Monday 31 December 2012

Merry Christmas to me and Happy New Year to You!

Dudes.....Santa knows what I like.  And he knew I would like 4 metres of silk dupioni under the tree:

It is shot with royal blue warp threads and maroon weft threads, which gives it a shimmery purple colour that is incredibly hard to photograph.  It is more than a bit intimidating to think of using, but I plan not to let it waste away in my stash.  Please hold me to it if I don't show a project here sometime soon.

And since we're less than an hour away from New Year's EST, let me wish everyone a very Happy New Year.  Thank you for all the feedback in 2012, especially to my previous post regarding constructive criticism.  I wasn't sure if I was totally out of line for bringing up the subject, but it garnered a lot of discussion, so I'm glad I took the leap.

Hmmmm...this looks mildly disgusting, but it was actually delicious molasses candy on snow that my Mom made today.  Remember Laura and Mary making it in Little House in the Big Woods?  Well, it's the first time I've tried it.  We always have tire every spring (boiled maple syrup candy on snow), but that's a different beast altogether - mostly because you just hang around outside the cabane à sucre and wait for the guy to come out and pour it on the snow in front of you.  Easy peasy.

I've finished my Simplicity 8498 just under the wire, but with the sun going down around 4:30pm, there wasn't enough time to get any photos this afternoon.  I'll get some tomorrow and try to post ASAP. 

I also have a giveaway coming up this week, so stay tuned!   


Friday 28 December 2012

Are we too nice to each other?

I've been thinking about this for a while, but wasn't sure it would be a good topic to bring up.  Then I realized that I'm probably not the only one who has thought about this, and it may provoke some interesting discussion. 

When I discovered the online sewing community back in 2009, I was so happy to find a supportive group that shared freely and encouraged each other; it was a breath of fresh air compared to most online groups that seem to spend much of their time cutting down other members, calling them gay, and then eventually turning every conversation into a political insult fest, culminating in comparing each other to Hitler.  No matter what I seemed to post on Burdastyle, or later on this blog, there was always someone who would step up and compliment the project.  It was a great pat on the back when I decided to start sewing again after a 10-year hiatus.  I had a toddler and a new baby, and was pretty sleep deprived, so I readily admit that things were a bit wonky for a while.  OK, they are still wonky sometimes, but it was good to know that other people who knew what they were talking about were telling me I wasn't doing a shitty job.

After a year or so of sewing and blog reading, I started to notice something:  people are really hesitant to criticize each other's work, even when there is a glaring problem.  Really hesitant.  Sometimes there is a fitting problem that a simple tip could help solve.  Sometimes it's apparent that someone has overestimated their size and would look so much better just by sewing a size down.  Sometimes the design lines are lost in a busy print and a solid fabric would work much better.

But I rarely see this kind of comment.  Maybe once or twice I've seen a comment that points out a problem, and it is usually phrased very obliquely ("maybe you could try ABC, but I love it just the way it is").  I once saw a comment on a dress that Gertie had made, saying something to the effect of "that neckline gapes a little; maybe you should pinch some fullness out there", and it was followed by a flurry of comments saying how nothing was wrong, and the dress was perfect. 

Why are we afraid to critique each other's work?  Is it because the online sewing community is almost 100% female?  And we're taught that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?  Are we really so sensitive that we can't take a little constructive criticism?  I would never want to hear, "Wow, that looks like crap on you!", but I would hope that if something was obviously not working with one of my projects, someone would pipe up and tell me how to fix it.

So, what do you think?    

Sunday 23 December 2012

A favourite revisited

This was my Sew Weekly post, but it didn't go up.  If it eventually does, I'll link to it here, but for now, here ya go:


The Facts:
  • Fabric:  Cotton from my MIL's stash = $0
  • Pattern:  Simplicity 5828 =$0
  • Year:  1970
  • Notions:  none
  • Time to complete: about 4 hours because it was sewn in stolen moments; if sewn straight through, it would only take about 2 hours.
  • First worn: Immediately
  • Wear again: Constantly, in rotation with my first version
  • Total cost: $0

OK, so technically I didn't sew this pattern this year.  I made it late last year, but that tunic is the me-made garment that I've worn the most this year.  I wear it everywhere, especially when travelling because it can double as a minidress or a tunic over leggings, depending on the weather and the modesty needed.  It's cotton, so it washes and dries easily, and it has enough of a print to hide minor travel dirt, if push comes to shove.  It's also the me-made garment that seems to be the most universally familiar to others, and it seems to fit in everywhere:  I've had Indian colleagues compliment me on this "kurta", African colleagues compliment me on this "kaftan", and European colleagues compliment me on this "kinda hippie minidress".

Evidence of it's very heavy wear over the last year, both at work and play:

And good news:  my serger is working again, so I can go back to serging seams!  I didn't get it serviced, but simply gave her a good cleaning and readjustment of all the buttons and knobs (Who knows what they do?  I just twiddle them until I get the results I want.  Not very scientific of me, I have to admit, but it works.  Usually.)

I got this pattern for free during the NYC meetup last year, where I got to meet fellow Sew Weekly-ers Nettie, Meg, Oona, Debi, Mena, as well as a load of other fun-loving sewists (evidence here).  Although this pattern may not seem like a winner at first glance, believe me when I say it's a great one; ignore the ric-rack horror of the envelope cover photograph and look at the cooler-than-thou woman with the micro-mini in the illustration instead.  I added some length to the pattern, believe me.

A word of explanation about the blurry featured photo:  I finished the tunic on Sunday night, and we were forecast to have our first ice storm of the season on Monday, so I thought I'd better grab an indoor shot just in case the ice arrived before I could get a photo outside in the morning.  Arrive it did.  An ice storm is certainly beautiful, but not conducive to outdoor fashion shoots.

This early morning lab runway collage will have to do!  ;)

Happy Chanukah!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays to everyone!
Stay warm and dry.  Seriously.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Lekala Doomsday Sale

Just a quick note to say that, if you follow Lekala patterns on Facebook, you may have noticed that they announced this Doomsday Sale on Friday.  Although their patterns are always priced pretty low (<$2.50), an extra deal is always nice, I say.  After the Christmas / New Year rush, I may try a pattern of theirs.  Or two. 

Friday 14 December 2012

My Hollyburn Skirt

I've been on Tasia's mailing list since the beginning, but I'd never had the time to be part of her pattern testing before.  I thought about it a few times, especially when she was developing the Thurlow trouser pattern,  because I really need to learn how to sew my own trousers that actually fit in both the hip and waist AT THE SAME TIME!  Is that too much to ask?!  But then I thought that taking on my first fitted pair with a tight time restriction was a recipe for disappointment. 

When she put out a call for testers for a simple skirt, I thought I could probably handle it.  In fact, the Hollyburn is a very quick pattern to put together, and is designed to work for so many fabrics and body types that you really can't go wrong. 

Here are some quick and dirty photos I took with my son's point-and-shoot camera in my lab one morning; until Santa brings me a DSLR, I'm afraid this is the best I can do:


I really like the way the pockets are constructed without adding any bulk at the hips.  In fact, they lay so flat that they are almost invisible if you are using a busy print.  I decided to add the tabs to the waistband because I had enough fabric, and I had these two lonely buttons made of wood and brass that matched quite well, and would probably never be used otherwise. 

I used 3m of very narrow shwe shwe cotton from Botswana.  After washing and drying, it was only about 85cm (34") wide, but either of the shorter views (B and C) would fit.  I did have to cut the pockets across the grain as you can see below, but it worked with my fabric because the print is symmetrical.  Cutting the pockets with the grain or using view A would have required ~3.5m.

I chose to bind the hem with bias tape because I just so happened to have exactly the right colour and length in my box of tangled chaos perfectly organized notions, and because my fabric is quite stiff and bulky. If you were to use a thinner fabric, it could easily be folded over and hemmed as usual. 

All in all, it's an easy, flattering pattern to give a beginner good results.  It also offers enough variations to make an intermediate or advanced sewintist happy.  See?

Sunday 9 December 2012

Sewing Simplicity 8498: decisions, decisions, decisions (or how I learned to stop worrying and love my stash)

Now that Tanit-Isis, Sown Brooklyn and I have announced to the blogosphere that we're going to sew this baby up, I keep seeing it everywhere.  Of course, there was Tasia's post this week where she revealed A Thing I Made and Never Blogged About, which was in fact, Simplicity 8498.

 Although she doesn't like the outcome, I think it looks great and I'm still optimistic for two reasons:  she personally doesn't like the shift shape on her (whereas I do), and she doesn't like the busy print hiding the seam lines (which I can avoid, with the right fabric choice). 

I've been trolling the internets for some ideas of what works and what doesn't; luckily, there are loads of examples of both 8498 and the reprinted 3833 online.  Some of my favourites thus far:

via Cosmotis on Pattern review
The print is busy, but regular, so the seam lines are not hidden as much as they would be with a larger, uneven print.

Kayseri on Pattern Review
OOOOOOoooh, border print!

But my favourite by far is this stewardess-esque lovely from Sharonsews:
from Sharonsews

That is sooooo very me.  I would blatantly copy this in a flash if I had some medium weight red, white and blue fabrics.  I don't.  I have some broadcloth and some white sheeting, but I'm afraid that it it would be too flimsy.  And I really wanted to work with what I had in my stash, since it is prodigious.  Here are my whittled down choices:

 The chocolate satin has small sprays of chartreuse and white blossoms, but it probably would hide the seaming detail.  I can't for the life of me remember where or when I bought this, but I do know that I had something more like Simplicity 6723 in mind.

The grey fabric on the far right is a silk blend.  It is quite heavy and a little bit shiny, in a platinum rather than silver kind of way, if that makes any sense.  There is also a lot of it; like, 5.5 meters of it.  I think I should save this for a fabric hog of a dress like Vogue 1102:

 Which leaves me with the two cottons in the middle.  I think that the white with wispy Bhutanese clouds is gorgeous, but it is very heavy.  It is Ikea fabric, and I bought it with nothing particular in mind, but just because I loved it.  It would be great as something really, really structured.  Structured to the point of being sculptural. 

Which leaves us with the red cotton.  It is medium weight and has a kind of sponged finish to it.  The best way I can describe it is like those faux finishes that people used to paint on their apartment walls back in the '90s.  (Remember Debbie Travis, queen of the faux finish?  Man, I loved her show The Painted House.) 

Anyway, I'm not 100% sure that this fabric is the right choice, but hell, you can get away with a lot more red at Christmas than other times of year.  Unless I run across a bundle of red, white and blue double knit at my local thrift store this week, I think I'm going with the red. 

What do you think?


Saturday 1 December 2012

Stitching Simplicity 8498

A week or so ago, I read this post by Tanit-Isis and casually commented that I had just bought the same pattern, I thought that Nettie had too, and wouldn't it be funny to do a little Simplicity 8498 runway show?  Not that any of us live close enough.  Not that any of us are women of leisure with so much free time around the end of the year.  Not that any of us are childless, work-less, grad-school-less layabouts who have nothing better to do than sew all day.


An idea was born, a flurry of emails followed, and T said let's do it!  Well, I'm nothing if not willing to over commit, so I'm in.

Who else is with us?  Do you have this pattern?  Do you have the reprint (Simplicity 3833)?  Do you have soooooo much free time just before Christmas and can't think of what to do with it?  Let us know, and you can join in the virtual runway. Keep your eye on our blogs and we'll let you know when we've all managed to squeeze some free sewing time out of the pre-Christmas rush and when we're ready to host our Simplicity 8498/3833 virtual runway show! 

Tempest has certainly mastered the reprint version with this '60s psychedelic mini, and I think I'll follow suit - I've got some itchy vintage double knit paisley print just calling out to me.  If you're more inclined to make the glamorous full length brocade version with sequined trim, I'll leave you with a photo from one of my late '60s Simplicity Fashion News magazines:

This page is actually printed slightly askew, hence the blurriness.  Check out the hem, where you can see the colour didn't line up when printed.  Hey, these were free pamphlets printed on newsprint; what are ya gonna do?

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