May 29, 2014

Project Runway — Redemption, Recaps and a Challenge of Our Own!

The producers of Project Runway are all about second chances: from the "Tim Gunn Save" to Project Runway All-stars (which I believe was created in part to right the wrong of Mondo losing out to Gretchen Jones in Season 8), to the practice of inviting four finalists to create a collection for Fashion Week rather than the expected three.

And the upcoming season of Project Runway — expected sometime this summer; who knows when exactly — will once again feature a former contestant brought back under the guise of "Runway Redemption." (Remember on Season 12 a humbled Kate came back to the workroom, where she proved to be more than the sum of her sass and selfishness displayed in Season 11_.

This time around, fans can vote for one of three former contestants: goth costume designer Alexander Pope, Nashville designer Amanda Valentine, and Ken "Anger Issues" Laurence. And TV being what it is, I'm guessing Ken will could very well draw enough votes from people who simply want to see whether this southern hothead can make it through another season without actually stabbing someone with a pair of Ginghers:

Before you vote for this man, remember he also threatened a woman with violence:

When he called his mom after one of these blowups, she said, "Did that other person show up?" referring, I presume, to Ken's split-personality. Surely Project Runway concerns itself with the mental stability of its contestants (and the safety of those who must live and work in close quarters with them).

Moving on, what do we remember about their actual designs?

Some highlights from Alexander Pope's creative and colorful work on Season 12:

Amanda Valentine seemed like she had a lot of potential. But she went down in the dumbest Project Runway challenge ever: designing stage outfits for an Australian male stripper revue (see the last unfortunate photo in this series):

Krazy Ken, meanwhile, made a lot of little short dresses and a couple nice gowns. He didn't win a single challenge his season. Oh, and he threatens violence against women (did I already mention that?):

Were any of you readers here when I used to write Project Runway recaps? That was loads of fun, and I miss those post-show conversations so I'm bringing back my "What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week?" recaps when the next season starts this summer. And to celebrate, I'm planning a super fun reader challenge. I'll be back with details soon.

Until then, who do think should be given a second chance in lucky Season 13 of Project Runway?

May 27, 2014

Sewing: So Easy a 5-year-old Could Do It (Fetch me a 5-year-old?)

So many people I meet think they are incapable of sewing — that there's some secret trick to it that would take them forever to learn. But it's just like any skill that you master bit by bit as you go.

Take cooking, for example: you probably started out making something simple like scrambled eggs. In time, your scrambled eggs got better and better. So then you tried an omelette. And after a few of those, you may even make a souffle (or a cake because who even eats souffle? Gross).

And when you teach kids to cook, you're not going to start out by handing them Julia Child's recipe for Coq au Vin. First, you let them whisk while you hold the bowl (always hold the bowl, unless you're a total masochist — or you have a maid, and then by all means let your maniac child beat some batter solo). When they've got that down, you let them crack an egg. And as they prove they can be trusted, you might even let them stir at the stove.

It's the same with sewing: your kid will be plenty challenged by taking over just a few of the easiest steps. And in time, if they enjoy it, they work their way up to the point where you don't have to hover over their shoulder to make sure that they remember to put the presser foot down.

• Safety — Many people wonder about the safety of letting a child sew. After all, the needle is sharp and little fingers aren't always so careful. But if there's one thing that kids truly HATE (next to daily sunscreen applications and food touching other food, especially green food) it's needles. Kids will talk to you ALL DAY LONG about how much they hate needles. And they are pretty good at keeping away from the things they hate, including green food, socks with seams (yes, I'm aware that all socks have seams), and needles.

That said, there are some kids who would gladly sew their fingers together just to mess with you — and those kids shouldn't be trusted with a sharp pencil, let alone a sewing machine. You know your kid best. If your child sits still for an art, craft or building project, then they might have the maturity for sewing. This is NOT coded language for "boys don't/can't/won't sew." To the contrary, I think many boys would be interested in sewing if given the chance; after all, they get to put their foot on a pedal, which is kind of like driving a car, and they get to construct, an activity that for some reason is considered a male domain — except when it's done with fabric. (Whatever you do, don't try to teach a four-year-old to sew. Four-year-olds think they know everything. Wait at least until your child has been humbled by the rigors of Kindergarten.)

• Skip the technical stuff for now — When I teach adults to sew, winding a bobbin and threading the machine are the first skills I want them to master. If they have any hope of sewing independently, these are the two most important skills they can take away from a beginner class. But kids just want to get down to business — and they might get bored if too much time is spent on setting up. (Teens and confident tweens, however, are capable of quickly mastering the skills of bobbin-winding and machine-threading. I have one student who claims bobbin-winding is her "favorite." Some of my adult students, meanwhile, really sweat it every time they have to change their bobbin).  

• Introduce one element at a time: When you were a kid did your dad or grandpa ever let you steer the car? While a perfectly responsible adult may let a child take a turn at the steering wheel, you would have to be the town idiot to also let them operate the gas and the brake too. A sewing machine is likewise a pretty complex piece of machinery. But you can let a kid start out slowly by doing just one task at a time; she can "steer" while you drive (press on the foot pedal), or operate the pedal while you steer.

Following a chalk line is easier for kids
Or, if that's too much, invite your child to put down the presser foot and turn the handwheel to drop the needle before you begin sewing. That's pretty much the "whisk the eggs" equivalent. You might be surprised by how happy a kid will be doing these two small tasks.

• Go threadless — Eliminate another element by removing the thread from the machine and giving your child a piece of paper instead. He or she can practice stepping on the foot pedal and feeding the paper under the presser foot without you having to worry about tangled thread, wasted fabric, or a jammed-up machine. They will be delighted to see all the little holes the needle makes in the paper (if you're worried about dulling a needle, save an old one for times like this). A simple connect-the-dots sheet is good practice for kids learning how to manoeuvre fabric on a curve or around a corner.

• Lower your expectations (and theirs) — This is not your sweatshop and they don't work for you. Depending on your child's age, you might only have a half-hour before they lose interest and move on to something else. So choose a quick project they can complete easily to build confidence and interest. A doll pillow or blanket, simple bag, or gathered skirt with an elastic waistband, are all great first projects for young sewers.

• Share the load — If your child is hellbent on sewing something more complicated, think about what tasks they can handle and which ones you should do (for safety reasons and also to avoid too much frustration at the outset). Cutting out the paper pattern and straightstitching the side seams of a dress may be enough involvement for a younger child. Or perhaps your kid will like marking the fabric with a chalk pencil and snipping stray threads with little clippers after you sew every seam. (Again, you might be surprised by what sewing-related tasks your kid will happily handle. Take prewashing fabric, for example. My kid will spend a happy half-hour handwashing fabric in the bathroom sink. It's like a trip to the water park without having to apply sunscreen. I win.)

• Make it easy — Take a few extra steps to simplify each task, and your child is less likely to give up in frustration. Use a ruler and chalk to draw seam lines for him to follow (rather than use the throat plate guide). Or trace the outer line on a paper pattern in a felt pen or highlighter so your kid avoids cutting through the wrong part of the pattern.

If teaching your kid to sew sounds like work for you, that's because it is. But just as a kid who helped prepare dinner is more likely to actually eat it, so too will a child who helped sew wear a new dress you made (rather than leave it to gather dustbunnies on the floor of her closet. Cough, cough, ingrate, cough, cough, been there). In time, you will have to help less and less and your kid will have learned a valuable skill.

That's right, she made this.
Any other tips you can add on getting kids started with machine-sewing? Share them in the comments!

May 21, 2014

How to: Make Your Own Brag Tags — With Free Printable AND GIVEAWAY!

Whether you go by Grandma, Nana, or even Mom, chances are your local craft store has ready-made tags you can use to guilt-trip the people for whom you sew:

But what if you're not a Mom or a Nana — and what if you didn't sew that costume out of love? (Duty calls sometimes, after all, and you deserve credit for every stitch you make while cursing your children/friend/self's last-minute whims).

Sewn-in labels are a way to give credit to yourself for a job well-done. You could have bought a new pair of shorts at Old Navy. But instead you spent a whole weekend wrestling a pattern into submission (and missed out on the sunny weather? Possibly. But this is your hobby, so roll with it):

May 18, 2014

Pattern Review: Salme Patterns' Double-layer Camisole

Don't you hate how your favorite TV characters never repeat their outfits? (I'm not talking about the Sex and the City ladies; the most unrealistic thing on that show was the fact that New Yorkers would walk four abreast down a busy sidewalk. Everyone knows only tourists and middleschoolers do that).

Displaying my daily me-made wardrobe this May has me actually caring about week-over-week repeats. I could just wear what I had on yesterday (oh look! It's still here on the floor where I left it!) but I won't because it seems gauche to re-gram the same selfie. Looking at my grid of pics on Instagram is a good push to dig through the far reaches of my closet for those items I've sewn and then never worn.

Simplicity 1872 is one such project. Sewn at the behest of when it first launched, I was never really thrilled with this dress. The flare on the skirt was unevenly distributed, creating too much fullness right at the sides (I have drafted many skirts so I could tell by how it hung that the flare wasn't evenly distributed). I have enough fullness on my hips, thankyouverymuch. I do like the bodice but that sleeve gathered with elastic is just two precious for me:

So in an effort to avoid wearing yet another Scout Tee or Tiny Pocket Tank, I turned this dress into two tops this week. Numero Uno, an easy peplum top, which retained the bodice and an underneath piece that had been attached to one layer of the skirt:

This is the first Salme Pattern that I have worked with though I've been lurking her shop for some time. I completely adore how it turned out and was high-fiving myself for the fact that I was able to squeeze this tank out of the remaining yardage from my pillaged skirt. Her guidelines suggest you only need 5/8 yard for this top, and she's right. I used even less, I think, because I raised the waistline by two inches (I had no choice due to fabric limitations — and also, I am quite short-waisted). 

This top comes together so easily: you sew the outer layer to the inner layer with the straps sandwiched between, which finishes the neckline all around. The little spaghetti straps are easy to make (though in this lightweight voile they feel pretty skimpy, which worries me that they will not last). The darts are nicely placed. The only change I think I would make is to pinch out some excess along the front neckline. It gapes a little, but that excess can be rotated into the dart the same way that I did it with Burda's Cap Sleeve Dress (another dress I never wear but that's another story!) 

One thing about Salme Patterns: you have to add your own seam allowances, which I am fine with. In fact, I think it's a good idea; depending on how you plan on finishing your seams, you may want a different size seam allowance. (Also, it makes it easier to edit a pattern when you are not also mucking around in seam allowances.)

But for a beginning sewer, I think that would be a deal-breaker. I can just imagine the blank stares I'd get if I told my sewing students that they had to add seam allowances.....(crickets).

So there it is: one unworn dress transformed into two wearable tops — and two more days of no-repeat Me Made May! How have you turned a dud DIY into something you can actually wear? And can you think of a TV character (other than Wonder Woman) who wore the same thing more than once?

May 16, 2014

How to: Sew a Scout Tee from a Men's Shirt

What better time to take on a reconstruction project than in the Spring, when nature is overtaking the stinking heaps of winter trash and last Fall's unraked leaves to create new life ... much like (segway!) we can stitch another season into tired castoffs from the men in our lives, like this Scout Tee I made from one of my husband's old button-ups:

May 14, 2014

Kindersewing: Tapping Into Childlike Confidence for Better Sewing

Teaching tweens how to sew is awesome for one fact: they don't sweat it if they make a mistake. While most of the women in my adult classes (at Bread & Yoga in Upper Manhattan) stress about aligning seams just so and edgestitching evenly, the kids just forge ahead without any worry. And when they do make a mistake, they pick it out and do it again. They aren't hard on themselves in the way that grown women are. They may not be the strongest sewers, but they are better than we are at making mistakes.

Cutting skirts in sewing class

As adults, we have a couple things that we do well. For most of us, there's one thing we're trained or schooled in, and we do that daily for work. We may also have a hobby or sport that we play, and we've probably been doing it for some time — maybe even since we were tweens. So the opportunity to make mistakes doesn't come up all that often for many adults. We are out of practice at flubbing things up. We take it personally. We use the word "fail" as a noun.

And that's the biggest challenge I find in teaching adults — reminding them it's OK to make a mistake. Nobody will die if you sew the right side of your bodice to the wrong side of your skirt. There's more fabric. There's always more fabric. You need to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

But the kids. They are awesome at failing. They do it with such grace. They don't berate themselves or question whether they could ever be good at this. (And I don't need to tell them that I also make mistakes — though they do like to hear that).

Peter of Male Pattern Boldness recently ruminated on what it means to be a fashion designer — and whether those of us who sew for fun would ever use that term to describe ourselves (many home sewers are actually much more involved in the process of creating something original than many modern-day designers). Reading the comments on his post, it's clear that even those among us who have the skills and creativity to create whole outfits from scratch are wary of labeling ourselves "fashion designer." We reserve the term for those who have professional accreditation, their own section at Macy's and are know by a single surname.

A kid, meanwhile, has no qualms with staking their claim to a title. Paint a picture at preschool and you're an artist. Help dad with dinner, and you're a chef. Learn "uno, dos, tres" and you're telling your building's Super that you speak fluent Spanish. Ask my daughter whether she's a fashion designer and she would say yes:

She'll be six in the summer and already she's sewing on a machine. And, because she has kid-confidence, she's also designing. But she's not a prodigy or anything — and I'm not bragging. Rather, I'm showing you this to make it clear: designing is not all that hard. Even a kid can do it.

You draw a picture. You choose some fabric. You commission a patternmaker to draft a pattern for you (What? You don't have access to a patternmaker? So you use a commercial pattern that matches the design you had in mind. If you think about it, it's the same thing!). You sew it. You wear it — and you tell everyone you see that you made it. (Seriously, every person in our corner of the Bronx will know by Friday that my kid can sew. Talk about self-promotion. I could learn a thing or two from this kid.)

When we teach our kids (or someone else's children) how to do something new, we praise effort and tenacity just as much as achievement. In the face of frustration, we remind them gently that they are learning — and that every mistake is just part of the process.

So too should we be kind to ourselves: how would you talk to a child about the mistake he or she just made? Be at least as nice to yourself and you will enjoy sewing so much more. And give yourself the same credit you would extend to a child — if sewing were easy, everybody would do it and H&M wouldn't exist. It's not brain surgery, but it does take practice. So please, be proud of your sewing accomplishments — and call yourself whatever you want to!

May 13, 2014

What I'm Learning From Me-Made-May

Participating in Me Made May 2014 has been motivating (I've made several new garments already this month). But at times it's also miserable. I just don't know what face to make in a selfie; before I have even taken the photo I know what a dud it is going to be!

But most importantly, it has been instructive. Not even halfway through the month and I've already learned a few things about how I dress — and how I sew for myself:

1. I would wear the same thing three times a week if I wasn't being watched by you people.

2. I also would make my bed about that often if I wasn't so worried about your judgment.

3. I don't wear dresses nearly as often as all y'all. Of course, I don't work in an office or some other environment that demands I look decent on a daily basis, so I opt for pants or leggings, and sometimes skirts (when the weather is warm). Looking back over a dozen days of Me Made May, I can see that I wear a lot of me-made tops (9 days out of 12), but also pants (4 days). I don't wear me-made skirts so often (2 days), and dresses least of all: (only one day). Summer is coming though.... (Make your dress recommendations in the comment section!)

The lone dress I've worn in 12 days of Me Made May
4. Instagram has a funny crop, so when you take a mirror-selfie, you have to choose: cut off your feet or the top of your head. I prefer to cut off my head. My feet are covered in shoes, and shoes make an outfit, so the feet get to stay:

I love my Chucks too much to crop them out
5. Day to day, I rely too heavily on two of Grainline's simplest patterns: the Scout tee and the Tiny Pocket Tank. I wore one or the other six days out of 12! It's not that I don't have more complicated tops (or something by another pattermaker!), it's just that in this transitional weather, it's easy to layer with either of those simple designs. But noting this fact has me inspired to do some designing and patterning so that I rely less heavily on my Scouts and Tiny Pocket Tanks. In my defense, I haven't been feeling well thanks to allergies, but I do look pretty boring:

6. That said, on just as many days, I wore something I drafted myself, which makes me feel a little bit better about the state of my style; I may dress a little boring, but at least I can work a French curve.

What have you learned during Me Made May? (Either as a participant or a lurker).

May 12, 2014

All the Leggings Fit For Print

All of New York: it's possible you can thank ME for this gloriously hot (and unfortunately pollen-encrusted) weather we are having. Because just before it hit, I sewed up the raddest pair of printed leggings in some spandex-with-poly-blend that probably won't be practical again until late-October. That is how life works: you sew something you love, and then the weather changes so you cannot wear it. Somebody hand me some linen.

Seriously. I just single-handedly installed an AC in our bedroom AND I DIDN'T EVEN KILL ANYONE. I could have, you know. But I was willing to take that risk because it is heat-wave-in-May hot here today and my seasonal allergies mean I can't crack a window (I wiped down my windowsills yesterday and they were all greenish-yellow. What a fool I have been. Also, we went to the Botanical Garden for Mother's Day, an unfortunate decision I regretted all last night in bed, where I lay with a cool cloth on my eyes like some Victorian invalid).

Anyway, leggings:

I bought this printed stretch fabric at Metro Textile, intending it for my stretch sewing class at Bread & Yoga. Nobody snapped it up for their kiddie leggings (our first project) so I swapped it out for some other...perhaps less offensively bright and patterned prints. Last laugh? I'll have you right here:

I made the pattern for these leggings by cutting open a raggedy old pair of Steven Madden leggings and using them as a guide. It's a one-piece pattern, with just an inseam. I like not having a seam along the side to interrupt that print. That print, after all, is the one that will do all the interrupting.

It is the kind of print that you have to plan for carefully, lest you end up with two red whatever-those-ares on your tush. These leggings could have gone baboon-butt so quickly.... And because I am a generous mom, I plan on making a pair for my kid because she asked so nicely — AND was the one who sweetly brought me that cool cloth I mentioned earlier. How sweet it is when our kids grow up enough to take care of us from time to time.

Are you in the thick of summer sewing yet (for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere)? Just tell me to make a Gabriola skirt already...

May 8, 2014

Quiz: Which Hemline Are You?!!

OK, that was a tease. I didn't actually craft a Buzzfeed-style online test to see whether your personality is a mini or a maxi. (I hate those quizzes; all they do is reinforce stereotypes and tell your Facebook friends how much of a slacker you are at work!)

But I am thinking this week about hemlimes — and how to build outfits around them (and why do I only usually wear one length?).

Do you have a favorite hemline? I like my skirts to hit at the knee or just slightly above it. To my eye, this is the most flattering length on me, and can be worn with flats or heels. Too short, and I feel self-conscious (after having a kid I have a lot of broken capillaries on my legs; I don't lose any sleep over that fact because, hey, I created a human being and that's awesome! — but the world still doesn't need to see them). Too long, and I think I look short (I'm 5'3") .... or Orthodox (I live in a pretty conservative Jewish neighborhood in New York City. My cultural touchstones have changed in recent years; when I lived in Winnipeg, I would have said I looked Mennonite).

My sewing students asked me to add a skirt class to my Spring/Summer schedule so I've been testing out a pattern I thought would be a great first skirt project for new sewers. It's McCall's 3341, and is about as classic as it gets: slight A-line with darts at the waist in the front and back, a 7-inch center back zip, and a facing to finish the waistband. The pattern features five hemline variations, from mini to maxi, which was a huge selling point with me; I didn't want to deter any students from taking the class because their fave hemline is different than mine. A tall lady (or someone with a more modest style) would look great in the hemline above. (You can see some pulling at the hip level in this version. I slashed and spread the pattern following this first attempt to add a little ease through the hip).

I cut version D in a printed fabric. This skirt I will actually wear.

I cut the miniskirt, version E, in black. Even for a photo shoot I had to wear stockings. I call this hemline Zooey Deschanel in the Opening Credits of New Girl Short:

I like the mini with tights or leggings. My legs look longer. I look younger and fun....but bare-legged? How would I sit down the subway? My thighs would touch surfaces that no part of my body should come in contact with. I live in New York City, where you can bet everything has been puked or peed on (or worse) at some point...

Considering all that, this conservative length is looking better and better. If anything, it will encourage me to wear heels every now and then. 

How do you choose a hemline? And how do you make it work within an outfit?

May 4, 2014

Finished Projects: From a Frumpy Fail to a Fine Dress Indeed

Last night at Workroom Social's Sewing Swap & Party in New York's East Village, the talented Gingermakes kindly told me she enjoys my tales of parental failure — that it's entertaining (and refreshing?) to get the real dirt on raising a daughter (and sewing for her occasionally) — not the edited-for-maximum-Pinterest-appeal version.

I can relate. As much as I find Pinterest to be a useful tool for bookmarking, it also makes me yearn for a time when the word "tablescape" was not widely used. It makes most of us feel terrible for the fact that our mantles aren't currently decorated with Mason jars stuffed with seasonal flowers, that the light fixture over our dining table is the same one the super installed before we moved in (and not, in fact, made from reclaimed Mason jars), and that our salads are served on boring old plates rather than (you know where this is going) in Mason jars. 

So in the interest of my earnestness cred, I'm sharing with you two finished versions of the same dress pattern: Pattern Runway's Easy Short Sleeved Kimono Dress. But, as you can see, one is what the kids today call an epic fail:

My husband suggested I stand like that, with my hands clasped together, because apparently every other pose was so unflattering....I looked in the mirror. It wasn't the poses that were unflattering; it was the dress.
I am not amused
Two sizes too big (I cut a medium based on what the pattern's measurements suggested) and sewn in the wrong fabric, I look like a full bag of laundry. The pattern suggested shirting as one fabric option, but the stiffness widens me. I mourn the loss of this fabric. It was so nice and clearly should have been used in some other, more appropriate way. The armhole is halfway to my waist. Blergh.

I went back to the Pattern Runway website. I still like their version of the dress. So I sized down to a XS on top and graded out to a medium on the bottom (I also added flare to the skirt because their straight-up-and-down skirt did not fit over my hips nicely at all). I found the perfect fabric at Metro Textile — a striped poly that actually feels like a heavy silk: 

Happy now?

So much better. The armhole is a decent size. The shoulders don't stand at attention like a row of tinted Mason jars just ready to be filled up with your love and homemade yogurt:

And this fabric, I think, actually looks like it wanted to be this dress. 

(Did I manage to fool your eye with my stripe placement? Do I look taller than 5'3"? I made my husband stand on the bed for these photos. No rest for the husbands & boyfriends of sewing bloggers).

The covered button (and my stripe-matching) are pretty great: 

What about you — Have you ever given a pattern a second chance after a first fail? Does Pinterest make you want to smash all the Mason Jars?

May 1, 2014

We go together like... Simplicity 1887 and Salme's Loose-fitting Pleated T-shirt!

Perhaps it's Me Made May that has me thinking about sewing patterns that go together. After all, as a participant (watch my Instagram feed for daily posts), I'll be wearing handmade every day for the next 31. And as a wannabe overachiever, I want to wear more than one thing whenever possible. But how many outfits can I put together with more than one handmade item from my closet? So far, not many, which is why I'm considering these combos for my May sewing plans:

...with the new Nettie bodysuit by Closet Case Files (medium back and short sleeves, please):

(Seriously, what could possibly go together better than those two patterns? You would be feminine and sexy and comfortable...)

I also like Simplicity 1887, the pant version with elasticized cuffs...

...with Salme Patterns' Loose Fitting Pleated T (cropping it would be cute, non?):

I've been working on a new pattern of my own this week. It's a short-sleeved sweatshirt with perforated pleather raglan sleeves and "Sew York City" stenciled on the front (I'll be making some changes around here in the coming months, with my blog name being one of them). 

And I think it would look great with True Bias' yet-to-be-released Hudson Pant pattern (no link to buy yet; Kelli has so far only previewed her pants on Instagram):

How cute would they be together? Cool urban mom at the playground kicking balls like a boss? (Ahem, cool urban mom who sews, at the playground kicking balls like a boss!)

What are your favorite pattern combos, indie or otherwise? 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...