Thursday, August 28, 2014

Finding style

First - I hate you blogspot! I should have written my post somewhere else first and then posted it because blogspot ate my post! Grrrrrrr!

Well, here's take two to the post I spent way too much time composing this afternoon!

I envy women who have style - women who look comfortable and complete in their clothing and accessories. I realize that this takes effort and time.  A lucky woman might have a great wardrobe and/or a great body so that whatever she pulls out of her closet looks great, but to make it complete one still needs to know what to combine and how to accessorize it.

I have neither a great wardrobe nor a great body, but I do feel like I have style...albeit in my head. I have lots of ideas and opinions about what I like and don't like, but not much seems to make it into what I wear. If only Cinderella's birds and mice could turn my fabric and pattern stash into the wardrobe I envision!

I could use these helpers!

Of course I could just buy clothing instead of waiting for my fabric and pattern stash to magically turn into a great wardrobe, except that I really don't like to shop. I used to love to shop for clothes when I was a teenager, but these days I am overwhelmed by the volume of clothing in the department stores, and I am intimidated by boutiques. I think, probably unrealistically, that clothing in boutiques will be pricey, and everything will be smaller than size 10. I am also afraid of the boutique salesperson talking me into buying something I will regret. After all, style is personal, and the salesperson is a stranger who has nothing to go on except for the clothing style I wear coming in. (And no, I do not have any girlfriends to go shopping with.) This is of course based on the assumption that salespeople in boutiques help the customer. If I have to shop I still prefer the anonymity of the department store. Except for Nordstrom's there isn't anyone to help (or bother) you in the department store. They've cut corners. Sales are now handled in centralized kiosks, and they don't have enough people to keep the racks neat and return clothing to them. The dressing rooms are a mess, which is of course really the fault of piggy-shoppers...but I digress. I view the department and franchise stores (Zara, H&M, etc.) as a sea of cheap clothing, churning over with new styles every few weeks to whet the appetite of chronic shoppers. The prices may be low but I have no place in my closet for thin, throwaway clothes. I am also dismayed at the inability to find a middle ground between junior "sexy" and middle age boring. But most of the time when I'm shopping for clothes I think that I should be home sewing them instead!

So what is my style? It's safe to say that what's in my closet is rather boring - I did say that I don't have a great wardrobe. Since I'm not working outside the home, I haven't had a real incentive to pay attention to what I wear. Most days I just pull out whatever is clean and fits, which is typically jeans and a t-shirt type shirt. My jewelry consists of a watch, my wedding rings, and earrings. The earrings rotate among three or four pairs even though I have a jewelry box full of earrings - as well as necklaces and bracelets. My shoes are usually flat, comfortable shoes due to problem feet. My most comfortable shoe is actually a sneaker, but they're black so I pretend they're not sneakers. With all the walking I do here, both everyday grocery store runs and marathon walking when I tour the cities of Europe, comfort is paramount.

I've decided that I want to find a better style. I need to work with what I've got since I won't go shopping, and I don't think there will be any magic mice and birds to help me sew. I'm a perfectionist so I probably wouldn't want their help anyway! Today I needed to go to the produce market downtown so I dressed in my usual jeans and t-shirt. But I dressed it up just a little, with a bracelet, different earrings, a necklace, a scarf, and I put on some low heel, ankle boots since I wasn't going to be walking far. I felt better walking around, a little like someone with some style. What do you think?

Just a little bit more style to my usual casual wear

Monday, August 18, 2014

Where has the summer gone?

It's mid-August and I haven't posted since June. I haven't sewn anything since June partly because I've been busy with house guests, but also because what I wanted to sew is for summer, and now it's cold out! Well ok, not cold, but it's not typical August hot here:

I would much rather have these temps than hot (no a/c here!) but I'm not really motivated to work on the summer tops I was going to make. I traced off a couple of patterns in June, but this is as far as I got with one of them:

With some creative layout, I think I will be able to squeeze out New Look 6213. Fortunately the fabric doesn't have a direction to it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Just a nightshirt

It's just a nightshirt, but it is another sewing project completed:

The pattern is Kwik Sew 2821, one that I've used before.

The fabric I used is a thin, drapey cotton-viscose (rayon) remnant I found at the department store fabric section. I was drawn to the print but immediately knew I wanted to use it as a nightshirt. I really like the way the flowers look like they're hand painted, and if I were an edgier, artsier person, I would have made an edgier, artsier top out of this fabric...but I'm not, so it's just a boring nightshirt. The print is a panel-print on only part of the fabric: the flower motif repeats every meter with nothing printed on the other half of the fabric. I used one motif for the front and decided to use the plain fabric for the back, sleeves and the bands on the neck and sleeves. I used my serger for almost every part of the construction so it was fast and easy.
My next project will be a bit more interesting (I hope). I'm making the BurdaStyle top in the picture below, though you can't see it very well in the model's photo.
I'm thinking of making some minor changes to the sleeves and front, but we'll see. I won't have a lot of sewing time in the next couple of months because we have trips to Croatia, Norway and Paris planned, and family is visiting. It's going to be a busy summer!

Friday, June 20, 2014


And you thought Burda pattern sheets were bad. This is the pattern sheet in  Meine Nähmode:


Meine Nähmode is a German pattern magazine that reprints Simplicity and New Look patterns. I think the magazine is a bargain at about $7.50 (€5.50) for 12-13 patterns (especially because I can't get Simplicity and New Look patterns here), but not all sizes or views are available and I have to trace the pattern. Somewhere in that black and red spaghetti mess are the pattern pieces to New Look 6150:

Pattern envelope picture form
As shown in the magazine, with the fabric I'll be using


How I add seam allowances

I made a short video to show how I use a 6 inch quilting ruler to add seam allowances to traced patterns. I use this method when I trace patterns from BurdaStyle and other European sewing magazines since they don't include seam allowances.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Trip to Barcelona


I'd been wanting to get here for many years and finally did. It was a lovely long weekend. You can see many of our pictures here on Flickr. (The Flickr interface may show you a sort of collage of all the pictures - you can click on the first one to see it and the description I wrote about it and then step through each one)

Of course I had to find the yarn and fabric stores.

All You Knit is Love
8 Carrer de la Barra de Ferro
Ribes & Casals
Roger de Lluria 7 
There were two other fabric stores on the same street as Ribes & Casals and they were all bustling on a Saturday afternoon. So nice to see people sewing...or at least buying fabric. Ribes & Casals was the largest with two floors - the lower floor appeared to be all thread and notions and stuff while the main floor was filled with tables piled with rolls of fabric. Though none appeared to be very high end, the quality seemed good and the prices were very nice - at least half of the prices I've seen in Germany.

My souvenirs:

Yarn, fabric and a Patrones!

The yarn is lace-weight merino/silk from Great and the Fibers, and the fabric is a polyester knit jersey. And of course I had to get a Patrones. I can get them in Germany but for almost 3x the price since they're imported here.

Knowing how to sew means never having gaping armholes...

I made this top from Kwik Sew 2844. I've had the pattern for so long now that it is out of print. 

Kwik Sew 2844
It was a really simple thing to sew, just two pattern pieces and only shoulder, side seams and hems to worry about. However, when I put it on I had quite a bit of gaping in the front armholes and my bra was visible. Not good, but sadly also not unlike what I see a lot of women wearing. This pattern and, in my opinion, a lot of cheap RTW clothes like it, are not designed for someone with breasts! I wasn't going to wear it as-is nor did I want to throw it away, so I made bust darts to close up the gap and make it fit better.  And yes, I do seem to be in a black and white phase - out of the last five things I've made, four have been black and white. There is more colorful fabric in my sewing queue.
Even though it's out of print, here's the Kwik Sew pattern info and my review:

Fabric Used: 4-way stretch cotton lycra, with perhaps a bit too much stretch for this pattern but since I ended up making it less-snug the fabric drapes rather than clings, which is a good thing! I've had this fabric for a long time too, almost as long as the pattern.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, but I left off the front pocket and added darts.

Were the instructions easy to follow? The pattern is only two pieces (three if you include the pocket). I used my serger 4-thread overlock for the shoulder and side seams and cover stitch for the hems. I used fusible straight tape for the shoulder seams, as I do on all knits. I also cover-stitched the funnel neck hem, although the instructions call for just turning the facing over and securing it at the side seams only. A beginner can follow the instructions but they may be a bit confusing because they have you jump all over the place since parts of the instructions apply to the different views.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the simple lines, wider shoulder (hides the bra-strap well), and I think the funnel neck is a nice change from a plain round or jewel neck. I've had this pattern for a long, long time. I'd envisioned it in the fabric I eventually made it in.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I added the bust darts after I'd sewn it up. My measurements put me between the medium and large sizes in Kwik Sew, but the large ended up a bit too big and I had major "gap-osis" in the front armhole. I pinned out the excess into a dart and adjusted the hem of the armhole as best I could. Since the shoulders were a bit too wide as well so I had to adjust the armhole hem anyway. In hindsight I maybe should have started with the medium and done a FBA and added a bit to the waist.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I may make this again - with darts. Or I may experiment with the medium size and a FBA. Since I've never done a FBA, this may be a good pattern to try it on.

Conclusion: The top turned out really comfortable. I shouldn't have waited so long to make it!