30 March 2009

Lacquer Lundi

One commenter to my blog had expressed concern over the detrimental health effects that could be caused by the chemicals found in nail polish. So, I wanted to provide some information that I have dug up on the subject. Like most lifestyle choices, I believe it is up to the individual to make a decision based on knowledge and personal preference. I have never been one to blindly believe what I'm am told - as a scientist, it is in my nature to do research and weigh the information accordingly. I have obviously come down on the side of nail polish being a very minimal health risk (especially if one is using the polishes created in the last few years).

If you wish to read up on this subject, I have provided a couple of links (and these links contain further links) below that beautifully sum up my thoughts on the subject:

The Big Three: On the blog, All Lacquered Up, the following questions are answered: What are the big three? What do they do? Why are they harmful? In this entry, a list of references and further reading is linked.

"Healthier" Polish: All Lacquered Up provides an excellent list of polish companies, categorized by what they do and don't contain.

Now, on to the pretties:

Rimmel Lycra Wear 10 - Azteque
- purchased at Rexall (chain drug store) for $2.66 CDN

This product claims to be "up to 10 days nail colour." I suppose that is true - my polish started chipping after less than 24 hours, which is technically "up to" 10 days. In all fairness, I was washing out test tubes at school, so that is likely the cause of the shortened wear time. I have a few other bottles of polish in this line, so I will give them a fair go and see if they fare any better under less soggy conditions. Other than the wear issues, the polish applied nicely and was fully opaque in two coats.

I bought this polish because I fell in love with OPI Baguette Me Not (scroll down the page - it's part of their France collection). Since OPI polishes are hard to find locally, not to mention the exorbitant price (usually they run $10- $12), I decided to try the Rimmel as a cheaper alternative. I must say that when I compared the Rimmel to online swatches of the OPI polish, the colour match was pretty good.

Sally Hansen No Chip 10 Day - Chocolate Dream

- purchased at Shoppers (chain drug store) for $6.49 CDN

I love this colour! It is like coating your nails in dark chocolate - the whole time I was wearing this polish, it made me crave fudge. The base is a deep dark brown packed with gold/copper shimmer. Gorgeous! My photo does not do this polish justice - I wish you could see it in person.

The polish applied nicely, although it was just slightly runny. Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing that this polish could last a full 10 days on my nails, as I had a few very minor chips and tip wear (which can be seen in the photo at left) after 24 hours. At that point, I took this polish off as I don't like any chips on my nails (not to mention that I have a ton of other polishes that are screaming to be tried). However, this polish is still acceptable in my books because of the beautiful colour. I may end up using it mainly for pedicures as polish tends to last much longer on my feet.

OPI - My Private Jet

- purchased at Trade Secrets for $ 7.96 CDN

There is some controversy with regards to this polish. There are two different versions of it in circulation - a holographic version (which is highly sought after) and a plain glitter version. Apparently it is nearly impossible to tell which polish you have just by looking at the bottle. It's the application on the nail that makes the determination. So, needless to say, I was disappointed that I got the latter version - at first. Then I started really looking at this polish. It is really wonderful, even if it isn't holographic. The base of this polish is a charcoal grey (which can look dark brown or dark purple as well, depending on the lighting) with tons of multi-coloured micro glitter (the photo to the right is slightly blurred to show the variety of colour found in this polish). It really is a beautiful polish if you are into vampy (dark) colours.

This polish applied well, as with most OPI polishes. It required three coats to become opaque and it wore well for the two days I wore it. I also have to mention the brush - it is such a nice shape and width that I find polishing with it is a breeze.

China Glaze - Japanese Koi

- purchased at Sally Beauty Supply for $ 3.99 CDN

After wearing two dark polishes in a row, I wanted something funky and bright for the end of the week. So, I went for the most day-glo polish I own. Nothing like bright, highlighter orange to sear the eyeballs! I couldn't capture the intensity of the colour in a photo; in real life the orange is even more intense - it almost glows.

This polish is from the INK collection (six polishes that pay homage to tattoo art). I have two other polishes in this collection and I will be adding more if this polish is any indication of the quality of the rest of them.

I love China Glaze nail polishes. The consistency of the polish, the ease of application, the pigmentation, the range of colours, the excellent wear - this is brand is certainly one of my favourites. The only downside to this particular polish, as with all neons, is that they dry matte. So I simply added a shiny topcoat to get the maximum in-your-face look. This is three coats and it is still a bit see-through, but not distractingly so. I wore this polish for three days and other than some slight tip wear, it held up extremely well.

Last but not least, I wanted to take care of a inquiry by the fabulous Cidell, "Question: how often are you changing the color/using the remover. I've noticed my nails splitting more than usual and am wondering if the two to three color changes a week are to blame. Do you ever let them 'breathe' in between colors?"

In terms of letting my nails "breathe", I personally don't think it is necessary as nails are just dead tissue made of keratin, a fibrous protein, which is incapable of breathing. I think the key is to moisturize the nail, the surrounding cuticle and skin. This will help reduce peelies by getting the keratin fibres to lay down flat, much the same way conditioner can smooth the hair cuticle (which is also made of keratin). On a typical polish change day, I get home from work and remove my old polish, slap on a thick layer of moisturizing balm on my nails and cuticle area, then get on the treadmill to exercise. Afterwards, I shower and my nails are ready for new polish.

I change my nail colour every day or two; at most, I keep my polish on for three days. So, I use a lot of polish remover on my nails. Rather than weakening my nails, I have noticed that in general they break less (I think the polish helps to structurally strengthen them). However, I do have two nails on my left hand that split on a regular basis. However, they did this even when I didn't wear polish, so I think they are just an inherent weakness of these two nails. I have been looking into taking a biotin supplement, as biotin has been shown to strengthen brittle nails. I'll likely post more about this when I have completed my research.

28 March 2009

I Shop, Therefore I Am

In the comment section to my last post, Dawn writes, "Shannon the fabrics are beautiful. Being stuck in a Fabricland wasteland I have wondered about ordering from FM. Could you share your experience of the cost of duty in getting fabrics across the border? I may have to succumb!!"

I am in much the same boat as Dawn. The only fabric store within 20 km of me is Fabricland, which is a Canadian chain store. Fabricland has a rather hit or miss assortment of fabrics - I have found some beautiful silks, wools and linens there, but to say that the quality of the offerings is inconsistent is an understatement. Not to mention, the prices are sometimes insane - for instance, Fabricland sells mid-quality silk dupioni (with a permanent crease down the middle of it!) for $35/m CDN. Online, I can purchase high quality dupioni for $10.50/yd US. Even with the exchange, shipping and customs money grab (which isn't always charged), it makes more sense to buy online.

So, over the years I have increasingly turned to online shopping for my fabric purchases. In today's post I wanted to list out some of my favourite US haunts (in reverse alphabetical order).

Vogue Fabrics
Vogue Fabrics has a wide range of knit and woven fabrics - silk, wool, linen, cotton, rayon and blends. They also sell trims, notions and patterns. The fabric they offer is available in a range of prices and quality, so a rudimentary knowledge of textiles is helpful to weed out the great bargains from the junk. Although I am not a member, I still appreciate the Vogue Fabric by Mail swatch club, as the coordinating fabrics they put together are inspirational. I have never had a unfortunate purchase from Vogue Fabrics.

Thai Silks
Thai Silks has a huge assortment of silk fabrics - from chiffon to georgette to organza to charmeuse, in a wide range of colours and prints. This is the place where I buy my silk organza for underlining. I have also made a few other fashion fabric purchases too.

Textile Studio
Textile Studio carries fabric and their own line of patterns (the original patterns in this line were designed by Loes Hinse). The fabric offerings are unique and interesting and much of it is the drapey, spongey fabric that is superbly suited to Textile Studio and Loes Hinse patterns. A large portion of my stash has come from Marsha, the proprietress of Textile Studio, who truly understands the meaning of customer service.
ETA: Textile Studio will no longer be carrying fabric. This wonderful resource is another casuality of the economic down turn. So sad.

Sawyer Brook
Sawyer Brook is a purveyor of beautiful, higher end fabrics, as well as buttons, lining and interfacing. The fabric selection here is not huge, but it is exemplary. The quality of all the fabrics I have purchased from them is astounding. However, you do pay for this privilege - be prepared to shell out between $10 to $100/yard. However, if your budget allows, this etailer cannot be beat.

Lucy's Fabrics
Lucy's Fabrics is my go-to place for excellent knits - cotton and rayon being my favourites. They stock a wide selection of solids and prints, suitable for children through adults. You can also find lingerie fabrics and notions, as well as trims, buckles and purse hardware. Laura, the owner of Lucy's is a master of customer service and I have never been disappointed by her. She is also a dog lover which earns her an A+ in my book.
ETA:  Lucy's Fabric no longer carries a large selection of fashion fabrics.  This has been a major blow to my stash of knits.

Fashionista Fabrics
Fashionista Fabrics has a small, but impressive section of fabrics - in the categories of wovens, wools, cottons, silks and knits. Melody, whose customer service is simply the best, also stocks the latest Burda magazine and an assortment of notions and vintage patterns. I have been known to go on some major hauls thanks to this wonderful online resource of succulent fabrics.

Fabric Mart Fabrics
What can I say about Fabric Mart? There is a reason why this etailer is near and dear to the hearts of many a seamstress. Their fabric selection is constantly changing, with an assortment of silks, wools, linens, cottons and blends available on any given day. A knowledge of fabrics is certainly helpful, as the textiles range from high end beauties to low end garbage. However, my hits at this site far outweigh my misses and I wouldn't give them up for anything. I can easily say that a good half of my (1 100 m) stash has come from FM. They also carry buttons and other basic notions. One of my favourite things is their free bundle that gets sent along with your order if you make a minimum purchase (usually $75) - I love the surprise of mystery fabric and the bundles have provided me with some inspirational pieces.

Emma One Sock
EOS is not for the bargain hunter. Linda, the owner, scours the NY fabric scene looking for unique fabrics, often designer in origin. You must be prepared to pay for these exceptional fabrics - there are no $4/yard offerings here. However, if you are looking for something interesting and certainly not run-of-the-mill, this is the place.

So, these are the online US retailers that I stalk most often. As of late, because of the decrease in the Canadian dollar and a lack of storage space, I have greatly diminished my fabric buying. Lastly, let me say a bit about Canadian customs. It is random. I have had $200 parcels make it through customs with no charges and I have been nailed on packages $20 in value. For the most part, anything over $40ish is going to get nabbed by customs and I will have to pay. As an example, my last order from Vogue fabrics was for $157 dollars and customs asked for $14.30 (sales tax + $5 custom's processing fee). Considering, I can't find fabrics like this locally, especially at such good prices, I feel the online experience is worthwhile.

25 March 2009

Better Grey than Never - Part 2

In a previous post, I introduced you to the start of my grey wardrobe capsule. At this point, you have seen two pairs of pants - light grey and dark grey. Although this was a great start, now I needed to make something to wear on top.

Enter the Loes Hinse Sweater Set (view B long sleeve cardigan & view C sleeveless shell - size XS for the cardigan and XXS for the tank top). Being the first time I had made this pattern, I decided to make up a trial run out of some crinkled two layer grey knit fabric I received in a Fabric Mart free bundle. It was a fabric that I never, ever would have purchased for myself based on both the colour and the style, so I figured it was no loss if the twin set didn't work out. Well, the two pieces came out perfectly and since the colour of the bundle fabric was a such a nice match to the light grey pants, I decided to wear the outfit to work. I couldn't believe the number of compliments I got that day! It just goes to show that sometimes I need to broaden my fabric horizons.

In the same Fabric Mart free bundle, I received an onionskin fabric, with swaths of dark and light purple and green splotches on a greyed out background. It called out to be made into a Loes Hinse Tango Skirt (view A - size XS, shortened it by 3"). Since the onionskin is fairly see through, I made a second Tango skirt out of a gold poly knit (also from Fabric Mart) to wear under it. This is such a cute, flippy little skirt. It sews up extremely quickly and since it has so many seams, fitting it is a breeze. I will certainly be making many more for the summer months.

Since I have some onionskin fabric remaining, I will likely make a top out of it as well. That way I can have a two-piece dress look in the print and it will mix and match with the other pieces in this wardrobe capsule.

Up Next: More additions to the "Better Grey than Never" capsule wardrobe.

23 March 2009

Lacquer Lundi

Before we get to the pix, I was asked by some readers to share my nail care routine. A bit of background first though, just to put it all into perspective. I am a chemistry teacher and therefore suffer the double whammy of chemicals and chalk on a daily basis. This can leave my skin, cuticles and nails very dry (although thankfully, unlike many of my colleagues, I have not developed the dreaded chalk "allergy" that causes cracked, painful skin).

My Routine:

File. I like to file my nails (when needed) before I remove my old nail polish. I find I can get them more even and consistently shaped this way. Right now, I'm using plain old cheapo nail files, but I'm thinking of switching over to a crystal file as soon as the old ones are used up. During the school year, I tend to keep my nails fairly short - they usually don't extend much more than one or two mm beyond the tips of my fingers. Sometimes, I will let them grow out longer, but as soon as a break occurs, they all get filed back down. As for the shape, I like them to be square with rounded edges (I hear this is referred to as squoval). I just find my nails are stronger and less prone to breaks and chips with this shape, rather than the oval shape I preferred as a teenager.

Polish Remover. I use any inexpensive acetone remover (I like Sally Hansen Moisturizing Formula). Many people will find acetone too drying for their nails, however I find I have to work too hard and too long with the acetone-free removers. This is especially true with the polishes that I love the best - the ones chock full of chunky glitter. It can take me upwards of twenty minutes to remove these polishes. Therefore, the acetone-free remover is in contact with my nails for a longer period of time, leaving them more dry and flaky than with the acetone remover (which seems to do the same job in one quarter of the time). I do, however, try to purchase the acetone removers that have conditioning agents added, to lessen the drying effect. Lastly, I have switched from using cotton balls over to cosmetic pads - they are sturdier and they don't leave lint on the nails.

Cuticle remover. I use Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover. I only use this treatment at most once a week as it can be harsh on my skin. I prefer to only remove obviously dry, dead skin and hangnails. I never clip my cuticles as it only seems to make them ragged looking. After the treatment, I wash my hands thoroughly, with soap and water, to remove any product residue. It is important to remove all treatments and oils from nails before the base coat is applied.

Base coat (BC). I really like Sally Hansen Nail Quencher Hydrating Base Coat. A heads up to the Canadian ladies, if you like this BC, stock up now, as far as I know it is being discontinued in Canada - I just stashed away four bottles myself. I also sometimes use Seche Clear. I think a BC is very important for several reasons - it preps the nail to accept polish, it evens out the surface of the nail and it prevents yellowing when using highly pigmented polishes. I try to never skip the BC. I always allow my BC to completely dry before applying polish (usually two minutes is enough).

Polish. I apply anywhere from one to four coats of polish (usually two coats does the trick), depending on the opacity of the polish being used. I don't like the look of sheer polishes that clearly show off the whites of my nails. So, when working with a sheer (or semi-sheer) polish, I will either add more coats to the nail to build up the colour or layer the polish over another non-sheer one. I prefer fast drying polishes, but I'm not tied to them. I tend to wait until each layer of polish is dry to the (light) touch before proceeding with the next coat.

Top coat (TC). I will only use a fast drying TC, like Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat, as I do not have time to sit around and baby my nails. With a fast drying TC, the polish will be dry to the touch within a minute or two. However, I don't do any intensive hand work for about an hour (however, I can easily type without any worries of smudging). I also use Seche Vite, which is also quite good. However, it is twice the price of the SH TC. So, in my opinion, the SH TC is a much better buy. Both products provide a very shiny finish to the polish, which I usually prefer. As well, a TC is invaluable to smooth out chunky glitter polishes, as they can make the nail surface feel quite rough, due to the glitter sticking out.

Cuticle oil/balm. After my polish and TC are dry, I moisturize, either with cuticle oil or balm. I like Haken Cuticle Oil. It comes in a variety of pleasant scents; I use the mango version. I also use California Mango Mend, a cuticle, nail and skin balm which smells pleasant. I have also heard good things about Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter (although I'm a bit concerned that it may smell like Pledge). I try to remember to apply the oil/balm before I go the bed each night. Often, if I'm sitting in front of the TV or computer, I will apply the oil/balm then and rub it in.

Hand Cream. I am not very particular about hand cream. I usually just use Aveeno Intense Relief Hand Cream, mainly because that is what I have around. My only stipulation for choosing a hand cream is that it doesn't have an intense odour (odour-free is preferable), since some perfumes make my allergies go crazy. I try to apply hand cream every chance I get - at home and at school - although I don't apply as often as I would like, because I hate getting moisturizer in my rings. Last, but not least, each morning when I apply sunscreen to my face, I give my hands a dollop too. We all know that sun damage can prematurely age our faces, but don't forget that it can have the same effect on our hands.

Now, on to the pretties:

China Glaze -Turned Up Turquoise
- purchased at Sally Beauty Supply for $3.99 CDN

This polish is from the China Glaze INK Collection, a grouping of intense neon colours, inspired by tattoo art. It appealed to me because of the unique colour - a bright teal leaning toward green with a subtle shimmer.

The two coats of this polish were a breeze to apply, however, like most neon polished it does dry fairly matte. As I prefer a shiny finish, I was sure to apply a top coat. I had no chips and very little tip wear over the two days that I was wearing this polish.

Orly - Country Club Khaki
- purchased at Sally Beauty Supply for $5.99 CDN

This is a brand new polish released for spring 2009 by Orly as a part of their Prepster collection.

It is a beautiful taupe creme, with subtle lavender undertones. It is an excellent colour for when you want a neutral with a bit of an interesting edge.

The formula of this polish is very good - easy two coat application and good wear. I really like the shape of the bottle and the feel of the brush - it is easy to hold onto and makes applying the polish easy.

In a New York Color Minute - Times Square
- purchased at Rexall (a CDN chain drug store) for $1.39 CDN

This next polish is for Maggie, as she mentioned in last week's comments that she would like to see a deep coral shade. This polish fits the bill - it is a dark, rich coral creme that just screams spring.

This is another brand new polish, released this spring by New York Color. All the polishes in this collection have names based on the city of New York, like Broadway, East Village, Fifth Avenue and so on. I absolutely adore this new line of polishes. Many of the colours are modern and fashion forward. The polish applies easily due to a good formula and a nice sized brush. It also covers nicely, dries very quickly and wears well. Add to that the extremely affordable price and we have a winner!

21 March 2009

Better Grey Than Never - Part 1

It all started with a cardigan...

When grey became a popular colour the past couple of seasons, I realized that I didn't have a single grey garment in my entire closet. So, jonesing for a quick fix, I went shopping with a friend. I know, I know, RTW is considered blasphemy in many circles, but I wanted grey and I wanted it now! At Mexx, I found a really cool piece that had a bunch of elements that appealed to me. Grey - check; argyle - check; cardigan - check; deep V-neck - check. So, I scooped it up and brought it home. There was only one problem - I had absolutely nothing to wear with it. So, in an attempt to remedy the situation, I purchased two beautiful wool gabardines from Fabric Mart - one in a light dove and another in a darker steel shade. Both these fabrics were made up into Loes Hinse Hepburn Pants. (Big surprise, eh? I think this is the fourth garment post in a row to feature this pattern. What can I say? Carolyn brain washed me into embracing TNTs!) See the results below:

As you may be able to see in the photo to the left, I had to do some repair work on the dark grey pants. I had almost completed the pants, when I noticed a tear in the fabric. I don't know how I missed it during the cutting out, construction and pressing, but there it was. Thankfully, it was located very close to the inseam, so it wasn't in a totally conspicuous spot. I debated about trashing the pants, but I figured I would try salvaging them. I pressed some fusible interfacing to the inside of the pant over the tear and then zig-zagged over it. In the picture, the flash brings out the shininess of the thread and makes it look more obvious than it is in real life. The first time I wore the pants to work I asked my friend to look them over with a critical eye and tell me if she saw any problems. It wasn't until I actually pointed out the repair that she noticed it. So, disaster averted!

In the picture to the right, you can see the dark grey pants paired up with the inpiration cardigan. I really like the way these two garments look together.

Up Next: Adding to the "Better Grey than Never" wardrobe.

20 March 2009

Casual Friday

Today, I thought I'd show you an outfit that I put together a while back. I wanted an outfit that I was casual, yet pulled together. I don't like resorting to looking like a slob if I wish to be comfortable. I'm fairly certain that one of the signs of an impeding apocalypse is the public donning of pajama pants and flip flops by the masses. But, I have ranted on this very subject in the past, so I will leave it alone today.

Anywho...the pants are yet another pair of Loes Hinse Hepburns. This time I made them from some luscious heathered brown RPL fabric that I purchased from Timmel Fabrics (see at left). I absolutely love this stuff, it looks like quality tropical wool, it launders well, it wears like iron and it is a great colour. I truly wish I had bought more. (On a side note, I have been jealously hording my Timmel RPL ever since Julie closed down her business. I can't seem to find another source for it in my area. Does any one have any suggestions for online retailers of high quality RPL?)

The top is the Loes Hinse V-neck Tunic (view A with 3/4 length sleeves and a turn up cuff). The first time I made a muslin of this pattern, I used my typical mix of sizes - XXS for the shoulders, bust and waist, grading out to an XS for the hips. Unfortunately, I found the hips to be a smidgen tight, so on this go 'round, I sewed 1/4" seams in the hip region, instead of the prescribed 3/8" seams and that fixed the problem. The fabric I used is a Roots thermal knit that I purchased from Wazoodle several years ago (see above). From a distance it reads as forest green; on closer inspection, one can see navy yarns in the mix. It really is an interesting piece of fabric.

As the V-neck of the tunic is lower than I like, I usually pair it up with a brown sleeveless Loes Hinse Princess tank underneath (see this post for the details - it's the middle one in the picture at the bottom). In the photo to the left, you can also see that I accessorize with a great brown/green/cream striped scarf that I bought at a local clothing store. I toss on my brown mary jane Clarks and I'm good to go.

19 March 2009

Shoe Business

As a teacher, I am on my feet several hours a day, whether I'm actively teaching a class, doing lunch duty or on hall supervision. My feet get quite the work out. I used to be able to wear sky high heels and never blink an eye. Well, apparently it's time to pay the piper. As of late, I have found that my feet are getting wider (countless hours of standing + gravity = clown feet) and many of my shoes are becoming tight and unbearable. So, I went on the hunt for some comfy, yet still fashionable shoes and I wanted to share one of my major successes.

Clarks Marilla from the Artisan Collection
* These shoes come in four colours: black, dark brown, vampire red and stone (taupe).
* I purchased my black and brown pairs from Soft Moc and the red pair from Walking on a Cloud (both Canadian retailers).

Originally, I purchased the black and the brown pairs since the colors are such wardrobe staples. I had heard good things about the comfort of Clarks shoes and I figured I'd give them a whirl around the house and if they weren't living up to my expectations, I could return them. Well, I was bowled over - I simply cannot say enough good things about these shoes.

First off, they are very well made - the leather is quite supple and rich looking. I hate paying a decent amount of money for shoes and then they look cheap or like they are ready to fall apart.

Secondly, the style is quite nice. Often, comfort and style don't tend to go together. Admittedly, they are not cutting edge high fashion, but the mary jane is in style right now. The double straps are interesting and add to the flair of the shoe. They have a platform base and a decent size heel (2.5 inches), which I need at school - I hate being the shortest person in the room! I have found these shoes to look great with pants and with skirts.

Lastly, the comfort, oh the comfort! I can wear these shoes all day long - walking around my classroom, up and down stairs, racing after students in the hallways - and I have no discomfort whatsoever. I find these shoes to be far more comfortable than my running shoes (I know that statement sounds like hyperbole, but it's not). The platform and the heel are like mini shock absorbers for my feet. The rounded toe allows ample room for my big ole wide feet, so no squished toes. The straps keep the shoes snug on my foot, so no blisters. I love these shoes!

As a matter of fact, I love them so much that I just bought the red pair and I am thinking about buying the taupe pair as well.

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with any of the companies mentioned above. I just wanted to share a great find with y'all.

18 March 2009

Bolero me Over

I have several more garments made from Loes Hinse patterns to show you over the next little while. I figure I had better get them posted now, as the weather seems to be warming up and spring is approaching. So, I need to post the remainder of my winter sewing endeavours.

First up is another work combo - pants and a jacket. The pants are more Loes Hinse Hepburns (view A), made from some lovely dark caramel wool broadcloth I purchased from Fabric Mart. This pattern has quickly become a TNT for me this winter (at last count I have made five pairs). I can see myself making it up in linen for the summer as well.

The jacket is a Loes Hinse Bolero jacket (view A), created using some fabric remnants I had left over from other garment projects. This was my first attempt at making this jacket (although I have made other LH jackets) and even though I was pretty much certain of the correct size and I flat pattern measured carefully, I still wanted to check the fit. I grabbed the couple of pieces of leftover fabric and got to work. In the end, not only was the fit pretty darn good, I ended up with a great looking jacket. I got tons of compliments when I wore it to work, so I knew I had a winner. The next time I make this jacket, I will nip it in a smidgen to help define the waist area, as it is a little more boxy than I prefer. My favorite part of the jacket? The closure - it is a nifty vintage metal clasp that I found on eBay and it makes the jacket special.

As a final note, whenever I see the LH Bolero pattern, it reminds me of seeing Torvill & Dean perform at the 1984 World Figure Skating Championships in Ottawa. I was a huge figure skating fan in my early teen years and my aunt was kind enough to take me to the Worlds. I will never forget seeing their bolero performance live and in person - to say it was magical is an understatement. I can actually remember people around us holding back tears at the end of their performance.

17 March 2009

Music Soothes the Savage Sewist

Often when I'm home alone, sewing up a new project, I like the serene silence of a quiet house. Better yet, if the weather permits, I love to open the windows and listen to the calming sounds of nature; the birds, the crickets, the breeze blowing through the trees...

Other times, I like to crank up the tunes and bust a move as I sew. At these times, I pop in the Jill Scott, India Arie, Eva Cassidy, Joss Stone, Annie Lennox or Robbie Williams. So, the CDs by these artists are played a lot and I was getting bored with my selection. So, off to Amazon.ca I went, looking for recommendations. You probably already know this, but Amazon will suggest CDs to you based on your prior buying habits. I often find interesting new (or perhaps new-to-me is a better description) artists this way. If I see something that looks promising, I bring up the YouTube and give a listen to a few tracks. If I like what I hear, I buy the CD.

My latest acquisitions include the following artists: Adele, Jully Black, Divine Brown, Melody Gardot, Sia and Lizz Wright. If you like bluesy, jazzy, soulful female voices, give these artists a listen - you might hear something you like.

On a final note (pun totally intended), I have to admit to one guilty musical pleasure that I have indulged in lately. I have been listening to Tom Jones incessantly - from his early years right through to his latest CD. The other day I had the CD cranking in my truck when my best friend got in and she asked who was playing. When I told her it was Tom Jones, she said, "Really? Isn't he kind of...ya know...cheesy?" Well, he may very well be, but he has one of the most amazing voices ever. This man can sing just about every modern male artist under the table and then some. And don't even get me started on those hips:

16 March 2009

Lacquer Lundi

It looks like a great majority (78%) of readers are interested in nail polish reviews. So, without further ado, let me first tell you a bit about my nail polish philosophy:

* When it comes to nail polish, I am basically a magpie - the brighter the shade, the weirder the colour and the sparklier the polish, the more I'm drawn to it. I do have many traditional colours - reds, pinks, neutrals - but my heart always beats a little faster when I see a polish chock full of glitter!

* I don't freak out if I break a nail - I just file them all down to match.

* I keep my nails fairly short - anything too long and I can't function properly at work.

* I am not a polish snob - at this point, I own polishes that run any where in price from $1 to $17 per bottle. I have found that price is not necessarily an indicator of quality.

* I am easily distracted. I don't generally wear a polish for very long (I like to switch things up every 1 to 3 days).

* I am very hard on my hands - I don't baby them. Between all the chemicals I use at work (the joy of being a chemistry teacher) and all the gardening/housework I do at home, my hands get quite the workout in any given day.

Now, on to the pretties:

Rimmel Play Fast - Out of Control

- purchased at Zehrs (a chain grocery store) for $2.29 CDN

I love this polish. The consistency is good, not too runny, not too thick - so application is a breeze. The brush is easy to control and is a good size, so three swipes of the brush and the nail is covered.

It has decent pigmentation - these pictures are two coats, although three coats would have been more opaque. This is a fast drying polish - my first coat was dry in one minute and the second coat was touch dry within 2 minutes.

But, the best part - the colour, oh the colour! This polish is the most beautiful shade of dark orange, with light orangey-gold micro glitter. It is simply gorgeous.

I wore this polish for three days (during which I was tough on my hands) and I didn't suffer a single chip. The only evidence of a three day old manicure was some slight tipwear. This polish is a winner in my books.

BB Couture - Frosty Meadow
- purchased from overallbeauty.com for $8 US

I wanted something green for St. Patrick's Day and this bottle jumped out of my stash and into my hand. It is a beautiful rich green base with small gold glitter. I realize that green is probably out of the comfort zone for many people and may not be work appropriate for most. I'm lucky that I can wear wacky nail polish to work and no one bats an eye. For people still wanting to give it a go, it might merit consideration as a great weekend or pedicure colour.

The application is a little difficult for the first coat (it's streaky), but all subsequent coats are easy-peasy. Three coats were required to build up to the bottle colour, but it is well worth it in my opinion.

This line of nail polish boasts a "4 in 1 formula", which means that it has "base coat, top coat, nail strengthener and color in one bottle." However, I always use a basecoat to avoid yellowed nails, but I did not bother to use my usual topcoat.

I have had this polish on for two days with no signs of any chipping and only minimal tipwear.

15 March 2009

Blast from the Past

I truly believe the old adage "nothing ventured, nothing gained." Especially as it applies to sewing. I'm always saddened (and rather annoyed, I must admit) by people that post on sewing discussion boards asking questions about things that they could easily figure out on their own, either through research or hands-on learning. Sometimes it's pure laziness, but more often than not, they seem paralyzed by the fear that they might do something wrong. To that I say, "Who cares if you're wrong? What's the worst that can happen?" So you wreck some fabric - there will always be more fabric. So you waste some time - learning something new, even if it's just how to avoid making the same mistake twice is valuable. So you have nothing to show for your efforts - well, maybe you don't have anything material, but you will have gained knowledge and experience. But, I think the more important lesson here is "What if you succeed?" Either way, taking a risk and venturing outside your comfort zone is always a good thing.

That is how I came to make my second Prom dress (my high school boyfriend was a year older than me, so I needed a dress for each of our senior years). I wrote about my first Prom dress in an earlier post.

By the early spring of 1989, I had been sewing for a full year and I felt confident enough to tackle another formal dress. I didn't want any old Prom dress though, I wanted a fabric fairytale. I would be a beautiful princess in a sumptuous gown, Prince Charming basking in my glory. At 18 years old this seemed like a perfectly logical desire and I had the means to achieve it. So, I set to work.

I found the perfect pattern - puffed sleeves, nipped in waist, full skirt. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the identity of the actual pattern now, although I have been on many searches through vintage pattern websites looking to jog my memory. Up next was the hunt for the fabric. I was unsure of the colour when I walked through the fabric shop's door, but when I saw the heavy pale pink satin, I was smitten. To really make this gown a show stopper, I picked out various beaded and sequined lace motifs to embellish the bodice - the small local independent store I shopped at was renowned for their amazing bridal lace selection.

I wanted this dress to fit like a dream, so I started by making a muslin out of some yellow cotton broadcloth. Then the real sewing began. I worked on this dress for two solid months and it became a labour of love. Often I had no idea what I was doing - I had never worked with a difficult fabric like satin before. So, I improvised and researched and figured it out as I went along. In the end, I created a garment that was a test of my tenacity and skill, but it was a completely fulfilling experience.

Here is a photo of the dress and a closeup of the embellished lace on the bodice. I have kept this dress for 20 years and about once a year, I pull it out of the closet as a reminder of how important it is to accept a challenge.

Oh yeah and don't forget: "Beware the Ides of March." If you happen to know anyone named Brutus, don't turn your back on him today!

14 March 2009

More Zesty Duds

Recently, I professed my love for orange and I was quite pleased to hear that I'm not the only one that adores this fab colour. Lately, I can't seem to get enough of this juicy colour - anything from rust to coral to pumpkin catches my eye and renders me speechless. Viva l'orange!

In that vein, I have another tangy outfit for your viewing pleasure. With the brown and orange herringbone RPL fabric that remained after making my skirt, I whipped up a pair of Loes Hinse Hepburn Pants (I used view B). I love this pattern! The fit is much more flattering on me than I expected. I figured the wide legs would overwhelm me (I am only a paltry 5"3" on a good day), but they are actually quite appealing. I used size S (small) for the entire pant and this proved to be exactly what I needed for a good fit. The only tweak I made was to use a sorter length of elastic in the waist to cinch it in a bit more.

The top I made to go with the pants is from a really cool knit fabric that has a mottled orange and brown design, as well as a random raised pattern knitted in. I purchased the fabric from RB Fabrics (a lovely little independent store that I would love to shop more, but it is a 45 minute drive for me). This fabric is heavy and drapey and gorgeous - I wish I had bought more. The pattern used is the Loes Hinse Bianca Top. I combined the long sleeves of view A with the body of view B. I love this pattern too! This top was a perfect fit with very little tweaking - I used XXS for the shoulder, bust and waist, then graded out to an XS for the hip. This top now fits exceptionally well and I know I will be making countless more versions of it.

When I wore this outfit to work the first time, it got rave reviews. It's amazing that the simplest patterns can be made up into eye catching garments, mainly through the use of unique fabric. I have really been embracing this mind set (subtle pattern - super fabric) as of late. It is a philosophy that I learned from Loes Hinse (see the Casual Elegance site for the Gallery pictures and the S Magazine articles for some inspiration) and it really has made my work wardrobe better. Over the next while, I will be posting more of my Loes Hinse garments, as I have been on a real LH pattern kick for the past several weeks. So stay tuned.