31 December 2007

Look Out Behind You!

This is the time of year when I like to take stock of what has happened over the past twelve months. It's a way of looking back to figure out how to go ahead in a more productive way. I strongly believe in learning from past failures and triumphs. Each experience in my life has taught some lesson, be it large or small, so I put a lot of stock into history. So, of course, I had to take a look back into my sewing year, too. Here are the highlights:

* I sewed up a personal best 150 projects (which included everything from simple tank tops to evening wear).

* I used up 282 m (308 yd) of fabric, which is also an achievement for me.

* I won the Timmel 2007 SWAP contest. I still can't believe I took the prize on this one because there were 30 other amazing entries.
* I won the Timmel 2007 Summer Contest. Again, all the entries were fabulous and I was so honoured to be chosen.

* I designed a full fall/winter wardrobe SWAP (all three phases). Of the 28 garments in this wardrobe, I have completed 17 and two are in progress.

* I also designed and completed a black/brown/cream fall/winter wardrobe SWAP (phase one). I will be posting about this soon.

* I improved my sewing skills, mainly due to reading everything I can get my hands on and by using so many vintage patterns (these patterns are a wealth of sewing info).

* I purchased a new sewing/embroidery machine.

* I purchased a serger (my first).

Not a bad year, if I say so myself! But, although I feel it is important to look to the past for knowledge and inspiration, I don't believe in dwelling on what has already been. So, I am looking forward to a productive 2008, full of challenges and learning opportunities. I also look forward to deepening friendships with the many wonderful people I have met through Stitcher's Guild and this blog.

Look out 2008...here I come!

30 December 2007

I Have the Urge to Serge!

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I had just bought a serger. I have never owned a serger before and in all honesty, I was getting along fine without one. I'd sew a seam and then I'd go back and zig-zag the seam so that the fabric wouldn't ravel - not difficult to do, just a bit time consuming. Although I didn't need a serger, I had been contemplating the purchase of one for several months now. I read every bit of info I could find - I wanted to make an informed decision. Well, ideally, I wanted the Babylock Imagine, but after getting a price quote of close to $2000 (this included the machine, 6 feet and taxes), I figured I might want to try out something less pricey just to be sure that I really wanted a serger.

So, when I saw that Sears had their two sergers on sale, I went to check them out. One machine retails for $649 (on sale for $449), the other machine retails for $349 (on sale for $279). When I asked the saleswoman about the differences between the two, she convinced me that the less expensive model was just as good as the other model. So, I figured I'd go for the less expensive one and pocket the $170 difference.

To the left is a picture of my new machine. It's not fancy - it doesn't have jet-air threading and it doesn't have a bunch of bells and whistles. However, I have put this baby through its paces the last few days and I am really pleased with it. It is a Kenmore 16622 and it has everything that I need for now:
  • cutting width adjustment up to 7.3 mm
  • decorative stitching
  • differential feed
  • rolled hemming stitches
  • picot edging and narrow hemming
  • pin tucking
  • overedging
A concern for me was how noisy this machine was going to be. The saleswoman implied that it was a bit loud. However, I don't find it loud at all - it's really not a lot louder than my sewing machine when it's cranking along at top speed.

I was also a little worried at first about threading this machine; at first glance it looked so complicated. However, I sat down with my manual and figured it out. Now, after one mishap (I forgot that the loopers and needles have to be threaded in a specific order), I can thread this machine completely from scratch (without tying on) in approximately 2 minutes. Not bad for a novice, eh?

All in all, I'm glad I went for an inexpensive starter machine. At some point, I will likely upgrade to the Babylock Imagine (or another high end serger), but for now my little Kenmore is plenty. If I do purchase another machine, I will likely get a dedicated coverstitch machine and then look into a higher end serger. But, time will tell!

29 December 2007

Here We Go Again

It's that time of year, when people start to make their New Years' Resolutions. I have been mulling over a few ideas myself. However, before I get too far ahead of myself thinking about 2008, let's see how I did in 2007. Below are my resolutions in green) from last year, along with a grade:
  • I will sew mainly from stash. I will only allow myself to buy 1 m of fabric for each 5 m of fabric I sew up. If my stash gets any larger, I will have to buy a semi truck so I can use the trailer for storage.
Well, the good news is that I definitely maintained the 5:1 ratio. The bad news is that I bought 5 m for each 1 m sewn, instead of the other way around! I guess I am just not one to be controlled around fabric. (Quite the revelation, eh Carolyn?) Oh, and by the way, I haven't (yet) purchased a semi for my fabric, I just got more creative about my storage. GRADE: F

  • I will test drive all the new sewing machine feet I have bought in the past year. They aren't doing me much good nestled in the cute little box I bought for them - they must start earning their keep!
I had really good intentions on this one, but early in the year, I bought a new sewing machine and the feet don't fit it. However, the new machine came with a bunch of feet. So, have I worked with any of them? Um, not really. GRADE: D

  • I will use patterns more than once and develop some TNTs. I tend to use a pattern, keeping note of all the changes I will make the next time I use it. However, I rarely actually make the pattern again (when it comes to patterns, monogamy is not my strong point - I guess I'm just a pattern harlot).
I have sctually done prety well with this one. I now have TNT versions of all the major clothing groups (pants, skirts, jackets, T-shirts, tank tops, cardis, coats, dresses). I could easily whip up a simple, but well fitting outfit in an afternoon. GRADE: A+

  • I will sew at least every other day - even if it's just a single seam.
Although, I didn't always sew every other day, all year long, I did get alot of sewing done. GRADE: A+

  • I will sew all of the boring stuff I never want to sew, but really need to sew (like white T-shirts).
I did well with this one. I sewed up a ton of basics this year - for both my husband and me. My husband is now the proud owner of 25 short sleeve T-shirts, 5 long sleeve T-shirts and 3 pairs of sleep pants. I have augmented my short sleeve T-shirt and tank top cache admirably. GRADE: A+

So, what to resolve to do this year??? Let's see...
  1. I'll start with fabric (why not, hope springs eternal). I'm going to be a bit more modest in my attempts at sewing down my stash this year - maybe, then I'll have a hope in heck of sticking to my plan. Here goes: I will allow myself to buy 1 m of fabric for each 2 m sewn. Wish me luck!
  2. Now, on to patterns. I really, really want to sew up more stuff from BWOF, so I vow to sew up 12 garments this coming year.
  3. As well, I want to sew up a bunch (a minimum of 8) of vintage Vogue Couturier Design, Vogue Americana & Vogue Paris Original patterns. I have the patterns, I have the fabric, now I just need to do it.
  4. I have had my new sewing/embroidery machine for almost a year now and I have yet to embroider anything, so I want to learn how to embroider.
That's it - four resolutions this year. I think all the above are very do-able, so maybe this time next year, I'll have all A+ across the board!!

26 December 2007

Shannon Tested, Zombie Approved: Modern Fashion in Detail

One of my favourite posts to read on other peoples' blogs are the ones in which book suggestions are made. I absolutely adore a good book - be it fiction, historical, biographical, educational..., heck, I love them all. One of the requirements for the home my husband & I hope to build in the near future is a library. The thought of shelves packed floor to ceiling with books, a roaring fire, two overstuffed chairs and a shared ottoman sounds like my version of heaven.

So, I figured I would start to incorporate book reviews into my regular blog post schedule. I enjoy finding about about new books and books that are new to me. I plan on focusing most of my reviews on sewing and fashion books. So, without further ado...

Modern Fashion in Detail
By Claire Wilcox & Valerie Mendes
Photographs by Richard Davis
Line Drawings by Leonie Davis
The Overlook Press (1991)

This book is one of my favourites and I have paged through it more times than I can count. I reach for it again and again when I am in need of some sewing or design inspiration. Unlike other books of this genre, this book is different in a very spectacular way. All the photographs of the garments are taken in extreme close up, focusing in on a particular sublime detail, rather than on the garment as a whole. This allows the reader to get up close and personal with the intimate details of a couture piece. The result is a breathtaking view of the world of fashion in a new way and is a must have for anyone interested in textiles and fashion. It is chock full of exceptional photos of clothing from over 40 designers, including styles from every decade of the 20th century. Other fashion books that I own show the entire garment in a long shot, which is wonderful to get the "impression" made by the entire ensemble, but often the tiny details are lost. It is with this book that I became a true believer in the old adage, "god is in the details."

The book begins with a short foreword that explains the focus of the book. We are invited to marvel at the time and skill required to make unique quality clothing - from the workrooms of skilled seamstresses and embroiderers of the early 1900s to the ateliers of today's couture workshops. The collection presented here is a portion of that obtained by the Victoria & Albert Museum, which contains works of the world's premier fashion designers. The acquisition policy of the museum is two-fold. First, the core of the collection consists of pieces created by internationally known couturiers - the garments presented are examples of each designer's unique vision, executed exquisitely in lush fabrics and embellishments by master craftspeople. Second, other pieces are worthy of study due to their impact on the fashion scene, rather than their construction details - clothing that was influenced by "street style" or pop culture.

The chapters in the book are organized nicely by theme:
  • seams
  • gathers, tucks & pleats
  • collars, cuffs & pockets
  • buttons
  • bows
  • beads & sequins
  • applied decoration
This provides focus to the book and allows the reader to easily skip to a section of particular interest. Within in each section there are eight to seventeen examples of each theme. Each entry consists of a close up photo of an important detail in the garment, line drawings (usually front & back) and a write up. The photos range in size from a quarter of a page to a two page spread, with each photo taking the viewer in closer to the garment than could ever be hoped for during a visit to the V & A museum. The full length line drawings are a special treat for the home sewer, as it makes "borrowing" an idea all the easier! The write up that accompanies each photo includes a description of the garment, the fabric and embellishment used, the name of the designer, a note on what makes the piece special, a date and the owner (if applicable).

The designers included in this book run the gamut, from the traditional to the outrageous. Listed below are a few highlights:
  • Cristobal Balenciaga
  • Pierre Balmain
  • Pierre Cardin
  • Coco Chanel
  • Christian Dior
  • Mariano Fortuny
  • John Galliano
  • Hubert de Givenchy
  • Madame Gres
  • Christain Lacroix
  • Mainbocher
  • Jean Muir
  • Yves Saint Laurent
  • Elsa Sciaparelli
  • Emanuel Ungaro
  • Madeline Vionnet
  • Vivienne Westwood
The garments presented are diverse and awe-inspiring. Whether you're looking for a brief retrospective of 20th century fashion or just some amazing eye candy, I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

20 December 2007

Alive & Kicking

First off, thank you to everyone that left their well wishes in response to my last post. Sometimes, I wish I could gather up all my sewing/knitting/fiber art buddies from around the world and create a new country. We'd call it something like, Sewtopia or United Fiberdom. We would all move there with our loved ones and live a blissful existence. Everyone would get along (I'm sure we would all respectfully agree to disagree if an issue did arise). We'd all have closets full of stylish well-made clothes, fabulous sweaters and every bed would sport a lovely quilt. Every house would boast a large sewing studio, flooded with light. The studio would be equipped with a huge stash closet (of course), filled to the brim with beautiful fabric and yarn. There would be a TOL sewing machine (with embroidery capabilities), serger, coverstitch machine, embellisher and a custom dress form in every studio. I have drawn out what my dream studio would look like below (click to enlarge):

We'd get together on a regular basis to exchange ideas and inspiration. Ahh, I smile just imagining it!! So, anyone care to join me?

Okay, now back to reality. My surgery went well yesterday, although I am sporting 9 more holes in my body today than I was yesterday. The anaesthesiologist had a fourth year medical student with him. The medical student was told to start my IV and after two attempts in my left hand, then two attempts in my left elbow, the anaesthesiologist took over and finally got the IV into my right hand (if you're counting at home, we're up to 5 holes). Two other holes were created in my abdomen for the medical equipment (the gas tube and the laparoscope), one hole on the left hip was from the morphine shot afterward and I have one mystery hole on my left shoulder (I have no idea what that one was for). Oh yeah, did I mention that I have a terrible phobia of needles (I know, the irony of a seamstress with a fear of needles is not lost on me)? So, being used as a pin cushion all day long was really stressful. Besides that though, I came through with flying colours. Today, I am really sore (as can be expected), but I figure I'll be feeling good enough to mess around with my new serger tomorrow or the next day. All I have to say right now is thank goodness for codeine!!

18 December 2007

Just a Quick Note

I apologize for my distinct lack of communication lately, but I have had other issues on my mind. I am scheduled to undergo laparoscopic surgery tomorrow. Without going into detail, I have always had issues with severe monthly pain and hopefully this surgery is a step on the road to recovery. I go into the hospital tomorrow at noon and I should be home by supper time. I hope it all goes smoothly.

As soon as I am feeling up to it, I will be back to blogging as I have a bunch I want to write about. I bought a serger (my first) and I have a bunch of finished garments I want to show you all. Talk to you soon.

13 December 2007

I am Weak

Okay, so you all knew it was coming. Here's the scenario. Fabric Mart sends out a notice that the whole website is on sale at 20% off. I tried to ignore the email. I tried not to look. I tried to be good. I tried not to add anymore fabric to my overflowing fabric cupboard.

Um, yeah - who am I kidding? I am weak in the face of a fabric sale. Especially when two TDF fabrics that I have been drooling over for the last few days are part of the sale. So, here's the damage:

Gor-gee-ous Double Faced Camel in Plaid
- I envision an amazing reversible coat a la Jackie Kennedy. I thinking of using the pattern shown - I adore the version with the ties at the neck and the patch pockets.

A-maz-ing Cashmere/Angora/Wool Blend in Chestnut - I want to make view B or view C of the vintage pattern shown below. So pretty!

Hey, what's two more pieces of fabric at this point?

9 December 2007

LH Cowl Neck Top & European Pants

A couple of posts ago, I invited you into my fabric closets and this prompted a few questions that I forgot to answer in my last post. So, better late than never, I always say:
  • nancy k said, "My question for you is do you have this all indexed?"
Being the "Queen of All that is Obsessive Compulsive", of course I do. I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all my fabric. I have cells for Fabric Description, Fiber Content, Width ("), Length (m), Fabric In (m), Fabric Out (m), Fabric Remaining (m), Use, Pattern Used, Vendor, Cost per Meter, Cost per Piece, Total Cost (incl. taxes & shipping). When fabric is purchased online, I enter it into the database and highlight the name, so I can find it quickly and check it off when the box arrives. When fabric is completely used, I gray out the name. This allows me to quickly see what fabric I have on hand, what fabric is due to arrive and what fabric is gone. I also include pattern suggestions on this page so I don't forget which fabric is to be used for which garment. I have included a screen shot of a portion of my set up (just click on the image to make it larger).

  • Isabelle said, "Can I come over and play? Please :)"
Isabelle, you are always more than welcome to come by and play. I would be honoured if all my sewing friends could visit and then we could go fabric shopping together!!

  • Anonymous said, "Quick question for you - do you do anything special to help protect your wools from the dreaded moths?"
I have never had a problem with moths. They don't seem to be a problem where I live. Also, I tend to wash most of my fine fabrics in Eucalan, which is supposed to naturally deter moths and fleas.

  • Tiara said, "I was wondering if you use some sort of folding template to get your folded fabrics to be of uniform width."
I don't use a folding template, I just eye-ball it.

Thank you all so much for leaving such kind comments, I love reading each response. I hope that I answered all the questions. So, on to my latest creations:

: LH Cowl Neck Top (view A) & European Pants (view B)

: Both patterns comes in sizes XXS to XXL - I made XXS for the Cowl Neck Top & XS for the European Pants.

Fabric: Teal Boucle Knit from Fabricland and Brown Ottoman from Lucy's Fabrics.

Project Photo

: These are items number ten and number eleven for my fall/winter wardrobe. Originally, the top was to be the LH V-neck top and the pants were to be V2989, but I have been wanting to make the Cowl Neck top for a while now, so I changed my mind. As for the pants, I decided to go with a pattern I had made before after my issues with V2989 a few weeks ago.

Both these patterns have been made a million times before and reviewed just about as many times on PR, so I don't have much to add to what has already been said. However, I did want to send out a huge thank-you to Diane Egelston. She posted a tip on PR a while ago on how to remove excess fabric from beneath the butt. I have always had this problem with my pants, but I had never been able to correct it. Thanks to Diane's tip, I think I'm going to conquer this saggy butt problem. I made the alteration on this pair of pants and although they are not perfect, they are much improved. So, cheers to Diane!!

Conclusion: I have made the Euros before and I have always liked them, but this pair is my best yet. As for the top, I got a bunch of compliments when I wore it to work the other day, so it's a keeper! I will be making this one again and again - I love it.

6 December 2007

Quality Counts

I had a major revelation recently. For the most part, my stash consists of excellent quality fabrics. However, I am occasionally enticed by a "great deal". You know the kind - the fabric that looks great on the bolt (if you're in store) or on the monitor (if you're online) and the price is amazing. Sure you have a tiny nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach that maybe this fabric might not be the best, but it's only $0.99/yard. How can anyone resist that?

Now, don't get me wrong, maybe it is possible to find good quality fabric for $0.99/yard, but it's rare - very rare. Every once in a blue moon, a designer might commission a textile mill to create a large order of fabric and not all the fabric gets used up. The excess fabric may then be sold off for an exceptional price to a wholesale outlet that unloads this fabulous fabric at an insanely low price (hello, Fabric Mart). So, yes, it is technically possible to find some great deals on amazing fabrics. However, even those fabrics don't tend to sell for $0.99/yard. In my experience, if the fabric costs $0.99/yard, it will be an investment in disappointment. Cheap fabric usually displays one or more of the following dismaying characteristics:

  • it ravels at the slightest movement - just the process of moving the pattern pieces from the cutting table to the sewing machine can results in the disintegration of the cut edges
  • it hates the iron - ranging from the inability to hold a decent crease to melting at the mere approach of an iron
  • on the bolt it looks fine, but after one washing it shrinks horribly (and continues to shrink indefinitely on each subsequent washing) or falls to bits - if it makes it to the dryer, it fills up the lint catcher with oodles of fuzz
  • it sews up nicely enough, but the seams shred after one washing or even worse, on the first wearing
  • it smells weird - sometimes before washing, sometimes after, sometimes both
  • it feels weird - it's picky or sticky or just plain icky
I often hear seamstresses say the following, "Well at that price, I can use it for a muslin." I have even murmured this to myself in the past as well. If the cheapo fabric is used simply for a 'quick and dirty, throw it away after you've tweaked the fit' muslin - so be it, then it has served it's purpose. However, attempting to do anything beyond the 'test and toss' stage is foolhardy, in my opinion. Whenever I have attempted to turn a cheap fabric muslin into a cheap fabric wearable muslin, that's when it ends in disaster. The final product is never actually all that wearable (for all the bulleted reasons listed above) and I have wasted valuable sewing time. No amount of skill, patience and technique can make a cheesy fabric into a topnotch garment - so why waste your time?

I love creating a garment and the creation of that garment begins with fabric. Fabric should inspire and delight you, not frustrate and repulse you. It should be a sensuous experience for the senses - the texture, the body, the smell, the weight - it should entice you to work with it. Fabric should whisper your name and envelop you in the fantasy of its possibilities. Cheap fabric, no matter how good the price, cannot do this. It's like putting some Playdoh in the hands of a chimp and expecting Michelangelo's David. To put it politely, it ain't gonna happen.

Most of my textile sources typically offer only the best fabrics. I rarely wonder if I will be disappointed in my latest acquisition. It's only when I venture into the bargain basement zone, that I have issues. So, with the new year approaching, I have decided to take a vow of quality. I will respect my talent and I nurture it in the best way possible - by providing it with only the best raw materials. I will listen to my inner voice when it tells me to back away from the bolt. I will seek out beautiful fabric and eschew the 'too good to be true' deals. In a nutshell:

I will only buy high quality fabrics.

'nuff said

1 December 2007

Putting Out the Welcome Mat

On Siticher's Guild a while ago, some of us were joking around that we could go on a tour of the world, hopping from one seamstreses home to the next. And, although I love the concept of visiting all the wonderful women I have met through SG, I am realistic enough to realize that a trip that takes us throughout all of the US and Canada, to Europe, Australia and beyond is probably not in any of our immediate futures. So, I thought I'd invite you all into my inner sewing sanctum. Welcome to my stash:

Ever wondered what 780 meters (that's around 860 yards for the Americans in the crowd) of fabric looks like? Then, read on...

(caution: the following pictures are graphic evidence of addiction and single-minded obsession - not recommended for the sensitive viewer)

This past weekend, I got it into my head that I had to reorganize my fabric stash. I had been storing woven fabric in a guest room closet and on one side of an armoire, as well as all my knits on the other side of the armoire. I also had three large boxes of fabric right near my sewing machine (which resides on my dining room table until I can find a better location for it). I decided I wanted to consolidate all my fabric into one or two areas.

Next thing you know, I was off to buy a sturdy wire shelving unit. After helping my husband put it together and inserting it in the guest room closet, I started to sort my fabric. I was in organization heaven!!

I now have all my wovens (and a smattering of knits) in the guest room closet, sorted by warm weather fabrics (cotton, linen, rayon) and cool weather fabrics (wool crepe, wool gabardine, wool tweed, wool knits, coating weight fabrics, jacket weight fabrics, bottom weight fabrics, velvets, laces, silks). There is also a section for corduroy and bottom weight denim and cotton. If you look closely, you may recognize some of the fabric - acquisitions from Timmel, Fabric Mart, Textile Studio, Lucy's, Wazoodle, Emma One Sock, Sawyer Brook, Thai Silks, Fabricland, etc. At the bottom of the shelving unit are boxes containing my vintage patterns, BWOF and Jalie patterns. The rest of my "modern" patterns are in three drawers of a filing cabinet in the basement.

In one half of the armoire , I have rolled and stuffed the remainder of my knits. The knits include cotton interlock and jersey, as well as rayon/lycra and and few poly/lycra fashion knits. There is also some microfleece and stretch velvet.

I only have one small box of fabric near my sewing machine now, which holds the fabrics that are next on deck. This pile of fabric used to be taller than me, but most of it has been transferred to the closet now.

Although this reorganization really consolidated much of my fabric and patterns, all my notions (buttons, zippers, interfacing, trim, thread) are still spread out all over the house, in any nook or cranny where they will fit neatly and unobtrusively. My husband and I are hoping to build a new home in the next couple of years. And, let me tell you, I really look forward to having a dedicated sewing room. Then, all my fabric, patterns and supplies can be stored in one room, easily accessible. I swoon just thinking about it!

So, my friends, that is the tour of my fabric stash. So, c'mon, confess to me - how much fabric do you have? Do you stash like I do or do you buy specifically for each new project?

25 November 2007

Vogue 2925

First, a big thank you to everyone that dropped by for my blog anniversary. I appreciate all the interesting answers that were left in the comments. I feel like I know you all a little bit better now.

I do want to answer one question before I get down to it.
  • rosecy said, "Is there a story behind your title "hungyzombiecouture"?
Why yes there is a story. See this blog post for all the juicy details (#1). When I was looking for a name for my blog, I wanted something unique and unpredictable. I sat down and thought about other things I enjoy doing (when I'm not sewing) and watching horror flicks is right up there. So, I combined my two interests into one.

: Vogue 2925

: V2925 comes in size 6 to 22 - I used size 8 for the top. For the skirt, I used size 8 at the waist and expanded out to a size 10 at the hip.

Fabric: For the top: diamond print onionskin fabric from Fabricland. For the skirt: brown suiting from Timmel Fabrics.

Project Photo:

: These are garments number eight and number nine in my fall/winter wardrobe. I have a few other pieces done as well and I will post them over the next several days.

I really, really like this top. It is so simple to put together, but it has an interesting shape - far better than just a plain old sleeveless tank top. The only thing I will change next time I make this top is that I will scoop out the armholes - they are a bit high for my liking. I can see making several more versions of this one. I prefer to wear sleeveless shells under my jackets and this top is perfect.

The skirt has really nifty design lines. I had hoped that I would like this skirt on me much better than I do. Unfortunately, the fullness is not distributed in a completely flattering way for my figure. I think I will still wear the skirt, however, my choice of top will have to be judicious. I can't imagine I will make another version though.

Conclusion: Two more additions to my fall/winter wardrobe. I will certainly be making the top again.

18 November 2007

One Year Older, One Year Wiser?

You may have noticed the new look around here - I wanted to look my best for a special day. Today is the one year anniversary of my blog. One year ago today I decided to start keeping a record of my sewing pursuits by starting a blog. All the other cool kids had one, like Angie, Carolyn, Debbie, Divas, Erica, Gaylen, Isabelle, Liana, Sharon, Stacy, Summerset and Tany to name a few. I figured if these amazing seamstresses had blogs and if I wanted to be just like them, then I better get myself a blog. Since then, I have discovered so many other amazing blogs that I love to visit - I have 255 feeds in Bloglines!!

To date, Sitemeter has told me that I have had over 58 000 hits at my blog. Wow! To think that my blog has been accessed 58 000 times is overwhelming. Even better, is the wide variety of locations where the hits originate. At least one individual from every continent (except Antarctica) has visited my blog. People as far away from me as Japan, the Netherlands, Hungary and Australia have visited. I find it amazing how small and cozy our world has become when I think of people thousands of kilometers away sharing my sewing triumphs and failures, via the Internet. I am also floored when I see locations that are close to me, like parts of Michigan and Ontario - I was most shocked to see someone from Leamington, Ontario visiting my blog (heck, we're only a 30 minute drive away from each other).

So, in honour of my anniversary, do me a favour please. Say hello. I look forward to hearing from old friends and from anyone that visits my blog, but doesn't normally leave a comment. Even if this is your first time here, drop me a line. Tell me a bit about yourself:
  • Where are you from?
  • How long have you been sewing?
  • What is your favourite colour?
  • What's your favourite fabric?
  • For whom do you sew (yourself, your kids, your significant other...)?
  • What is your favourite era of fashion?
Here, I'll start: Lasalle, Ontario; 20 years; red; wool tweed; me & hubby; 50s & 60s.

17 November 2007

I Tried to be Good - Really

Well, I have been stalking Fabric Mart's offering of Anna Sui silks for a while now. I kept talking myself out of buying a ton of fabric because the colours aren't really "my colours." Then, I went to the fabric store to buy lining for a project and had an epiphany. Good Bemberg rayon lining fabric runs about $6 - $10 per meter where I live. The Anna Sui silks are selling for $4.99 per yard. Hmm, it didn't take much for me to realize that I could have beautiful, designer quality silk linings in my garments for the same cost as regular old lining. Who cares if the colours aren't perfect for me? They'll be inside the garment.

And that's when the flood gates opened...

Obviously, I went a bit crazy, but for $4.99 per yard, I think I can get away with it! Most of the fabrics will be used as linings, but I picked up a couple others that were crying out to be a blouse (8th one - cream dots) and a fancy skirt (7th one - black/red/metallic). I also tossed in a free bundle - I have always had pretty lousy luck with the free bundles, but hope springs eternal!

On the sewing front, I have a finished skirt and top to post about and I have been cutting out a ton of simple basic wardrobe staples. More on that later...

10 November 2007

June Cleaver, Where are You?

What ever happened to dressing? Not just putting on whatever is least rumpled at the foot of the bed, but actually dressing. That is, going to the closet to choose a few freshly pressed and well-fitting garments, picking out a great pair of shoes and a handbag, as well as lovely jewellery, gloves and perhaps a hat, to finish an outfit.

When did it become okay to toss on a ratty, ill-fitting T-shirt, a pair of faded jeans (or, heaven help us, a pair of pajama pants) and a pair of day-glo Crocs to be seen in public? Even more distressing, when did it become acceptable to venture out in public showing a distracting amount of skin? I have seen more butt, belly and breast than is necessary for one lifetime. I wish I could say that all these atrocities are only being committed by tweens and teenagers, but, alas, I have seen women of all ages in this type of garb.

Remember the good old days when being a woman meant looking like a lady? Back when no respectable woman would leave the house without checking herself in the mirror to ensure that her outfit, accessories, hair and makeup were as flattering as possible? When dressing down meant putting on a simple shirtwaist dress or a casual unstructured tweed suit. When female role models were elegant and intelligent, well-mannered and poised. I look to the middle of last century, when women like Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Eva Gabor, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Catherine Deneuve, Ingrid Bergman and Ava Gardner were idolized by regular women the world over. It seems that with the death or retirement of these women, there followed a loss of elegance. Nowadays, it is much more difficult to create a comparable list of attractive, accomplished women - the only ones I can think of are Cate Blanchett and Reese Witherspoon.

Now, before I go on, let me clarify. I do not expect the modern woman to clean house in a dress and pearls, a la June Cleaver. Nor do I expect every woman to always have the perfect accessories, with every hair in place. I get it, life is hectic - between jobs, family and domestic duties, a woman's work is never done. However, that does not mean that you need to look like fashion victim. In my opinion, there is no excuse for regularly looking sloppy and/or letting your general appearance go to the dogs. We all have a million things to do in a day, but you can slip on a clean, well kept outfit as easily as an old pair of sweats.

I know, I've been there - during grad school and the early part of my career, my dress code was less than impressive. In the last seven years I have upped the ante and started dressing and grooming better. And, you know what, not only do I look better, I feel better and I'm treated better. Yeah, yeah, I know, we shouldn't judge a person by their appearance, but as human beings that's exactly what we do. If you're now thinking of leaving me a comment telling me that you never judge a book by its cover, save your time - I won't believe you. I'll be the first to admit that the more enlightened individual is capable of putting aside initial impressions and over time develop a better appreciation of the whole person, regardless of the dress code (I try my darnedest to do this every semester when I get a new crop of students). However, most day to day situations do not allow for the slow discovery of all the subtle nuances that make each person special. In most cases, we are in contact with a new person for a matter of minutes and in those minutes, your dress, appearance and general carriage speak volumes. That is why well dressed people are treated better in most situations - they get the best table at the restaurant, the pleasant salesperson, the door is usually held open for them and they tend to be smiled at more often. Like it or not, most people peg you into a category within seconds of meeting you - fair or not. So, why not try just a little bit harder?

Lately, several people have told me that I "dress up" a lot. The comments have come from people of all ages. My students have told me that they like the way I dress - I even had one young lady tell that I was her role model because I was smart and I was always well put together. A friend, who is a bit older than me, told me that she admires my style and although she can't wear the same type of clothing as I do, she would love to start dressing better. Yet, another woman, a sewing friend and mentor, mentioned that she thought it was nice that I wear more skirts than pants. She spoke fondly of an elderly lady in her neighbourhood, who is always dressed neatly, in a nice skirt, blouse/jacket and stockings, whether going for a walk or running errands. She also lamented that we seem to have lost something in our casual lifestyle. I agree.

5 November 2007

Have Ray Gun, Will Travel

In the comments section of this post, nancy k. asked what I would wear with my new fuchsia skirt. miss twist suggested, "I would match the fuchsia with the black Kwik Sew cowl neck and black knee-high boots. Or maybe black knee-high boots, a closely fitted black top, and a ray gun. Oh--and a jaunty silver scarf around your neck."

Well, I don't have a silver scarf, but I tried to give you what you wanted, nonetheless:

And, just so you don't think I'm a total nut job:

Well, it's off to work. I sure hope my students appreciate what a fashion plate I am!!

4 November 2007

In The Pink

I will not wear pink in a box.
I will not wear pink with a fox.
I will not wear pink in a boat.
I will not wear pink with a goat.
I will not wear pink here or there.
I will not wear pink anywhere...um, yeah, you get the idea...

The last time I wore pink was in June of 1989. The closest I get to pink these days is a deep, rich coral orange. I have nothing against pink,
I'm just not a pink girl. I used to be a pink girl, back in the day. However, spending 6 years in the university chemistry department, surrounded mainly by men had pretty much wrung the pink out of me. When you're the only estrogen maker in a sea of testosterone you tend to lose the girly-girly girl stuff in a bid for survival. I found out quickly that pink is not usually taken seriously and I wanted respect. So, out with the pink.

Fast forward to last year. I ordered some red cotton interlock from Wazoodle. What came was not red, but pink. I contacted Wazoodle and was told that the proper fabric would be shipped out immediately and that I could just keep the pink knit. Talk about excellent customer service! Then it hit me - I was now the proud owner of 3 yards of light pink interlock. What on Earth would I do with all that pink? Needless to say, I never formulated a plan and the pink fabric sat in my stash for a year. That is, until this past weekend when I realized that I needed a new lounging outfit for around the house. Out came the pink knit and the rest, shall we say, is history.

The top is Jalie 2682 and the pants are V2989.

I have made the Jalie top several times before and I am smitten with it. I love the collar on this one. It goes together quickly and looks unique and interesting - it's a bit more exciting than a plain T-shirt.

I had planned on using the Vogue pattern to add a few much needed pairs of pants to my work wardrobe. As much as I would like to wear skirts every day, it isn't always practical, like on really cold winter days or on the days that I am crawling around an over stuffed book room at school. I figured I could whip up a muslin and satisfy my need for lounge wear at the same time. I am so glad I made a muslin of these pants - they are definitely not "fit-me-straight-out-of-the-envelope" pants. The rise on these pants is short- very, very short. Let me clarify by saying that I do have a fairly long rise and I don't like my pants too much below my belly button, but even with all that said, these pants are scandalous! I figure I will have to add at least three inches to the top to get these pants from Brittney Spears wannabe to respectable school teacher. Also, these pants are long - I always have to take length off my pants (the woes of being a short runt) and these pants are no exception. I had to remove 3" from the bottom. I will certainly have to make another muslin before cutting into my good fabric or I can just scrap the whole thing and go with a pattern that I know fits better. Right now, I'm unsure of what I will do.

After a few fitting fixes on the pants they are wearable around the house (which is all that they were intended for anyhow) and the top is great as usual.

31 October 2007

Skirting the Issue

Simplicity 4599 is one of my favourite skirt patterns. It is simple and classic, with wonderful lines that flatter my pear shaped figure. I have made this skirt several times and I imagine I will make many more times. My latest versions are quite different.

The first one is made of a RPL gabardine in ivory from Timmel Fabrics. It is item number seven completed in my fall/winter wardrobe. I decided to keep this skirt simple, with no embellishment so that I could get maximum wear out of it. Keeping it plain guarantees that it will coordinate with just about any top in my closet. I didn't line this skirt or the next one, as I usually prefer to wear a separate slip with my skirts.

The second one is made of a brushed wool gabardine in fuchsia that I received in a free bundle from Fabric Mart. Let me start by saying that I haven't worn this colour since 1987 (man, the 80s were bright weren't they?), so when I saw it in the free bundle, I was less than thrilled (not to mention that the rest of the bundle consisted of pastels - if you haven't figured it out already, I am not a pastel kind of gal). Fuchsia near my red hair is a huge no-no, so it was to become a bottom. I am not nearly brave enough to wear fuchsia pants, so a skirt it was.

I decided not to turn up a hem on this skirt, but rather to zig zag the bottom edge. I sometimes like the look of an unfinished edge, plus after I started sewing this one up, I decided I wanted the skirt to be a bit longer than the first one.

After making the skirt, it seemed too plain, so I added a bit of embellishment. I stitched three intersecting ellipses with cream buttonhole thread. I then attached three small buttons and one large button, all in cream, at strategic positions. All the scientists out there will hopefully recognize my inspiration. I figured the embellishment was fitting for a chemist. I really liked the slightly "poodle-skirty" feel of this second skirt - I almost feel compelled to wear it with ankle socks and saddle shoes!

ETA: Marguerite, I self line the yoke. I don't tend to be annoyed by fabric against my skin (as long as it's not super picky), so I can get away with this. Also, I tend to wear a slip and/or tights with my skirts, so the fabric doesn't really touch my skin much anyhow.

28 October 2007

Simplicity 3678

Pattern: Simplicity 3678 (view C)

: S3678 comes in sizes 8 to 24 - I made size 8.

Fabric: Brown print rayon lycra knit from Lucy's Fabrics.

Project Photo
Comments: I really loved the scoopneck version of this dress when I first saw this pattern. So, I rooted around in my stash to find a knit to use. I finally settled on this soft, drapey rayon/lycra knit I got from Lucy's Fabric a while back.

This dress went together easily. I was able to cut out and sew up the dress in one day. Sew on Sunday afternoon, wear on Monday morning. Talk about instant gratification!

This dress is comfortable, yet stylish. I plan on making several more versions to augment my wardrobe. I love a good dress - pop it on in the morning and go!

Conclusion: The day I wore this dress to work, I got some compliments from my students - I guess I'm still remotely hip and happening!!