Aug 31, 2011

I got mugged and then made a dress. It sucks of course

 So what did you do while the hurricane passed? We bought a few jugs of water, some batteries, and I sewed this navy dress from McCall's 1207:

But, blargh, it's not really working for me. The fit is all off, probably because it's a "Misses" pattern, and cut to fit someone much younger than me, with a fat back and a tiny waist and a butt that starts at the base of her spine. It's just weird. And kind of uncomfortable. It's all big in the back, yet I can't really raise my arms (and I really like high-fives, so that's an issue for me). And I just don't think I have it in me to make the appropriate changes.

It has been a rough week, and I don't know any other way to say it than this: I was mugged by a crackhead in a park a block from my home. He punched me in the face in front of my three-year-old daughter, and ran off with my bag. (This is what journalism types call "burying the lede"). The police caught him within a half-hour and he's in jail now. Naturally, he was out on parole (most men who punch ladies in the face in front of small children probably are). I had to drink milkshakes for days because my jaw hurt so bad. I have a purple moustache and goatee. And my three-year-old knows the meaning of the word "mugged" now. Worst. Week. Ever.

And then, of course, a couple days later, a Category Mindfuck Hurricane blew through New York. So the past seven days have been damn near apocalyptic for our family.  I thought staying in all day and sewing this dress would be therapeutic, but mostly it just frustrated me and reminded me why I started drafting my own patterns in the first place.

It looks cute on the dress form though (and isn't that print awesome?):

Except the booty is all off. In fact, I think my butt would have to be about six inches higher to look good in this. And if I lift my arms, it does very strange things. Maybe if I stand still with my back against the wall, I could get away with wearing it.

 It looks pretty terrible on me. It stinks actually. And there are too many issues in too many directions for me to bother with fixing it, I think. If I wasn't working on my last nerve, maybe. Perhaps a huge belt would cover up enough to make it better? I need a dress fairy to pay me a visit.

Anyway, now I don't think I'll use this pattern for the peacock-print dress I was planning. I'm just going to buy something at H&M. (There. I said it.) Also, I finished my pink pegboard (which you can see in the background of the above photos) the day before I was mugged. But in the week since we have decided to move out of this neighbourhood, which means all my hard work measuring, drilling and mounting is a total fucking waste because I will be taking this down again in a month. The police officers told me the park where I was attacked is not safe and I shouldn't go there, but the parks are the best thing about this 'hood (the crackheads are obviously the worst). We feel so stupid for not moving sooner: we see tiny ziploc bags littered on the ground within a block of our building (and yet an apartment in my building is on the market for $650,000! Only in New York City). So where does that leave us?

I don't know. I don't want to leave my home. I can't even handle anyone walking behind me. And now we're moving, which is a goddamn arduous task in New York City. Someone please tell me to take the bodice off this mess, take it in at center back, and just draft a new skirt. It's not so hard. Also, moving can't be that bad if I've done it 15 times in my adult life, right? 

People keep telling me, "Well, now you've been mugged, which means you can't be mugged again, so that's good!!" If only the universe worked that way -- with a non-transferrable hole-punch card for the all the bad things that could possibly happen to you.

Am I taking out my anger over this assault on my dress? Maybe a little. But what else can I do?

Aug 23, 2011

Sewing Space Revamp

What do you do when you're facing a bunch of deadlines and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of work and family? Do you remodel your sewing room with a simple complicated woodworking project? Me too! (OMG, we are so much alike).

OK, so "sewing room" may be a bit of a misnomer in my case. My sewing room is more like a "sewing area," which also happens to be a foyer/busy thoroughfare in my one-bedroom apartment that I share with two other people (one of whom NEVER cleans up after herself). In clear view from almost every corner of our apartment, it sucks when it's in disarray, which it has been lately because I have so much on the go. You can see how it needed some work ("Before" photos are legally required to be shot with a flash, so they look extra ugly):
That's an eyesore, right? No wonder didn't feature any photos of my sewing space in their Q&A with me

Since I switch back and forth between sewing and patternmaking, I need to have lots of different tools close at hand. A proper pegboard seemed to be the best solution. And anyway, how hard could it be? I picked up a pre-cut piece at a hardware store nearby, plus a couple four-foot-long pieces of 2-inch by 1-inch pieces of wood. Plus screws. And drywall anchors. Then more screws. Of course all of these items required separate trips to the hardware store, because I am an idiot. Then I put my staff to work painting the pegboard a nice retro Pepto Bismol pink:
 Then I measured and marked holes on the wall above my drafting table, and then drilled and hammered in eight drywall anchors because this apartment does not seem to have studs. (There must be five layers of drywall atop each other, and if someone were to remove them all, we would get another 50 square feet out of this place. Fucking New York apartments.) Then I screwed the pieces of wood frame in place, like so:
Then, finally, I screwed the pink pegboard to the frame, et voila!! (OK, so a bit more was done before the "et voila" stage, but you don't need to hear about the hours spent tossing and organizing notions and tools.)
 I'm still waiting for my pegboard hooks to arrive (I ordered them via Amazon because it's hard to find them at our tiny hardware stores in Upper Manhattan), but you get the idea. All those tools, curves and rulers you can see on my drafting table will soon be displayed on high within easy reach. Here's another view:

 I even managed to re-use three dowels I had on hand from the tents I made for my kid's camping themed birthday party. Check out my handy bias tape & trimming holder I made by putting a screw in each end of the dowel and hanging it on hooks off my pegboard (I wound the bias tape, elastic and trimmings on cut sections of toilet paper tubes):

Then I had a major brainwave, and used another two dowels to create a big spool for my pattern paper. It's so far hanging off the bottom of the pegboard in a makeshift kind of way, but at least it gets the paper up off the dusty floor, and makes it super easy to access:

It's a little Macgyvered in places, but I'm still super proud of it. I didn't spend much money ($7 on the pegboard, $5 on the hooks, $5 on the wood, and a few bucks on screws), but improved my sewing space dramatically. Hopefully it will streamline things for me, and help me sew and draft more efficiently.

Aug 19, 2011

Chevron-striped jersey dress...and a great day out in NYC

This kid is always stealing my spotlight
I'm not one to wax poetic on New York City, but sometimes you just gotta love living here. Not only do we have the greatest fabric stores, with amazing cheap finds like this super-soft, vintage-looking, orangey-coral-reddish striped jersey I picked up at Chic on 39th Street last weekend during the First Annual Male Pattern Boldness Day (I'm hoping if I say it's an annual event enough times, that will make it so), but we also have so many great places to wear the cute little dresses we sew up from said finds. Like the NY Water Taxi terminal on Pier 11 (pictured directly above), and the solar-powered carousel at South Street Seaport (pictured below), just two of our stops today on an epic family jaunt around the city.

Lucy rode the rooster, the
 It was a lovely summer day in NYC, so we did something we'd been meaning to do for a while now: took the free water taxi to IKEA in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It was a super fun ride, and Lucy shrieked with glee every time we hit waves. We had a cheap lunch at IKEA (kids eat FREE), Lucy played with all the toys, and we picked up a couple household items we needed. Plus Ryan snapped a few pics of me in the jersey dress I made this week:
The front
The back
Then we rode back to Manhattan, where we'd promised Lucy she could ride the carousel. We made it in time for the last ride of the day. Phew. That thing was fast. I felt dizzy by the end. The trials of parenting.
An all-white carousel is the perfect place to model a bright red dress, right?

Following that, we went to the nearby Imagination Playground, but not before snapping off a couple more pics near the docks.  I draped the bodice for this dress on my dressform, then made a pattern, and sewed the whole thing on my serger. I didn't overthink the skirt: it's just two rectangles sewn together and gathered. But it turned out beautifully. I blind-hemmed the skirt with my serger too, and I just love the bounce to this fabric. It moves beautifully. I don't think it looks like a jersey dress, but it's so comfortable, and held up really well to a full day out in NYC. Note the chevron stripes created by cutting the bodice on the bias:

I'm from an island. What can I say, I love boats.
Real models don't smile, do they?
Our kid is such a fucking champ. She can spend a full 12 hours out exploring the city, and she never loses her shit. At 8 p.m. she was happily enjoying a peanut-butter bagel at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca (we walked ALL the way there; I just mapped it and it was 2.66 miles/4.3 kilometres). That kind of stamina is going to serve her well one day. I don't know if we deserve any credit for that, but if someone's handing out medals, I wouldn't turn it down. That was our day. How was yours?

Aug 16, 2011

The Perfect Fit Bombshell Dress as Consolation

Try to remember that correlation is not causation, especially if your name rhymes with Thirsty Boss and you are reading this (come to think of it, "Thirsty Boss" would be a good nickname for my best friend. Am I first person to think of this? Probably not. She does like her liquor.) But today was the deadline to pay tuition for the fall semester at FIT and I had to let it pass me by and de-register for the Patternmaking for Coats and Jackets class I was hoping to take. It just wasn't in the budget this semester, for several reasons (Eating, being one. Shelter, another). In addition, I will be heading to Nicaragua this winter for a wedding on Little Corn Island off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean!

Thirsty Boss is getting married, and the minute her now-fiance told me he was going to propose, I started writing my speech in my head (note to self: start writing it down before you hit your head and lose the first draft). Luckily for me, flying to Nicaragua from NYC is much cheaper than from the West Coast, like most of their family and friends, though the title "MATRON of honour" is not very fitting, is it? This is the very first picture that comes up when you do a Google image search for "matron":

This was not the look I was hoping for. Thirsty Boss says I can wear whatever I want (and in fact they are planning for everyone to swim directly after the vows on the beach), so I was thinking a good way to both console myself for not taking my class at FIT AND make something befitting a Caribbean island wedding would be to sign up for Gertie's Perfect Fit Bombshell Dress online course. (Dare I admit to being inspired by Oonabaloona two days in a row?) Her version of this dress is THE bomb, so how could I not. I wouldn't have thought of using this pattern if it wasn't for her stunning example. I like it so much more in a bold print like hers. Ok, let's just do this. (I'm not trying to Single White Female you, Oona):

 Anyway, the bombshell dress online class is only $30, including the cost of the pattern. And it looks like I will learn a great deal in sewing this hot little number. Also, if I don't go for a print, maybe I could do an overlay of silk chiffon, something like this J. Crew dress:

So use the Bombshell dress bodice as the foundation for something a little softer looking. Of course, none of this can happen until I finish sewing this:

And sew this dress:

From this fabric
For another wedding we have this fall in Kansas City. So sorry FIT, my dance card is full.

Aug 15, 2011

Not a bribe, it's an incentive (or what I made with my Male Pattern Boldness Day impulse buy!)

I'm a terrible procrastinator and when I have a crapload of work on my plate (real, paid writing work, that is). I have to fight my instincts to let it all slide until the night before by setting daily quotas and giving myself incentives to finish. Iced coffee is a big one. I say to myself: "Self, if you finish this story, you can have an iced coffee before tackling the next one." (To which I reply, "You're a stingy little bitch, self.")

Also, the prospect of watching an episode of Glee Project or Project Runway (hey, it's summer -- so reality TV is my only option) is another proverbial carrot on a stick for me.

And, of course, rewarding myself with some sewing time, which I did yesterday after it mercifully rained all day long (record rainfall in NYC; something like 8 inches!). Not only was I able to meet all three deadlines for today, I also made the pattern for and sewed this little bodice from the cotton jersey I bought on Male Pattern Boldness Day! (Plus, praise be to Mother Nature for the rain, because it kept the Dominican Day festivities in check this year, and we weren't up all night listening to partying).

Front bodice
Inspired by the following two garments, I draped the pattern for this baby in minutes and then sewed it up last night using the stripey coral-orange cotton jersey I found at Chic Fabrics on 39th Street for just $5/yard. The jersey is very thin, so I lined it with a white jersey I had on in my stash, which had the effect of making the subtle stripes a little bolder, plus it looks like piping around the neckline. Happy accident! I love the chevron shape created by cutting the striped jersey on the bias, like this amazing maillot I first saw on Burdastyle
And this super cute dress by Oonabaloona, whose style and blog I just love:

 A close-up of my chevron:
Love it!

And the back

Aug 14, 2011

Male Pattern Boldness Day!

Me with the world's most popular and (arguably) the sweetest male sewing blogger
It feels a little like Boxing Day (that's the day after Christmas for you Americans).  That's because today is the day after the First Annual (I added that part, but I hope it's true) Male Pattern Boldness Day, a day in which sewers from all over the Tri-State area (and beyond) gathered together to man-handle the collectibles at Chelsea Flea Market, be inspired by sporting clothes through the decades at FIT, and shop every divey fabric store frequented by our guru in all things glam, gathered and on-grain, the inestimable Peter Lappin of Male Pattern Boldness.

Our benevolent leader Mr. Lappin ushered us from one location to the next with all the grace of a senior summer camp counselor. Though I kept referring to my new friends by their place names (Florida; El Paso; Washington Heights), Peter somehow managed to remember all 25-ish people who showed up for the event.

The first stop was Chelsea Flea Market (not to be confused with Chelsea Market, which my husband clearly did when he said, "ooh, you can get cake!"). The Chelsea Flea is located on 25th Street near Sixth Avenue and it most definitely doesn't serve cake. I've been once before, years ago when I first moved to New York. It's an institution and Peter says he has even seen such celebrities as Parker Posey and Catherine Deneuve shopping there on a Saturday morning.

I didn't buy anything though I was tempted by some housewares and antique toys. But the price points were so...Manhattan. And after the first few times I queried the price of something and was quoted a sum five times higher than what I was expecting, I just stopped considering these were things for sale (the pair of dress form-shaped lamps will just have to live on in my memory). Because I am Canadian, and we don't negotiate. If we did, there wouldn't be a weird little strip of Minnesota in Ontario's Lake of the Woods region. When a Canadian hears the price of something is five times higher than she expected, she says something complimentary ("So beautiful!") and then scoots her ass out of there before she breaks something. Of course, others in our group found some great buys, so maybe it's just my problem.

Following the flea market, we joined the rest of the group at the Fashion Institute of Technology for the Sporting Life exhibit. I've taken three classes there now, but had never been to the museum. I'm always running to class right after dropping Lucy with a friend who watches her until my husband gets home. Look at how many sewers showed up for the main event!
I stole this pic from Peter's blog post. What are you going to do about it?
The exhibit was a treat. I loved seeing how impractical play clothes for women once were:

Woolen bathing costume!

Sailing outfit — because a floor-length skirt is what you need when you're hoisting the main
I didn't take any of my own pictures because there were enough security guards in the little museum to start a basketball team, and I didn't want the embarrassment of getting kicked out.

After that, the lot of us ate lunch around the corner at the Brown Cup cafe before moving on to the fabric shopping portion of our day. I usually head to the same two or three places, and was excited to see what shops Peter would take us to. Nothing was as divey as I expected (he's always blogging his $2/yard finds, so I was expecting to find wood shavings on the floor). On 38th Street, we hit Sil Thread and The Spandex House, then H&M, Chic and Mood. I bought black silk organza at H&M ($8/yard) to underline a silk dress I will hopefully start working on soon, as well as more ivory tulle ($1.50/yard) for Lucy's flower girl dress and a cute vintagey coral jersey with a muted stripey pattern ($5/yard). It was really fun to hear what projects the other sewers were working on (I wish Tambira had a blog so I could see how her sexy sequined skirt turns out!).

On the way to Mood, we passed by Olivier Green from this season of Project Runway, sullenly carrying a Mood bag. On his way back to Parsons to complete the day's challenge? That would be my guess.

What is with that guy's accent? He's from Ohio!
Later at Mood, the already-packed store was suddenly flooded with people carrying walkie talkies. Project Runway production staff prepping for a shoot? What else could it have been? We didn't stick around to find out.

That's because the group still had energy to spare, so we walked to Around the World Magazines (on the south side of Bryant Park), which stocks international pattern and fashion magazines (as well as pricey textbooks), before finishing the day at nearby Kinokuniya, a super cool Japanese bookstore that sells lovely pattern and design books. Then my new pals grabbed snacks and iced coffees and relaxed in Bryant Park. I had to run to a three-year-old's birthday party and was sad to see the day end. I hope MPB Day becomes an annual tradition. (I could totally see Peter with a headset on the top floor of a double-decker bus leading dozens of international sewers on a personalized tour of NYC....think about it, Peter!)

Aug 8, 2011

I'm's "Featured Member" this week!

I just came home from a weekend away in cool, calm Connecticut to a hot, noisy city littered with trash and surly people in dire need of a vacation themselves. Any relaxation we experienced this weekend was undone in the trek across Manhattan through Harlem from the Metro North station to the subway with a tired three-year-old in tow. But discovering that finally posted my "featured member" Q&A today is definitely taking the edge off!

I'm super excited to be this week's featured member at! — in my opinion, the best online sewing resource. The tutorials are super helpful because there's always something new you need to know with each project. The patterns are cheap and tres cute. And there are so many talented members sharing their projects, so it's a continual source of inspiration to me. I'm so freaking pleased they thought my work was good enough to share. It's just the boost I need right now, with another flower girl dress on deck to sew this week, and the sinking realization that we may not be able to afford another class for me at FIT this fall. I do have an idea in the works though for something constructive in the future. Stay tuned. And while you wait: go check out's Q&A with me!

Aug 5, 2011

Project Dumbway

My husband and I have a A LOT of really great ideas for TV shows. It's kind of a pastime of ours — thinking up TV show ideas. Which is in no way useful considering neither of us works in TV. (My husband has written a screenplay, which I think is hilarious — the screenplay, that is, NOT the fact that he wrote one).

I don't want to give anything away (because if I crack an issue of Variety to see "The Super" is in development, someone's head is gonna roll), but I do believe one of our strongest ideas yet is "Project Dumbway," a Project Runway-style show where contestants compete in design challenges that see them create a new look based on some theme or set of materials. But here's the catch: our contestants are not designers. They're not even seamstresses. They're dudes like my husband. And your husband. Can't quite picture it yet?

Picture my husband on the left; yours on the right. Comedy gold!

Imagine if you took 10 funny people who knew nothing about clothing, construction, fabric, or sewing, and told them: we're going to Petland, here's $100 to create a look based on the materials you can buy there. If you knew my husband, you would know it would be comedy gold to watch him try to fashion something — anything — from, well, just about anything. What got us thinking about it was this guy from last season of the Greatest Show on Earth:

 The very first episode Jason has to make a new garment from another contestant's kimono. So he puts it on the model backward, and...I don't know. See for yourself:

The entire episode my husband kept saying, "THAT'S TOTALLY WHAT I WOULD DO!" which was so not a compliment. (Jason wasn't eliminated, though I think they just wanted to see what the hell he would do next because it's good TV — JUST LIKE PROJECT DUMBWAY!)

Anyway, that lead me to think: how would my husband's design and construction skills fare against my friend Lizzi's husband? He's pretty stylish, but would he actually be capable of doing more to a kimono than putting it on backward? And then Ryan (my husband) started getting cocky, saying things like, "I bet I'd be way better than Joe (another neighbourhood friend). At least I've seen you sew!"

We probably wouldn't be able to get Michael Kors or Nina Garcia as judges, but I bet Heidi Klum would do it. She's so darn cute, and with a snappy sense of humour that totally belies her German heritage. Just imagine how charmed she would be by your husband's earnest attempt at a shift dress made from floor mats.

Project Dumbway on Comedy Central. Think about it.

Don't send in the marines just yet

In case any of you were wondering, I made it through sewing that silk junior bridesmaid dress (McCall's 4763) yesterday. That is to say, I am still here, and still mostly sane. No stealth trips to David's Bridal, though the thought of buying something similar and snipping the label off did cross my mind.

All I have left to do is to attach the waistband to the dress and then hem it, though that will have to wait until the day before the wedding to do that because the girl lives a zillion miles away and I can't try this on her until then. Witness my invisible zipper, sewn to the top layer of silk satin with my machine, and then hand-stitched to the silk lining. It was a feat of patience for me:

The zipper, up close. My stitches are imperceptible!

From afar: simple yet so pretty!
I hope it fits her. And that she doesn't grow between now and October. That couldn't possibly happen, right? RIGHT?? (I'm still a little inhinged, see?) I changed the waistband from the one in the pattern, so that the two girls (ages 10 and 3) would match a little more.

Next up, the flower girl dress. Slightly less tricky because the lining is a cotton/poly blend. I'm going to experiment with interfacing the whole thing because the flower girl dress should be stiffer than this floor-length fancy number, but the bride wanted the two dresses to be of the same fabric. That presents a challenge for sure.

Aug 3, 2011

Thanks, Bob

I haven't cut any fabric in weeks, but I did cut some hair today. How do you like this new little 'do? It's hot here, and my kid sweats like her sweaty father and refuses ponytails. Plus she fights me every time I try to brush her beautiful blond hair. SO today I chopped it. The girl can grow it long again when she's old enough to groom herself.

I almost went this short:

But thought better of it and instead shaped it into a chin-length bob. She watched Bob the Builder while I snipped away (it took me probably 40 minutes to get it the right length and not crooked). That is the strangest show — like HGTV for toddlers. Afterward, my kid said, "Can we build something now?" But not like make-stuff-out-of-cardboard build something. Bob the Builder raises expectations. After watching Bob the Builder, she wants to pour the foundation for our eco-home treefort and miter the mouldings for a new door made from reclaimed wood. Shit, girl.

Recently we took her to Home Depot in Chelsea and she cried when we had to leave. Of course a couple weeks ago she said she wanted to be a dinosaur when she grows up, so none of this means anything. Though I would really like to finally have someone handy about the house.

As for cutting fabric, I really am dying to make a new skirt. I have lots of this great black cotton I used for my sailor shorts. I want to a nautical skirt, surprise, surprise. Casey from Casey's Elegant Musings posted a lovely one made from a vintage McCall's pattern. Given enough time, I think I could draft a similar one. But that's only if given enough time. I got my kid in bed early tonight, so I can transcribe some interviews for a story that's due on Monday....but I'm going away for the weekend, so that means little time for procrastination. Or sewing. Or cleaning my messy apartment. Or watching Glee Project. Or writing in my blog. Or drinking this Labatt's Blue LIGHT with Lime. Ugh. My husband buys awful beer.

If Only My Husband Actually Read My Blog (Without Me Asking)

It's been a busy few weeks here with more writing assignments than I know what to do with. Actually, I can handle all the writing assignments. What I can't handle is keeping a clean apartment or finding the time to sew anything. So my place looks like shit, which means it's high time to stop reading any and all blogs that feature perfectly lit photos of delightfully decorated homes. I might just kill someone if I have to lay eyes on another hyper-organized, artfully arranged baby room.

That time would be better spent vacuuming or telling my husband to vacuum.

Anyway, the one thing I have done is make an easy change to this blue cotton dress with the bow-print. Because I made it, I loved it, and then I never wore it. I thought I liked the A-line shape, but every time I went to put it on, I'd hang it back on the hanger. Then I had a brainwave: add elastic at the waist to make it more casual. My life is pretty chill after all. Here I am hanging out at Central Park's Sheep Meadow:

Here's the dress before:

And here I am in it after adding a casing to the INSIDE of the dress, and then threading a length of 1/2-inch elastic through it. Much more casual. Plus I don't look pregnant:

And from the back:
Much more wearable, right? This was a lovely day out with my family. We played at the 68th Street playground all morning and then had lunch at the gourmet food trucks now stationed at the former Tavern on the Green restaurant/tourist trap. I'm loving the food trucks this summer (another reason for an elastic waistband, am I right, ladies?).


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