Friday, August 31, 2012

engineers are people, too

A little off-topic, OK - totally off topic.  My husband had insomnia one night and wrote a song.  He is not just a plain song-writer, which would be wonderful enough; he uses advanced tools to achieve his vision.  If you can spare a few minute to watch, you will get a sense of his true talent.  He did this for his staff at work, where I think he might be kind of a big deal.

You can see why I love him, right?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

more white thread!

It is a luxury to live in the same space full-time.  Having an apartment close to work was a necessity for us until the recent changes, including completion of a new highway which allows me to commute comfortably between the DC suburbs and Baltimore city.  It's nice to lower our overall cost of living, too, very nice.

The cutting room window with new curtains.
I could have called this post "stubborn sewing" or "still refusing to change the white thread out of the machine", because the white thread did play a big role in choosing to sew these curtains.  Another factor was how easy it was to sew for these two windows.  But maybe I just wanted to soften up our home and add a woman's touch.  When I was a little kid, that phrase seemed to be commonly used in television shows that projected the idealized perfect family.  For example, Aunt Bea might tell the neighborhood bachelor that his home needed a woman's touch.   Now, I am not saying that our home lacked a woman's touch or anything.  Ok, yes I am saying that.  I couldn't be in two places at once, so certain things were allowed to persist, such as this very ugly window in the basement:
Left: daytime view                                                                            Right: night time appearance

They never said much about the man's touch.  But in my house, the man definitely touches a lot of stuff.  He said he will clean the leaves out of the outdoor part - the well of the window.  My touch, the woman's touch, is to sew a simple shade.  I got the better task, don't you agree?

A panel of fabric makes a nice shade to hide the ugly window.
The lime and turquoise walls appeared when DD Laura came home from Korea and stayed with us for a couple months.   It looked a lot better with her belongings.  Now it's furnished with random left-overs and functions as a guest room.

This fabric made the project super easy because it was so easy to measure, cut and sew.  The grainline and cross grain is easy to see.  While it allows some light, the fabric is pretty opaque.  I have about a zillion yards of it, because I found it dirt cheap at DeBois Textiles in Baltimore.  It was probably pretty expensive fabric before it landed at DeBois.

Next up is a Birthday Dress for DSD, Kelly.  I bought this fabric (at Elliott Berman in NYC) because I thought it looked Anthropologie and Kelly has a bit of that aesthetic.  She likes it, so that worked out well.  I tissue-fitted the pattern to her (nice because this one comes with the different bust sizes - yay)

Today I am grateful for easy projects, lots of white thread and time to relax.
Happy sewing!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Finished white linen jacket

I would be modeling this for you, but after a single wearing, it is in the wash.  Of course! White will always be a risky color to wear, but I love my new jacket. 

I pre-washed the linen in hot water & a hot dryer 3 times before I sewed it. That way I can always wash the jacket without fear of shrinkage. I linked the bodice with a very light, semi-sheer white lining and left the sleeves unlined.

Pattern used: Vogue 7764 (Out of Print)
I first sewed this in February 2011 in a tightly woven wool denim.

Changes I made were to omit the vents on the center back seams of the back and the peplum, and I left off the pockets because I was so short on fabric.  I squeezed a sleeveless tank top out of the yardage, too.

Hope you are doing alright and getting some sewing in!  The seasons will be changing soon and time to shift gears.

Happy sewing!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

finishing old business

For the last couple of weeks, the theme has been sewing anything that uses white thread. 
There is also a white linen jacket in progress.  How can I be so lazy?  
I liked the look of these two shirts on the dress form and left them there for decorative purposes
 a little longer than strictly necessary.
The sleeves took a little while.  This time I used Pro-woven fusible light crisp interfacing for the cuffs, collars and collar stands.
Notice how the bodices are completely finished and the sleeves completely finished?  I just love assembling shirts in this order,  because the final step of setting in the sleeves is so dramatic.  No hemming, no buttons to sew on - just two finished shirts. 
 I am using my summer iron! Yes, I picked this up after seeing how much Peter (at Male Pattern Boldness) likes his and I am in total agreement that this is a great iron.  It doesn't heat up the room too much, it doesn't shut-off automatically too soon, and when I need to heat it back up, it's fast.  It pumps out a decent amount of steam.  I am sure I'll go back to the Naomoto gravity-feed when the weather is cold and the extra heat in the room is appreciated.
Best forty bucks I ever spent!
It feels good to be finding my groove again.  I am sewing a lot and went back to work this week.  I hope I seemed calm and positive on the outside because I was pretty emotional on the inside.  People are so nice.  I don't know what I ever did to deserve this kindness, but I sure do appreciate it.  I do have a different cubicle, though!  ha ha.  My co-workers decorated it with a balloon and streamers and this nice little decoration:

(Ryan Gosling is almost as cute as my own husband!)
Well, let's see if we can get through a few days without getting all choked up, sounds like a good idea, eh?

Happy Sewing!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

a look inside the creative process

Melanie Kobayashi is an artist living in Vancouver. In addition to her art, she writes 2 blogs, one on Vancouver street style called Culture Serf and the other is her personal style blog called bag and a beret.

Creativity and a sense of humor are very appealing accessories for the mature woman.
Thank you for the inspiration, Melanie!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

UFO Numero Uno

Behind this simple project is the story of a grand wadder.  For the dress, I used my TNT knit dress pattern and a rayon jersey knit from Elliott Berman.

To discuss the wadder, let's recap, shall we?  In May I started on a red linen jacket.  In June I moved to Manhattan, bringing along sewing supplies as well as V1293, and slowly I progressed.  
[memo to self: use a different interfacing next time.  The pro-elegance I used made it feel a little thick
and sponge-like if that makes any sense.    I have a very light woven that should work better]
V1293 calls for a hem facing.  I should have fused interfacing to that, too, by the way.  What happened instead, is that I lost the back hem facing piece.  No amount of searching yielded that darn piece so I found a scrap of fabric, cut a strip of bias tape and hemmed the back of the jacket that way.

This was not good.  The linen had stretched in the back, after hanging for weeks on the dress form, and it needed to be brought back under control.  Application of a strip of bias tape does not accomplish this task.  If I had steamed and pressed the back of the jacket back into the correct shape, and then applied the interfaced hem facing, I think I could have saved that jacket.  But no- I soldiered on with the stretched out jacket. 

When it was time to attach the sleeves,  I found the hem facing.  Here comes the disaster part - the under sleeve had now gone missing.  And I knew exactly where it had gone, too.  The under sleeve was the scrap I used to cut a bias strip.  Now I was stuck with absolutely no more fabric. I did not want to skip sleeves and wear it as a vest.

Ever hopeful, I called Michael at A Fabric Place in Baltimore and asked if they had any more of that red fabric and the answer was nope, it was all sold out.  Finally, with some ceremony, I declared it a wadder, tossed it out and cut out an easy knit dress.

Next up are a couple of finished items that were started quite a long time ago.  The really good thing about an unfinished object (a UFO) is that you are half-way there!  You can finish something in a short time and feel a sense of accomplishment. Finishing things is good for my head right now.
More to come!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

idealism and expectations

Updated at 11pm on 11th of August:  Youtube disallowed my video because the content is owned by KBS World.  These screenshots will give you an idea of this charming documentary about the tailor shops in Seomun Market. I filmed with my iphone directly from a Korean channel on cable television.

The film goes on to capture more moments in the lives of the tailors and the clients.

Have you read Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline?   For anyone who likes to buy cheap clothes, this book will be a real buzz-kill. 

Unlike the client - tailor relationship depicted in the Korean documentary, Cline describes how drastically the business model has changed in clothing manufacturing over the last few decades.  We Americans buy clothes that have been manufactured in other countries.  

Hobbyists aside, sewing happens somewhere else.  When we see brand new garments selling for less than $20, it is natural to assume that it must be spit out by a machine somewhere.  Perhaps there are people feeding the fabric into the machine, but - somehow it's fast and easy, right?  [Maybe something needs to be expensive in order to get respect?  That is a whole 'nother discussion].

So, back to the documentary - we see people talking to each other about clothing! The purchase is not an anonymous, faceless transaction.  The outcome is based on the taste of the purchaser and the skill of the tailor.  There is mutual respect, as well as respect for the actual garments.  I like that.  There is somehow more meaning infused in every garment sewn and every garment purchased.  (clearly, this is the idealistic part of today's blog post)


In a similar vein, check out this article in the Travel section of the Washington Post, by Marian Smith Holmes, about the many good reasons to vacation in Viet Nam.  In addition to the beaches, food, and fascinating culture, we accompany the author to several tailoring shops.  She orders a dress, a top and a pair of pants - all in beautiful silk fabrics.  As she says, "Scores of tailors will work all night at sewing machines in back of the shop ... to complete my order and dozens of others by morning."  The price for the top is $40.  Yes, you read that right. 

The next day, upon return to the shop, the author is very happy with the dress and the top, but the pants are too baggy and 
"they must be sent back to the tailors and won't be ready until the next morning ... buyer caveat: Allow sufficient time for final alterations. Sometimes even Hoi An's bespoke tailors need a do-over". 

Whoa, that was a fast shift from idealism to expectations, and by that I mean unrealistic expectations.  I am stunned that anyone could expect a perfect fit in these circumstances.   The difference between us and Ms. Holmes is that we sew.   We understand how much time is required and that fitting doesn't magically happen on the first try.  The author is simply not familiar with the process in the same way as the client in the Korean documentary. 
Having said that, I did enjoy the article on Viet Nam and hope to visit there someday.  Of course, I would also have clothes made - it would be the highlight of the trip for me.  

Aside from ruminating and navel-gazing (I'll spare you the navel-gazing) I have been sewing.  In the last week I have advanced from pajamas to shirt-making and I have a linen jacket in progress.  There will be a fashion shoot soon!
Til then, happy travels throughout the blogosphere

Friday, August 3, 2012

tried & true mojo recovery technique

Behold, a step-by-step guide to re-start a stalled mojo.  This technique also works well to combat a variety of *temptations.

  1. Brush dust bunnies out of the machines and oil them.
  2. Load the sewing machine and the serger with white thread.  White is easy to see and you probably have plenty. 
  3. Pull out a dependable pattern: the easier, the better.  
  4. Pull out some fabric with a white background.  Small stripes, plaids or prints don't really need to be matched, but if you want to, it won't be that hard.
  5. Cut some or all of the pieces.  You don't have to be organized.  You don't need a plan.
  6. Start sewing.
  7. Oops, did you forget something?  Do you need music, a television or a movie?  
  8. OK, start sewing again.

Style Arc Peta Pants make great PJ pants.  This photo exists as a reminder to serge the edge along the pocket early in the process.  I don't need pockets in my PJ pants, but I felt like sewing them.
Contrasting pockets - how exciting!

Oh yeah, contrasting pockets!  Pockets I will never use, but so what?

And if you decide on long sleeves at the last minute, just add them on.  I find this very funny every time I see it and so, yeah, that is good.  I made myself laugh!  And look at how I worked my way up from simple pants to something a little more intricate.  See, it works!  Sewing with teardrops plopping into the project is perfectly OK.  Do I sound melodramatic?  Well, sorry.  I was wallowing as per instructions from someone I respect.

My 3rd and favorite version of PJ pants.  By this time, I was almost out of fabric so it got exciting.
*I quit smoking in 1983 by giving up alcohol (how can you drink a beer without a cigarette?), coffee (same thing) and keeping my hands busy.  You can't smoke and sew at the same time if you sew very steadily.  Don't worry, the alcohol and coffee were returned to my diet eventually.

You know, I learned a very valuable lesson many years ago, about relationships. I fell in love, very hard, with someone. About 6 weeks in,  I realized there was a problem. I made a big mistake by staying with him for a few years.  Why?  I could not leave him because it would be too painful, and, well, maybe he would change.

To my younger self, I have this advice:  If you think it will be painful to leave after 6 weeks, it will only be more painful after 6 months, and even more painful after a few years.  Bite the bullet! Leave, and get the suffering over with. As far as change?  Well, some people do change. You have to be open to the possibility that someone might change, but you  cannot count on it.  Trust your gut on that one.  The best person to look out for you is YOU.

And someday, that pain will have been transformed into compassion.

Ha ha, maybe it will be my life's work to turn sewing into a spiritual practice.  That is funny.
Mainly, I think I am getting some good clothes out of my hobby.

til next time, cheers!