Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sending Out an SOS: Wax Cloth

Look what my Pop bought the last time he was in Ghana!

Wax cloth!

And there's a LOT of it, too. He seems to have bought at least 8 yards of each of these two prints. Aren't they fun and fantastic!?!?! There are loads of things that I could make from them, especially utilizing the border print. But there is a catch.

My Pop's idea is that I will make something for each of my four sisters. And myself, of course. He's suggested a beach cover up/sarong type of thing, which would be easy enough (yawn). The one problem is that wax cloth is not particularly drapey. It's not an airy, floaty, batik-like fabric that you could tie at the waist and let drape attractively after a dip. Both are made of pretty sturdy 100% cotton. 

I suggested an apron. Pop was not impressed.

I hate sewing tote bags. Pop wants something wearable, anyway.

So, I'm trying to come up with an alternate plan. From my point of view, it has to be easy and not particularly fitted. My sisters and I really are about as diverse in size and shape as any 5 women could be. We range in height from 5'6" to 6', and from waif to glamazon. Oh, and I wouldn't really have them on hand for any kind of fitting. 

Anyway, I'm hoping someone will have an ingenious idea that has not occurred to me. One that will be relatively quick and easy to sew and not require much fitting.

I don't really have a deadline for this project, but it's just going to fester unless I get my act together soon. So please consider this an SOS! All suggestions are very appreciated!

PS- It seems like I have loads of finished things to show, but no pictures. Stay tuned. Kimono reveal and other good things to come.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shopping with Bloggers!

Me and Rachel at Paron
One of the fringe benefits of being a sewing blogger in NY is that other sewing bloggers come here to get their shop on.  Yesterday's shopping outing with Rachel was such fun! Not only does Rachel sew up a storm, but she shares my love of baking and sweets! What could be better?

Marina of Frabjous Couture joined us for the morning. She's leading the Pimp My Skirt draft and sew along. Rachel and I - both participating - took full advantage of her expertise by picking her brain and looking at beautiful tweeds at Rosen and Chaddick for the proposed skirt. 

Tough w black on black, but check out that Guipure lace center panel.

Since I'm considering doing a Dolce & Gabbana + Susan Khalje inspired lace panel skirt (above) instead of the flounced Burberry Prorsum inspiration piece for the sew along,we headed over to Lace Star (now Fabrics & Fabrics) in their large new home on 38th Street.  It's the first time I've been there and let me just say WOW! They have stunning fabrics of all kinds. I would put them in the same league as B&J and Rosen and Chaddick for their beautiful selection. Better still, just about everything is on sale at the moment. They also had fantastic prices on silk organza. I hadn't planned on buying anything, but I succumbed to the temptation of this super fun embroidered linen which will become a pencil skirt for sure.

$12/yd orange on turquoise embroidered linen.

Marina had to leave us at Lace Star, and after a quick stop at Pacific Trimmings we needed some refueling. But soon enough we were back on the hunt and headed to 39th Street in search of fabric for PJ's for Rachel's other half. (I'll let her show you what she ultimately bought.)

One of the other perks of the Garment District is that, with so many stores, there's always a chance to find something new. We wandered into Beckenstein's Men's Fabrics/Fabric Czar, which I had never had an occasion to venture into before. In addition to selling fine suiting fabric, they tailor bespoke suits. The fabric they had was WAY out of our price range. BUT, we discovered a somewhat hidden shelf of remnants which were priced at $40 per 1.5 yard piece. Is this cheap? Well, no. But considering the original cost per yard of these fine wool suitings, it's an incredibly good value, and less than half of what Banana Republic charges for a wool/poly/viscose blend pencil skirt. I didn't buy today, but the danger of having an office so close is that I can easily come back.

The sun started to set and it was time for me to head home and for Rachel to meet up with family. So off we went. But we're planning on doing it all again the next time I'm in London. Yay!

Monday, November 19, 2012

NY Sewists - Last Minute Shopping Invite!

Here's a fantastic guide to shopping the District!

Contrary to popular myth, NYers actually do like to roll out the welcome mat for guests. And this week, we've got a foreign guest. Rachel of House of Pinheiro is here and eager to get her shop on! Yay!

We're meeting up tomorrow (Tuesday) and all are welcome. Give one of us a shout if you'd like to join us. We're having coffee at 10am and then it's on to fabric. Rachel may be interested in meeting up other days, too.

Email me at: clio[dot]phineas[at]gmail[dot]com

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pimp My Skirt and SWAP (or not)

Mere seconds after Marina over at Frabjous Couture posted the schedule for the Pimp My Pencil Skirt Sew Along, I responded "I'm in!" I hadn't even been considering making a pencil skirt up until that very moment. But this is fairly typical of my "what should I sew next?" process.

What hooked me? The opportunity to to draft a straight skirt sloper. I have about half a dozen pencil skirt and sheath dress ideas floating around in my head "for the future", but no TNT skirt pattern. This could be an opportunity to develop one, don't you think? Plus I really enjoyed the drafting/pattern making work of the Jean-ius Craftsy class at the end of the summer. So, the minute I saw Marina's post, it all came together in my head that this is the way forward.

I know I've said it before, but I'm really not cut out for Sewing With A Plan. I'm very good at sticking to a specific project, even if it takes months. But making a whole interchangeable wardrobe? Or a series of garments that all go together? Forget it. Something new and exciting comes along, and I just have to jump at it. Like a pimped out skirt!

How do you make decisions about what to sew next? My decision making is usually more bolt-of-lightning-like. I'll have an idea kicking around in my head (like I kept coming back to my leather jacket pattern for over a year) and then something will happen - I'll see a pattern or a fabric or something someone else made - and it will galvanize things, changing idea into determination. I think this may be why I don't have UFO's; I don't make sewing decisions for practical reasons. It's all passion projects. This is probably why I also don't sew "cake" but only "frosting".  What about you? Do you have a list? Or sew what you need?  Or do you have a different way of deciding what to sew next? Do tell!

My kimono and related lingerie will continue as planned. With all of Thanksgiving week off, I'm hoping to get a lot done. And having a few projects going at once will help, I think. So here's an inspiration photo to get me started. Naturally, it involves leather.

AKRIS leather trim pencil skirt.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paron Fabrics Groupon!

Holy cow, peeps!  Check out this Groupon for Paron Fabrics! 

Choose Between Two Options

  • $20 for $40 worth of fabrics and trimmings
  • $40 for $100 worth of fabrics and trimmings
Designer fabrics include tweeds, suiting woolens ($10+/yd.), boucles, flannels, cotton ($5 +/yd), silks ($12+/yd.), and linens ($6+/yd.), along with specialty fabrics and trimmings ($15+/yd.).

Paron Fabrics
Located in the heart of New York's Garment District, three short blocks south of Times Square, Paron Fabrics has been a fashion landmark for more than 40 years. Stocked with designer-name and costuming fabrics, the family-run store also keeps a wide variety of textures and trims on hand, from kitten-soft cashmere to flashy stage sequins. Cloth from Chanel, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan graces the shelves, alongside silks, jersey knits, and a variety of exclusive decor fabrics, including velvets. The multilingual staff cheerfully provides swatches and hunts down elusive prints and arms seamsters with two full lines of patterns, Kwik Sew and Burda. In the onsite Paron Annex deeply discounted fabric awaits, helping patrons make large-scale projects on the cheap, such as to-scale reproductions of Cleopatra's purple silk sails.

Um, I scooped up the $40 for $100 option. You have to buy by tomorrow at midnight (EST). But you can use the Groupon until Feb 11. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Inauspicious Start to My Kimono

Little sewing has happened since the storm. This is mostly because storm refugees were camped out in the Craft Lounge. However, on Friday, their power was restored and our family visit ended. So it was straight to work on my kimono.

BurdaStyle 07-2011 #124

For the lining, I decided on a sort of...well...kinda... gosh. I'm not really sure what to call the color of the stretch silk charmeuse fabric. Oyster? Light mushroom?  And I'm having a hard time photographing it. Here it looks silver/grey, but it has more taupe than blue as an undertone and that makes it a warmer cream of mushroom soup color, I suppose. It's a bit outside my comfort zone to be honest. That whole beige/taupe/tan/brown neutral color family just does nothing for me. But I'm liking this with the black animal print lace.


Anyway, on Saturday, I giddily made my way to the Lounge and pulled out Burda 07-2011 for the kimono pattern.  I made a few changes as I traced. As drafted, the kimono is pretty short. It's not long enough to be a full bathrobe, which is how I plan to use it. Therefore, I added 9" to the length (1" above the bust and 8" below). I also added a little bit of extra room to the hips at the side gusset piece.

Actually, it's not far off from this color.

Once the pattern was traced, I went to cut and realized that I had enough lining material for the kimono as drafted, but not for the new length. D'oh!  Undaunted, I went to sew up what I could and immediately realized I hadn't bought thread. And since this is out of my comfort zone as a color, naturally I had no matching thread in the stash. Double D'oh! 

Actually, this may not have been the worst thing. Burda's instructions for this pattern are among the most unintelligible that I've ever seen. So, I spent a good portion of Sunday scratching my head and trying to figure them out. Thank goodness Chanel No. 6 detailed how she sewed this pattern last year!

Anyway, I picked up more fabric and thread, so it's back to work tonight!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Leather Jacket Details & Review!

Now that I've done my victory dance, here is what I hope is a more thoughtful and slightly less giddy post about the end results and process. 

So, this epic leather jacket process started with a crush I had on BurdaStyle 07/2010 - #118/119 which was designed to be sewn in leather. I made the version with the peplum and zipper (118) but used the one piece lapels from the other version (119) rather than piecing them.

The thing that I was most worried about with this jacket was sewing on leather, a new experience for me.  Are there a few things that I would do differently? Yes, there are. But they mostly have to do with Burda's so-so instructions, rather than anything to do with the leather or sewing it. Here are a few of my keys to success for leather:
  • There are some great resources in print like Sewing on Leather and Suede by Sandy Scrivano (reviewed here), and several other bloggers have chronicled their experiences sewing leather (Lindsay T, Gorgeous Ann, the Sewing Lawyer and Kbenco) in great detail.
  • Muslin. This is not the project to be fitting as you go.
  • Buy quality if you want quality results. I spent an inordinate amount of time on this jacket and I plan to own it for years. I bought beautiful leather (at Mood) that was not inexpensive but is of a quality that I think will last. Every time I pull the jacket on, it feels soft and luxurious.
  • Test, test, test. Test your sewing machine(s) and presser feet, test the products you want to use (glue, tape, etc), test seam finishes and top stitching. Test it all. That way, when it comes to actually sewing, you won't be figuring things out as you go. You will know the tools and techniques you want to use.
  • Use the right tools. For me this included buying a rotary cutter and mat (a great investment, IMHO), binder clips rather than pins (Wonder Clips if you can find them), and proper pressing tools (seam boards/rolls, a pressing cloth, etc) if you choose to do as I did and press your seams.
  • Turn of cloth - just as true in leather as other fabrics. This was a surprise to me.
  • Leather is not difficult to sew, but you want to be thoughtful and alert. Don't rush. Do-overs mean holes in your leather. (I may have taken this non-rushing thing a bit too far).
  • As for Burda's instructions, my advice would be to look outside of Burda's sparse offerings. I like Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket.
  • Since I was making a jacket, I used all of the tailoring techniques that I would use on a non-leather jacket, like using fusible interfacings, hair canvas and adding a back stay. Since I had tested the fusibles and tested ironing the leather, I knew this would be ok. 

Case in point : I think the peplum looks this good because I tested all the elements that went into it - seaming, top stitching, pressing the pleats and I went a better way with the lining instructions.
Anyway, here's a few thoughts on some of the little changes I made along the way - good decisions when it came to the details and an inside view for those of you who like to peek inside others' sewing. Plus, you know how I love talking hardware.

Chain for hanging

I added a chain hanging loop.  This was one of the last things I did before sewing the facings in. It's made of about 3-4 inches of chain, two jump rings and some grosgrain ribbon. I sandwiched it between the facing and shell before sewing the seam. There had been a really nice tutorial on a blog called Sophia Sews, but sadly that blog has disappeared.


I also added lime green piping between the lining and facings. Honestly, this is such an easy addition, but it really makes the finish look professional IMHO.


I also love the Lampo zippers that I had cut to the custom length that I needed at Botani. Could I have gone with less expensive zippers and altered the length myself? Yes and yes, but when you aren't skimping on the leather or lining, do you really want to cut a corner on the one moving part of the jacket especially given that it is a strong design element as well as functional? For me the answer is no. Plus, these are the shiniest, prettiest zippers I've ever seen.

Penultimately, the Pattern Review is here. And all the posts about this epic jacket project with details about fitting, posts about leather, more about pattern changes, etc. can be found here or under the heading Leather Jacket on the side bar.

Finally, a big thank you to all of you who shared tips, opinions and encouragement along the way.  I'm so glad you stuck with me for this adventure! I really felt like I had a team of supporters in my corner.

And that's all she wrote!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jacket Reveal Happy Dance!

Ladies and Gentlemen, because I feel the need to get back to normal life even though I'm still basically stuck at home, I humbly present my leather jacket, photographed pre-hurricane.

I've been wearing it non-stop in the last week.

 Look! I even made an actual effort to take photographs in interesting locations...

And with me actually posing. That said, there's been a bit of noise in the blogosphere lately about whether you actually look like the photos on your blog or whether you wear your clothing styled the same way in real life. I do. With this jacket, even the inauthentic purple hair is authentically how I've already worn it. And all of these places are actually on my way to the train station in town for my daily commute.

Peplum, yay!

I'm really tickled with how the jacket came out. I originally debated whether or not to make the peplum version. I'm glad that so many of you championed it because, in the end, I think it really makes the jacket.

I have to admit that the fit is a little more glove-like than intended. I probably should have left a little extra room to account for the thickness of the leather + interfacings + lining.  Also, I'm still bouncing back from two rounds of steroids for my back plus the related lay off from running; I'm a little extra voluptuous at this point in time. But all-in-all, I think this is exactly the sort of jacket that looks great with a glove-like fit. 

I will definitely be sewing on leather again soon. Honestly, after this project, sewing any other leather projects will be a piece of cake!

Later this week I will post a few final thoughts on construction and sewing on leather, because I think this party needs to last just a bit longer.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hurricane Aftermath: A Tree From the Yard...

... is now partially in the attic.

A tree that dreamed of being a house plant

We were remarkably lucky. There are about a dozen saucer sized holes in the roof from branches and, well, you can see those two branches piercing the side of the house. The whole house shook and the headboard that was up against that wall did not survive the impact. But all the people (and sewing machines) did.

If you are in a storm affected area, I hope that you were similarly lucky. A big thank you to those of you who were concerned for us. All virtual hugs were warmly received until the power came back on late Thursday/early Friday.

And because I hate to post without a crafting update, here's how I kept busy while the power was out.

Warm and soft!

I knit half a baby blanket for Phin's brother and his wife who are expecting a new baby girl in February.  And I started a rather complicated pair of socks for myself.

My first project with cables

Updates and details to follow as life (fingers crossed) returns to normal!