Sunday, May 31, 2009

Calorie-Free Chocolate

The post below about leather for the French Country carryall reminded me, the Anthropologie Mauritius Bag knockoff is sitting dormant on a desk because ... I need leather. Totally forgot about that project. As you see here, I have more ideas and visual obsessions than the discipline to complete a project.

And now summer is here. This is a yellow and white eyelet bag! It must be finished. Soon.

While I have chocolate color leather, it's about 2-2.5 ounces and a bear to sew, especially double thickness. I need a thinner, more pliable and drapey leather for my machine to handle. Leatherwise on eBay has never let me down in the leather department. One example, check this out, don't you just want to lick this?!

From Leatherwise, I have corduroy ribbed leather, tiny leopard print suede (which I made into a hat posted on PatternReview), silky black lambskin, delicate lilac suede, oh I love their leathers. The pieces are just enough for sewing an accessory or adding trim. The distressed pieces would make great coat/jacket collars and casual totes. Or what about making slippers to wear around the house? You could use their animal print leathers to make stuffed animals. I don't know if the dye lots on individual pieces are similar enough to buy multiple pieces for a larger project though, but probably worth contacting Leatherwise.

Cute Sewing Carryall

Here's a weekend sewing project for you. See this French Country carryall basket from Pierre Deux. Which you can buy all complete for $98. Sewing accessories and fabric swatches not included. Now look around your house. See a wicker basket in a closet or in the basement. Don't we all have unused wicker baskets tucked away somewhere? Now see a colorful fabric from your stash. See a solid heavier upholstery fabric from your stash. (The Pierre Deux version has leather wraparound pockets on the outside -- if you are lacking some leather lying around the house, check out Leatherwise on eBay where you can get smaller affordable pieces of leather of any color.) See some rectangles cut out, and contrast topstitching applied. See your very own one-of-a-kind French Country sewing carryall!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not Second Guessing, It's Doing the Right Thing

On the home decor front today, I'm going to return the 24"x24" version of this print to Target, written about in Sunny Summery Sunroom. The sunroom wall is so large that this size would look insignificant. Yeah we all gotta pinch pennies today, but why spend a lesser amount on something that will be insignificant? Why spend at all, then? Who wants to buy insignificance? When looking at it that way, better to spend nothing at all, or wait for later. Bottom line, get the piece that will be right over the long haul. Cost Plus World Market has this in 36"x36". There's a Cost Plus World Market so close to us, I could walk there and get some exercise. Bonus!

My husband has another Rodney White print in his office:

I went for the biggest one. It's impactful and obvious as soon as you walk in the door. It has meaning for my husband. At the time we got it, he was in an energy-sapping job and wanting to fly more often. Flying is his hobby and love. He is alive when he flies. This print is a reminder to do what you love, even a little bit, as often as possible if not every day. And yes, he flies more often now and he is happier. He spends most of his waking hours in that office working on his business. But he can always glance up and be reminded to take a break on a clear blue sky day ... go out and fly ...

The It'll Cost Nothing to Dream print, hung in the sunroom and overlooking our backyard, will remind me of the gardening dreams that every spring and summer I put in place a little bit more. There's a grand vision in my dreams and bit by bit, weekend by weekend, year by year, we're getting there ...

Can I Join the Trench Trend?

I commit here publicly to sewing a trench this summer. In time for transition weather in the fall. This blog makes me commit publicly so I follow through and do it. Deepika's PatternReview newsletter, which hit mailboxes today, links to trench coat reviews on PatternReview. So many others have done it, can I do it too?

I am in awe of the talents and patience of these women to sew such professional trenches. Think about it, just the steadiness of all the topstitching alone ... the buttonholes ...

Not to mention even before sewing, the fitting issues and having the knowledge of techniques to solve fitting problems.

I've learned so much from the pattern reviews, board posts and blogs of others who've shared online, that I'm confident the knowledge is in my brain. But having:

  • the steadiness of hand to sew straight near the edge during topstitching when it really counts
  • the patience to rip out seams when they're not right instead of forging ahead and living with a final result not up to par (I'm impatient and susceptible to that!)
  • the discipline to add the extra defining details despite the extra work
  • the bravery to do buttonholes and other potentially game-changing details at the very end of the process
  • the foresight to practice on scraps before sewing with new skills on the actual product ...

Beyond the technique and problem-solving knowledge, these are the qualities that sewing a trench would help me develop. So am I saying I do not have these qualities now? Sometimes I'm not sure. I do know my sewing would improve if I were more disciplined and focused and patient.

Plus I have that Burberry trench fabric -- solid on one side, striped on the other -- that so many others have used to sew trench coats. Mine is red -- a deep, gorgeous, eye-catching red. It shouldn't sit in the stash. I wanted it. I got it. Now I hope I can do it justice.

It occurs to me ... I'm not just committing to sewing a trench coat here. I am committing to real change, real growth. Does anyone else get this sense of awe and trepidation when you've chosen to do a project that you know will force you to change how you sew?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Notes by the Hourglass

To follow-up on my X posts ... here are tips from real life, real women, real sewing for the hourglass figure at PatternReview.

Wish I'd consulted this discussion before sewing the current trend below. The dress wound up darted in the front and back so I don't look enormous and shapeless. Cut wide enough to clear the hips and falling over the chest of an hourglass shape, it stands too far from the body. But just skimming over an "I" shape, it could look fabulous.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sewing Project: Plaid Shirtdress

Today's theme is "second guessing."

I had settled on Burda 7658. It will require redrafting the shoulder and adding a short sleeve. But here's Vogue 8028, complete with sleeve and, because I'm sewing with plaid, the necessary shaping through darts, not princess seams:

And of course there's the stash of 5 years of Burda World of Fashion patterns, which I've used to sew a grand total of "zero" wearable items, but many UFOs and some wadders. It's beyond time to make that investment worth its while. Mostly, I under-utilize Burda WOF because it's inconvenient to flip through all the magazines versus frantically rifling through my pattern drawers and throwing envelopes all over the place. I feel like I got a lot accomplished when I see envelopes spread all over the floor, like giant confetti. It looks like I'm really working. Really getting things done. I can stand there with hands on hips, pondering, thinking, liking, disliking, changing my mind ... moving fabrics around and pairing them with envelopes, like a huge storyboard spread all over the basement floor. Can't do that with the teensy-weensy Burda WOF line drawings.

Rather than making a mess that looks like a 3-year-old who sews lives here, I was inspired during today's blog readings by Cidell, who photocopied her Burda WOF line drawings and organized them in a binder. Always meant to do this, never have. It's time to do this!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sewing Project: Plaid Shirtdress

More planning ... I will underline the EmmaOneSock linen with silk organza to minimize wrinkling and help maintain the crispness of this linen. I tested a 4"x4" swatch in the wash and it shrunk only very minimally (Armani quality, after all) but it softened the linen a lot. And wrinkled. It came out of the dryer in a little crinkled string bean shape. I prefer not to spend many minutes of life ironing, unless to press just-sewn seams. That feels like truly purposeful ironing. Plus this is a shirtdress. I think of shirtdresses like a shirt -- pressed and crisp, goes with tailored pieces. Softer drapey linen would be fine for a swingy wrap dress and other shapes and styles less structured.

I'm debating whether to take the linen to the dry cleaner for steaming/shrinking or whether to iron it with lots of steam myself. Not sure I trust that it really shrinks enough to eliminate future problems either way, so what does it matter. Maybe I should just trust the process. I have a hard time trusting processes that I can't see.

See, there is a benefit to having 24 boxes of stashed fabric -- I already have bronze silk organza from Thai Silks:

Except, the silk organza has been pre-washed, it's very very wrinkled, and it needs many, many minutes of ironing.

Looking at X-Rated

So, if you want to get an objective view of your body's proportions (per post below, mine is apparently "X"), check out these directions involving a camera, printer, pen, tracing paper ...

Then learn what this has to do with Perfection, the Golden Section, Bottecelli's Birth of Venus ...

If you weren't tempted to click, you should be now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Inside Out Style is the best link I've tripped on during blog surfing in all of 2009! Maybe in all the past decade if blogs were around that long. It blasts Susannah and Trinny, and who-are-those-two-people-on-Lifetime-I-forget, out of the water. Out of all the fashion and appearance self-help readings out there, few may really truly change you. This website will change my choices.

I am an X Hourglass shape, which I've always known. But Imogen describes another similar body type, the 8 shape, which comes verrrrry very close. Think Catherine Zeta-Jones. Yeah, I wish I had anything in common with her, other than eyebrow color.

Anyway, an 8 carries the hip width just under the waist while an X carries hip width further down the butt and thighs.

I am loving this website because it gives great detail (it advises on not just straight or bootleg pant legs, but also flared which is not the same thing) and it uses updated, current photos to illustrate the shapes that complement your body shape. She also combines body shape advice with petite, tall and long leg advice.

This is being added to my blog reading list PRONTO ...

Sewing Project: Plaid Shirtdress

All pieces have arrived! And the shoes complement the fabric in real life, not just on the screen. They pick up on the burnt orange lines. Surprise-surprise though, the linen plaid has some bling -- gold metallic threads woven throughout. I'm usually not into shiny bling in fabric (or anywhere else really; I prefer pearls to diamonds and antique burnished brass to polished brass), but I love the idea of this combination enough to stay committed to this fabric.

I have never sewn with plaid before so this is skill-building opportunity. Below are reference notes. Before sewing something new, I read up on it and make notes. Sharing them here in case they help someone else. All of this is readily available online by surfing sewing articles and blogs.

Some research & notes on sewing with plaids:

  • Find a pattern with minimal seaming, with no princess seams. (My shirtdress choice has darts rather than princess seams for shaping.)
  • I always cut on single layer, which is the advice for matching plaids. Use "with nap" pattern layout.
  • Know whether your plaid is even or uneven, also called balanced or unbalanced -- here are good instructions to figure this out.
  • Bias seams will create chevrons with the fabric. Unbalanced/uneven plaids don't make good chevrons so don't layout unbalanced plaids on the bias for seams. But details without seams like pockets or trim on the bias are OK.
  • Buy extra yardage for matching. Unbalanced and large plaids need even more yardage. (Unfortunately my unbalanced, large plaid fabric had limited yardage remaining so not much extra to play with. If I don't have enough for good plaid matching, I will look for a Plan B pattern rather than force the original pattern and be unhappy with results.)
  • Because you will not be able to match stripes and plaids everywhere, give priority to the side, front armhole and waist seams, and/or to places where an upper and lower garment meet. (Is that last part the waist? My pattern's skirt is fuller and somewhat pleated/darted and I'll wear a belt to cover the waist seam, so there may be more flexibility in layout with my shirtdress pattern which is one reason why I chose it -- think about the elements of your pattern before pairing it with a plaid or stripe fabric.)
  • Use underearm corner point as a matching point for side seams. Here is a picture of this layout.
  • Some advice recommends starting by laying out the front bodice/skirt/dress piece where you want it on the plaid design, then lay out the remaining pieces. Other advice recommends to start with the back piece if it is supposed to be on a fold, so you can then layout the front to match the plaid at the shoulder seams. You will have less control over where the shoulder seams fall for a single back piece than for two front pieces.
  • Position the pattern hems so that they do not fall on an obvious horizontal line, so that you can adjust the hem later as needed without bringing attention to a bold line.
  • Here are detailed instructions for collar layout on plaid.
  • This is good detailed advice too ...
  • Here is what Sandra Betzina says in Power Sewing about matching plaids.
  • And here Claire Shaeffer and Nancy Zieman weigh in with plaid matching advice.

Well after the assistance of these fine experts, it seems like this topic is covered.

Next step ... get confident about matching plaids, and just do it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sewing Project: Plaid Shirtdress

Update on the plaid shirtdress: The EOS Armani plaid linen is on its way. I'll need to add a cap sleeve to the pattern, Burda 7658. Quick note to self -- here are instructions for creating a custom sleeve pattern. Because I surf all over the place and never remember where important things were seen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sewing Project: Plaid Shirtdress

So last Sunday's visual obsession will soon be real.

Shoes? Check!

Fabric? Check!

Pattern? Check! Burda 7658.

What I'm figuring out now is, what to do with the plaid checks! Surfing shirtdresses ... bias? No bias? I hope there's enough fabric for matching. I will modify this pattern to add a little cap sleeve for work wear. But for weekend and evening dinners out, the scooped out upper back is really cute.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sunny Summery Sunroom

Now that it's spring in Chicago, time to clean and spruce up the three-season sunroom overlooking our backyard. The cats have been in there since February because they are desperate creatures, but only now is it comfortable for human use. This human is desperate to bring some sunny color into the room. It's been decorated like the rest of our house with international flavor -- red sari border pillows, Afghan table runner and Thai accessories decorating the teak and bamboo furniture. But feels so serious. It's time to bring on the sunshine and make it a happy place.

I finally got this, which I've coveted since last year:

It's the 24" x 24" version on sale for $45 at Target. But may be too small for a very long solid wall. It could look like a speck. The 36" x 36" version at Z Gallerie would be more impactful but it's nearly $220 online. You could purchase just a canvas online, then stretch it on a 36" x 36" frame on top of a blank canvas, as we did with another Rodney White piece. But I don't feel like searching the mountains and seas for a 36" x 36" canvas and no, I don't want to assemble one myself or pay someone else to do it. It seems to cost a disproportionate amount of money to pay for canvas stretching and framing, and although in the past I've paid the average U.S. monthly mortgage payment to frame things, I'm not paying for this. No offense to the framing industry, I just don't understand why the material and labor cost.

So, the 24" x 24" will have to do, but must be supplemented with other pieces so it's not lost on the wall. But be careful, don't want "too many thingies" on the wall.

One option ... add to it another Rodney White print appropriate for overlooking a backyard where flower gardens will soon be in color:

This one is total 36" x 24" and $199 from NapaStyle. I love NapaStyle. Why oh why did you remove me from your mailing list? It's not my fault all the things I wanted to order from you for holiday decorating were sold out!

This frame from SecondLineFrames on etsy is made from wainscoting salvaged after Hurricane Katrina, and despite its sad beginnings, is perfect for a bright and happy countryish feel in a sunroom. Unfortunately it's one-of-a-kind and sold two days ago, same day I saw it, but SecondLineFrames has many more available:

I'll keep my eyes on this store for other frames in colors to go with the "Dream" print.

Another option is to find an old wood shelf at a flea market, paint it with several layers of colors, and sand and crackle and distress it to make it chippy, like numerous owners painted it different colors over many years. And place colorful clay pots from Tuscany and Provence on it. Also very appropriate for a sunroom overlooking gardens!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Do We Have To Want?

Why do we have to want??? That's a question that a step-grandmother I had for a brief time asked many years ago, as we scaled the escalator overlooking the expanse of stores at one of Michigan's largest malls.

Around the same time, a roommate asked me a similar question. Why couldn't I be happy with what I had, why did I always have to want more? Huh?!? It was an odd question. Because at the time I was in the first year of starting a career, eating Campbell's tomato soup for lunch (and noting each time the price increased by a few cents), living with all hand-me-down furniture, watching a hand-me-down b&w TV with only 4 clear channels and no this wasn't 1976 this was approx 1990-1991! Why WOULDN'T someone want more?

The thing is, now I do have so much more. I've been places in the world, I have nice furniture and nice clothes and a nice house and nice gardens (average car though, don't believe in putting tons of money into a depreciating thing that rusts), I got a taste for the finest softest chevre with sauvignon blanc ... and yet, I still want more. Want to see more places, want a stone farmhouse in Tuscany where I can plant more gardens, and eat even fresher cheese and the best wine without sulfites ...

I believe this is what propels me forward through the days, even if I don't get. It keeps me moving.

Sometimes given the opportunity, I don't take advantage ... I want but I don't get. Sometimes I forget about these fleeting wants. Other times, I wake up when it's too late, and see the picture in my mind of perfectly round polished turquoise beads, mostly green-blue with delicate brown marbling, all strung into a necklance sized for a petite neck, hung in a case among a jumble of Tibetan jewelry in the visual extravaganza that is Habeeb Mullick & Son, established in 1890 in Darjeeling, India. I picture how good it would look peeking out from under a linen shirt with jeans and these shoes:

Google gives the chance to make this fading image a reality. Consider this one, from an online shop of Tibetan jewelry:

Of course I could always call the nice shopkeeper from Habeeb Mullick & Son and say, "I just want one more thing ..."

So, why are we driven to want?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Today's Visual Wardrobe Obsession

I love-love-love these shoes at that Gigi wrote about in Behind the Seams. So, ordered them.

They have the strong style I prefer. Never got into the kitten heel trend, for example.

Hope they look good with this Armani linen fabric that I recently ordered from EOS:

*photo from EmmaOneSock site.

The linen plaid will likely be made into a shirtdress a la Vogue 8383:

Earlier yesterday I took a break from opening 2 weeks of vacation hold mail to peruse Burda WOF 5/09, which is full of plaids! Time to jump on the plaid bandwagon. While I wore flowery fabrics on vacation, I do prefer prints and styles that are more, um, masculine, I suppose.

And speaking of Burda WOF 5/09 -- got a sneak preview because I found it at a Frankfurt airport bookstore! This version is very different -- it's perfect-bound and reads more like a typical magazine (if I could read it in German, ha) with feature stories about thread, notion storage, undergarments, lipstick, and ... more accessory trend pages than the English version. It has a feature story showing some ideas from In addition to the plaid wide-brim hat in the English Burda WOF, it shows how to add strips of fabric to change the look of espadrilles. You can find directions in English at Burda WOF website to make these:

I also got a deja vu repeat view of Burda WOF 4/09 -- found a Turkish version in the Istanbul airport bookstore. My brain would explode if Burda WOF were ever in a U.S. airport bookstore! Surely that would be a sign of the end of the world as we know it. I've been through the Tokyo airport several times but don't remember Mrs. Stylebook or other pattern books like that there -- then again, I wasn't aware of the Japanese patterns at that time.

Anyway, the Turkish version has advertisements, and a few extra goodies like a small handbag made from a sequin-encrusted elephant applique cut from a vest. As I was passing through on the way to India, this was a great idea for using remnants of heavily embroidered ethnic fabrics in India. The Turkish version also shows how to make your own thong shoes, and how to cover an old hat with ribbon and fabric for a new look. This may all be on too. Haven't looked.

Also found in Istanbul, a smaller trend issue:

Thankfully the pattern pieces have English on them! Will post pics of some pages later.

Googling "Burda Pratik Dikis" pulls up blogs of some very talented seamstresses (sewists, sewers, whatever) in Turkey -- a fun Internet trip!

Do You Ever Buy A Fabric Because Of The Name?

I've searched years for the right fabric to sew living room curtains, where we have four windows to cover. For now the previous owners' curtains still hang, which is OK, because while they don't "go" perfectly, they don't clash.

Our living room has things from India, Burma, Thailand, Japan & China, paired with dark brown leather sofas and antiquey paprika orange & gold chairs. Overall color scheme is dark chocolate brown - paprika - gold - celadon green -- the whole room was inspired by the very first pillow I sewed in 2001 or 2002, from an expensive India jacquard silk of which I could only afford one yard. After hand-sewing that thing for many days of life, I bought a sewing machine. And never looked back.

With eight panels hanging for the four windows, curtain fabric must be chosen carefully so it helps weave all this together as well as our big area rug does. (Area rug cheap-cheap-cheap from Home Decorators Collection -- other things purchased at bargain prices, some made-to-order, during travels to Asia.)

Today I saw this name -- Tamil Scotch -- for this fabric from House Fabric ...

Tempted mainly because of the name! My husband is from the Tamil Nadu state of India. The color could be OK, but the fabric is not quite right. It has a rustic linen look which is great for spring/summer. I don't like linen curtains for winter though. For winter I like smoother silks, velvets, etc. Just like with clothes, the linen must be put away after September. Unless, two sets of curtains are sewn ...

Has a name ever enticed you to buy a fabric? Sounds silly, but don't names add to the promise of what a fabric will become ... ?
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