Friday, July 29, 2005

Sheep and fast cars

This weekend will be all about yarn, sheep, and fast cars. And heat. It's going to be HOT and we are probably nuts for planning to do outdoors things. But hey, the sheep and certainly the fast cars won't be around every weekend.

I've never been to a wool and sheep festival but I've read other knitting bloggers accounts of the big festivals in New York and Maryland and it sounds like fun. It'd probably be loads of fun to go with fellow knitters but alas I am not so social and don't have any knitting friends to go with. My husband will do. Just joking. He's being a sweetheart to go to this sheepy fair with me...and he knows it's going to be hot. I've told him maybe he'd rather stay home and I'll go by myself but I'm happy that he's going to go with me. Besides, he's my best friend and I love doing stuff with him.

And on Sunday I'll go to the race with him. He's not a race fanatic, so it's not like I'm doing him a favor in exchange for his going to the fair with me on Saturday. I'm interested in the race too. If you recall we flew all the way to France last month to see a big car race (among other things). We both enjoy the engineering of fast cars and the races are certainly thrilling but just like we enjoy music but don't go to concerts (the ticket costs, the crowds, the parking...) we usually don't make plans to go to car races. It's just that these races are opportunities that don't come around often. Last month it was all about seeing France, friends and a big-time race that goes on for 24 hours. This month it's a rare Grand Prix through the streets of the city I live in. We'll be able to hop on the light rail and ride a few stops to the event. Unless the crowds are totally outrageous or the heat is just too unbearable we'll buy the cheaper general admission tickets and go check out the race.

So a weekend of yarn, sheep, and fast cars. The only thing that would make the weekend better would be to include some cheese, chocolate and wine and I'm sure we'll manage to fit those in as well.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The fitting woes return

I thought I had found a New Look blouse pattern that fit without alterations, but I was sadly mistaken. I made up the muslin last week and it seemed to fit, so either my body suddenly changed or I was in fitting-denial when I tried it on. Somehow I fear the latter. I tried it on again last night (after it had cooled down into the 90s) and with the front hidden placket sewn up the truth was immediately visible. The blouse is too small. Well, too small from the bust down that is. I added to the pattern, grading to the next largest size just under the arm and it was sort of ok, but still not right in the bust. If I increase to the next largest size overall, it will be too baggy across the chest and in the shoulders. So now I'm consulting Sandra Betzina, alas not in person but via Fast Fit, to see how to increase the bust darts.

My serger is back home. Yeah! It's been cleaned and oiled and adjusted and is ready to do its serging duties once again.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Fickle Serger

My Babylock Evolvé, beloved serger of all sergers, is behaving poorly. I'll be serging along all fine and happy and then suddenly it wants to serge a lot faster...and then slower...and then faster. My serger is surging. So I took it in to the dealer, who was quite surprised when he saw me there with my machine. This is a reaction similar to when I brought my Honda to the mechanic. They (Hondas and Babylocks) don't break. I agree. They are both well-made and reliable machines. And just like sometimes your car no longer makes that "clanking noise" in front of the mechanic and you have to resort to trying to imitate the sound, so too was the situation with the serger. It behaved like an angel. It hummed and serged just fine while I stood there saying "it goes "rrrrrRRRRRrrrrrRRRRRrrrrr." He said it could be the foot pedal control and offered to swap it out. And knowing that this 3-year old serger has not been cleaned in...oh, 3 years...I asked for a cleaning and oiling. I do sometimes give it blasts of canned air between projects or I drag out the vacuum and mini tools, but it's never had a good cleaning and oiling and perhaps that is causing the problem (it's not like a sewing machine - Babylock only wants authorized repair people to oil it, so they don't tell you where or how to apply oil). Or it's the footpedal. At any rate I'll be serger-less for about a week. Fortunately I'm starting a new project so it'll be a while until I need to serge. And I always need to serge. If you don' t own a serger and you sew clothes, then you must get one. Why? Knits. Hems. Seam finishes. Even finishing the edge of fabric before you wash it so it doesn't unravel in the wash. That's why.


I found the Vogue pattern I wanted last night. Hancocks has a 75% off sale on Vogue patterns right now. I was prepared to drive a few more miles to another Hancocks in hopes that they had it in stock but first I re-checked the store that is only a mile or so from my house and yipee, they had it! I picked up the buttons for the dress...and later discovered already had the exact same ones at home. I will probably use them on another project so I'll keep them. $2.10 for buttons isn't worth the trip back to return them - even if the store is nearby.

Went to exchange something at Costco and realized I didn't have my card with me. Doh!

But the evening was young so I headed to the mall where Macy's once again disappointed me. The shoe department was woefully understaffed and there as no way I was going to get any help, so Macys? You lose. I went to Kohls instead. I really wanted a pair of Keds canvas sneakers or slip-ons because they'd look great with my cropped pants and well, I can always use another pair of shoes, right? It is quite funny to me that 30 years ago I would not have been caught dead in girl's sneakers and thumbed my nose at the Keds-like sneakers. Ah, but now that look is retro, so it's different. Anyway, I wanted a pair of the canvas ones, but unfortunately they just didn't fit. The arch was too far forward. I didn't want to believe this and even tried on every one in my size. Nope. But just as I was about to give up, I saw a different version of Keds in a microfiber instead of canvas. Not exactly what I came for but I like them. Mine are a khaki color. And they were on sale.

All in all, a good shopping evening.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Moving right along

Sorry, still no pictures of my latest creations. I finished the Kwik Sew 3337 skirt and I'm moving on to a matching shirt. I decided on New Look 6952. I considered New Look 6598 but I seem to have a fitting problem with this one. You would think that two similar looking shirt patterns from the same pattern company should fit the same way, but this is not the case. About 6 months ago I made two muslins of 6598 and gave up trying to get the bust to fit. I noticed that 6952 has a side bust dart in addition to the vertical dart of 6598 and thought that might just be what I need. So I traced off the pattern and made up a muslin and lo and behold, it fits. Fortunately the pattern has been reviewed by others over at and I'm forewarned about there being lousy instructions for the front hidden placket (and this pattern is specifically labeled as an easy pattern). Good to know in advance before I cut this out of my fashion fabric in case I need to add fabric or change something. I think I'll play around with the muslin as a test case, which will also make sure it fits completely when buttoned.

No knitting or other crafting. I looked at my blue Cotton-Ease yarn before I put it away, does that count?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Too hot to sew

We're in a heat wave...a tropical heat wave...the temperature's isn't surprising...

The backyard thermometer hit 102.7 on Saturday. We do not have a/c, but we do have fans, including one that is an evaporative type. Plus it also cools down at night. So the heat is bearable, especially because I know that we only get a couple of these heat waves every summer.

Unfortunately there was no a/c and there weren't any fans at my workshop on Saturday. We met in a church annex building that was apparently still undergoing remodeling construction and there wasn't any electricity to the outlets. As you can imagine, it was hot. The windows and doors were open and provided an occasional breeze but also let in the heat. It wasn't so bad in the morning but by lunch we were beginning to get quite uncomfortable.

The workshop was good though. Fred Bloebaum gave an hour long presentation on how different styles and lines can enhance or ruin a look. She showed examples she's collected from fashion magazines over the years and referred to the book Looking Good by Nancy Nix-Rice and Pati Palmer. Most of the information I sort of already knew but I liked that Fred used visual examples because for example, seeing how the diagonal line of a lapel or fashion detail directs the eye really reinforces the idea. Fred also plugged her pattern line and brought along her samples. I bought her Maia Jacket pattern after trying on the sample - I honestly never considered it based on the envelope art or line drawing but sewn up it was a very lovely little jacket that fit perfectly. She also had a sample of an Athena Blouse modification that has a bottom edge pointed like a jacket or vest. The pattern is due out in the fall as Athena II. She also has a new skirt pattern called Iris, which is coming out soon but I think I'll pass on that one since I have plenty of skirt patterns and while I'm sure it's nice and well drafted, I didn't see anything really unique about it.

Marjory DeRoeck, an image consultant, talked for an hour about color. She followed the usual "season" description and described what colors made up each and why. For example, winter/summer colors have blue undertones and autumn/spring colors have yellow undertones. One tip she gave was to match your shoe color to your hair color. I'd never thought about that but it seems to make sense.

We broke up into two groups with one group having a style assessment by Fred and the other receiving individual color assessments by Marjory. I didn't think I'd learn anything new about my body type but it was good to have a non-biased opinion. I always considered my hips to be large, but it's actually my thighs that are the widest part. This is still not something I like but it does make a difference for fitting and deciding what style to wear. I asked about full skirts (since I'm making a 6-panel Kwik Sew right now) and was pleased when Fred said that I can wear them, but to avoid full circle skirts. I just need to bring more attention to my shoulders to balance out my bottom part. That's when she suggested her new Athena blouse pattern as well as some New Look ones, which I think I own. Fred also commented that I looked good in retro, which is kinda cool because I'm actually drawn to those types of fitted tops.

In my color assessment I found out that I'm an Autumn-Spring. What that means is that I look better in colors with yellow undertones, like gold, brown, and olive green. Combined with Fred's earlier comment, does that mean I should shop the thrift store for retro 70's clothing? Egad! The lime greens and oranges that are popular in clothing right now also look good on me, which is nice to know because I like those colors. But I would have worn them anyway. The color assessment is a guide, not law. No fashion police will arrest me for wearing the wrong color. But it is good to know. I've heard it said that if you're drawn to a particular color, then that color will probably look good on you. I know that I never really liked a particular red suit I own and now I know why - the color is not right for me because it's a bluish-red. To avoid those mistakes in the future, I now have a book of swatches of Autumn colors and another with Spring colors that I can tote around with me to fabric and clothing stores. I think I will also check out my closet and compare the swatches. I'm pretty sure there are some items that I've been hanging onto but don't wear and it's probably because of the color. I already went through and did a purge of clothes that don't fit or are too dated but I wonder why I still stare at my closet in the morning and feel like I don' t have anything to wear. I'm more afraid of purging my fabric stash of "wrong colors." Every time I look through my swatches to pick fabrics to trade at the next sewing BABEs get together, I come up empty because I really really like all the fabric. I hope it's because my internal color radar is working. It'd be a shame to invest so much time making a garment only to realize that the color is all wrong!

My Kwik Sew skirt is almost done - just the bottom color panel and hem left to do - but it's just too hot to sew. I'm anxious to finish it so I can move on to a top to go with it. I think I'm going to make one of the New Look patterns that Fred suggested. Perhaps this one.

Saturday wasn't all about sewing. I did manage to get over to Yarn Dogs for the Manos del Uruguay trunk show. I was disappointed there was no trunk. :-) But they did have patterns and I found a book with two or three designs that would work for the yarn I have.

Not wanting to go home to a hot aircondition-less house, I kept shopping and went to the grand opening of a new Beverly's. Fabric and yarn was 30% off and I couldn't resist adding to my quilting stash. Well, one piece of Michael Miller fabric is actually for an apron. I also picked up 6 skeins of Cotton-Ease in "Candy blue", a color that suits me according to my handy-dandy swatches.

Finally, my last shopping trip of the day was to Joann's for their pattern sale. They were out of the Vogue pattern I really wanted (as is Hancocks...bummer) so I bought a New Look pattern instead, which I also like (specifically view C).

And then I went home to a hot house. But I had a sweet husband waiting for me who provided me with a cold drink, sat me down in front of the fan, and best of all, listened to me tell him about the workshop and my shopping.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Weekly update

I thought I should at least post to keep to my average 1/week posting.

I've been sewing but haven't taken any pictures so I'm not ready to post about it. I'll just say that I finished my Burda pants and have moved on to a Kwik Sew skirt.

I am looking forward to this Saturday - I'm going to a sewing guild workshop on determining my personal styles and color with Fred Bloebaum and Marjory DeRoeck. Fred (who's a woman - with a man's name) is a clothing pattern designer and Marjory is a personal image consultant. I'll get to have personal sessions with each to determine the best styles for my body shape and the best colors to flatter my coloring. Should be informative and fun. I hardly ever go to sewing guild meetings because the neighborhood groups all meet in the day during the week - so much for trying to get younger women interested in the guild. The chapter meetings are held on Saturdays but they usually conflict with skating. However, we've decided to take a break from skating this summer to enjoy doing other things on the weekends, like going to style and color workshops...or just plain sleeping in.

After the workshop I think I'll head over to Yarn Dogs where they're having a trunk show on Manos del Uruguay. I bought some of this at the Knitters show last March so I'm hoping they'll have some good patterns at the store.

I haven't been knitting since my trip. I haven't even looked at the sweater I was working on because I'm afraid. I'm afraid my gauge is wrong and the sweater will be too big and I'll run out of yarn before it's finished. Maybe I should have stuck to scarves and hats. Even my attempt at knitting socks failed (one sock and it's too big). No, no, no. It's good to challenge myself. I've read where some knitters favor knitting garments over sewing because if it doesn't fit or look right on you, you can rip and start over. But as a sewer I like being able to make a muslin or at least pin the pattern to see if the item will fit before I start. I don't like spending all that time knitting and then find out it doesn't fit. Yes, I know about gauge. I made a lot of swatches before I started the sweater and I thought I had it right. I also will be bummed to rip all the stitching I did, since it reminds me of my trip. Oh well. Either that or I end up with a too-large, unfinished add to my collection of other UFOs. Yikes.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Trip pics

I thought I'd share some of my pictures from my trip last month.

First stop was Amsterdam:

We arrived in the morning and after checking into our hotel and freshening up, we set out for the open air market on Albert Cuypstraat street. I'd heard they had fabric and yes, they certainly did. Amazingly, I did not buy any.

The flowers in Amsterdam are, of course, gorgeous. I really wished we were staying there longer so we could enjoy the flowers more.

Oh yeah, and the cheese:

I really enjoyed Amsterdam. The canals break up the streets and provide a really peaceful atmosphere.

There were a lot of people out and about, most of them on bicycles. We had an enjoyable time walking around and visiting museums.

The people are very stylish and groovy. I did a bit of window shopping and this caught my eye.

Sadly, I did not get to any fabric stores (other than the vendors on Albert Cuypstraat) and missed a neat looking button shop by about 30 minutes. I liked the door handles.

Our next stop was Brussels. Brussels is an interesting city, not as cool as Amsterdam, but they have a lot of history and we enjoyed walking around the city.

Nice, but I don't think they're as stylish as the Dutch:

Brussels does have a lot of old and different architecture, including a lot of art deco style:

We took a tour through the city to find many of les bande dessinée, comic book characters, painted on the sides of buildings. This one is "Lucky Luke." Notice how he is so fast that he outdraws his shadow.

Here are the cobblestones beneath our (well at least my) tired feet.

And oh yeah, then we went to a race.

It was hot (HOT!) but I had a good time. The race was loud (LOUD!) and it was great to see it live. I've never been to a big-time car race and this was one giant party of about 325,000 people. I've concluded that Europeans, at least those who go to car races, can drink a lot (A LOT!). I'd go again but I'd plan on having a bit of down time after the race. The race ended at 4 pm on Sunday and we had to drive back to Brussels that night and then catch our plane in the morning. It was much too abrupt of an ending to a really enjoyable trip. C'est la vie!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Holiday weekends are too short

I always look forward to those 3-day holiday weekends but just like vacations they end too quickly. But the problem with holiday weekends is that somehow I think I will accomplish far more than on a regular weekend. With an extra day off I expect to make great strides on home improvement projects, housecleaning, gardening, sewing...etc. And I want to thoroughly enjoy the holiday being celebrated too. Yeah, right.

On Saturday I ran errands and traced off a Burda pattern for some pants but it was too hot to do much else. While waiting for the sun to go down (and the temperature to drop by 25 degrees) I sat in front of a fan and flipped through my Burda magazines. But once it was dark it was easier to join my husband on the couch with a glass of wine and a backlog of movies on the DVR. Sunday was much of the same but I did at least cut out the fabric for my pants. By Monday I was determined to accomplish something more deserving of a holiday weekend, so we went hiking in nearby Mount Madonna. It was gloriously cool among the giant redwoods and we got a good workout hiking the trails. The park was quite empty except for the group picnic sites, which were full of July 4th family cookouts. We did not have a July 4th cookout, which was ok. Instead we had a "quiet" evening at home listening to far-off firework displays and some too close illegal ones in our neighborhood.

Friday, July 01, 2005

C'est bon!

I picked these up during my trip to Brussels:

Why is it that craft magazines in other languages are so cool? I will have to break out my English-French dictionary for these. When I was in Amsterdam there were a few publications that looked enticing but they were in Dutch and I don't have a dictionary. Many of the European magazines are published in multiple languages, and some, like Burda are in English. But here in the US we miss out on a lot of interesting looking magazines.

Fait Main (on the left) is a French magazine with sewing, knitting, and craft items. There are some patterns included for a few regular and plus-sized women's clothing and also children's and baby's clothing. I would really like to make the cardigan on the cover so I asked my friend's mother (who knits!) to help me translate the instructions. She helped me figure out a few of the words: wrong side, right side, rows, etc, but the instructions are very different from what I'm used to. They write out in words what to do and don't use the abbreviations like we do in US and UK patterns. This could be difficult.

The Burda publication in the middle is a special one for France and perhaps some other European countries, from what I can figure out. It's a 4-part series of sewing instruction. I bought issue #2 and haven't had any luck finding #1 since it was for sale earlier in the year. I may asked my friend in Brussels to pick up #3 and #4 but maybe not. It's all in French and may prove to be more difficult to understand than worth the effort to buy and ship them here.

The Marie Claire Idees is actually available in the US via subscription! But it's still in French. This magazine has a lot of wonderful crafty-type items in it with instructions in the back for all of them. That subscription is tempting...

I looked at and nearly bought a few other European sewing magazines, Diana Couture was one of them, but ultimately decided that Burda I get through subscription was still the best. And it's in English. The clothing in Diana was just ho-hum and I wasn't all that impressed by any of the other magazines either.

My lone sewing purchase outside of the magazines were five shanks of drawstring (cording). I have had a tough time finding drawstring in the US except through mail order (and even then it's a Canadian site!) and usually in only black or white. I like to use drawstring in the waistband of pull-on pants and in hoodies but perhaps drawstring is so scarce due to fear of toddlers choking on the strings. As we were walking back to the hotel, in our last hour of being in Brussels, I stumbled upon a sewing shop. Finally! And within a few hundred yards of my hotel! My husband graciously offered to go to the hotel by himself and pack up our things while I checked out the store. They had a small selection of notions, a few bolts of fabric and a selection of yarn and cross stitch supplies. Not much. The rest of the store was filled with RTW socks and accessories. I didn't see anything among the notions that I didn't already have or couldn't get easily in the US until I spied the drawstring. I scooped up a handful of colors, not caring what they cost. I was delighted when the 3 meter lengths each rang up at only 1 Euro each (about $1.20). Bargain!

Of course I couldn't leave Belgium without buying some chocolate. Neuhaus is the oldest and supposedly best Belgian chocolate. No, it's not all for me.

And our friends gave us regional cookies to take home. Yum.

The Jules' Finest really are fine.

Of course not much is regional these days. I looked up and found the Neuhaus website and they also sell their chocolate in a store in Union Square in San Francisco. Go figure. Ah, but it's much more fun to buy it in a shop in a Belgian "mall" from the 19th century