Saturday, November 15, 2014


I'm going to start moving my content over to WP.

I want to be able to give you more consistent linkage and content, and I can't do that here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Teaser: Or, what I did to redeem a no-good, very-bad day

Today we were *supposed* to get my 10yo daughter's braces off... and then she and her brother had a field trip scheduled to Legoland.  What a busy, happy day!

But 10yo woke up with a fever.  We took her to the orthodontist, vaguely hoping he'd still pry off all that metal.  Nope.  No ortho.  And no Legoland.  I got BFF to take my son to his field trip (I had all the passes) so at least he didn't have to stay home.  10yo and I hung out... she coughed, played Minecraft, and took a nap.

Me?  I took the extra day at home with nothing planned and started on my Christmas sewing.  (I know, I said I wouldn't do any.  Did you believe me?)

Eees plushy and soft and squish.  Have I mentioned that I have a textile PROBLEM?  :)

Dork: Feeling like a big girl

Don't ask me why, but finishing that coat makes me feel like a big girl.  Like I'm a real seamstress now.

I'm so squee.  I need to fix the hem.  But I'm still squee.


Yes, I'm a dork.  Hey, this is my blog.  If I'm all, "Yay I can do this!" and silly, this is the place to say it, right?  :D

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

All the Vogue 8346 posts

Sometimes I hit blogs to see how people made something and I can't find all their construction notes.  And that bums me out.  So I'm going to take a minute to put the linkies here so you can see them.  (They're in reverse order).

Any other construction notes?  Oh.  Yeah.  Sewing something with 4 foot long princess seams was NOT NICE.  Baste 'em.  Baste everything.  Swear and baste and baste again.  There is one of the front seams that I just gave up on perfecting after sewing it about 15 times.  (Seriously).  It kept pulling off, the weight of the wool just - yeah.

Ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille...

We are DONE!*

 A fully lined, perfectly fitting, overcoat.  Vogue 8346, for those playing along at home.   She weighs 6lb!!

It is made in 100% wool with a polyester brocade lining.  (If you're going to sew your own coats, get a great lining.  I could have gone plain.  I agonized over "will this be flexible enough?"  It is.)

Changes in the pattern?  The original pattern calls for faux buttons on the front, with snaps (snaps???!!?) to hold the coat front closed.  The original pattern doesn't call for any of the interesting hand tailoring that I did.  I also made the sleeve a two-piece sleeve.

You can see that I put in two sets of buttonholes - only one of which is visible from the outside.  The other set fastens a hidden (flat) set of buttons.  When we *do* get inclement weather here - it's windy.  No sense having a coat that won't stay closed.

I moved the buttons where I wanted them, choosing a single line to the side.  I think this is flattering to my figure.

Yes, the coat has pockets!  I nearly didn't put them in, and I did have to move them up for my short arms... but I have pockets.  :)

Plenty of room in the sleeve and the armhole for the warm fuzzy sweater I am not wearing at the moment.  But still - a good fit through the torso.  Layering room w/out being sloppy.  Yay!

This little gal has been YEARS sitting in my cedar chest waiting for me to get up the courage to make her.  And now that I've made her, I expect to get decades of wear from her.

It's a banner day, folks.  A banner day.

*  There's a little weirdness happening with the hem.  I'm going to let her hang a bit and then I'll see what needs fiddling with.  She's ankle length, if you were wondering.  High ankle, a good length to keep all of me warm but stay mostly out of the mudpuddles.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sewing and Design: Finding the Happy

How to make clothing that flatters your figure:

1)  Find out what flatters your figure.  Older books are often better about being blunt about this.  Newer style books will say, "oh just wear whatever".  Don't.  You know this.  Another good way to see what flatters your figure and face - photographs.  An old photo of a blouse I made ages ago has inspired me to try a whole new neckline.  Likewise, the "almost good" isn't good enough for you to make with your own little hands.

2)  Get ideas.  What you don't want to do is just look at whatever is in the mall and say, "woe is me.  Batwings are in and they make me look like a linebacker".  You'll end up finding a less-linebackery batwing... but why not avoid it altogether by finding something that truly flatters YOU?  I like scanning vintage patterns for this - you can get ideas that aren't currently en vogue and use those to your advantage.  Yes, something that was all the rage five years ago will look dated today - but something all the rage 20 years ago?  You could just be ahead of the style.

3)  Be honest.  If you know perfectly well that you can't wear a certain shade, don't.  Buy it in a throw pillow for your couch.  Buy a shirt for your beloved.   Just don't put it on your body.

4)  Have some fun.  But what about that color that *does* look amazing on you?  Why not pair it with that neckline that hasn't been seen for 40 years and do something amazing?  Buttons and trim are part of play.  For instance, I get mad compliments on that blue and red blouse - I wouldn't get half so many if I hadn't said, "what the heck - it'll be bright, but I know those colors rock on me" and gone for broke.  Do eet.

5)  Learn a basic pattern, then play with it.  If you look at the vintage patterns, you'll often see a basic shell dressed up or down or sideways with different collars.  The bodice is the same - the collars make all the difference.  Or the sleeve.  If you don't have figure issues that prevent sleeve play, by all means do something with your sleeves.  Sleeves are expensive to mess with in terms of time, so you won't see much ready-to-wear with interesting details... you could make something amazing.  (Vintage patterns are great for sleeve inspiration).

6)  Play up your best features, and change them around if you can.  Bright eyes?  Velvet skin?  A throat that makes swans envious?  Show them off.  This *can* be sexy, but doesn't have to be.  It will be beautiful.  Be comfortable in your beauty.

7)  Play with texture.  I know certain textures are my friends and some are ... not as friendly.  Lace and tweed and leather and knits... they love me.  I love them back.  Why not wear lace with tweed?  I can pull it off.  Maybe you look amazing in the most pulled together, controlled stuff... take it to the max.

Above all - keep your eyes open to the "yeses" and start plotting the garments of your dreams.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On Being a Lady: Be Kind

Ladies are ladylike because they want to be ladylike.  No one will force you to be a lady, not in this day and age.  In fact, people will look at you askance if you make an effort to be a real lady.

And as fond as I am of little gloves and tea sandwiches, those do not make a lady.  You can be a lady stark naked in the rain... have you never read "The Princess and the Pea"?  Take the real lesson - that who you are isn't about what you show on the outside, but who you are in a trial.  (Skip the lesson about being oversensitive).

People are hungry for kindness.  Give it to them.

People who don't deserve your kindness will be confused when you give it to them.  Allow yourself the amusement at being so dreadfully confusing - and be kind.

It doesn't matter who the object of your kindness is, or what they've done.  Be kind.  You are a lady for yourself, and for God.  That's your motivation.  You hold your head up, you smile, you act with consideration... and you point them to Jesus.  Mess with those paradigms!

Everyone expects everyone else to act like a gutter snipe.  Because that means you're getting your own, or saying what you have to say or being yourself.  Well, guess what.  The person *I* want to be is kind.  So I'm going to be kind.  So what if you ...................?  Oh, you think I don't know what you did?  Pish.  I do.  I'm still going to be nice to you.  Could I humiliate you?  Yes.  But then I wouldn't be who I want to be.

My end game is making God look good, and hopefully getting a few more souls interested in Him.  I'm not going to do that by seeking my own.

So.  You want to be a lady?  Learn to be kind, and start practicing it, all the time.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Crafting a Wardrobe

I've been thinking about craftsmanship lately (see previous post) and looking at my wardrobe and thinking thoughts.

As I hang the laundry out to dry... I see the things I've made for myself and for my family.  What worked?  Where did I use the right level of craftsmanship?  What would I change, going forward?

I'm slowly crafting a wardrobe.  And I'm starting to get a feel for what pieces are here for five years, for two, or just for one.  Cotton blouses?  One at their best, the second year a bit down-at-the-heels, and then gone.  Cotton skirts?  Two years at their best, the third a bit down-at-the-heels, and then off we go.  Denim?  Until it rips!  I still have all the denim skirts I've sewn, although the first two are definitely "down-at-heels".   I can get years from a good dress - if I take care of it.  My coat should last decades.

I'm slowly getting an idea of what I wear ... and what I should stop wearing and/or start wearing.  I have a wash and wear life, very casual.  I *do* clean the floors in most of my clothes... and I rarely visit an office.  That doesn't mean I shouldn't be lovely - and that doesn't mean I shouldn't enjoy some craftsmanship.  My hard work makes my clothes last.  Knowing what looks good on me and works in my life means I very rarely donate clothing - I tend to wear it to rags.  (It's time to go through things and be firm with myself).

I'm reasonably pleased with what I have made.  Yes, the little quilting cotton dresses I made for my daughter are much the worse for wear.  But - they got WORN.  So - the fact that I didn't put a ton into most of the dresses (excepting the lace bibbed one) is okay.  They're all 2" too short now.   Faded.  Stained.  Loved.

Next sewing season?  I'll make the girl up a stack of stash-busting dresses and try out a few new lines.  I know what comfy little cotton dresses have in store for them - and being slept in, spilled on, and grown out of... why not use these for experimentation?  A wardrobe of "wearable muslins".  I'll save my couture techniques for other things.

DH's shirts are still going strong.  I need to find a color that is not blue for his shirting!  He doesn't need any shirts right now, but when it's time, I think I'll start from scratch and make him a sloper of his own.  I fiddled with the fit here and there and everywhere with those shirts, and I'd like a clean copy.

14yo still has those jammies... they're getting worn holes in.  I think making him some pajama pants instead of separates might be in order.  French seams?  Worth it.  Good quality flannel?  More so.  Quality shines forth with real wear.

The four shirts I made?  The blue eyelet is pretty faded.  Oh, not so badly I can't wear it... but by next spring, it will need retiring.  That was a *great* color/vibe/fabric.  I reached for that shirt over and over.  The bright blue was just as comfy, but only coordinates with my denim.  I'll get more wear out of it now that I can wear the denim again.

The green linen skirt is the only "meh" - not really its fault.  I know what's happened to all of those full swoop skirts... and it happened to this one.  It pulled off of grain at the seamline, all the interfacing in the world couldn't save it.  That skirt  pattern is much better as a six-gore.  If I get adventurous, I might re-cut it as something else.  Certainly enough fabric.

None of that is very exciting I suppose... too detailed.  But what it comes down to is that I'm happy to use basic good sewing skills on the clothing that I wear, I'm sloppy and playful with my 10yo's play-clothes, and more textile-oriented when it comes to the menfolk.

The more I learn, the better the return I get for my time and my money.

Craftsmanship pays.

To Discuss: The Purpose of Art, Craft, and Beauty

I was watching a documentary on haute couture the other night while I was adding the interfacing to the shoulders of my coat.  The documentary went behind the scenes to meet some of the women who buy haute couture, as well as following a dress made by Karl Lagerfeld for a runway show.

Haute couture is *extraordinarily* expensive.  However, it is not simply conspicuous consumption  - it is expensive because of the materials and craftsmanship.  One of the former workers at a couture shop estimated that a couture garment takes up to 150 hours to create.  150 hours with the most skilled hands on the planet, with the finest materials, with no slightest thought to stinting on anything, anywhere.  The result?  Everything I've ever read about couture says that it is like nothing else - that it feels like part of your body, it is so beautifully fitted.  One of the people interviewed said that the fabric preparation meant that the garment would not wrinkle, treat it as you wished.  These garments are works of craftsmanship, finest craftsmanship.

Of course the people who buy a blouse that cost about the same as my car aren't sitting on uncomfortable chairs or wearing uncomfortable shoes or eating off of ugly chipped plates.  And these are the class of people (growing smaller all the time) who have always been the supporters of the arts.  If we are to have a painting that takes three years to complete (check the dates on some of the works of the old masters) then we must have someone willing to pay to take care of the artist and his retinue for three years while it is being completed!

So - if we are to have dedicated artists, who do nothing more than create the finest ... whatevers ... then we must have people who can afford to support said artists.  Is that right?  When children starve, should someone make something pretty for someone who could afford to feed a town on the cost of the pretty thing?

And yet art, and beauty, they are necessary to the human soul.  Humans create art, all humans create art, all humans enjoy beauty - in some form.  Although I don't wear garments that feel like a second skin, it pleases me to know they exist.  And in their recycled form (as museum donations), I am able to enjoy those garments insofar as they are beautiful.  Not so much as the owner... but still.  And stepping away from wearable art - what of sculpture and paintings and fountains and beautiful furniture and gardens.. the original owners wanted to inhabit a beautiful space, to be inspired, to feel a sense of wonder.   And now I can visit the palace of Versailles or the Forbidden City - and I can marvel.

I'm leaving this question open, because it's a real question, and I don't know that it has a final answer.  Do we walk to the side of utility - do we become socialists, and share everything out and make sure every belly is fed and every head covered and... and... and... before we start making luxury crafts once again?  And when is it okay?  Where's the line?  Or do we side with Marie Antoinette, letting the peasants starve in our cloth-of-gold dress?

For myself... I tend to be mentally of the Arts and Crafts movement.  I strive to get rid of the ugly stuff, and pay for good craftsmanship, beauty and utility.  Beauty matters to me - but so does charity, and I am well aware that all of this world will burn while the souls of men will last forever.  But ah - beauty.  My heart dances to your song with its every beat... I could never be plain - I love pretty things far too much.

And I'll confess, one of my fondest daydreams of Heaven is being able to create... I do hope I get to make pretty things for all my friends, and I'd love to make everyone my friend.  Not a bad way to spend eternity, n'est pas?

So write me a response and let's think about beauty and its place in this world together.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sewing Kit: What You Need

It's that time of year again... when everyone is about to make their Christmas lists.  If you're thinking about taking up sewing, or dusting off the sewing machine and really using it, here's a list of gear and goodies:

1)  A basic sewing machine

2)  Good quality shears.  I have a pair of Ginghers and they're the bomb.  Can be purchased on sale, and these are like a good kitchen knife - indispensable.   If someone wants to get you a tiny pair of likewise good quality scissors, little scissors are good to have too.  (You get the good shears resharpened periodically - yes, just like good kitchen knives).

3)  Measuring tape.  Measuring metal thingie.  You have to have the first, the second is nice to have while you're learning to fold over 5/8" seams (you can press right on it, it's metal).  I went years without a clear, gridded ruler - but I don't know how I managed. I use the thing constantly.

4)  A good quality iron, and an ironing board.

5) Steel pins and a pincushion.  Okay, steel headed pins aren't required, but who wants to melt the plastic-headed kind?  I like to have a couple of pincushions.  They're cheap and having a pincushion where I pin and where I take the pins out is nice.

6) A tailor's ham.  Okay, if you're just starting - you don't need this yet.  But you *will* need it, so ... hey.  (If you're making anything fitted, you need one).

7)  Surgical tape and a bit of tissue paper.  Go ahead and just use tissue until you develop a need for the good stuff, then Swedish Tracing Paper is the bomb, for sure.   Regular tape melts under a hot iron, not optimal.  Speaking of, I need to get more surgical tape!

Here's my book list:

Vogue Sewing Book - Okay.  There are a lot of instructional books on the market, and they're probably all decent.  But this is the one that has ALL the basic instructions.  Like having that one classic cookbook in your kitchen.. you need this.

Sewing Machine Classroom -  Love this book.  Very clear instructions, it's on a ringbinder, it's just all with the happyjoy.

Threads Guide to Sewing - I know, you have the Vogue.  But this has some info the Vogue does not, particularly in regards to sewing things other than clothing.

If you can snag a Better Homes and Gardens sewing book from the '60s at an estate sale or something, do.

If you have a Joanne's within 45 minutes of your home, sign up for the mailer.  If it's within 20 minutes of your home, sign up for the text alerts (assuming you don't pay for texts).  They have *ridiculous* sales.  I think Hancocks does too... but they aren't in my zone.  Seriously.  You're never going to pay more than $5 for a "Big Four" pattern ever - and the 40% off coupon *on every mailer* can help with those scissor purchases!

Hope this helps someone........... :)

(PS did some solid work on the lining today and fidgeting with the shoulders, I ended up interfacing them with hair canvas, they lacked structure).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thanks, Mood!

I've been looking for the right fabric for a cape for my daughter.  She, as you may have noticed, is a typical 10yo, with a passion for Hello Kitty, pink, purple and pastels... and you may NOT have noticed that she's only a few inches shorter than I am.

Does everyone remember the lovely Chanel-like emergency jacket that I made for her, the year we randomly had temperatures in the 30s... for a month?

Ah.  Well.  I'm a little sad that I didn't take the time/have the time to properly tailor the front of that jacket... but it's as well, because it was too small the year after.  -sighs-

So when I was at the ASG meeting and they had a pile of "take what you want", I snagged a cute cape pattern.   My thinking is that even though I expect she will grow like a weed for the next few years, a cape won't get instantly outgrown.

And then the fabric search was on.  I wanted a wool - the point is to be mildly waterproof and pleasantly warm, and to last.  *She* wanted purple or pink or light pink or light purple or light blue... I wanted a color that wouldn't scream "little girl" next year when she's in middle school.

First I hit Fabricmart, they of the wonderful and regular sales.  Glory be!  They had a bright purple wool flannel and a BRIGHT pink (the shade of her bedsheets).  Hooray!  I shall wait for a sale...

I waited a whole week for a a sale - but I guess all the Anna and Elsa costumes ate up that wool (lovely stuff) because it was *gone*.  -sigh-

Page after page wandered along... I found a cute purple plaid at Sunni's online shop, and she had a sale... why wasn't her sale working... dangit it
ended yesterday.

Flick.  Flick.  Flick.  Well.  I know Mood has a website, and they tend to be expensive, but why not take a look?  OH!  Look at the pretty rose - a more sophisticated shade of pink, and *just* the color of her lips... in a plaid with a brown the shade of her hair... Oh!  And *this* wool is half the price of the other wools... I guess it's a closeout.

-click to order-

Thanks, Mood!  :)

(PS I have flu, which while not particularly unpleasant, has left me energy-free... so I'm not sewing.  Shopping yes.  Sewing no.)