Harley helps.

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

complete: Nani Iro pocket dress

I made a dress! With the new sewing machine! Wheee!

And not to bury the lede, but: We went to Japan for two weeks, and I completely fell in love with the clothing—especially Nani IRO and their amazing fabrics. I'm hooked.

We tracked down the atelier in Osaka. (Here's my review on PR.) They wouldn't let me take photos of the shop but said it was OK to take pictures of the fabrics. Lots of linen, cotton gauze and sateen in bright colors, as well as buttons and notions, an archive (I wasn't sure if it was possible to buy any of the archived fabrics), and jewelry.

I bought some lovely blue linen with an asymmetrical print:

And the book—the English translation had just been released. And it was signed! (I have a picture, can't seem to post it, sry.)

So anyway. I couldn't stop reading the book—you know when you get really really obsessed with a pattern book? Like that. As soon as I got home, I decided to try out the pocket dress.

Here's the line drawing:

It's pretty ingenious—just front and back pieces, and the front piece is pleated and topstitched in 3 places to form pockets. Here's the dress photo from the book.

It's pretty oversized (lots of Japanese dresses are, I found), but you can add optional buttonholes to the back to take out some of the ease.

I'm not sure if the finished dress works for my body type. This is a size XS-S, believe it or not.

Hand in pocket:

I don't smile:

I wore it to the Willows the other night, and it sure felt good in the 92-degree heat wave.

Not sure I quite have the hang of construction yet, and in the next version, I might shorten it even more (I shortened it by 1 inch here, and moved the slits up) and add those buttonholes. A couple of things I should mention:

1) Tracing is tricky, because the bottom pieces for both the front and back pattern pieces are nested within the top pieces, if that makes any sense. Just make sure the circles line up.

2) It's a pretty simple-looking pattern, but lining everything up (pleats, topstitching, pockets) is HARD. You know that saying: Measure twice, cut once? I measured, and measured, and measured again, and then measured a couple more times, and I feel like some sections are still off a bit. It didn't help that the linen was super-shifty and frayed a lot, and that the shoulder pleats and pocket pleats don't quite line up with each other. I had to redo the topstitching above the pockets after the dress was assembled, because for some reason, I got this weird 3D gap. I pulled them out, pressed everything flat, and then restitched.

When I make this up again, I'm going to tweak the order of construction on the front piece. The instructions in the book say to pleat and sew the pockets first, but I'm wondering if it would make more sense to sew the shoulder pleats, then the top of the pockets, then press to make sure you have an even line, and then sew the pocket bottoms.

So, in conclusion: I'm not totally 100% on board with this version, but the pattern is so, so cool and I want to give it another shot. Looking forward to making up more patterns from the book too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

finished: Alabama Chanin Classic Jacket


Lots going on around here lately. Thing One: I bought a new sewing machine!

This is my new Bernina 480, purchased from Sew Creative in Beverly, which recently closed. Sorry I don't have a better picture.

I love this thing—it's fancy! I'm still learning my way around it.

Thing Two: I was supposed to have another article in Vogue Patterns Magazine, but it folded! Bummer. It's on lighting for sewists, and if you want a copy, feel free to contact me on le social and I'll send it to you. I interviewed the gadget person from the Carroll Center for the Blind, and he recommended a lot of great stuff.

(Really going to miss Vogue Patterns—it was my favorite sewing magazine! RIP.)

And finally, Thing Three: I completed an Alabama Chanin Classic Jacket, from their Sewing Patterns book. The backstory is that I really wanted a nice reversible travel jacket in nice AC organic cotton for an upcoming trip to Japan. (This is after ordering an expensive travel hoodie from a Fancy Outdoor Company and having the thing pill on me after 2 washes. Argh, POLYESTER.)

I put wrong sides together and treated each piece as one, flat-felled the seams and added interior and exterior pocks. I went with a straight size large and shortened the sleeves a bit. They could still stand to be shortened a bit more, but I'll probably roll them up most of the time anyway. I used a Cretan stitch for the binding.

My stitching isn't perfect, but I'm going to wear it anyway—it's SO comfortable. I'll bring a backup RTW piece just in case.

Here I am wearing it with my AC fitted dress from last year:


In progress:

And yes, it's boring—I know that—but I wanted something laundry machines would be less likely to chew up. I kept having to fight the urge to embellish it somehow. "Maybe just the pocke--" "No!" Someday I'll make a funky one.

In the meantime, I'm stalking Handmade by Carolyn's Japan shopping guides (I am bound and determined to find that needle shop!) and obsessing over the Issey Miyake rouketsu video, which I stumbled across on the Issey Miyake men's site. We signed up for a rouketsu dyeing class in Kyoto after watching it. I can't wait.

Till later!

Friday, January 4, 2019

happy new year, y'all

It's been a while, I know. Wish I had an epic things-I-sewed-this-year post, but honestly, I didn't do that much. Here's the list:

1. Plain red Alabama Chanin Factory Dress
2. Reverse applique Alabama Chanin fitted dress
3. Rachel Comey Vogue Patterns 1585 popcorn dress (not finished; posted on Instagram)

I don't love it, but still really like the design and would like to try again, maybe not in mixed fabrics this time.

4. Fixing and finishing of t-shirts using AC fabric:

I found out that Eloflex works great for constructing knit seams. Will definitely be using that again!

It's been a tough year, but two bright spots were 1) finding a great group of sewists to hang out with (hi, New England Stitchers!), and 2) stitching with my niece. I got her a sewing machine for Christmas, and she's already cranking out bags. Awesome.

I don't have a huge list of resewlutions for 2019—I actually wound up buying RTW clothes this year for various reasons, so my closet is pretty well stocked. But I'd like to tackle a DP Studio pattern this year, just for the experience. And I'm mulling over whether to buy Alabama Chanin's Build a Wardrobe. I really like the patterns.

That's all for now. Happy New Year!

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.