Harley helps.

Harley helps.
Harley, my hard-working sewing assistant.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Alabama Chanin Factory Dress, and an update

Right! So I've been thinking lately about making three "uniform dresses" with pockets in Alabama Chanin cotton jersey that can be worn by themselves or over t-shirts and leggings, under cardigans, etc.

And then I got this new "accessory" in May (which I'll explain in a sec) and couldn't get a red dress out of my head. To match, sort of—even though I hate it—but also, I love red and for some reason have none of it in my closet.

So anyway, here's the first Factory Dress!

It's single-layer medium-weight cotton jersey in Carmine, in a straight size medium, with hand-stitched seams (although I machine-stitched Eloflex within the SA afterward for extra stability). I used the punch cards from The Geometry of Hand-Sewing for the Cretan stitch around the neckline and armholes, which worked out great. 

Bad closeup of neckline:

This was a really enjoyable make—I had fun with the combination of machine and hand-stitching. I might keep going on it, just to add some scattered armor beads around the hemline.

For the next two dresses, in Blue Slate and Black, I'm going to shorten it by a couple of inches, add pockets, and maybe frankenpattern on the armholes from the Fitted Dress, which I think fit better—the big complaint about the Factory Dress pattern seems to be the wonky armholes.

And now, the news:



(this is so bizarre.)

(I feel so weird saying this. It's so melodramatic, like that scene in A Christmas Story. SOAP POISONING!)

I'm now registered as legally blind.

Most people know, but if I haven't mentioned it, I have retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that affects the rods and later the cones of the eyes. It causes night blindness, flashes and spots, diminished peripheral vision and, later, diminished central vision. (This is over, like, decades.) My central vision is still good, I'm still working and all that, but in January I visited a low-vision optometrist who said I'm just over the threshold for legal blindness. 

So! I'm now registered with the state, getting services, mobility training and all that good stuff. And that glamorous new accessory, which helps, even though it's really strange to identify myself that way to everyone, especially strangers. It's by far the weirdest shit I've ever gone through.

On the other hand, I'm tired of hiding it, and if the cane keeps people from yelling at me, good.

It's all been more earth-shattering and life-changing than I thought—adjusting is definitely a process. And it's affecting my sewing plans too. 

Last fall, I went to a tech fair at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, where they demonstrated a voice labeling system. Basically, you use a recorder and stickers to label and scan things, whether it's clothing or kitchen gadgets. So if you have three pairs of jeans, light wash, medium wash and dark wash, you can label and scan them and the device will tell you which is which. The downside is, there's a limit to the number of things you can label. (In the hundreds, maybe?)

I have to admit, it got me thinking about how to organize stuff—and downsize my wardrobe. At some point, I'm going to have to pare things down, although I'm no Marie Kondo fan and will never be (that's a post for another time, I guess). I won't need anything like the voice labeler for a long time, but when the time comes, it'd be nice to be able to pull one of three dresses out of the closet (in AWESOME fabric that I LOVE), throw on a pair of leggings and go.

I don't know if it'll happen (I love clothes and fabric!), but that's the goal.


In other (good) news, we have a new foster:

Her name is Dottie and she's a sassy senior. Likes: Rolling, snuggling, petting. Hates: Moisturizer and/or funny smells of any kind. I'm enjoying having her as a work-from-home buddy.

That's all for now!

Friday, August 17, 2018

MPB Day 2018

I had the best time at MPB Day—as always! The weather was slightly terrifying (lightning in the morning, sudden showers throughout the day), but I powered through and was glad I did. Here's Peter's roundup, and here's his Instagram with more pictures, and here's mine.

We met in the morning at the museum at FIT as usual. The exhibit was something along the lines of "deconstructed and unfinished," showing pieces in progress and upcycled and mended garments. I loved it. Especially Betsey Johnson's jumpsuit made out of John Cale's old rugby shirts.

And this dress, made from a pair of pants with the lining as the sleeves:

Then it was off to Panera for lunch and catching up and a whole lot of pattern-swapping.

I've always wanted to go to Around the World books and prioritized it this time. It was AMAZING. They had back issues of Marfy (with patterns) for $29, and a ton of back issues of really nice fashion-industry magazines for just $5. I also picked up a magazine "curated" by Eckhaus Latta (I don't quite know what that means, but the content looked good.) And they shipped!

JackJack approved.

I had to run back to Panera to look for my sunglasses (which I found!) and along the way, met the famous Testosterone from MPB, and his friend whose name I can't quite remember.

Then I popped into Metro Textiles and paid Kashi a visit—immediately after everyone else had left, I think. But I met Scott from Toronto.

He bought some shirting, and I picked up this black embroidered lace (which Kashi said was popular—apparently tons of people in our group bought it), a blue floral something, and a glittery black knit.

Afterward we walked over to Kinokuniya, where we (having run into more MPBers along the way) all browsed the pattern books. I was kind of bummed because we had several men in our group, and Kinokuniya usually has a lot of men's sewing pattern books, but this time they only had one or two.

I got this one. According to Google Translate, it's called Pleasant Outfit: Be Good for Handmade Clothes. (Google Translate isn't perfect.)

 It has tons of interesting linen dresses. I love the wavy pintucks on this one.

Tom came with me (but spent most of Saturday museum-hopping). We also managed to sneak in a field trip to our old neighborhood in Brooklyn.

It was REALLY weird. Our old 420-square-foot apartment is now worth $1 million, and there are jillions of shiny new condo buildings everywhere that don't quite fit in with the neighborhood. This is our old bodega, with a shiny new condo building tacked on to the back.

Here's our old front door.

So yeah, that's it. Fun trip! Looking forward to next year. Thanks again for hosting, Peter!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

my Vogue Patterns article on Anna Heylen

My article on Maison Anna Heylen is in this month's issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine.

It's not online anywhere, only print. Here's a preview:

I'm totally stoked about this because I've been a fan of Anna's work for a long time, and I visit the atelier whenever I'm in Antwerp. (Pics thisaway!) And because I looove love love Vogue Patterns; I read every issue cover to cover and keep them all. So I'm really happy to have the opportunity to write for them.

This took about a year to put together, between interviewing Anna (who is lovely), writing, editing, gathering photos and pattern-testing, because it also includes instructions for making one of her accordion-pleat puff sleeve. I'm dying to put one on a jacket at some point, after I practice some more.

It's out! I can't believe it's out! Yay.

In other news, we had a foster failure and wound up adopting this guy:

His name is Jack-Jack and his hobbies are stealing food and lounging on the seersucker I'm using for my Rachel Comey dress. He's cute.

Friday, April 13, 2018

spring Vogues

Confession: I like 'em.

Still can't do any ruffles or maxis or cold shoulders or open backs. (Saw my dermatologist yesterday! She yelled at me—again!) But I really love some of them and am intrigued by some of the others.

Such as!

Tracy Reese, V1584

I love this very hard. You had me at asymmetrical neckline with pleats. And that fabric is amazing.

Tracy Reese, V1586

There's a theme here, I know, but Tracy Reese always has really great patterns. Love the fabric in this one too.

(Don't worry, dermatologist, I'll finagle some kind of solution for the shoulders.)

Rachel Comey, V1585

I am...really intrigued by this, and might get it just to see how it makes up, even if the shape isn't  right for my petite apple-shaped self. I love that it's not the usual seersucker dress.

Marcy Tilton, V9317

I like this but not sure if I can pull it off.

Rebecca Vallance, V1591

I love this, but again with the open back. Cannot do.

Vogue Easy Options, V9313

Digging view F here. And look, sleeves!

As someone said on Lladybird's roundup, I kind of like it when designers mess around. It's why I love Vogue over most of the other pattern companies. Even if it doesn't work, at least it's interesting.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Alabama Chanin fitted dress #2

Way back, in, oh, 2012, or so, I picked up Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, fell in love with the eye candy, and fell hard for the dress on p. 153:

I kept returning to that page, and looking at it, and looking some more, and eventually I went, okay, I need to learn how to do this. And I took a deep breath and went and made my first purchase -- AC fabric in black and blue slate.

Eight years later, it is done. I finished it two days ago and debuted it today at a mini-Pattern Review meetup at the Peabody Essex Museum. (Hi Deepika!)

(It didn't take eight years. I started in June 2017.)

This time around, I raised the neckline, shortened the shoulders, and pulled in the bust area a bit at the center seam. I like the fit much better and might go unpick the first dress to make the same changes. 

(Also, you know your second dress is better than the first when your husband says, "Looks good. The first one was a bit...chaotic.")

Technique notes this time around:

1) I used spray adhesive on the back of the stencil, which worked GREAT. I worried that the adhesive would affect the fabric somehow, or it would be hard to pull the stencil off, which was not the case at all. It was fine.
2) I used Tulip black fabric paint at full strength, which covered really nicely -- although it was thick and a little hard to work with, and I kept having to stop to clean the nozzle.
3) Like last time, I did reverse applique with a running stitch around the shapes, and a Cretan stitch to bind the neckline and armholes. I feel like the Cretan stitch is getting easier, but I'm still not 100% thrilled with my work.

But. I'm SO happy to finally have The Dress. It's super-comfortable and I like it.

Side note: We saw the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit, which was amazing, because Georgia O'Keeffe designed and/or hand-made a lot of her own clothes. (The pintucks! OMG, the lady knew her pintucks.) Natalie Chanin spoke there a few weeks ago -- she's a big O'Keeffe fan and came to give a talk and a workshop.

AND ALSO if you like Alabama Chanin at all and are interested, you should check out the new School of Making Stitchalong Facebook group. It's great and very inspirational and people are making some really beautiful and cool things. That is all.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2017 recap and Paris and stuff

Hello from Massachusetts, where the cats are hunkered down on every heating vent and I'm living in sweatshirts and flannel pants and vats of moisturizer.

I'm enjoying reading everyone's sewing recaps. I wasn't all that productive this year -- just a couple of Renfrews for the office and two mostly finished dresses that need some unpicking and fixing. And I'm on the last panel of the blue-and-black Alabama Chanin dress, yay.

In work-life stuff, my contract ended in November (all good! the person I was covering for came back from maternity leave. I really liked them, actually, and I'm hoping something else opens up there), and a week after it did, I went to Paris!

(But Duck! you're saying. You're unemployed. How can you possibly afford Paris?)

(To which I say: Paris is dead cheap in December, and also I used airline miles and stayed in a hostel, which was fine except for the night someone projectile-vomited from the top bunk, which is a story for another time.)

It rained just about every day, but I had the Paris museum pass, which turned out to be the best thing ever, because you can just pop into any museum you want anytime. I saw a bunch of the ones on my list, including the Louvre, the Cluny, Ars et Metiers, and the Arc de Triomphe (I climbed it!), and a bunch I hadn't planned to just because I had the pass, including the Centre Pompidou, the Picasso museum, and the Orsay. I'm not a huge fan of the Impressionists, but I sure did love the building.

Stained-glass awesomeness at the Cluny
I did a bunch of Christmas shopping too. I know it's super-touristy, but I looooooved loved loved Galeries Lafayette. 

Also I found the world's creepiest Abercrombie & Fitch in an old mansion on the Champs-Elysees. It looks like it's run by vampires.

The road to hell is paved with polyester fleece
I didn't do a ton of fabric shopping, but I did track down Malhia Kent, where they weave fabrics for Chanel and some of the other couture houses. I watched them weave for awhile, which was pretty amazing. They wouldn't let me take pictures inside, but here's what it looks like. 

Also: They. Have. One. Euro. Remnants. 

Still sorry I didn't snag that blue one on the bottom.
Also, I popped over to Antwerp for a super-quick day trip, mostly to see the Olivier Theyskens exhibit at the MoMu.

I loved seeing his sketches next to the finished garments.

Antwerp was really pretty, all lit up for the holidays. Still one of my all-time favorite cities.

Finally, while I was in Paris, I found out that Gary Graham is closing forever and f/w '17 is his last collection. AUUUUGGGGHHHH.

So after I got back and recuperated for a few days, I hopped on a bus to NYC.

I spent a lot of time wandering around and appreciating things. I love the whole steampunk-meets-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder vibe (as Tom said, "Put me on the airship, Pa"). And his color palette, and mix of fabrics, and the prints. Basically everything.

I finally bit the bullet and sprung for the linen duster I've been gawking at since MPB Day:

Here it is on the hanger:

Here's the inside:

That lining is everything. I can't wait to wear it when the weather warms up. Whenever that is.

Anyway, that's the update for now -- Happy New Year and happy sewing!