Oct 31, 2012

Giveaway Winner! (Now if only the post office would open)

The sun came out this morning, for the first time since Hurricane Sandy sent us indoors many days ago.

So, as promised, I had my Lucy help draw for the dress I'd promised to giveaway in the midst of the storm:

From a HAT — Old school!

Congrats Justsewsew! I'll dig up your contact info through your Wordpress blog. The post office may not open for a few more days though. So be patient. Things are slowly getting back to normal here in NYC.

As you can see, it's quite beautiful out now:

Which is good news for Lucy, who will get to wear her Twilight Sparkle costume out trick-or-treating tonight after all:

I actually threw together a costume for myself the other day. And the great thing about being so last-minute is I got to be totally topical:

Get it? I'm a tourist who didn't get the memo about the hurricane. I made the camera from cardboard, hot glue and electrical tape, and the strap from a wire coat hanger and nylon strapping. The shirt was stencilled using freezer paper. And the Playbill was from the show I just saw on Broadway. It's hard to see my hair, but I used a half-can of hairspray to get it up pretty high.

So happy Halloween, everybody!

Oct 30, 2012

Hurricane Giveaway! Last day to enter

I hope you're all well following the destructive hurricane that blew in last night. We are lucky to live on high ground in the Bronx, so we didn't suffer any flooding or power outages. But we were up late because the wind was so loud no one could sleep (my four-year-old included). Trees are down on our street, and we're likely spending the day at home again today since school is cancelled, and subway and bus service has yet to be restored.

My only tragedy during Hurricane Sandy was the fact I never actually got any time to sew. My husband had to work from home, so I was on entertaining-a-stir-crazy-kid duty all day and night. Too bad, since I'm working on something I'm very excited about.

It's still raining and a little windy here, so the storm has not yet fully passed — which means you still have time to enter my Hurricane Giveaway! I promised I would accept entries until the sun shone again, so leave a comment on this entry to win this dress I made (which has never been worn, except during this photo shoot):

Enjoy your day off, New Yorkers! I hope your cars didn't get crushed or float away last night.

Oct 29, 2012

Finished Project! Vogue 1212 Princess Seam Coat

I'm pretty happy I persevered with this plaid wool-blend version of Vogue 1212, a "Today's Fit" Sandra Betzina pattern

Even though there's some strange lumpiness where the lining meets the facing — right over my bust, unfortunately:

That's OK. I can just wear it open:

Or keep my back to the audience (the seam lines on the back are pretty darn cute, after all): 

The fabric was pretty unforgiving, and I'm giving the rest away to a lucky reader who I hope has an easier time working with it (you know who you are):

I love those seam lines. What I don't love is a coat that needs to be ironed twice daily in order to look sharp enough to wear out of the house. Let's just call this a wearable muslin. Oh, you wanted to see the collar up, did you?

I think it looks spacey with the collar raised. Not my favorite. (That's my diplomatic way of saying, "I hate it."

I still love this design even though this version of Vogue 1212 is not my new favorite made-by-me item. I'll likely wear it occasionally (I did actually sport it to a Broadway show last week; I took Peter from Male Pattern Boldness as my date to Grace. I had the opportunity to review it for this website I write for. 

So I'll just have to wait until I have more money in my budget for a nice wool that's a little more forgiving before I make this again (maybe next time in a nice black with a crazy lining — and with a hood instead of the collar? That's my (far-off) plan.

In Hurricane Sandy news, it's just starting to get blustery here in the Bronx, and we're all ready for a day at home — no school for my kid, and my husband's office has everyone working from home for the day. There may be some chocolate chip cookies in my future today. Or an apple pie.

Also, if you haven't entered my Hurricane Giveaway, please do. If not for you, for a friend. Give it as a holiday gift! (Say that YOU made it. I won't be around to tell them otherwise).

Oct 28, 2012

Giveaway! My Hurricane Pain, Your Gain!

We're preparing for Hurricane Sandy to hit NYC sometime in the next 24 hours, and like all of us in the city, I'm having a few flashbacks to Hurricane Irene (except I haven't heard anyone advise putting big tape X's on your windows, like they did in August 2011. If they did, all the lazy people in the Bronx would be super stoked that they never bothered to take theirs down in the 13 months since the last hurricane to hit NYC).

We have water, enough food, and some new craft projects on hand to prevent boredom in our kid. All that's left to get today is a box of wine (this thing might last three days, after all!).

Anyway, now seems like a good time to hold a giveaway. I contemplated giving this dress away after I made it for Kollabora.com last spring. The fabric is a gorgeous olive silk crepe de chine from Mood. It was $17/yard, and was just a dream to work with. In fact, that's the reason I'm giving this away.

I have just enough of that lovely fabric to make a new minidress, which I will be working on during the hurricane this week. This dress here, sewn from Simplicity 1872 is a little on the modest side for me (when it comes to evening wear anyway). I never really thought I'd wear it, but was torn because I love the fabric so. However, now that I am making something else out of crepe de chine,  I finally feel ready to give this dress away:

I'm 5-foot-3 and think this dress would look great on someone my height or several inches taller. My waist is 30 inches, but there's a ton of ease in this, so even someone a few sizes up could easily wear this (Or if you're smaller, cinch it). I'm a very average B/sometimes C cup, and there's a lot of room through the bust, plus it's a wrap front, so you could always go with a camisole underneath if your chest is so big (bless your heart) that it actually fills out this generously cut top:

A gust of wind made it flare out like that!
In short, this dress is very forgiving. It's not at all fitted, so it could fit quite a range in sizes. Or you could go as Sexy Big Bird for Halloween in this. I won't be offended:

The color would make it great for a holiday party, or other special event.

To enter, just comment and tell me what would be in your hurricane preparedness kit. I'll accept entries up until the storm breaks, cutting it off and drawing a name at random when the sun finally shines again.

For a second entry, follow my blog (there's a little button thingie on the right of the page). Or if you're already a follower, just comment to tell me you are, and you get two entries too. I don't play favorites (except when it comes to boxes of wine).

Stay safe everyone, and happy hurricane sewing!

Oct 20, 2012

Work in Progress: Vogue 1212

You're a prudent bunch, dear readers. When I posted about hating the state of my current project — Vogue 1212, a coat pattern, nearly all of you advised me to set it aside and sew something else.

I guess I rebelled. Not because I decided this would be a knockout coat. Only because I went to the Garment District and decided I just couldn't splurge on jacket fabric right now. Everything I liked was so expensive. Plus I had my kid with me. It's too hard fabric shopping with a four-year-old.

So I bought grey zippers and a couple shoulder pads, and soldiered on (thinking if it turned out terribly, I would rip out the zips and use them elsewhere. No loss). If anything, I would learn a little something about coat construction.

I do love how the zippered pockets turned out:

And the bias binding looks cooler  now that it's all coming together. (The coat is still unlined, and the collar unfinished).

There's something vaguely Star Trekky about the back, I do believe:

But did you notice how my zipper needs to be reinstalled? I have never once sewn in a zipper without having to rip it out and try again (and sometimes, more than twice). I post this so you feel better about your sewing tribulations:

So there you have it. Necessity forced me to carry on with this coat. And I think I'll be happy that I did. I don't reckon I will ever sew with this type of fabric again. The weave was so lose. Everything gets off grain so easily. What a pain in the neck.

Unfortunately I already dropped the ball on keeping track of my time. I've worked on it a little bit each day this week, so let's estimate....40 hours. No, only kidding. I'd say I've invested about six hours and 20 minutes (the 20 minutes were spent staring at this squint-eyed, trying to figure out whether it was indeed going to look good when done).

I still have much to do: fix the zip so the front lines up properly. Sew the collar, sew the lining and sew it to the coat. Stare at it some more. Try it on with everything in my closet and ascertain whether I do like it....

I have a couple yards left of this fabric. If you think you can handle it, I will happily hand it over! Let me  know in the comments below. The first sucker (or more experienced sewer) who wants it can have it!

Oct 17, 2012

Know When to Run

Friends, how do you know when to forge ahead with a project despite the fact it's starting to look fug and you can foresee that salvaging it will only contribute to your gray hair count?

Or am I simply at the crossroads aptly described by funny Tweeter Kelly Oxford who now and then tweets the following "If you loved what you're writing & now you hate what you're writing, you're halfway through."

Because boy, do I ever hate this:

I'm at the "do I stay or do I go" stage. I don't want to commit any more time or supplies to something so stinky. I'm going down to the Garment District today. Maybe I should just start over — with a solid colour, and NO piping. This fabric, after all, is a NIGHTMARE to work with. I hate it more than words can say. I look at it too hard and it stretches, taking the plaid off-grain. Ugh. I even took the step of sewing twill tape along the edges:

But maybe, just maybe, once it's all together, I will once again see the potential in this? Or not. I hate to so easily abandon a project (because of what that says about my personality? That's one for the therapist), but I don't need one more thing in my closet that I never wear. It shames me when I'm sifting through and say to myself, "Ugh. I MADE that."

So how do you know when to hold 'em (and know when to fold 'em ... back up and deposit at the bottom of the scrap pile)?

Oct 14, 2012

Taking Your Time — And the Real Cost of Sewing

I suffer the same malady that I'm guessing some of you do: impatience, particularly when sewing something I'm excited about. It sets in about the time I can see how a project is going to turn out. So I can take cutting slowly, matching prints up at the side seams carefully. I prepare my machine properly, cleaning out lint and oiling it, as well as changing the needle to suit the fabric. But as soon as I sew a couple bodice pieces together and hold them up to my body, something comes over me — and I become an impulsive, shortcut-taking sewing hulk, pressing down harder on my sewing machine pedal: Me want to wear new dress. MUST. FINISH. NOW!

It's a powerful force that trips me up occasionally. It keeps me from reading instructions thoroughly. It makes me forget rows of topstitching. Ensures my gathers are not distributed equally.

In order to keep this impulse in check, I have to be very strict with myself. To illustrate, I'll share how I'm keeping myself from screwing up  Vogue 1212 — a "Today's Fit by Sandra Betzina" pattern, which I started working on this weekend.

I got this pattern last winter during one of Vogue's sales, for just $3.88 (score!). I love the classic princess seams and flared skirt paired with the sporty collar and three-piece sleeve. I see a lot of potential in this pattern (especially after making a muslin, which I will get to later). Here's the line drawing of Option B:

I'm using this white and silvery blue plaid wool blend, which I got from a former neighbor who was culling her stash during a move. I've had on hand it for a few years, but always thought it too "Chanel-suit-wearing-ladies-who-lunch" for me. If not for my friend Lizzi, who has said time and again how much she loves this fabric, I probably would have given it away. (She has cute style, so there must be something there I wasn't immediately seeing). Plus I have no budget for new fabric right now, so I'll give it a shot. I have five yards of it, so there's more than enough to ensure good plaid matching at the seam lines:

All that said, here are my rules for better sewing:

1. Don't sew something today that you need to wear tomorrow (unless it's something you have sewn several times before, or is a jersey miniskirt). Because that's when you end up setting a purple zipper into a black dress because you didn't plan ahead and purchase all your closures. 

2. Read all instructions BEFORE beginning to sew. This prevents me from forging ahead when I think I know what's next, and then backtracking later after I've flubbed up construction in some way. There is more than one way to set in a sleeve, and the pattern may tell you a different way to do it than what you are accustomed to FOR A REASON. (A reason that you will not learn until three steps later...at which point you will find yourself cursing, seam-ripper in hand).

3. If sewing something more complicated, set a daily limit on the number of steps you are to accomplish. It's like giving yourself a set number of chapters you can read before bed, lest you find yourself finishing the whole book at 3 a.m. Do I have a problem with impulse control? Only when it comes to wholesome things like reading and sewing. No judgement.

4. Make a muslin. This step forces me to do No. 1, 2 and 3, essentially. It requires planning ahead enough to allow time for a test garment, so I don't start sewing something hours before I want to wear it. It forces me to not only read the instructions and follow them, ensuring I won't make any stupid mistakes on the precious fabric I intend to use for the actual garment (I can make those dumb mistakes on the muslin). And it gives me a better sense of how to break down the steps, which allows for good pacing. PLUS, it's satisfying enough to try on a muslin that fits well that it tides me over until I can carefully work through all the steps on the actual garment.

Which brings me to my muslin for Vogue 1212:

I love the seaming on this. I plan on drafting a hood to go with this for a future collar-less version, and maybe even taking out some ease, dropping the neckline, sewing up the middle and adding a back zip for a dress version. I like the proportions and the way it hangs. I can totally see it as a dress:

Is that fabric familiar? It's from IKEA. My friend Lizzi gave it to me. Like, a million yards of it. I've used it for so many things now: a jumpsuit for my pattern making class more than a year ago

I thought it made me look like a clown, hence the juggling. I also made a version for my daughter. It was much cuter on her:

I also think it pays to be aware of the actual length of time it takes to sew something. I usually have no clue how long it took me to make something, because I'll work at it over a few sewing sessions, cutting the pattern out one night, and the fabric the next, sewing the bodice one day, and the skirt on another.

It all adds up though, and I think all that time is what gives our handmade things more value (and not rushing is clearly the key for me, at least, in making my me-made garments look less Becky Home-ecky. It also pays to know how long it takes to make something, so that when someone suggests you  make them a jacket, you can say, "Sure, it will only take me 15 hours!" (And cost $50 for the materials).

That in mind, I've resolved to keep better track of the true cost of sewing each garment, by keeping a running tally of the materials used and their purchase price, as well as the time contributed.

So far Vogue 1212 has cost me: $3.88 for the pattern (purchased on sale from Voguepatterns.com), and zip for the fabrics, which were donated to me by friends. (I will have to purchase lining fabric, three zippers and some interfacing, however, which I have yet to do. Wednesday is a professional development day for Lucy's pre-K, and I plan on dragging her downtown. Wish me luck).

I spent 40 minutes cutting the paper pattern, and an hour and 20 minutes sewing my muslin test garment (which is not lined, and does have closures, etc). So my running tally of time and money is $3.88 and two hours.

What about you people? What rules do you set for yourself when it comes to sewing?

Oct 5, 2012

I Will Follow You...Follow You Wherever You May Gooooooo

Hey friends and readers,

The past two weeks I've really been enjoying getting to know my online sewing friends again after a summer-long hiatus on blogging and reading. Seeing your finished projects always opens my eyes to possibilities and patterns I hadn't considered. For example, without you people, I wouldn't know about all these amazing indie pattern company — Victory, Salme, Figgy's, among them. Nor would I know about where to buy cool knit fabrics online (Girlcharlee.com; thank you Lisa G.!)

I read and appreciate all of my readers' comments. And I try to follow all of your blogs in return, when I can find them. So if you have a blog and I'm not yet following it, please let me know in the comments section. I comment as often as I can (though every other time I try to comment on a Wordpress blog, I have to change my password because I can never remember it! Modern day problems...).

Thanks for reading and making,


Oct 4, 2012

It's All In The Seams, Baby

I raised the waist on Vogue 8771 and sewed a second version of this Dolman-sleeved top, this time in a rayon jersey from Metro Textiles on 37th Street in NYC's Garment District. This is my favorite color, and the drape of this fabric is to die for. It was only $6/yard and if I had the budget for it, I would go back and buy the whole damn bolt. I'd love dresses in this soft and stretchy green-verging-on-chartreuse fabric:

Raising the waist made a big difference. Now the shoulder seams sit on my actual shoulders, and there's little fabric pooling over my derriere:

While my photographer was at home, I got him to snap a couple pics of me in the first version I made, which I used tape and sponge painting to create a cool chevron design:

I love this pattern for one simple reason: the seam lines that slice the bust into a traditional princess shape before curving into the waistline at the side seam. It's a tiny thing, but as anyone who sews knows: seams make all the difference — not just from a visual perspective, in that they can trick the eye into creating flattering shapes atop the body, but they are also the key to shaping a garment so it fits our curves.

Princess seams are one of the first things you will learn to draft when studying pattern making. And for good reason: these seam lines allow you to forgo darts and pleats while still shaping the bust for a perfect fit. Also, they're so flattering to a woman's figure:

Like the above dress (from Modcloth.com; pretty, isn't it?), traditional princess seams curve into the armscye. But it looks just as good to send the seam up to the shoulder, like this dress below:

Other variations on the Princess seam, I'm not so sure about:

I was very interested in the princess seams on this Tracey Reese dress Michelle Obama wore during her speech at the Democratic National Convention last month:

Rather than curve through the "apex" of the bust (that's the fullest point of your bust, which is essentially at your nipple), the princess seams are placed at least an inch closer to center front, maybe more. It's a small thing, but consider how sporty this dress looks with this seaming. The neckline verges on halter, which adds to that, for sure. Plus, those arms. Those incredible arms....

BTW, I was watching this speech on Youtube with my four-year-old and had to run to the bathroom at one point. When I cam back, I asked Lucy what I missed. "Oh nothing," she said. "She was just talking about a pickle guy raising eggs."

"Like, a guy who makes pickles, but also raises eggs?"

"No, mom. A guy MADE of pickles."

If anyone saw the full speech and has the full details on this pickle guy, I would really appreciate it. Google has turned up nothing on the matter.

Anyway, do you have a favorite pattern or dress that features princess seams? Post links for further prinsperation!

Oct 2, 2012

FInished Project: Rock and Roll Leggings!

That would be a D chord, FYI

Last winter I refashioned a pair of longjohns into leather patch leggings, and then proceeded to wear them to DEATH. Granted, the faux leather I used wasn't the highest quality, and they were a touch too tight, which meant more wear and tear on the seams than a pair of pants can handle in a season. Still, I loved layering them with T-shirts, tunics and cardigans, and wore them until the weather warmed and I couldn't deny they were destined for the landfill.

But with Fall finally here in NYC, sewing another, better pair was high on my list of things to make this month. And luckily for me, they appear to be just as in fashion this fall as they were last winter. You can find both high- and low-end examples, from these pricey stretch-corduroy riding pants: 

....to super cheap maternity leggings at H&M:

So when McCall's/Vogue/Butterick held one of the its bi-monthly pattern sales (OK, maybe they're not bi-monthly, but they happen often enough that you probably never need pay full-price for a pattern from those three makers), I scooped up McCall's 6404, an easy Misses leggings pattern with four variations:
Sometimes you have to look past the styling to see the potential!

And though my first crack at this pattern turned up a few fit issues that will need adjusting before I make 10 more pairs, I was happy enough with the results to put on some black eye makeup and grab my husband's guitar for a photo shoot. The main fabric is a double-knit from Fabric.com for $12/yard — a price that was worth it: the drape and feel of this fabric is just lovely. The faux leather was from this place on 39th Street in the Garment District. (I don't remember the name and can't find it on Google street view — darn those roll-down metal gates!)

The saggy, baggy knees will require more than just a side seam adjustment; this wrinkling is the result of the leggings being too lengthy through the knee for my petite frame. Luckily, that's an easy adjustment to make on the pattern.

Really, I can live with this — and will be wearing them to the playground today. Like Dixie DIY once wrote about the overfitting we do as sewers, we put up with a lot of imperfections in the ready-to-wear stuff we buy, so why sweat every little fit issue in our self-made garments? (That's a rough paraphrase, and I'm sticking with it — at least until I sew my second pair, which I know will fit much better).

I also need to add an inch-and-a-half to the back rise; my round butt requires a little more fabric to cover it than most, apparently. But that's something I don't need documented in pictorial form on the Internets. Just imagine a little dip at center back. 

I see so much possibility in this pattern now: black on black; a bright hue with brown faux leather; stretch denim leggings with faux suede patches; zebra print ponte with black patches: 

Ok, maybe not for me. But I could picture this on a few of you...admit it. If not this, what would you make with McCall's 6404?

Oct 1, 2012

Guest Post! Amy's Advice on Creating Your Own Print

I am soooooooo excited today to present Beau Baby's first ever guest poster, my friend Amy! This summer we worked together on creating the perfect dress for her to wear to a wedding-like event in Scotland this Fall. Amy created her own print using Spoonflower.com, which I used to sew a custom-fit bombshell dress. The results were amazing, and some of you wanted to hear more about how she turned a photo into a super special print. (Keep in mind, neither of us is sponsored by Spoonflower, though we wouldn't turn down free fabric if it's being offered!). Amy's tutorial below kinda blew my mind; now I know how easy it is to turn a photo into a completely unique print — that in no way resembles the original photo. I didn't think I had the skills to do something like this. But now I think we all do. So read on!

Greetings Beau Baby blog followers! 

I offered to do a guest a post to discuss the design process for my fabric. Full disclosure: I pretty much have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to using Photoshop or Illustrator (I had been known to be slightly drunk during my graphics design class in my undergrad program), so my process here was somewhat inartful and crude. But the good news is that Spoonflower seems to be aware of that and has really simple and user-friendly tools to help inexperienced, somewhat lazy people like myself.

Originally I wanted to do a solid color, and Sue suggested a print and keeping the design simple. Since her print choice on her dress looked great, I thought this was an excellent direction to go in. Picking a print would have been tricky and prolonged given the Atlantic between me and Sue; I could look for prints in London but would need to send her samples for her to okay the print size and the fabric type, or she would have looked in NY and then had to send things over to me to approve in terms of my tastes. I started looking at a million prints online to send her things that I was really into, and ended up at Spoonflower. I stumbled into the bit where you make your own design and immediately all the Project Runway HP design challenges flashed into my mind like some sort of dreamy Mondo-led montage. I really like making things as personal as possible, so I started looking at the photos I took in Prague, where Lewis and I met 5 years ago. 

Here are the two photos that seemed to have some interesting design potential.

The first one is the astronomical clock, which is pretty famous in Prague and really beautiful. The other one is some church. 

Once you have a Spoonflower account, you can upload various file types.

Once uploaded, you can crop the photo in their embedded photo editor, Picmonkey. You can also crop it beforehand in picasa or whatever. It's good to play around with this because the larger the image file is, the more flexibility have in terms of size of the print later. PNG files are best. Spoonflower will stop letting you make the print size bigger when they know that blowing it up any more will make it look gross.

You can also play around with the colors a bit. I wanted the gold to be brighter and more orangey but the big risk for fall colors is looking like a pumpkin. 

I started with this:

and got it more like this:

Here's the main editor in Spoonflower:

On the right, you have choices on how to pattern the print. "Mirror" usually works best if it's a cropped photo. Otherwise, you need to line things up properly when you design them.

The thing I really like here is that you can abstract the image a bit using the color palette. Notice how there are 4 colors at the bottom of the screen. And in the menu to the left it says "CHANGE COLORS." You can make it only 2 colors, or up to 24 or something. This is nice because it makes it look like color blocking or paint. So it's more like a print and less like a photo that you scanned on a tee shirt. You can also totally alter the color scheme from what it is originally in the photo to match your aesthetic and season. 

Here were some of the runner-ups to the one I ultimately ended up choosing.

 Some parents use Spoonflower to take their kids' drawings and make clothing out of the prints they create. I think that's such a lovely way to showcase your kids' art and make them feels special beyond the magnets on your fridge. Spoonflower is also doing wallpaper now. Pretty neat.

Ordering and shipping was very easy. It's always recommended that you order a swatch first to check colors, etc. This really worked for me and Sue given our distance - I ordered it from London on my computer and had it shipped directly to her house!

Hope this helped. I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments section.


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