Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Caution: Embellishment Underway

I'm always interested in the discussions that pop up periodically on sewing sites and blogs about why people sew....even if I seldom take the time to answer directly myself.  Personally, I just love clothes and like having garments that fit me, my lifestyle and my budget.  I like having tried and true patterns that I can pull out and make up quickly but add my own touch of personalization.  So I sew quite a bit but don't sew a huge variety of patterns.  (Of course, that never stops me from buying them.)  Once I get a pattern to fit I like to make it a bit more special and unique.  One of the things I always notice when snoop shopping is that high end retail fashions use nicer quality fabrics and have more detailed and elaborate embellishment.  For example, one of m pet peeves is when embellishment is only on the front of a garment and is not continued in some small way around to the back.  Last summer when I made several versions of Simplicity 2409 ( Five versions of Simplicity 2409 in my PR review)   I made sure that my embellishing continued over the shoulder to make the back and front of the tops read as one fashion statement, front or back.

Another embellishment of a TNT pattern was behind purchasing this little gizmo at Joann's last week when it was 40% off.  I collected dupionis and cotton silk blends to make  yo-yos to arrange on my garment.  This template is a slightly modified yo-yo maker, with a petal design but I'm not sure it is worth the effort....or maybe I'm just not doing it right.  So I'll make a dozen of these shaped versions, then a dozen regular round yo-yos and see what I think of this idea.

Yo yos in progress

Some silk ribbons that might end up in the project.

Since there are no garment pics, I'll leave you with some of our Baltimore summer fun.  Downtown Baltimore is built around what's called the Inner Harbor of the Chesapeake Bay.  There are many different neighborhoods, business and entertainment venues but this is one we enjoy weekly.  At the end of an old pier in Fells Point there's an outdoor movie shown each Wednesday night.  You can bring a chair or blanket, sit along the waterfront and enjoy dusk falling all over town.  By the time it's dark enough there are more than a few hundred people under the stars ready to enjoy another show.  This summer we've seen The Fighter, The Social Network, and Ironman 2.  
The pier with a movie screen on the side of a truck at the end
Across the harbor is Domino Sugar, with a ship unloading into the storage units.  On a hot summer night the air smells like cotton candy.
An unrestored pier with a grey heron and in the background, Federal Hill with the large American flag...yes, "by the rocket's red glare."
For all I know, there could be other Baltimore sewists in the crowd!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Skirting the Issue and Summer Reading

Version #7 in stretch lace
Time to catch up on recent sewing happiness.  When last seen, I was pulling numerous stretch wovens from my closet to start working on my next Pamela's Patterns purchase, The Magic Pencil Skirt.  What makes it "magic" you ask?  No waistband, no zipper, just a flattering terrific pencil skirt.  
Pamela has designed this pattern for fabrics with 20% stretch or more.  I have a great collection of these since they seem to have been all the rage a few years ago at Fabric Mart and in RTW.  But I have had less than great success making pants from them since the degree of stretch varied so much and each pair wore so very differently.  Now I know what to do with this fabric collection....keep on making more of these skirts.  Last week I made seven of them and I'm taking a break to work on her Draped Front Cardigan next.  
Here's my "official" review:

<b>Pattern Description: </b>  The pencil skirt silhouette is an improvement over the traditional straight skirt.  It tapers in from hip to hem giving a more slimming appearance no matter what your body type!  The secret is in the fitting process, and Pamela will teach you how to get the best fit ever with her proven dart and side seam placement methods.  Need more reasons to stitch up this stylish look?  How about a classic and great fitting skirt that you can make, start to finish, in a little more than an hour?  You will achieve the smooth look that is traditionally found in skirts with a waistband and zipper, but the "magic" is done with comfortable Fantastic Elastic.
<b>Pattern Sizing:</b>  Hips 36" to 53"
<b>Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?</b>  Yes, much to my surprise.
<b>Were the instructions easy to follow?</b>  Wonderful directions that are easy to follow.
<b>What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?</b>  Love it so much, let me count the ways.  First of all, it is flattering.  I agreed with Sandra Betzina's remarks years ago that a straight skirt is most flattering when it has some hem shaping.  Pamela Legett, the designer, explained the same thing when I bought this pattern at her T Shirt seminar in June.  This skirt has that great pencil shaping in it.  It also has a pair of darts for the front and the back of the skirt but they are moved further towards the body sides than a standard straight skirt pattern.  I don't need the bottom of a dart highlighting my poofy tummy so these darts are wonderfully placed for her target market...the woman over 40.   She includes wonderful details in the pattern about customising the darts, or even eliminating them, for your perfect fit.  The easy and snug elastic waistband (no bulky casing) means that I can sew one of these in an hour and have a flattering new addition to my wardrobe.  
I've only made the narrow waisted version since I would never tuck a top into a skirt....probably stopped that in 1989 and haven't regretted it.  I have a very refrigerator like body and this skirt makes me look curvy....hooray for optical illusions.

<b>Fabric Used:</b>  The pattern is designed for stretch wovens with at least 20% stretch....and she explains how to determine if your fabric is suitable.  I used everything from a stretch denim to a stretch lace knit and love each one.  

<b>Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:</b>  I have a pretty crooked scoliosis curve so my two hips are quite different curves.  I took the time to make a front and back pattern piece to account for the difference.  
I also narrowed the back of the skirt pattern even more since I have a flat bottom.  
Once I did that, then my sewing is a quick 4 darts, side seams, elastic waistband and hem.  
<b>Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?</b>  Yes, many more planned.  I think this is a timeless design that would flatter many women.  Pencils skirts are not just for the young.
<b>Conclusion: </b>  Buy it, make it, wear it.  You'll feel girly, I promise
Stretch black denim

First one in leftover stretch woven

Black poly double knit with matlesse texture
Doubleknit close up

olive green stretch woven 
Lime green stretch woven
There's a dark brown version even less exciting to look at but just as useful in my wardrobe.  
That's the back full pattern piece that I modified after making my first, very wearable skirt.  I narrowed the back hem area even further since my backside seems to have fallen down and can't get up.  
For the stretch lace version at the very beginning I made a lining 1 inch shorter and hemmed 1/2 deeper from inexpensive poly knit I had in my resource center.  Treated the two pieces as one when making the elastic waistband  and I'm happy with the result.  

There's some lovely black stretch lace in my resource center that I will pair with a stretch silk charmeuse that matches a lovely woven wrap blouse I have...but I'll wait until cooler weather in the fall for that project.  

Lots more besides sewing going on at our house.  Lucky has been a little star at his basic dog training class....mostly because he's older and more mellow than the young, big dogs in class and also because it's outdoors and summer temps slow him down quite easily...and let's face it, beginner's class is just that!  Sit, stay and come back when I have you on the leash.
I've been reading up a storm.  My three favorites in the last month:
Gretchen Rubin's book, "The Happiness Project," made a big splash in the media and on blogs more than a year ago.  I'm typically  late to the party but am so glad I discovered it.  I was expecting some lightweight "think yourself out of unemployment and poverty" but she pursues this topic with a great deal of research (she's a former editor of the Yale Law Journal, clerked for Sandra Day O'Connor and has written biographies of Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy) and also personal revelation and humility.   Delightful surprise.
I'm not afraid to admit that this was another surprise for me.  "Nemesis" is next week's book club discussion and I was a little leery.  I "appreciate" Phillip Roth but I don't always enjoy reading his novels so this one was another summer treat.  It takes place in the summer of 1944 and polio is frightening the people of Newark, NJ with its quick and devastating consequences.  The novel reads rather simply, almost glacially slow, like the old '50s summers of my childhood...but then the last 1/4 of the book is a sudden change and brings questions of responsibility, loyalty and fate into the picture.  I look forward to what the others will say about it.
I would have never read this book except I was so impressed watching Oprah and James Frey during Oprah's last week of interviews.  I had been a strong supporter of her book club idea since I had started my first book club in 1976 and love them.  But her over reaction to what he did struck me wrong at the time and I stopped watching her book shows as faithfully.  I was duly impressed to see her admit that she had let her ego take over during the previous interview five years ago.   And James Frey was impressive in admitting his complicity and also impressive in his ability to put all that bad publicity into perspective.  The book is definitely readable and a great insight into addiction.  I'm glad I was able to let go of my annoyance with the hullabaloo around it and just read and enjoy it.  Enjoy might not be the right word for a book about the destruction of addiction but since all of us are touched directly or indirectly by this issue, it was worthwhile see the challenges of recovery.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

Yes, that's me proudly holding my scout troop's flag in my hometown parade many decades ago.  I still feel the same sense of pride and happiness on the 4th of July each year.

Lots of wonderfully fun activities going on all weekend so not much happening in the sewing room.  Here's what I'll be wearing to go to Baltimore's Inner Harbor fireworks tonight.  Yes, another McCalls 6201 sheath sewn with the lightweight stretch lining I bought at Fabric Mart last week.  Just because it's a day to seriously celebrate freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness doesn't mean that a girl doesn't want to look good.   Not the nicest fabric....sort of a quilting cotton with some lycra....huh?  But the colors work for today.   You'll see it again in a shirt for Mr.Lucky that I promise we will never wear together.   It's got plenty of red, white and blue...without the chance that anyone will salute me.
Hope the 4th is/was fun for you in your part of the world.