Thursday, April 8, 2010

This was a Rough Draft

After feeling guilty last weekend for building a shelf, planning an entertainment center redo, scraping and re-painting a basement wall, taking a trip to Evanston, IL, installing window shades, hanging new kitchen decorations, finishing an upholstery project, and spending time with my aging grandfather on Easter...instead of sewing something to blog about:

I realized it's silly to feel bad about not sewing when there are so many other awesome things I do. Therefore, I'm declaring THIS blog to be a rough draft. I invite you to come to my new all-encompassing blog at:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One of Those Days

I had one of those days were I planned on really getting things done. I've got about six projects started but not finished and THIS was going to be the day they all got done. The blogosphere would be astounded by the number of projects I cranked out.

Instead everything went wrong. Nothing went right. All I managed to get done was this one lousy purse and a matching headband. Even with this purse I ripped out and redid parts of it several times. I'm not happy with the results but fortunately you have to be right on top of the thing to notice. I'm just glad that the fabric is so much fun. It's an upholstery fabric I bought after breaking my new year's resolution to not buy more fabric. (That was on January 21st. Don't judge me.)

So this is all I've got to show for my big plans.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The First of a Hundred

If you’ve been a fan of Elle or Marie Claire magazine, or if you watch Project Runway then you’re familiar with Nina Garcia. I don’t read the magazines she’s worked for and I don’t watch the show she judges since I don’t have cable. But I’ve read all of her books about style. I just read her book The One Hundred – A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own and it just about smacked me on the head. I couldn’t put it down. The title says it all plus it’s peppered with inspirational, funny, and right-on fashion quotes and drawings that make you feel like you can truly look good in every item she mentions.

I was so pumped after reading this book! This blog is pretty new. So far it’s kind of a mishmash. Sometimes I feel like sewing crafty. Other times I feel like being practical. And sometimes I really want to stretch my skills by using couture/designer techniques. Garcia’s book encompasses a little of everything, too. That’s why it hit me on the head when I read it.

I decided that this blog needs some direction. A goal to aspire to. So I’m going to sew or make myself something from each category on her list. When I can, I’m going to combine it with the running list of techniques or concepts I want to learn or perfect.

Item Number 1 of The One Hundred is the A-line skirt. Which is basically any skirt that starts narrow at the waist and gets wider as it goes toward the bottom so that the skirt itself resembles the letter A. It makes the list because it's so versatile. It flatters pretty much every figure and can be worn casually with sandals and a T-shirt or it can be dressed up with heels and a nice blouse.

So, having date plans with the Conductor to see a movie and have dinner, I made this one:

That's Butterick 3526. I shortened the length since my legs are shorter. In addition to being an A-line skirt, this one's also a wraparound skirt that I've made before in denim. It's a great pattern.

When I bought the fabric, it was wrapped on the bolt inside out so I thought it was just black embroidery. But when I opened it up to use it, I found it actually had sequins on it.

I also made the jewelry myself. And for the matching headband, I used my new favorite pattern discussed in my "I Need A Victory" post. My camera must've burped. It looks like I fused two pictures together, but I didn't.

I'm pretty pleased with the whole ensemble. Next up on The One Hundred is "animal prints".

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tie one On

Tonight I babysat a nephew, My Dear-0. He looked far too casual so I decided to make him a tie. A few months ago I was on the lookout for old ties at the thrift store for a yet-to-do project.

I found all these stuffed in a bag for $5. Added bonus, it was half off day. Forty-seven old ties for $2.50!

First, I took the tie and wrapped it around My Dear-O to see how much length I need. You have to remember to leave enough length to allow for the knot! (I didn't on my first try which is why this awesome green tie didn't make it to the final product).

If you look at a tie, both ends are pointy. The fatter point is the part that the man wears facing out. What I'm doing is using the smaller point as the front of my nephew's tie. So, once I figured how long I need it, I cut off the excess on the bigger end.

You can see that the new end is actually wider than the front of the tie.

If this is the case, then open it up a little and trim out some of the interfacing and seam allowance to reduce the bulk. The back of a tie is typically handsewn but I just machine sealed it because, heck, it'll be the back anyway. And a 19-month old doesn't care if seams show anyway. I'm holding part of the interfacing that I cut out just to give an idea of how much I cut out. And you can see in this picture, that I used a pin to remind myself not to stitch the back seam all the way up to the top so I have room to flip the raw edges in for finishing.

I turned the raw edges in and finger pressed them as I stitched it shut. And now My Dear-O can tie one on. Actually two:

Casual Guy (with supper splotched on his jeans)

Party Guy (dancing on Auntie's table with one shoe shoe on and one shoe off):

Typical male...two minutes with these ties on and he's already feeling choked.

Is that him making the "noose" motion at only 19 months old!? Just like a boy...

These could also be a cool Daddy/Son project as I saw on one blog (from before I needed to cite properly) where the mom bought two ties. She kept one for Dad and converted the second into one for Jr. so they both had a matching set.

Clearly My Dear-O is the son of a fashionista. He found my heels and he was actually walking in them better than some women do!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wearin' o the Green

So if you read my last post, you might remember this dress. It's one I kept after my cleaning bender because, while it's not the most flattering on me, it's tied to a good memory, I love the color, and I love the fabric.

We had a pretty warm St. Patrick's Day and spring is in the air. Plus the fabric is an eyelet so I jumped right into converting the dress into something spring-y. The problem with it is that the waistband is so high up that the skirt falls like a maternity top over my (galdarn) potbelly. So I decided to separate the bodice off and make a skirt.

Using a seam ripper, I carefully separted the zipper from the side seams of the bodice, keeping the zipper in place on the skirt part. Then I ripped out the top from the skirt:

I trimmed the zipper but left about an inch on to make sure I could tuck it into the new seam.

This dress was lined so I just flipped it inside out, applied some interfacing to the waistband to stiffen it up then stitched the new waistband in, capturing the edges of the zipper to seal them in. And this is what I ended up with:

I kept the skirt on since the Conductor came over for a half-Irish, half-French dinner. And, while I know this is a sewing blog, can anyone resist the taste of HOMEMADE carmel sauce? Making homemade carmel is almost as easy and satisfying as sewing!

So...what will I do with the top part of the dress? I have two ideas and hope to post the results soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

I’m reading Nina Garcia’s newest book, Style Strategy and it’s pretty inspirational so far. Her purpose for the book is, as she writes, “to help propel you forward into that place where style and shopping are one.” In other words, where what you buy is in balance with what actually works for your style.

She writes that, for many women, our closets are like the expression “water, water everywhere…but not a drop to drink”. We women have closets bursting with clothes. And yet anytime an event comes up, be it a baseball game or a night at the opera, we somehow have NOTHING to wear.

We all do it. We keep clothes because they bring up a fun memory, because it was a gift, because we feel stupid for buying into a horrible fad, or because we spent a sinful amount of money on it. Or how about because we are absolutely convinced it will fit us again…someday.

These things take up space in our closets despite the fact that they’re worn out, outdated, ill-fitting, and unflattering. I only got four chapters in and I was MOTIVATED. I was gonna do it! Clean out the closets and drawers and boxes and find all the stuff that just doesn’t work for me and clear it out.

So, I grabbed a can of rocket fuel and three garbage bags. Three bags is a lot. But darnitall, the time had come to toss what doesn’t work. I set out, determined to find three bags worth of stuff to toss to the Goodwill.

And this is what I ended up with:

NINETEEN bags of clothes that no longer work for me!!! I didn’t even think I owned that many clothes! The purging produced mixed emotions.

This sweater was an easy toss. It’s one of those things that’s super comfy….but I faced the reality that I am way to busty to be wearing such a bulky sweater.

I went from mad to indifferent with this blazer. It’s a favorite but I sloshed coffee all over myself wearing it and stained it. But I happen to have a piece of wool that’s incredibly similar. The cut of the blazer is kind of 1980’s so now I’ll be able to make one with the exact same color blend and weave, just in a more modern cut.

Can you even tell the difference? (The arm is resting on the new fabric).

This pile was a bummer

In sewing class we were taught sewing techniques. But we were not taught about fit, form, or flattery. So I MADE this whole pile of tops years ago. They look like this:

I’ll be blunt. I’ve got big jugs. And if you’re gonna carry big jugs, you need big arms to do it. I do not have the upper body figure for tops like this. What a blow to have to toss so many self-made items!

This one made me almost cry. It’s one of two vintage suits that I bought. True vintage in good shape is hard to find. I found ‘em but they’re two sizes too small. I guess I thought that if I squeeze my eyes really hard and click my heels three times, maybe they’d fit. I’m going to try selling them since I just can’t bear to give them away.

I love this dress. I love the design, the color, and the fabric. It’s the dress I wore to stand up with my friend when she and her husband renewed their wedding vows. She wore a similar one in white. Dresses like these are NOT the right style for either one of us (gosh darn potbellies!) but they were the style and all we could find that year. THANK GOODNESS I sew. I love so much about this dress to toss it, and it’s attached to a great memory. So I'm going to try and re-purpose it.

I made this Bill Blass designed blazer (Vogue 2464). It doesn’t fit. At all. But darnit. I’m keeping it. I don’t care how hard I have to squeeze my eyes and how many times I have to click my heels. It will fit me. Someday.

I know I’m not the only one that has the bad habit of buying way more than she should. My sister came over and saw the Goodwill pile. Her comment? “Wow you really did some shopping, didn’t you?”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Announcing my Flouncing

Back when I first started sewing, blouses like this were popular:

I DESPERATELY wanted one but could never afford one. And since I wore uniforms to school, there was no convincing my mom to buy one. I love flounces. They’re so feminine and frilly. But I’ve always shied away from sewing them. Flounces are essentially one huge stream of curves. And I couldn’t figure out how to get a nice finished edge. You simply can’t do it perfectly just by turning under the edges and sewing. Way too putzy for me. And the flounce is what catches the eye – so it’s got to be perfectly curved.

But after years of not having a date for Valentine’s day…or dating someone that avoided the day altogether out of terror or cheapskatedness…I finally had a real date - a very nice date - for this past Valentine’s Day. And I wanted to look frilly. But with what?

Then I went up north to visit a friend and stumbled into a new thrift shop. And, if by fate, I found this pattern in the pattern bin.

That’s New Look 6463 - uncut to boot! Then I stopped into JoAnn’s and, again, fate turned my head and I found they had the cutest satin fabric – black with white butterflies on it – on sale $2 a yard! Well, I’m not one to ignore fate. It was Fate telling me to attempt a flounce by giving me a super-cute pattern and just the right fabric all in the same weekend. But I was really freaking out about the flounce. I was down to the wire with Valentine's Day just around the corner. I had to get it right on this one shot or else - GACK - buy a storebought outfit for the big date. God forbid!

It finally occurred to me to try lining the whole thing, including the flounce. The pattern doesn’t call for lining but I couldn’t conceive of any other way to make the hems nicely rounded and keep it flounce-y at the same time. Worked like a charm!! The whole thing came together like a dream and I loved the results. The only problem was I had no time to make an equally girly top to go with it so I had to pair it with a lame white sweater top. But I was so jazzed about getting a flounce right on my first attempt that I didn’t even care! And The Conductor keeps asking me out so, apparently he didn’t mind the lame sweater either.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Need a Victory

Here’s my next Weeknite Whip-up. Normally this would not be a project I’d do during the week. This is actually my go-to project when I’m having a bad sewing day. You know….when the machine keeps jamming or you’re constantly ripping out to re-do, or when you finish a project only to discover it looks like crap on you. On a day like that, I need a quick victory. Something to remind myself that I AM great sewist. This is typically my I Need a Victory project:

That’s a hobo bag using Butterick 3925, View D. I typically use 1-5/8 yards and can get the bag plus the half-square head bandana out of it with scraps leftover for quilting. And I can get the whole she-bang made in a half hour, restore my sewing sanity, and get back to the project that was frustrating me.

But about today….I have this thing where my stuff has to match. Look at this picture (aside from the fact that the mannequin looks like a Hell’s Angel’s escapee that got caught in the rain & had to pull a dress out of the rag bag).

But look at those shoes. I see blue, green, orange, and apricot in the dress. Yet the shoes are….red. What the heck is up with that?? That totally doesn’t match. Accessories are supposed to enhance the outfit –not stand out like a sore thumb.

I think my need to match goes back to when I was a kid. I read this book (can’t remember the title) but one of the characters had a pair of shoes and a matching purse – a different set for every day of the week. I so, so, so wanted to be that girl. The idea of matching accessories with every outfit was just so very Grown Up.

So that’s why my I Need a Victory projects are always a hobo bag and scarf. It’s a set. It matches.

But variety is the spice of life. Sometimes I don’t want to wear a scarf. I’d rather wear a headband. So far, I’ve only been able to make them out of knit fabric since it’s got the stretch. I couldn’t come up with a good way to make them out of wovens except to do a simple long, oblong scarfy thing. And I don’t like those because I don’t like a big knot under my hair and most times they slip off. Then I stumbled upon Suzanne's blog She crafted her own pattern for a woven fabric headband and was generous enough to share her pattern as a free download. Awesome!

And on days when my potbelly’s not too embarrassing, I like to wear a cute belt. In even more serendipity, I stumbled upon Kari’s post for quickie webbing belts for babies. And inspiration struck. I mentally smacked myself on the head because it never occurred to me that a matching belt could be so easy. I took Kari’s idea and added the steps of: making a casing out of my bag/headband fabric, turning it right side out, and running the webbing through. Then I added the D-rings. And this is what I came up with (please excuse my potbelly):

And I made the whole ensemble in less than one hour, after working all day. Now THAT'S a victory.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eyelet Go of the Dream

When Sarah, the first of my siblings announced that she was expecting a baby, I thought, “Yea! A new generation to sew for.” So I immediately began accumulating eyelet. My head was full of all the gorgeous girly things I could spin all that eyelet into. First would be the pearly white christening gown with a long cascading flow of eyelet and lace. Second, there would be a crawler with ruffled green eyelet bloomers followed by a first birthday dress in pink eyelet with an extra pouffy skirt. Then a red eyelet Christmas dress followed by a baby blue eyelet romper for Easter egg hunting. Yards and yards of girly cuteness.

Well, it’s been six years and four of my siblings now have kids. All…boys. Bah!!! I stumbled upon my stash of eyelet the other night. I was about to mourn the fact that I have no nieces and then I thought, the heck with it. I’m cute! I’ll make some things for me!

Pajamas! My requirements for pajamas are simple. One, I don’t like being constricted. I absolutely cannot wear those godawful nightgowns that button all the way up the neck and button down at the wrist and hang al the way to the ankles. Gack! I also hate wearing undies to bed. As a four year old I know once told me, “Sometimes you have to let your crotch air out.” (Gotta love a four year old). Unfortunately, the houses in my neighborhood are very close together. So I also need to find a balance between proper coverage and unrestricted comfort.

I decided on a pants set from Simplicity, #4792. I thought the design would work perfectly with eyelet. The pattern is super easy. I made the pants in about 45 minutes after adapting the pattern to be ankle length. The top went together just as easily. The most time consuming part was making homemade bias binding for the arm holes. There are no zippers, snaps or closures which I love. Top slips on over the head and pants have an elastic waste. The white eyelet came from the fabric store and the green is a border print I found at a thrift store.

In time I hope to show you what I do with the rest of my eyelet. I have one in black and two color-on-white prints that I want to turn into summer tops. I also have a cute white one that I'm hoping to make into a vintage chemise.

But just watch…Now that almost all my eyelet is turning into stuff for me, one of my sisters will announce she’s pregnant with a girl.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Artsy Fartsy

The fellow I’ve been seeing (I’ll call him The Conductor) asked me to go to an art exhibit of black and white photography. I really enjoy going to art exhibits, museums, and the like. But I also find it intimidating.

Milwaukee is such a segregated town. Not just racially (which is an issue in and of itself) but sub-culturally, too. We’re a town divided into parts and neighborhoods that not only have names, but their own identities. Riverwest for the hippies. The East Side for the yuppies. The South Side is where all the blue collar workers live, and so on.

I’m a South sider, born and bred. I come from a long line of middle-class working folks. And I’m proud of it. Stereotypically speaking, that means I come from a long line of people with no couth, no sense of class, and no sense of taste.

Unfortunately our segregation has spilled over onto the suburbs too. West Allis, for instance, has long been viewed as the armpit of south east Wisconsin. Cudahy is even more working class than the south side. But then there’s the towns on Lake Michigan’s north shore like Fox Point, Glendale, Bayside, and Whitefish Bay (a.k.a. White Folks Bay). The names should give you a clue that those towns are where all the rich folks live.

This area is referred to as the North Shore.

And the rich, stereotypically speaking, are all about class and culture and taste. Which means they are far better experts on art than I am.

Thee women of this class are known as North Shore Nancys.

Which is where the crazy intimidation comes in. In the back of my mind I’m worried that they’re going to spot me and a deafening silence will fall upon the crowd and they’ll all start pointing and exclaiming, “You south side Polack, you! You don’t belong here!”

Stupid, hey? Art is subjective. Open to interpretation. So who’s to say a working class girl’s impression is any less than a rich girl’s? And I’ve met plenty of poorer people with taste and manners and equally as many rich with no sense of class at all. But still, I have just that bit of nervousness, dumb as it is.

To calm my nerves, I made this top:

The skirt is purchased but the top is Butterick 5269, a See & Sew pattern. Quick and easy. I wore it to work so my picture could be taken and, from my diverse mix of female co-workers I got, “Oooh” and “Oh! Jillain!!”

And that made me think, “Nuts to you Nancys!” I MADE this. There’s no other top exactly like this one out there. It’s an original and it’s MY creation. So is every other piece I sew. Therefore, I, too, am an artist. And what made me even happier was the thought that this top cost me less than $10 to make…but I could hang it in a boutique, call it "couture", and probably get one of those Nancy’s to pay a good $200 for it.

So if art is subjective, what does the piece I'm contemplating say? I thought it said, "Use the stairs, not the elevator". (That's my office's emergency escape route I'm pondering).

Anyways, I walked into that gallery with my head held high, at The Conductor's side, ready to show those snooty North Shore Nancys a thing or two about how to define art.

And of course the gallery was chilly so everyone kept their coats on.