Friday, May 28, 2010

Three Day Weekend Sewing!

Memorial Day at last! I have a lot of things planned for the weekend, including my first foray back into the Craft Lounge since vacation. And it is a newly transformed Lounge, too. My fabric stash has been moved from a crammed-full old dresser into large plastic sweater boxes that slide neatly away under the bed. Much easier to find what I am looking for this way!

I am also in the process of de- or un-stashing some the the fabrics I bought that perhaps were not the best idea - fabrics that either seduced me with their low price or that I ordered on line, but ultimately don't love. I'm trying to use them up as muslin. Fellow sewists - what do you do with your more ill advised purchases?

Anyway, I cut both of the tops that I plan to work on this weekend in two of my cheap knits "muslins". I'm starting with this Vogue Today's Fit pattern:

And I also plan to work on this Kwik Sew basic tee:

I also plan to head back to work on my pants muslin. And I have to admit to having trepidations. It seems like every time I try to make pants, I end up losing weight (LOL - I should try to make pants all the time, no?). Anyway, I thought I had the fit just about perfected before my travel, but, well, we'll have to see how they are doing now.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We interrupt our regular programming for the following Public Service Announcement

PSA: If you can't remember when you last bought bras, it is time for new ones.

Tank top weather has officially arrived in the Northeast. So, I'm feeling especially happy that over the weekend I "spring cleaned" my lingerie drawer and shopped for new bras. It was not that there was anything horribly wrong with my old bras; it's just that between losing weight, being on the DL from yoga (ie: no strength training of the chest muscles for 10 weeks) and the normal wear and tear to my everyday basics, I'd been feeling, well, less than my perky best.

So, off I went to the mall. I was planning on trying on a few different size combinations near to my "standard" size to find a fit that I liked. However, a sales rep wielding a measuring tape made this a much easier process. She simply took my high, full and underbust measurements and we were off and running. A few bras later, we agreed on my new size. Interestingly enough, the best fit was not in the size that I measured; the best fit was a size smaller in the band but a cup size larger.

Obviously, I am not the first sewist or blogger to write about the importance of the proper foundation garments. And there are lots of on-line guides to finding the best fit, like the one at or I don't think that you necessarily need a high end or specially store to find a good fit either - you can start by taking your own measurements and then going from there. Shockingly, my own good experience took place at the very main stream, mass-consumption-oriented Victoria's Secret. I went in because I had a gift certificate. The woman who helped me was quite knowledgeable about their various styles, had a critical eye and directed me very well. If you are more self conscious about being helped in the fitting room by a sales person, then bring a close girlfriend or sister with you - someone who will be honest about how a bra looks and fits on you. And be sure to try several different bras and then slip on your tee shirt or top to see how it will look when you are actually dressed - to me that is the true test.

Armed with my new bras, I'm feeling like my clothes immediately look and fit better and my silhouette seems more sleek and streamlined. Somehow, I even feel taller.

Anyway, we now return to your regularly scheduled program...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Midweek Blahs and Vacation 2: Still Dreaming of Venice

If, like me, you spent Sunday night watching the 2.5 hour series finale of Lost, then you can probably relate to how I felt on Monday: emotionally spent and more than a little sorry for myself on a gray morning. Anyway, to comfort myself, I'm thinking of my trip to Venice. It was the kind of vacation where calling your boss to quit your job and stay indefinitely was clearly a temptation and there were moments where it seemed like an entirely reasonable thing to do.

Here are some of my favorite things about Venice.
View of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge

As a traveler you expect that certain sights will be over-hyped and don't live up to expectation. However, occasionally there are some that wildly exceed your expectations. (IMHO: examples of the over-hyped are Picadilly Circus, Mona Lisa and most Cathedrals; while those that more than lived up include Sagrada Familia, the Colosseum and just about any piece of marble Michelangelo happened to touch.) My point - and I do have one! - is that Venice is NOT overrated. This is a place you should visit at least once, simply to witness it's unique beauty.

Phineas on a bridge in the Cannaregio area

I find it completely appropriate that this gem of a city is named after the goddess of love, and even less of a wonder that it was the home of Giacomo Casanova, the famed...well...Casanova. Just walking around Venice is wonderful unto itself, especially if you go off the beaten path a bit and wander through the warren of narrow alleys, courtyards, canals and bridges, which we did. In fact, my favorite activity was wandering the city and nibbling at cicchetti (Venetian tapas) and sipping prosecco, the local drink of choice. Seriously, that Venice is ground zero for a great sparkling wine makes me feel like all is right in the universe.

The Hunchback of the Rialto

We started every morning browsing in the Rialto Market, where fish and produce is sold to locals. Later in the day, we would see the same seafood and produce on restaurant menus.

Piazza San Marco from the top of the Campanile

Lest you think all we did was walk and eat and sip prosecco, we did visit the Doge's Palace, the Campanile (tower), and the other sights in Piazza San Marco. Should you ever go to Venice, I highly recommend the "Secret Itinerary" tour of the Doge's Palace. It visits all the hidden places in the palace (ie: back offices, torture chambers and the cell where Casanova was held).

Phineas in a gondola - I was in the gondola too,
precariously hanging out over the water so I could get this shot.

I also recommend taking a Traghetto or "Service Gondola", which ferry passengers back and forth across the Grand Canal at various points for a mere 50 Eurocents. Keep in mind you are traveling across the Canal while most of the traffic is going up and down the Canal, which was rather exciting. By the end of our trip, I rode like the locals did: standing up! Oddly enough, this was a smoother ride than the NY City subway system. Speaking of crowded subways, definitely visit Venice in the off season. It was the first week of May when we were there and I would not have wanted it one bit more crowded or overrun with tourists than it was. (What? Who? Me? A tourist?!?! Nonesense! I am a traveler - an entirely different breed than tourists.)

Notice how the tower in the background leans - a common sight in Venezia.

But most of all, visiting Venice is about just being in Venice; soaking it in. One picture perfect moment is followed by another, especially if you are there with someone special.

Phineas looks like he has mischief on his mind.

Friday, May 21, 2010

TGIF and Vacation Round Up: Athens

View of the Acropolis

The weekend is upon us, the weather could not be better, and I am thinking about sorting through my travel photos while the memories are fresh in my head. Here are a few of my favorite things from our days in Athens


Phin at the Parthenon


Me with the stunning and still majestic columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus

... and more Ruins.

If you are a lover of all things ancient (as I am), Athens is a pretty close 2nd to Rome in my book for the sheer number of archaeological sites to visit. From the Acropolis to the Agora and then just wandering around town. If you throw a rock, it will probably hit something old.

And if you are also the kind of person who needs a museum fix while on vacation, Athens also has plenty to offer.

Can you believe this was salvaged from an ancient ship wreck?

Ancient Pottery

Aphrodite beating Pan away with her shoe; Eros gets in on the act.

In addition to all the art and culture, Athens is just a terrific place to spend a few days. The vibe is laid back, the people are warm, the food was great, and we had beautiful weather. A great trip all in all!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Post-Vacation Regrouping and Motivation

Sometimes, a forced holiday from a hobby because of work, vacation, injury or fatigue from a time-consuming project can be a good thing. However, in the last month several of these circumstances have converged for me, and every one of my hobbies except travel has been on hold. It's been a month since I've done any kind of sewing (project fatigue and travel), 5 weeks since cooking or baking (travel and the Christening outfit), a month since my last run (injured big toe followed by a chest cold), and my yoga practice has been on hiatus since mid February (bursitis in my right shoulder). Even my blogging has been haphazard. Perhaps I was pushing myself too hard to do all of these things? Naaahh.

Whatever the case, vacation is over, my suitcase has finally made it home from an extended vacation without me in Spain, and I am back with a vengeance - energized and motivated. My shoulder has been good as new in the 2 yoga classes I've taken since Saturday and I am going to go for a run this evening. I'm not sure what to cook or bake first, but I will let you know.

On the sewing front, I got together with Erato on Sunday to help her pin fit her jeans, chat about sewing and pore through the latest Burda and my sewing patterns to decide what to work on next. Obviously, I have to get back to my pants muslin, which I left in good shape since Phineas did manage to pin fit the pants without goring me. But I want a few things to work on when I am not feeling like working on the pants. So here is what is up next (in no particular order):

On this one, I plan to make the top, but with short or no sleeves. If it goes well, you may see it as a dress in the fall.

This may be the top I tackle first. I love the neckline - it is an almost universally flattering cut. I plan to make the short sleeve version.

Finally, having a really great and versatile tee pattern will give me lots of options for fun tops year-round. I already have a number of ideas for variations which will elevate it above the basic tee.

Oh, and I should mention that both this top and the HP Calm, Cool and Cowl neck top are in the UFO pile while I figure out whether I want to finish them or not.

This weekend, I will be digging out the Craft Lounge, organizing myself and getting down to work. It's good to be back!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

La Serenissima

Well, I'm back from Venice. (Big sigh.) It's like waking up from a lovely dream to the realization that it's Monday morning and rainy. I'm back at my desk and have a cough that I can't seem to shake. I'm sure that jet lag is a contributing factor. One of our suitcases got lost between Venice and Rome on Sunday, and has not yet made its way home. It has my 2 favorite trousers, current favorite shoes, plus all of the tops I wore on vacation - essentially, all of my favorite clothing. Needless to say, I'm having a minor freak out.

BUT, I'm still kind of riding that vacation high - feeling relaxed, motivated and happy. It was an unexpected and wonderful vacation. Thank you, Phineas, for all the last minute planning.

More on Venice and Athens to come once I sort through photos and am able to keep my eyes open past 9:30pm.

**Update 5/14: My bag has been spotted taking a siesta in Spain. So, it should be on it's way home shortly. Ole!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guest Blogger: Polyhymnia and the Christening Gown Wrap Up

Note from Clio: I am finally home from my travels, but totally drained. So now, Polyhymnia will tell you - from her point of view - how the Christening Gown Project went. Really, we lived and breathed this project for a month. So, I think this final word on the topic will be cathartic for us both. Here she is...

Today, I received an email from Erato,titled “Being crafty.” She had so much fun crafting together at her place during the Christening Gown project, that she’s invited Clio, Terpsichore, and me over for another craft day.

I have a couple of projects I’ve been toying with, including a blanket for Baby B (the little niece I’m excitedly waiting for), planning sketches for a mural for Little C’s nursery, and *gasp* finishing some raw, and thankfully hidden, seams in Little C’s christening gown. The christening gown…

Back in March, when I asked Clio and Erato if I was crazy to take on sewing Little C’s christening gown, they should have both yelled “YES!” I’m glad I did it, but without Clio taking on the lion’s share of the project, Little C would have been naked on the altar.For anyone who was inspired to be crazy enough to attempt this project for themselves, here are some things to consider…

My wedding gown

Cutting up “The Dress – If you think of your wedding dress as “The Dress”, if you have taken it out to look at or try on since your wedding, if you have any qualms at all about cutting up your dress DO NOT DO THIS PROJECT! I had not thought about my wedding dress since I took it off after my wedding. If fact, I wasn’t even sure where it was (my Mom had it). It was never cleaned - still wearing make-up, grime and water stains from the snow that was on the ground 5 years ago at my wedding. I found that folks at the Christening were most intrigued by the fact that I cut-up my wedding dress, but I had ZERO doubts about it. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVED my dress – but now it was just a really big, closet-eating memento. It would never hold the same magic. But with this project, it would get a whole new life.

Bead motif

Beading – Sewing something with beadwork sucks big time. I think I killed my Kenmore sewing machine when I accidentally hit an errant bead dead-on. And I had removed a lot of beads… a lot of beads. Anyway, the tension on my machine is now completely off and I need to have it tuned-up and serviced. Besides that, Clio and I spent DAYS fixing the beadwork before the Christening.

Teeny tiny sleeve - so hard to stitch...

Hand-stitching – Many portions of the project had to be hand-sewn, because the tiny proportions left little room to maneuver with a machine. Tiny armholes, little cuffs, small booties… Cute but deadly!

The finished outfit
Part of what made this project such a crazy feat was my lack of skill and another part was lack of time. At the end of it all, I was super-proud of our accomplishment on the day of my son’s Christening and I think Clio felt the same sense of pride in our project. It was immensely satisfying to see how princely the outfit looked on Little C. (I’m sure I’ll catch flak someday from him for putting him in “a skirt”, but I loved the traditional look in church.) At any rate, I think I need a break from christening gowns for a while (at least until the next baby), so I will instead tackle one of my other projects at Erato’s craft get-together. Happy crafting!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest Blogger: Erato (Muse of Very Long Legs)

Note from Clio: Today, Erato will blog while I am en route from Athens to Venice. The muses are truly a brave bunch, throwing caution to the wind and plunging into a project. Erato is on a quest for the perfect pair of jeans, knocked off from here favorite jeans. She has never made pants before, except for Kwiksew pajama bottoms.

Anyway, notice how my darling sister - while stating that she is not jealous - has managed to point out that, by the way, she happens to be younger and taller than yours truly. Siblings! At least she didn't say skinnier (which she also is). Erato, I can't wait to see how these jeans turn out.

Taking the Plunge: Jeans
Erato here, guest blogging once more for Clio while she gallivants across the globe (No, I'm not jealous. Really. :P)I am Clio’s six-foot-tall, younger sister. I have a serious addiction to stretch denim but unfortunately, due to my height, my options are very limited. I spent all winter long hiding my several-inches-too-short skinny jeans under knee high boots. Unfortunately, the arrival of Spring pretty much ruined my wardrobe when boots went out of season so this year I decided it was high time I started making my own jeans.

My first pair was decidedly a practice muslin. I took apart a pair of short jeans I had been wearing - and which fit great- to use as a template. The jeans didn’t come out anywhere close to wearable, but I did learn a lot while making them. I am now a master at ripping out stitches, I have a pretty good concept of the right order to put the pieces together, and, most important, I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of adding a seam allowance. The only problem that I ran into that I couldn’t figure out was that waistband was about 4 inches too small!

Anyhow, I’m just in the beginning stages of my second pair of blue jeans muslin and I’m really hopeful that these ones will actually fit! So far, I’ve done a few things differently (hopefully better) than my first pair. I’ve started out with much stretchier denim so hopefully they will be snug but wearable, which is how I want them. Secondly, I sketched out my pattern on paper and cleaned it up quite a bit. I also remembered to add about ¾ of an inch on all sides for a seam allowance. The only other tweak I made so far is that I made the waistband a lot longer. I still don’t know why it was so small last time, so I’m not taking any chances. Worst case scenario (that might be an optimistic statement) I’ll have to trim it down a bit before attaching it.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

London Fabric Shopping Part 2

So, before I got totally sidetracked with Athens, I was going to tell you about fabric shopping in London. Thankfully, Phineas arrived on Friday evening, so I had someone to take a photo or two, even if he was a bit less than enthusiastic about a shoping excursion. Actually, we had a really nice day rambling around London.

First stop on the fabric circuit was Cloth House. There are actually two locations and I only made it to the one at No 47 Berwick Street. It is a charming - and beautifully curated - shop. Everything about it is neat and tidy with fabrics carefully arranged and marked, a small but quality collection of notions and buttons, and a knowledgeable and friendly staff. The shop at No 47 is stocked with cottons, linens, denim, poplin and eyelet fabrics. Definitely, this is the place to go if you are looking to buy beautiful basics or are making a dress or suit for a garden party.

Since I was not looking for basics, we moved on to MacCulloch & Wallis. This store has flash. There were an abundance of dress fabrics and nary a cotton to be found. They have a second floor with a broad variety of notions, including (or so the very helpful young design school grad waiting on me says) magnetic "zippers" of the sort that strippers would use for their tear-away pants. Ahem. He told me this after I had purchase some sequined snow leopard print fabric, which I plan to make into a pencil skirt and NOT tear-away pants.

This photo doesn't do it justice. Basically it is a silver grey leopard print with rows of small silver sequins over it. I'm not planning to make it up right away, but was thinking that it will be fantastic for holiday parties or a wedding.

Since I had fantastic fabric in hand, I could no longer deny Phineas his turn to choose how we spent the afternoon. So, my shopping was done. That said, London sewists have it pretty good. And, happily, I will be heading home with my first international fabric purchase.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Muse in Athens: Does it Get Any Better than this???

Muse on the balcony of her (upgraded-to-a-suite) hotel room in Athens.
Yes, that IS the Acropolis in the background.

Today, I planned to blog about my fabric shopping trip in London. However, I have to interrupt regularly scheduled activities to announce: Ladies and Gentlemen, I am in Athens! Not only am I in Athens, but spectacularly so. Suddenly, all the cowl neck, drapey tops in my wardrobe make much more sense. This muse, spiritually speaking, has returned home.

For whatever reason, I am taking to this town like a duck to water. Phineas and I arrived in the late afternoon, and decompressed in our hotel for a bit while enjoying the gorgeous (75 and sunny) weather and beautiful view from our balcony. We freshened up, took a leisurely stroll around town, and then had a fantastic dinner of Mezze at a local taverna with "a band". Why I say "a band" and not "its own band" is that it wasn't entirely clear to either me or Phineas whether the band was hired by the taverna to play music, or if they just happened to be a number of (somewhat tipsy from the number of empty beer bottles) patrons with instruments and a knowledge of folk tunes. Either way, at various points, the whole taverna was singing along.

I'm not sure how today could have been a better day. Truly. So tonight, I will leave you with fond wishes from my balcony, where I am alternately blogging and admiring the view. Tomorrow, we explore the Acropolis.