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!!

27 October 2007

I Refuse to Apologize - Ever

On the discussion boards I frequent, I often see a 'fabric moratorium' thread. On this thread, many women are trying to curb their fabric buying and have banded together with other like minded individuals for encouragement and support. Many of the woman express a desire to have less clutter in their lives and some even go so far as to suggest that building a stash is amoral because North Americans are too materialistic (pun intended) and are too focused on the acquisition of 'stuff'. Although I applaud their willpower and desire to pare down their stash, I will never join their ranks. I believe I am genetically predisposed to acquire fabric - lots and lots of fabric. Before you write me off as a helpless addict or a shallow twit, please read on.

I love fabric. I love everything about fabric. I love the colour, the texture, the drape, the feel, the smell, but most of all I love the possibilities. Oh, the sweet possibilities. To me, fabric is woven dreams and knitted fantasies. My fabric closet is a magical place. It has power. Each piece of fabric that it contains is like a little piece of my soul, my history and my future. The warp and weft are akin to space and time. In my fabric closet time travel is possible.

The cocoa and cream houndstooth wool reminds me of being 18, standing in Shanfield's Fabrics (now defunct). It was a small, cramped shop, filled to the rafters with fabric and embellishments. I can still see Mr. Shanfield pulling bolt after bolt of beautiful fabric off his shelves to tempt me. I was searching for the perfect fabric to create the perfect prom dress. I knew exactly what I wanted - I had spent hours imagining exactly what this dress would look like. As usual, Mr. Shanfield was able to fill my order; like a magician, he produced the exact shade of soft pink satin that I saw in my head. The smooth coolness of the fabric is still ingrained in my memory - it represented the promise of a fairy tale evening to be shared with the first boy that I ever loved - I can still picture the look on his face when he saw me in that dress...but I digress. Obviously, I hadn't come to the store looking for wool, but when I spotted it sitting on the cutting table next to the satin, how could I resist? It whispered to me - promises of sophistication and style, something that I was desperately trying to acquire. Like many young women in their late teens, I was trying to find my niche. I longed to be confident and classic, like Jacqueline Kennedy and with this wool, I felt it might actually be possible. It's now almost 20 years later and it still has the faint smell of promise.

The yellow cotton pique with the flower embroidery takes me back to the spring of 2005. I had just decided to reenter the world of garment sewing. I was standing in the fabric store, second guessing myself. Would I remember how to sew? Would I be able to create a garment that was wearable??? At this point, I hadn't sewn in over 10 years - university and the start of my career had taken precedence. Standing in the store that day, I was filled with self doubt and fear. That is, until I saw that yellow pique. It's sunny colour sang a song of optimism and confidence. It assured me that not only could I sew up a garment, but that it would be an extraordinary garment that would ensure hope and happiness. In that single moment, it became clear to me, I knew I had to sew again - it was a requirement of my existence.

The coral cashmere wool reminds me of my husband. He has been my greatest cheerleader during my trek back into sewing. He encourages my passion for sewing and he truly understands how important this "hobby" is to me. He never rolls his eyes when I tell him about SWAP, or what the ladies on the discussion board are talking about. He is always ready to help me pin up a hem or act as my fashion photographer. He even goes so far as to encourage my fabric acquisition. Each year, when we travel to Toronto to visit his brother, he is sure to include a large block of time to explore the fabric district. He patiently follows me into store after store, carrying my purchases and through it all, he actually seems to enjoy it. Last summer, I spotted the coral cashmere in one of my favourite TO stores. It sang a siren song to me the moment I spotted it in amongst the other bolts. When I decided to purchase a piece, my husband just smiled. No reminders of the size of my existing stash, no snide comments about the cost, nothing negative - just a smile. I am a lucky woman.

Fabric is like a magic carpet, able to transport its owner to any time or location that she desires. The rustle of silk speaks of glamorous starlit evenings. The warm caress of wool encourages thoughts of strolling through the English countryside. The cool comfort of linen brings to mind hot summer days at the beach or garden parties replete with the heady smell of roses. Fabric is the initial stage of a dream, of a hope, of a promise.

So, that's my story. Now, it's your turn. Speak to me ladies (and gents, if you're lurking), share your thoughts on fabric with me. What does fabric mean to you? Does it inspire flights of fancy? Does it fulfill you or does it depress you? Do you revel in your stash or do you find it overwhelming?

In closing, here are the latest bits and pieces that have been added to my stash (from Timmel Fabrics & Fabric Mart - two of my most cherished purveyors of textile dreams).
Rust crosshatched rayon, rust baby cord, rust plaid wool, spice herringbone RPL, black wool satin, brown tweed and white striped cotton shirting

Khaki wool crepe, chocolate RPL doubleknit and Anna Sui paisley silk charmeuse

23 October 2007

Kwik Sew 2856 & Simplicity 4599

Pattern: Kwik Sew 2856 (view A) & Simplicity 4599 (view D - skirt)

: KS2856 comes in sizes XS to XL - I used size XS. S4599 comes in sizes 8 to 24 - I used size 8.

Fabric: Lightweight black sweaterknit from Wazoodle & Black/brown houndstooth wool from Timmel Fabrics.

Project Photo:

Comments: I have made both of these patterns a few times before and they have become "go-to" patterns for when I need a quick, but flattering outfit at a moment's notice.

The unfortunate part of this outfit is the top - the fabric I used was a bargain and like many bargains, it has let me down. I am a staunch believer that my time is too valuable to use cheap fabric, but I let down my guard on this one. The price was amazing, the fabric feels wonderful and it sewed up like a dream. The problem is in the laundering - this fabric attracts every fuzzy in a 50 kilometer radius and it then proceeds to become one with the fuzzies. This melding of fabric and fuzzy necessitates the time consuming ritual of hand picking all the fuzz balls off the top to make it presentable. The jury is still out on how many times I will be willing to do this before I get so frustrated that I consider setting this top on fire. I'll keep you posted.

The skirt, on the other hand, is a dream come true. Boy oh boy, do I wish I had bought more of this fabric when it was available. It is the perfect, lightweight, smooth wool - it is absolutely delicious! I love the fabric and I really love the resulting skirt.

Conclusion: Despite the shortcomings of the top fabric, I really like this outfit. It s simple, smart and sophisticated.

21 October 2007

I am in AWE!!!

If you have never checked out Jules' blog, Handmade Things, then it is way past time that you did. This woman has talent - lots of talent - lots and lots and lots of talent! Every time she posts a new drawing, I literally suck in my breath - her pieces are amazingly life-like and soulful. She not only captures the beauty of the animal, but she manages to convey the personality and uniqueness of each creature that has the privilege of acting as her subject.

So, take a few moments and scroll through Jules' blog - it is well worth the time spent. Her latest drawing of Kimba is exceptional.

P.S. As if her drawing talent weren't enough, she kicks butt at knitting, quilting and a multitude of other pursuits, too!

I Rock!

Rosanne, of She's So Unusual, nominated me a Rockin' Girl Blogger. I just discovered that this honour was bestowed upon me a few days ago, so I wanted to offer up a hearty thank you! It's almost as if she knew I needed a little pick-me-up.

20 October 2007

Q & A

From the last couple of posts, there have been some inquiries. So, gather 'round, it's Q& A time:
  • anonymous writes, "Is the Anna Sui silk a panel 44" wide X 28" long? If so, I'm curious what you plan to make with this and how you work with fabric that comes in panels."
You are correct on the fabric dimensions. As far as what my plans are for the fabric, I must sheepishly admit that I have no clue right now. I bought the fabric because the price was right ($4.99 for silk charmeuse!!) and I like the colours. I hope to become inspired when I have it in my hot little hands. I figure if worse comes to worse, I can use it for lining a jacket or skirt.

  • miss twist writes, "Refresh my memory--RPL is rayon-poly-lycra? As I recall, you use lots of it. What do you like about it?"
Yup, RPL is rayon, poly, lycra. Normally, I prefer to use natural fibers, like wool, silk, linen and cotton. I love these fabrics because they are a dream to sew and manipulate, they are easy to care for and they breathe (I hate being hot in my clothes). However, I always make an exception to the" natural fiber only rule" for a good quality RPL. Each of the ingredients in RPL imbues the resulting fabric with a few wonderful qualities. The rayon, although not technically a natural fiber, behaves like a natural fibre. It is made synthetically from cellulose (plants) and thus, it breathes, dyes well and can imitate many other fibres, like silk and linen. The polyester makes the RPL easy to care for and wrinkle resistant. My RPL clothes are always ready to go straight out of a warm dryer. Finally, the lycra gives the fabric some stretch- as a teacher, I move a lot all day long and the bit of stretch provides an increased comfort factor.

One caution however, do not buy cheap RPL - you will regret it. It will pill, stretch out of shape and snag easily. I normally expect to pay between $10 and $15 per metre for a high quality RPL fabric. Also, be gentle with this fabric - it does not like high heat. So, iron on low and hang to dry (or put in a warm, not hot, dryer).

  • sisidaboom writes, "But what will you do with the first skirt? I keep them around like little trophies of my defeat that drains my creative juices."
I wish I could say that I finished the skirt and donated it to a resale charity like many other seamstresses do. I, however, cannot abide the sight of a failed project, so I chuck it. Immediately. Without regret. I figure, why wallow in remorse that zaps my creative energy when I could be working on the next great project?

***On the sewing front, I have a few projects that I hope to post about over the next few days. I still have a dress, a skirt and a top to show y'all. None of these garments are a part of my wardrobe plan, but when inspiration strikes, it is not mine to question why!

17 October 2007

New Look 6327

Pattern: New Look 6327 - view D

Size: NL6327 comes in sizes 8 to 18. I used size 8 for the waist and 10 for the hip.

Fabric: Camel RPL Gabardine from Timmel Fabrics.

Project Photo:
Comments: This is item number six completed in my fall/winter SWAP.

I have had this pattern for a while and I just never got around to making it until now. I am a big fan of patterns with vertical panels and flare at the bottom, so my desire for this pattern is a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, my first go at this skirt ended in disaster. I flat pattern measured and I was sure it would fit. So, I cut out the pattern, sewed up the seams, overcast the seams, topstitched the seams and inserted the zipper. Just before attaching the waist finish and hemming, I decided to try on the skirt. It was too big. How did this happen? Well, in my enthusiasm to complete another garment, I forgot to take into account the stretchiness of the RPL fabric. At this point, there was no way I was going to pick apart all those finished and topstitched seams - there are easier ways to drive yourself crazy! It's moments like this that bring me back down to earth. Here am I, an advanced seamstress, pretty darn confident in my fitting and sewing skills - and then, whammo, a dose of humility! I guess pride really does come before the fall! :)

So, back to the drawing board. I decided to cut out the same size this time, but to sew slightly deeper seams. The fit this time was much better.

The construction of this skirt is quite simple, so I won't linger on it. However, I do want to talk about a few embellishment tweaks. I topstiched the central front and back panels with brown buttonhole thread. I also sewed on a brown cording and "leather" trim at the base of the skirt where the straight panels join to the ruffle. I think this gives the skirt a bit more interest.

Conclusion: A simple skirt with great lines. All in all, an excellent addition to any professional wardrobe.

14 October 2007

Back on Track

Well, for obvious reasons, I have been sidelined in my sewing pursuits lately. Today, however, is the day. The day to regroup...the day to refocus...the day to recommit! I have a fall/winter wardrobe plan in progress and I will not give up on it now. I had a skirt almost finished two weeks ago and it needs to get finished (today). I also have another (not in the plan) skirt just waiting for a hem and waist treatment.

I will admit to not feeling very inspired lately, but it's amazing what buying a butt load of fabric and patterns can do for a person's psyche. So, yesterday I went cyber-shopping.

First Stop : Fabric Mart
We all know about the big wool sale at FM. I finally gave in yesterday and purchased some gabardines (black and taupe) and crepes (mustard and dark periwinkle), along with an Anna Sui silk charmeuse (on sale too).

Second Stop: Sawyer Brook
Although I have done a bunch of browsing at SB, I have never taken the plunge and purchased anything. Yesterday, one of their fine wools spoke so loudly to me, I knew it was fate. The wool of which I speak is named Curcurbits and it is a multicoloured wool tweed. While browsing the sale category, I also picked up some avocado wool double knit (for $12/yd!!) and some wool/cotton/lycra suiting in desert (the off-white one on the right in the third photo below).

Third Stop: Lanetz Living
I love LL. I would love to pile up all her patterns and roll in them (seriously). So, yesterday, I went, I browsed, I bought. BTW, take a look at the last pattern - am I the only one terrified by the envelope art that McCall's used in the 70s? **shudder**

5 October 2007

Sad News

My grandfather died very early on Thurday morning. He was 94 years old and had been having a difficult time in terms of his health for a long while. I wish I could say that this makes his death easier to bear.

Please understand if I continue to be in "blog silence mode" over the next few days.