Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons Learned: Nothing good happens after 9pm.

For the record: Nothing good happens in the Craft Lounge after 9pm. 

On Monday night, I headed up to the Lounge to work on my Karl Lagerfeld skirt. Here's the "before" picture:

Here's the "after" picture:

Why yes! It is the same picture. Here's what happened:

I interfaced the waistband and the cuff pieces, learning in the process that my new iron leaks. I noticed this when steam started wafting up from the under side of my ironing board. Hot water was leaking all the way through and then as I pressed, it was evaporating off the bottom of the board. Bizarre, no?

After a few choice profanities directed at Black & Decker in general and my iron specifically, I briefly considered basting but then sewed the waistband onto the skirt and tried it on. Two things: first, the waistband is too big. I have no idea how I failed to notice this since I measured it moments before applying it and (in theory) was aware that it was 3 inches wider than my waist, not counting allowances. (duh.) Second, I sewed the waistband on before I basted the cute little faux pocket flaps on. So, I spent the next 20 minutes unsewing black thread from the somewhat loosely woven black wool of the skirt. Not an easy task.

Then I realized that I had no buttons. The pattern calls for 4 of them.

Then my mom called to say that the wearable muslin camo pants I had made for my nephew didn't fit him.

So, essentially, things stand exactly where they were before I began sewing on Monday, except that I am now minus one iron, ahead by a bit of interfacing, missing 4 buttons and needing to sew new pants for my nephew.

The moral of this story is: Clio should not sew after dark. No good can come of it. None. 

That said, I'm really really pleased with how this skirt is coming. I decided that, because the wool I'm using is pretty loosely woven and potentially itchy, it ought to be lined. So I created and dropped in a lining. Honestly, I think this is the nicest, neatest trouser-style zipper and lining I've ever done. The insides are shockingly neat for me!

The back of the skirt is supposed to have elastic in the waistband. I'm trying to avoid this. I sewed two darts on the back to eat up the extra fabric and now just have to finess things a bit. Oh, also, I left out the hip pockets since others have commented that they were small (useless) and a bit confusing to sew. Plus I don't like any bulk at the hips.

So, in the next few days, I will be doing this all again, but this time with buttons, pocket flaps, a smaller waistband and a different iron. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 28, 2011

You Can't See Me, Ha ha ha...

D'oh! Apparently, camouflage does not work in an urban environment.

But my nephew, Orpheus, seemed to think that the pants that I sewed for him over the weekend were pretty cool, anyway. In fact, he made such a big deal over how cool they are that now his little brother, Linus, wants a pair too. (Sigh! Why does sewing for others always beget more sewing for others!?!?!)

There's not much to say about them. I whipped these up from KS 2276, same as the Goku Halloween costume that I made. They could not be easier or quicker. Each leg is just one piece of fabric. So, you sew up the inseams, sew the crotch/center seam, add an elastic waistband and hem. That's it.

The camo I used is a $2/yd ripstop-like fabric that I bought to use as muslin aeons ago at HM Fabrics. My sister has a difficult time getting pants that fit my nephew correctly; we grow kids abnormally tall in my family. So, these are essentially a very wearable muslin to see if this KS pattern, which is meant for sweatshirt fabric, actually works in a woven fabric, too. I told my nephew he is in charge of letting me know how they fit. For emphasis, I added that he should tell me if they give him "wedgies" or fall down to his ankles in gym class. At first he thought this was funny; then he asked if I was kidding. (Ha ha ha, I am an evil auntie).

Since I turned them over to my sister while we were out, I didn't get any pictures of the pants with my nephew actually in them. Oh well. I'm going to have to make that a demand for when I sew for others moving forward.

In between bites of pumpkin pie over the weekend, I also managed to squeeze in a bit of sewing for myself. I hope to finish my Karl Lagerfield Burda skirt in the next day or two so, stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Kitchen Mayhem and Gratitude!

First, the Mayhem: Phin and I are cooking the Thanksgiving meal for his family this year. 

I realize there are a lot of ways that sentence can be read. If you're the kind that hates cooking or gets stressed by company or family events, then it must read very ominous. But if you are like me and Phin, you'll understand that I immediately did a happy dance after writing that line. We are cooking! Woo-hoo-hoo.

Turkey a la Phineas

Phin is in charge of the bird, gravy, a ham, stuffing and brussel sprouts. I'm in charge of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, 2 veggies and pies. At this point the cranberry sauce is made (my recipe here), and my pie crusts (see my primer here) are chilling in the fridge. I'm about to head to the kitchen to start rolling out and filling pies. I plan to make apple and pecan, which I've blogged about in the past, and also pumpkin.

I'm feeling rather flattered that my SIL and niece specially requested that I make sweet potatoes. My sweet potatoes are not the traditional marshmallow covered Thanksgiving fare. In fact, I discovered this recipe in a cookbook by Mark Bittman over the summer when I was looking for a potato salad that had no mayonnaise. It was very easy and was an instant crowd pleaser. The recipe suggests serving it room temperature, but we all liked it better served warm. It calls for both white and sweet potatoes, but tomorrow I'll be using just sweet potatoes.

They are my favorite color, you know.

Grilled White-and-Sweet Potato Salad
1 lb waxy new potatoes
1 lb sweet potatoes
4 tbsp nice olive oil (extra virgin or whatever you prefer)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp sherry or other vinegar (white wine, champagne, cider... your call)
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped

Peel and cut the potatoes into half inch thick wedges. Toss with half the olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill (in the summer) or oven roast (in winter), turning a few times while they cook, until they are browned and tender. While they are cooking, mix the rest of the ingredients together to make a vinegrette. When the potatoes are done, toss with the vinegrette and serve. Or chill in fridge and serve cool. 
Unusual for Thanksgiving, no?  But it actually goes very well with my thinking that the traditional meal can get a bit monotonous, both flavor-wise and texture-wise. So adding some veggies that have a bit of texture and a little acidity really brightens the whole meal.

And now for the Gratitude: The thing that I am most grateful for today is that I am strong and healthy.

On Sunday, I completed my longest training run for the Half Marathon - 12.6 miles! Just half a mile away from the distance I'll run in 11 days. Tomorrow, Phin and I will run in our annual 5k Turkey Trot to make room for all that pie. I'm hoping for a new personal best time in that race.

Being strong and healthy enables me to have an amazing hobby like running in my life. It helps me juggle the demands of a career that involves some travel, my marriage/best-friend-ship to Phin and family life, and still have the energy for the friendships and hobbies that enrich my life. It is a blessing: one I hope to never take for granted.

So, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I hope that you have much to be grateful for this year. And, if you are celebrating, I hope your turkey is juicy and your potatoes fluffy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mood Fabric Deal Alert!

Well, tis the season for sewing deals!

There is a LivingSocial deal (exactly like a Groupon) for $30 of fabric and merch at Mood for just $15.  And you can buy up to two of them for yourself. (You know I bought two!)

The fine print: It doesn't seem to say whether or not you can use it for on-line purchases. And since I have no affiliation (NAYY) with either Mood or LivingSocial, I have no insider details.

Happy fabric shopping! Click here for the deal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Strategic Retreat: Donna Karan Skirt

On Saturday morning, I decided to take the bull by the horns and work on the dreaded Donna Karan single seam skirt of doom. After a little taking in at the waist, I think the basted together version fit as well as it ever will. However, I've decided to scrap the project.

The fabric is a dark coffee brown color, and it has a sort of shiny (embossed looking) snake skin print on it. It's a bit slinky. And, as much as I like the fabric, I think it's just not suited to this skirt... or my thighs... or my thighs in this skirt... or something. You get the point.

It's shinier in person. Trust me.

I could actually see this working out just fine in a matte fabric that wasn't so slinky. I think if I had made it in a black jersey, I'd be inclined to finish it, put on some spanx and declare it cute. I may try it again in the future, but for now I'm setting it aside.

My only issue with the pattern itself is the lack of structure in the back. There is no gathering or seam to support the gathers. So, the skirt requires careful arranging to get it to look right and the hem to hang straight, and then the gathers don't stay where they should as soon as you move, anyway.

See how it is not really gathered and kind of drooping in the back at the hem?  The only gathers on the back side are caused by my twisting around to photograph myself (my yoga teacher would applaud this twist). 

Since this pattern was all of one large piece, I can easily salvage the fabric and make it into something more suitable and more flattering on me, like a slinky top, which is probably what I should have done in the first place.

One large piece of fabric - pretty cool, I think.
Anyway, chalk this one up to lessons learned. Shiny fabric is a no-no on my lower half, at least for body-conscious styles.

Now, on to the other challenging skirt!  I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon cutting fabric, so I have 4 projects lined up and ready to be sewn over Thanksgiving weekend. Hooray!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sewing Groupon Alert!

I think most of you who visit my blog are probably too advanced for a beginner class, but I thought I'd alert you anyway! Groupon is offering a deal on a Two-Hour Beginner-Basics Sewing Class Including Materials for One or Two at The Sewing Studio (Up to 57% Off). Maybe there is a new or budding sewista or sewister in your life that would like this for Christmas?

Click here for the deets!  

Oh, and I have no affiliation with either Groupon or The Sewing Studio. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back to the Craft Lounge... Without Actually Setting Foot in the Craft Lounge

Last night was a rare weeknight when I didn't have a run or yoga planned, no baking projects and no social commitments or other things that needed doing. And I'd already finished my homework for tomorrow's sock knitting class. So, I decided to get back into the Craft Lounge for some sewing.

The only problem was that the only project that needed sewing is my dreaded Donna Karan skirt, clearly a potential UFO at this point. In fact, I was feeling an aversion to actually being alone in the Craft Lounge with the skirt staring me down from the corner where it is heaped in a pile in such an unfinished state.

So, I decided to jump to my next two planned projects for myself, both from BurdaStyle and neither requiring a trip into the Lounge, since I prefer to do pattern tracing on the dining room table. (Clever of me, no?  Although, I don't know what it says about me or the skirt that I would rather trace Burda patterns than look at my skirt.)

After evaluating the two patterns, I decided to start with the Karl Lagerfeld skirt (BurdaStyle 10-2010-136) rather than the dress from the cover of BurdaStyle 9-2010. This decision was based on the number of pieces I'd have to trace (3 vs. 11) and the amount of altering the patterns would need (the dress is a petite and I am a tall, according to Burda). 

My immediate observation is that Karl Lagerfeld really takes the "mini" part of miniskirt seriously. The entire skirt piece measures only a scant 13" in length. At 5'9" (or 69"), this is not quite enough fabric to cover my bum. Forget about sitting or bending or even coming out of the fitting room with the other 56" of my body not covered by skirt. So, I added 6" to the length (so much for avoiding petite to tall modifications!). This will still be pretty short for me.

I've got two wools in my stash and I'm trying to decide which to use - light blue or black. The black would make it look exactly like the Burda version (+6"), which would be versatile and cool and I could probably get away with wearing to work with tights. But blue is a nice color on me and would add more color to the bottom half of my wardrobe. Hmmm, decisions, decisions!

The left fabric is much more baby blue in person.
And that's where things stand for now. More later!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Again: Back to the Grind

Okey dokey.  I am back from a quick business trip to Chicago and, aside from a lingering cough, feeling mostly better. While nursing my cold and traveling, I didn't get any sewing done. The Donna Karan single seam skirt is still sitting unaltered in the Craft Lounge. To be honest, I just didn't have the emotional strength over the weekend to work on a skirt that, as I left it, was so very unflattering to my thighs and butt. And my hips, too. And legs. And.... you get the point. 

However, I was productive on the knitting front. It helped that I could knit while under a quilt sipping tea. I finished off Phin's scarf and hat. Here they are together. Cute, no?

Merino Wool Hat and Scarf Set
Phineas is pretty pleased with them, I think, and says he is looking forward to the next snow so he can use them. He's a truly warm blooded creature and only ever wears hats and scarves during extreme weather.

In addition, last week I started my sock knitting class right before leaving for Chicago. Really, I'm more convinced than ever that this hobby is not going to save me any pennies. Because I just love socks and my knitting teacher thought I was ready for a challenge, I picked out this fuzzy cashmere blend for my socks.  It is sooooooo soft and lovely. But ultimately, these are going to be $50 socks. Ridiculous.

$50 worth of yarn = two socks. Sheesh!

Then again, they are cashmere. So, I've decided that the only way to justify a $50 pair of cashmere socks (that's $25 dollars each sock, people!!!) is to call them a gift to myself for all the running that I'm doing to prepare for the Vegas half marathon, which is just 3 weeks away.  A cosy pair of socks to snuggle on the couch with is exactly what my beat up feet need after a training run.

OK, one last picture of Phin, since he was mugging for the camera. Back to sewing tomorrow...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday: Extra Monday-ish Edition

Today feels more like a Monday than usual Mondays. I don't know what happened this weekend to put me in this mood. Things started out optimistically enough. Sure, I felt a mild sore throat coming on, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from all the things I wanted to get done.

On Saturday morning, I cut and basted together my Donna Karan single seam skirt. Later, I ripped apart my Donna Karan single seam skirt and contemplated mailing the cut fabric to a friend on whom it might not be so horribly unflattering. Then I remembered that she doesn't really sew.

So, I set my sewing aside and tried to run 12 miles, before my burgeoning cold worsened (at this point it was a sore throat and a sniffle). I only made it 9 miles and was wiped out for the rest of the day. My sore throat worsened into a cough.

I proceeded to sleep for 11 hours and then flipped thru Burda Magazine for 2 more hours. I threatened to go for another planned run. My threats were in vain; I napped instead. Then I baked 4 loaves of pumpkin bread (no disasters there, thankfully), although I can't really taste anything at the moment, so you never know. I also knit a few more rows of Phineas' scarf, which is almost done. The hat is finished. Naturally, I neglected to photograph anything that I did all weekend long.

And then I couldn't sleep last night since I had slept so much during the day. And now Phin is sick, too. So, the long and short of this post is that I am mopey and whiny and I'm going to go crawl into my cave and sleep some more. I'll be back when I am fit for less whiny conversation. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finished! One-Seam Skirt, or How to Complictate Even the Simplest Project

When I bought this fabric (on the left), it was with thoughts of a one-seam skirt. Afterall, what could be more simple and fun for this wonky knit? And, quite frankly, a horizontally striped skirt is exactly the kind of fashion risk that gets me giddy these days. And did I mention how I love Halloween and Tim Burton?

Anyway, since I really like the fabric, I decided not to wing it. I was a bit worried that a one seam skirt with no shaping might not really work on my body. Anything that needs to fit over my hips is generally going to be huge at the waist, so a simple column won't cut it for me. That's when I came across this article on CraftStylish.  A one-seam skirt with darts! Hooray!

So, armed with a plan, I flitted off to the Craft Lounge. Somewhere along the way I decided that if I was going to the effort of adding darts, I may as well add a zipper, too. I've been meaning to try an exposed zipper on something, and this seemed like a fun opportunity. (My ulterior motive was also to avoid trying to match up this wonky striped fabric at the one seam. Ha!)

At that point, it occurred to me that I really will find a way to complicate just about any sewing project. Sigh. It seems that simple is just not in my repertoire. Anyway, here's how it went...

My cut fabric, still attached to the pattern

Basically you draft a flat pattern that is a rectangle where the width is your hip width and the length is your desired skirt length, plus allowance for finishing the hem and waist.  Then you add darts equal to the difference between your hip and waist. There is a slight negative ease to this pattern, but you could always add seam allowance in if you wanted.

The darts that are cut out are where there would be side seams in a regular skirt pattern. And there are 4 more darts (not sure you can see them) which become front and back darts. The only fitting change I made from pattern to sewn skirt is that I tapered to the hem just a little bit so the skirt would have a slightly more pencil skirt fit than a straight skirt.

As I mentioned, I decided to add an exposed zipper instead of sewing the single seam down the back. This is a RiRi zipper that unzips from both top and bottom. I love the bold color contrast. I also like that I can unzip it from the top to get into the skirt and also from the bottom a few inches if I want a slit for walking. I'm really tickled with this feature. And it was easy - I basted the back seam (wrong sides together), basted on the zipper, trimmed the seam allowance so it wouldn't stick out from behind the zipper and then topstitched near the edge of the zipper tape, removing all the basting stitches.   

It only took about an hour to sew up (including trying on and pressing darts) once I had the the pattern drafted and the fabric cut. And I think it is super cute and fun. I omitted adding elastic at the waist, since I put in the zipper, but I think I'll go back and add it in so the waist is a little more snug after wearing. 

Anyway, what do you think? Have I made horizontal stripes work?

Since I had so much fun tackling - and complicting! - this one seam skirt, I've decided to go back for more. This weekend's project will be the skirt part of V1259 by Donna Karan. It's also a single seam skirt, essentially, although with it's own set of complications.

Update: OMG! Phin just pointed out that the zipper for this project ($15 at Pacific Trimmings) actually cost more than the fabric ($12/yd at Mood)! How crazy is that!?!?!?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Wrap Up!

My power came back on yesterday afternoon after 48 hours of darkness, and today NJ Transit trains are back up and running. So, it's back to business as usual.

Luckily, I had finished sewing my nephew's Halloween costume before the lights went out. He had asked me to make him a Goku costume. Unbeknownst to me, when Goku gears up for a fight his hair turns blond and he becomes Goku Super Saiyan.

Goku Super Saiyan
Here is my version of the costume. Basically, I used KS2276 to make the bottoms and top. I skipped the sleeves and I made a V neck instead of a crew neck. The blue shirt is store bought.

And here is my nephew, Orpheus, as Goku Super Saiyan. (Sorry this is a poor quality cell phone photo. It's what I was sent. Sigh.) 

Anyway, last night Orpheus called to tell me that he "ruled" his third grade class. His mom explained that apparently some kids got in trouble because they were too busy swarming around him asking about his costume to listen to the teacher and get in line. So, I guess that means it was a success. And, as an aunt, it's part of my job to aid and abet my nephew in being too cool for school. LOL

Honestly, this was such an easy project, mostly done on my serger, and my nephew was so very happy with it that I think I'm going to have a difficult time saying no to Halloween costume requests in the future. But for now, it's back to sewing for me!