Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! and a PSA: Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness

Have you ever felt like you're living the opening moments of a grade B horror movie?

By Saturday evening, when my plans had been cancelled, the power was out, there was no train service in and out of my area, and tree branches were crashing down right and left outside my front door in a freak October snow storm, I found myself peeking out the window looking for the inevitable hoard of hungry zombies about to beset my normally pleasant town.

I'm please to report that Phin and I get a B+ for Zombie Apocalypse preparedness. We had plenty of food and water, full tanks of gas, candles, flashlights, a radio and lots of extra batteries. We closed all the blinds and drapes to keep heat in and only opened the fridge once. We have wood for the fireplace if it gets really cold. I had even taken out all of our winter clothes and blankets earlier that day.

So, why no A?  Well, we lent our hand crank radio to Phin's brother when he lost power a few months back and our hand crank flashlight to Phin's dad. Altruism is rarely rewarded in zombie cinema, and at some point our batteries will run out. 

Yesterday, we ventured out to drop off my nephew's Halloween costume (thankfully finished before we lost  power!), and took the opportunity to recharge our phones in the car. Power and trains are still out, but there's no sign of zombies, so maybe I got the movie wrong and am living some other horror movie in which the plucky and prepared heroes are beset by some other monsters. But I'm not convinced. The trick-or-treaters may draw them out. So, this Halloween, I hope you will take the advice of the CDC and be prepared.

The Centers for Disease Control

Oh, and when in doubt, remember Rule #4: the double tap

Happy Halloween!  I hope to have pictures of my nephew in costume and some pics of my new single-seam skirt as soon as the power is back on!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tied in Knots, I Mean Knits

Ladies and gentlemen, my first knit scarf:

It's nice and long and very very soft and cozy. And I knit it myself!

I'm convinced that I'm in the most ambitious beginner sewing class in the tri-state area. After finishing our first scarf (the puffy garter stitch one above), we moved right into working on a rib knit scarf. And then last night, we started a matching hat. In fact, the class is so ambitious, that Berta decided to add a fourth session so we can finish our hats.  

Here is half a scarf and the beginnings of a hat for Phin

Oh, and last night when Berta asked what other things we would like to learn, I planted the seed... and now the whole class thinks they want to knit socks. So, Berta is offering a 2 session sock class next month.. heh heh heh.

Anyway, here are a few beginner observations about knitting:
  • Yarn is expensive. More expensive than fabric is, at least for what I like.
  • Expensive yarn seems to be worth it. I've been snuggling on the couch with my scarf these last few nights, sighing over how soft and lovely merino wool is. Mmmmm... merrrrrr-eeee-nooooo...
  • Knitting is slow work. Holy cow, I thought I was a slow sewista, but it's nothing compared to how slow knitting is! I finished half of the red scarf only after knitting every day for a week!  Granted, there were times I had to rip out rows and backtrack. But still. 
  • I am much less likely to maim fellow commuters knitting with round needles than 14" straight ones. Nuff said.
  • There are no muslins in knitting. This terrifies me. 
  • There are lots of needles for sale on Ebay! I stocked up on a set of 14 pairs of slightly used  knitting needles in all different sizes to get me started. And it only cost $20 plus shipping. Hooray for Ebay!

 So, really, what I'm saying is that my mind is still boggled by those of you who knit sweaters. But socks are definitely in my future! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Sewing for Others: Halloween Edition

A few years ago, I made my nephew, Orpheus, Harry Potter Hogwarts robes for Halloween. He wore them for two Halloweens in a row. So, how could I refuse to help when he and his mom - my sister Calliope - called to say they were having trouble finding his preferred costume this year. (Seriously, "I love you, Aunt Clio" are the five most dangerous words in my universe. I am helpless in the face if their heart melting power.) So, I'm making a Goku costume.

Don't know who Goku is? Join the club. Apparently, he is an anime character from Dragonball Z, which is based on a Japanese manga series. If that sounds like Greek to you, that basically means that it's animated and martial arts heavy. Anyway, here's Goku:

Since this is pretty short order as far as my sewing goes, I bought a blue tee shirt from Old Navy, and I'll make the rest. I stopped by Spandex House today and picked up some orange and blue fabric. Since I won't be able to do a fitting, I figure that a stretchy fabric will give me the needed wiggle room. I'm going to use Kwik Sew 2276, which has just one pattern piece for the pants. Seriously, just sew the inseams, joint the right and left sides together, add an elastic waistband  and hem. Voila! Pants. 


I'll frankenpattern the KS top into the v-neck top that Goku wears over his blue shirt. I plan to do the majority of the sewing on my serger, so I'm hopefull that it will come together quickly.

Are you doing any Halloween sewing this year? For yourself or for someone else? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Boxer Shorts Sew Along with the Bold One

Well, I am continuing to take sewing at a very slow and unhurried pace since the red dress. No deadlines looming. No sense of urgency. No rush. If I feel like being in the Craft Lounge for an hour, I go. If not, I don't.

One fast and easy project that I've been lollygaging over is boxer shorts for Phineas. I decided to jump on the Men's Boxers Sew Along over at Male Pattern Boldness. This is a great sew along for anyone who needs a break from high-intensity sewing or a newer sewist who wants to learn some nicer finishes for their projects, like flat felled seams, bias bound edges and the very nice waistband/elastic treatment Peter uses.

For Phin, I picked out three nice soft shirtings from Chic Fabrics on W39th Street in the Garment District. They were on sale for $5 a yard.

Checks, Plaid and Stripes
I used Simplicity 9958 since Phin wanted a pattern that had a back center seam. He has a rather flat bum, so the patterns that have no back seam leave a lot of extra fabric in the seat. There is just one pattern piece. Anyway, I stitched two boxers up in the last week (the other fabric isn't washed yet).

I made a few changes to the pattern after a very quick muslin. First, I made a fly facing just by tracing that part of the pattern. Next, the pattern runs very large, IMHO. I lopped 3 inches off the top to raise the crotch - it was waaaaay long. And I folded out 3 inches of width at the hip (so reducing 6 inches off the width of the whole thing).  This makes for a shorter, more close fitting boxer, which is how Phin likes it. 

Don't these look very RTW?

Taking a page from the sew along, I flat felled the seams, which is a very clean finish. And I used the nice waistband treatment that Peter describes, instead of making a casing and threading the elastic through. I recommend Peter's method - it's just as easy and much nicer looking. Because I had no side seam or side vent, I didn't use the bias finish. I just did a simple double turned hem.

And here they are. Two boxers for Phin, with a third to follow whenever the fabric is washed. He seemed pretty pleased with them, which is what counts. Now, if I could just remember my Flickr log in details, I could upload this to the Sew Along group. Sigh.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Knit One, Purl What?

After years of protesting that, although some people manage to make sweaters, the only thing I could ever make from yarn is a knot, I've broken down and started a knitting class. (Hi, my name is Clio, and I'm addicted to Groupons...) And let me tell you, I really feel like it's more boot camp than class, which is exactly what I need.

My instructor is Berta, and she wrote this book. She's rather fierce (I mean that as a compliment) and says she can teach anyone to knit. And by the end of the first class, all 10 of us students were, in fact, knitting!

In three classes - once a week at School Product Yarns right near the Garment District - I will knit two scarves and a hat. It's a very pragmatic class. And I'm laughing while I write this post because it's like being taught by your grandma or favorite Aunt. So far Berta is teaching us how to knit as opposed to spending any teaching time on terminology, how to read patterns, talking about tools or supplies (needles, yarn, etc). I have no idea if we will cover these things in future classes or not. There was no hand out or curriculum. It's instant gratification knitting for now. On Monday morning I couldn't knit a single stitch, but now here is almost 2/3 of a scarf.

It's done with puffy wool and enormous needles, which hides a multitude of glitches and gaffes. It's a fast and easy project to get me going. And on that note, I feel I should share my ulterior motives; what really drove me to knit. I've never really wanted to knit before because, well, I'm not really much of a sweater person. And how many scarves and hats does one person need? Not too many. But what I do love is socks: socks of every size and shape and color and texture!

A few months ago, I picked up these books on on a whim. And now I'm determined to knit, just so I can knit socks. Ridiculous? Absolutely! But my feet will love me for it.

Somehow, this approach to knitting oddly suits me. I don't know a thing yet, but, dang, I'm knitting and socks are in my future. I'd be surprised if there isn't some sort of reckoning or comeuppance for this wild approach. So stay tuned. It could get interesting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Fine Print: Give Away Winners, Mailbag and Scattered Thoughts

After the Columbus Day holiday, today feels like a Monday. So, it's a good time to get to some "to do list" items.

Give Away Winners
The competition for these patterns was not so fierce; I guess the need for party dresses is not as great as my pattern collection would have me believe. But the winners are:
Debi - Vogue 1162 Belleville Sassoon dress  
Rachel - Vogue 8280 Galaxy Dress knock off pattern
Ladies, let me know where to send 'em - email me at Clio[dot]Phineas[at]gmail[dot]com - and have fun sewing them up!   

Just to answer a few questions that came my way in comments:
ThreadHeaven - What is it? What's it for?  - Essentially, you are supposed to use it to coat your thread for handsewing, as you would use bees wax. It reduces drag and tangles, and conditions the thread against fraying. Unlike beeswax it is non-organic, and it is also non-toxic, UV repellent, retards mold and mildew, and a host of other things you can read about here
Thimble - Did I cosy up to mine with all the hand sewing? - In a word, no. Sewing on silk fabric with silk thread coated in ThreadHeaven really was easy - the needle just glided on thru. Using a thimble actually became cumbersome. So, I am still a thimble deadbeat. C'est la vie. 
Scattered thoughts
Finally, it was really great to have a weekend that was completely free - no sewing for a deadline! It was a weekend of dabbling - very scattered. I worked a bit on boxer shorts for Phineas and a single seam skirt for me. Neither is done. I baked peach coffee cake and apple cinnamon muffins, which are half eaten now. I went for a long run, since I signed up for the Vegas Half Marathon (Dec 4) last week and have some serious training ahead.

(OK, the embedded video was starting to drive me bonkers every time I visited my blog. So, I've changed it to a link. CLICK HERE to see how cool the Vegas Half Marathon is.)

Seriously, how fun does this look?? And all I have to do is run 13.1 miles. It almost makes me think this was a good idea. Ha!

Oh and I took a knitting class, which is a first for me. So there are lots of balls in the air at the moment but nothing finished to show just yet. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Belated Birthday, Pattern Give Away, and PR Promotion?

So, here are some of the thoughts I meant to post on Monday for my birthday. But first, a gratuitous shot of the incredibly decadent brownies (recipe here) that I baked for myself as a birthday treat...

Mmmmm.... brownies... my one true weakness. Well, aside from silk.

OK, now, about my birthday! And sewing! It was almost exactly four years ago that Mom Muse gave me my first sewing  machine as a birthday present. Can you believe it?  I was looking back at my very first sewing post - here - and I have to admit that not a lot has changed other than...

...instead of sewing an elastic waist a-line skirt...

 ...I'm now hand picking zippers on silk dresses.

But my love of fabric, obsessiveness with details and lack of camera skills are essentially intact. That said, I posted a Pattern Review for the red dress yesterday (here) and a few commenters suggested that it's time to give myself a promotion from Advanced Beginner to Intermediate. What do you think? On the one hand, there is sooo much I still don't know or have never done, and even more that I have done but don't consider myself truly skilled at (um, button holes is the glaringly obvious one here. There are just so many good hardware solutions to button holes that I haven't worked so hard at perfecting my skills.) On the other hand, I've really upped my game in the last year. In fact, I've...

...tailored a coat,
...worked extensively on bust fitting,

 ...and done my first project with boning and a waist stay.
 Oh and lets not forget that since my last birthday, I conquered my fear of welt pockets.

Who's afraid of the big bad welt? Not me!

I'm also feeling good about zippers, fitting my body and hand sewing. So, why am I hesitant? Maybe it's that my sewing is always such slow going compared to others. I tend to stick to a few big projects rather than sewing a lot of quicker things. And Intermediate seems like a big jump at a time when I really feel like I'm in the snarky adolescent phase of my sewing hobby - some days I'm a spoiled brat know-it-all; some days I feel like I don't know a thing. Please share your thoughts - is it time for a promotion? How did you decide you were ready to move up the PR ranks?
So, back to my birthday! I always feel full of plans and goals for the coming year. This time around - birthday number 36 - is no exception. Maybe it's my way of gearing up for another year of life, maybe it's how much I love and feel alive during my birth month (hooray October!!!), or perhaps it's the nearing holidays, but I can't help being joyful and thankful at his time of year.

And now, because birthdays traditionally involve gift giving, I've decided on another give away. The theme is Beautiful Dresses. Just holler in the comments before Friday at midnight EDT (NYC time) and let me know which pattern(s) you'd like, if not all. I'm happy to ship to wherever your Craft Lounge may be.

Gorgeous Dress Pattern Give Away
First, Simplicity 3823, a halter style classic party dress. Or with Halloween coming, this could be the perfect pattern for a Marilyn Monroe costume.

"Happy Birthday, Mr President" in Size 14-22

Next, I've always been a big fan of "That Dress" - the Roland Mouret Galaxy dress - and this Vogue pattern is clearly a knock-off of it. Also, it's got a similar feel to my red dress, but without the labor intensive sleeves and pleats. And like the red dress, I think this would be great on pear shaped figures - the strong sleeves/shoulders really balance out the hips visually. I could see this done up in a really dressy fabric for some sex appeal or in a more tweedy fabric for an office chic vibe.  

Vogue 8280 - sizes 16-20
And finally, Vogue 1162, my red dress pattern.

Size 14-20
Just a few caveats with this pattern. This is the pattern I used for the first muslin, which was too large. I had to go down to the size 12, which was not in the same pattern envelope. I didn't cut the pattern, but did trace it with a wheel. So this pattern is NOT in factory condition. However, all the parts are there, as are the instructions in a somewhat beat up envelope. This is an advanced pattern, but I hope I've convinced you that it is worth it - I'd love to pass this pattern along.

More tomorrow on the boxer sew along I'm participating in. Have a great day everyone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Birthday: The Woman in Red Revealed

Today is my birthday, and I feel fabulous!

I actually had a completely different birthday post planned, but given how great I felt wearing my red dress and how a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided: why not celebrate my bday by posting the final project dress reveal?

Honestly, I felt great in this dress and I think it showed. In all seriousness, I doubt I will ever wear a LBD to a wedding again. Red is the color for me! And the wedding was so much fun - lots of dancing! Even the bride had on a belly dancing scarf/skirt at one point. The only thing I'm a little disappointed with is that I didn't take pictures before the 30 minute drive to the church - there are now no pictures without some creases. Gah!

Isn't Magenta a beautiful bride?
I won't lie, it was a race to the finish to get this dress done. The day before the wedding I was just finishing up the hem and sewing the lining to the vent. But it all got done. And I felt great.

Me and some of the muses: Calliope, Erato and Mom Muse

A few parting thoughts on this dress - Vogue 1162 Bellville Sasoon. First, it was a lot of work! From the sleeves to the hand picked zipper to the fitting (and more fitting) and hemming, nothing was easy about this dress. Well, except maybe for the piped neckline, which really was very easy. (I see more piping in my future!)

All in all, this dress was beautifully drafted and everything fit together - no complaints with the pattern. The only thing that could have been better on the instructions was that Vogue could have had better directions and/or images of attaching the shoulder yolk to the bodice and in suggesting what kinds of hand stitches to use for the sleeves. Otherwise, they were very straightforward.

A few good decisions that I made were: using silk thread for basting and hand stiching, underlining in silk organza, hand picking the zipper, and pressing very very carefully and thoroughly. Thank you to ALL OF YOU who gave me advice and encouragement along the way. 

The lucky guy who was my date.

I thought that I would be exhausted after this project, but I'm not! I'm jumping right back into a project - the MPB boxer shorts sew along -  as a thank you to Phineas, who zipped and unzipped me about 100 times (every time I needed to try on for fitting purposes), marked the hem for me (twice, because I changed my mind) and didn't complain that he basically was living with a dress-obsessed maniac who would have forgotten to eat if he didn't remind her to for a month. (Thanks for feeding me, my love. You will have boxers aplenty!)