Monday, October 29, 2012

sandy beignet

There's a first time for everything. Like, taking blog photos while being shut-in for an impending Frankenstorm. Sandy the Frankenstorm. Have you ever known a malicious Sandy in your life? I think not, but this ole girl's supposed to be a doozy. I masked my terror for these photos.

There's also a first time for sewing a Colette Pattern, and hey, you guys weren't kidding about them being awesome. That would have been a weird and cruel joke otherwise. I finally arrived to the Colette party and I totally approve of what's going on here. It's like the sewing pattern equivalent of free booze, thoughtful snacks, happy friends, and a minimal but still acceptable amount of Rihanna on the playlist. 

I've been wanting to make a Beignet skirt for about a year now. I can prove it; the Beignet skirt pin on my "Things to Sew" Pinterest board says... "Pinned 1 year ago." I've seen many-a-version pop up on sewing blogs in the meantime, so I had plenty to plagiarize. I ultimately decided to blatantly copy Mika's blue corduroy version. Thanks girl.

I finally bought the pattern a few weeks ago, and I'm pleased with the result. I know I already have a couple button-front Kelly skirts, which I kinda wear here and there, but I think I prefer the straighter-fit paneled style of the Beignet. It's certainly more flattering from the side and be-hind, so it'll get more wear for that reason. 

I shortened it from the original, which I was planning to do anyway before my boyfriend started muttering "Shorten it" every time he walked by during my fittings. I agree with him that I have too many knee-length dresses and skirts that are more appropriate for work than the typical weekend house party. Not like a slightly above-knee-length navy corduroy skirt is actually appropriate party wear. Ugh, I'll never get it right. 

I only had eight of these buttons so that's what I used instead of the recommend 12,000. I also omitted the pockets by accident, but decided I was fine with it because layers of corduroy always iron weird.

The pattern instructions have you make belt loops by stitching them right sides together and then turning them with a needle and thread. Okay, I tried that:

OK, that didn't work. Plan B was to use the selvage so I could fold the fabric lengthwise in thirds, top-stitch it down on the edges, cut the strip into six pieces, then proceed as instructed.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway because I'm a blogger whose duty it is to ramble about what everyone else already knows: this pattern is drafted impeccably, everything in the instructions makes perfect sense (besides the belt loop thing), and it results in a cleanly-finished and professional-looking garment. I think everyone also knows that Colette gives you super generous yardage requirements. 2.5 yards for the shell of this skirt? No way. I used like 1.5 or less. 

I initially cut a 4 for the waist and graded to an 8 in the hips according to the measurement chart. I took the hips in afterward, though. It's a pear-shape-friendly skirt because of the curved waist, and any friend of the pear is a friend of mine. 

The fabric's from I used to order from them all the dang time but then UPS started requiring signatures for the packages, and of course I'm never home during typical delivery hours. Why do I have to sign for a package? I'm trying to imagine someone walking down the street who decides to snatch a lone package from someone's stoop. "Ooh, Joel Dewberry cotton prints for $8.99 a yard?! Jackpot."

This photoshoot was more frustrating than usual. Does anyone have any tips for how to style a stupid rectangular scarf? I clearly struggle with such things.

Collage overload? You're welcome.

For your northeasterners, especially those directly on the coast, please stay safe out there during this hurricane! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

fabric tale

Let me share a little tale. A little fabric fairy tale.

Two days after I moved to Philadelphia in August, I received an e-mail from a woman who was cleaning out her mother's house back in Louisville. She said she had uncovered a -- wait for it -- "treasure trove" of vintage fabric and patterns, as her mother used to be an avid seamstress. Not wanting to just throw them all away, she Google-searched "vintage fabric louisville ky" to see where she may be able to take them. That's where she found my blog -- particularly the post in which I whined about the lack of fabric resources in Louisville. 

"Are you interested in them? They're yours if you want them and can pick them up. I'm only in town for the weekend," she wrote.

Interested?! Um, what's the word that describes a trance-like state in which you can't stop yourself from muttering "ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod" repeatedly until your housemate has thundered "What?!" enough times that you finally muster up the words to explain your slack-jawed delirium?

Yes, I was interested.

But of course, I had just separated myself a good 700 miles from my hometown, which I had begrudgingly called a "sewing desert" only a few months before. Little did I know that a TREASURE TROVE of classic wools, Liberty of London lawn, and vibrant cottons waited patiently in neat little stacks in a woman's basement mere footsteps away from where I grew up. Not wanting to pass up this opportunity, I asked my mom if she could scoop up the boxes for me. Turns out my parents live right around the corner. 

This story does get a bit more amazing. The woman who reached out to me -- guess where she lives? Philadelphia. At the time of our e-mail exchange, I had just interviewed at a couple of non-profit agencies in town. Turns out that one of them -- and the one that subsequently offered me the job I have now -- was where she used to work for five years. In fund development, no less. Eerie, incredible, coincidental, fateful, interesting, weird. You name it. 

Anyway, I flew to L-ville this past week to attend a friend's wedding, celebrate my mama's birthday, and finally get my paws on these graciously gifted goodies. I took a carry-on bag of clothes home and checked a full suitcase of fabric on the way back. I still left behind a good amount, so what I show here in these photos is only a slice of the pie.

The wool is the bulk of it, and it's all free of moth holes, incredibly. This woman was so organized with her fabric, I feel a little guilty disrupting her piles and tossing them about. She labeled each box to say what was in each one, including yardage and color. Some of the original receipts are stapled to the fabric to show price, length and selvage width. 

I haven't inspected these patterns very closely, so if anyone wants to take a guess as to what era they're from just from cover art alone, I'll commend you. I love owning these envelopes, though I most likely won't make any of these up. They're just so beautiful and charming.

Oh yea, there are also notions.

Was that not clear? NOTIONS! Seam binding, bias tape, rick rack, hook & eyes, buttonhole makers, snaps, zippers, elastic, piping, lace, ballpoint needles, helloooooooo seamster heaven. My existing notion stash was dismal because I hate spending money on the little extras, so I'm thrilled to suddenly have these at my fingertips. I keep dumping them onto the floor so I can admire the molehill of plastic packages; it's just like dumping out your Halloween candy after trick-or-treating to see how successful you were at acquiring as much free candy as possible.

These gadgets are my favorite. Pleat maker? Hallelujah. Top stitch zipper guide? It looks confusing but if it makes me "topstitch like a pro" then try to stop me from being a pro topstitcher. And a bound buttonhole maker? Oh go on! If you've tried any of these tools before, please give me your insight!

I know I was graced with a wonderful and generous gift here, and I'm so so grateful. Before you curse my good fortune, though, please know that I've already been bitten in the ass by karma. My hands were so full toting all my luggage home from the train station, somewhere along the way I dropped and lost my Minoru jacket. I had just exclaimed in my last post how it was my most-worn item, but now I have to declare it dead and gone, probably sucked under the tire of a garbage truck or swiped off the train platform. Let's just hope the new owner, if there is one, appreciates the hand-crafted pear-shapededness of that well-loved jacket. Oh well. 

What's your favorite fabric acquisition or fabric find story? Have you ever been gifted something unexpected, just because you're one of the few out there who still pursue this sewing hobby? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

happy one year, me olde blogge

Can you believe my blog turned one-year-old today? My baby's growing up so fast.

It started out rocky... a lot of late nights, bad template designs and grainy head-cropped photos. I felt like I hadn't done enough research on how to be a good blog mom until it was too late. For example, I started out thinking this would be a DIY decor blog -- ha ha ha. ha. -- but all too suddenly I switched to apparel sewing. That's a bloggy no-no: to begin without a clear focus and to choose a blog name that ends up being unrelated to the content. Ah well. But despite that, I quickly became obsessed with my new role, and I was obsessed with my new hobby, so I coddled this baby until I no longer felt like it was just spitting up all over the Internet.

Of course there's still a lot of whining going on, but my blog is one of my biggest joys and I'm so grateful for all I've learned and everyone I've "met" through it. As you know, the sewing community is top-notch; my fellow bloggers and readers are freakin' ANGELS. I really don't think I would have sewn as many garments, or put as much care and thought into the process, or gained the confidence to keep trying new techniques, if it weren't for this blog, the people who follow and support it, and the other bloggers I follow who share the same passion.

So, thank you for an amazing year! Here's to many more. Or, as many as the world can tolerate.

I know most bloggers do end-of-calendar-year wrap-up posts about their sewing. But I started my blog right around the time I became re-acquainted with my sewing machine, so it's really been a year exactly since I started sewing maniacally regularly. Good enough time for some reflections, right? I wish I could say I've had a wildly successful year in sewing, but that's not exactly true. When I look through my project gallery from top to bottom, I'm pretty appalled that I don't even wear or use half of the stuff I've made. But I guess I'm proud of how far I've come, and I love that there's still so much to learn. Sewing is a hobby that almost has no limits (aside from... budgetary limits), which is one of the best kinds of hobbies.
Let's talk numbers first. Above is a breakdown of the categories of stuff I've sewn. I'm surprised I made so many tops because I feel that's what's lacking in my wardrobe -- but my self-stitched tops are some of my least favorite items. All in all, since October 2011 I've made give-or-take 52 garments for myself, plus some accessories, stuff for other people and for my home. Good job! Oh, but of the things I made for myself, I regularly wear only 10 of them (ahhh!), hardly wear 14 of them (ahhh!), simply never wear 17 of them (ahhh!), and have thrown away, given away or taken apart the rest. Ahhh! But I realize that the items I actually wear are some of the most recent items on my sewing resume, so I feel that I am improving my technical skills and learning more about my style and what I actually enjoy wearing.
SO SAD AND WASTEFUL. Ah well, enough pie charts. Onto the happier superlatives...

Most Worn: Minoru Jacket. It's a jacket; of course it gets worn the most! I was happy to pull it out from storage this past weekend, and I've already worn it three times since then. I want another one with some design tweaks, as I'm not 100% switten with the floppy collar, elastic cuffs and the weirdly-shaped pockets that were an accident on my part. Still, I like it and am proud of it.

Least Worn: Red Leaf Shirt, made from a bedsheet. My first blouse ever! My first buttonholes ever! Aw, sweet little blurry headless girl. I didn't know how to ease in sleeves so I left them gathered/puckered because I thought that's how they were supposed to be. I have not wore this blouse once, as it's an unattractive beige color and I don't know what to wear it with. But it still hangs loyally in my closet waiting for its time to shine when I score some catering gig or something.

Most Complimented: Cambie dress. Hey, don't pretend you don't covet those unsolicited compliments on your handmade items. It kinda helps to validate your hard work. Maybe it's the sweetheart neckline or sleeves, but people are always super surprised/impressed that this dress is handmade. I also think it's one of my best me-makes in terms of fit and finish, so you know, yay me.

Cutest in Photos, but Not in Real Life: Colorblocked dress. It makes me sad to look at this dress here and know that it has since been gutted to death. This thing was even featured on McCalls' Facebook page! How could I kill it? Seriously, I made it out of the cheapest broadcloth and polyester lining in the store, the skirt lining had a huge iron fry-hole that scratched my skin, the top buttonhole was completely crooked (I tried to straighten it for photos), the collar stuck out like bonkers in the back, and the bust had enough room to carry around two Chihahuas. The dress had to die. I saved its zipper and buttons and used the fabric to line some baby dresses.

Favorite Fabric: Chevron Pleated Skirt. I loved the fabric then and I love it now, but unfortunately I don't wear this skirt very much because I simply don't know what to wear it with. A ribbed white tank top doesn't cut it. I've been trying to use this as a starting point  for Sunni's "Everyday Wardobe" challenge -- where you pick something you love but never wear, and find a way to make it more wearable, whether that's altering it or making something that will complement it. It's a great idea, but I don't even know what to make that will "complete" this skirt.  While I love the saturated colors of the skirt, I somehow can't decide what color tights/shoes/belts to wear it with. Black? Brown? Gray?!

Most Visited Blog Post: Round Pintuck Pillow Tutorial. Huh? This is from back in my DIY Decor days that lasted a few...days. I made an Urban Outfitters pillow knock-off, and it's my top-visited post by a long shot (like 7,000 more views than the next most visited). Who woulda thought?

Best Use of an Old Sheet: Blue Check Dress. I made several garments from bedsheets and tablecloths throughout the year, but this dress is the most successful I guess. It has a lot of technical problems, but I wear it sometimes just so I can tell people it's made from a thrifted bedsheet. It provokes a reaction that is equal parts amazement and disgust.

Best Spam Comment: see above. I don't use word verification on my blog comments so sometimes I get robot spam. Google always catches it right as it goes through, though, so it's never published for anyone else to see. I love getting the e-mail notifications that contain the spam comments because they're hilarious. The one above is a personal favorite. There are plenty of other good ones, and I'm considering featuring them in their own blog post just to share the LOLs. 

Best Fit: Plaid Shirt for Corey. I know you must be distracted by the USA-themed tiki torch in the photo, but unfortunately I'm just talking about the boy here. I haven't blogged about this shirt, though I worked really hard on it and he loves it. My boyf has a strange body (sorry babe) and he likes a slim cut, so shirts and pants never fit him right off the rack. I made him a short-sleeve shirt before, but apparently the fit is still too loose and he isn't thrilled with the button placement. Men. SO, I set out to create him a perfect long-sleeve shirt, diligently creating a rub-off pattern from another shirt that fits him well in the body but not in the sleeves. I even made flat-felled seams, which I HATE sewing. He rolled his sleeves up high here in the photo, but believe me that they are actually long enough for his freak wonderful arms. Rad.


The end. What have I learned in this reflection post on my first blogoversary? Uh, that I shouldn't keep up the pace of sewing 50+ garments a year because I end up with a wardrobe I half-hate? Maybe. But also that I've made some decent stuff and I still love sewing with all my heart. I'm confident that this next year of sewing will be more focused, intentional and informed, which in turn will lead to more focused, intentional and informed blogging. Yaaaay!

Andy throwing confetti

Anyway, happy blogoversary to me and it's a happy day indeed. How do you feel at this point of your sewing and/or blogging journey?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

la veste pavot

I studied French in school, which seemed cool at the time, but it turns out that's not the language you want to know if you're an American like me working in non-profit social services. "Does anyone here speak Spanish?! There's someone on the phone who..." But hey, it is the language you want to know if you're a home sewer determined to make pretty clothes. "Does anyone here speak French?! I have to attach this peter pan collar..." 

Thanks to Anna of Paunnet, we're all aware by now (right?) of Deer & Doe Patterns, a pattern line recently launched by French designer Eléonore Klein. It's all so frickin' adorable. I recently made a silent oath to never sew a rounded collar again, but then I saw the Veste Pavot (translation: Poppy Jacket) and I was completely taken by it, collar and covered buttons and all. The construction looked simple enough so I thought I'd take the plunge and see if I could do it.

As one of the first technically monolingual Americans (sob) to blog about one of these patterns, I feel like should try to give a decent overview of what these patterns are like, what the sewing experience was like, and whether or not I'm satisfied with the end result.

As with all the independent patterns I've sewn before, the graphic design aesthetics and packaging are lovely. The patterns come in large envelopes and are printed on sturdy paper (which--call me crazy--I actually don't like as much as tissue paper because they don't iron out or lay as flat). The instructions are written in a little booklet with simple drawings, like Megan Nielsen's patterns.

Ignore wrinkles.

Now let's talk about my language skillz and how this affected my ability to sew a French pattern. I may have studied French for a number of years, but every time I graduated to the next phase of schooling (middle school, then high school) I had to start over at French 101. Not a good system. So really the highest I studied was French 4 as a senior in high school. Seven years have passed since then, and in the meantime my brain has been muddled with studying Japanese and drinking beer, so mostly what I remember about French are these three key phrases: zut alors! (darn!), hyper chouette! (super cool!), and discotheque (dance club). Please note that our textbooks were published in the early 1990s.

So, with a very elementary understanding of French sentence structure and words like "right" and "front" and "sleeve," I was able to construct this jacket with some side help from the Internet. If you have made a button-up shirt and understand basic garment construction, you probably don't even need the instructions. The booklet includes technical illustrations, but they are not fully inclusive of every single step (which is of course fine for an intermediate sewer). The instructions tell you when to do things like attach the shoulders and sides, when to hem, and when to finish seams with bias binding, but those steps aren't illustrated. I think you can figure it out, though! Y'all are smart.

Please correct me if I'm wrong on some of these, but here's a little reference guide I created for myself so it was easier to spot what I needed to do during construction of the Veste Pavot:

les marges de couture :: seam allowances 
thermocollant ::  interfacing 
la parementure :: facing 
l'ourlet :: hem 
le bord :: edge 
surpiquez :: topstitch 
le fer :: iron 
epinglez :: pin 

I am pretty satisfied with the end result. I guessed at my size (in centimeters, oy!) and  it seemed to work out okay with zero alterations, except it's a little roomy in the bust area with the princess seams and the sleeves are kind of baggy. Of course, this could be a good thing if I want to wear this over thick sweaters and such. The changes I made were shortening the hem overall, making it a little less flared, not gathering the sleeve caps, and using interfacing on the collar to give it more structure.

The jacket is unlined, so I paid a teeny bit more attention to seam finishing than usual. I did a "clean finish," on all seams, which essentially means to hem the seam allowance 1/8" after stitching. If I make it again, I will want to fully line it, though. Jen of Grainline has a great tutorial on how to draft a lining for an unlined blazer/jacket pattern here.

I'm disappointed that I was too impatient to order/go out and buy matching thread. I settled for dark brown and I think the garment suffers somewhat from it. LIVE AND SEW AND BE BUMMED AND LEARN. As I always say. Here's how I feel about my mismatching thread:

Voila. Hyper chouette. Merci beaucoup. Allons-y. Bibliothèque. Bon Iver.  All in all, I'm happy with my jacket and hope I find ways to wear it regularly. Are you proud, French teachers of my past? Non?

Have you sewn a pattern in a foreign language before? Deer & Doe seems like a good place to start! Her other cutie patterns are here. Bonne chance, mes amis.