Harley helps.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

inspiration: Sol Lewitt

We did an overnight trip to MassMOCA in North Adams, MA, a few weeks ago, and I fell completely, COMPLETELY in love with Sol Lewitt. I sort of vaguely remember seeing a few of his pieces at the Art Institute of Chicago as a kid, but it was neat to see such a huge retrospective.

Posting some photos here as textile inspiration for down the road (not sure for what yet) -- mostly so I can find them without having to dig for them.

I died laughing at his sometimes very specific and sometimes not very specific instructions -- some of them incorporated into the drawings.

"The twelfth point is located as far as I can reach toward the center of the wall with my right hand while holding my left index finger at a point halfway between the upper left corner and a point halfway between the midpoint of the left side and a point halfway between the center of the wall and the upper left corner and a point halfway between the center of the wall and the midpoint of the left side."

Some of the forms reminded me a lot of Alabama Chanin. Even my husband said, "That looks like the Alabama stuff you're always working on." I wonder if Natalie would have liked it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

cautiously optimistic: completed McCall's 6926

Okay! This is a UFO from last year, originally planned for MPB Day but bailed on at the last minute in favor of New Look 5352. Let's see if I can remember how it went together.

McCall's 6926 is one of those wacky patterns where you have two choices: 1) the very easy t-shirt with three pattern pieces, or 2) the very complicated woven blouse with three types of fabric and a lining and a split back yoke and narrow hems everywhere.

Guess which one I picked?

I made view B. I wanted the lace but wasn't a fan of the scalloped edge.

(Reminds me of this Kathryn Brenne pattern I'm thinking about making up. The skirt has three, THREE, pattern pieces, and you could probably knock it together in an afternoon. The pants have eleventy squabillion pieces and ten thousand steps. Of course I want the pants. OF COURSE.)

So anyway, 6926 went together pretty easily. I used silk from Liberty acquired on a trip to London a few years ago and lace from Winmil Fabrics in Boston. I lined the bottom with a remnant of white silk. 

Can I tell you how much I love the silk?

This is what happened: I was standing in line at Liberty with a bolt of black-and-purple cotton poplin, and one of the salesclerks was in a simple shift dress made out of the silk. Pretty sure my jaw dropped. The cashier looked at what I had in my hand and said, "I think you need something a little more special, don't you?" And that's how I wound up with a meter and a half of this lovely stuff.

(Tip from the Liberty clerk: If you want an expensive print, buy it...but buy less and do the facings, etc. in a solid. "That's what we do!")

For the pattern, I made a couple of changes:
  • Didn't do the elasticized lower edge. A beer belly like mine should not be outlined with elastic. Instead, I took it to my tailor to have it hemmed. (Sorry/not sorry -- I didn't want to risk ruining the Liberty fabric.)
  • Sewed the sleeves in flat. MY FAULT. I looked at it and went, "Meh, those are cap sleeves, whatever," and ignored the very specific McCall's instructions about fitting and easing them. They're...okay? But I really should have followed the instructions.
The nice thing about this pattern, though, is that when the lace finally gives out, it'll be easy enough to unpick -- especially because the fashion fabric and lining are hemmed separately -- and attach a new lace yoke. 

The back has a split yoke, a button and thread loop. Not a fan of the thread loop, which keeps breaking, so I might replace it with Did You Make That's rouleau loop instead.

One last note: As I'm finally jumping on the lace-yoke bandwagon, I'm wondering if Vogue 8877 would have been a better choice. It sure would have been easier. 

Thanks for reading!

day tripping: Providence, RI

We did an overnight trip to Providence, RI earlier this week. Providence is one of my favorite day trips. It's so quirky and interesting, partly because the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown are there, and there's a lot of nifty art and architecture and stuff for textile geeks. (Yay!) It's a pretty easy commute from Boston -- just over an hour on the commuter rail.

Also it's very walkable and pretty.

The seagulls of Providence welcome you.

Here are a few suggestions in case any sewing-type people are interested in going there. Most of them are (unsurprisingly) RISD-related.

RISD Museum: Good textile/costume exhibits, and a whole dedicated textile study space on one of the upper floors, which you can browse through if it's not occupied by a class. Also, they almost always have a Ralph Rucci piece on view, which are really fascinating to see close up. This time around, they had this fantastic coat:

It's hard to see, but the insets are alligator. And the trim and buttons are hand-braided.

Also, while we were there, we stumbled across a room with a bunch of recently acquired pieces -- so new, they'd been acquired the day before and they weren't on exhibit yet. Among them were an Alexander McQueen coat, a Comme des Garcons dress, and these two pieces, a Dior dress by Galliano and an ensemble by a designer who worked for Issey Miyake. (Don't have the name written down, unfortunately!)

Close-up of the second one. It's really fantastic -- appliqued all over.

The curator of textiles (!!) happened to be in the room, so I got to squee and gush and be a Ralph Rucci fangirl at her. (Sorry, curator of textiles.)

RISD Store: Right across the street from the museum -- where RISD students get their art supplies. No fabric, unfortunately (unless you count muslin and canvas), but there's a really good selection of sewing and dyeing supplies and books. RISD offers continuing ed classes on sewing and fashion design (I really wish they weren't so far away!), so they had a bunch of Claire Shaeffer books this time around. 

I really need all the disposable income. I'm just saying.

RISD Library: A short walk from the museum/store, it's more or less open to the public -- you just have to sign in. (I was also told once that you need to get permission from a librarian, but they don't always seem to enforce that.) They have entire shelves of textile books, as well as dissertations and theses from their graduate students, if you're interested in reading that sort of thing. 

Also it's in a beautiful old bank and has comfy chairs. It's a nice place to while away an afternoon.

Okay! More shopping!

A short walk from the library on Westminster Street (pronounced "Westminister Street" by every Rhode Islander I've ever met):

Craftland: All handmade, lots of it locally. Also the best t-shirts; I freely admit to swooning over one that said, "Woonsocket: The Paris of New England." 

Symposium Books: Lots of inexpensive academic books and a pretty good fashion/textile selection, including lots of street style books. 

Westminster Street also has quite a few interesting clothing and consignment shops, as well as a RISD student collective with a big FREE FABRIC sign in the window. (I chickened out.)

And (drumroll) my new favorite place:

Restored by Design: I stumbled across this on the second day of our trip, shortly before we left. She upcycles fabric into dresses and tops, sells fabric, notions, and jewelry, and offers sewing classes. 

It's also a flat-out gorgeous space:

Here's the top I spent too much time obsessing over.

She's inspiring me to save and reuse my scraps. (Have to dig out all those leftover pieces of lace!)

So that's Providence. I already can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

stenciling an Alabama Chanin dress

The two back panels are nearly done. Here they are (not joined yet).

Overall, I like the way it's coming together, although I need to do some cleaning up:

Not thrilled with the close-up, and still not sure how to create clean edges, aside from fussing and cleaning and snipping a lot. Maybe this will be my practice dress.

I stenciled the first front panel today with the airbrush. I'm still torn on the best possible stenciling method -- Sharpie, spraying or sponging Tulip fabric paint, etc. -- but even though the airbrush is a pain in the ass, it seems to have the best results.

Some stuff I learned along the way:

1. Stencil placement is super-duper important and hard to get right. You also don't want too much of the same colors/shapes at the edges when you sew two panels together. I learned the hard way with my first Alabama Chanin skirt, when two of the leaves on the front panels butted up against each other, making one large, misshapen leaf.

2. It's especially hard to do with regular Alabama stencils because they don't run the whole length of a fitted dress. That means you have to stencil half, pull it up, let everything dry, then carefully figure out where to place the second half of the stencil (while keeping in mind the stencil placement on the panels you've already sewn).

I spent a good half an hour lining up fabric panels and moving the stencil around. 

Pay no attention to my chocolate peppermint sauce and frosting jars.

I wound up masking out some overlapping shapes to get the placement I wanted. Hope it all looks okay when it's sewn up.

4. BLOT. BLOT. BLOT. Blot the shit out of the excess paint on the stencil before you remove it from the fabric, especially if you've watered down the paint. Otherwise you get tiny little drips and dots all over everything.

However this turns out, it's been a learning experience -- and I plan to keep practicing till I get the Alabama Chanin mini-wardobe of my dreams.


ALSO. Very important Harley update. (Because some people on PatternReview asked...) He's fine. The Cone of Shame is off, and he's mostly healed up. 

If you're curious: He just had his second surgery for basal cell carcinoma. It went well, and I sure hope this is the last one.

He's anxious to get back in the sewing room (as am I), so I hope to have some more machine-sewing projects done soon!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

completed: Vogue 8877 top

Vogue 8877 is a UFO from last year. I wasn't thrilled with it, but decided to finish it up and wear it around the house.

Here's the line drawing. I made view A in size medium using Alabama Chanin scrap fabric. It calls for purchased bias tape to finish the neckline, but I just turned it under and stitched. I also left the bottom hem raw.

As you can see, it's ... huge. Especially in the shoulders. Comfortable, though.

And of course the neckline's not laying flat in this picture. I swear it does when it's on.


  • Stash buster!
  • Possibly the easiest t-shirt pattern ever. It's only 3 pieces: upper front, upper back, and front and back, and you can probably guess how it goes together. 
  • Loose and comfortable.
  • Huge. Like, really huge. I originally got this because I was interested in making the woven version with lace shown in the photo, but now I'm not sure.
I might try another in size small, and I think stenciling or embellishing the upper front and back (and keeping the bottom plain) might be cute. It's hard to resist such an easy pattern.

In other news, Harley the cat is in surgery today. I can't wait for him to get home. Obligatory cat picture:

That's all for now!