Saturday, October 25, 2014

Backlog and hop blog

Hmmm, it has been a while. I can't show my latest project because my progress on it is going in a negative direction. Literally. The waistband has come off, pockets have been taken apart, and I'm considering redoing the bottom of the invisible zipper to get rid of that nasty bump. Sooo . . . it's not the finished object I briefly thought it was.

But wait: Let's look a little deeper in the closet, where some unblogged pieces still lurk, for a weather-appropriate outfit that I can show. The top is Vogue 8248, a Very Easy pattern. I did post a review on Pattern Review quite a while ago. Doesn't it look like the exact same shirt as the one I'm wearing today? It's not. The fabric I used for that first version was too stiff, so I remade the top in a nice soft wool that happened to be the very same shade of deep red.

The skirt is Simplicity 9825, a set of slim and A-line skirts with yoke and front center seam. Below you can almost see, behind the unexpectedly well defined tree shadows and in front of the disaster that is our yard at this time of year, the pocket flaps that I lifted from Version B for my A-line skirt. They are fake. No actual pockets here. Not only did I choose this version of the skirt my own personal self, but I also substituted some pieces of black twill tape I had lying around for the suggested (and somewhat classier) leather strips. Fortunately, all the tops I would wear with this skirt are long enough to cover up my cheap trick.

Sue of Fadanista has kindly invited me to join the blog hop. I very much enjoy seeing Sue's elegant and oh-so-wearable makes, reading her posts that are full of insight and touches of humor, and getting to make virtual visits to other parts of the world through her photo-filled travelogues. I'm flattered that she has passed the baton to me.

Why do you write?

Honestly, I started to feel strange about how often I was lurking on other people's sewing blogs without actually interacting with them. I'm sure I could have commented bloglessly, but I somehow felt that having a blog would give me a more legitimate base from which to engage with other sewists. As in "I, too, spend some time trying to make clothing. May I be part of this community?" Looking back, this seems an awfully humble motivation, but I am an introvert who verges on downright social awkwardness, and my humble blog has been working well for me.

Of course, my posts also give me a way to keep track of what I'm sewing, reflect on which of my makes work for me and which don't, and figure out where to go next.

How is your blog different from others of the same genre?

I don't think my blog has any unusual features (except maybe that my posts are so few and far between). My usual format is quite basic: make a piece of clothing, take photos of it, and think of something to say about it. I do try to add one or two notes at the end of each post about something not related to sewing that interests me. This might be a museum exhibit I've seen, something I've cooked recently, or just an animal that has turned up in our yard here in the woods of New Hampshire.

What are you working on now?

The project mentioned above that's not going so smoothly is a midi version of Vogue 1247. I've made this skirt up before, as have many others, and aside from being excruciatingly short, my first version fit and looked pretty great, I thought. I did wonder whether adding an extra ten inches to bring the skirt well below my knees would look wrong, but I think that part works. My fabric, though--an otherwise lovely stretch wool tweed in a soft brick color from Gorgeous Fabrics--does pose a couple of problems. The extra length of the skirt combined with the stretch and the springy thickness of the fabric results in a saggy-baggy look that is not at all what I had envisioned. I'm taking it in all over the place, replacing the pocket facings with a thinner fabric, and adding a lining.

What is your writing process?

The photo taking is the hardest part of blogging for me, so once that's done I don't agonize too much over the writing. This is not to say that sparkling text comes flowing out with no effort(!) but rather that I'm content with cataloguing what I've made, describing any particular problems or insight I had, and throwing in anything else that seems appropriate.

I'd like to see how Maggie of Stitch-n-Thyme would answer these questions, so I invite her to join the blog hop. Maggie happens to live right down the road from me (in U.S. terms, anyway), and I appreciate her vintage/classic aesthetic.

The other person I'd like to invite to continue the blog hop is Cecili of Sewing and so on. Far from just down the road, she lives pretty much on the opposite side of the planet from me. I enjoy following Cecili's quirky, youthful, tropics-friendly makes.

Yet another note on food:

Are these not adorable? I should have put something in the picture for scale. The man I buy eggs from also sells these little quail eggs, and I finally caved and bought some. A big part of their charm for me is the spotted shells, so I just boiled them for us to peel at the table and eat with flavored salt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A giveaway, because my son knows how to tell it like it is

But first, let's take a look at my latest woven tee:

It's the top from Simplicity 1366 (again), but this time made from one of my treasured silk scarves. The fabric was produced by the Ban Napho Weaving Group in Thailand. I cannot say enough good things about their beautiful work. I felt okay about cutting into the scarf only because I still have a second scarf from them, in even more luscious colors, and because the top took practically every inch of the fabric. It is underlined in black habotai for a little extra strength and stability. This top ranks right up there among my favorite makes ever.

This photo is closest to the actual color of the fabric, though it doesn't show the beautiful sheen very well.

So, on to the giveaway.

Several years ago I bought 3 1/4 yards of silk chiffon from Mood Fabrics. My plan was to use it for Butterick 4978, but since that dress pattern is cut on the bias, the chiffon, with its lined-up rows and columns of cherries, was not going to work. It has been sitting in my stash ever since, and every once in a while I pull it out and try to get myself to do something with it. I thought maybe I could picture something like a longish six-gore skirt with black silk lining.

Butterick 4978: flowers, not cherries

Partly because I'm dubious about wearing this particular print, though, and partly because I have found working with chiffon to be a royal pain in the past, I always put it back on the shelf. A few days ago I had it out on the table when my teenage son came into the sewing room. Though his thing is computer programming and robotics, he also has a strong artistic streak. In a kind but matter-of-fact tone, he said: Mom. Whatever you make out of that, it's not going to look right on you.

Yikes! But I think he was right. And now I am ready to let it go. If anyone thinks they can use this fabric, I will happily send it off to them, any place in the world. It will be worth it to me to get it out of my stash and into the stash of someone who can appreciate it. You can let me know in a comment or email me at pfarr at comcast dot net if you are interested.

Silk chiffon with cherries on a black background, sheer and lightweight, 56 inches wide.

A smorgasbord of notes today because I haven't posted for a while (yes, it's a Swedish word, but close enough for my purposes):

Watching: Borgen is a surprisingly enthralling Danish political drama series on TV about a woman politician. It's hard to find in the U.S. (we ordered the DVDs from Amazon), but certainly worth watching if you have the opportunity.

Reading: The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett, is a short funny delight of a book that involves the Queen of England and the pleasures of reading.

Eating: Delicata squash! It's dense, rich, delicious, and easy to prepare. Cut into half-moon shapes and roast with some olive oil and salt; no need to peel. I can't provide my own picture here because we keep eating it before I remember to get a photo.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The woven tee for me

I have been keeping an eye out for a woven tee pattern for a while. Finding a good woven tee would be great for plenty of reasons, but my particular reason is that I have a small shelf of very special fabrics. I don't mean my single yards of Liberty lawn, or the kind of offbeat and overly pricy pieces I sometimes end up buying on impulse at B&J Fabrics in New York, though those are certainly special enough and I do hesitate to cut into them. The special fabrics I'm referring to are from when I traveled more in my younger days as a single woman and an English-as-a-second-language teacher, supplemented by the beautiful fabrics my mom continues to send me from her many travels (and she turned eighty this year). Handwoven silks from Thailand, Laos, Bhutan. So special I can hardly cut into them--but what am I going to do? Make something to wear and appreciate, or pass them on to my son who is interested only in coding for robotics? (What would you do? Seriously, I'd like to know.)

Fortunately Sara of Mixed Emotions drew my attention to this pattern with her beautiful versions of it. I have enough other favorite pattern sources that I don't usually look too closely at the Simplicity offerings, and even if I had come across Simplicity 1366, I believe that I would have been too distracted by that crazy skirt to even see the tee.

Now I have made two versions out of ordinary fabric: one out of the scraps (blue with white print; Mood Fabrics said cotton but I don't think so) left after I made a version of Colette's Jasmine, and one out of the scraps (rayon, charcoal with white print) left from an unsuccessful skirt made many years ago. So you see, this pattern doesn't require much fabric at all, especially if you don't worry about sewing the bias binding from several short lengths.

A note on what I'm watching:

Have you seen High Maintenance? It's a low-budget but well-done web series set in Brooklyn whose episodes are tied together only by the presence of a particular marijuana deliveryman. I beg you (that sounds kind of strong, but I think it's worth it) to watch the episode titled Rachel. It can easily be found online and will take only 13 minutes of your time. It features the handsome and talented Dan Stevens, and has an appearance by Rachel Comey. Warning you, though, it just might serve as your gateway episode.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stashbusting: the blue ponte pants

Sometimes I get carried away and buy a length of fabric that I later realize is not what I had hoped. (Am I alone in this?) So it was with two yards of blue ponte knit, poly/rayon blend, bought from Fabric Mart almost three years ago. I had received a swatch in the mail, so I knew exactly how very blue it was, and how poly-blend looking, and yet I tumbled. Why? I cannot answer that question.

The best I could do was to decide finally to get that fabric out from clogging up my stash by making it into something. Using a fabric I do not appreciate, with a pattern that I suspect is not going to be ideal for me, may sound like a thoroughly unrewarding enterprise, and yet there is something about moving that fabric through the pipeline and trying out that unpromising pattern that pleases me and makes me feel more free to move forward with projects I do have high hopes for.

From now on, projects of this type (yeah, this is not the only one) will carry the label "stashbusting."

The pattern is Vogue 8712, Marcy Tilton pants, view C. Nothing wrong with the pattern––it's just something that might look better on a svelter person than I am. On me these pants look a little, um, wide.

This photo shows the color of the fabric better than the ones above, and in fact it's more what the pants look like in real life:

You may be wondering: Must I keep my hands in my pockets at all times while wearing these pants? Why, yes! Yes, I must. I used the remnants of a woven fabric that I had on hand for the contrast pockets, waist facing, fly, etc., just because it was the exact same shade of blue, and it made the edges of the pockets stand out a bit from my hips. Which I can disguise by jamming my hands in my pockets.

This pattern has a fly front, which does not seem strictly necessary with knit fabric, but I went ahead and included it for the practice. It came out just fine. However, I don't get how the waist facing is supposed to interact with the zipper. A couple of reviewers on Pattern Review had mentioned this, but I didn't quite know what they were referring to until I got there. As the instructions are written, the facing would fold down over the top of the zipper. I got around it by folding the facing at an angle above the zipper top, and then using a combination of topstitching and hand slipstitching to keep everything in place. Here's how it looks on the wrong side:

Rear view:

A note on something to do in the northeastern U.S.:

Last weekend after picking our son up from a robotics engineering camp in Connecticut, we made a spontaneous visit to Mystic Seaport. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much: rainy day, tired from driving, have seen other reenactment sites, blah blah. But it was great. If you have any interest in boats, seafaring, New England life in the olden days, go and visit. Don't miss the forge or the printer's shop.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer is for easy projects

At long last, my poppy-print version of Burda 4-2014-124 is done. Let me say right here that my next few projects are going to be purposely simple. Or at least not ridiculously complicated.

I do love this poppy fabric. You can read in this post how I fell hard for it . . . but, man, was it difficult to work with. Seam allowances that frayed almost to the seamline before I could get to them, little shredded areas that materialized if the fabric so much as hung over a corner of my cutting mat—this one had me gnashing my teeth. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. Okay, enough with the qualifications.

I think I might be able to wear this dress in real life if I just sit quietly in a corner somewhere.

The pattern itself is a good one, though not a quick make. There is a complete underdress (same pattern pieces for the six-gore skirt, different pieces, including spaghetti straps, for the bodice) sewn inside the outer dress. With the French seams that I used throughout, this meant a lot of sewing and pressing. Looking at the photo above, seems I need to press that left front skirt seam a little better, ahem.

If you look closely at this next photo, you can see how the finest sewing-machine needle I have, which I changed out several times during this project by the way, still left little "bites" in the fabric.

I made a number of changes to the pattern. For one, I lengthened it by over two inches (but compare to the magazine photo; I'm sure that model is at least as tall as I am??). More important, I left off everything that I thought of as frippery. Frilly details just do not work well on me, so I substituted a simple edging for the piping, and omitted the lace on the underdress bodice, the topstitched batting under the neckband, and the shirring on the sleeves (in fact, I ended up leaving off the sleeves entirely and finishing the armholes with bias binding). I do feel that the part of the underdress bodice that peeks out looks a little plain, so maybe keeping the lace trim there would have been good.

Here's how the neckband looks up close with my changes:

Again because of the fragile nature of the fabric, I had a heck of a time figuring out a way to hem the skirt without it falling apart on me as I went. I ended up using my serger to make a rolled edge, and I'm happy enough with it.

Nature notes:

Photos are from last month, so not brand new, but I still want to give these turtle mamas a little appreciation. This sweet painted turtle was laying her eggs in our front yard one day in early June.

And she brought her sister along to lay her eggs!

The same day, as I walked down the driveway to get our mail, I came across this snapping turtle looking for a good egg-laying place. She is much bigger than the painted ones, like a large dinner plate, and can easily take off a finger if you're silly enough to present it to her.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The long last part of MMM14

Me Made May 14 was a great experience for me. I reached the two goals I had set at the beginning, plus a third that turns out to feel at least as important. The first of my goals was to wear my me-made clothes out and about, so that I could decide whether they would work in my real life. This worked well: some, maybe most, of my makes are staying, some are going, and a few are in limbo, i.e., to be decided at another time.

Next, I wanted to get more comfortable with taking and posting photos of myself. Yeah, I found the photo-taking part hard and got tired of it but just kept doing it anyway, which is exactly what I needed. Now it feels more like: It's not that big a deal! Take a ton of photos, knowing that somewhere in the batch there is likely to be a decent one, and then move on with the day.

Most important, I so much enjoyed seeing and commenting on what other people were doing (I did this on the Flickr page). So many different people, each with their own style, in Japan, Europe, Australia, and beyond—and all of us enjoy the art and craft of sewing. I was blown away by how supportive and encouraging everyone was.

I have to admit that my involvement in MMM, ironically, took away from my sewing time. The only project I finished this month was a very simple one, Simplicity 4020, a kimono top in a jersey knit. This pattern was very popular in its day, which was a few years ago.

So, here's a run-through of the last couple of weeks of MMM14. (Here I note to myself that I should learn how to make composite photos to economize on space.)

The first sweater I made. It's loose and baggy, maybe not the most flattering, but I am sentimentally attached and will never get rid of it. Oddly, this is my husband's favorite of all the sweaters I've made.

Total success story, as far as I'm concerned. I love this tank top, and even though the hemp fabric of the skirt (from the book Shape Shape) is fairly heavy, I love it, too.

A Manequim pattern that I spent a fair amount of time on. It's okay but somehow not quite right—I don't think I'll ever wear it a lot.

I had fun making this By Hand London Victoria blazer, and it can look good when I'm standing in the right position, but the lapels and the lining try to do funny things when I'm not paying attention. Still thinking about it . . .

The Simplicity pattern mentioned above. It's comfortable, I feel it came together nicely, but it is more form-fitting than most things I wear when I'm out in public.

I love both of these patterns: the Vogue 2900 dress and a Burda jacket from a couple of years ago.

Vogue 2900 again, in close-up to show off this fun Liberty of London fabric.

The Jasmine top by Colette patterns and a Vogue double-layer skirt. The top came out well, just feels a little girly for my station in life.

Yet another version of Vogue 2900, in brilliant purple. This dress is very, very comfortable and has a beautifully executed invisible zipper, if I may say so.

Both pieces are from the Japanese pattern book Shape Shape. I saved these for the end of the month because they feel most like me, of all the things I've made.

To all who participated in MMM and those who did not: Happy sewing!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Third MMM14 roundup

Next up in this month's reevaluation of some of the clothes I've made:

The tank top is Simplicity 5970. And really, it couldn't be any simpler. I've made several versions, but this houndstooth is my favorite.

This skirt and top, Vogue 1247, were really fun to make. The seams of the top are unusual, and the pockets of the skirt are constructed in a way I hadn't come across before. These pieces don't see much wear, as the top is very loose fitting and the skirt is very short, but I'll keep them just because I like them.

Cotton sweater from a free Ravelry pattern called Sea of Jeans. It's hard to see the detail in this dark photo, but it has some nice texture and cables. A keeper.

The blouse is from a 2006 Burda magazine pattern, and the skirt is refashioned. This blouse, with all its gathering, ruching, and ties, looks a lot better on the hanger than it does on me. Yeah, that's not generally what I aim for.

Butterick 4978. I'm pleased with how this dress came out in general, but whenever I put it on it just doesn't feel right. Too frou-frou and floaty for me, I think. Can't get rid of it just yet, though, as I'm still attached to the idea of it.

The sleeveless scarf blouse from the Japanese pattern book Shape Shape. No problem with this one; in fact, I love it. Maybe it's time to make a couple more versions in fabrics that I have only a small amount of.

A garden note:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Second MMM14 roundup

Here's a little summary of this last week's Me-Made-May 14.

Debbie Bliss's Lara cardigan, in her alpaca silk yarn. I wore this fairly often during our three years in the Midwest, usually pinning it closed with a brooch that I have lost track of. I pulled it out of the sweater drawer on this chilly damp Sunday morning and found that it is still cozy and warm.

This is the tunic top from Vogue 8914. I used a bit of a multicolored silk/wool panel fabric that I had in the stash. This make has always seemed a little off to me, but it got a surprising number of favorable comments on the MMM Flickr page. The fabric feels good against my skin, so as my son says, That would be a good thing to wear around the house, mom.

This skirt is a favorite, from an old Burda magazine pattern. Blogged here.

Doesn't look too bad in this photo, but this top (Vogue 7717) is never going to work for me. The fabric is so lightweight that it catches and rides up on whatever I am wearing underneath. That's okay, I can tell that the pattern is good for other fabrics. The pants (Vogue 2064) in ponte knit are pretty much like yoga pants—again, good for around the house.

This Friday's theme was the color blue. So this was kind of a throw-away day for me.

Still having fun with this project, but getting decent photos every day is tough. 

Nature note:
This is prime time for birds migrating through and showing up for the season in the northeastern United States. Though I don't know much about birding, I have been out and about with my binoculars, and aside from the usual suspects (including the beautiful rose-breasted grosbeaks), I was lucky enough to see a northern goshawk yesterday, doing an elaborate courtship display, shrieking and diving and all, high in the air above the woods next to our house.