Apr 29, 2011

These Things Make Me Happy

It's spring in New York, which means my eyes are red and itchy, and asthma is settling deep into my lungs. A new study indicates depression and allergies are linked, especially in women. Also, suicide rates spike in spring as the pollen count climbs. Blerg. One thing that stuck out to me in the study is that people reported crying more frequently during allergy season. I can relate. Last spring I cried every night for weeks because my symptoms were not helped by any medication, and just got worse and worse as time wore on.

This year I've found eyedrops that relieve my symptoms (Bepreve), and am taking a homeopathic gemmotherapy tincture. Allergy season is much later because winter in the East was so long, so I can't really tell yet whether the homeopathic remedy has helped — or whether the pollen season has yet to peak. I'm prepared though for when it gets bad: I bought a mask, which I wore today for the first time. Luckily it takes a lot in NYC to earn a second glance. People don't really care what you wear here.

Anyway, to combat allergy-related depression, I am watching the above video daily. I just love the Beastie Boys. Last night I made my husband (who missed most popular culture between the early '80s and late '90s because he was raised in an oppressively conservative church) watch 40 minutes of Beastie Boys videos. At the end, he said: "I don't get it." It's lucky for him that I only just found this out now — and not before we got married.

Other things that are making me happy today:
AND (drumroll, please) I fixed my trousers! They're almost done. See?
 First I ripped off the waistband. What a mess:

 Then I put the pants on, inside out, and pinned down the side seams until I had a good fit. I blended into the original side seam at the knee:
 Then I sewed along my line of pins, and serged the side seam to finish it:
And then I took a little off the waistband at the side seams (because the waistband is curved and I didn't want the shape to change), and sewed it back on. You can see it's pinned on here:

I still have to topstitch the waistband, and then make buttonholes and sew on buttons. But check out that fit! I am stoked. These pants are going to look so awesome with my allergy mask.

Apr 28, 2011

That's Why It's Called a "French Curve"

As expected, I got another B+ in patternmaking class last night, for my too-big striped trousers, which I will fix after this semester is over and I have a little more time on my hands. In my favour, however, my professor surmised that my fit problems were not due to an imperfect pattern; my fabric stretched along the bias as I was sewing, which is a sign I need to get my act together and stay-stitch everything if i want my clothes to fit properly — and get an A.

Afterward she stood there for a long time as she was checking my jeans pattern I was working on, her eyes on the hip curve. "You think it's too curved?" I asked her.

"It's very coorved," she agreed. (She's Russian).

Then she looked at my lower half and added: "But you are also very coorved."

And then she shrugged, which I think means "Glad it's you and not me, lady."

A closer look at my jeans pattern
The thing with hips (or any curves, for that matter) is that they make it just so much harder to get a good fit. It wouldn't be hard to make a pair of pants fit two sticks with a pumpkin on top. But throw in a few curves and you need to add darts, seams, pleats, tucks — any of these things can add dimension to your garment to make it fit around areas of the body that won't fit into a pillowcase.

Of course, stretch fabrics eliminate some of these issues. The design doesn't have to be as exacting when a little spandex can compensate for an extra bump here or there. But when you find a brand that fits you just right (for me, that has been Citizens of Humanity, which I cannot afford anymore), be loyal; they use the same general shape for each different pair, so you're likely to fit the brand's other pants too.

The denim I choose for these jeans doesn't have much stretch to it, and as you can see this pattern is for a classic pair of jeans with a touch of flare to the leg. If I can, I'll start cutting tonight.

Apr 27, 2011

ModCloth Coat Inspiration

I'm not really one to plan ahead too far. I usually know the next thing I will draft or sew. But the project after that...is subject to three whims that will come up between now and then. That said, I am filing away a picture of this beautiful coat from ModCloth (selling now for $449 US — ouch!) as inspiration for a fall coat. It's too late for me to make a spring coat because NYC has gone from freezing cold to fucking hot in about 2 weeks (yesterday it was 28 C and humid).

Anyway, mere moments after coveting this coat on ModCloth.com, I saw one crafty Burdastyle member's self-drafted version of the same item.  Now, this lady (from the Netherlands) has made a lot of coats, as evidenced from her studio on Burdastyle.com. I have not. But how hard could it be? Stay tuned.

I know you were all hoping to see the long form copy of my birth certificate today, but my scanner isn't working so you'll have to settle for a few pics from my weekend trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Also: I have nothing much to post about because I have been busy dealing with orders from my Etsy store, homework (those damn pants, which are too big and I'm not really sure what to do about it at this point. So that means I will get yet another B+. My prof is a hard-ass marker. Though I managed to get a couple As at the beginning of the semester (plus she asked me twice if I "was in the industry"!), it's been solid B+'s for the past few weeks. I did my best. Somebody please tell me B+ isn't so bad. 

I've also been enjoying cuddling with my lovely girl again, even though she deserves a spanking because she didn't miss me at all while I was away, apparently.

Friends are the best

This little fucker ran right over my legs as I was lounging in a beach chair.

Apr 21, 2011

Jeans Sew-along at Male Pattern Baldness

I just love reading Peter's posts over at Male Pattern Baldness, the world's most popular men's sewing blog. That's right. A man's sewing blog. (Though he does a lot of sewing for his "cousin" Cathy, a sweet and sassy alter-ego who favours old-Hollywood-inspired cocktail dresses.) Peter is a great writer and a prolific sewer. A while back I stood idly by as he hosted a men's shirt sew-along, but as fate would have it I will be drafting and sewing jeans just as he hosts his next sew-along: jeans.

So my plan is to participate in this fortuitously scheduled sew-along. I'm not actually sure what that entails, but I'm hoping his posts will save me some of the researching I had to do in sewing my trousers.

Apr 20, 2011

Pants-In-Progress Again

So sad my pants don't fit. Also: that my apartment is messy.

So it's becoming clear that my new pants — the ones I drafted for patternmaking class, pictured on me above — are not going to be my new favourites. They're not horrible. In fact, I'm pretty proud of all the new things I learned in sewing them: welt and slant pockets, fly front with zipper. But they're just too big. I don't think my professor is going to be impressed. And she's a hard marker. Sigh. I still have the details to finish, but I'm going to leave those until after I get back from Mexico.

In need of a good pressing

Why I Love Vintage Sewing Books

Love those prints!
 The reason I love vintage sewing books is not because they are helpful. In general, I find them to be pretty useless. There aren't pictures to correspond with the explanation of complicated techniques (like sewing a welt pocket, for example) and the instructions assume a great deal of knowledge that would likely presuppose you reading "The Complete Book of Sewing" (pictured here, published in 1972). If I need to know how to do something (today I'm sewing a fly, for example) I turn to online tutorials. But if I need a laugh, I crack a sewing book. I'm sure it's copyright infringement to publish all these pictures here, but I consider this a public service:
This book predates "Annie Hall" by five years. Maybe the costumer was inspired by "The Complete Book of Sewing?"

Sure, some of the looks are quite timeless, like the photo above. But most are not. Because this was the '70s. Remember the '70s? All those weekends spent fishing with your family in matching overalls? Wait, is that Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys?

 And some looks are just so incongruous, I have to wonder what was really going on in America at the time. Like this braless Holly Hobbie. Is this some early version of what we now call a Slutoween costume? "Little Whorehouse on the Prairie"?
The '70s were a costumey period in fashion, alright. How cute is this?
 Off topic, my husband thinks this following picture was shot at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. I don't think so. Any New Yorkers care to weigh in? Whenever we go by that fountain, Ryan says the exact same thing: "This fountain was in the opening shot of Angels in America." And then I say, "I never really cared for Della Reese," which never fails to exasperate him no matter how many times he hears it.
 Moving on, I love the advice in this book – and there's plenty. For example: "For a fashion conscious teenager, make a tote and suspenders to match. Sets like this are great moneymakers at bazaars!"

Actually, that's kind of cool.
Can anyone tell me what a "vestee" is?

Apr 18, 2011


I need a drink. Because figuring out how to sew welt pockets is hard. And that's what I just spent my kid's entire precious naptime doing. Here are my first pair of (self-drafted) pants, still in progress (the inner pocket is not attached to the welt (that's the little flap thing there with the horizontal stripes. I have no idea how to attach the pocket to the welt. That will be for another day. And another drink). The fabric is awesome, right?

I used this single welt pocket tutorial from the website Fashion Incubator, which is a great resource I have bookmarked and will return to again for sure. I also finished the front slant pockets, which were much easier to sew. I was able to figure those out without any intervention — or help from our FIT pattern making professor, who says: "This is not a sewing class. You should know how to do this." Which is met by blank stares. Every. Time.

Here's are the front pockets:

The inside

From the outside

Check out that lining!

Two Sew Daily Tunics

A friend of mine who is a cameraman once told me how they make actresses look amazing on screen. Lighting. Lots of it. From all directions, including from below. There's also an extra light that adds a twinkle to the eye of a romantic interest or a lovely lady. And for villains, there's no twinkle light. So they look darker, empty. I hope I'm remembering this all right.

Anyway, the point is, good lighting makes you look so much better. Direct sunlight, however, makes you look bad. Squinty, shadowed. Ugh. That's why we shot these photos in a tunnel in Central Park yesterday. The filtered light was just perfect to bring out the peach and navy in this tunic I sewed from a free Sew Daily pattern.

The fabric I used here was left over from this skirt and blouse I made last month. I loved the print so much but didn't have enough left to make much. So it was perfect for the yoke, waist and sleeve bands you see pictured here.

This pattern (which again: you can download for free at Sew Daily) is supposed to be sewn with jersey and lace. Here's the other version I made, in which I stuck to the intent of the original. Still not too sure how I feel about it. A little too precious for me, but I think that has more to do with my colour choices, than with the pattern. I still stand by the peach, but paired with the lace....hmm, I don't know. Also, my sewing machine light melted a hole in the lace yoke, so I had to come up with some way of covering that up. That's what the weird ruffly thing on the left is:
So, not really thrilled with this jersey tunic (which I made with remnants from the Batwing top I made a few months back, plus a piece of lace I got from a neighbor who was thinning out her fabric stash), I decided to give the Sew Daily pattern another go. This time I made it with silk. Because I that's what I had on hand, and I thought it would be nice and cool and flowy for spring and summer in NYC. But then I realized I'd have to line it (with polyester lining, also a remnant from another project) so I'm not sure how cool it's going to be come warmer weather. I also eliminated the ruffle, having decided it was not all that flattering on my figure. And I added a band at the bottom hem, and sleeve bands to make the (almost nudeish) peach blouse more interesting (and so I wouldn't look so naked from far away).

I'm pretty happy with the results, and will definitely wear this top. But the silk was hard to sew, and I redid the yoke I think four times...so there's something strange going on with the drape of the front. Also, it gets static cling — the silk clings to the lining and then wrinkles up. Anybody have a solution to that problem?

Apr 17, 2011

Pants? Pants!

As a lady with some curve in her hip (and booty), the Holy Grail of fashion for me has always been pants. They're tough to find when your proportions are a little different than the fit models used to test out a pattern. For me, if they fit at the hip, they gape at the waist. Your problem may be the opposite. And if you fit all pants perfectly, well good for you Gwenyth.

This weekend I drafted the pattern for my perfect pair of slacks. At least I'm hoping they will be perfect. I made one leg in muslin to test the fit. My helpful toddler told me I had two legs so I should make another one.

Here she is playing with playdough while I drafted yesterday during a rainstorm. (Don't judge me for the mess in our apartment. Judge my husband. Or my kid. Most of it is her junk. And the lazy thing almost never cleans up after herself.)

So here are all the damn pieces, which I cut out this morning. I choose a pinstriped brown and white heavy cotton (really, it's a denim) for the pants. I'm making the pockets from the Snoozer Loser fabric I won. The remnants from my winnings will live on in numerous projects yet, I hope. Note there are 11 pieces below. Also: I have to sew welt pockets this week. I'm going to need my Easter vacation.

Apr 15, 2011

A Little Love

Burdastyle.com featured my latest project on the site's front page! This makes me so happy because I look to that site for so much inspiration. (Cue my Sally Field impersonation here).

Apr 14, 2011

In five weeks I could knit you a washcloth

Federal election campaigns in Canada are short — barely detectable compared to the all-American industry of campaigning. (When candidates run negative TV ads, we call them "American-style attack ads." Because we usually think both candidates look nice). Canadians go to the polls on May 5, 2011 — a mere five weeks after the election was called (but not me because I'm now a permanent resident of the U.S. — which means I don't get to vote anywhere). Our elections aren't regular, scheduled affairs. They can happen at anytime. The next federal election in the U.S. is 81 weeks away, and already my husband is obsessed with the possibilities; I mean, Donald Trump? Really?

But you know, it's a good thing. Because I might just have the time in those 81 weeks to knit myself this:

(For free pattern go to Laura Birek's blog: http://laurabirek.com/wordpress/knitting/patterns)

Snoozer Loser Dress Done

I have learned a few things in my almost four years of living in NYC. For one: you never think you saw a celebrity. When you see one, you know. If you "think" you saw someone famous, you probably didn't. You just saw someone who is so rich that their lasered skin is flushed with the inner glow that comes from sleeping atop piles of cash. Also, they have the kind of money that can buy Angelina Jolie's lips and Ben Stiller's hairline, so it's inevitable they look familiar.

When you actually witness a real celebrity, you know in an instant — even when they're wearing a hat and sunglasses, which they always are. When you've seen someone's face in high-definition, it's unlikely you'd mistake them for someone else.

That said, I saw Daniel Vosovic (one of my favourite Project Runway contestants of all times) coming out of the subway today. I had just been to Mood to buy some fabric for class projects (cotton twill for trousers and denim for jeans!), so it was totally appropriate.

Also appropriate, I was wearing this new dress I made with the hand-printed fabric I won from Burdastyle.com and Snoozer Loser. While not exactly Project Runway material, I'm proud of it nonetheless. I designed it and made the pattern myself. (Of course I also sewed it, and then rode the subway with a toddler in it — thus the wrinkles.)

 My husband shot these pics for me in Central Park today. Look at all the people in the background! There were thousands of people everywhere in the park today — it was so amazing out. Today was one of those glorious early spring days that is warm but the trees are not yet leafy. This is very important to allergy sufferers like us. I'm hoping it rains every other day this April, and maybe I'll be OK. Also, I'm going to Mexico in a week! (I'll have to sew up a more summery belt to go with this dress if I want to wear it there).

Apr 11, 2011

Coming soon: Best dress ever

I've made a lot of things in the past few months that I am not wild about. But this dress (sleeve with placket and cuff, pictured at left. Back yoke pictured below) I am so stoked about! It may just be my favourite addition to my wardrobe since my Born boots I bought last fall. I finished it this morning but need some good weather and a day off with my husband for a good photo shoot to truly do it justice.

Little Green Dresses

I had a birthday recently and my kind brother sent me an Amazon giftcard, which I used to order a few sewing books, including Little Green Dresses by Tina Sparkles. The book contains 50 different patterns and instructions for dresses, skirts and tops — but with no actual hard copy paper patterns. So the interesting thing about this book then is that if you start at the beginning and work your way through it, you would be a pretty skilled patternmaker (and sewer) by the end. I haven't made anything yet using the book, but I was impressed that right away Tina Sparkles walks you through making both bodice and skirt slopers (what she calls "The YOU dress"). The method she uses for drafting the bodice slopers is different than what I have learned at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but the results look pretty much the same and there are many ways to achieve a good sloper. (A skirt sloper is super simple and her method is pretty much the same as I have learned.) There are plenty of super easy patterns (tube dress, drawstring skirt) but many that go way beyond cutting out a square sewing it together. Many of the more challenging patterns in this book build on those drafted from instructions on the earlier pages, so your skills would really grow as you go from project to project. Take the "Power Slope Dress" — (sorry, no picture), it's a pretty complicated pattern — more so than I would expect in a book about repurposing thrift store finds.

Many of the dresses and other pieces, as they are styled in the book, are a little young (read: short/tight/quirky. Also: rompers. Boo.) for me. But with any pattern if you use your imagination a little, (and add four or five inches to the hem) there are so many opportunities to customize something for your tastes.

Apr 10, 2011

If Only Pants Grew On Trees

Remember when you had to sneak junk food behind your parents' backs? Here's some news for you: when you have a kid (at least a small one, like mine, who is home ALL THE TIME), you have to do the same damn thing, but you have even fewer opportunities to snarf down a bag of Mini Eggs in secret. Because when you have a kid, you have to share everything with them. And they sure learn how to count quick when rationing M&Ms is involved. I haven't had a plate of food to myself in two years. For some reason, whatever I'm eating (including the scoop of icecream I'm inhaling behind the open door of the refrigerator) just looks better to her than anything she's served.

Anyway, aside from this candy business, it is so very so sweet when our kids copy the things we do. Like Lucy here, measuring her dad's head with my measuring tape. Everything is 44 inches, according to her.

The other day I was cutting a sleeve for this awesome dress I am making, and Lucy said she wanted to make a pattern too. So I gave her a scrap of pattern paper, a pencil and my ruler, which she used to draw some pants (so she says). Then she asked for fabric, which I gave her, and pins (don't call Child Services on me). She pinned the paper to the fabric, and then folded it all up and put in her bed under the covers. When I asked why, she said "I'm making pants, and they need to grow."
 Here's Lucy sewing her pants on her sewing machine. And yes, that's chocolate ice cream on her face. I wasn't kidding about the junkfood.

Apr 7, 2011

At Least They're Modest...

Just so you know, if you Google "preteen dress sewing pattern" all you get is a bunch of sites hawking "modest" (read: ugly) vintage patterns favoured by FLDS members. Seriously, I found 10 sites with titles like "Kathy's Modest Sewing Patterns Page" and "Modest Clothing! Sew your own modest dresses, women's clothing." (Exclamation mark theirs).

Why Google "preteen dress sewing pattern"? I've signed on to sew two flower girl dresses for a wedding in the fall — one for my almost-three-year-old and another for a preteen who will actually be more of a junior bridesmaid. So tonight I've been searching the far reaches of the Internet for every preteen dress sewing pattern out there. There aren't many. But the good news is there is a truck-load of wackadoodle patterns out there and I dragged them all onto my desktop for you.

Take Neue Mode, for example. I'd never heard of the European pattern-maker, but apparently the company has a corner on the racially insensitive costuming market. I'm pretty sure little Madison would get sent home from school for dressing up like a .....what? Don't make me say it, Neue Mode. OK: A Chinaman. Or an Oriental. The yellow shirt? Overkill.
Or you could offend someone a little closer to home:
 And all it takes to turn Priest Chic into Kasbah Kool is some sandals, Raybans and a Kirpan in your belt.
Though it could be worse. Your kid could inadvertantly dress up like a key-karrying Klansman:

Or a "back massager." That's what this little fella on the left looks like to me. What do you think?

No, seriously. What the hell is that thing?

Snoozer Loser Dress in Progress

 I have three different completed projects I need to photograph and post about, but the weather is crap in New York City today and so the light in our apartment is too. (Flash photography, no thanks). It's my husband's day off today and I think we're all still recovering from our trip to the Midwest last weekend. How else to explain the fact our kid has slept in until 9:30 a.m. every day this week? I just don't know. Growth spurt coming? I gave up on trying to figure this stuff out a while ago.

Anyway, I'm using my time today to work on this shirt dress I designed and drafted all by myself. It's pretty simple, but I'm hoping the perfect fit will really make this a stand-out. I wanted something to showcase this cool printed Snoozer Loser fabric I won from Burdastyle.com. I wasn't too sure about it until I threw it up on the dressform with a black belt, and the collar and one sleeve tacked on for full effect. Now I know I'm going to love it. Plus it's lightweight cotton — heaven for a sweaty gal who lives in NYC.

A close-up of the front against a back-drop of sewing room (actually a sewing hallway) clutter.


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