Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plaid Ambitions: A Pencil Skirt is More Complicated Than It Appears

I was about to write a blog post about my Self-Stitched-September 2011 inventory, when I realized how pitiful my self-made-stash really is. So rather than dilly-dally counting what I've got, I jumped into making a few more wearables.

I was so satisfied with the quick and successful nature of my first Sorbetto that I assumed the same could happen with a simple pencil skirt pattern. I mean, I'm a one-night garment wizard, am I not?

The answer is "not." But I get ahead of myself.

Convinced I could make a quick skirt, I picked up this faux vintage pattern at Hancock's:

Fabric Selection
The Sew Weekly's weekly challenge has historically been an anxiety producer for me. I'm like "one week! I have to make a decision AND fabric shop AND sew something? Too much!" But this week is different. This week, the theme is Mad for Plaid. And I love plaid. Especially for fall. And I'm making a skirt for fall. Purrrrfect.

So I grabbed a poly-rayon blend suiting and cut out the pieces. Voila.

Pattern: Simplicity 2154
Now, Simplicity is a silly name for a pattern company. It creates a constant search for irony as I sew. At every step of a Simplicity pattern I think "How Ironic, this pattern isn't simple!" OR "How Not-Ironic, this pattern is so simple!" Here is the count on 2154 so far.

Only 4 pattern pieces! And two are the same.

Last time I used a Simplicity pattern I cut a size 14 based on my measurements and it was enormous (I needed an 8). This time I cut a 12 and it was too small. ARG.

No lining, only 1 piece of interfacing, darts are the most complicated step.

The waist band doesn't look like the picture when you attach it according to the notches. The front is too long and the back is too short. Double ARG.

Needless to say - I'm a little worried about this project. It was so tight on the hips after I did the side seams that it reminded me of shopping in the junior's department. I let the sides seams out a bit only to have the waist be huge. Yikes. Looks like Lizzy has some fittin' to do. Here you can see the unpressed progress I've made.

Side note: I knocked my dress form funny when I was moving it last. Now it slouches. Or I guess it is just leaning forward, but it looks like it slouches. Oy. A dress form with bad posture. Not good.

Bottom Line: I'm hoping this skirt comes out okay. It's fine if it is ultimately a muslin for a future masterpiece, but I'd like it to at least be wearable for SSS'11.

In other news: I also grabbed some plaid shirting for my next Sorbetto! I'm stoked about this one...

More plaid to come this week! (Duh.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Suddenly Sorbetto: How I Made a Work Appropriate Shirt in 3 Hours

I was catching up on my Google Reader, when I noticed that fabulous Shawnta of Peace, Love, and Namaste had added the Self-Stitched-September '11 button to her side bar.


It was just this time last year when I started getting serious about sewing...or at least serious about thinking about sewing.

That's when I realized... I've made very few practical garments in the past year. Sure, that Macaroon made of quilting cotton is adorable, but it's mighty close to showing off my business when I sit down. Not appropriate. And my Green Goddess Dress is divine on a hot Louisiana evening, but a little too curve hugging for the office. If I'm going to survive Self-Stitched-September, now a year old dream, I'm going to need some work clothes.

And so, a Wednesday night became Suddenly Sorbetto.

Of all the Sorbettos I've seen out there on the interweb - and there are quite a few because the pattern for this little number is FREE - I have never, NEVER, seen one that couldn't been worn to the office. Provided pairing with a pencil skirt or slacks. With Mena flouting her 45 minute Sorbetto completion average on her Seven Days of Sorbetto series, I figured I could cerntainly make this bad boy in no time, provided I had some usable fabric in my stash.

I found some left over swiss dot from my Sweet Swiss Dot Dress, and Gus was at poker, so at 7pm I told myself I would finish this Sorbetto TONIGHT.

Here is what my sewing table looked like mid-Sorbetto.
For work, I thought it best to add a sleeve to the blouse. I downloaded Mena's sleeve pattern from The Sew Weekly... unfortunately I don't think it came out to scale. It appeared to be a sleeve for a small child... so I used the Macaroon sleeve to estimate my size (I eliminated the curved edge of the sleeve because I wanted to finish it with bias tape.) You can easily scale up Mena's sleeve, or use a sleeve from any other pattern you have around.

With a black pencil skirt, this blouse is 100% work appropriate! And kind of cute too. For my next Sorbetto (and yes, there WILL be a next Sorbetto) I plan to extend the length to make it easier to tuck in. The whole thing took about 3 hours - including a trip to Hobby Lobby to get white bias tape!

Self-Stitched-September '11 here I come! Living the dream, folks. Is your wardrobe ready for a full month of self-made attire? If not, what's missing?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Tale of Four Purses: How I Finally Made A Clutch

I've been uber busy traveling for work and pleasure and haven't had a lot of time to sew lately. A couple weeks back I had a hankerin' for a sew-fix and decided to try a small purse - what I perceived to be a quick, satisfying project. I made a couple bags as a teenager, and always just made things up as I went along. I didn't think it would be that hard.

Little did I know, I was about the embark on a journey through purse construction... trying to get it right...mostly getting it wrong. And now I share my story.

PURSE #1: Too Soft

I made this little beauty out of some scrap teal linen and a fat quarter of quilting fabric. It started out so well. A front gather here. A snap there. The end result, however, is completely functionless.
Some mistakes I made:
  • Only used lightweight interfacing to stabilize the pouch. It's quite flimsy.
  • Didn't reinforce the snap. It's hard to open.
  • Gathered the lining as well as the outer fabric. Why? I have no idea. I should have just cut it to size.
BEST USE: Stuff with potpourri. Put in sock drawer.

PURSE #2: Too Stiff
For my next go-round, I dug through my scrap heap and found the remnants of one of my favorite projects to date. My Macaroon. I was stoked to have another item out of this print. The results were less exciting.

This clutch is a stabilizing nightmare! I so wanted a sturdy purse after my first attempt that I stabilized this bad boy with EVERYTHING. If it was stiff, I bought it and attached it to the interior of this clutch. That's why the lining wouldn't fold under. You thought that was piping around the top edge? NOT SO.

As you can see, I didn't even sew up the turning hole in the lining. Another UFO for the pile.

BEST USE: Fold in half. Use as door stop.

PURSE #3: Too Small and Neon
At this point, I realized that I have no idea how to make bags and should consult a pattern. I found this great website, Keyka Lou, which has a number of downloadable patterns for reasonable prices.

I decided to try the Pocket Clutch, primarily because it could be done with two fat quarters.

This one came out better. Unfortunately, this blackbird on yellow fabric looked positively NEON when I got it home, making this pouch look like a child's toy wallet. Again, I haven't made the last few adjustments and closed up the turning hole yet. I may finish it up at some point. I guess can keep my allowance in it. Boo.

BEST USE: Hold money you're saving to buy a troll doll OR sleeping bag for a mouse family.

PURSE #4: (houndstooth is always) Just Right!
FINALLY: I returned to designing my own clutch, hoping it would work this time, promising myself I wouldn't rush. (I rush. A lot. Especially when sewing.) This time I did a variation of the first clutch, which a front flap to make it more useful.

Relief! A clutch I can actually use! The interior is the same teal linen from Purse #1 and the exterior is houndstooth calico. I used medium weight fusible interfacing on both the lining and the outer fabric. Next time I'll add a layer of batting too.

Now, granted, the snap is off center, but all in all - it looks good! It holds my keys, iphone, small digital camera and small wallet.

BEST USE: Carry while wearing the Lacey Shoulders Dress!

Who knew that trying to squeeze in a quick project would turn into a battle for decent bag construction! I hope this will save at least a few people from making the same mistakes. Have you ever had a project you just can't seem to get right?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tutorial: Hand Washing Silk

I’ve been so excited about my new silk, fantasizing about the perfect blouses and dresses I will make out of the three pieces. So excited, in fact, that I shocked myself when my mind turned to prepping the fabric for sewing and I realized I didn’t know how to clean it.

Of course, I turned to the trusty internets and found several recommendations. Here is the information I culled from those articles, in a pictorial step-by-step:

1. TEST IT! Use cold water ONLY.

2. THUMBS UP! Move on to the whole piece. Have a hanger ready for dripping dry!


TIPS: Only use a tiny bit of Woolite.

The silk dried wonderfully. I used a cool iron on it to get the wrinkles out. Now it's ready to become Sencha! We'll see if that happens soon. I'm simultaneously working on the Bombshell Dress for the Sew Retro online class (see button in side bar) and a version of my Palindrome Dress for BFF, S. Not to mention being repeatedly out of town for weddings! Minneapolis this Thursday...yikes!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Silk and Bathtubs: Trip to NYC

Just a few days ago, I returned from an amazing trip to NYC. Gus and I were there to attend a wedding... but many other antics ensued! Here are some highlights.


No, no. Not a cool historic hotel. Merely a building that should have been gutted decades ago, but has maintained its early 20th century charm as a haven for artists. I like to think of it as Vintage. We stayed with Gus' high school pal, A - and A's maltipoo, Piglet. We got to take baths in the kitchen claw foot (no showers) and enjoy the painted hardwood floors, old fireplaces, and naked mannequins scattered about the house. A said to us "you should check out the Tenement Museum. It's just like my place, but with period furniture."

A also happens to be the Super, so he gave us a tour of the back building - a similar structure, except abandoned. He used to use it for studio space. Now he uses it to throw unusual, fabulous, dinner parties.
I wish my new Nikon D40 had come in the mail BEFORE this trip. Oh well - the iphone didn't do so bad. Thanks for the experience, A and Piglet. You guys rock.


Yes! The part you've been waiting for. When Gus asked me "is there anything you want to do in New York while we're there?" I just looked at him. "So you want to go fabric shopping?" He knows me so well.

I was worried about finding anything, because frankly, with the wedding and seeing everyone from my past, I just didn't have that much time to fart around. So I posted the question to The Sew Weekly and got some great answers!

I also consulted A - who used to buy costume fabric for a living. He sent me to New York Elegant Fabrics and Daytona Trim, with a stop in Spandex World. He also gave me the tip to ask how much things are - because it doesn't always correspond to the tag.

What did I buy, you ask? SILK.

Okay, so I know it's hard to work with - but I won't learn if I don't try, and you just can't find anything nice down here. I'm dying to use that yellow polka dot to make the Sencha blouse from Colette Patterns. I think the purple woodland nymph print is the new forbidden fabric in my stash - I don't know what I will use it for, but I want it to be perfect! Suggestions welcome...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tailoring Vintage By the Seat of My Pants

Well, doesn't he look snazzy! Yes ma'am, that's my man. Replete in a vintage, blue and tan jacket.


Once or twice a year, the Mid-City Merchant's District in Baton Rouge hosts a block party (it's more like a two mile stretch of road party) called White Light Night. All the businesses and art galleries open up and have wine and snacks - this type of event reaffirms my love of small city living.

This past White Light Night, already a little tipsy from our previous stops, Gus spotted this jacket in one of Baton Rouge's finest vintage establishments, Time Warp. Now, at 6'3" with a slim waist Gus is a tough fit when it comes to jackets, and finding something vintage for him is even harder. So you can imagine his excitement when the shoulders of this beauty fit him perfectly. The waist, however, was a bit boxy - like he was en route to a MadMen themed party rather than legitimately rocking a vintage find.

I found Gus in this jacket debating its merits with the sales girl - and told him, in my drunken certainty, that at $25 it was a must-buy and I would tailor it for him NO DOUBT! It's not often you go shopping drunk - I was caught up in the moment.

The next morning I got cold feet. This was a MEN'S JACKET with LINING!?! And what did I know about tailoring? Oh boy.


But however cold my feet may have been, I promised my Gus... So I ripped out the stitching at the base of the lining. (Interesting fact: the thread used was elastic, but loose.) I reached up into the jacket and took in the side seem in the shape of a shallow V - that way I could taper the seam into the arm hole and hem without having to alter either.

I was nervous. I braced myself for an awkward pause as Gus would try on his malformed jacket and then politely try to explain why it was okay that I ruined it.

But my worries were for nothing. I brought the tailored jacket to Gus's place... and he proceeded to vogue in the full length mirror until I started teasing him about it. The final touch: I moved the buttons in by 1/2 and inch.

Here is the blurry BEFORE PHOTO (taken at White Light Night, immediately post-purchase):

Around the same time this tailoring all went down, Gus purchased a beautiful 1950s record player from a new record store in town, Vintage Vinyl at The Atomic Pop Shop. This fabulous piece of furniture now takes up an entire wall of his apartment. Totally worth it. Now we're jammin' to Ellis Marsalis daily. (Gus would like you to know that the late-70s Ellis still plays some Tuesdays on Frenchman Street in New Orleans. Baller.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mail Bag: Garment Tags

Lovely! From NameMaker. They take a little time to come in the mail, but branding my wares is worth it. They come in many shapes and sizes. Super handy: on the website they have a cross hatch of all the different color combinations - so you can see them together. The colors are a little weird in this photo, but they are cream and light blue. Now to start sewing them into my projects...