Distraction required

First of all, thanks for all the wonderful responses to my last post – it was so interesting to read how you all deal with mistakes!  I really think that dealing with mistakes is something you have to learn.  You may know that I teach piano for a living, and often a large part of my job is teaching how to deal with mistakes.  For almost every child there will be a point in the first few months when they reach their first wall – the thing they find hard to do.  Many of them are horrified at the thought of making mistakes, and we work hard on how to practice effectively.  Mostly I try to impart that mistakes are normal and fine – a part of learning.  It always surprises me how many of them are really afraid to fail (at first.)  Oddly, teaching them how to deal with mistakes has helped me to become more patient with myself!

The blue dress is very nearly finished – I still need to sew the buttonholes and the hem.  I hope to wear it for Easter.  I found a new technique for narrow hemming, which I practiced and quite like.  You serge the edge of the hem without cutting (I use a 3 thread setup.)  Then you fold up the hem on the serging line, which is very easy to do, fold over again to enclose the stitching, and sew your hem.  It’s very easy, and saves most of the finger burning I always get from ironing hems.

However, I very much doubt the dress is finished before this weekend.  Early tomorrow morning I have a dentist appointment which I am not at all looking forward to.  I’ve talked about my dental troubles before – I have this disorder, which causes abnormally thin and weak enamel (although no, my teeth do not look like that photo)- my family is from Sweden, where the incidence of the disorder is 1 in 700, so it is much more common than in the US.  My Mom also has this.  I seem to be constantly at the dentist having terrible things done – all my front teeth are capped now, and we are beginning on the back teeth.  Tomorrow I need root canals, and yes I do mean multiple ones.  Dental insurance does not cover this, since in their opinion it would be cheaper for me to get dentures (never mind that I won’t need them with this care, and that with my career dentures are not an option.)  I try not to think about how much I have spent, and how much I will spend on my teeth.  I am being sedated, which I have never had before, so hopefully everything will go smoothly!

Anyway, I was planning to buy myself some shoes as a reward for going through with things, but I’m having an awfully hard time finding shoes I actually like this year.  I’m pretty picky about shoes – I stand up a lot, and in the summertime we walk nearly everywhere.  But I don’t like ugly shoes, and I don’t particularly like clunky shoes.  Luckily, I do like retro styles, as those styles are often more foot friendly.

I’m considering these styles, for a low heeled sandal:

1. Clarks Carrie May  2. Sofft Andrea

I generally have great luck with these brands.  Sofft makes great comfortable, vintage inspired heels, but I haven’t had their sandals before.  Clarks have a lot more nice styles than they used to.  I’d like to order from Zappos, because my best friend works there, and I can use the friends/family discount.

I’m also definitely getting these, in black, for a summer dress sandal:

Seychelles Trip the Light Fantastic

I love t-straps  and mary janes right now.  The heel isn’t too high. I wear a heel nearly every day, and  the way I get away with that is by never wearing insane heels.

I’m about to head off to Macys to try on the ones they have in stock… I have to go to the drugstore anyway, where I will be buying some nailpolish – the other thing, besides shoes, that I buy when I’m worried.  I suppose there could be worse habits.

What’s your philosophy on mistakes?

When taking up any new hobby it’s important to consider your philosophy on mistakes.  Because trust me, you will be making them.  Will you cry and throw the item across the room? (Ok, everyone does this one sometimes!) Or will you make the best of your error, learn from it, and move on?

One comment I see a lot from beginners in any craft is that they are afraid to try new techniques lest they make mistakes.  But making mistakes is part of the process of learning!  I really hate to see that comment, because I believe that you can learn to do just about anything if you break it down into manageable steps, and accept that there will be mistakes.  I make them all the time.  For instance:  I’m working on Vogue 8577, a 50s style dress with a big circle skirt.  Here is the dress (sans lining) on the dressform:

Notice anything off?  How about in the back view?

Doesn’t look much like a circle skirt does it?  That’s because I somehow managed to not put in the side  panels when I sewed the skirt together.  When I went to sew the skirt to the bodice I thought:  “Hmm, strange that it tells me to gather the skirt when I don’t need any gathers!”  I thought I had found a misprint.  Ha!  But here’s the thing:  I tried on the dress before I noticed the mistake, and I love it.  Not having those panels makes it look more 40s than 50s, which is fine by me.  The hemline hangs fine.  The seams all line up.  So I’m not going back and adding those panels (I already trimmed my seams anyway) and I’m not sewing them in the lining.  It won’t look like the pattern envelope, but it will be fabulous nonetheless!  It doesn’t fit my dressform, which is about 1.5″ bigger than I in the bust, but it fits me great!

So back to the topic of the day: handling mistakes.  Sometimes you get lucky, like I did here, and your mistake turns out well.  Other times not so much, but as long as you’re learning that’s ok.  When I pick a new sewing project here’s what I do: I try to find a pattern that has one or two things I don’t know how to do, and I learn how to do them.  In this case it’s making a full lining and hemming a full skirt (not as full as I intended, but still a challenge!)  Don’t choose something too hard – you want to avoid frustration!  Just pick something that is a little challenging, enough to push your skill set forward.  And I always make a muslin if I can, so that I get practice before doing the actual garment (I made the lining, in this case, and practiced hemming that.  I didn’t need to practice the lining, since it’s basically just making the dress twice, albeit out of bemberg rayon, the most difficult fabric in the world.)

Don’t let fear hold you back – what’s the worst that can happen?  Do you have a good philosophy on mistakes?

Summer Vogues

I love Vogue patterns.  They seem to fit me much better than any other brand that I’ve tried, though I confess I haven’t made any McCalls or Butterick patterns yet.  Fit For Real People claims that they are similar, and that simplicity is different through the shoulders and armholes, something I can attest to – I have to adjust that part of Simplicities.  In Vogue I am finding that I am usually a 10 on the bottom and an 8 on the top.  I appreciate the consistency, as it seems that it’s impossible to know sometimes what size I might make.   So a day with new patterns is exciting for me!  Here are my picks:

1174 is a strapless dress by Cynthia Steffe.  I love this!  I have avoided strapless like the plague my whole life, fearing a major wardrobe malfunction.  But – if I’m making it for myself, I can actually adjust the bodice to be small enough for my ribcage – yay!  I love the print too… I am crazy for roses on fabric.

1182 is the first of two designs by Kay Unger, who is new to Vogue.  This is such a classic and flattering style.  I love the version in red shantung – I have a lovely green shantung that I have been looking for a pattern for, and this is a contender!

1183 is the second Kay Unger design.  It’s rated easy, and I can see this being a popular style.

1176 is a Michael Kors design – I love his designs (and love him as a judge on Project Runway!)  This dress is beautiful – love the bow, the shape, and the polka dots – a definate “do” for me!

Finally there are two new Vintage Vogues.  1172 is my pick – a classic full skirted number from the 50s.  I am so appreciate of Vogue for re-releasing these patterns, while some of the other companies seem to have stopped.  This dress is lovely and classic.  The other vintage Vogue is 1171.

I don’t think the collar is for me – it would be overwhelming.  But it’s lovely as well, and a pretty good pick (though I sometimes wish the vintage issues were more adventurous, I understand that they go for wide appeal.)

There are, as usual, a fair number of “what were they thinking” patterns as well, including an epic satin caftan and a terrible jumpsuit that looks like something Clarissa would have worn while explaining it all.  I also don’t care for the two Anna Sui dresses – I feel as though all her designs are very similar, with lots of lace and frills and not enough length for my taste.  The Very Easy Vogue dresses this time are a little boring, but they do look like good basics.  And there are a few tops that I can’t tell about – I hate the drawings they use for their top models, which appear incredibly broad shouldered.

Still watching for spring

Spring is still coming on slowly here, though today it is pretty rainy and awful.  I’m trying to get my wardrobe planning for warm weather completed, but I keep finding more holes to fill!

For instance, I don’t have a spring coat.  I’d like a nice 3/4 length coat with a retro collar, like Mccall’s 5525 (below.)  I’d make mine with full length sleeves (an option on the other views.)  I don’t understand shorter sleeves on a coat!  I’m thinking of a floral print, which seems to be a trend in spring coats right now.

I’ve also been searching, without success, for a spring purse.  I feel like purses and shoes (especially shoes!) are going through a major ugly period right now, and I can’t find anything that I like.  I’ve decided, in a fit of overconfidence, to make my own.  I like the Sophia Carryall by Amy Butler.

I’m not decided on a print yet, but I love the shape – so much nicer than the slouchy bags that seem to be prevalent in my price range!  I’m not sure if I’m crazy to make this or not, considering I haven’t made anything similar.  The reviews are pretty good, and the instructions are supposed to be good!

Finally, I’ve developed an obsession with full-skirted sundresses.  I have no fewer than 4 of them on my “to sew” list for sometime this year.

These patterns are both Vintage Vogue reissues, to made out of the pretty sateen I just got from FabricMart and this great brushed cotton with roses.  I have some afternoon summer weddings to attend, and I think either of these dresses would be lovely.

I’d like a fun 50s style halter, though I am not sold on the print (to be clear – I really love the print, and I will certainly use it for something else, but I may want more of a tropical fabric for the halter.

The project on the right above (Vogue 8577) is my current WIP.  The fabric is a linen-look 100% cotton in a gorgeous royal blue.  I’m making the view above, which is shorter than the other 2 and has no sleeves or collar.  I made a muslin of the bodice last night, and decided to go down to a size 8 for the top, and a 10 for the skirt.  The dress is supposed to be fully lined (and the fabric needs a lining) but I can’t decide what to use for lining.  I usually go with Bemberg rayon, so I could do that.  I also like cotton batiste, but I think it would bunch up with the cotton fabric and not hang well – so bemberg it is!

I’m glad today is the last of my workweek – here’s hoping for actual sewing time this weekend (and I hope to hit some estate and yard sales!)

FO: Tulip skirt

Pattern: Simplicity 2413, View A

Fabric: Stretch cotton sateen from Joanns (the Riviera collection,) about 2.5 yards

Notes: Obviously I made a fabric change.  Spring weather has arrived here, and I was anxious to make a spring skirt!  I didn’t have anything suitable, so I bought this stretch sateen at Joanns for 40% off.  It was really nice to work with, except for being slightly difficult to cut.  I used my walking foot and a stretch needle to get the most even results on the stretchy fabric.

I was really curious to make a tulip skirt – I like the slightly retro shape, and it’s easier to wear that its cousin the bubble skirt.  This version has what’s called a “paper bag waist” – thanks to Amanda for reminding me what that was called, and reminding me that I loved this style when I saw it on Project Runway.  It’s easy to wear because it softens the waistline – it is somewhat high waisted, but you are belting a bit lower.

I thought the skirt was well drafted, and I had no issues with it other than the usual sizing down from the crazy ease in Simplicity patterns.  My measurements make me a size 12 from the waist down, but I made an 8.  I could have gotten away with a 6 I think, because of the stretch fabric.  So my advice is to pin the pleats on the tissue and measure before deciding on a size (the pattern does not include any useful finished measurements, such as the waist.)  I have a pet peeve about this – I understand that different people want differing amounts of ease, but it does stand to reason that they bought the pattern because of the envelope photo, and want a size that will give them that effect.  So why list a size that will give you a huge skirt?  Won’t that just make people say “Simplicity patterns don’t fit me?”

The instructions were ok I guess, but I did follow a different order.  The pattern called for installing the zipper first, and doing the pleats nearly last.  I reversed that, and was able to construct 90% of the skirt, including the bottom band, flat.  I think it was easier that way.  I also did my pockets differently, and in the end only installed the one on the side without the zipper.   It looks fine that way.

I did make the bottom band, which is optional.  Without the band, the skirt is quite a bit shorter, as it tends to poof out more without the weight.  It was too short for my taste, and I want to be able to wear this to work.  Overall I am very pleased with the skirt – it was dead simple to make, and surprisingly grown-up, even in the crazy print.  I think it could look quite dressy in a more sedate fabric.  It’s trendy, but not too much for me (and you know I am not about trends, so that’s good!)

Trendwatch Tuesday: Tulip skirts

(note: not necessarily a new blog feature, I just love me some alliteration!)

I’ve mentioned before here that I’m slowly going through my late Grandma’s belongings.   She was of the generation that saved everything, so there is quite a bit of accumulation.  I had not realized, however, that she was also saving my old things.  This weekend I opened a hidden closet to find a time capsule of my high school fashions – clothes that I had assumed were long since given away or turned to dust rags.   I didn’t exactly have what you would call great 90s style – I loved long skirts, ditsy floral dresses, and a large accumulations of suits that can only be termed “80s power woman.”   At one point my Mom told me “Jessica, what you have to do is set your own trends… don’t be a follower!”  I took that advice to heart, and have spent a great deal of my life wearing whatever the heck I want, with little consideration of whether it is in style or not.  Perhaps I was not so much a trendsetter, but I will tell you that I’m glad  that I escaped the 80s and 90s with almost a total lack of flannel skirts, neon, or giant Blossom inspired hats.  Except for one thing… the bubble dress I found in the back of the closet.  I think I wore it to a homecoming dance in 1994?  It was not in style at the time, and maybe I thought I was setting a trend or what have you (note: I was kind of a dork.)  When bubble skirts came back a few years ago I laughed myself silly – who wants a skirt that looks like some sort of curtain valance?  Well, apparently I did.

Now?  Not so much.  I don’t see the bubble skirt entering my wardrobe, but there is another vaguely bubble-like skirt that I’m itching to try… the tulip skirt!

It’s a more classic style I think.  I’m planning to make the skirt on the right from Simplicity 2413.  I have this pale peachy-pink light wool crepe that I bought online, apparently forgetting that peach near my face causes me to look like some sort of jaundiced vampire.   But it’s lovely (the same crepe I made the Rooibos dress out of) and I am so ready to use it.  I can’t explain my obsession with this color – perhaps it was the peach suit that my Mom wore in the 80s, which I thought was so classy and awesome.  Or maybe it was my #1 Barbie of all time, Peaches and Cream Barbie!

I have to say, I still think her dress is all kinds of awesome!  And she had a stole… so romantic, and so impractical in real life!

Anyway, I think the skirt will look nice in the crepe – and I think I can get away with wearing the color on my lower half!  I’m planning to quickline the skirt using the tutorial here.  I bought some bemberg lining today for that purpose.  I have a nasty sinus infection right now (I get them like clockwork whenever the weather starts to change) so hopefully I feel up to doing some sewing in the next day or two – I usually go out for pub quiz Tuesday nights, but I may be skipping it this week in order to rest up!

Feeling sorry for myself over being sick, I bought this fabric from FabricMart – a cotton sateen that is so me I don’t know where to start.

I’m thinking of using a late 50s  early 1960s sundress pattern for this – how lovely will it be with all the bubbles rising from the hem!  Now I just have to decide which pattern – a full skirt for certain.  Perhaps I will go vintage pattern shopping again, though that is dangerous for me!

Hope you are all having a lovely week – thanks for all the comments on the Kate jeans – I just love them, and I encourage anyone interested to try a pair of their own!

FO: The Kate jeans

Pattern: Vogue 8604

Fabric: Lightweight denim (not stretch) from Joanns

Notes: I have a lot of pictures of these because I love them so much!  I can’t believe how easy it was to make these pants.  I really thought that making pants was horribly hard and that they would never fit – but these pretty much fit me right out of the envelope!  Total construction time was maybe 4 hours?  And that’s with hand hemming.  Not bad at all.

I made a few small alterations from the pattern.  I used a layer of self-fabric as a sew-in interfacing on the waist.  This is not a thick denim at all, and it didn’t add too much thickness – just made the waist much more sturdy.  I also added boning to the side seams on the facing, as well as 2 pieces in the front between the darts.  I used Rigeline – it’s a thin flexible plastic, flat rather than round like I expect boning to be.  You can sew right through it.  I sewed it to the inside of the facing with a wide zig-zag, and it is invisible from the outside, as well as hidden from scratching me on the inside.  It is not bothersome when I sit either – this style of pants is designed to ride up when you sit, thus the long crotch, and it works out fine.

I can see from these photos that I need to take the hem up even more on the left side – darned uneven legs!  It doesn’t help that I’m standing with my weight on my right, but since I always stand that way I need to fix it.  You can see where the facing ends a bit – I might like to lengthen it in another pair (and I am planning to make these again!)

The other (tiny) issue is that you can see the pocket lining a bit.  I used a poly charmeuse from the remnant table, but when I make them again I will either rectify this issue or use a matching material.  It doesn’t bother me here, and they are so soft on the inside!

I cannot recommend this pattern enough – it was terribly easy, and I think these pants pass for 1930s/40s.  They are far more flattering than I thought, and I think they make my waist look smaller than it is, since they emphasize the difference from my hips to waist, which is larger than my bust to waist ration.  This is a great style for the curvy!  The key with a waist this high is to go retro – a lot of modern high waist pants have tighter legs, and they just look horribly wrong.  I plan to make these again in black and in a subtle brown plaid.  They are easily more flattering than other pants that I own.  I am now thinking of other pants to make – I’m considering a pair of black ones, and a pair of brown ones with a subtle check.  If you are considering these, go for it!  The pattern photo looks like nothing, but they are great!