Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chic & Simple?

While clicking through the blogs I was led to the Home Ec site, a companion to ReForm School in Los Angeles. They offer sewing patterns, books, crafting supplies, and kits. A book they sell that caught my eye, because I hadn't seen it anywhere else, was Chic and Simple Sewing by Christine Haynes. It's another helpful book on creating and making your own custom-tailored clothes that also includes full-size patterns. Oh, how I love these types of books! It came out in April so I'll have to go a bookstore and check it out.

What caught my eye was this dress photo:

It immediately reminded me of the banded neck dress in Simplicity 3835, a Built By Wendy pattern. However, it eliminates the problem that many sewers have had with that pattern; many thought the neckline was too high and too tight. So I never even tried it (that just screamed future frustration to me!) However, I truly love this more scoop necked-version with the smaller puff sleeves. Maybe my new French-curved Design Ruler can help with this?

Has anyone purchased this book? Has anyone attempted to make anything from it? What did you think about it? Let me know.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I think I could live there...

Last week, I went to a brand new Jo-Ann Fabrics to find fabric to complete a project and I was pleasantly surprised. This was one of the new "large-format" stores that Leigh-Anne Dennison, from, was talking about on Lindsay T Sews blog.

The store is in another county in a shopping center, so new that AAA couldn't find the street address to get me directions. It was as large as a Target store and this is just for fabric, upholstery and craft projects. However, the way the store was arranged it was very obvious that the space devoted to fashion sewing was less than 1/5 of the store. One of the things I loved though was that there was adequate room so that the fabric could really be seen, no more narrow rows and the busy jumble of fabric shoved in together to fit. If this place wasn't an hour away from my house I could definitely see spending more time there.

I didn't buy much, just some knit fabric for a gift and a little bit for my first knit top in years. Oh Jo-Ann, while I love your new store, when are you going to start selling more two-way stretch fabrics?! Five solid colors and four (ugly) prints is not enough. The reason I ventured out to this store was because I was tracking down the teal color in the group. Believe me if you took stocking this fabric seriously, you could definitely increase traffic!

I also was finally able to get the Design Ruler (hip and french curve) from the Project Runway collection, which wasn't even sold at the Richmond Jo-Ann. In fact, I thought it was a exclusive deal with Hancock because I only saw the merchandise there despite there being a Jo-Ann directly across the street. Well, this Jo-Ann had everything in the line, including things not available on the website. There's nothing amazing about the other things in the line; mostly sewing supplies that they already sold in the store, but the ruler is new. It's inclusion gives a nod to serious garment sewers and should be a staple in Jo-Ann and Hancock always.

I'm pretty lucky because in the last two years two independent fabric stores have opened up right here in the city. Both are located a few blocks away from where I work; Fleur Fabrics, devoted to fashion fabric even carries fold-over elastic (FOE) and U-Fab focuses more on discount fabric and custom upholstery. We sewers/sewists still will always need a store like Hancock or Jo-Ann because the little stores do not stock a wide variety of sewing supplies. However, I think it's ridiculous that it took a cable TV show like Project Runway to get these stores to stock what should be basic for the woman who makes clothing. Yes, we can order them online, but why should we have to?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another Teaser!

Review here and on SewRetro soon!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Delicatessen, un film de Jeunet et Caro, 1991

I haven't seen this movie since the early 1990's but it holds a soft spot in my heart. This movie once helped me fall in love. A guy, I met through friends, and I happened to discover that we both loved this film. And while attending Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's next film, City of Lost Children (1995) with him I shockingly discovered that he strongly resembled the star of that first film (who was also acting in the film we were watching at the time), Dominique Pinon. Pinon possesses one of the most wonderful faces in the world, so wonderfully mobile and pliable, as if made of rubber. In one moment, he is comical looking, and in another, sweetly handsome. (To be truthful, the real guy was way more sweetly handsome than comical looking.)

I constantly thought of this movie in the years since first seeing it and everything came back watching it last night through Netflix.
  • The post-apocalyptic world where man literally eats man because of an unexplained famine.
  • The assembly workers who work at home making those things that make cow noises when you tip them. They should really call them Cow Tippers. Wouldn't that be cool?
  • The rich apartment dweller who tries to end her life with elaborate Rube Goldberg-like suicide machines.
  • The subterranean Troglodytes who live as vegetarian rebels beneath the cities.
  • The former circus clown, Louison (Pinon) who plays a musical saw.
  • His myopic girlfriend Julie (you must hear it the way the French say Julie!) and her father, the butcher, who places a handyman ad in the paper whenever it's time for a new meal.
  • The "musical" sequences, seen above and in the clip below.
  • The movies gangrene-tinged look which shares it's green, red, and brown color scheme with both City of Lost Children, where it shows a stronger emphasis on the brown and Amelie (Jeunet's later solo project) which uses more of the green and red.
If you enjoy films such as After Hours or Brazil you should check this film out.

Now I have to see Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles, or A Very Long Engagement, the only Jeunet film I have not seen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yellow Dress Update

McCall's 8154 is officially out of the running. It's now down to the other three.

This morning I did a quick pattern fit for the two never-before-made vintage patterns. I pinned in the darts for both and pinned together the shoulder seam to get an idea of where the bust darts and waistline would hit me. They both did very well on those points.

McCall's 3133 seemed to fit pretty well. There may be some issue with the back being wide enough to fit my kaboose but I'll add some play room to the seam allowances in the hip area, just in case. I am still a big fan of it's long diagonal dart on the front piece. Very flattering.

Simplicity 4429; however, seems to have a very tight armhole (which seems true in the pattern illustration) so I think a muslin will be in order, if not of the entire bodice, at least for the armhole facing. Maybe once that piece is cut out of forgivable fabric instead of tissue paper it will actually fit.

Simplicity 3835 is still in the running but only because it is still the easiest to make. However, I think I really want a more sleek look than it will achieve. While the other two involve sewing on neckline and armhole facings, the Built By Wendy would be just front, back, and simple sleeve construction. So, will it will feel more like a weekend errand dress though?

Monday, May 18, 2009

No Yellow Dress Yet

Unfortunately, no sewing on the aforementioned dress happened this weekend. I let my imagination take over after a trip to a brand new Jo-Ann fabric store (more on that later) and I started to doubt my choice of project. Now I'm thinking of a different dress design.

I originally wanted an easy project, one I didn't have to worry about choosing the right size pattern, or altering the pattern tissue, or any other strange fitting alterations. But when looking at all those options in that mosaic I started thinking that the Built By Wendy pattern might be too plain for a solid colored fabric. So now I'm thinking of working a bit harder and using one of these from my pattern stash. I've only made one of these before (McCall's 8154) and I was a smaller size then, so there will be altering.

So, what do you think, which one below should I make out of the sunshine yellow cotton sheet?

Simplicity 3835
Gathered neckline of top with sleeves and length of the blue one?

McCall's 3133
View D: sleeveless number with pockets and cool seaming detail?

Simplicity 4429
View 1: with the self-tie belt and the pocket?

McCall's 8154
View A: with the V-neck and sleeves?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm gonna make myself a yellow dress...

this weekend. I've been thinking about it and it just has to happen now.

A few weeks ago I saw Lisa's dress that she made from a bedroom sheet and realized I had an unused bright yellow sheet I could use. I've already told Ms. Clarke but I think I'm also going to steal the pattern she used, Simplicity 3835. I've been wanting to make a few of those Built By Wendy dresses so that's what it's going to be and I'll have enough fabric that I might make another one of the tops so I can spread the yellow through some other outfits.

Dresses for inspiration; yellow and otherwise:

Yellow dress inspiration:

1. Mona Holly Spring 2009, 2. Mona Holly Spring 2009,
3. Lela Rose Spring 2009, 4. Coco Irene dress,
5. thandie dress, 6. APC plaid dress,
7. maximillian dress, 8. simplicity 3835, 9. built by me

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just Some Stuff

My personal picture of the "Minuet" bush I saw the other day. Unfortunately, it's now turning brown. See the other varieties over there on the left side? I think that's "Carousel".

A teaser photo of my latest sewing adventure and my new favorite skirt! Not a great pic of the skirt but check out those lovely Born Luisas!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kalmia Latifolia Means Lovely

Phillip Bouchard

While walking to lunch today I came across a gorgeous bush of flowering buds. I stole one tiny blossom and later googled "flowering red and white bush" thinking it was a long shot. However, I found the exact plant just three pages in. Technically called the Kalmia latifolia "Minuet", it is also a miniature Mountain Laurel variety.

The white blossoms are actually bowl shaped with no separated petals. They have red marks that seem to strike out from the middle, then a wide cinnamon-red band encircling the center, ending in white rimmed edges.

Looking at the large masses of blossoms, all I could imagine was a huge bunch of these in a white hobnail vase or a bouquet of these worn with a white wedding dress. Wouldn't that be lovely? Since they do grow as clusters on a branch, how simple would that bouquet be?

As seen in this illustration from the Project Gutenberg's Hardy Perennials and Old Fashioned Flowers book by John Wood.

And if the plant was already in your yard as part of your landscaping, how cheap would that be?

The plant's blossoms flower from mid-May to mid-June. Other equally gorgeous varieties like 'firecracker' (seen near) can be seen here. More about this plant and it varieties can be found in Connecticut breeder Richard Jaynes' book, "Kalmia: Mountain Laurel and Related Species".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day for me

July 1972, Newport News, VA

Here's a picture of me and my mom. I was three years old and we were living in the first home I have any memories of, vague memories, but still. I wish we had pictures of this place. We had a Danish Modern teak living room set that we continued to have all the time I was growing up. However, in this apartment, it was upholstered in black and white leather or vinyl. How Mod can you get, right? My dad is saving the chairs for me; unfortunately, the couch came to Richmond with me years ago and suffered from a freak termite invasion. Another story, another time.

My favorite memory of me and my mom is of another July nine years after that photo. July 29, 1981, my mom woke me up at 5AM so we could watch Lady Diana Spencer marry Prince Charles of England and become Diana, Princess of Wales.* I remember we had waffles for breakfast. I hate that I can't be 100% sure if we had them with strawberries and whipped cream but I really think we did. I think I still had to go to school after that but it was sweet that she scheduled time for us to share something we had been looking forward to.

The morning was a great memory but has always been linked with sadness. Even though when I was a kid I devoured any information on Diana Spencer and the event I could not understand why she was marrying him. He was soooo old compared to her and I had already been highly disappointed with Charles when he famously answered a reporter asking if the engaged couple were in love with "Whatever 'in love' is". Years later, of course, the truth was revealed, but in 1981, even little 12 year old me knew she should have wanted more out of a future husband than that!

My mom passed away twenty years ago. During the time we had together we collaborated on lots of crafty projects. We pretty much tried everything that came across our paths. From knitting, macrame, all types of doll house and doll construction, to even trying Panamanian Mola embroidery. After I moved onto sewing my own clothes, my mom spent her time making her own clothes, quilting, and trying her hand at watercolors. My love of crafts and sewing obviously came from her influence. It is rare that I don't view the multiple crafty/sewing blogs I read and not think of her and I truly miss what our relationship could have been now.

Happy Mother's Day to you all!

*I always hated when people would call her Princess Di/Diana because it wasn't her title!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"I Am SO Done With It" Top - McCall's 8251

McCall's 8251

This top was made from vintage pattern McCall's 8251 and has been highly altered and written about here, here, and here.

It has now officially been worn out of the house and low and behold it STILL needed more work! You see I only tacked the facing down at the seams and darts, like I would with any other faced item. However, with this top the facing decided to pop up to say 'hello' every fifteen minutes or so. I even had co-workers tucking it back in. Yes...AWKWARD.

In this picture, you can see the facing on both sides.

The fastening at the back also wasn't the best. I only used a hook and eye that meant whenever I stretched my shoulder blades apart the top would come undone. Combine that with the peek-a-boo facing and a frustrating day was had. I have spent an evening of television stitching the entire neckline down now and now have to attach a button loop and button to the back before I can wear it again. I also may have cropped the length a bit too much. It hits exactly at my waistline and was a bit breezy...

Yes, I'm complaining again about this top, except for one difference....

This top garnered three separate compliments from co-workers! So, despite the problems I had with it, it was liked by others. So maybe I will wear it again? Update: Or not.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A little Food Discovery

One of my staple meals is whole grain pasta with tomato sauce and fresh spinach. Every once in a while I pick up a new sauce flavor at the grocery store. Last week I tried Bertolli's Tomato & Basil. For a while I had been getting their Five Cheese sauce but thought maybe I was overdoing the cheese thing. (Note: my favorite things are cheese and nuts.) Even with a cheese-included sauce I would still usually throw on some grated Parmesan! At the same time though I hedged my bets and also picked up some Bertolli Alfredo sauce because well, I really didn't want the non-cheese sauce, I guess.

As it turns out, the Tomato & Basil just didn't do it for me so yesterday I added a bit of the Alfredo to it and...well YUM, the resulting tomato cream sauce was wonderful. So, I'm just putting that out there for anyone interested.

*The linked sauce names lead you to recipes that Bertolli has created using those particular sauces. Enjoy.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Patterns That Formed My Past

During the last month or so, when I have a chance, I've been searching vintage pattern sites for items that I made when I started making my own clothes in high school during the late 1980's. It's amazing to imagine the difference in the patterns I chose then and what I choose to make now. I was so ambitious back then, I was making Vogue Designer and Vogue Advanced-level patterns after school. That same level of pattern terrifies me now. I just don't have the time or the patience that I once had; what a loss.

I am archiving these images on my computer. As I click through page after page of patterns you won't believe how many I recognize. I used to pore over those pattern books at Cloth World, my local fabric store in Hampton, VA. I even used to buy the used books after the store was done with them. Therefore, I probably have memorized a few complete seasons worth of McCall's and Vogues from that time. I eventually worked at Cloth World when I came home for the summers in college, so I was the one refilling the drawers when new patterns came in. Yes, ladies, can you imagine a tastier job, knowing what is about to come out next?

Now remember, this was before you could see the upcoming offerings online.

During this archival project I'm remembering garments I made that I was very happy with. However, I found I didn't keep most of the patterns. This was before I knew anything about altering and regrading patterns. I thought, once I can no longer fit the garment, that the pattern was useless. Oh, how I wish I had kept more of them around.

Vogue 1986

In the upcoming months, I hope to share some of the classics in my wardrobe history with you. In fact, one of my current unfinished projects (it's been cut out for years!) is an Isaac Mizrahi Vogue Attitudes pattern from 1997. Do you remember these? I ended up buying a lot of the Attitudes collection, from Claude Montana, Donna Karen, and Bryon Lars. With this particular one I had also cut out the pants but after being incredibly frustrated with how large the cut pieces seemed to be, I actually threw them out. Uggh, I could have surely placed a smaller sized pant on the same pieces and used that soft navy gabardine for something else, but that just wasn't how my mind worked about sewing back then. Oh, what we learn!