Monday, September 1, 2014

Post Vacation Indian Summer

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I knew I wanted to make something this weekend before getting back into the daily grind, but I just couldn't decide what to make. I had five days in Kauai to think about it and I STILL couldn't decide. I really do get paralyzed sometimes, even after thinking about what to make all day. So many decisions.

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Anyhoo, so I opted for the wonderful, practically instant gratification that is the Julia cardigan. When I made it the last time, I knew there would be another. For one, you can do the whole thing on a serger, so you can whip one up in no time. In this case, I started it around noon and wore it to a get-together just hours later. This is such a practical make for me. While I may only wear a Hawaiian print top once in a while, I know I'll wear this a lot.

A few quick notes:
  • This is a stretch rib - a remnant from Britex. It is so unbelievably soft. 
  • I strayed a bit from the pattern because I didn't have enough fabric. I had 2 & 1/8 yards at 42" width and the double folded hem really does require a lot of fabric. So I wound up folding the neck and back part in half like a tee shirt hem. It's actually nice because the shawl collar isn't quite so bulky. Usually these kinds of rash decisions end up ruining my projects, but this one actually worked out. 
  • I think that's it. I love the color and versatility.
Here's a non-sewing share....
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I painted this on our lanai with a combo of gouache and colored pencils. I'm so happy I thought to bring a watercolor block and paints on my trip. Obviously, I was inspired by the Kauai's verdant beauty, and, probably obviously, I'm not very experienced at painting with gouache. I learned many years ago in a very different way. This time I treated them a bit like an easier form of watercolors.

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Now I have a meaningful souvenir, and I hope that every time I look at it I will be reminded of the peace that can be found when I stop for a moment, breathe, and take in the beauty of my surroundings.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Birthday Blouse

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Aloha! I'm back from one of the most relaxing vacations and the best birthday/anniversary present ever. Kauai is truly stunning. We opted for a condo in order to do our own cooking, but we did go out to dinner on my birthday and I wore this blouse made especially for the occasion. I'm not really sure I'll get a lot of wear out of this because of the print, but I loved wearing something so pretty and flowy and feminine. I also liked making something special for my birthday, and it's made me think about incorporating more special sewing into my life instead of just tee shirts.  The fabric is  a rayon challis purchased at Wanderlust. Can I just say how much I love love love rayon challis! It feels wonderful against your skin and it's a pleasure to sew. I really love the weight of it, too, for blouses and skirts. Since I have about a yard left, I think I'd like to make some pajamas or lounge pants with it. I don't think I need two blouses with pineapples and hibiscuses.... or maybe I do.

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So let's talk about the pattern and what the shape does and doesn't do for me. Before I modified it beyond recognition it was the Saiph by Papercut Patterns. Despite the fact that I hadn't seen a lot of happy Saiphs online, I still purchased it because I've really been wanting to try Papercut patterns and this looked like an easy one to start. Plus, I love wearing tunics and leggings. I know they're probably not the best thing for my top-heavy shape, but I love to be comfortable. As I get better at sewing and, especially, fitting my body I can see myself moving towards more subtle shape-defining silhouettes; however, I don't think I'll ever wear super fitted shapes. It's just not me, and at the end of the day you've gotta go with how you feel the most comfortable.

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My favorite part is the keyhole in the back. This blouse easily slips over my head, so I really don't need it, but it's a pretty detail all the same.
Here are my notes:
  • I would like to try this again but I would have to make some serious modifications. I went for the largest size to accommodate my bust, which made for a terrible oversized shape. If you ever saw Big Love - think Juniper Creek sister wives. This is the problem for me and my challenge going forward in fitting. The larger the size, the larger the size is overall - i.e. wider shoulders, longer arms, legs, torso, wider hips, etc. I need to bite the bullet and do FBAs, which also means muslins, with all my patterns. 
  • For the next Saiph I would go for a smaller size, include an FBA, and bring the torso up several inches. What I did instead this time was to keep trimming the bottom skirt part, which changed the silhouette entirely and wasted way too much fabric. 
  • Glad I opted for short sleeves since long sleeves with a Hawaiian print in Hawaii seemed silly. I added some slits on the sleeves per Barry's recommendation. He mentioned that it was looking a bit like hospital scrubs, which is fair.
  • I made my own bias tape (for the sleeve slits) for the first time. Easy and fun, but hard to stop and work on something like that when you're in the fitting process. In the future. I should make it after cutting but before sewing up. In fact, it would be a nice thing to make and have between projects and a great way to keep scraps out of the landfill. 
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Here's me taking selfies on the lanai while waiting for Barry to finish getting dressed.  I'm trying to get better at taking pictures as I think it's an important aspect of body image/acceptance. Obviously, I'm still grimacing slightly. Will work on that.
So that's all for now. I hope to share some more creative endeavors very soon. Have a very lovely week.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Makes

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Well hello there. I'm leaving for Hawaii on Monday, and I'm so freaking excited. I'm also sewing sorta kinda frantically so I'll have some things to wear. I wrote about planning a vacation wardrobe here, and with the exception of one item, I didn't end up with anything similar to the polyvore I made. Ah well, I find those polyvore moodboards too aspirational, too luxe, for me.

So above are the Grainline maritime shorts from last weekend. This was the second attempt. I hate how messy the front waistband part looks, but I just needed to be done with this project. There were a lot of new steps and skills for me to practice like clipping curves for the pockets and the front zip.  I must say I really loved that about the experience. Especially on the second try when I could already see  improvement. 

Here's a picture of me wearing my new makes - white legs and all. Remember, this before Hawaii. :)  Ugh, this is hard... here we go.

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Now I'll distract you with my pretty pocket bag - a pink Hawaiian print.
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Very much what I envisioned, so I'm pleased even though I made some mistakes. See the patched waistband on my new Renfrew? I didn't have enough to cut one piece on a continuous fold, so I decided to patch some shorter pieces together. While most sewists are obsessed with stripe matching...hell, I don't even match the bottom. And strangely enough even though it's not ideal, I'm kind of okay with it. But here's something I'm actually proud of...

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I followed this tutorial for a mitred v-neck from Cake's blog.  I love it. It's not as sharp as it will be the next time, but I think this is how I want to finish my v-necks from now on. The Renfrew is turning into a TNT for me. I already want to make another one.
Here are my notes:
  • The button is sewn on to cover the mangled area where I could not seem to make a buttonhole foot. I think the interfacing was too thick and so the feed dogs weren't moving. It was like picking at a zit the way I kept making it worse. 
  • The shorts seem to run really big. I will definitely go down at least one if not two sizes. I wound up pinching out 5 inches from the back seam, although I think I did something wrong for it to be so much. That or it could be because I'm only 5'2" and the waist sits higher on me than on a person of average height.
  • Also...1/2" seam allowance...must remember that.
  • Love the contrasting pockets and will do that with the inner waistband as well. These shorts were a lot of work because of all the basting, clipping, and grading, but they're super fast to cut and easy to handle - i.e. no big. floppy/slippery pieces to work with. The second time I made them I was more organized, clearing my workspace, laying all the pieces out. and interfacing in advance ...of course it made a huge difference. Nothing revolutionary, just a nice reminder.
Finally, here's a scrunchy faced one of me since I decapitated myself in the full body shot.
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So not a complete vacation wardrobe, but I will be sharing a few more makes very soon. In the meantime, Aloha!






Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One More Baby

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I wasn't planning another blog post so soon, but I just picked up my last piece from the ceramic studio so I thought I'd share it. I took a six week beginning clay course at The Clay Underground, which is an awesome working space for many fine artists, as well as a class/studio space for novices like myself. I had a lot of fun playing in the mud and finished with a pretty impressive haul. :)

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If you live in the Bay Area and you do decide to take the class, I would recommend that you take advantage of the studio hours because six weeks really flies by. My teacher was super knowledgeable and helpful and definitely there to show us different techniques, but I appreciated the loose structure of the class in that we could move in whatever direction we were inclined to go. To me, ceramics class feels like Montessori for grown ups and just made for such a soothing way to end my day.

 It's funny because, on one hand, I felt a little split because I'm putting so much time and energy into learning to sew garments, but I also appreciated being creative in a different way. Sarai from Coletterie wrote quite eloquently about the similarities here, which I found fascinating, but I also really appreciated the differences. With clay I got to be a little messy and loose. Whereas the mess of sewing stresses me out  - can't find pattern pieces, scraps of fabric and thread everywhere, etc. Also, sewing requires a lot of planning; clay can start off as one thing and very easily turn into something different.*

 I think, overall, it's just good to obey the call or desire, or whatever you call it, to make. When I was younger, I wasted a lot of time worrying about whether I was good at this or that. Now I worry less about that and care less what other people think and just appreciate all the joy making things brings to me. I guess I am learning as I get older after all.


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 (Just to be clear, I'm in no way saying that ceramicists or sculptors or any other artists act like children or don't give their work a lot of forethought. I'm merely describing my own approach as someone dabbling in a new form of making.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Claybabies - not the creepy realistic ones

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Hello Hello! I don't have a new sewing make to show today. I spent a ridiculous amount of time this weekend working on a pair of Maritime shorts by Grainline. I hope to blog about them just as soon as I can get the damn things to fit properly. They're ginormous at the moment.

Above is one of the bowls I made recently at my beginning ceramics class - more pics here. I guess it's actually a failure because I wound up rubbing off too much glaze, but I still like it and couldn't bear to throw it away. They're my babies! So now it holds some French salt that a friend recently brought back for me from Paris. It just makes me so happy to see useful little things I've made.

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And speaking of warm happy feelings...Kollabara added my pinch bowls to their superstar showcase and featured member faves. This means I currently see them in the slideshow whenever I visit the main page, which is a lot because I absolutely love to see what folks are making, discover new bloggers, sewists, jewelry designers, etc.

So that is all. I hope to have new makes to share soon. Have a lovely week.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

On Not Being a Perfectionist

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I spent a sizable chunk of my weekend making this shirt for my husband, and I'm pretty happy with the result. Notice I said pretty happy? It's not perfect, and of course all the little flaws stand out to me, but I'm also  happy and proud because I just really love the whole accumulative skill building aspect of sewing. I guess I could go back and redo that pocket. If I was a perfectionist, I certainly would....and maybe I will (it's not like it's going anywhere)...or maybe I'll move on. I don't know what I'll do, but I will say that making a button-up shirt is a LOT of steps. I'm just grateful that he ended up with something wearable.
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So Beej and I were having this conversation, and he was saying something about me being too critical of what I'm making - basically saying I'm a perfectionist. I actually don't think I'm a perfectionist and I see that as a good thing. Because if I was a perfectionist, I would never have finished this shirt. I would have gotten hung up on the pocket or some other detail and would not have let myself move forward. There were a lot of first-time steps, and I think when you're doing something for the first time it's good not to break up the flow too much by starting over. It's best to look at the big picture.

So here are my notes:
  • This is the Colette Negroni. I like the pattern a lot in terms of fit and style. I started with a medium on top and graded to a large towards the bottom. That's what's so cool about sewing, right? Customize. 
  • I took an informal poll with my men friends about shirt pockets. It seems that a lot of men are fairly indifferent. I debated leaving them off all together but didn't want to cop out, so I added one pocket.  Double pockets only highlight a lack of symmetry. And those double pockets with the pleats are the worst, according to some male friends. I think they're usually found on vintage shirts- probably for holding smokes back in the day. My one pocket  doesn't look so great if you were to look closely. 
  • Flat fell seams are not my friend. At least with this shirt. It may have to do with my beginner/wonky seams, or because I chose a lighter colored thread which highlighted my beginner/wonky seams, but I ended up ripping them out and serging off the excess. i.e. I started by attaching the sleeves with the 1/4 fold and then serged the fold off.
  • Using the correct needle really does make a difference. I forgot and started sewing with the jersey needle attached. My sewing machine freaked out and skewered the linen test fabric into something unrecognizable. 
  • Oh yeah, the fabric is linen. Beej picked it out, and I think he did a great job. Not only does it match his eyes, but it was on sale. Double bonus. (If I were at my pretend job where I write descriptions for a catalog or house paint, I would describe this color as Stone Blue.)
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So that's my first men's shirt. I learned a lot, like figuring out my buttonhole attachment, the yoke, a collar. I'm afraid I might have driven my husband a little crazy as I worked through the pattern. "Look, I just made a collar, and it looks like an actual collar!" "Sweetie could you try this on again? Nice, right? Do you like it? Be honest." He's a trouper, that man.
Anyhoo, that's my experience with the Negroni. Have a lovely week!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Perfect Marriage of Pattern and Fabric

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I wasn't going to blog about this Renfrew by Sewaholic because I'm not particularly proud of the sewing job. The neckband actually started as a v-neck but ended up as some kind of scoop/vee hybrid, and the striped band at the bottom is pitiful.   But what I've discovered after wearing it four times now is that I feel absolutely fantastic in it. I think it has to do with the fabric - just the right weight and amount of stretch - combined with a really flattering shape. I did a FBA for knits - basically just copied this Cashmerette post - to give myself a little more room at the bust. Overall, it's form fitting but in a really good way.  (By the way, I had planned to take a picture wearing it, but the light was dreary and awful when I got home.) So now I want to start keeping better track of fabric type, blend, stretch, etc. The information isn't always available (at the fabric store), but when it is it would be cool to come up with some kind of chart to match knit types with ideal patterns and/or silhouettes. (Oh, I do love making charts.)

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Hey here's something new to share. In addition to learning to sew, I've also been taking a ceramics class. These are pinch bowls - one of the oldest forms of pottery. I wasn't expecting much, so  I was actually happily surprised with how they turned out. I underglazed in red, then another glaze in white.

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These I threw on the wheel, and I think they look a bit more like what I sort of expected to make in a beginner ceramics class... if that makes sense. I like them, but would definitely like to try making some more column shapes, also some planters to hang and some shallow pasta bowls. So many things to make.... For this class, I tried to focus on trying a number of different techniques to see what I liked best. Sort of like a ceramics taster.

Getting back to knits, I have some fabric but the knits I have on hand are pretty drapey and not quite right for another Renfrew. Despite my unfortunate Moneta, which is still crumpled in a ball(sad face), I'm thinking of trying another Colette dress - the Myrtle this time. The thing is, though, I'm just not much of a dress-wearer.  Has anyone seen any Myrtle tops? Seems like it would be a pretty easy hack.