Harley helps.

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

it's here!


Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion opened at our lovely Peabody Essex Museum in Salem on Saturday. And it was amazing -- seeing Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons, and Yohji Yamamoto garments close up, well, I can't even tell you. (Sadly, no photos were allowed, so I can't show you either.)

They also had:
  • Reels of old runway shows
  • A try-on rack (my favorite was an upside-down Comme des Garcons jacket sort of like this one; it had dolman sleeves and two collars, and the second collar formed sort of a peplum shape in the back)
  • Pattern Magic muslins (!), which you were allowed to touch and fuss with to look at the construction (you know, if you were so inclined...ahem)
Yeah, so. Worth seeing if you're up this way (and even if you're not, it's worth a trip). I'm definitely planning more visits before it closes in January.

Monday, September 23, 2013

success, finally

I've been experimentally making t-shirts using the patterns from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design -- just plain versions (by machine; sorry, Natalie). And they're working! And they take no time! I can knock one out in an hour or two, not counting binding.

Still not sure about the binding, actually -- the book calls for raw edges to show, but I'd like a neater finish so I can wear them to work.

I'm using Alabama Chanin fabric purchased from their last garage sale. It's a dream to work with, but I think I like the lightweight jersey better than the medium-weight. It's much softer. 

Next, I want to try frankenpatterning a long-sleeved dress (sleeveless dresses are lovely, don't get me wrong, but New England is COLD, people), with either a scoop or v-neck. Whee.

Pictures to come, maybe.

In other news (and I don't know if anyone actually reads this, but just in case) -- I have a couple of recent issues of Burda that aren't really up my alley. Anyone want them?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

MPB Day 2013

I had a fantastic time at MPB Day. It was so much fun (and so great to meet other sewists and geek out on fabric the entire day -- whee!)

Recap, with pictures:

I got in late Friday night and stayed in my favorite cheapie hotel, the Carlton Arms. (I would've stayed at the Gershwin, but it's under new management and I think they're going more upscale, bah.) It's old, and creaky, and every room is painted by a different artist.

A couple of scenes from my walls:

Also, they have cats. The cat last time was old and grumpy and slept in the lobby a lot. The cat this time was a four-month-old EMERGENCYKITTEN who decided it needed to explore my room the second I opened the door.


The next morning, some of us met up early at the Chelsea flea market. Peter has a nice group photo of us, which I hope he doesn't mind if I borrow.

Vicki, Linda, me, Peter, Suzanne

At one point, I saw an Issey Miyake skirt and pounced. (I have, let's say, a minor obsession with Issey Miyake and am bound and determined to make up a Vogue pattern someday.)

"It's Issey!" I said, and Teri (not pictured) came with me to take a second look.

"It's...nice," she said.

"But the pleating!" I said.

"But it's poly," she said.

And that was that.

(She was right, of course. But: Issey!)

I should also mention that everyone's handmade clothing was amazing. Suzanne (right) made her dress from a Grainline Studios pattern, and the skirt Vicki (far left) wore, which I'm pretty sure was handmade, although I didn't ask her, was ivory linen with black ribbons and buttons. It was a beautiful thing.

We moved to another location across the street and did not buy the Christmas fabric.

Isn't it glorious, though?
Then we walked up the street and gathered by the FIT museum. There were a lot of us. Peter handed out a (great and I'm keeping it forever) guide to the Garment District.

I'm on the bottom left.
The exhibit was also amazing. It was just one gallery, but it took us a good hour to go through it. I loved the Paco Rabanne chain mail dress (can't find a picture, sadly).

Then we went to Panera and noshed and pattern- and fabric-swapped. I scored two or three yards of stretch denim -- I see experimental jeans-making in my future!

(Nicole from Bold Goods actually recommended the Jeanius class on Craftsy as a good way to learn how to make trousers. "If you can learn how to make jeans, you can make any pants you want," she said. SOLD.)

Then it was fabric-shopping time. I accidentally lost my group (I didn't see them, assumed they'd left, ran to catch up, and couldn't find them -- whoops), but ran into various smaller groups along the way.

I saw but did not go into Spandex World.


(Okay, I went in. But I didn't buy anything. I swear.)

I visited the kitties at Daytona Trim.

This guy has an identical twin. They were both very large and grumpy.
I went to Mood and saw Suzanne and some others from the group as I was exiting the elevator. I walked up and said, "Hey!"

And Suzanne said, "That's Uli from Project Runway."

I turned around, and lo, there was Uli from Project Runway, who had been STANDING RIGHT BEHIND ME IN THE ELEVATOR and I missed it. (No picture. Sadpants.)

And then I went to Paron's WHICH WAS AMAZING and I blew most of my fabric budget right there, mostly on two cuts of Italian stretch wool for a top-secret project.

(Okay, it's a Vogue pattern.)

(Okay, it's an Issey.)

(Okay, and yes, I'll probably never make it up and just pull out the fabric occasionally to pet it and cry.)

Here's the final fabric haul.

Left to right: Cotton photo print from Paron's, stretch denim from the swap, striped cotton from Mood, and magical Paron's stretch wool.

"What are you going to make?" said the guy at Mood, when he was cutting the striped cotton.

"I don't know yet," I said.

"I think you should make pajamas. Little pajama shorts with elastic!"

Good idea. Also, I'm thinking of using some for the sleeves on this Katherine Tilton jacket. And this ribbon. Y/N?

Also, very important score: SQUIRREL THINGS. Not buttons. I'm not sure what they are, but they're going on something.

Camera was on the wrong setting, auughh.

I also got GLITTER SQUIRRELS.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And here's the pattern haul from the swap.

Vintage, Butterick, New Look, and a Colette coat pattern.

After shopping, I ran to meet everyone in Bryant Park, but the park was packed and I couldn't find them. Note to self: Next time, do not leave lunch early!

All that to say: I had such a great time, and I can't thank Peter enough for organizing it. I'm already looking forward to next year.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

a thing or two

One: I'm going to Male Pattern Boldness Day.

So excited. We lived in NY for five years, but I didn't get into sewing until just before we left, in 2007, so I never did the whole Garment District thing. I have lists of stuff I need organized by project. Hopefully I'll be able to find everything. (Like 72" or 108" wool jersey. Help me, NY, you're my only hope.)

On Sunday, I'm going to some old haunts: Prospect Park Zoo to visit the prairie dogs, Salvor Kiosk, the Young Artists' Market, my favorite rice pudding place. If they're still around, that is.

It's a mini-summer vacation. Squee.

Two: I really wanted to wear a handmade something, but my last two projects -- the top and skirt from v1247 -- didn't work out so well. The top is too big and bunchy at the seams (my fault for using French seams with a knit), and the skirt is almost OK, except I had trouble aligning the pockets, so they're not totally straight.

I don't really feel comfortable wearing either of them out, so I'm going to just take t-shirts and shorts, probably, because I'm a lamewad. I haven't given up on 1247, but it's going to take some serious unpicking and reworking. Sigh.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I'm trying to make the infamous ("that means more famous" = Follow That Bird) top from v1247 out of bright-red bamboo (?) jersey. It's my first knit.

It's driving me bonkers.

It wasn't hard to cut out, and my Bernina is stitching it just fine...but it's impossible to pin, and the chalk marks disappear if I so much as look at it. I guess I finally see the appeal of tailor's tacks.

Monday, June 24, 2013

put a bird on it: New Look 6352

I wanted an instant-gratification, easy cotton summer dress -- one I could throw a sweater over to wear to the office, and (ideally) one that wouldn't take a month and a half to make. (!) So I pulled New Look 6352 out of my stash and decided to give it a shot.

(Did I mention I have a new job? I have a new job. The dress requirements are a little different: semi-formal, with no casual Fridays. I hate suits -- I never wear them except to interviews -- so I mostly stick to either dresses or black pants/black sweaters/bright shirts.)

Anyway, it looked amazingly easy -- just 2 dress pieces and facings. No closures, no darts, no pleats. Easy peasy, right? The envelope called it a "1-hour" pattern.


I wound up making three muslins because this dress has so much ease. It's a tent, basically. (Some PatternReviewers made nightgowns out of it, and I can totally understand that.) Going by the measurements on the pattern envelope, I started with a size 14. It was enormous. Then I tried a 12, which was OK, but still pretty big.

I cut the fashion fabric in a size 12, interfaced the facings, and tried to attach them. The facings looked terrible, and I just couldn't get them to work because the interfacing was too heavy. Plus, I realized midway through that my white IKEA fabric was sort of see-through. Whoops.

Well, not here. But trust me.

To complicate things even further, I went to Grey's Fabric and Notions and fell completely in love with this navy blue, Tron-esque fabric:

Old Tron, not new (bad) Tron.
In the end, I decided to ditch the facings and make a reversible version with the Tron fabric and plain black cotton. AND give the IKEA dress another shot.

I made another muslin in a size 10. It fit but was still pretty billowy around the waist, so I decided to make a sash to go with it.

I used Crafterhours' reversible dress tutorial, and aside from some initial confusion around the shoulders (step 16) and when to hem and turn the dress out (couldn't figure that out, actually; I wound up taking it to my tailor for hemming), construction was pretty straightforward. Then I went back to the IKEA dress and used the same steps to line it in plain white cotton. (I don't think the white lining is opaque enough to be reversible, sadly.)

I made two sash belts, one in Tron fabric and black and one in plain black, by tracing around an existing belt, pinning right sides together, stitching with a 1/4" seam allowance, turning out, pressing and topstitching.

So here we go (disclaimer: it was insanely hot and humid yesterday, so I look like hell):

Black with blue Tron belt
Blue Tron dress with black belt
IKEA dress, no belt, pay no attention to the cat hair on the sofa
On the hanger:

Reversible, Tron belt

Reversible, plain black belt
Blurry IKEA dress with belt
IKEA, no belt

All told, these took around 2 weeks to do. Now that I have it down, though, I'd make it again.

Conclusion: It's a nice, easy pattern, but if you want something fitted, look elsewhere.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

...I should explain

I submitted this for Cation Designs' February Stashbusting Challenge and somehow put my blog name where the description should be. Oops.

So here's the actual description: Baby quilt made with vintage men's shirt scraps!

I made it for my brother and his wife, who are having a baby (their first!) in a couple of months. It's a  boy, so I wanted to make a baby blanket using Very Manly men's shirting. Because my quiltmaking skills are ... er ... pretty much nonexistent, I decided to go with a postage stamp design instead -- just small blocks and a border.

The blocks are actually from someone else's stash. Last summer, I stumbled across a garage sale -- someone clearing out her mother's house, trying to get it ready to sell. I asked if she had any fabric.

"Fabric!" she said. "She had bolts of fabric upstairs!"

She led me up to the attic, where there were bolts (!) of home-dec fabric, and then she took me to her mother's sewing room. Where she pulled out boxes and boxes and bags and bags of fabric, thread, needles, you name it. Her mother lived through the Depression, and she saved everything.

I tried not to freak out right there in her mother's house, but, needless to say, I took everything. My fabric stash is pretty gigantic as it is, but I couldn't pass it up.

She delivered it all, including two bolts of gorgeous home-dec fabric (which I still haven't figured out what to do with) and boxes and boxes and bags and bags of scraps. I spent the night going through and sorting everything. There were tiny pieces of novelty fabric (cowboys! windmills! dogs on telephones!), men's shirtsleeves, half-made belts and headbands. She even had quilt scraps cut out, tied neatly together, and labeled.

As far as I can tell, the shirt scraps date from the '40s through the '70s or '80s. Lots of them have a distinct '50s feel.

Also included: The best-ever box of sewing supplies.

A whole box of Massachusetts North Shore sewing history, including a bag from Almy's department store in Salem, which closed in 1985, and needles from Elm Farm in Beverly. (Just wonderful! Those Elm Farm tasty foods!)

Back to the quilt. I wound up doing 3-inch squares (the largest I could get away with) and a half-inch seam allowance on each side. Here's the back.

The front, closer up:

The finished quilt, hanging up:

And so that's how I made a baby quilt with someone else's stash. (Which I feel incredibly lucky to have, actually, and I hope I can do the rest of it justice.) Thank you, Salem sewist who saved everything, wherever you are.