May 27, 2011

Sewing Under the Influence (of hormones and humidity)

 I won't miss this week when it's over. Let's just say that. I'm not sure what it was that put me over, but a confluence of annoying factors just overwhelmed me this week: -the tail end of a brutal allergy season/the end of school semester/sudden heat and humidity for which I was not prepared/the homicidal rage I experience in summer when douchebags on motorbikes swarm my neighborhood all night long. Pair all that with an admittedly hormonal funk, and you get this:

What? No! Ew. Terrible.
 Fugly, right? I was trying to improve upon the bow-print dress I was sewing from a vintage McCall's pattern. I thought a navy yoke would look better. But the colour was off. Then scrapping this, I made it even worse:

At this point, I had to put down the pins and walk away. So I watched an episode of Glee, in which New Directions writes original songs for nationals in New York. A terrible idea. But I enjoyed it immensely because my husband watched it with me and his commentary on Glee is the best. He should host a web series called "Ryan Watches Glee," or "Glee With Ryan." Trademark.

Today is a new day. And after some relaxing in the park with friends and kids, I made this while my kid napped, using the original yoke and navy cotton, which doesn't look so off when paired with the print in this way.

May 24, 2011

This week's Unfinished Project

This unfinished dress is hanging out on my dressform this week while I sew a dozen carriers for my Etsy store. If you didn't already know it, I make cute little carriers for kids to carry around their dolls in. My shop is almost empty because I had put it on the back burner while busy with patternmaking homework this semester. 

Last night my two-year-old helped me assemble the straps. Toddlers are such hard workers. They really like manual labour. (That's my defense when the child labour laws people come calling. Also: I'm not paying her, so it's not really work, is it?)
My sweatshop/sewing table today
As for the dress-in-progress, I'm going to rip off the yoke because I think it looks silly the way the print doesn't match up. Instead I'm going to either make a peachy pink yoke, or navy blue. I may cut both and see what works best. I'm also going to have to cut a lining for this. Then if I'm feeling it, I'll make another dress exactly the same but with the yoke made from the bows print fabric, and the main dress cut in pink. Or navy. Still can't decide. Maybe I'll put it up to a vote. This is America, after all.

May 23, 2011

This is what a mom looks like

 Do you ever find yourself saying something that, once you think about it (10 seconds later), realize goes against all sorts of things you believe in? I felt that way the other day when I asked my husband: "Does this shirt make me look like a mom?"

To his credit, he said something along the lines of, "You are a mom, so yes. But isn't that offensive to moms to imply they are unattractive or frumpy, or whatever it is you are suggesting?"

That is exactly what I was suggesting, which is stupid because most of the moms I know look and dress exactly as they did pre-baby. Also: do you ever hear "You look like a dad in that" with the level of negativity associated with looking like a mom? Maybe if he's wearing socks with sandals, or has tucked his T-shirt into his shorts. Or has a cellphone clipped to his belt. OK, it works. No double-standard here.

I think what we're saying when we ask whether we look like a mom is: "Do I look like my mom?"

And the answer to that question, for me, will always be: hell, no. (It's OK: my mom doesn't know about the Internet yet, so she won't ever have to be offended by that).

It is possible though my mom would wear this shirt (pictured above and below, in close-up). It was my final project for "Misses' Sportswear" patternmaking class at FIT. I don't get to choose the style. I had to recreate it from a sketch. And I fucking nailed it.  I got an A. (Despite the fact that I didn't do a great job matching up my plaid on the pockets:)

 But it's a patternmaking class, not a sewing class. My pattern for this shirt, which looks like any other menswear-style button-up from the Gap or Old Navy, has 17 pieces. Seventeen! A lot of sewing goes into making a shirt like this.  So don't your mom shirts for granted, ladies. Those kids in Vietnam worked hard sewing them.

Finally: I blame this classic SNL commercial for my self-loathing:

May 21, 2011

The original cast of "16 and Pregnant"
 One of the cutest things I even heard watching a red carpet special (those hours-long pre-Oscar/Emmys/Grammys fashion fests hosted by malnourished E! hosts) was Jenna Fischer (from the Office) describing her dress. She said it had an "umpire" waist, which even my husband knew was wrong. So delightfully wrong. The kind of awesome wrong that makes you picture a baseball ump calling an out while sporting a high-waisted gown.

I love me an umpire waist. I think mostly because I am lazy and sucking in my gut for too long makes me want to go home and lie down. Of course, umpire waists are the standard in maternity wear, which may be why a classmate of mine asked me last semester whether I was pregnant (I was/am not). I was tired that night so my posture was poor, but also: I was wearing an empire-waisted top. Ladies, you haven't lived until someone has asked you if you're pregnant and you're not (though I would rather be me than the woman doing the asking at that moment. She was, understandably very embarassed).

All that said, I'm taking a break from drafting my own patterns for the time being to sew a summer frock from this vintage McCall's pattern pictured above. It is a maternity pattern, but it's from the '70s, back when ladies rocked demure little bumps because all the smoking and drinking kept their babies' birth rates low (or was that the '60s?), so I'm hoping the gathering in the front isn't too pronounced. I may have some altering to do.

Since it's already 8 million degrees in New York City, I'm making it sleeveless. With this navy cotton printed with bows:

What do you think? Are empire-waists for pregnant ladies? And will you ask me whether I am with child should you see me walking down the block in this?

May 17, 2011

Love Thy Gummy Smile

Whenever I'm worried or stressed out about something, I like to ask myself the following to put it in perspective: Is this a First World Problem? And by that I mean, how does this problem compare to the issues faced by women in Afghanistan, or Sudan, or on a reservation in Canada? For example:
  • "My kid wakes me up at 6 a.m. but I want to sleep until 7 a.m.!" You're not getting up at 6 a.m. to go work in a factory for 14 hours while your 3-year-old chainsmokes and runs the drillpress beside you, so consider yourself lucky, princess.
  • "We live in a one-bedroom apartment with a kid, and sometimes I just really wish I had my own space!" So go outside, dummy. In many parts of the world, your parents, their parents, and probably 4 or 5 in-laws would be living with you too.
  • "Our apartment doesn't get enough quality daylight to keep plants alive!" Well, unless your family needs to eat those plants to survive, you should shut the hell up and go cook the asparagus rotting in your crisper right now.
  • "Nobody follows my blog!" In some villages, a "blog" is something you pray the Medicins Sans Frontieres doc removes before you are of marriageable age.
  •  "The stores are all sold out of OB Tampons!" What? You don't have other options? It's not like you have to rip up old towels for makeshift pads and be stoned in the streets for daring be near a man while menstruating. 
So unless my anxiety is related to paying our rent (a survival issue), my daughter's safety (again, a survival issue), or being attacked by a schizophrenic crackhead on the subway, the answer I usually give myself is "Just get over yourself."

And, I believe, the very definition of First World Problem is cankles.  If you are worried about your fat ankles, I hope you realize what a luxury it is to have that part of your brain whose job it is to worry about important, life-threatening things free to worry about a stupid, made-up body issue. At least you have ankles.

I don't care about my cankles. Mostly because I am not convinced anyone else ever looks at anybody's ankles, except for the starving magazine editors who invented them. And only then because they're hungry and jealous that I get to eat. HOWEVER, the one feature I have always had the luxury to obsess about is my gummy smile. Of course, as a kid I didn't know I should obsess over it, until all those school picture photographers told me to smile with my lips closed.

You know how people say things like "Growing up Korean, I never saw any women like me in the media." Or "Our culture is lacking in positive portrayals of lesbian lawyers." Well, I can honestly say that I have never seen a famous person with a gummy smile like mine. It's a bit anomalous, I admit. I've only known a few other people who had the degree of gum exposure that I do.

Think about it: if you're gap-toothed, you have Letterman and Madonna to look up to. Jug ears? There's no better role model than Barack Obama. Unibrow: Frida Kahlo (or Bert). But who do gummy-smiled people have? I searched the Google box:
One-hit-wonder Jon Heder

Jazz singer (and fellow Vancouver Islander) Diana Krall
   As I searched for the very few celebs who have been noted to have gummy smiles, I quickly learned something. There are things you can do to eliminate your gummy smile. (I had always thought my gummy smile was my cross to bear for otherwise being so awesome.) But apparently the lovely Jennifer Garner used to have a gummy smile, but then she had it fixed:

"Gummy smile correction treatment"? Are you kidding me? I'm hiding the Internet from my kid until she's 30 (by then, the Internet will be implanted in our brains and I won't be able to keep the sad fact that people have their gums lasered off from her any longer). Looking at this (totally made up!) analysis of gummy smiles, I'd say I have "advanced gummy smile" but not "severe gummy smile." Probably some lip injections and a little Botox in my upper lip to keep it from lifting when I grin would keep me from needing a "gingevectomy."

First. World. Freaking. Problem. Children in North Korea are eating weeds because they have no food, and you're going to spend thousands of dollars on making your teeth appear bigger? What are the aliens going to think when they come to earth and find that adults on one side of the planet are lasering their perfectly healthy gumlines just as children on the other side of the planet are losing their teeth due to malnutrition.

That is not the world I want to live in. I want to live in a world where this girl here can smile as big as she wants for her school pictures.

Gummy and beautiful

Love thy gummy smile. And cankles. Save that part of your brain for worrying about something important. Like why aren't more people following my blog.

May 16, 2011

Bows, bows, bows

Well friends, this semester is almost over. I have just a few days left to finish my final project for patternmaking class and then a summer off to design, draft and sew for myself (and anyone else I see fit — but not my kid because she does not appreciate the effort that goes into making her something and has refused in the past to wear the things I've made for her. She did, however, ask me to make her a jumpsuit like the one I sewed for class, "but small — for me," she said. I don't know. It would be so cute. Like a little toddler tradesperson.) Also, it's time to restock my Etsy shop, which is almost totally empty. Summer studies at FIT sounds like a terrible idea to me. The less time I have to spend in midtown when it's 30 C, the better. I'm a broken record when it comes to how insufferable this city is in the summer. But it really is.

Anyway, I found a new place to buy fabric this week thanks to a recommendation from a Burdastyle member: Metro Textile Corp. at 265 West 37th Street, #908. You have to take an elevator up to the ninth floor, and try not to think you must certainly be in the wrong place. Once inside, a very kind man (if you follow the link, he's the guy in the mirror) helped me find the right lightweight plaid for my final project ($6/yard). This navy cotton printed with bows also caught my eye (also $6/yard), so I snatched it up though I don't know yet what to make with it.

It's lightweight, so a summer dress or skirt might be a good idea. I've also been wanting to try out gathering with elastic thread, a technique I have never attempted. So I think I may make a simple dress with gathering through the waist. Something like the Anda pattern, but with more scoop to the neckline. Any suggestions?

May 15, 2011

(Collar) Stand By Me

 Just look at that collar, would you? If you've ever drafted and sewn a collar, then you know how difficult they are to get the hang of. This here shirt pictured above is my final project for patternmaking class. It's a button-up sorta-Western-style shirt, for which I chose a lightweight summery plaid. It should pretty much fit me (it was drafted to fit my mannequin at school, which is a size 10, but a 1960s size 10, which is basically a size 4, I think), so I can wear it this spring.

Now, the last shirt that I made that was similar to this style, I had to make three collars until I got one that fit properly. It was good practice in sewing a collar with collar stand (that's the thing that is between the neckline and the collar), but pretty disheartening. The first flub-up was a measuring issue. The 2nd oopsie, I just don't know....Anyway, here's my kid wearing one of the extra collars, Chippendale's style:
So you can imagine how thrilled I am to only make one collar and stand this time around. In case it's not clear: really freaking thrilled. I have until Wednesday to finish this up. I'm still beset by allergy misery though the rain today is helping. Here's the technical drawing of the assignment to give you an idea of what it will look like. This was what the teacher gave me. No instructions. It's all on me:

You can see there are no actual pockets in the design, but I think I will add them later. I just can't stomach the idea of pocket flaps with no pockets. It's like wearing suspenders attached to your shirt (which I have done, by the way. In grade 4. It was from Mariposa (a beloved preteen fashion store) and I had to beg for it). 

Oh, and if you need to sew a collar with a stand, here's a good tutorial:
And another good one:
And here's a post about drafting AND sewing a collar with a stand:

May 13, 2011

This is What an "A" Jumpsuit Looks Like, In Case You Were Wondering

Jumpsuits: Not to be confused with rompers, which were popular to an ungodly degree last summer. I've written before about rompers. I think they are only appropriate if you're still in diapers. It's like a sexy onesie — a sexy onesie that will drag on the floor of the public bathroom every time you have to pee outside your apartment. For example:
By noon, there's E. Coli on those shoulder straps, for sure

That said, last night I was super stoked to get an "A" on my jumpsuit for patternmaking class. The teacher loved it, though she didn't dispute that I look a little like a clown car mechanic in it. Tell me, is it just the nose?
 Or maybe it was the juggling:

I think my jumpsuit looks like something Napoleon Dynamite's girlfriend would wear:
She's thinking about it

This project did make me reconsider the jumpsuit. I'm kinda feeling this goth mechanic look on the left here (by Alexander Wang):

I also like this slouchy pale purple jumpsuit here, though I think it likely only looks good on boneracks and praying mantises:
ANYWAY, I think I have my Halloween costume in order for next year.

May 11, 2011

I won, I won, I won!

This has been seriously getting me down for the past two weeks:

But you know what brings me up today? Winning a vintage pattern from the World's Most Popular Men's Sewing Blog Male Pattern Boldness (if you don't already follow Peter's posts, you should. Even if you don't sew. He's a funny writer and a recent photo essay he posted about a New York night out with his "cousin" Cathy was so entertaining.)

May 9, 2011

A, really

This week's class project for my patternmaking class is a jumpsuit. I didn't reckon I would ever wear a jumpsuit (seeing as you have to disrobe completely to pee in public — no thanks), so I made mine from some printed IKEA cotton a friend gave me. Now that it's almost done, I'm kinda regretting not buying something cool. What do you think? Should I make another one, for reals this time?

These Things I covet

It seems to me that everyone must have an item of clothing they've long coveted but never had the means or opportunity to buy. I know I do. And it's a good one: They don't come around very often. And when they do, it's unlikely I'd find a pair off the rack that fits and flatters my frame. So I am going to have to make those long longed-for sailor pants myself.
Ew. Heels with sailor pants? Seriously?

It shouldn't be too hard once I perfect my pants pattern, though it will have to wait until after this semester is over: I have to sew a jumpsuit and a Western-style shirt in the next two weeks. Yikes.

As far as patterns go, I can't find anything still in print. There are a couple vintage ones out there if you're willing to hit up eBay:

But none of these vintage patterns is quite what I am looking for. They're a little too belled, and a little too high-waisted — both styles would look terrible on me. I'd want something shaped a little more like these ModCloth shorts through the hip and waist:

 Except, you know, with legs on them. Straight ones. So sailor pants. Your days are numbered.

May 8, 2011

Two wrongs don't make a properly fitting pair of pants

Next time you mess something up, repeat this to yourself: "You learn more from making mistakes than you do from getting something right the first time."

I just made that up and I'm thinking of cross-stitching it on a pillow. It's catchier than my other slogan ("Cheap toilet paper hurts my butt" — which I am going to have printed on a notepad to be used only for grocery lists as a reminder to my husband. The only time he obeyed this dictum was during my pregnancy — a great time for women because we get to rule the roost on all matters that relate to the probability of us getting hemorrhoids. On that subject, I once convinced my husband that he had hemorrhoids. He told me his butt was itchy, so I said: "Uh oh, you probably have hemorrhoids." And then, this man who won't listen to me when I tell him you shouldn't wash the entire pint of blueberries because the water makes them rot faster, he stays up half the night Googling "hemorrhoids" and is totally traumatized. He didn't have hemorrhoids, of course. It was sort of cruel of me, but I think it made him a better person).

So imagine the amount of knowledge gleaned from making two mistakes. That's what I did this weekend. In fixing my first pair of jeans (a project for my patternmaking class), i created another problem. But after making THAT mistake, I think I learned a valuable lesson in pant patternmaking.

Initially, the butt on my jeans looked pretty fantastic, but the crotch was baggy. And I don't really need room for a codpiece, so fix them I must.

See before:
The picture above doesn't really illustrate just how baggy the crotch was. When I sat it looked like I had an enormous dingaling. And I don't! So that's weird.

She suggested shortening the rise on both front and back pieces — the dark pencil line being the revision from the original

In addition, she suggested dropping the front waist by about 3/8'
I thought about it for a bit and decided not to subtract anything from the back rise, because the butt of my jeans fit so well and I didn't want to mess with that. I did drop the waist by 1/2" and took about 1/2" from the front rise. I also took in the side seam about any inch all the way down for a slimmer fit, and took in the inseam about 1/4".  Here's what happened:
After making those alterations, I got a good fit in the front and through the legs, but now the back rise is too short, which means my buttcrack shows if I make any sudden moves. And I make lots of sudden moves, so that's not a good thing for me. Damn.

I think what happened is the point where the front and back back meet in the crotch shifted forwards after I removed the excess from the front, which pulls the back down. What I believe I should have done is add the same amount to the back rise that I subtracted from the front rise. That way the balance would remain the same?  I will test this theory in my next pair of jeans.

Here they are again:

It's a preference, but I kinda like the pockets-falling-off-your-butt look

May 4, 2011

The Winning Patterns

Ryan and Me at City Hall
Getting married at City Hall in NYC has its benefits:• It only costs $25.
• You don't have to make an appointment, so there's next to no planning ahead required.
•It's interesting to see the other couples also queued up to get hitched and try to guess why they're getting married at City Hall.
• Easy access to Brooklyn Bridge for post-ceremony photo shoot.
• It's right off the A train, so it's a quick commute most places on the west side.
• Carrie Bradshaw did it. So that makes it fashionable, right?

 The only drawback in marrying my husband at City Hall back in June 2007 was the lost opportunity to design and sew my own wedding gown. A number of talented bloggers I follow are in the process of planning their gowns, and though I have never regretted not having a wedding (for so many reasons: the cost, the time required, the fact that I'd have to pull off some crazy Comedy of Errors whereby I would hold two weddings concurrently — one for my mom to attend and one for my dad, so that they never have to actually see each other) I mourn just a little the chance to dabble in couture.
OK, here we actually are at City Hall — both in Banana Republic
Kathleen at Grosgrain will no doubt make herself a lovely wedding gown. Her aesthetic is tasteful and lovely. I can't wait to see it. Suzannah at Adventures in Dressmaking regularly posts progress on her gorgeous gown. And my friend Andreae, who had her third kid and no longer write in her blog With the Crickets, draped and sewed her own dress.

I will, however, get to make a few bridal numbers this year. A flower girl dress for my daughter, who will be 3. Here's the pattern the bride (my husband's cousin's fiance) choose from my short list (picture it in ivory with a green sash):

Vogue 7819
And a junior bridesmaid dress for a 10 or 11-year-old (in black satin with a green sash)
McCall's 4763
While I don't get to make any design decisions in sewing dresses for another woman's wedding, I will no doubt expand my sewing repertoire.  And the satisfaction that will come from making two little girls feel special and lovely will no doubt eclipse any and all needle pricks I will sustain in hemming a dress on a toddler.

Jeans, Take 2

The good news is the jeans I drafted and sewed this week look amazing on my butt. That's a feat for sure. The bad news, however, is I'm only going to get a B+ again because the crotch doesn't fit right and I don't have the time today to figure out why and fix it.  I think I could do it, but it would require ripping off the waistband in the center front, then removing the fly, reshaping the front and then sewing all that junk back on, which ain't gonna happen. Well, it will eventually. Because I like these jeans and want to wear them — just not with the crotch as it is. I would post pics of me wearing them but Lucy's arms aren't strong enough to hoist our SLR camera and my husband is working.

Here's the front:

Check out all that topstitching!

And the secret surprise inside: pockets made from scraps of the super cool printed Snoozer Loser fabric I won a little while back.

May 2, 2011

These things Are Tedious

Put a bird on it!
So today is the first day of Male Pattern Baldness' Jeans Sew-along, which is serendipitiously timed with this week's class project for jeans. Mine are due Wednesday night, however, so I may not get the full advantage of sourcing working knowledge from all the participants. As you can see from my pockets pictured at left, I'm already knee deep in denim. I went with white top-stitching, and decided to machine-embroider a trio of seagulls on each back pocket.

Our teacher doesn't believe in providing us with any instruction on how to sew the garments we draft for class. This is all well and good if you have sewn these items before (one of my classmates sews for Vera Wang — fancy!), but if you haven't, it's a stretch to work out the most logical way to assemble a complicated thing like jeans. If you were working from a pattern, you would have detailed assembly instructions. Me, I will mostly be looking at the jeans I already own to figure out in what order I should assemble.

This is where I was hoping the jeans sew-along at Male Pattern Baldness would lend a hand. 

I'm all set to start assembling today. The pattern is done. My pieces are all cut out. And after the too-big pants fiasco from my last project, I decided to take the tedious extra step of stay-stitching all curved pieces. And with hips and a butt like mine, that's pretty much ALL the pieces. There's not a straight seam to be found in my pattern. See?
I take shortcuts whenever I can, but I learned a valuable lesson in sewing my first pair of pants. My pattern was good, but the fabric stretched as I sewed. The result was sloppy-looking, baggy pants (which I eventually managed to salvage into a cute, decently fitting pair of trousers, but not without ripping out a lot of stitches). And the whole point of drafting a pant pattern to fit yourself is to attain the perfect fit. It was disappointing. 

So this time around I stay-stitched all around each piece so they will hold their shape as I sew. Sewing books and patterns will tell you to do this along necklines and armholes, in particular, because they are very curved and can stretch out during sewing. Stay-stitching is like a stabilizer, and helps your garment remain the shape it's supposed to be. It's easy to do: just straight-stitch 1/4"-1/2" from the edge of all curved seams:
Straight-stitching the yoke
Once you make a pair of pants, it's hard to believe that any company can make money selling an item of clothing so complicated. Stay-stitching 14 pieces took me an hour. Of course, I am slow as molasses compared to someone who does this all day long for a living. But still, I will never take my yoked five-pocket, fly-front skinny jeans for granted again.


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