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July 27, 2012

Survive! the climb up the mountain.

Fight! the urge to return to the screen as entertainment.

Liberate! yourself from the chair.

Mark this post as read. Get up and get out. It’s a very rebellious act for a blogger. One I highly recommend.

(because this is primarily a sewing blog, here’s a little something i found in my pack while gathering supplies for the weekend: a self-designed & sewn pair of ripstop nylon rain pants, circa 1998. look at that gusset. yeah, i’m that cool.)


Granite State of Mind

July 11, 2012

Summer. New Hampshire. Blue skies. Big rocks. Choppy fresh water. I put in a lot of hours on this lake/reservoir growing up. And jumped off this rock a lot, too! In fact, it was really strange scooting back down the makeshift gangway instead of jumping into the water. By the way, the picnic table is new on me – we always used driftwood or fallen trees.

I’m wearing this exact outfit as I type, which goes to show I’ve come round to blousy, loosey-goosey tops. How did that ever happen?! I consider them belonging in the realm of the lithe and thin-framed. Love the look of flowing fabric, dramatic drapes, but it would ultimately weigh me down and end in frump-fest. My body hasn’t changed all that much, so it must be the attitude. Or delusions. Or thrifted spotted silk. Maybe the warm temps and soothing breezes coming in off the lake. Whatever it is, I really like this top. More so because it was so ridiculously easy to sew, a total win in a sweltering sewing room. Especially after all the work on the shorts – more on them later.

This gem of a pattern is from the glorious yard sale booty two summers ago. Whoever Loraine Irish is, she was styling in ’82.

The silk was a major Goodwill score, in the form of an ugly gathered skirt (thanks for landing it in my hands, Ashley!) for $4.50. I have enough left for piecing or trims, though not another garment. I sewed up view 2, with a few minor adjustments. The pattern is a size 12 (bust 34″), and I’m a 10 according to the envelope (using high bust of 32″). Flat pattern measurements came in at 41.5″ 44.5″ (I initially blogged the waist measurement), a crazy amount of ease even for this look. So, I pinched out an inch on both the front & back, meaning a total of 4″, then followed suit with the yoke. Good enough for me. Not digging the facings, especially given the drape of the silk, I made some super-tiny bias binding for the slit neck, and simply turned the armscyes twice. The super-tiny bias binding has a super-tiny oopsy! I got a little feisty while cutting down the fold, and opened up all the way down to where the facing would end on the inside of the garment. Hello, cleavage! Once the binding was on, a 1.5″ slipstitch took care of that problem. Design feature. Yoke and side seams are French, and I utilized the existing hem of the skirt while laying out. Of course, I had to unpick a bit for the side seams, but it’s so much faster than measuring and sewing up a new blind hem.

I love how simply and breezy this blouse is. I was afraid it might turn out lunch lady at best, sloppy at worst. I think I’ve avoided that, but I’ll leave it for you to decide. And even if it doesn’t work for ya, that’s fine… it works for me. Maddie had a recent experience with an uninvited opinion on a slouchy, loose fit. Sheesh. I’ve toyed with belting this using a black leather obi belt Ryan gave me. It’s from Gordana (PR fame), and I’ve only worn it a few times. Aside from earrings and necklaces, I’m not all that fab at accessorizing. Maybe I’ll snap a photo and take a poll so you can weigh in.

In looking at the lines a bit more, I was totally struck by how similar it is to a shirt I’d recently seen and wanted to sew. Ry and I were having an awesome meal on our Texas trip, and I was so smitten with the blouse of our neighbor’s waitress, that I sketched it out with some notes. Not the first time, either! Ry just handed me a receipt-cum-bookmark that I’d drawn a pricey coat onto, in the store, passing over offers of assistance from sales staff. This was two years ago. Now I sometimes take a couple mobile shots of cool design details I’d like to incorporate. I’m sure I look like a counterfeiter, but often don’t even use the inspiration. And if I do, it’s for my own use, and never a total knock-off – just a detail or RTW construction technique. I’ve outed myself, and am fully prepared for the needles and shears headed my way :) But back to the blouse – with a few mods, I think I can get a similar look with a fabric in my stash.

Now onto the shorts. The color and length is fresh from the JC Penney catalog. I feel like I should get some crazy fabric and call them Jams. In reality, the length is due to these being a working muslin from the Jean-ius class. Although I haven’t been posting my progress, I’ve made three muslins from it so far, all studies in different fabric weights and stretch. The pair I’ve copied have elastane in them, and it was eye-opening to see the difference it makes. The first non-stretch draft I made was impossible to get on! Here’s the thing, though – I am so sick of stretch denim. I really want to get a solid jeans pattern down for a slim fit, non-stretch jean. I’ve never seen, let alone owned, selvage denim, but that’s what I’m going for. I remember a pair of 80s Jordache jeans that I bought new in college. They were straight, stiff and tight. And one of three pairs of pants I packed for my year-long stint in Russia after graduation. Like selvage denim, they eventually formed to my body. Until all the vodka and bliniy caught up with me.

The draft is getting close, but not perfect. This denim is not the best quality, and midweight. It’s leftover from my first pair of jeans, which I never wear by the way. The back on those dips down, the front is too high, and the length too short – I had just needed to finish them! Anyway, when I first tweaked these to what I thought was a decent enough fit, I went ahead with all of the faux flat-felling & topstitching. They were pretty much dead on while standing up. After a day of moving around, sitting, crouching, living, issues came to light. After three days – because who washes jeans after one wearing – the issues were in the spotlight. Sitting stretches out the rear, of course. This has made the under-bum a bit baggy, and also caused the lovely upward scoop of the back waistband to fall lower. I like that upward scoop for bending modesty. I’m going to simply pinch out more of the center back up near the waist, and bring the height of the yoke down 1/2″ to fix this. As-is, I’d never be able to go sans-belt. I’d really love to not need a belt after a few wears. But the question remains – how tight can I make the final pair in selvage denim? Of course, one can’t expect painted-on jeans. Some amount of bum mobility is necessary. One can’t go around standing on a conveyor belt. So, I’m down with the fact that a smidge of under-butt sag will happen over time. Yet I wonder if higher-quality selvage denim will stretch less, yet still be able to be squeezed into at initial wear. I’m hesitant to make this particular fabric extra snug initially, as I don’t quite trust it. Lastly, I will probably have to shift all of my outseams, which are now curved, because the point of selvage denim is to utilize the selvage (a straight line).

That’s a lot of thinking out loud. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with these. I didn’t add front pockets for the draft. I didn’t correct the curve of the outseam. But I did have fun with the back pockets! I always wanted an “L” embroidered on my shirts like Laverne. My sister has an “L” brooch that she’d better keep an eye on. I’ve been digging Amy’s pockets, too.

Here’s some cuteness, because we all love cuteness.

And here is some more cuteness. My dad turned 84 yesterday, so we celebrated early over the weekend. His health is changing quickly now, but boy is he still a charming man.

Cloth Labels

July 6, 2012

Oh, hello there. Remember the days of multiple posts per week, and my blog hopping around like a busy little bunny? Yeah, neither do I. Ha! It wasn’t that long ago! I do have finished objects to share. In fact, I’ve been living in one of them for a few days, and it’s now in the wash. Let’s hope it fits the same as when it first came off the machine (old stash, maybe not pre-washed), and we’ll bang out a photo shoot here at threadsquare HQ. And be prepared, as it’s high time I curl up with my reader for a few hours :) I’ve been logging so much time on the computer for a different project, and summer is so short here, that my free hours simply must be spent outside in an upright position, moving more than my arms.

For now, I’ll leave you with a little eye candy. A while back, I went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Osborne Library at the American Textile History Museum with three other volunteers. I was really struck by the mill girls’ letters, one of which we were able to read the original. We didn’t view any of the Lowell Offering issues (a poetry & fiction periodical by the mill girls), yet if you’d like to peruse, here is a fantastic database. The photo geek in me loved seeing tin types and stereographs, as well.

At the end of the tour, we passed a table with scattered stacks of gorgeous colorful pieces of paper. Called cloth labels, they were originally attached to bolts of fabric. Apparently that is the extent of what is known about them. Yet they are so beautiful, like small illuminated manuscripts. Enjoy a sampling, courtesy of the American Textile History Museum, Lowell, MA. Please no pinning and/or reproducing. :) The museum was kind enough to share these with me, so let’s respect their copyright. If you’d like to see more, feel free to browse the Chace Catalogue online.

Have a great weekend, darlings. And to quote Kenneth King, let’s meet back here. I’ll be stopping by yours between now and then.

Blueberry Rhubarb Pi

June 22, 2012

Yes, darlings. Pi. Π. As in math. Or maths, if you’re of the British persuasion. Maybe even Australian. I don’t know what y’all call the numbers game down there. What I do know is that blue-violet rayon + raspberry-rhubarb Petersham + 1/2 circle skirt makes for lovely sewing. And spinning. Lots and lots of spinning. Although I’ve been limping on a hurt foot since Tuesday, unable to go to boot camp or run, I HAD to whirl. In a few days I’ll even give her a jump.

I am so very glad I didn’t rush into this skirt the night before holiday. I was tempted to cut into the challis, ditching my plans for a circle skirt (no time to let it hang pre-hemming) and make a dirndl in its place. Reason got the better of me, and upon return, I set to work mocking up a 1/2 circle skirt template. Previously, I’d made a 3/4 template, yet discovered there wasn’t enough of this fabric in my stash. Which worked out lovely, if I do say so. Up until now, I’ve shied away from circle skirts, thinking they’d be rather unflattering on me. The last time I wore one was in roughly 5th grade, when I begged my mom to make me a poodle skirt and buy me saddle shoes.

Now, I’m totally sold. For me, the key is the 1/2 circle. It’s just enough fabric for flippy fun, and not too much to weigh me down. My initial plan for this fabric, if you recall, was a “short, flippy skirt”. I kept it a little modest, but will definitely be making a shorter version. However, I’ll move down to a 1/4 circle skirt then, so that simply walking down the street doesn’t give everyone I pass a piece of the pie.

These are so freaking easy to make, guys. Seriously. The hardest part is the patience required in waiting for the bias to stretch out. And then the patience required for marking an even hem. Luckily, the skirt had hung for several days by last weekend, when my mom visited. I put her to work, yes I did. Hey, it was Father’s Day!

I’m not going to bore you with another circle skirt tutorial. Here’s where I took off from. You’ll notice my lovely exposed zip, from the hoard I stole from that same mom. (I steal from her AND I put her to work. It’s okay, I repay her in foot massages.) That design element is actually a retrofit. See, I didn’t think about needing, you know, seam allowances for the center back. My math was so dead on for the waist, and I need to save room for pie, so I just did what any clever seamster does, and showed my metal (teeth).

Ages ago I’d picked up some Petersham from Sunni, and the red went into my purple Clovers. The rhubarb (plum in the shop) has been ripening for this skirt. Again, why mess with a solid tutorial? If that isn’t straightforward enough, pre-shrink your ribbon, press & stretch along lower edge, stitch to lining (in my case, silk habotai), stitch to skirt, stitch together.

If I told you I’m off to bake a pie, my nose would grow three feet. It’s too hot for that business. I love the weather, but our apartment has one window unit, in the opposite corner from the kitchen. Bake in 100°? I think I’ll pour myself a tall one. With a rhubarb swizzle. And a blueberry garnish. With one twirl for good measure.

Have a lovely weekend, and I’ll be catching up with you :) It’s the second day of summer, and I’m pretty psyched that I’ve stuck with my sewing plan pretty well so far. I’m working on the Jean-ius class now, have a swimsuit to make, the HP top and the Siren sundress (spell check really wants that to read “undress”!). I’d also like to use the pattern I draft from Jean-ius to redo my Clovers. And the red bra kit I’ve had for months. BUT…. I’ve ticked off two Renfrews, a Taffy, a motorcycle jacket, and two Simplicity dresses (one was a change of pattern from my original plan, due to the blog hop).


I have a Cloth Habit

June 8, 2012

Don’t we all? Who isn’t in love with Amy’s style, sewing and writing? We were in our adopted hometown last week, so I felt it absolutely necessary to stalk email the lovely keeper of the the cloth habit herself, in the hopes that she’d grace me with conversation and a coffee. And she did just that! Amy, you are so terrific! I could have chatted with you for hours. Alas, Ry had to buzz off to the airport, but he snapped a couple quick photos for us. (Don’t let the desaturated images fool ya, this gal’s got the prettiest green eyes.) I love actually getting to hear what a person sounds like, have a real conversation. Of course, there is the nail-biting question of what to wear to a sewing blogger meet up! Of course, I wore my indiscreet knit dress from last summer, complete with twin needle hems that aren’t flat, and a V-neck that I hadn’t bothered to check the decency of prior to cutting out. My first choice was this dress, but I’d been wearing it all week. Austin was sick of seeing me in that dress. I’m never sick of it, and in hot weather, it feels like I’m wearing nothing at all.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about my mate’s plan to fan-boy candid camera us. “OMG! You’re Cloth Habit, right?! And threadsquare?! I can’t believe it – I looooove your blogs, I read them aaaall the time.” Aaaah, the silliness :)

It was tough leaving, but the Mushie kisses upon return sure do help a seamster out. The trip was refreshing for many, many reasons, and also a great way to step away from the computer for a bit. I did receive an email that I’d been featured on Pattern Review, but by the time I read the note, the site had changed. I have no idea what the feature read like, but I’m assuming they just took info from my (pretty bare) profile page? Which reminds me… I was contacted by an editor for Be In Style a couple months ago, and they were sweet enough to feature me in their Best of the Web series. Huzzah! I kept forgetting to post a thank you, and I hope this will suffice. Any site that has a post about asymmetrical moto jackets is alright by me ;)

Now that some blog housekeeping is done, sunshine has shown, my friends have been hugged, I’m ready to buckle down and get back to the cutting table.

Jiggity jig & on the road again

May 29, 2012

Oy! I’ve been absent the last few days, and am going to be again. We spent a long holiday weekend off-grid in Maine throwing sticks, catching sticks (that was Mushka), stacking wood, running on dirt roads, swatting black flies, picking rhubarb. The flies won, as I’m sure you could guess if you’ve ever been in the woods in summer. I’m a walking tea tree oil diffuser at the moment. No worries, by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be nursing a Mexican martini, giving my mates a big squeeze and deciding on the next a.m.’s breakfast taco. It’s a very important decision, people. Until then, I’m trying really hard not to haphazardly cut into some fabric and create a pre-holiday I-have-nothing-to-wear crazetastic mess. I’ve been eyeing the blue-violet challis marked for a circle skirt for the last 15 minutes. I think I’ll just dream of a rhubarb inspired outfit instead.

Thank you for all the sweet comments concerning the photography exhibit :) I’ll share the selected images soon.


Can You Hear Me Now? – an exhibit

May 22, 2012

Hey guys and gals, I’m pretty psyched about this news. Three of my photographs were chosen for this exhibit in southern Maine. I don’t know if there are any Mainers (Mainiacs) out there, or any other New England residents for that matter, but if you’re in the neighborhood, pop on in :) I’m sure it’s pretty low-key. In fact, the casual nature of the exhibit was what spurred me to enter a submission – a kind of soft way of trying to get back in there. The gallery has opted to print everyone’s work (weird), so hopefully the quality looks good. I got the news while I was in NH over the weekend, and needed to submit print files before I’d make it back home. So, a little phone photoshoppery fun with Ry ensued, and I wasn’t able to see his test prints in person. That man is amazing. Anywho, a road trip to Maine for lobster rolls, oysters, beer & photography never hurt anyone. Except the lobster.


In wordpress, once a post is published, you get this little sidebar congratulating you on a post, and a little tea bag line of encouragement. This is what I saw after hitting publish just now:

Stephen King. Maine. Get it. I’m a dork.