Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You look brilliant!

You look brilliant!  That is one of the many little phrases printed on this cotton fabric, and the phrase is peeking out of the zippered pocket in this photo.  There are lots of cute teddy bears, too.  I bought this fabric in Korea last February because I liked the quirky design.  I used it to sew a birthday gift for Howie's daughter who turns 27 on Thursday.  We celebrated last Sunday. 
I used Bernina My Label for the pattern.  These are lounging pants, so the waistband is nice wide elastic (I get mine from Pamela's Patterns or in NYC).  I like to sew a tube just large enough to fit the elastic and attach it to the waist.  Then I finish the edge with the serger; catching just the edge of the elastic.  That way it never twists or rolls.
The pockets have zippers on them.  From the inside of the pants, you can see the pockets.  First I serged the edges of the pockets, then pinned them to the pants.  From the front, I used chalk to rub the outline of the pockets.  That gave me just enough of a visual so I could quickly stitch them using the coverhem without much gnashing of teeth.  Once finished, a shot of steam from the iron removed chalk.

And here are the finished pants:

Either she is a very good faker, or, she really liked them.

Happy Birthday, Kelly!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Let's Get This Coat Party Started.

Today I cut the dark charcoal wool /cashmere blend fabric and interfacing for this winter coat:
The interfacing is non-fusible hymo which has horse hair in it.  I looked for it, and yep, it's really there.  There is black hair wrapped around the thread.  It's the hair from the horse's tail and it helps keep the fabric and the interfacing snug together.   The horse hair kinda snags the fabric at a microscopic level.  When I laid the fabric on top of it, the two fabrics immediately stuck together really well. 

Do you ever wish you were close to the garment district so you'd have access to all the right supplies?  Yes, I do, too.  But I remembered that LindsayT has a detailed directory of stores in the NYC garment district, so I went right to her blog and found Steinloff & Stoller's phone number.  I called them on Thursday morning and I had the hymo at my house by Friday afternoon!  And  their prices are good, too.
I am going to interline the body of the coat with the hymo, and the sleeves with muslin.  I am using the technique that Kenneth King describes in Cool Couture to attach the hymo to the muslin by machine.  I'll show pics in my next post so you (and I) can see what it looks like!  This is all new to me.

I am following his methods to the extent I can (this old dog only learns some new tricks :)
For example, he has you prepare the paper pattern piece so that a scant 1/8th inch remains outside the stitching line.
The reasoning is that you will be tracing on the stitching line with a serrated tracing wheel and you need a little paper there for traction (for lack of a better term).  In this next photo, the colored side of the tracing paper is face down, beneath the pattern but on top of the muslin fabric.  I tried using the double blade serrated tracing wheel, but I couldn't seem to get the hang of it, so eventually gave up on that method.  I was pressing so hard I was losing precision.  So I switched back to the single blade tracing wheel.
The blue dots are faint, but you can see how it comes out.
Then I used a new toy to cut.
This is the most wonderful little gadget!  I fell in love with it- it maded such quick work of the cutting.  I saw these things online and wanted one forever, but never saw one in my travels.  Recently, Belinda (Sew4Fun) blogged about it and I made up my mind I would get one for myself.
She provided the details I needed, I googled it and I found a vendor immediately and bought it online.  It's a 28mm Olfa rotary cutter (RTY-1/G) with an attached guide arm. Both pieces are purchased separately.

How did I live without it for so long? I love it!

Now, do you like dogs?  If so, you must read this post about a very clever dog.

Til next time, Happy Sewing!

ps. Thanks for the feedback on the swimsuit fabric.  I will be careful about what I buy next time- and thanks for the link to Needle Nook Fabrics in Wichita, Kansas. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swimsuits, Athletic Wear, Wicking, World Peace?

Folks, can you help me find good fabric?  That darn swimsuit looked fine, worked fine, but the fabric did not want to dry.  Even though I bought it from a table marked "Swimsuit Fabrics" at G Street, I am suspicious as to whether it really is.  The minute I got home, I dismantled it - just to show it who's boss!
Even after hanging overnight, this fabric is STILL damp! I took it apart and I will salvage the wide elastic from the bottoms.  That stuff is not cheap.  Oh and lookit there is Archie!  We missed her so much!

And here is Pepper- judging from the look on her face, it will take a little while for us to make it up to her.  I wish we could have taken her along!  I guess we are true "cat people".

And I finally did it, I bought a couple of books. 

I am so cheap when it comes to sewing books. I don't know why, because I spend like a drunken sailor on other sewing necessities. Well, actually, I do know why.

Most of my life, my sewing focused on alterations to RTW. When you take apart RTW, you see how it was constructed. So I felt like "I already know how things go together".  Furthermore, I made TNT patterns using worn-out RTW and tweaking them to fit me better. That explains my meager pattern stash. Commercial patterns didn't fit me, I could not figure out why and so I never bought them. But all of these things are changing. 2010 is the year of better tools and better fitting and, yes, better techniques. YAY.

I am trying to learn, in my spare time, the same skills that others spend years at college to learn. If not college, years studying with masters of the craft. 

Both of the times I have been in Kenneth King's company, he asked the question, "Why do you blog?" and I gave long answers that did not seem to clarify it for him.  He would rather sew or teach or otherwise be creative than spend time just talking about it.

The sortest answer I have is that I blog about sewing because I love it.   Sewing has freed me from the whims of fashion designers and the economic pressures faced by clothing manufacturers.

Blogging Mission Statement: I dearly hope that sewing returns as a normal part of every person's skillset. 

Sewing a hem is no different from cooking an omelette or filling the car with a tank of gas.

In addition, it's political.  It's economic.  It is a matter of world peace. 
[Hear me out on this, please :)]

Our society has become accustomed to purchasing clothing at prices which are, let's face it - absurdly low.   Sure, I understand economies of scale; I am trained as an accountant, after all.  But the clothes in the store are made with cheap fabric and the workers earned such low wages that we have trouble even comprehending how they support themselves.  So we buy our clothing made in factories in China.  And that, is not a bad thing. 

Here is why I think there is a postive side to all the upheaval of globalization.  Experts predict that China will be the world's largest economy by 2030.  I've seen statistics that for every American who lost a job, 400 Chinese people were lifted from poverty.   Whether that is accurate or not, and I am finally getting to my point, we must continue to trade with China.  If our economy and China's economy become inter-dependent, how likely is it that we will ever go to war with China?  We won't.  We must trade with China.  We must work together with China to keep the world from fighting so much.

Now if we could find a way to trade with some of the other nations out there, we might be getting somewhere.

OK, enough of my opinions.  hee hee.
Pet a cat, today, why dontcha?  Or eat something delicious, or ... do some research and tell me is there such a thing as swimsuit fabric that dries fast and where can I buy some?

Thank you for visiting my blog and thank you very kindly for all your nice comments on my swimsuit.  I love chasing down links and reading your blogs, too. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Fellow sewists, I debated ... is this TMI?  You can always close the screen and go look at someone else's blog if you don't want to see a woman of a certain age in her swimsuit. I like my quickie swimsuit, so I decided to show you:
In action.  It works.  (yay!)
I know you want to see the beachy mural on the wall in our little rental :)

I covered the straps with strips of the swimsuit fabric.  There was hand-sewing involved.

As you can see, I just used the black thread that was already on the serger.  There was no time for fussy details like, oh, matching thread.
The outer shell was just a camisole sewn from my TNT cami pattern.  It is attached in 4 places; at each spot where the strap joins the body.

And the swimsuit bottom is nothing more than a TNT panty pattern, sewn using regular plush elastic on the legs (I turned the decorative edge inwards so it wouldn't look too underwear-ish). I used the same wide elastic waist treatment that I developed for my athletic-wear shorts.  Yep, the waistband is a little too big, but there was no time to unpick the seams and do it over.  It works fine - I can just roll it down and then it fits.

I sewed the whole thing in just a couple hours, and no bras were harmed in the making of this swimsuit.   It will be returned to active duty as soon as this vacation is over.  :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fitting Session Summary with lots of pics

The first thing Kenneth did was pin the front on the center front line.  I was puzzled at a little extra fabric in the upper chest area and wondered how he'd address that.
He went to work changing the slope of the shoulder seam.  It started as a straight line, but when he was finished, it had become a curved line that follows the way my shoulders slope down, then across.  He said that will give me a "graceful" fit and hey, graceful sounds good to me!

As you can see he checked both sides and I am pretty symmetrical there, so no need for separate front pieces.
In this Butterick pattern, I cut the neckline along the size 22 and I like it because then I don't need to make any adjustments for the height of my upper back /neck.  Kenneth fitted a coat to me last November 2009 at the Sit & Sew class I attended.  That was a Burda World of Fashion pattern; so a different style and a different draft.  In that case the shoulder line stayed straight, but it also had an open collar with lapels.  This points out something I noticed about both Susan and Kenneth.  They fit the garment as it "asks" to be fitted.  Each piece is unique and decisions are made in the moment to achieve the most pleasing result for that garment.  The purpose of my sessions with Susan and Kenneth have been for me to absorb how they think and how they approach fitting. 
Then Kenneth removed the sleeve entirely.  It had used the same sleeve (a 2 piece draft instead of the single piece sleeve that comes with this pattern) he fitted to me last November.  It just needed to be rotated a little bit to hang better.

We had brought our muslins and our patterns.  Kenneth set about making the adjustments to the pattern pieces.  This is where his method differs from Susan's methods.  She works from the fabric muslin, whereas Kenneth adjusts the paper pattern and proceeds to work from that.

It didn't matter that I had brought a pattern that included seam allowances; he quickly marked the stitching lines.  The muslin had the wearing ease of a light jacket.  But I really wanted a winter coat to wear over multiple layers and I didn't know how to proceed.  Should I just start over with a bigger size?  I didn't have time for another muslin, so I had to wait and see what Kenneth said. 

Easy peasy!  He drew a vertical line on the front piece and the back piece; from center of the shoulder seam to hem. He spread it by 3/8" (oh- and he used imperial measurement when speaking to me and he used metric with Sigrid!!).  This gives me an additional 1.5 inches of ease with out disturbing the shape of the side seams. 

He used very large white paper to make new pattern pieces for us.  He laid the existing pattern piece on top of the white paper and used a single-blade serrated tracing wheel to trace.  He did not use tracing paper (like the carbon paper type).  He just looked at the little holes /indentations to see the lines and he drew new stitching lines and markings.  I will be copying this technique!  This is like the method my mother used when she was young, to trace Burda patterns.  (Sigrid said she had done this when she was young, too).  Back the day, they laid out newspaper, then put the Burda pattern on that.  Use the serrated tracing wheel to trace from the Burda pattern to your copy.
Now here is the really luxurious part - he did all the work (at lightening speed!) while entertaining us with colorful anecdotes. He has MANY colorful anecdotes. (Sigrid took these photos and I took photos of her fitting.)
I like this photo because it shows the pretty dress Sigrid was wearing.  It looked like a nice cotton lawn lined with cotton batiste.  The temperature & humidity was not unbearable (low 90's maybe?) but definitely not the climate she lives in.  But she took it in stride, looking comfortable and polished all day.

I thought you might like to see the studio where Kenneth works.  It is very full, yes, but very organized and neat.  He had many extraordinarily exotic and complex creations to show us. 

So, here is the thing about Kenneth King.  We went to him for fittings, because I saw his excellent fitting skills when I was at the NYC Sit & Sew.   But, and you know this already, he is REALLY expert at many things.  Aside from all the sewing techniques, he can handle furs, leathers and embellishments galore.  It is really a little overwhelming (how has he managed to achieve such skills in such a broad range in a normal lifetime?)

Well, that's it for now.  I want to start my new coat NOW, but I need a bathing suit immediately, so nothing like a shift in focus!  Have a great weekend!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Food for thought and Food to eat

I really enjoyed reading this post by Steph at 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World.  It is thought-provoking.  I heartily agree with her idea to ignore advertising (or at least notice how ridiculous it is)

And I ate some food today.  In New York City.  With these fine ladies...

I'll post more when a little free time presents itself.
Everyone wore something she had sewn and, of course, everyone looked totally FABULOUS.
Thank you, again, Al Gore- for inventing the internet.  I do enjoy using it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Coat muslin Butterick 5145

I sewed a muslin this weekend.  Boy that was a lot of work!  Just the pattern adjustments took a few hours with scissors, paper, tape, pencil and ruler.  This is the first time I have sewn a Butterick pattern since who knows when;  all I know is they never fit.  I got out a pattern (out of Bernina My Label) that I used to sew a jacket last Fall.  The tissue had only sizes 14-22 and my shoulders are about a 10.  So, basically, I cut on the size 22 lines for height, 10 for shoulders, then 16 for everything else.  This time I did not add any height to the armscye.  Also, this muslin is OK as a light coat, but too small to be a real winter coat that fits over layers. It has to get bigger.

Yes, it is tricky to morph from a 10 in the shoulders to a 16 in the bust and I cannot begin to understand exactly how that works - I just trace from the BML pattern that fits and it seems to work.  And for the sleeve, I used an existing sleeve pattern that already fit.  Forget trying to alter the pattern- the shape is just different in a way that is still mysterious to me.

Then, the next sewing session was cutting and sewing the muslin.  I used this really awesome coat-weight muslin I got from Gorgeous Fabrics.  Wow!  That is some heavy muslin. 

(yes, there are already shoulder pads in there)
I totally messed up the collar - probably cut it without the seam allowances because it was way too small.
The muslin still needs work, but hey- I think this is the best 1st try I've ever sewn.  I am feeling some progress.  Definitely.
And I am really glad I am sewing so far in advance because I am not going through another winter with RTW.  I found something that fit last year but the color was not good and it was completely worn out at the end of the winter.  I can do better than that!

I have been poking around the Neiman-Marcus and Saks websites for inspiration.  I found something GREAT!  I can use my black sequin fur fabric for a coat like this :)  Should be versatile, eh?
OK, well happy sewing and fitting and so on and so forth.  When I met with Susan for a lesson, I told her "I just haven't figured out how to fit myself" and her reply was, "Fitting yourself is hard".  That kinda made me feel a little better.

Carry on!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

assembly line sewing

I sewed exercise shorts last weekend, wore them and gave them a B+.  
For A+, they needed to be a little longer and more tapered to fit my leg.  In the photo below, the piece on the left is the front and it is placed on the fold.  The back is in the center. The piece to the right is the gusset.  The straight side of the gusset is sewn to the front and the curved side is sewn to the back.  The gusset goes all the way down to the hem.  The gusset gives a sleek fit without being too clingy or prone to wedgies.  At the top, I just used a wide elastic and folded over the top edge. 
Pretty easy, once I had it all figured out. 

(click to enlarge & see gusset explanation)

Here are my new shorts.  I did not really enjoy sewing them (too boring)  but I will enjoy wearing them.  The way these shorts look compared to the storebought shorts is just night and day.  I really could not go out in public in anything RTW, except the baggy shorts from the mens department.

These were fast to sew.  I serged the seams using the overlocker first, then topsitched using the coverhem.  My coverhem has a 3-thread option, so I used that and I like the sporty look.  There is a lot of thread on these seams!

I was not athletic when I was young.  I was that clumsy kid who was the last one picked for the team.  Despite being the tallest girl in my class, and dedicated effort, I did not make the basketball team.  Now it seems funny, but at the time, it was a huge disappointment!  I recovered from the trauma of high school gym and now I enjoy regular vigorous exercise.  Maybe I get endorphins from it?  Maybe that's the explanation!  I love yoga, Pilates and I take high-cardio boot camp classes, too.  But my newest love is Zumba.  Bonus - our teacher is a decade older than I am, so that is very motivating.  She wears the cutest cargo pants with trim tank tops.  So there may be some cargo pants in my sewing future.  :)  If I am honest, it is all about age; maybe even some fear.  I would not want to lose physical mobility in my golden years - that would be very hard to endure.  So I exercise. 

What's up next?  I love this sweet spot between projects when I can dream about what I want to create next.  I was so impressed with Belinda's purple coat that I bought the same pattern:

I like the 70's vibe of view A and the pleat in the back.  The 70's weren't a good decade for me, sports-wise, but it was a very good decade for style.  I love the 70's aesthetic!

Happy Sewing