Monday, February 28, 2011

The Home Stretch!

So, over the weekend I toiled away at my Lady Grey...

I finished the collar and set in and hemmed the sleeves. I also hemmed the coat shell and finished the lining's sleeves with black lace. By Sunday afternoon, I had decided to work late into the night, if necessary, to finish the coat by morning.

Naturally, that was when this happened:

I ran out of topstitching thread with one seam left to be stitched. Moments later, I also ran out of the silk thread that I have been using for pad stitching and hand sewing. In other words, I reached an impasse. C'est la vie.

Since I can't attach shell to lining until the shell is fully topstitched, I did the only sane thing I could do. I turned on the Oscars Red Carpet. But today, I braved the rain to go get more thread and now I am ready to push through and finish this coat!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mini Project 2: Running My A$$ Off. Literally

I know I haven't mentioned running since I posted about my 2011 goals back in January.  But in this case, no news is good news.  I've been quietly going about my training, on the road to the Superhero Relay. I'm sure it's having an impact on my sewing. First, there are the longer workouts, which means less time at home. Then, when I do get home after a weeknight run, all I want to do is sit on the sofa and eat peanut butter out of the jar. Or Nutella. Mmmmm, Nutella... So, there is less weeknight sewing happening.

An additional side effect of all this running is that my body has changed a bit. All my pants and skirts are a bit too big. Apparently, I am running my a$$ off, quite literally. So, my other mini project over the weekend, after a particularly unsuccessful shopping trip, was to begin altering some pants and a skirt. Currently they are all pinned and waiting to be sewn.

Those of you who sew, do you also alter RTW clothing - either when you buy them or if your body changes?  Do you go back and alter garments that you made for yourself? Tasks like taking in a waist or re-hemming can be tedious (booooring!). I'm wondering if this is the kind of chore I should just pay the local seamstress to do.

Alterations and running aside, last night I did motivate myself to finish pad stitching the collar of my Lady Grey. I steamed it before bed and left it to dry around my tailor's ham to help shape it. So, I am looking forward to a productive weekend of sewing. I hope you are too!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mini-Project 1: IBOL!

When the Slapdash Sewist posted on her blog about participating in IBOL,  it really struck a chord with me. Since you may not be familiar with IBOL, it is short for Iraqi Bundles of Love.

After years of economic sanctions and then war, cloth and other sewing supplies are a scarce commodity and the women of Iraq struggle to clothe their families. IBOL is one man's effort to help, by organizing others to send sewing supplies to Iraq. So, basically, each participant creates a bundle (or more) of fabric, thread, buttons, needles, etc., ties it all up with ribbon, and ships it to an APO address ($12.50 is the flat rate).  Right now, IBOL Guy (the organizer) is amassing a 500 bundle surge for an outreach project in Baghdad. All details can be found at his blog.

It made me happy to pack up my own bundles - two of them. I knew I had fabric in my stash that, although of good quality, was just not likely to be sewn up any time soon. So, over the weekend, I reorganized my fabric and notions, looking for goodies to help fill out my bundles. And my mom, who is a do-gooder, contributed $20 for some spare pieces. (Thanks, Mom!) So, I bought needles, thread and a bit more fabric, and now my bundles are on their way. Here they are:

This is the lighter colored bundle - ecru, pink, and light blue fabrics bundled in a cotton khaki shell.
This is the darker colored one: black, blue, grey and green fabrics bundled in a black cotton shell.
I think I balanced out the notions between the two boxes a bit better before sealing.

One happy side effect of this project is that the Craft Lounge is now a much more organized place. It's funny to look at the things that you amass once you begin sewing. I hadn't realized how many buttons, zippers and pins I had built up over time, plus random items like a box of navy blue thread bobbins. I had three different blue and white striped fabrics (broadcloth, seersucker, and light weight shirting), two of which are in the bundles. Who knew I was drawn to blue and white stripes? I certainly didn't realize it.  Anyway, this whole exercise is a good reminder that my problems - like where to store my growing fabric stash - really aren't problems at all. Having more than I need is a luxury.

All bundled up in their cotton khaki shells.

Anyway, I can't help but think about the woman or women on the other end who will receive these packages. Who is she and what will she create? Will she pool this fabric with her neighbors to make something that will help many people? Will she make a blue and white striped shirt for her husband or son? Will her daughter feel pretty or special wearing a pink dress or skirt? What will the lime green ribbon become, and did the vivid color make her smile? These thoughts make me very happy. And doing a little bit of good makes me feel happy, too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Do you ever feel like a broken record?

I do. And right now the tune I'm stuck on is Lady Gray... I hope you are not finding my progress reports too tedious. I did quite a lot this weekend, despite getting a little side-tracked with two mini-projects (more on that this week). Here's what I accomplished:

I steamed the lapels and let them dry overnight. This whole pad-stitching and then steaming technique really is magic. The lapels now hold their shape - flopping back into a nice roll without being creased.

Lapel - shaped around a damp towel.

I cut the back stay out of hair canvas and basted it to the back/shoulder of the shell. And once the lapels had dried I sewed the front and back together, including the pockets.

Starting to look like a coat.

I also worked on the lining - now with sleeves and lace trim at the hem. Hmmm, I have a bit of lace left over. Perhaps I will add it to the sleeve hems on the lining. I think that might be a nice touch.

Lining - with sleeves and ready to go!

Lace trim on my lining hem.

I am still stitching away at the undercollar, but I hope to finish that up tonight. It will then get a good steaming so it holds its shape too. Oh, and there is the belt, which just needs to be top stitched.

Under collar and belt.

Next up with Lady Grey: setting in the sleeves and hemming the shell. I think I am just going to have to power through this week, doing a little something every night. Although it is too cold today, I am ready to wear this coat! 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Three Day Weekend: Goals and Plans

With a three day weekend starting in just a few hours (yippee!!), I feel like I have a good opportunity to get some serious sewing done. And by that, I mean Lady Grey.  The weather next week is supposed to be in the 30's-40's which is the perfect weather for this coat. There is a lot left to do, so I don't know if I'll finish. But I hope to be mostly finished by Tuesday.

I've also been reassessing my sewing goals. Really, I love working on big, long projects that require multiple muslins (my pants) and/or careful sewing with new techniques (Lady Grey). I know, I know: I'm crazy. But quick and dirty rarely seems to work out for me. I suppose I don't know my fitting issues well enough to be able to alter patterns on the fly.

Anyway, I've decided to add one additional sewing goal for 2011: dresses. I don't wear dresses all that often for the very simple reason that my top and bottom halves are different sizes. However, when I do wear dresses, I always feel incredibly put together and attractive. I envy those who can buy a sheath dress off the rack; this has never been my reality. So, the way I see it, I can solve this top/bottom problem for myself.  So, I took advantage of a sale at BMV a few weeks ago to stock up on dress patterns. Specifically the kind that never fits in RTW versions.

Vogue 8280 - Total knockoff of "That Dress"

Butterick 5559 Maggy London Dress

Vogue 1121 Badgley Mischka Dress

Vogue 1161 Rachel Comey Dress

Right now this stack of patters, along with a bunch that are already in my stash are on the night table. I'm guessing that by the time I get to the multiple muslin phase, it will be summer. But that is ok with me. It means I will have beautiful dresses for fall.

Have a great - and productive! - weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thank You, Uncle Sam!

So, this year I am getting a tax return. And I've decided to use it to buy my first serger. Woo-hoo! Thank you Uncle Sam. I am so excited by this, I can't even tell you.

I haven't really scratched the surface of the various sergers and their features. But I did read a few threads on PatternReview on buying a first serger. Based on that, plus my own personality quirks, I'd have to rank ease of threading/using as my #1 priority. At first, at least, I plan on using a serger primarily for finishing seams. But, I'd like a machine that has features that I can grow into. Most of all, I don't want to end up with a machine that I don't use because it is too difficult or fussy for me to master.

Anyway, as luck would have it, this weekend, Phineas and I visited family out of town, and it happened that the route to get there took us past Pocono Sew and Vac, which is where Phin bought my fabulous sewing machine. So, I had to pop in.  

Project Clio? - The Brother 5234
At Pocono S&V they showed me the Brother 5234 serger, which is part of their Project Runway limited edition line of machines. I am usually skeptical of special editions or celebrity sponsors, but right now this is the machine to beat. I had a very good experience with my first sewing machine, which was also a Brother. And several other sewists seem to like their Brother 1034 sergers, which I will also consider. The other machines that seem popular for first time buyers are the Juki 654 and Janome 634D.I'll also check those out.

Anyway, any of you who have sergers and opinions, please do feel free to chime in with suggestions or tips for me.  Thanks so much!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova
It is so easy to be jaded by Valentine's Day - what a Hallmark holiday it is! But at the heart of it, what in life is more worthy of celebrating than love? (Wow, queue Carrie Bradshaw! he he he)
I am so fortunate to have all different kinds of love in my life - friendship, parental love, sibling love, the love between aunts/uncles and nieces/nephews, romantic/marital love, and - perhaps most important and most difficult - love for myself.

Whatever  kind of love you have in your life - whether for your parent or partner or pet - I wish you more of it today and every day. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Orange: A Healthy Dose of Virtual C?

It's hard for me to not be happy when I think about the color orange. And between stitching up my Lady Gray (I finished pad stitching the second lapel last night!!) and a mini trend I've been noticing in stores, I seem to be getting a healthy dose of virtual C, which is helping my mood, just as a bit of vitamin C is helping my cold.

Last year I was lamenting how scarce orange is in clothing stores. Orange seems to never be "in", except around Halloween. And at that time of year, the orange clothing usually comes with pumpkins, black cats or bats on it. However, just in the last few weeks, I've noticed a big influx of all different shades of orange at some very main stream stores, and more orange tones in the reds and pinks, too.

Anthropology orange hooded robe

Alice & Olivia at Saks

Banana Republic - this sweater comes in two different shades of orange!
Ann Taylor - Bright Russet cowl top

In the just arrived sections of some online fabric stores, I've noticed more orange fabrics and orange playing more of a role in prints.

Pumpkin/Wine striped jersey at Mood

Orange French Terry at Sawyer Brook

And a cheerful print also at Sawyer Brook
I am tickled by this, since I love orange so much. AND I am relieved. Everything I have heard and seen has made me think that this spring was going to be all about neutrals, which is just not the best color palette for me. Besides, in this long, cold, snowy winter that we are having in the Northeast, I for one could use a bit of cheery brightness. So, here's to orange!! Yay!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stitch, stitch, stitch, sneeze. Repeat...

I've had a cold for the last few days. The only things I've really been up to are napping, sipping tea and pad stitching. So, at least there is progress.

One lapel is completely done and the other is underway.  When both are done, they will get a good steaming and it will be on to pad stitching the collar

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gung hay fat choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! May you become prosperous. 

Having married into a Chinese-American family, celebrating the new year has become a norm in my home life. Yesterday I ate a bowl of noodles (long and unbroken for longevity) and also fish, as is traditional for the multi-day new year celebration. It is also traditional to clean and sweep the house in the hopes of inviting in good fortune. So, um, you know what my weekend will be like - early spring cleaning! 

Jessica Rabbit - I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.

In case you were wondering, it is the Year of the Rabbit, which is my zodiac symbol. So, it should be a lucky year for me and all the other rabbits out there. Rabbits are serene, trustworthy, empathic, fashionable, diplomatic, sincere, sociable, and are caretakers. And, to put it politely, they are "romantic" creatures. Wood Rabbits (1915 and 1975), like me, tend to put the needs of their friends and family ahead of their own. They are peacemakers and avoid conflict.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stash: Not On A Fabric Diet

At the end of the year, it seemed like many sewistas in the blogosphere were on fabric diets or vowing to go on fabric diets in the new year. I am pleased to report that I am not on any kind of diet - fabric or otherwise.

For me, a restrictive diet is a sure fire recipe for disaster. If I tried to go on a weight-loss diet, it would end in a haze of brownies.  I do much better when I just try to be healthy and balanced - allowing myself the occasional splurge or treat and feeling no guilt about it. So, here is my latest little fabric splurge.

ITY Knits from

I took advantage of the 50% off sale on ITY knits at FabricMart about a week or so ago. The blue fabric on the right will, I think, become Vogue 8379, the wrap dress that so many sewistas have done up so beautifully.  I had initially thought of making the brown snakeskin-look fabric on the left into the wrap dress as well. I always think of brown as such a serious and staid color, but - thanks to the shiny "scales" which are shinier than the photo really shows - this fabric is incredibly fun. Maybe too fun for a wrap dress. So, I may have to think of something else to do with it.

Anyway, in the last six months or so, I've been trying to wear less black and more dresses. So, adding some colored fabric to my stash is a plus. Stay tuned because the next delivery will be several dress patterns...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Still plugging away at my Lady Grey

Sorry there isn't more exciting news, folks, but this coat sure is a labor of love for me!

It took FOREVER to hem the lining. Why I didn't just trim and then use my narrow hem foot is beyond me, but I guess got fixated on following the instructions. Oh well, you live and learn.  I also added the lapel facing to the lining. I know it is not exactly a usual or standard color combo, but I just love how the orange and turquoise looks together. Am I crazy?

I also finished step two of hand stitching - the twill tape is catch-stitched down for the roll line and the area below the roll line is all basted. So, now let the pad stitching begin!