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:
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.
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):
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:
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.
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!
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:
Style Arc Jasmine fronts
Style Arc Jasmine with the cool pocket and bonus back yoke
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
I also love this denim ensemble by Sara Poiese:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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 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.
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.:
Original Armani jacket
Line drawing of Lekala 4653
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:
Full hip (hip plus tummy protrudance)
Also, you can ask the software to program in several common adjustments:
Bust points (width, height and distance between each bust point)
Waist height (or, torso length, depending on how you look at it)
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.
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.
Burda 6895 pencil skirt
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…
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.
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.
This costume had quick-change ability to turn from black and white to color.
So many costumes…
Trying a few on
My friend Olga gets her style 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.
Deepika, founder of PatternReview, welcomes us.
A ukelele band!
Camp shirt contest
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.
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.
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.
Sign for Len’s Mills bargains
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you ever know when a sewing project is doomed from the start?
A colleague of mine wears a cute kilt-like skirt to work that has a little asymmetrical overlay. I like it and figured it would be easy enough to sew, so I grabbed New Look 6326 to try View D (the floral print skirt on the pattern envelope).
New Look patterns are nice for a few reasons. The envelope usually includes a wide range of sizes (sizes 10-22 in this case) and some various views that are truly different, not just minor variations on a theme. The patterns also are pretty inexpensive because there’s just one garment, not a wardrobe.
Pattern in hand, I looked for some fabric in New York’s Garment District. This store at 257 W 39rd Street beckoned because it offers deep discounts and usually has a great selection of wools. I wanted a plaid – maybe a Tattersall or Buffalo check – to highlight the asymmetrical front hem.
I have shopped in New York’s Garment District for years and have learned to put up with and even sometimes enjoy the crowded stores, the haggling, the thrill of the hunt and the mercurial customer service to get the best quality and greatest variety of fabrics imaginable. The store at this location is currently called Gate 232, but it’s gone by various other names over the years. It has some nice stuff and a lot of junk.
I found some navy wool crepe in an uneven windowpane plaid that would be perfect – not too heavy with a good drape. I found it in the wool section of the store with big signs everywhere saying the fabrics were $10 a yard. When I inquired about the fabric, however, I was told it was not part of the “sale” and instead was $12 a yard. I bargained with the guy to get the $10 a yard. I am OK with this in theory – haggling is part of the Garment District culture, but it rubbed me the wrong way that magically the very thing I wanted was not part of the so-called “sale.”
I inspected the fabrics before asking for a cuts, since I have also learned the hard way that fabrics can be stained, torn, or have defects. It seemed fine, but it is dark and cramped in that store, so I didn’t do as good a job as I would have elsewhere.
At the register the guy took my credit card and mumbled something about “10 percent.” What? I asked him. He was trying to charge me a 10% fee for using a credit card. There is no sign of this “store policy” anywhere. I grabbed back my credit card and walked out. He guy yelled at me that I had to pay for something once it was cut. I yelled back that he was chiseling me for a bogus fee after we’d agreed on the price, and I’d be happy to take it up with the city’s consumer protection bureau. He relented, cursing that he’d been in business X years and this had never happened before, blah blah.
When I got home, I found that the wool crepe was shot full of little holes that are visible if you hold the fabric up to the light. I guess moths had eaten it? I sent the fabrics to the cleaners to be steam cleaned, to be sure any moths were dead.
I soldiered on. I was able to squeeze the skirt out of the fabric (I had bought enough to make a long skirt but settled for a shorter skirt). The front asymmetrical overlay went together well, but I stupidly did not stabilize the crepe and because it’s slightly on the bias, it pulled a little when I sewed it, distorting the plaid a bit.
I decided I could live with it and kept going. I sewed the back darts, sewed rest of the skirt together plus the right-side waistband (but not the facing yet) and tried it on for fit. I usually need wide darts or double darts in the back of a skirt, and indeed, I did in this case, so I sewed another set of darts near the first. When I tried it on, it looked a little lumpy back there, but I figured it would press out and look right once I’d installed the zipper and waistband.
I set the project aside for about a month because of illness and other commitments. When I came back to it yesterday, I looked in dismay at the waistband – it was sewn on crookedly. How did that happen? I unpicked it, only to remember too late that I’d graded the seam (sloppily in some places), accounting for the goof. Yikes. I marked the sewing line with chalk, using a flashlight to follow the old stitching line, since the seam allowance was gone and unevenly graded.
Thinking I was back on track, I put in the invisible zipper and the waistband facing. I gave it a good press, smoothing out the hips on a ham, and pinned up the hem to try it on. Oh brother. My backside looks like this:
What the hell?!? I cannot account for this weird pleating and crazy excess fabric! I pinched it out just to see what I was dealing with, and the result is a hot mess because the plaid is ruined. Also, the waistband is uneven despite my best efforts.
So, is this my first wadder of 2018? Can this skirt be saved?