Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming...


Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve and its branches — from your back down your buttock and leg... The pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating discomfort. Sometimes it may feel like a jolt or electric shock. It may be worse when you cough or sneeze, and prolonged sitting can aggravate symptoms.  - Mayo Clinic
It seems I've got the burning, excruciating pain variety of sciatica happening at the moment. And sitting at my sewing machine has just not been a possibility. But thanks to the miracle of narcotics, tonight I'm actually sitting without feeling like my left side is on fire for the first time in days. But still, I'm thinking that I should probably not try sewing my leather jacket while on an opioid, even though the pieces are all cut. I think there was some kind of warning on the prescription about operating machinery or writing blog posts while under the influence or something... maybe I'll just go pet my leather some more.

In the interim, here's a groovy sewing tip for you. Someone at PR Weekend was asking how others get patterns back in the envelope neatly after they've been opened and pressed and cut. I don't know about anyone else, but here's my boot-leg method. First, I completely ignore the factory folds and just fold the pieces to envelope size.

Then, the next time I press anything, when I unplug the iron, I just plop it on top of the pattern pieces in one stack and I leave it for, oh, maybe 30 seconds or so. Or I do it when the iron is warming up. As long as the house doesn't catch on fire, it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

That smooshes the stack flat so it goes right back in the envelope with no problem. Is that what you do, too?

Anyway, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming just as soon as my sciatic nerve has learned to chill.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PR Weekend and Mood: Talk about Fabric Shopping

So, I had two experiences in the last week that made me think about my fabric shopping habits. First, fabric shopping with all the sewists in town for Pattern Review weekend. (Oh and here's a few pictures from the PR Weekend flickr group. I was photographed in purple locks, so I'm hoping those pop up spoon).

Me and Deepika (credit: click to go to flickr)

Me, NancyC, Karen and Andrea (credit: click to flickr)

And the second, last night Mood held a focus group about their on-line store which they are planning to give a major overhaul. I attended, along with some other NY area sewists, bloggers and craftsy people like Carolyn, Nancy K, Elizabeth and Marina,to provide some feedback.

Anyway, shopping with and hearing about other sewists' habits and experiences really got me thinking about my own fabric buying habits both on line and in person. And I'm curious about yours.

First, are you a stasher or do you buy fabric as needed? I don't have all that large a stash, but I'm also not the type that is restrictive about my buying. I don't do fabric diets, but my general mantra is there will always be more fabric. So, if it's a fabric that there will not be more of - that special something that I really love or catches my eye or is orange (my true weakness) - then I buy with glee. I also do a lot of my buying for a specific project that I'm working on. So, what's left in my stash is generally fabrics that I think are spectacular but just haven't gotten to sewing quite yet. I do pro-actively stash interfacings, lining and an assortment of miscellaneous notions. Nothing is worse than realizing you didn't buy something you need for a project.

Do you buy fabric on-line or only in person or a blend? Even though my office is near the Garment District and I prefer to support brick-and-mortar stores, I'm actually pretty omnivorous. Like most of the other participants I prefer to feel the fabric before I buy. However, I'm definitely susceptible to the lure of free shipping, special fabrics and on-line sales. So, ultimately what I've sewn and what I've stashed is a blend of on-line and in person buying.What about you? Why do or don't you buy on line or in person?

What do you buy on line? Just fabric? Fabric and notions? Do you buy basics to keep in your stash or just what grabs you? I tend to only buy fabrics on line. Most notions I can find in the Garment District and I actually really like shopping for them. Is that odd? I do, however, usually buy interfacing on line since I have a preferred brand. 

Where do you shop on-line? And what motivates you to shop there? I have to confess that most of my on-line buying has happened at FabricMart. They are very good about emailing sales, special fabrics, discounts and fabric-of-the-day type picks. I never mean to buy fabric; I just sort of end up with something in my cart that I can't pass up. 

What is your worst fabric buying disaster and what do you do with your mistakes? I recently documented my worst fabric ever: the faux leather that I attempted to use as muslin for my leather jacket, which you may recall ended up in the garbage:

You know it's bad when a muslin ends up as a wadder!

What are your best fabric shopping tips and what are your do's and don't's? I hate polyester. I know. That's not a tip; it's a hostile statement. But I'm almost always disappointed with polyester, particularly the varieties that seem to inhabit the internet. So, I just don't buy the stuff on line. And since I came up with that guideline for myself, my fabric purchases on line have been much more successful.

Anyway, tell me about your shopping!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Outfit for PR Weekend: McCall's 6556 Fashion Star

Pattern Review Weekend was LOADS of fun and I did go purple locked. It was absolutely fantastic to see some sewists I've met before like Elizabeth, Cindy and Andrea. And it was great to meet so many new-to-me sewists! More on this later in the week.

For now, I thought you'd like to know what I made to wear for shopping in the Garment district on Friday: McCall's 6556 Fashion Star Dress: 

This dress was ridiculously easy to sew up. It's just two (large) pattern pieces - a front piece and a back piece.  And there is just one seam that requires any fitting whatsoever. 

The pleats look like they could be potentially complicated, but they weren't at all. So, this pattern delivers big style with little fuss.

I made just a few changes (improvements, I think) like I used my serger for the side seams and I made binding for the neck and armhole. I think it's just a neater, cleaner look than just turning under and stitching.

My very not-by-the-book method was to cut some 2 inch strips of left over fabric, fold it in half lenghtwise (wrong sides together) and then serge the raw edges together. Then I cut the allowance off of the neck and armhole and lined up the serged edge with the raw edge. I stitched a 1/2 inch seam, flipped the binding up and pressed (seam allowance toward the dress). Finally, I topstitched with a twin needle.

The full review is here.

Oh and here is the whopping three yards of fabric that I bought.

2 yards of knit burnout from MetroTextiles (photo on a white background so you can see it)
One yard-ish (one panel) of cotton from Mood
The cotton with the tulips is really sturdy and destined to become a pencil skirt. Now, here's the thing about working near the Garment District. Earlier on Friday I had decided not to buy $40/yd black guipure lace (Milly) because that is a heck of a lot for me to spend if there is no project in mind and I don't know exactly what kind of yardage I'll need. But now, I'm thinking that if I made this into a pencil skirt, it would need a black lace top to go with it. Right??

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Leather Jacket: Snip Snip!

The fans of purple have it. I have to say the winning votes came from Elizabeth who lobbied on her blog and Phyllis, who pointed out that it might be exciting for the first-time-in-NY-ers. Who am I to deny someone their "only in NY" moment? Besides, I had a little epiphany along the lines of: the people that I will most likely want to meet are probably the ones who will dig the purple. So, I plan to fly my freak flag proudly and turn up to dinner purple-locked. Now, on to today's update on Project Leather Jacket.

Here's what the Craft Lounge currently looks like:

Pieces of leather and pattern pieces neatly laid out on the floor and bed.

On Saturday morning, as I was trying to finish up my jacket lining, I had one of those "d'oh!" moments.  A piece was missing and nowhere to be found. Then I realized that I hadn't cut it. The missing piece was the collar facing, which will be leather.

Also, the pattern leaves the peplum lining hanging free, which is really rather odd. I'd have to pleat it and the peplum too and then leave them hanging separately. Really, I can't imagine how that's going to work out. So, I got the idea from another pattern reviewer (review here)  to use the lining piece for the peplum as a facing/underlining type of piece. (You'll just have to trust me on this if you can't picture it).

Anyway, all this meant I had to start cutting leather before finishing the lining.

It took an hour or so for me to lay everything out, mostly because there actually are variation in the skins. Not huge ones, but ones that you notice as you get close up and nit-picky. I knew to expect this, but hadn't really wrapped my brain around it.  So, I decided that I wanted the lapels, center back and peplum to be on the most buttery beautiful pieces, then the upper sleeves, center front and then side pieces on the next best, and followed lastly by the under side of the sleeves and back of the lapels.

Then it was on to cutting! I decided to start with some of the pieces that I'll need first and cut as I go rather than cutting everything all at the same time. I'm hoping that will make me less mistake-prone. I used my Elna rotary cutter and extra large washers from the hardware store as pattern weights. It worked beautifully! The leather cut neatly and easily.

So, I can move ahead with the lining and the jacket. Also, I have a bunch of scraps to start testing my machines on. Yay!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pattern Review Weekend!!

Well, PR Weekend arrives in my hometown this week! (YAAAYYYY!)

(This is a Manhattan Mini Storage Ad)

Now for three really important questions:

First, what should I wear?? 
I'm kind of freaking out about this. In fact, on Friday, I found myself at MetroTextiles, pawing thru fabrics and mentally combing thru my pattern stash. So, I may have something new to wear.

McCalls 6556 Fashion Star

Aside from that, I'm thinking that my flowered pants might be fun for Friday fabric shopping or Saturday. I'd also love to work in my color block dress. Also do people get dressed up for dinner on Saturday? If so, how much - ie: color block dress or orange jumpsuit?

Next: There is a pattern swap on Saturday. I've never participated in one. Do you have any tips on pattern swap etiquette?  I've got a bunch of patterns to swap (honestly, I'd be happy to just give them away - they are great patterns but not in my size). 

Last (and this is the tough one): Purple Hair: yea or nay?
We haven't ever talked about this on my blog, but I have to come clean: the purple hair seen in my profile picture sees a lot of action when Phin and I are out on the town. I always feel fun and fabulous and the world always seems like a better place seen thru purple bangs. But I'm careful about where I wear purple hair - ie: Las Vegas, trendy lounge, cabaret show = yes. Work, other people's events (weddings, showers), and anywhere that I want to be taken seriously = no. I just don't know if this is the audience for it. So, should I show up at some point in the weekend in purple locks? Will that confuse people? Or make them think I'm crazy? (that's not necessarily a deal-breaker). Just think about how you would react to someone with purple hair. Would you think "she must be interesting" and come over and chat with me or would you think "how strange" and keep your distance. Lemme know.

This outfit gets worn a lot and not just on Halloween.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Friday: Peek-a-Boob Survey Round Up

Thanks to everyone who commented about the controversial Peek-a-boob dress.

DC Comics superheroine Power Girl

We seem to be pretty evenly divided about this style, although the nays seem far more passionate in their hatred than the yeas are in their love. Several of you straddled the fence by saying that it really depends on execution or context.

For the most part, yeas and nays generally fell along FBA/SBA lines, with the bustier ladies warning about skankage and the IBTC set being more open to the look. I guess the amount of fashion risk with this style has a direct relationship with the size of the bust. I've always contended that the smaller the bust, the more daring one could be with the neckline.

As for me, I'm going to leave this style to the Klingon ladies and the more gamine among us. I think my dislike stems from the fact that, while it shows some cleavage (a plus in my book), it hides the collar bones (a big minus). I'm bizarrely fond of my prominent collar bones.

But thanks to commenters, I've added a few new phrases to my personal lexicon that I'd like to share:
Skank scale - The relative tackiness or trashiness of a style or garment. ie: As she looked in the fitting room mirror, Clio couldn't shake the feeling that Daisy Dukes that are so short that the pocket bags hang lower than the hem rank pretty high on the skank scale. (Thanks, Shawntasews!)

Small cheated - A Freudian slip commonly made by one trying to say "small chested". ie: I guess I'm just too small cheated to fill out this bustier. Oops, I mean, "chested". (Thanks, Karin and Peter)
Boobiliciousness - the state of having a delicious looking bust. ie: Phin could not help but admire his darling wife Clio's boobiliciousness in the lingerie he bought for her... for no reason whatsoever... just out of the blue... as a surprise... hint, hint... Phin?... are you reading this?... (Thanks, Sheila.)  

This weekend I plan to finish the lining of my leather jacket and (tremble, tremble) cut into my leather. Most likely there will also be a good deal of fretting about what to wear to PR Weekend. Have a great weekend, everyone! And a wonderful Mother's Day to all you moms!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Elements of Style: Peek-A-Boob

This is not what I had planned to blog about today, but an email from Simplicity featuring their new summer dress patterns got me thinking about style, particularly the peek-a-boob dress.

The flowered dress on the left with the cleavage window.

What I'm referring to is the cleavage window: a cut-out in a dress that reveals a flash of boob-age. (Yes, I made that definition up myself). It's a look that is risky and hard to pull off as far as I'm concerned.

Now, if you've been reading my blog for the last year, you've probably realized that I'm not particularly risk-averse when it comes to fashion (Exhibit A: jumpsuit). I also happen to love sporting a little cleavage (Exhibit B: seersucker dress). In fact, my entire fashion strategy is basically built around using my bust to distract from my hips. So I feel a bit hypocritical not liking this look.

McCall 6348

On the one hand, I can see how it's rather sassy and fun. Plenty of celebs have been on board with it for a while.  Jennifer Aniston and Beyonce Knowles are just two who embraced this trend early with varying degrees of success. But for some reason I just can't seem to get down with the peek-a-boob. Part of my hesitance is that, in the back of my mind, it always reminds me of, well, this: 

And on a humid day, this IS pretty close to what my hair looks like, too.

(Warning: A google search for "Klingon women" may take you to parts of the internet that you don't want to know about. Trust me on this one.)

That said, it isn't cut-outs that I don't like. I love a great back-revealing cut-out like this Vogue by Rachel Comey pattern that is in my stash.


But for some reason, I just don't like front-side cut outs and I'm not sure why. It certainly isn't for any practical reason. 

So what about you?  Yea or nay to the peek-a-boob? Do you think it's a window to the soul or is it just too sci-fi dominatrix weird for you?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Leather Shopping: Yet another thing that was not nearly as hard as I'd imagined

On Friday, I took a much needed day off from the daily grind to spend some time with Phin and shop for leather for my jacket. In my mind, buying leather was going to be a big deal. Possibly an ordeal. I had no idea how much leather might weigh, how large it would be, or how cumbersome to carry.

Leather shopping turned out to be an epic non-event. So epic, that I feel the need for a full post about it.

My lovely skins!

It always surprises me how being born and raised in Brooklyn colors everything I do: Brooklyn is a big small town. And business happens because you know a guy or you know a guy who knows a guy. Always do business with the guy you know or his guy. This very Brooklyn approach has never steered me wrong. So, when someone like the lovely Meg, comments, come on in [to Mood]. I'll have Dmitri show you some skins. Well, I'm there. Breaking all the conventional rules about shopping around, and instead going with my instinct.

So, here's how the shopping went:

Dmitri: So, what are you looking for?

Clio: I'm making a leather jacket and I've never worked with leather before and I was thinking it would be black... like nappa... that's lamb.... (duh)

Dmitri: OK, this is the right weight for a jacket. (pulling out a role of skins)

Clio: Ooooohhh, that's sooooooffffffffttt.... (reminds self to be cool and stop petting the lambskins).

Dimitri: Yes, this is really the right weight leather for a jacket.
Clio: (more petting) Great. Let's do it.
Dmitri: OK. A leather jacket always takes 6 skins.

Clio: Oh, OK.Well, I brought all my pattern pieces so we can lay them out and see. (much laying out of pattern pieces on animal hides)

(10 minutes later)

Clio: Perfect. How many skins is that?

Dmitri: Six.

Clio: Oh. 
Now, I'd just like to point out that Dmitri did not let even the slightest hint of "I told you so" creep into his voice or manner, which - considering my degree of wide-eyed ineptitude - is remarkable. He even asked about what kind of sewing machine I'd be using and whether I had bought leather needles. So, more evidence that the guy-who-knows-a-guy approach is always right. At least if you're from Brooklyn.

Yay, Brooklyn!

And now that I've got the skins at home (they fit nicely in a Mood tote bag and weren't heavy) and I've pet them profusely in the privacy of the Craft Lounge (oohhhh, soooo buttery soooooffffttt), I'm convinced that sewing on leather is going to be easier than I thought.

So here are my thoughts on leather shopping for the first-timer, Brooklyn-style:
  • Do your homework: I had read up on leather, so in general I knew what I wanted (color and type of leather) and how much it would cost. Brooklyn lesson: If you get ripped off because you didn't know something basic, like leather doesn't come on a roll (it comes in animal-shaped pieces), you have no one to blame but you. 
  • Do shop somewhere you think is reputable: Saving money or getting a great deal was less important on this first leather project than buying from somewhere that I think has consistently good quality fabrics. Maybe when I know more about leather, I'll be more willing to bargain shop. But for now, I wouldn't know whether I was getting a bargain or just getting something cheap. Brooklyn lesson: Ask yourself: does the shop have street cred?
  • Don't be afraid to admit that you are not a pro: Those who work with leather, know leather (duh). Buy from someone who can give you a nudge in the right direction, and let them know you'd appreciate their expert opinion. (This assumes you've gone somewhere reputable.) Brooklyn lesson: Don't be a chump. The more you pretend you know, the easier you are to take advantage of. 
  • Do be able to articulate your parameters: I didn't know exactly what I wanted, but being able to narrow down what I was looking for from the entire universe of leather (black + lamb + for a jacket + home sewing machine) helped zone in on what would be ideal for my project. Brooklyn lesson: Tell em how it is.
  • Do ask questions: As we laid out pattern pieces, I asked questions about grain, cutting and sewing leather. Every little bit of knowledge about the actual pieces you are buying helps. Brooklyn lesson: Get to know your guy's guy and his business, especially if you plan to be a regular. Soon he/she will be your guy, too.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away: If you are just not sure, thank the person for their time and say you need to sleep on it. Take their card so you can come back if you decide to go for it. Brooklyn lesson: Stand your ground but don't leave things bad with your guy or his guy. Karma always comes back.
  • Do thank the person who helps you. Profusely. That's just good manners. Brooklyn lesson: What? You think cause I'm from Brooklyn I don't have manners? Sheesh.
Anyway, I'm feeling very confident about my leather purchase. And I can't wait to get sewing, even at my snail's pace!

Next up: My half-done lining.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sock Reveal and More on UFO's: Second Sock Syndrome

Here are my latest - and greatest - socks!  Ta da!

They're my best socks yet. I'm wearing them as I type this. They're cosy (wool), fit really well, and I love how they look. The pattern, from Socks a la Carte, is called Wicker. The heel, which is the tricky part with socks, actually had a mistake in the pattern. At first I though I was doing something wrong, but after two unsuccessful tries, I realized it wasn't me. Luckily, I was able to find a correction posted on line

Now, a few people commented in my post about UFO's that they had knitting UFO's. I don't, but my motivation definitely waned on the second sock. Honestly, these socks took a LONG time - 2 months!  I was definitely in danger of succumbing to Second Sock Syndrome (SSS): a knitter's inability to finish the second sock of a pair after the first sock has been completed.

This malady is pretty unique to knitters since there aren't many projects in sewing that require making two of the same thing in order to have one complete set. But perhaps I should have known this might be a problem for me given how rarely I repeat sewing patterns. For me, figuring out all the ins-and-outs of a new pattern is half the fun. Look how long it took me to sew up the third boxers I'd cut for Phin. And I don't have any patterns I'd consider to be TNT's.

Sewists, do you TNT or repeat patterns multiple times? Or are you on to the next thing as soon as you're finished with a project? For me, discovery and problem solving are part of what keeps me interested in a project. What about you?