Coronavirus Couture and Other Projects

So much for my “Sew Edgy Work Wardrobe” plans for spring and summer. For who knows how long, I will be working from home, like a lot of people who are fortunate enough to be able to.

The #1 rule of working from home for me is to have something to look forward to after the workday is done. For me, that means creative outlets like sewing, gardening and cooking.

My “home” wardrobe is much more normcore than my work wardrobe. Plus I was in the mood for spring colors and textues. First up was this top from Butterick 6388.

It’s a bit boxier and roomier than the technical drawings and pattern pictures would lead you to believe. I ended up taking in the arm and side seams about 1/2 inch, and I made 3/4 sleeves for a more springtime look. I also did the triangular side panels and back yoke on the crossgrain to add some interest.

The fabric was from FabScrap, a charity in New York’s Garment District that sells scraps from fashion houses, schools, stores, tailor and upholstery shops etc. This scant 1.5-yard piece of very soft and comfy mystery poly knit cost $7.50. Sustainable to boot!

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The Fabulous Fab Scrap sign

Since I had white thread in the serger, next up was a basic white T-shirt. Boring, ok, but likely a wardrobe staple I will wear for years.

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Deer & Doe Plantain

I wanted to try the Deer & Doe Plantain t-shirt again. The one I made several years ago did not get much wear because the shirt was a little tight and the fabric didn’t have enough stretch. This time I sized up and used some really soft and lovely T-shirt fabric I got from the Portsmouth Fabric Company in New Hampshire while I was visiting my mom in January.

Unforch, this is a still bit tight. Grr. Maybe it will stretch out. Here’s hoping!

It should take no time at all to make a basic tee, right? So why does it take me forever? Faff about with the serger. Break a needle. Replace the needle. Untangle a nest of thread. Cut some clear elastic for the shoulder seams. Lose one piece of elastic. Hunt about on the floor for 10 minutes. Give up and cut a new piece of elastic. Then find the old piece, exactly where I left it in the first place:

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Where are you, clear elastic?

The coverstitch hem is still a bit wonky. Whatever.

Third up will be … drumroll… a white cardigan. Hey – the white thread is in the serger. That’s saving me like 15-20 minutes right off the bat.

I got some slubbed French terry last summer and earmarked it for a try at the Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan. Once that’s done, I will be ready for some color!

A Little Retail Therapy

Shopping for fun is not really my jam. I mean, I don’t get a rush from buying things. But to lift myself out of my sewing funk, a trip to New York’s Garment District always works.

I like to start my trip by rubbing the handwheel on this sculpture for good luck:

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Statue in the Garment District, dedicated to garment workers

This statue, by the sculptor Judith Weller, is modeled after her father. It’s dedicated to garment workers from the city’s heyday – many were poor Jewish immigrants who toiled on piecework for pennies but gradually built themselves prosperous lives in the United States.

There’s a New York Fashion Walk of Fame that celebrates 28 New York designers. I meant to visit Betsey Johnson’s plaque, but I forgot where it was, so here’s another favorite – Diane von Furstenberg.

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Walk of Fame

There’s also a big needle and button sculpture (there’s construction around the site right now – here’s a picture I took a couple of summers ago):

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We’re going to need a lot more thread

People are always moaning that the Garment District “isn’t what it used to be” and I’m sure that’s true. But it’s still a fun, vibrant place. Walk around and you’ll probably see fashion students, designers and models, people pushing racks of clothes down the street, and plenty of shoppers. Many sample shops offer unique experiences. Lots of little shops cater to certain kinds of fabrics or trims, including some that serve ethnic shopping niches. There are also some big stores – Mood is the most famous from its Project Runway sponsorship, but there’s also B&J Fabrics, Elliot Berman, and many more.

I stopped first at my favorite specialty shop, Lou Lou Buttons. It’s a store that just sells buttons, and wow what a selection! Everything is top quality, and you won’t find many bargains, but if you need something special, it’s the place to go.

I am making my mother a blouse for holiday parties out of some gold satin. I wanted something to bling it up a bit. I was delighted to snag these rhinestone-studded beauties:

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Lou Lou has all the button looks

Then I headed to Steinlauf & Stoller to get some interfacing. They have the best quality stuff – I will never use that dreadful Pellon junk again.

I also scored a big roll of patternmaker’s paper. This stuff is transparent enough that you can see through it for tracing off patterns, yet sturdy enough that you can tissue-fit.

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Patternmaker’s paper

I also threw a little love the way of some trimming shops. I can never seem to remember their names, but they seem to be run by families and they have great prices. I stocked up on more pins, elastics, tailor’s chalk and a few others odds and ends.

It was a great way to spend my lunch hour from work. If you’re ever in NYC and want to shop, give me a shout!

Edgy Wardrobe Winter Sewing Plans

I have gotten a lot of wear out of my edgy wardrobe so far. I am still sporting the Assistant Manager of the DMV look to work a couple a days a week, but I have gotten more comfortable at wearing my edgy looks.

Now that I have a good pair of work pants, the Style Arc Jasmines, I want to edgy them up. The pair I made is good, but they’re pretty basic. To review:

The pair I made have a little bubble at the front zipper, which tells me that the front crotch curve is a bit too high. They’re also a skosh tight in the front crotch. I will deepen the crotch curve in the next pair.

As you can see from the line drawing, the pants have two interesting seam details. The angled front pockets, akin to jeans pockets, work very well if you have heavy thighs. And the back yoke works very well if you have a bit butt and hip to small waist ratio, as I do, since it’s easier to adapt that yoke than to adapt the whole back of the pants. The version I made dips down a bit at center-back, easily remedied in the next pair with a bit of a wider angle for the top of the yoke.

Now that the fit issues are out of the way, how do I jazz these up?

First, I’d like to replicate the built-in belting of these RTW Karen Millen trousers:

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A built-in belt? Yes please!

Not a belt as much as a sash? Whatever it’s called, I like it. I don’t like wearing belts because they tend to ride up (see big hip-to-waist comment above) and they never seem to match what I’m wearing. To put it another way, I don’t like wearing belts, so I don’t have a lot of belts, and then when I need a belt, I don’t have one I like… vicious cycle.

This Karen Millen detail is just a tube of fabric that emerges from the waistband and connects with two D rings about 3/4 of the way between the center front and the right side seam. The D rings are looped through a short tube of fabric that tucks into a waistband seam that lines up with the pockets. The other side of the pants has the same waistband seam, but there are no D rings.

The look is a bit edgy because of the metal and the asymmetry, but totally office-appropriate. This should be pretty easy to do (famous last words). The Jasmine pants have a much smaller waistband, so I will need to think this through.

I also want to play with zippers at the hems. I splurged at Botani in New York’s Garment District for two fancy zippers with black tape, shiny silver teeth and decorative pulls:

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Pretty zippers…

Unfortunately, I screwed up and bought 8-inch zippers when I meant to get 6-inch zippers. I could shorten them, but that’s a hassle with metal teeth. Also, because these are fancy zippers instead of the basic cheap ones, they are a bit heavy. I worry that the weight will drag the sideline of the pants down unless I use some sturdy fabric. I’ll have to think on this.

Finally, the back yoke and front pockets seem to beg for some faux leather piping, like the stuff I used for this Swoon Patterns Ethel tote bag:

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Telfon foot works perfectly to apply faux leather

I was thinking also of some piped welt pockets in the back. We’ll see.

The pattern calls for woven stretch fabrics such as stretch Bengaline. This is hard to find fabric, but I figured anything with some texture would do. The original pants are in a heathered gray stretch gabardine. At B&J Fabrics in New York, I scored some black stretch wool pique that would be suitable for the next pair. A think a stretch twill would work well, also.

 

La Mia Boutique Goes Futurama

Once in a while I stop at Around the World Fashion Magazines and Books in New York’s Garment District to peruse the foreign fashion magazines. Especially around Fashion Week time, there are a lot of lewks to be seen.

 

I sought out the August/September issue of La Mia Boutique, an Italian sewing magazine similar to Burda Style, because I had to check out the “Futurama” spread of patterns by Elena Savò as part of my “edgy” sewing wardrobe plan. Several of her looks for fall/winter 2018 are in the issue, including these:

 

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This jacket with the face profiles is fascinating
Savo Betsey
Reincarnated Betsey Johnson realness
Savo dress
I’m too old to wear this but I love it
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Crazypants with off-center fly

I also love this denim ensemble by Sara Poiese:

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La Mia Boutique Aug/Sept 18 line drawings

I don’t have any of these projects in my plan now, of course, but I am going to go over the patterns in detail and see what’s doable for spring – at least the skirt and jacket combo and that “face” sheer jacket.

Edgy Hardware Shopping Spree

I hit up the Garment District in New York last week for some hardware and trims for my “edgy” wardrobe plan. Here’s my haul from Pacific Trimming:

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Hardware helps make an “edgy” look

I splurged for a lightweight silver-tooth RiRi zipper with a very flexible, serpentine quality for my Muse Patterns Jenna cardigan. I had it cut to size at Pacific too, since I don’t know how to shorten a separating zipper. It was $8 altogether, but worth it, I think, since I really needed something flashy yet light to make the cardi edgy. It looks good pinned in place anyway:

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I also got zippers for my cranberry knit dress and for the wide-leg pants I plan to make.

The three bags at lower right in the picture contain two types of faux leather trim and some 3 1/2-inch wide black petersham ribbon, to try making a skirt waistband facing from. Never tried this before, but I am interested to see how it goes.

I bought these two buckles to try adding some detail to the front of Simplicity 8058, a Cynthia Rowley skirt. The original skirt’s center-front detail is awkward to wear, since it tends to get warped out of shape when you sit, and those giant fabric-covered buttons are a bit twee so me. So I intend to trim it even with the rest of the waistband and then use a belt and buckle detail to add some interest, like so:

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Buckle vs. buttons

We’ll see how that goes. I think I could have bought a larger buckle, but I was worried that it would weigh too much and would pull at the front of the skirt – a concern especially because it’s a knit.

I also got three roundly spiked buttons to add to the epaulet of dress 120 from the December 2017 issue of Burda Style. I used the same buttons for the epaulets of my Simplicity 8174 moto jacket. They’re plastic, not metal, so their weight shouldn’t be annoying or pull the dress in some unappealing way, I hope.

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Edgy buttons?

I also bought a dozen of these square-in-a-round buttons, on spec. I plan to use them in a button-up blouse which will include a button-down collar to bring a bit of metal and menswear detail in the party.

Lekala to Armani?

The sewing pattern site Lekala sounds too good to be true – choose from hundreds of patterns, input your specific measurements and body adjustments, and get a custom-made .pdf pattern for less than $4 in a few minutes.

I’m hardly one to throw a wrench into the gears of technological progress, so after a few sewists I respect were pleased with their experiences, I figured I’d try it out. I ordered “Jacket with Decorative Front #4653” – it’s a knock-off of an Armani jacket from a few seasons ago.:

 

Lekala uses software to adjust a standard-block pattern to your measurements. Besides the usual bust, waist and hip, you also can enter measurements for:

  • Height
  • Underbust
  • Full hip (hip plus tummy protrudance)
  • Neck
  • Upper arm

Also, you can ask the software to program in several common adjustments:

  • Shoulder width
  • Back width
  • Bust points (width, height and distance between each bust point)
  • Waist height (or, torso length, depending on how you look at it)
  • Leg length
  • Arm length and upper arm width
  • Head and neck length

I programmed in narrow shoulders, long neck, wide back and long torso. I debated also using a low bust point, since I sometimes need to do this for Big 4 patterns, but I decided against it. Since the jacket has L-shaped darts in the front for shaping (not a princess seam) I figured I could manipulate that dart if necessary.

I had some qualms about these adjustments. Part of me wanted to get the standard block with just the usual bust, waist and hip measurements, so I could know how that block fits. Another part of me wanted to put Lekala through its paces. I decided to go for it.

You can preview the pattern instructions before you buy. I love this option! The directions are sparse and there are no diagrams, but they made sense, and at least I know what I am in for.

The pattern cost $2.99, and I added 50 cents to include seam allowances. (Yes, I will gladly pay 50 cents to avoid spending hours adding 1-cm seam allowances to everything!) I might not want this option for a pattern where I’d sew flat-fell or French seams, or if I was sweating the fit, but for this jacket that seemed like a great option.

About 10 minutes after I placed my order, the .pdf file arrived in my email. Oh no! The seam allowances were not included! I could have sworn I checked that box, but maybe I didn’t. Anyway, I emailed Lekala to ask if they could fix it, and the next morning they did, for no extra charge (although I was warned this was a one-time free fix and I should be extra sure to check the box next time). I thought this was phenomenal customer service.

The file made efficient use of the paper and it was a joy to tape together and cut, since there was only one size on the .pdf. It took me about 15 minutes to assemble and everything lined up nicely.

The .pdf had a couple of omissions, though. The front facing piece was not labeled and the three decorative swishy pieces on the bottom were marked in such tiny lettering I could not read them. I was able to suss out which piece was which based on the cutting layout.

I am disappointed that there are no special lining pieces. I will need to redraft the back and front jacket pieces, minus the facings, for a lining. Also, I will want a center-back pleat in the lining. I am not thrilled about this, but considering this cost $2.99, I am getting what I paid for. I mean, if I spent $18 for a Sewaholic or Vogue pattern, I’d be really miffed, but for so little, I am prepared to make do.

My plan, anyway, is to cut and sew the lining out of Bemberg rayon first as a muslin test-run for the jacket. This saves me the trouble and expense of a real muslin, which will go to waste, and if the lining needs adjustments, hey, it’s the lining so no one will see it. Maybe I am lazy, but that’s how I roll.

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Armani suiting, bought for a steal!

Assuming the muslin works and the jacket is a “go,” I am using this fabric. It’s an off-cut of gorgeous Armani wool suiting I bought from Mood fabrics in March. Mood was having a sale on odds and ends and the second the sale items posted, I was lucky enough to grab it. The lot is about 3 yards in all, but in two pieces, 2.75 yards and 1.3 yards. The whole thing cost only $37.50!

For the curvy hem pieces, I am planning to use some contrasting pique rayon suiting in black that I bought at B&J Fabrics in New York this summer. I am tempted to use silk dupioni, but I am worried that it will rumple whenI sit. I’ll see how it goes. I will give structure to the whole front with really nice interfacing I got at Steinlauf & Stoller, again in the Garment District.

If I have enough fabric left over, I plan to make a matching skirt out of Burda 6895, which I adapted to make a pencil skirt last year.

The skirt has princess seams, so I could do a two-tone look with the rest of the Armani suiting and the pique. Or, if there’s not enough of the Armani, I could do the whole thing in the pique. We’ll see.

Of course, if I am going to make a suit, I might as well make the blouse too…

Now I am getting way ahead of myself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on PatternReview Weekend

I have satisfied another resolution I made at the new year – to attend a sewing retreat. I went to PatternReview Weekend in early June in Stratford Ontario, Canada. I am glad I went, because I wanted to meet in person many people I’ve known only through their comments and sewing projects on PatternReview. But, the whole event was not really my cup of tea, so I don’t think I will attend again.

My favorite hands-on moment was getting to know some fellow sewists. Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow gave us advice on how to take better pictures. Here’s me and my photo friend, Debbie, trying out some techniques.

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Selfie practice with Debbie

I also really enjoyed a tour of the Stratford Festival Theater’s costume shop. We were allowed to only look at most costumes, but at the end of the tour we could try a few on.

We marveled at how well-made the costumes were for durability, and how many fancy trims and techniques were used. I really would have loved a tour of the sewing workroom, but that wasn’t on the tour. Boo.

The rest of the event was OK. There were a couple of demonstrations, but it was hard to see well. I am more a hands-on learning type. Also, I am not a very sociable person, and since it was my first time at this event, I didn’t know anyone there. About half of the 80-odd attendees had been before – some multiple times. As is inevitable with all-female events (one man attended) cliques formed and first-timers ended up together, trying to make connections.

Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Some organizers of the event were “ambassadors” who did a great job of seeking out newcomers and chatting them up. All the same, it was a bit exhausting to have to introduce myself over and over, and to try to make connections with people. This isn’t a complaint – I am just better in a small group than in a large group.

One of the highlights of the event is a pattern swap. Attendees brought in patterns they didn’t want anymore, and all the donated patterns, books and magazines were piled onto tables. Then there was a rush at the swap table to take away whatever you wanted. I donated five patterns to the swap – a suit pattern that was part of a lot I got from eBay, a free dress pattern from a magazine, a dress pattern I bought in the wrong size by mistake, a jacket pattern I knew I’d never sew, and a home dec pattern for a project that a friend asked for, then cancelled.

I decided I’d rather eat lunch than peruse the swap table at first. I am not much of a “stash” person. Most of the time, I buy the patterns and fabrics I want for specific projects. I seldom buy on spec or just because something’s on sale. I realize I am VERY spoiled in this regard – I can shop at the Garment District in New York anytime I want, there are Joann’s nearby for basics and cheap patterns (sometimes at little at 99 cents apiece) and a very good fabric store in Connecticut if I don’t want to go into NYC. Speaking with sewists from rural places, who have to shop online, and from Canada, where patterns seldom go on sale, I appreciate how fortunate I am. Still, I didn’t want to take things just for the sake of taking them.

I visited the table later on and took five patterns – a vintage skirt, a Style Arc top (been meaning to try Style Arc), a couple of dresses that seem suitable for me and a coordinates set of officewear. In my  goodie bag was a voucher for a skirt pattern from Deer & Doe and the Vogue “5 Easy Pieces” pattern – a great haul, all in all.

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The goodie bag also had coupons for discounts on fabric and patterns, gadgets such as measuring devices and snips, decorative pins, info about area attractions and other fun stuff.

There were two contests with prizes – making a camp shirt and making sleepwear. I made a camp shirt for the contest and wore it all day Friday, since I thought it could be judged anytime. It turned out the shirts and sleepwear were judged in the evening only. I had changed out of the shirt for dinner since it was pretty sweaty and rumpled from being worn all day in a stuffy church basement. The contest judging took a long time and I found myself getting pretty antsy to get out of there.

Saturday was a shopping extravaganza. We piled onto school buses and toured three sites – Len’s Mill (a warehouse-like place for fabric, yarn, housewares, crafting supplies and what have you), downtown Hamilton, ON, which has several great fabric stores along a cute commercial street, and Ann’s Fabrics in Hamilton, which sells mostly knits and activewear fabrics.

The only thing I really needed was lining fabric – I really like to stash that so that I don’t have to think about it. I scored 12 yards of nice 54-inch Bemberg in four colors at a shop in Hamilton, European Textiles.

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Bemberg – wide and great price

Otherwise, I was shopping for fall and winter. Yeah, summer just started, but my summer sewing plans are spoken for by now.

At Len’s Mill I found this cute cotton Canada-themed flannel, which would make good PJ bottoms for my husband (he’d requested some earlier this year). I also bought some nice quilting cotton with a Liberty feel for a top to go with new pants I just made  (I am thinking about a wearable muslin of the very popular Butterick 5526). Finally, I got 3  yards of a wine-colored suedecloth in anticipation of a work blazer for fall, possibly from Vogue 1418. It was lightweight and odd, so I may regret it. Or it may be fabulous.

Len’s also had some interesting buttons – I bought a giant one for who knows what (a bag? a poncho?) and two cards of red and black handpainted wooden buttons for a thrifted leather jacket I’ve been thinking of upcycling.

At Ann’s I found some heavy knit with a border stripe that would make a cute long-sleeved T-shirt, maybe without the overlay from McCall’s 7247.

My favorite place was Marina’s Fabrics in Hamilton, because it reminds me of the small family-run places I know in New York, complete with a jumble of unusual fabrics,  negotiable prices, and a talkative but grumpy immigrant lady behind the cutting counter.

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Hamilton, ON garment district

It’s where I found two interesting pieces: a light wool loose houndstooth suiting in white and wine that would make a wonderful summer shift dress (probably Deer & Doe’s Arum dress – and would coordinate with the suedecloth too if I have fabric left over for a bolero or such) and a border print in a knit of some kind – probably poly/acrylic – in black, gray and cobalt blue that would be perfect for a high-waisted pencil skirt from Simplicity 8058.

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My fabric and button haul

I had budgeted to spend $200 on fabric and other sewing materials, and I managed to do it – 16.5 yards in all, plus two books and assorted other items. Looking at my take, minus the Bemberg, I wonder what kind of fabric magpie I am. None of this makes sense with anything else. That’s the problem with stash shopping – the thrill of the hunt doesn’t mix well with a coordinated plan.

I started on the prewashing chore when I got home and then I got to work, making the PJ shorts for my husband.

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PJs from McCall’s 3019 (out of print)

I wanted badly to sew something, after just talking about sewing for two days! That’s the main problem with PR Weekend for me. I prefer a hands-on event much more than an event where you mostly shop, eat and drink, and socialize. Still, I am glad I went. If it’s nearby again (next year it’s in Portland, OR) and if there’s some hands-on activity, I might go.