Monday, January 30, 2012

Colorblocking Fun + Sewing Schemes Overload

8-Gored Skirt 7 Colorblocked Ways

Yet ANOTHER project to add to the in-progress mountain--my Kwik Sew 2771 color-blocking experiment for Sew Grateful week.

Guys, I'm getting a bit overwhelmed over here. The more I get back into sewing and knitting, the more obsessed and excited I become--and the more frustrated at how my limited making-stuff time inhibits my ability to actually FINISH any of my grand schemes. February is practically here and I don't have a single finished object to show you!

Z and I went to the Brooklyn Burdastyle Sewing Club meetup yesterday (we meet every month and Manhattanites are also welcome!) and it was awesome. We hadn't been since she was a wee wee not-yet-walking thing and it was so great to see everyone again and all the fabulous things they've been sewing. We're going to meet up again two weekends from now in the Garment District for a little shopping expedition.

I had stayed up way past my bedtime the night before trying to finish my wide-leg corduroy trousers for the meetup, but got tripped up by waistband treatment indecision (petersham? interfacing? both? elastic-backed waist? what?!) and had to wear a skirt I sewed out of $2 polyester polka dots back in 2005. Which bummed me out. Because I have such grand plans, and SO many unfinished or almost-started projects! Currently--in vague order of (hoped-for) completion:

The Wide-Leg Trousers of Eternity

Stripes + Wales trouser outfit sketch

  • The dream: Create stylish and comfortable dark cuffed corduroy trousers that I can wear for work and weekend.
  • The reality: I knew so little about making pants that even with the help of four books and a DVD it has taken me more than a month of agony to get these things properly fit and almost but not quite constructed. (Seriously, pants are HARD. Just ask the Slapdash Sewist).
  • What's done: I've finally got the fit about right, I think--I ended up having to pin out two inches (?!) from the hip area, partly due to randomly losing a small amount of weight since I muslined these things a month ago, and partly due to the mysterious differences between muslin and fashion fabric.
  • What's not: The waistband.
  • What's stopping me: Over-ambition. If I was following the pattern directions I'd be done ages ago, but I stubbornly resolved to try and make them more versatile and comfortable by using a petersham-faced front and an elastic-faced back waistband... This from someone who had no idea how to construct a fly front or put in pockets.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: High. I have only one pair of other pants I like to wear and they are rather frayed at the bottom hem. And once these are done to my liking, I plan to clone them quickly and repeatedly.
  • Status: Go go go!
  • Hope for eventual completion? Tomorrow night?

The Pretty in Plum Tomten Jacket of Perpetuity

Striped Toddler Tomten progress

  • The dream: Make a fun, warm, chunky stripey soft wool hooded sweater for my daughter--something oversized that she can grow into. Seriously, why are almost all RTW kid's sweaters--even pricier ones--made out of cotton, acrylic, or fleece? Don't kids need to be warm too? Surely I could whip up such a thing in a weekend!
  • The reality: Three months of occasional knitting later, I am finally ready to make sleeves--if I have enough yarn.
  • What's done: The body.
  • What's not: The sleeves, hood, and zipper.
  • What's stopping me: I mostly knit during my weekly workplace knitting group and on the subway--I reserve the evening hours for sewing.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: None, as my aunt just bought Z a hand-knit sweater and hat set from a knitter friend of hers.
  • Status: Keep on knitting like a snail!
  • Hope for eventual completion? In a few weeks?

The Sudden Urge to Colorblock Skirt

(see sketch at top of post)

  • The dream: Achieve a super-quick sewing win for Sew Grateful week with a basic Kwik Sew knit skirt pattern given to me by my beloved grandmother Melba, using the sewing machine and serger she left me when she died in 2004.
  • The reality: I haven't even ordered the fabric yet because I can't decide on a color scheme (leaning towards #1) and I worry about buying wool jersey fabric I haven't touched or inspected, even if it is on sale for an amazing $7.50/yard.
  • What's done: The sketch.
  • What's not: Everything.
  • What's stopping me: Colorblocking roadblock.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: Sew Grateful week is in... a week!
  • Status: Must order fabric!
  • Hope for eventual completion? Yes!

The Mitered Mittens in Way More Than a Minute

Mitered Mittens for Next Winter progress

  • The dream: Persuade my mitten-averse daughter to cover her adorable little hands before she catches frostbite.
  • The reality: These Malabrigo mitered mittens from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac should have been done in like, five minutes, but I keep feeling guilty I'm not working on the sweater.
  • What's done: Almost one mitten.
  • What's not: The thumb, the other mitten.
  • What's stopping me: Inability to focus.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: Low—my parents just bought her six pairs of mittens before I could finish these.
  • Status: Plugging along.
  • Hope for eventual completion? Yes.

The Vintage Valentine's Day Red Dress

1940s Du Barry Dress Showdown Enevelope Illustration with my croquis

  • The dream: Make a sexy red 1940s vintage dress in time for Valentine's Day. Or at the very least for the Pattern Review Little Red Dress Contest this February.
  • The reality: That's barely two weeks away.
  • What's done: Drew the sketch, bought the fabric. And yes, I'm going with Du Barry 5525--the sweetheart neckline one.
  • What's not: Tracing the pattern, grading the pattern, making a muslin, fitting, altering, cutting out slippery silk fabric... EVERYTHING.
  • What's stopping me: The physical constraints of space-time. Also, the Little Red Dress contest rules specify no cutting of fabric til February.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: High—now that I've told you all about it.
  • Hope for eventual completion? I WILL MAKE THIS DRESS.

The Cabled Cashmere Toddler Sweater Refashion

Cabled Cashmere Cardigan Toddler Refashion Picks

  • The dream: Serge up a quick soft sweater and set of leggings for my daughter from a gigantic thrifted cabled cashmere sweater.
  • The reality: Er...
  • What's done: Thrifted the sweater (it was red, and just $4), found inspiration pictures, paged through Ottobre magazine stash for a base pattern.
  • What's not: Oh, you know. EVERYTHING ELSE.
  • What's stopping me: I think I'm going to pass out now.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: Low—this should be a fun quick refashion.
  • Hope for eventual completion? Sure-ish.

And I haven't even mentioned the Colette Macaron I started to adjust...

Sheath Dress Showdown Sketch

Or the cabled alpaca hat I almost finished but will have to unravel and reknit an inch bigger so as to prevent tight hat headaches:

Blue Alpaca 18 Seconds to Sunrise Hat in Progress


In other news--hello to all my new readers and thanks for visiting! Looks like I'm approaching 150 followers--when I get there I promise to host a vintage pattern giveaway.

So tell me: how overwhelmed are you by your sewing schemes? How often do you feel like this?

Sewing Cartoon: Death By Unfinished Object

P.S. Just realized I ALSO forgot the Ottobre baby cord overalls which go with the above sweater, which I've already cut out and are all ready to sew:

Stripes & Wales Sweater & Overalls toddler outfit sketch

Thursday, January 26, 2012

1940s Red Dress Showdown (Du Barry Edition): Sweetheart vs. Peplum?

1940s Du Barry Dress Showdown Enevelope Illustration with my croquis

I totally went back in time to 1942 and posed for some Du Barry pattern envelope illustrations!

Vintage lovers, I have the most exciting news for you! I HAVE BENT THE FABRIC OF THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM... all in the name of sewing, of course.

The idea came to me when I showed my husband the below two vintage pattern envelopes and asked him which dress would be more sexy and adorable for our upcoming Valentine's Day date.

"Sorry babe," he said, "It's really hard to tell—those illustration models are way too bony!" (Apologies to the more slender among you--this is his husbandly way of saying "honey, you look great the way you are", and I won't pretend I don't love it.)

So I tinkered around with some presser feet, rick rack and stretch lace for a bit, cobbled together a workable time-travel device, and paid a visit to the Du Barry pattern studios. I was like "Guys, all your super-stylized illustrations make it hard for the not-totally-waspwaisted among us way-in-the-future seamsters/seamstresses to picture how a dress will look on our actual bodies" and they were like "Wow, that's an excellent point."

Sadly I lost the device on my journey home, but c'est la vie! Anyway, the dress pros and cons:

Du Barry 5525 (early 1940s?):

  • Pros: Sweetheart neckline, reverse sweetheart fitted hip yoke, beautiful drapey skirt.
  • Cons:Will require grading up a size, something I've never attempted. And the sweetheart isn't as low-cut as I'd like. Also, I'm totally nervous about attempting 40s shoulder pads for the first time--I have really narrow shoulders!

Du Barry 5505 (1942):

  • Pros: Love the princess seams, love the skirt gores, LOVE THE PEPLUM. Also, no grading--just a little tweaking of fit and my usual major FBA.
  • Cons: Neckline super high, not very sexy. I tried to mitigate this in my croquis sketch by colorblocking and making the sleeves into cap sleeves, but not sure if it worked.

I did play with some other color options, but red clearly won the day:

1940s Du 1940s Du Barry Dress ShBarry Dress Showdown Alternative Color Options

For fabric, I went a-swatching at my favorite Garment District store, Paron's:

Fabric swatches for vintage 40s dress

They were having a store-wide 30-60% off sale, so I didn't limit myself to the half-off annex this time. My options were (clockwise starting with the purple):

  1. Purple rayon crepe. (Not red, but it was the only rayon crepe in the annex).
  2. Christian Dior red rayon/silk blend. Really nice but a bit orange-y in real life (and this is the rare case where I didn't want orange.
  3. Deep red silk crepe with a hint of stretch.
  4. Lovely soft thin 100% wool crepe.
  5. Lovely soft thick wool/nylon/stretch blend crepe.

The wool/nylon/stretch was my initial favorite—I just love working with wool, whether sewing or knitting—and would have been perfect for the bodice... but it was too thick and didn't have enough drape for the skirt. I went back the next day to get the red silk crepe stretch mainly because it looked so awesome when I stood in front of a mirror trying to pretend the bolt was a real dress.

And there you have it. So: who wins the showdown? Which dress would YOU make? I've already chosen, but I'm not telling—yet.

P.S. This is a case where a croquis really comes in handy, as I demonstrated recently in my little "How to Dress Your Digital Dress Form" demo/tutorial video (see related blog post for references, tips and details):

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The ABC Toddler Tea Table (IKEA Hack by My Amazing Mom)

There's been a whole lot of sewing and knitting going on over here... I counted it all up and realized I'm currently super actively working on a pair of trousers, some toddler overalls, a Colette dress, a vintage Du Barry dress (more on that later—super exciting!), a hooded sweater AND a pair of mitered mittens... all in a sparse 1 - 2 hours per day. Now that I'm back into the making of things, I AM OBSESSED. Er... this is a familiar feeling.

Sadly, I have no finished objects to photograph this month—yet. But I do have a fabulous IKEA hack to show you, courteous of my amazing mom (last seen helping to solve a vintage sewing genealogy mystery at My Happy Sewing Place).

It started life as a $19.99 unfinished IKEA Lätt set. Little Ms. Z loved nothing better than sitting at her table and coloring with her crayons or partaking of imaginary tea:

It was unfinished and a little boring, so my parents took it home with them to give it a makeover, leaving Z the table my dad built for me and my brother when we were kids in the meantime. My mom stuck down some sticky foam letters and shapes she had lying around...

Then she spraypainted the Lätt red, creating an awesome relief effect (we're letting it air-dry for a while before Z gets it back, though, as I'm not sure of the paint's VOC levels). And she sewed little pockets for the chair backs for Z to keep her crayons in. Voila!

Oh, and just for fun, my mom also made some snow globes featuring photos of Z in the Tea Party dress I made for her—I believe glitter, glycerine and some cheap jars and vases from Michael's were involved:

P.S. Even if you're exclusively a sewer and not yarn-inclined, you might relate to this post by the Yarn Harlot on startitis and its aftermath.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Video Tutorial: Try On Patterns Before You Sew With a Digital Dress Form (Croquis)

Here it is, folks—my long-promised video tutorial on how I dress my digital croquis, based on my Colette Pastille vs. Colette Macaron sheath dress showdown! It's just three minutes long, so please take a look and share with your friends, embed on your own blog, whatever!

If you have any questions about a specific part of the video, leave them in the comments and I'll answer them in annotations directly on the video.

Now that I watch it critically, perhaps it's more of a "demo" than a tutorial, as it doesn't really go into the real nitty-gritty—what size paintbrushes to use, how to do a proper selection for filling, how to use layers, or how to create repeat fabric patterns, etc. Do you need to know that stuff too?

So I'd really love your feedback:

  • How's my genereal script/approach/use of images/video?
  • Is it too long/too short?
  • Is my narration understandable, or too fast/mumbly?
  • Are there some bits you're more interested in than others?
  • Should I do more of these? The other tutorial I've been promising to do for about two years now is how to create a really robust digital croquis in the first place using a variety of methods—digital, hand, etc.
  • Would it be better as a series of printable photos and text than a video?

The details: I captured the demo with iShowU, and edited it and recorded the voiceover in iMovie. I found the voiceover the most challenging part—at first I tried to wing it, but I kept stumbling over my words so my film-school-grad husband suggested I script it. Here's my rough script with some notes/links:

Mikhaela Reid here from Polka Dot Overload with a demo of how I “try on” sewing patterns using my customized digital dress form, or croquis.

With a little practice, you can plan your sewing wardrobe, design fun details and play with palettes and fabrics. Best of all, you can preview how a design will look on YOUR awesome shape before you cut—or even buy—your pattern or fabric. This is particularly great for use with vintage patterns with really stylized envelope drawings.

Back when I was super pregnant, I used my croquis to create storyboards and plan extensive modifications to non-maternity patterns.

So let’s talk tools:

  • First, you need a croquis. This could be one you traced by hand and scanned or drew directly into the computer. (Tutorial forthcoming, I swear!)
  • You’ll need images of your planned fabric, whether you’ve already purchased it or not. I keep all my fabric stash photos catalogued by color and type in Flickr, because I am obsessive.
  • A pressure-sensitive graphics tablet is optional—but I can't recommend it highly enough. Drawing with a mouse is clumsy and awkward, like drawing with a bar of soap—a pen tablet lets you draw naturally and create thicks and thins that look brush or pen-drawn just by changing pressure. I use a Wacom Intuos, but you can get a small Wacom Bamboo for $77 new, and I've seen used Bamboos or Graphires go for as little as $20 on eBay—less than the cost of some presser feet. Don't worry about size—even the smallest one can do what you need for this.
  • Finally, you’ll need digital image-manipulation software with the ability to paint and use layers and patterns. I use Manga Studio (speciality software for cartoonists—you don't really need it, I just happen to be really comfortable in it) and PhotoShop (just don't have TOO much fun with it) but GIMP is a great open-source PhotoShop alternative that does most of what PhotoShop can do for the excellent price of FREE GRATIS.

So let’s get started. I’m going to speed this up, but the entire process usually takes me from 15 minutes to an hour—drawing and coloring these two dresses took about 20 minutes total.

Here’s a grayed out photo of me in a tank top on which I’d already drawn my croquis on another layer. For reference, I’ve pulled up the pattern flats for the Colette Macaron and a photo of Mena from the Sew Weekly wearing her lovely version.

I usually start with one of the key lines of the design, in this case the mock sweetheart neckline. I keep the fabric in mind—is it stiff? soft? stretchy—and how it will hang from my body in real life. It wouldn’t be realistic to draw lots of soft pleats or folds in a stiff fabric with no drape. I also think carefully about ease. In this case I’m working with a firm cotton stretch woven and I plan to make the dress very fitted, so I draw the outlines very close to my actual contours...

And then I ran out of patience and winged the rest of it. And if you listen, you'll see I had to edit out a lot of the above for time's sake, too.

Recommended reading: If you're interested in a good reference book on how to render garment details...

  • Fashion school textbooks like Fashion Sketchbook (which I bought used at the FIT bookstore) or 9 Heads are excellent but extremely expensive.
  • Fantastic Fit For Every Body has a great section on drawing your own croquis, whether you're an artist or not!
  • Also, remember, that they're teaching you to render the unrealistic and superstylized 9-heads-or-more-tall fashion figure—which is the opposite of what we're trying to do here with our custom-made-for-our-awesome-real-bodies croquis.

    But really, the best thing is just to study real clothing and fabric, and practice, practice, practice. I love these sketches Lladybird has been doing with her croquis by hand, and she claims she's "no artist", just "pretty good at copying stuff."

Enjoy! I'm dying to know what you all think of this—please let me know. And if this tutorial/demo inspires you or helps you in your sewing planning adventures, please leave a comment with a link to your projects so I can see them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pretty on the Inside?

"My curator friend pointed to some very minimal overcasting and the lack of a lining inside a couture bustier, remarking how dramatically it disproved the home sewer's traditional conviction that well-made clothes must look as beautifully finished on the inside as the outside."

—David Page Coffin, from "What is Quality Construction?" in Making Trousers for Men and Women: A Multimedia Sewing Workshop.

And there you have it folks--INDISPUTABLE PROOF that my lazy preference for pinking my seams is actually a couture-like virtue.*

Anyway, there will be no sewing tonight, seamsters. I'm just too tired after last night's basting marathon. Instead I'm curling up in bed with the above book and DVD/Combo.

When I first started my trousers project I was far more interested in fit and the sewing process and this book and the accompanying DVD's exhaustive hundreds of pages of close-up photos of interior and exterior shots of trousers trousers trousers just overwhelmed me. But as I approach the waistband and pocket construction, I'm suddenly totally fascinated and happy to peer at great length at a variety of waistband finishing techniques until I pass out mid-pants-construction-photo stare.

In other news, I finally received the 10 patterns I ordered from the 99 cents sale... and honestly, I think maybe five of them are duds, and none of them are helping my overburdened pattern stash problem. The only one I'm super excited about is the 1941 vintage reissue Simplicity 3688 trousers that you've probably seen looking so awesome on the always inspiring Debi:

I realized that what I really want are trousers that hit at or above the natural waist, and these fit the bill perfectly (the pair I'm currently making are 1.5" below natural waist).

*OK, I lie. One of the most fun things ever about making your own garments can be the extra love and care and fun, unexpected interior details and beautiful seam finishes... and I love seeing the cool stuff all you all are doing with the insides of your dresses and blouses and skirts. So go for it you have the time and inclination and that's your thing. But pinking and plain old basic overcasting are good, honest seam finishes too.

So what's your seam finishing philosophy? Do you lovingly bind all seams with colorful silk bias tape... Or do you take my mom's approach and just leave all seams in their natural, fray-as-they-will state?

Perfect Pants (Trouser Try-On Reveal!)

Comfy Pants Perfection

Yes, by "perfect" I'm talking about my daughter's RTW toddler pants above--the perfectly adjustable kind with the magical internal buttonhole elastic which holds them up over perfectly adorable toddler rear ends.

"Perfect" also describes my Imaginary Happy Pants, which:

  1. Hit at the natural waist or nearly so, leaving no ridiculous stretch-mark revealing gap between shirt and pants
  2. Have a comfortable, yet firm contour waistband with an invisible hint of elastic in the back
  3. Never fall down (but don't require a belt or belt loops--metal belt buckles give me a rash)
  4. Don't sag below my flat rear
  5. Make my flat rear look bigger/rounder
  6. Hold in, yet don't bind the tummy (I will admit to being forever spoiled by the perfect magic of stretchy comfy tummy paneled maternity pants).
  7. Give me the sudden and mysterious desire to sing out loud with joy and dance on rooftops.

Unfortunately, "perfect" does not yet describe my ACTUAL pants, which I basted together and tried on in the dark navy corduroy fashion fabric for the first time last night:


By the time I realized I should have also attached the waistband and pressed in the pleats and carefully pinned up the cuffs if I wanted to actually learn anything about fit from this exercise, it was long past time for bed. Remember, here's the intention:

Stripes + Wales trouser outfit sketch

I do realize that these loose-fitting trousers are definitely not going to accomplish Imaginary Happy Pants Goal #5 above--when asked for his assessment, my husband cautiously answered that, if anything, they make things look even flatter back there. But at this point I'm not going to mess with adding back pockets for padding. Maybe next version (if there is a next version).

Oh, and if you're wondering why these pants still aren't done well enough already, well, let me give you a brief window into a typical sewing session for me... The Sew Weekly this ain't!:

9:15 p.m.Enter MIKHAELA, our dashing Polka Dot protagonist, tiptoeing carefully from nursery and closing door.

TODDLER Z: (barely audible from nursery whispering quietly and sleepily to dolls in crib--her stuffed purple doggie and the glowworm she has arbitrarily named "Nu-Nu") Doggie! Nu-Nu! Doggie... Nu-Nu...

MIKHAELA rushes frantically around apartment setting up various sewing equipment--opening sewing cabinet in bedroom, setting up iron in living room and cutting/work area on dining table, getting out assorted rulers, rotary cutters, cutting mats, patterns, fabric, notions, tools... kitchen sinks... etc. TODDLER Z is now silent, presumably sleeping.

Finally, an exhausted MIKHAELA sits down at work (dining) table, stares at pattern pieces, sighs dramatically, realizes she has no idea how to assemble a fly front, pulls out five reference manuals, discovers fly front on her pattern appears to be backwards, begins to read/weep with frustration and...

9:30 p.m. TODDLER Z: (loudly, from nursery) MOMMY! MOMMY! Hi! Hi! Mommy! Hi!

Yeah. Helpful tips for time-pressed sewers don't even begin to cover it! It took me TWO nights to cut them out (and I still haven't cut out the waistband facing, because I haven't decided how to finish it) and THREE nights just to insert the fly zipper. Really, I've discovered the most helpful tip of all is just lowered expectations. I just have to accept the fact that at this point in my life I'm not going to sew a garment a week, or tailor an amazing wool coat, or make a boned couture-inspired ballgown... er...

Goals do help, though. So I'm setting myself a quite-reasonable goal of one me-made garment for myself and one me-made garment for the toddler per month, for a total of 24 for the year--a reasonable portion of which I hope to become TNT patterns. And I'm looking ahead to events that might require fancy dressing (weddings, parties, etc.) and thinking about what I might sew for those to give myself plenty of lead time. So I'll maybe do up a planning post soonish...

I also think I might cut back on the muslins, since they take so long and I don't need to work around a preggo belly anymore. I need to attack my stash anyway--I might try more pin-fitting and fashion-fabric tweaking and testing items in wearable but not precious fabric, which is what I've always done with knits anyway with mostly happy results.

I mean, seriously--I've actually never made a test garment that didn't fit better than most ready-to-wear, so what do I have to lose? For example, what's the point of muslining my upcoming Franken-Colette dress in non-stretchy muslin when I'm making the real thing from stretch cotton? I should just use a less precious stretch cotton, no?

But I digreess. The pants end is near... and I'm getting excited to actually wear these things to work in the forseeable future. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In Passionate Defense of Orange

Super duper thing-linked photo shoot of a small selection of the orange clothing items I hold near and dear

Orange orange orange. I love orange. I love my orange dresses, my orange shoes, my orange sweatshirt, my orange necklaces and my orange scarf. If I had orange socks and orange boots and orange hats and orange bras, I would love them too (hmmm...).

I love the orange sweater that I knit for my daughter...

Orange & Blue Baby Surprise Jacket -- Front

... and the orange sweater and hat that my Aunt Becky knit for her too.

"Maine Doggies" Orange Baby Sweater & Hat

And the yellow, brown and ORANGE dress I made for her:

Z's Orange Tea Party dress

And the orange newborn dress from her Nana she barely fit into for a week:

The Baby Z Adventures, Episode 2!

And I REALLY miss the orange and white cats I had as a kid--Ozma and Hecuba--and my sickly little orange and white cat Riley:

Jazz-playing turtleneck-wearing kitty

You guys, I love orange so much I even married an Orange man. (That's right--Masheka went to Syracuse).

I will wear orange no matter what the season, and no matter what the trends, whether it is hot, not, or totally over and out. In fact, I have all this lovely orange cotton stretch sateen I got from Fabric-Mart a while back at $1/yard...


And I'm so going to make a bright orange shirt dress with it!

And I haven't even mentioned home decor--I've got an orange bathroom, orange towels, an orange Le Creuset dutch oven and orange bowls and plates and serving dishes and Z has an orange water bottle and orange blocks and ... But I digress.

In sum, orange--whether bright, burnt, subdued, or neon--is beautiful, transcendent and fabulous. (Just ask Clio).

Whatever a CERTAIN one of my FAVORITE sewing bloggers and some cruel commenters might imply. (For shame, Male Pattern Boldness! What could be bolder than orange? Isn't there orange in your blog header photo?!)

P.S. Like Clio, I was in the process of knitting orange socks when I read Peter's anti-orange attack. Unfortunately, they got destroyed in the aftermath of my little photo shoot...


Friday, January 13, 2012

No Stash Fail: Books, Pattern, Magazine, Notion AND Fabric Acquisition

Oliver + S Ice Cream Dress and Family Reunion Dress-v2

It doesn't count as stashing when you're supporting independent pattern companies and your local independent yarn/quilting shop... RIGHT?

Since all my projects -- my wide-legged trousers (now cut in fashion fabric), Z's corduroy overalls (pattern traced) and striped sweater (past the armpits now!), my Franken-Colette-dress (pattern alterations in progess), my wardrobe domination -- were proceeding along just fine this week (albeit at a SNAIL's pace since Z is on a no-sleep strike)... I decided to throw a wrench in the works and completely fail at my "no stashing" New Year's resolution.

But ladies and gentlemen, I couldn't help it!

I mean, is it my fault that Z's FAVORITE playground is just a few (well... ten) blocks from Brooklyn General? And is it my fault that they sell Oliver + S and Colette patterns and vintage buttons and super-cute Japanese cottons? Image of the patterns and buttons is above--here's a poor-quality fluorescent-lit inaccurate photo of the beautiful soft Kokka Trefle floral I bought to make the Family Reunion Dress for Z:

Kokka Trefle Japanese Purple Floral Cotton

And is it my fault that the internet sells sewing-related books that can be purchased by me with my debit card? I told you all before how much I loved Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby, but now that Z has outgrown those patterns I told myself I just HAD to get the toddler version...

Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby/Toddlers Cover

Which was a big disappointment. Sewing for Baby is full of versatile timeless baby classics--rompers, dresses, bloomers, shorts, sleepers, pants, onesies, T-shirts, etc--and all kinds of wonderful advice on how to play with those patterns (add puff sleeves, trims, ribbing, hoods, snaps, etc.). Here's the basic pattern overview, with the Polka Dot Seal of Sewing Approval:

Kwik-Sew's Sewing for Baby Pattern Reference-v2

Sewing for Toddlers on the other hand... well, it's basically a bunch of oversized 80s drop-shouldered color-blocked T-shirt and sweatshirt variations. The instructions and tips are excellent as in all Kwik-Sew books, but I just can't see myself making anything based on those master patterns for Z, with the possible exception of the hooded raglan sweatshirt.

Kwik-Sew's Sewing for Toddlers Pattern Reference v2

Even the dress pattern is just instructions for a lengthened T-shirt:

Kwik-Sew's Sewing for Toddlers Spread Example

Overall, it's the toddler equivalent of the Kwik-Sew Sweatshirts Unlimited book. So I had no choice but to wash away the disappointment with this:

Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear Cover

Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear by Winifred Aldrich (found via this helpful children's pattern book roundup)--a black & white pattern drafting textbook with clear instructions and line drawings on how to draft flat (simplified and somewhat loose-fitting) and form (more fitted) pattern blocks for children from birth to 14 years. It is AWESOME and has basic blocks and variations for knits, wovens, bodices, pants, outerwear, you name it. A sample spread:

Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear Sample Spread

Seriously, it's really hard to find cute basic toddler patterns (Oliver + S being the exception). The big 4 pattern companies have very limited selection--mostly just fancy dresses. Ottobre Design magazine is awesome and inspiring, but I have a very specific idea in mind of some of the fun things I'd like to make for Z, and they're not all represented in the six or so issues I have. Plus I think I'll feel like a superstar designing and drafting some of her clothes from scratch, no? I should be able to do it in Adobe Illustrator easily enough.

And while we're talking books, here are some of the other books that jumped off various bookshelves in the Garment District into my arms back in 2010, right before my blogging/sewing hiatus... I'm excited to try them out now!


I bought Grading Techniques for Fashion Design to get some tips for grading my vintage patterns, and Draping for Fashion Design because I am deluded--I don't even have a proper dress form to drape on (more on that later).


Making Beautiful Bras and Making Beautiful Swimwear I ordered from author Lee Ann Burgess in Australia, along with the accompanying DVD at the same time as I ordered a Pin-Up Girls bra pattern and a host of supplies from Bra-Makers Supply. I had had some encouraging success making soft nursing bras and wanted to get to the underwire level of serious bra-chitecture.

Which reminds me--is it my fault the new issue of Threads had an article on bra-making and insisted on coming home with me while I was buying petersham, elastic, zippers, buttons and other notions at Pacific Trimming during my lunch break?

Almost finally, another drafting book acquisition from 2010 at some Garment District shop or other:


Patternmaking for Fashion Design, a huge and quite comprehensive pattern drafting textbook for women, men, children and teens (but not for toddlers or babies). This thing is huge and full of detailed instructions, illustrations, ideas and exercises to make every possible type of garment... but I will warn you that some of it is quite offensive from a body-image perspective--particularly the section on figure analysis, which pits the "ideal," "perfect," and "pleasing" model-type figures against the rest of us in a pretty ridiculous and judgmental way--Fit for Real People or Fantastic Fit for Everybody this is not!:


Maybe I'll just tear those pages out? It is coil-bound...

Don't you just love reading sewing books and imagining all the amazing things you'll do with all those ideas? It's half the fun of sewing itself without any of the actual work. And I do think it really helps inspire me and help me better understand garment design and construction, though it's no substitute for actually MAKING things.

And yes, I have a book problem. My husband and I have over 4,000 books in our little apartment--several walls are just floor-to-ceiling shelves with books stacked two or three deep.

Finally, is it my fault that TEN Simplicity patterns jumped into my online shopping cart during the 99 cents Simplicity sale? They haven't actually arrived yet so I'll share my shame assessment later.

So... what sewing books have you been digging lately? (Besides the Colette book that we ALL seem to have now!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Let's Play: Sheath Dress Showdown! (Colette Edition)

Sheath Dress Faceoff Sketch

Readers, sometimes sewing just isn't ... FUN. And that is unacceptable. Considering how limited my sewing time is, I just can't afford to feel like I'm taking my sewing medicine or paying my sewing dues or gritting my sewing teeth. I need to be having a party at the sewing machine, a cut-up at the cutting table, so lost in what I'm doing that the time flies by and I look forward to each step.

And for me, fun generally involves bright fabric with a bold print.

So whilst waiting for petersham and zipper for my trousers to arrive in the mail, I pulled this fabulous stretch cotton (acquired ages ago at Mood) from the stash:

Ink paint turquoise stretch cotton

What a hot number, am I right? All my patterns want to ask her out! But I only have two yards, so I had all my sheath dress patterns do a little strut down the fashion runway of my mind... The top two you can see in my sketch above--Colette Pastille and Colette Macaron.

The other contenders:

Vintage McCall's 5955 Slim keyhole dress

Vintage McCall's 5955.

  • Pro: Love the keyhole!
  • Con: Neckline too prim, could lead to dreaded uniboob look.

Vintage Simplicity 3045 Slenderette Dress

Vintage Simplicity 3045 Slenderette (1959), view 2.

  • Pro: Hello sexy scallops!
  • Con: I fear the belly pleats.

Vogue 8280

The ever-popular Roland Mouret Vogue 8280.

  • Pro: Such an awesome shape.
  • Con: Print may overwhelm detailing.

Vogue 9668

Vogue 9668, bodice from first view and skirt from the second.

  • Pro: I have wanted to make this pattern from FOREVER. One of the first in the stash.
  • Con: I think this pattern prefers drapey rayon.

So I was leaning strongly towards Pastille because I think that fitted carved-out shape (minus pleating) is perfect for this fabric, maybe with a nice black belt... and my husband was really excited for me to use the book since he bought it for me.

Also, looking at my croquis sketch I have my doubts about how Macaron will look on me--it has similar fearful belly pleats as the vintage pattern above.

But then I realized my yardage is only 48" wide, which actually eliminates ALL of the options. Except Macaron. I have some black swiss dot in the stash for the yoke. Likely the same type of swiss dot The Sew Weekly's Mena Trott used in this Macaron, although I do worry about mixing stretch and non-stretch wovens... we shall see. Anyway:

Macaron wins by default!


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