Monday, July 30, 2012

Survey: How Do You Deal with Distraction?

I'm relieved that it seems like a pretty slow summer in the Northern blogosphere. I'd be eating my heart out if everyone was churning out gorgeous summer frocks like nobody's business while I'm plodding along.

So, what I'm interested in knowing today is: How do you deal with external distractions when it comes to your sewing or other hobbies?  When your mind is cluttered with other concerns is sewing an escape? Or do the other things going on in your life bog you down with your projects?

In addition to dealing with pain, which is draining, I have a few larger issues on my mind these days. I may have a number of career and personal opportunities in the near future, which is wonderful, but it's making my mental space a crowded landscape. There may be some difficult decisions ahead. And all of this is distracting me from sewing. Instead of my usual focus, I find my mind wandering between any number of vague fantasy projects while my jacket remains unfinished. It's very unlike me.

I did cut the sleeves last weekend, and this weekend I sewed in the zippers. 

 But without focus, I'm much more mistake-prone. Not a good thing now that I'm on the home stretch. And I did, in fact, make two mistakes. First, I just simply forgot to interface the sleeves where the zippers went in. Naturally, I realized this after finishing the second one. Also, I sewed one up slightly incorrectly and had to take out some stitches and it left a mark. It isn't too bad, but I know it's there. 

Both of these were mistakes born from distraction. Usually, when I'm not thinking about work or family or friends, you can bet that my mind is at work visualizing and planning my next sewing steps. But with so much other clutter, this just isn't happening. I forced myself to sew the zippers because I'm irritated at not having this done. But without good planning, I made mistakes.

So, I've decided I'm going to move forward in little or big bursts whenever I feel up to it mentally and physically, but not force myself again. Sigh. This is frustrating indeed!  

In the interim, because I feel like sewing in general, I've got some less mentally taxing sewing projects going on too. More later this week. Happy sewing or whatever it is you are busy with!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: Vintage Lingerie

Here's what's on the nightstand*.

I think one of my post-leather jacket projects will be a kimono robe and some coordinated pjs and/or lingerie. I really want to sew up the one vintage pattern in my stash in the near future - a 1940's McCall's slip pattern. So, I bought this book for inspiration and practical knowledge and to expand my options.

The book is beautifully photographed, featuring loads of vintage lingerie from museum collections. A few pages are devoted to each set or piece, talking about how and when it was worn, what it was typically made from, who (age/class) wore it, etc. It is very inspiring in that regard. Some of the pieces are absolutely stunning and I really love thumbing through this book - it's rich in the fantasy and inspiration department.

The patterns are definitely not for beginners. They are basically small graphed drawings that you have to enlarge by hand or copier, and then add seam allowances, etc. The grid needs to be enlarged to 1'x1' squares, but the book doesn't specify what percentage to enlarge by (I have one book that tells you to enlarge by say 400% so there is no guess work and you can use a photocopier). The patterns only come in the size of the actual garment, so there would be grading involved too.

There are two patterns at the back of the book - a 1930's mesh brassiere (bralet by todays standards) and a 1905 long half slip - that come with step-by-step instructions. But aside from those, there are just a few pages of general techniques for the whole rest of the book. Sewing any of the other patterns would require a lot more of an investment in terms of figuring out how to construct them and add the embellishments (lace, trim, hand embroidery) which is what is so lovely about many of these piece. That said, this would not be insurmountable for an experienced and confident sewist with a grasp of lingerie construction. Plus some patterns (Pantaloons (bloomers), tap pants and bralettes) would be much easier than others (a boned corset that doesn't mention how many and where the bones go).

Every time I flip through this book I want to sew something from it. But I think what is likely to prevent me from sewing anything in the near future is that these are not vintage-style patterns; they are patterns for actual vintage lingerie. Silhouettes have changed over the years and women's figures have changed, too. So, many of these garments won't really fit the way I would come to expect/want from my lingerie (ie: '50's pointy busts, 20's/30's flattened busts...) But for those who want actual historic lingerie, this is indeed a goldmine of opportunities. 

Anyway, this will probably be an inspirational book for me for the foreseeable future rather than a practical one. But it definitely gets the thumbs up from me on that count. It really is fun to read about the different pieces and their histories and to ooh and ahh at all the pretties.

* Sorry for the lack of pictures. There aren't any pictures from inside the book on any on line book seller sites and taking pictures with my camera didn't work out so well. Oh well. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Sleeved and The Sleeveless

So I haven' been totally idle while traveling. I made a lot of progress on my sweater.  Here is the whole front half of it:

Not so bad for being carted around rainy Europe in a ziplock bag for 12 days.

The back, which is essentially the same as the front, is about 1/3 of the way done and coming along pretty quickly. And since there are no sleeves, this sweater is about half done at this point.

I've also started to face my fear of sleeves. My jacket lining now has 'em, and it's time to cut the jacket sleeves in leather. I'm feeling some anxiety about this. For some reason, even though my muslin process was pretty painstaking, I still feel like there is some sleeve disaster waiting to happen. Silly, I know, but I don't wear a whole lot of sleeves and therefore don't sew them often. Anyway, it's time to take a deep breath and cut.

Anyway, I'm trying to catch up on all your blogs. It seems like everyone has been busy and productive! Happy sewing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Home Sweet Home:Summer Fruit Tart

It was nice to wake up in my own bed this morning after 11 nights away.

After so many days of work, I did  manage to fit in two days of fun in Paris over the weekend before heading home. Saturday was Bastille Day, which is French National Day, a patriotic holiday marked by parades and fireworks. This fruit tart - made for the 4th of July - is my tribute to my mini trip, and liberty and equality for all.

For the last few summers, I've been looking for a simple, reliable fruit tart recipe to deal with my weekly farmers' marked binges. I don't want anything fussy or complicated or that will take hours to make. Summer is for simple food and great produce.

Those of you reading for some time may remember one of my more notable flops: the Zombie Pie. Further attempts were no better than the original. So, I moved on.

But here is this summer's version: the Fruit Cream Tart.  Much prettier than the Zombie Pie, no? King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, you have redeemed yourself!


I used a basic Pate Sucree tart crust, which is quick and easy to make. But you could also use a pie crust - home made or store bought. The filling is even less challenging with a very interchangeable list of ingredients.

Fruit Cream Pie (or Tart)

1 1/2 c buttermilk, milk (any %) or cream
3 large eggs
3 tbsp flour
1/2 - 1c sugar to taste
1/4 tsp spice of your choice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, allspice...) optional
3 cups whole berries or other fruit cut into small dice

Roll out your pie crust and put in a 9" pie pan. Beat eggs and buttermilk together. Beat in flour, sugar and spice. Arrange fruit in the bottom of pie pan. Top with milk mixture. Bake 425 for 15 min on bottom rack. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 35-50min. until a spot 2 inches from the crust is set. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

As usual, I made a number of changes. First, I used a 10 1/2" tart pan instead of a pie pan. I cut the entire recipe back by 1/3 (so used just 2/3 of the recipe as written). I used a mix of blueberries and strawberries. Instead of a spice, I used about 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Since I was making a shallower tart, I cut back the baking time to 12 minutes at 425 and then 25 minutes at 350.

Voila! The tart was lovely and delicious and refreshing!

Much prettier than Zombie Pie! Yay!

Anyway, it's great to be home. Regular posting shall resume shortly!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wet Greetings from London: V&A

Greeting from Merry Ole (Rainy) England!  Today was my one free/non-work day on this trip. So, I spent the first half at the Victoria & Albert Museum seeing the Ballgowns exhibit. It was pretty great.

Some of the dresses in the exhibition had accompanying pictures of who wore them on the red carpet. It was fun to see these dresses in person. The collection ran from vintage (1950's) right up to the present.

The dress I was most excited to see was this:

Alexander McQueen

This is a version of the dress that Daphne McGuinness wore to the MET Costume Institute Gala the year they honored Alexander McQueen (2011). She got ready for that gala in the window of Barney's New York as an art installation. Crazy, no? Don't get me wrong, I would not wear this dress, but it was absolutely fabulous to see in person.  (By the way, if you love red carpet fashion and like to laugh, you should be reading the Tom & Lorenzo blog.)

Should you be passing thru Londontown anytime soon, the V&A is definitely worth a visit. 

Hope you are having a good time, wherever you are this weekend!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sucker for Seersucker: Pants Reveal

Happy Independence Day, to all my fellow Americans!  I'm spending the day packing for a trip to London (work) while Phin mans the grill.

I promised a reveal, and here it is:

Seersucker pants! Worn with B5051 halter top.
Nothing quite says summer like seersucker, does it? I really love the stuff when the temperature soars. 

I used Burda 6/2011-114, an elastic waist pull-on pants pattern that I first used for my flowered border print pants last summer. I was a little worried that in seersucker the pants would look a bit pajama-like. I'm not  on-board with the pj's as daywear trend. So, this time I returned the leg to its original width (I had flared it out for the floral version) and included the cuff that was shown in one of the Burda versions. I also experimented with a crease, which I think works pretty well.

I also made the in seam pockets this time. But next time I will not include them. I was right to think that they would add bulk at the hips.

Since my seersucker was a bit translucent, I lined in cotton batiste. I don't know about you, but I like to try out new little flourishes or techniques when I'm working on such an easy project. So, for the lining, I tried finishing with a scalloped stitch rather than hemming. It's just one of those nice inside touches that no one will see, but I know is there. 

It's about time I used some of the bajillion stitches that my machine can do!
These pants basically came together in two bursts of sewing in between work on the leather jacket. It was quick and easy.

I'm away for the next 12 days. My one free day in London is Sunday (7/8). I plan to re-visit the V&A and enjoy a quiet day. If any of you Londoners care to join me or have a better plan, please holler!

When I get back, I have several days off. We'll see if I can use them to finally finish my jacket! Stay tuned.

Monday, July 2, 2012

MIA: Blame it on the Jelly Donut

Just checking in since I've been missing in action. I was at a conference most of last week and decided not to bring my laptop at the last moment. It spared my back.

Anatomically correct jelly donut

I'm still dealing with significant sciatic pain. Turns out I've herniated a disc. What does this have to do with a jelly donut? Good question.  You see, if you think of a spinal disc like a jelly donut cushioning your vertebrae, a herniation is when the tough outer dough layer gets a crack and some jelly oozes out. And that jelly is what has my sciatic nerve on high alert. Anyway,  I'm seeing a specialist today. Fingers crossed that I can get back to normal life and activities soon. Sigh.

Anyway, I do have a pants reveal for the 4th of July planned. So, please stay tuned.

Update 7/3: Thanks for all the tea and sympathy.  Mostly good news from the specialist yesterday!  Turns out it is unlikely that I "did something" to cause this - my back is simply aging and my L4 and L5 are, apparently, stale donuts which will someday be arthritic. He's not too worried that my recovery seems slow, but I should expect significant improvement in the next 4-6 weeks. So, he prescribed steroids to bring down the inflammation and "retail therapy" for the psychological side effects. Best of all, he wants me to get back into my regular activities asap so that I don't decondition and because the activity will boost blood flow and alleviate pain (I had already noticed that the pain is less when I'm active). So, I went for a short, slow run last night with no adverse side effects or increased pain. It felt good to do something normal!