinking about the blue-toned flamestitch number on and off (and off and on) all day. I've got 2 1/4 yards of this 56 inch wide fabric; I feel so lucky to have it. It was the only remnant in this colorway at Vogue Fabrics' remnant table. Right now, I'm really loving just about any textile and piece of jewelry that has turquoise, brown and beige. This particular fabric has a surfeit of each! It was a steal (at least in my checkbook) at $6.73 pre-tax! I've been thinking about making it into an asymmetrical hem skirt, something swishy that makes the most of the scalloped edges. I'd even consider turning it into a dress with the right pattern. I've no idea what pattern would work with this very lightweight woven fabric, which is kind of ravelly (not Ravelry). I was actually thinking about emailing Ann Smith or even Sandra Betzina for their suggestions. I trust their taste, and somehow I believe both would appreciate the beauty of this fabric. If you've any brilliant ideas, please leave them in the comments.

The other fiery fabric you see above? There's only 1/2 a yard at 47 inches wide. Yes, very small! I got it for $1 in the Angel remnants section also at Vogue. (Everything with a Red angel stamp is a buck.) I'm thinking it could work as a tube bolero jacket, much like this one, but considerably smaller. If that doesn't work? Well, I'll work it into another garment, some way or another. Do you know I have at least two other iterations of this same flamestitch (also called bargello) fabric in my collection? I'm obsessed with it in the warped way that I adore 100 percent cotton eyelet, which I also collect. Oddly enough, there's some really nice white eyelet with a beautiful scalloped edge on the store shelf that I have not purchased, largely because I already have something similar and uncut from Anne Klein in my closet. Those other two bits of fabric I will likely turn into summer-weight sweatercoats.

By the way, those of you who are in Chicago at the end of July, a group of members are planning to meet up with Deepika at Vogue Fabrics! I'm certain we won't have to try very hard to get her to add some fabric to her own collection. I will attempt to be generous with what's in the remnant section. The operative word is try, of course, which might mean that I ensure that there's nothing there that I would like first, especially in the knits and stretch lace departments.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Robin Hood Meets Black and White Brushstrokes* Part II

Thanks LindsayT, Everyday Sewist, Christina and Sewer-Sewist for the kudos on my Robin Hood Meets Black and White Brushstrokes top. I still have to hem it, which got me thinking (which is hard to do on this day after the Independence Day weekend): Should I make a matching skirt or is that going to be just too dizzying? Vogue 2977's pull-on skirt C has elastic at the waist and free floating panels. Ann Smith did a great job on her matching top and skirt. Then again, I already have a dress in this fabric - am I ready for a third garment in this stretchy, cottony jersey (which, by the way, is very comfortable in our hot and humid weather)? Part of me is ready to move on like the fabric's old beau, but then again, another chunk of me is curious about how black and white would look full-blown from neck to knee. Would it just be an invitation for a graffiti artist to embellish me with a spray can of paint? Or would somebody just hand me a paint brush and tell me to stop goofing off and get to work? In any event, this fabric is LOUD and demands attention much like handsome Hamlet does when he wants to go outside. But my knit doesn't bark, whine, jump and scratch the door. It just simply hangs there, which is understandable because it is inanimate or it was the last time I looked at it. My other thought is to stitch up the top in this jewel blue-toned zig-zag fabric that I bought at Mood Fabrics a couple of years ago. I suppose I could scan that, then I could get your opinion, but I feel lazy right now.

Since I've officially abandoned the crochet skirt pattern (but I could return to in a triple-step heartbeat if I found a great yarn deal), I'm mulling my next knitting project. I'm really loving this Knitpicks cloche pattern. It looks so easy - strictly stockinette from what I can tell, but still somewhat challenging. It calls for Timtex for the brim. From what I can tell on Ravelry, no one else has done this particular pattern. Yippee! I love being the first (or at least apparently so - someone could have tried the pattern but just didn't review it online) to test out a project. The yarn output is small, so the cost isn't a big deal. Of course, I would use something soft, like the suggested Andean Treasure alpaca. Now do I buy it online? Or go local if only get the live help if I need it? This does look sufficiently simple that I should be able to wing it on my own for the most part with some intermittent SOS calls on Ravelry. It also appears this hat doesn't need to be blocked the way the "Romantic Handknits" ones do. (I'm chickening out on hat blocking because my headform block is buried somewhere in my storage locker and I don't want to go there now.) It's either that or a knitted bolero jacket that I could really use and would look great over this dress or paired with jeans. I just don't know. Maybe the cheapest, easiest project win! Aaack!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Robin Hood Meets Black and White Brushstrokes*

This pattern, Today's Fit by Sandra Betzina, has been described as looking on Pattern Review as something like Robin Hood might wear. If you look at the envelope cover, yes, the short-hair model does look like she might be Robin's female alter ego: short hair, a grass green top and matching skirt and brown boots. The only thing that's missing is a hat with a feather.

However, don't let the sketch scare you off. This top, Vogue 2977, is my new winner. Sandra likes to talk about how the waistband is great for camouflaging a tummy that isn't quite flat. And she's right. You can eat all the sushi you want in this top, and hide it easily. You can all the $1 ice cream fudge sundaes at McDonald's and no one would know. Finally, you can eat a blue cheese burger and salad with blue cheese dressing at Moody's Pub (my favorite) and wash it down the sangria, and not a soul will notice.

So that's what the pattern has going for it: some visual tricks. Here are some things I really liked about this particular selection:

* Betzina's suggestions in the instructions are wonderful. Why can more pattern directions be more conversational and less technical? Before today, I would peel off the paper on my Steam-A-Seam2 and it would get all over the place. Betzina suggests otherwise: place the fusible strip on the fabric, iron, then peel off the paper. Fold over fabric, press again. My life just got easier, now I'm less prone to walking outside for an appointment with bits of fusible interfacing on my clothes. Phew!
* She talks about using a woven fabric for the bodice, and stretchy one for the waistband. I haven't done this yet, but I think it would be a really striking combination. I imagine a flamestitch fabric like this with some of my favorite jersey. I think it would be very ingenious to make a skirt that matches the waistband of this top, so you would get lots of coverage, and virtually no possibility that your tummy will show even when you sit down.

What I don't like:
* The letter sizing on this top. It was a little bit confusing to be cutting out a size B on the top (34" bust) and to have an actual pattern labeled B. (By the way, I did cut out a size C on the waistband, which translates to a 38 1/2" inch hips on the pattern. I'm actually a little larger there but the streeeeeetch happily and comfortable accomodates me.)
* The facing pieces. I ditched them from the get-go based on this pattern review. I simply turned down the raw edges of my neckline and tacked it down with Steam-A-Seam2. Then I screwed on my stretch twin-needles, set my machine for a straight stitch and dropped then tension down to 2 to lessen any tunneling I might get. I also put teeny notches at the V, so the fabric would lie flat.

That's really about it. Two pluses and two minuses, adds up to a 0 and a fantastic kimono-style top in my notebook! I didn't have to make any adjustments for my long waist. I'm not completely done just yet with this top just yet - I still needle to fuse the the hem on the sleeves and the waistband bottom. I'll put the twin-needle (Schmetz Stretch Twin 130/705 H-S ZWI) when I'm ready to head home on this baby.
* Finally the fabric. You might recognize it from this dress.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

There's More Stuff Besides Stitch Witchery

Some sewers still talk about this stuff as if were the only fabric adhesive around, it's kind of like they're in a 1970s time warp and the last time they used a sewing machine was in 1976 to sew a Bicentennial flag or something else. Fast forward 22 years to 2008! Suddenly they're in front of a sewing machine again, and contemplating making something incredibly complicated like the Roland Mouret dress. The first thing they think of is the double-knit fabric (because it's what their mothers and grandmothers used in the "Brady Brunch" era) and Stitch Witchery, which is in their outdated Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing. I'm only talking about Stitch Witchery because I read about it too much on the Internet, and I virtually never see it on the notions wall at Vogue Fabrics. Okay, maybe it's there on the bottom, close to the floor. Maybe the Stitch Witchery folks don't have the leverage (read $$$) to have their product displayed at eye-level like all those big-bang food producers do at the local grocery store so that you will pick up a mega-sized box of Cheerios staring at you in the face and march to the cash register like an automaton. No, there's all sorts of sticky-stuff out there that I'm guessing was originally invented for Space Shuttle missions and whatnot, but now has been reinvented for sewers keen on making Project Runway dresses.

Personally, my favorite adhesive is Steam-a-Seam in all of its various incarnations. It's perfect for when you miss a spot on your top-stitching and you don't want to redo, or there are some rather large gaps in your blind-hem stitching. The fabric glue stick is not high on my list of "favs" because it can get gunky, all that goop can make it a little difficult to sew. So Steam-a-Seam? Bring lots of it on, even if I have to duke it out with the quilters who like it too for mitering binding on their coverlets. I just noticed on my box of Lite Steam-a-Seam2 that it "virtually disappears into lace!" (their exclamation point, not mine) It certainly did do that when I applied to it the neckline of my Santa Monica Tee, which I continue to admire in the mirror even two days later. "Wow, that twin-needle stitching looks soooo good!" I tell my mirror image every time I'm in the bathroom. I'm certain that Mirror-Image Me will thwop Real Me next time I say that.

It's good to know too, that "Lite Steam-A-Seam2 poses no chronic or adverse health effects when used as intended and conforms to LHAMA Regulations, ASTM D4236-94. Testing is in accordance with guidelines specified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 16 CFR 1500.135. Phew. That's comforting to read, compared to all those artificial colors you read about on a box of cereal.

I must really love this stuff because I periodically find bits of trying to bond with the clothes I'm wearing, not sewing. I suppose it's the 21-century equivalent of having threads hanging off it you. Wearing tiny bits of Steam-A-Seam says, "I sew, how about you?" It certainly makes for interesting conversation if you go out to lunch and your friend tells you, "You've got a little bit of paper or tape or something on your skirt." My friends, this is the time to sing the praises of sewing and Steam-A-Seam. Show your lunchtime companion your fused hem even if you have to get up and show a little leg to do it. Your waiter (or waitress) will no doubt wonder what you're doing, but that's okay. You're doing a little show-and-tell, the adult variety. If your friend is male, he will be amused; female, she will be impressed and want to sew too, even if that means she ends up going to social engagements with bits of you-know-what hanging off her behind or sleeve. I just thought of something. I had a high-school geometry teacher (who nearly flunked me!) who got so passionate about her topic, that she ended up getting chalk all over her clothes. We students would laugh at her. Well, now I understand completely, when I walk out of my home with Seam-A-Steam2 on my elbow, a two-inch piece of black thread clinging for dear life on my light pink top (which I naturally sewed). Granted now, it's not quite equivalent to wearing a quarter-mile expanse of chalk dust, still, it's close. It marks me as the absent-minded sewer, someone so completely absorbed in her craft, she not only forgets time but she ends up wearing her tools, not just using them. That's me in a nutshell. A truly astute friend who sees me with thread bits can simply say, "'ve been sewing again?"

Now I'm not about to carry Steam-A-Seam with me, but I will bring safety pins to fix a faltering hem that's threatening to trip me as walk across an intersection. (This actually happened to me recently as I was on the way to Martini Park. The hem on my homesewn sweatercoat had a mid-intersection tussle with a Natural Comfort wedgie. Next thing I know I'm splayed stomach first on the crosswalk, my cell phone split in two on the cement. I see cars coming at me and I think this is It. Thankfully, two guys help me off the ground before any of those vehicles come close. I haven't fixed the blind-hem stitch on that sweatercoat, but I should before I wear it again. Right now, it's pinned up because I've got other tops to sew. You'd think I'd learn after bloodying up both knees and ruining my one pair of sheer black stockings.)

Anyway, the best time to stock up on Steam-A-Seam (I nearly said Stitch Witchery. Heavens to Betsy!) is at a sale. I'm certain it will be up for grabs in a marked-down sort of way (40 percent off! 50 percent off!) this weekend when both Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hancocks have their dueling version of Red, White and Blue blow-out sales to commemorate the Fourth of July. If I'm not too busy celebrating, I just might mosey down to either store. This time around, I'm far more likely to pick up more patterns to add to my already gargantuan supply of beige-colored tissue paper in my bedroom.

I'm running out of stuff to write about in this profuse testimonial, but I think I must to go the bathroom and admire the neckline on my Santa Monica Tee. It certainly beats looking at any pimples that dare to mess with my complexion.

Enough of all that, it's time to read the updated sewing blogs on my Google reader. What are your favorite sewing adhesives?