Monday, January 4, 2016

A Whole New Year

Hi. How are you?  It's been awhile, hasn't it? Almost a full 365 days, in fact, since my last blog post. Oh, I've been around on facebook, instagram, and twitter (albeit less often), and I've tried keeping up with peeps on blogs, but man there's an acre of sewing folk now!  The Sewcialists' Firehose now has an impressive list of people, new ones joining often. Despite being one of the founders I've neglected our movement completely for some time now. I have to give mad props to Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow for tending the fires and keeping them going.

So why have I been not blogging? There are many reasons, the biggest being my mental and physical health. I know I have talked about chronic pain, depression, and anxiety a good bit on this blog. What I didn't want to blog about was how much time and money I've spent on specialist after specialist. I didn't want to fall into the "I'm sorry for being a bad blogger, I'll try to blog more" trap. I didn't want to whine publicly about how crappy I felt. To be honest, most of the time I tell people I'm fine when I'm not because I just want to be normal.  (I don't do this with people close to me though, they can see through the lie)

Now, however, I finally have a solid diagnosis, fibromyalgia (details here if you want to know more).  It's a contentious condition with many doctors still not believing it real, and then there's whole "It's all in your head" spiel we get, especially as a woman. The ironic part is that it IS a great deal all in my head, because that's how these illnesses work, it's the brain and nervous system malfunctioning and firing off constantly.  Sometimes it will subside for months at a time, though not for me as of yet.  It comes with a host of sub-illnesses, and it is usually set off by traumatic events, and there's been no shortage of those in my life. In short, I spent much of 2015 re-evaluating my limitations and finding my center.

I think I'm close to finding my center, or as close as i'm going to get for now.  I found that I do miss writing and sharing my creations and creative process. I like sharing the weird bits of my life, too. I think this year I am finally ready to come out of the cocoon, and spread my wings and understand it's OK if they can't range as far as they used to. I want to enjoy the now and look forward to new things in 2016. This should be an adventure.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Agent Carter

Whoever did this was thinking 'COSPLAYER'S DREAM'

OH EM GEE Y'ALL!!  If you are not watching this show you are missing out. Not only is the good writing and the story of how S.H.I.E.L.D. came to be,it is a vintage costume dream land!  Lets just take a look at her outfit for Opening Act.  This blue suit with the red hat gives us her in Captain America colors but she's owning it.  She is her own woman and she will kick ass and take names.  Let's look at it in less dramatic lighting. 

Flawless entrance!

You know I was totally taking notes with this scene.  This is a typical post war suit, with the a-line knee length skirt and the tailored jacket WITH BONING.  She's wearing some serious armor under all that. The shoes are pretty spot on too.  Which leads me to one of the opening lines I loved when her roommate says, "You know Peg, there's a big difference between an independent woman and a spinster."

The ever sassy Peggy comes back with "Is it the shoes?".

Well, yes, totally. And this is totally a show to watch with your daughters because it not only gives us a smart, competent, and fashionable woman to look up to it shows how long we've come since then, but I digress. I was cooing over the fashion. Specifically, this dress below:

Spoiler alert, that's not a ring. Also, click to embiggen.
 This is, hands down, one of the most 40's dresses I've seen on this show. I can't tell if it was made or if its real vintage though my money is on the latter. At first glance, or to an untrained eye, this dress looks fairly simple. Keyhole neck detail, puffy sleeves, a-line skirt and so on.  The keyhole was a very popular detail with the mid-40's dresses but its the execution here that drew my attention. The detail is created by having a front seam in the bodice, its then gathered into the collar and a center piece that draws it up into an almost bow like detail.  And the sleeve caps are pleated and pressed.  I'm fairly sure this dress is made from a wool flannel or crepe.  The reason I think its vintage is because of the front seam because most lengths of wool were 35-39" and its post war so a lot of piecing was necessary.

I know for a fact I'm going to be trying to recreate this dress, I already have some very similar fabric in my stash.  What about you? Have you watched this show yet? What's your favorite outfit?  Are you inspired to make some 40's fashion?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Mighty Moto

What's up y'all?  Hey, can you believe that its 2015 already?  Where did 2014 year go? The thing about time feeling faster as you get older is so true. This is part of why I've been neglecting this little blog of mine, life is happening and I should probably pay attention. Anyway.

I think this is just resting bitch face.

 I want to share a recent obsession, the motorcycle jacket. I've always loved them but was never able to own one because they were either too expensive or the cheap fashion ones made for models. Models whose thighs are smaller than my biceps because this viking grew up doing heavy labor (rowing, archery, wood chopping, tilling; these things make for lots of upper body mass). So getting my arms into one was basically a NOPE.

DEFINITELY INTENTIONAL. Rock that bitch face.

Right now motorcycle jackets seem to be everywhere on women, particularly in television. I think it has to do with the uptick in female heroes in the DC and Marvel adaptations to the serial screen. As a geek and a feminist this makes my heart happy, but as someone who loves history it also makes me curious. Like many of the articles of clothing eventually labelled as classic, it had its origins in the military.  I decided to do a wee bit of digging to find out more about its origins.

As it turns out the moto is an evolution of the bomber jackets used during WWI.  Originally they were brown horse or cow hide which had a thickness that helped protect the wearer from the elements.  Here's an excerpt from a great BBC article.

 In 1928, Irving Schott, co-founder of the New York City-based outerwear company the Schott Bros, designed and produced the first leather motorcycle jacket with a zipper. He named it the Perfecto, after his favourite cigar. A shield against the elements (replacing the less efficient button-down motorcycle jackets of the time), this important new silver feature, with its asymmetric positioning, also allowed motorcyclists to lean over their bikes without cutting into the body. The original jacket featured a cropped, snug fit, with a D-pocket and lapels designed to snap down or fold over each other and zip all the way up

FINALLY!  That asymmetrical zipper is explained!  I'd been wondering for years the point knowing it had to root in functionality.  Not getting poked and chaffed by a zipper is definitely a plus for me.

Surprise face.
 Of course, when fashion appropriates things they like to add a bit of pretty or fluff. On the runway there are motos in every color for Spring and even pre-Fall (prefall? Like why do we need pre fall and resort? WHY?  Its dumb.). I love the one above that Felicity Smoak is wearing from Arrow. As a matter of fact, all the Arrow ladies rock them at one time or another. This floral moto shows up in another super hero show but I forget which one.

"You should see the other guy" bitchface
I should point out that Marlon Brando made the moto jacket in black a popular element among the young and rebellious crowd with the movie "The Wild One" and the James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause".  I don't think this association will ever go away, either.  And while right now its "anything but black" among the fashion crowd, having a black one in your closet will be a classic, always.

I have two of them planned for in non-black to take me through the year. The way our weather has been lately I only need a really warm coat a couple months.  Sort of related I've been craving jackets and blazers to help mix and match outfits for work. I think the non-leather jackets well certainly help with that, especially on days I need to bring the bitchface.  Leather biker jackets certainly help set the mood.

For a bit more history reading, Fit NYC has an article here,  and another somewhat less reliable source here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Saying Hello with Science

I've been trying to figure out how to say I'm still here, I'm still sewing, I just haven't felt like blogging.  Staging photos for the blog takes a surprising amount of energy, and daylight. Both of which are in short supply right now. I have so many makes I need to photograph and put up here. If I got them all photographed in one weekend I'd have weeks worth of blog posts. Though some of them I don't feel like its worth posting about because it's like "Here is yet another boring basic in black knit".

So, after all that I want to highlight something awesome.  Nobel Prize winner May-Britt Moser gets her very own designer gown inspired by the neuroscience breakthrough she made.

Please go read the article here. I agree with the designer, more scientists should be treated like rock stars.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

T.A.R.D.I.S. Armoire!

"T.A.R.D.I.S = Time and Relative Dimension in Space" And it comes from the series Dr. Who, just in case you weren't aware of this internationally loved series from the U.K. Ringing in at 50 years old it is the longest running fiction series in the world and has seeped in to many aspects of popular culture.  So it should be no surprise that there is a definite sub-section of Sewcialists that geek out over Dr. Who.  I'm no exception.

But really, it was Mrs. Tempest that sparked this want that turned into a NEED.  I wanted my very own TARDIS to store my fabric. (And full disclosure; this is meant to get the idea across, NOT as an exact replica. So if you feel the need to nitpick, move along because ain't nobody got time for that). For her version she used an armoire from Ikea and painted it. However, I could not find the same version online or at the Atlanta store. So this is where I asked my Dad if he'd be willing to make one and that I'd totally help! This was about a year ago. Weather, work, and health meant we got a little done at a time.

Without further ado, here's the reason I've spent less time in the sewing room and more time with Dad in the wood shop;

Had to use flash bounced off the ceiling, hence the weird lighting.

I had very specific ideas about what I wanted it to have on the inside.  First, I knew I wanted to hang a mirror on the door. The shelves had to be adjustable AND lined with cedar shelf lining.

For the body of construction we used a 3/4 inch pine faced plywood, the quality stuff that sands down very easily.  The back is made in particle board you find on the back of most of the pre-fab shelving. The shelves were the same plywood and sanded down by yours truly. The drawer is made from some scrap furniture quality lumber left over from the sewing table shelves.  All the hardware was standard stuff from Home Depot, but with the drawers we went with best possible quality so it wouldn't get stuck. The facings on the doors were made from 1"x2" lumber, I'm not sure what kind.

Please note that actual lumber size is smaller than what it says for some sort of industry money saving. It's a headache.

Of course, graffiti from the 9th doctor's story line. The doors were so heavy they had to be mounted with piano hinges. Would have preferred them on the inside with just the spine showing, but eh. 


I also knew that I wanted a drawer for my patterns. These are all my patterns except for Simplicity and the vintage collection.

One more drawer and ALL my patterns would be in here. However, storing fabric was more important. The cedar discourages moths and silver fish, and being able to close them behind the doors keeps the fabric safe from sunlight fading and dust. And cats, for that matter.

But I can open both doors all the way to allow me to see all the fabric and use the mirror for fitting instead of having to carry my pins and things into the bedroom when trying to fit myself.

And as you can see here, my sewing space is shared by a library (all paperback shelves have double rows) and both mine and my husband's desks. All in all I really am happy about this new addition to my sewing room. Thanks so much to my Father for making this a real thing. I had fun working on it with you!

Cheers to all my readers. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Wiki on Paisley

I'm gonna start this off by saying that I DO like paisley, especially when done up in vibrant bohemian colours. But there's something else that has always kept me from wearing it. It reminds me of something. 

Let me set this up for you first. Do you remember that show from the late 70's and early 80's called "Connections"? It ran on PBS forever and you can get them on DVD from Netflix.  I got the first few episodes back when Simon was 9ish with the hope he would love the history of science and technology that went with it. But I was a few years early. In any case, there was one episode that really stuck out in my mind.  It was about the print known as paisley and where it came from. 

Now, there is a somewhat decent wiki page about paisley you can find here. It matches up with what James Burke said, that the name comes from the town of Paisley in Scotland that was the first industrial manufacturer of the print. The print itself was actually a copy of the prints found in old Middle East and Western Asia, places now called Iran, Uzbekistan, and Northern India, many of which were tribes of nomads.  Now what the wiki article doesn't say and was actually covered in Connections was that Paisley rugs were often woven for newlywed couples as a fertility charm of sorts.
Which, for me, tells me that ancient cultures were a bit more in-tune than we give them credit for because I cannot look at paisley without thinking they look like sperm. 

You're welcome.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TNT Files: The Quest for Pants That Fit

Or trousers, for the British persuasion.

Before getting into a somewhat photo heavy post I thought I'd share a life update, because a lot has happened. For one, the 3rd anniversary of Mom's passing was on the first and eight days later was her birthday. Right before all this my husband's job was unexpectedly and with no warning, terminated. Georgia is an at-will state so they didn't need a reason to do so.  Later we found out there was a management shift (rumors also of selling the company) and honestly he has so much stress lifted off his shoulders. With unemployment we are still above water but now I can't stress shop for fabric. I mean, I got plenty, TOTALLY stocked up but.. but...  Leh Sigh.  And not so much bad but funny, my Aunts have started reading my blog and I got several tips on how to improve my grammar. For all of you Grammar Enforcers, I will do my best to use it's instead of its,  I promise.  However, I'm still going to do two spaces at the end of a sentence BECAUSE THAT IS THE PROPER WAY.

Ok, on to the actual sewing portion of this program. Remember back in January when I said I had a goal of turning more patterns into TNT's (tried-and-true) that could be remade many times? Well, I've been trying to work on that but its been a snail's pace.  The biggest gap in my wardrobe and sewing repertoire is woven pants for work and Thurlows were at the top of the list. And I've been seriously dragging my feet on this project because fitting pants is something I am not yet good at and well, it is a tedious amount of work. I've become accustomed to the quick fix knits can bring me. But I finally kicked my metaphorical ass in gear and started.  First I did the largest size straight out of the package.

This is what they looked like. Poor cell phone photos but its good enough to relay informations.

So these look like they fit but the problem here is that they are skin tight. I CANNOT sit down in these.  And they are hugely long.  Sewaholic says they draft for the average 5'6" but I'm not so sure. Granted, proportionally speaking my torso is long and legs are short. And my waist is high by comparison.

From the side can you see how the seam is straining forward? That would be my full front thighs and ample booty. 

Ah, now the "smiles" under my butt saying I need more room there. Again I know this LOOKS like it fits by the back seam is 1/4 inch right now. I squatted down after these photos and it went RIIIPPPPP. Not a good thing. So here's the first changes I made.

Oh, man, I didn't annotate the lengthening of the posterior inner thigh. That is that v-shaped slice you see with the washer on top. That was for my second muslin.  The scooped out crotch is for the perky booty bits.  Sorry, I failed to get second muslin fitting photos.

I made this modification where instead of two different front pattern pieces I have one with the fly flap so I can do the flat fly insertion method found here. I highly recommend this method and this modification because it will make your life 10 time easier. Seriously!  I found the link through Erica B, and of course it's from Threads Magazine.

This was done for the second muslin, then elongated a bit for the third one. It certainly helped but I still had false smiles.  I finally stumbled upon a fix for that, which I outline below.

The High Hip Curve Adjustment:

This is actually a new adjustment for me, I kept looking at the fitting photos and thinking that this can't be more inner thigh/crotch curve room because at this point I can basically squat in these without much worry (my litmus test for wearing in public safely). Pants Fit for Real People did not cover this anywhere and I finally found the closest match in Fitting and Pattern Alterations textbook. The high hip curve. I tried to annotate as best I could on how I did this change.  Hence the horribly embarrassing fitting photos. Seriously, the things I do for my hobby!

This photo also points out that my right hip is a bit higher than my left. I think I may have to do a left and right side for my pants some time in the future to adjust for the unevenness. For now, I'm ok with it. Also noticeable here from my first muslin is that I've shortened the legs, looking at this I need to shorten it some more.

Now, this is done below the slashed pocket line. Had I been thinking I would have tried to diagram how that part worked. This is how it works if you have not slash pockets in the front.  It took me a few moments of mental gymnastics to work it out to make front and back even with each other. You may end up taking the waist in just a smidgen because it should sit just above the hip curve now.

So, I'm hoping to cut out a wearable pair today, possibly get it sewn up but we will see!  I cut out a couple things destined for gifts.