And now there’s this…

You know… I get occasional trollish comments, and I just delete them and move on.  But this morning I got one that was so nasty that it actually made me cry, and that is just not on.

“Rochelle”

I used to really enjoy your blog, however i so dislike the direction it has taken.  Your journey of knitting and sewing was so awe inspiring!  Now it seems to be all about obsessive and compulsive work-outs and weight training, along with low-calorie smoothie recipes, and “clean-eating” tips.  If you decide to get off of this self-absorbed obsessiveness and back to sharing your sewing and knitting tips and skills, maybe I’ll return.  You had a great blog that has sadly gone down the toilet.  You might want to turn the focus off yourself for a change and look around for a more fulfilling focal point.

 

You know… I really do try to be honest on the blog.  If I have something going on I’m going to talk about it, usually good or bad.  After I got this message I scrolled back, wondering if I had morphed into a health and lifestyle blog without noticing?  Nope… three posts about non-sewing in the past 5 months, and 2 of them were about tea, a different topic to be sure but not one that should inspire such anger.  One recipe (which was, thank you, not low calorie, as the whole big smoothie, which I can assure you I drank, had about 350 calories.)  Were you concerned about the sweet n low?  Because if that bothers you, you wouldn’t want to see what I put in my coffee.

My workouts are not “obsessive.”  I workout 5 or 6 days a week for between 35 and 45 minutes.  If I have to miss one it does not ruin my life.  I’m proud of myself for being healthy, and creating new healthy habits.  I certainly don’t post every day about my workouts, except for an occasional mention (as in the year end post.)  About the clean eating thing… is there a clean eating diet?  Yes.  Am I on it?  No.  When I say that, what I mean is that I’m attempting to eat fewer overly processed foods (um… except the coffee with sweet n low, obviously)  as I think many of us are these days!  I do like the magazine, because the recipes are great.  I am trying to eat more often, but quite frankly that’s good for me, as I’ve always been of the “starve if it’s not a meal” philopsophy of eating, which isn’t super healthy.

And I can understand honest concern, because I have blogged before about my body issues.  That’s fair, and I would probably think the same thing.  I’ve said I have an obsessive personality, and I do.  But I think there is difference – when I say obsessive, what I really mean is that I tend to be driven to learn as much as possible about a given topic, whether that’s sewing, exercise, or even the culture of tea drinking.  I’m very knowledge driven – I want to know about things, and I will pursue a topic with great excitement.  But that doesn’t mean it takes over my life.  There  has to be a balance, and at this point in life I know where that is.

I am a real person, and I think it’s easy to forget that over the internet.  I likely have interests and things going on in my life that I don’t mention here. It’s easy to feel like you know someone because of their blog, but do you really?  Do you assume that because I mention sewing here that all I do all day is obsess about sewing?  That I have no friends because I sit sequestered with my machine, sewing until my fingers bleed?  I don’t do anything involving these interests for a living, and my blog is a place where I can talk about my interests.  Would you say something like this to a real person, someone you know in real life?  Because, quite frankly, if that’s the case then I can’t imagine you’re very pleasant to be around.  But you probably wouldn’t, because we all forget that on the other side of the internet is a real person.

Lord knows I haven’t given up sewing.  I haven’t had a lot of finished things lately, mostly because I’m back in school, working full time, and I have all my performing obligations as well.  And quite frankly, if you want to know what’s currently eating my sewing time, it’s my need to finally complete Final Fantasy X.  Is that weird and dorky?  Yes, but I wear that badge with pride!  The balance will swing around again, as it does in life.

It’s also worth noting that no one is anonymous on the internet.  Yes, I can see who you are.  I can even get an idea of where this anger comes from, but it really doesn’t make me feel much better as the target.

Dear internets:  I know this is asking a lot, but maybe we could all learn how to be a little bit less angry, and a little but more understanding.

Recipe: Chocolate coffee smoothie

No, this is not a cooking blog, but I’ve been cooking all the time lately.  For instance, today I made the Beef curry wraps here.  (They were very good, I replaced the peas with frozen edamame and ate the filling on the flatbread like a pizza!)  I think I will occasionally share a recipe here.

I have never been a big fan of breakfast.  I’m not a morning person, and I don’t want to socialize early in the day (and trust me, no one wants to socialize with me then either!)  I also don’t like many breakfast foods – bacon, sausage etc, they aren’t foods I really eat.  I do eat waffles and eggs, but I like to eat them for dinner (at least once a week!) because they make me sick in the morning.

Having said that, I’m trying to eat more often, which is really making me feel better (I am prone to blood sugar swings.)  Breakfast was a challenge though.  Here is what I try to do: I get up, have my coffee, and then I do my workout.  After that, I’m awake enough to have a little something, which these days is usually a smoothie or some kind of energy bar if I’m leaving for the day.  I buy various energy/food bars at Whole Foods, so what I eat there varies (I don’t like the raw ones though, like Larabars, which everyone seems to love… they all taste like dates to me, yuck!)

On the days I’m working at home, and on weekends, I have a smoothie.  I was never into them, but I’ve discovered a few tricks that makes them much easier at home, so I thought I might share one of my recipes!  I’ve had this one three days in a row, which I’m pretty sure makes it my favorite.  I even made it for my husband today, and he loved it!

Ingredients (Makes one 16 oz or two 8 oz smoothies)

1.5 cups of unsweetened Almond Milk (you can use any milk you like, but I like the texture of almond milk in smoothies)

1 frozen banana (these go in almost all my smoothies – I peel, cut and freeze them when they start to get too ripe.  Be sure to pre cut them unless you have a better blender than I do!)

1 Tbs dark chocolate peanut butter (Peanut Butter & Co Brand. Whole Foods and my local Kroger both carry it..  It is pretty much the best thing ever.  The white chocolate is also great!)

1/2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (Raise this to a full tablespoon if you aren’t using protein powder)

1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I like the Designer Whey brand.  It isn’t gritty and tastes great in smoothies.  You can also use vanilla, just add extra cocoa powder.  I like to add this because I am mostly vegetarian, and in the course of tracking my nutrients I realized that I don’t eat enough protein.  I try to eat more now, but I also like to supplement.  I notice a difference if my protein levels are really low!  You can, of course, leave this part out.)

1-2 scoops coffee beans, finely ground

1/2 tsp Xanthan gum (more below on this!)

Ice Cubes (start with 2, but you may need more)

Optional: 2 cups fresh spinach (I promise you will not taste it!  I was out, so none for me today, but I usually add some for the extra servings of veggies.)

Instructions

You will want your coffee beans ground extremely fine – either buy them this way at the store, or use a burr coffee grinder set to really fine (that’s what I do.)

Add all ingredients to the blender except the xanthan gum

I usually pulse a few times to break up the ice, then use the mix setting until I don’t hear any more chunks.  At this point you will add xanthan gum.  This is optional, but I find that it makes a huge difference in the texture of smoothies.  Ever wonder why yours turn out watery?  Many restaurants use this ingredient (which is natural, not scary and chemically like it sounds!)  It’s in lots of other products (salad dressing, toothpaste etc.)  You can buy it at any health food store (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand, which I got in the natural section of my local supermarket.)  It thickens and holds the mixture together.  However, you don’t want to use too much!  I start with 1/8 of a tsp, blend on liquify a few seconds and then check, adding more until I get the texture I want (this is generally around 1/2 tsp for me.)  You may need to add more ice.    That’s all – then it’s ready to drink!

Doesn’t everyone drink their smoothies out of a chalice?

 

I added 2 sweet n low packets, but they probably aren’t necessary.    The coffee grounds add an interesting texture (similar to oreos in a shake) and aren’t bothersome at all.  You could use decaf if you are concerned about caffeine, but I am pretty much on a caffeine drip all day (between coffee, black tea, and my sad Coke Zero addiction) so I barely notice.

My blender is a really nice KitchenAid, but I still lust after a Vitamix.  I was at Whole Foods last week and they were doing a demo, and it was totally amazing!  I have to tell you, I will be giving some consideration to buying a refurbished one down the line if I keep making so many smoothies and shakes!

Nutritional Info:

 

 

 

 

 

New Vogues at last!

I’ve been stalking the website for weeks, seriously.  My diligence was rewarded – I love the new patterns!  There is a lot of assymmetry, which I’m finally coming around on, and lots of patterns for knits/ponte, which suits my current preferences.  Here are my favorites:

Designer Patterns

1280, Donna Karan Design

It’s funny – before I started sewing I would not have considered myself a Donna Karan fan.  Now that I’ve sewed several of her designs, I recognize her skills.  I love the straps on this dress – they are unusual without being too crazy and strappy.  It’s very wearable I think – in ponte knit the form fitting details should work!

 

1287, DKNY

This season’s awesome DKNY dress.  I like this a lot – and I like that it comes with a slip pattern.  Giant pockets are a plus… it’s like a more wearable version of the Vena Cava dress I made last summer.

1285, Tracy Reese

Love her designs.  This dress is particularly wearable I think!

1286, also Tracy Reese

Love the back.  Odd that they have a different model in the back view!  I don’t know where I would wear this, but I’d imagine I could find somewhere!  The seaming on the bust is really neat, and is lost a little in that print.

1283

Do I like this?  I think I do.  The seaming is fun and trendy.  I worry about her arm placement in these photos, as it looks like there might be a fit issue.  This one I will need to see made up before I can decide.

8784

This is a great basic dress (I think it’s also a wrap style – lots of those this spring!)

 

8791

I love this one!  The assymetrical hemline looks more modern than weird.  I would wear it with slim pants like the model (and I have a ton of cotton shirting ready to be made up!  However, let’s take a moment to pity that poor model’s hair, which has been tortured into a most unnatural shape (seriously though, I’m glad to see this model back, as I think she’s so pretty!)

8790

How elegant is this top?  I love the low side ruching and the elegant neckline.  I will definitely pick this one up!

8792

This is really cute in stripes.  It would be considerably less interesting in another print, but I think this is a time where I might copy the envelope!

Vintage Vogue

I like these much better than the last few batches.  Shortened to a more modern length, both are very wearable.

 

The blue dress is actually a wrap style.  I can’t tell if it’s similar to the famous walkaway dress or not.  Either way – cute!  Love the styling on these too, as I covet a pair of cat eye sunglasses (only my husband’s horror has prevented me from buying actual prescription cat eye glasses to wear all the time!)

So, strong collections from both McCall’s and Vogue this year… I can’t wait to see the Butterick patterns!  I love sewing for warm weather – the colors and patterns appeal to me far more than winter.  In the winter I just want to hibernate, so that’s mostly what I do!

 

My life, in a nutshell (with tea reviews)

Wow, the post about tea got a ton of great comments – I had no idea so many of you loved tea!  I placed a sample order with Harney and Sons after so many of you recommended them, and I’ve been having a great time trying out teas.  I haven’t had coffee in a week, and I haven’t missed it either!  Actually, it’s kind of nice to make a cup of something when I want it, rather than forcing myself to drink the dregs of the coffee pot (I do have a french press, but I hate cleaning it out!)

I thought it would be fun to review some teas here (also posted to Steepster, a sort of Ravelry for tea addicts.)  But before I do, I thought I would do an update on what I’ve been doing with myself.  I am busy and I love every minute of it!

1.  I’ve started taking my final class (literature) and I’ve applied for graduation in May.  I have to tell you, nothing makes you feel quite as old as taking class with a bunch of 20 year olds.  I am enjoying the class, because I love literature and I love discussing it (I called my best friend after the second day of class and said “It’s official, I am the Hermione of English 200!”)  I think that college is one of those things you don’t appreciate until you’ve been gone for awhile – I have many intellectual friends, but I still miss learning new things (this is good, as I’m now looking at starting my Master of Music degree in the relatively near future.)

2.  I’ve been making a real effort to cook and eat whole foods.  I got a subscription to Clean Eating magazine, and while I’m not on their diet I do find the idea of eating small meals often liberating.  I always thought it would be hard, but what I have found is that if I eat when I’m hungry I avoid the awful dips in blood sugar that I’ve always been prone to.  It was actually a big mental shift, as I’ve been so accustomed to eating on a schedule, and ignoring whether I was really hungry or not.  I feel much healthier, and I think it’s good for my husband too (he has actually lost weight, probably because I’ve been cooking more than him, and I only make vegetarian dishes.)

3.  My husband bought a Playstation 2 at goodwill for a dollar, brought it home, took it apart, and made it work.  I’ve been happily replaying some Final Fantasy games (why yes, this just adds another layer to the nerd onion, I know, but I have always loved role playing games!)

4. I have cut a few projects, but I haven’t sewn them yet.   This is the most difficult time of year for me, sewing-wise, because it’s so darned cold that I just want to wear layers.  I’m hoping to get to some of them soon!

5.  I’m in month 2 of my weight lifting program, and I’m thrilled with my progress.  I never thought I would be able to lift weights this heavy (up to 25 lb dumbbells for some exercises) and it feels great!  I plan to continue on with weights after my rotation is over.

Now… on to tea reviews.  The first tea I wanted to find was a replacement for coffee.  I want a morning tea to be strong and black, with a decent caffeine kick and the ability to handle milk and sugar (which I require in the morning!)  I’ve found three that I really like (reviews copied from Steepster, written as I tried them.)

Scottish Breakfast Blend (Upton teas)

It could be said that I have a coffee problem. Maybe. I find I cannot get going in the morning without it! I’ve found most breakfast teas to be too weak for me (though I do love English breakfast.) Still, I wanted to try to cut back on my coffee, so I ordered some breakfast blends from Upton to try out (most of my breakfast tea experience comes from bagged teas.) Yesterday was Bond Street, and today is the Scottish. Brewed for 4 minutes in boiling water. 2 tsp of tea in 16 oz of water. I have to tell you that this blend is a great coffee substitute – it’s rich and dark, with no real bitterness. It stands up to the cream and sugar that I prefer in the morning without losing any of its flavor. In fact, I think it needs cream and sugar – it was pretty intense when I tried just the tea!  Watch brewing times – any longer than 3:30 and I find this tea turns bitter.  This is the first time I’ve had Scottish breakfast, and I think it’s my favorite so far!

River Shannon Breakfast Blend (Upton)

I didn’t have to rush out the door this morning, so I brewed up some of my River Shannon sample. I used 2.5 tsp of tea in 16 oz of water, and I brewed for almost 4 minutes.

Smell: dark and roasted

Taste (no additives): Whoa, nelly! This stuff is not playing games. Strong and malty with a slightly bitter finish. Needs milk and sugar for my personal taste, as it is really assertive. But then, I can’t drink black coffee in the morning either.

Taste (milk and sweetener): Perfection. The tea retains its strength and flavor, but to my surprise the bitter finish is totally smoothed out by the milk (I used 1%, and not very much of that was needed.)

I’ve been trying all of Upton’s breakfast teas. So far, this and the Scottish are tied. River shannon may have the edge, because I find the Scottish to be a little picky in terms of brewing times. But who am I kidding? I’ll probably order both!

PG Tips loose leaf

I have several British friends, all of whom insist that American teas are appallingly weak. Since I’m searching for a good coffee replacement, I decided to take them at their word and bought a carton of loose PG Tips at the supermarket (my local market has a whole section of British teas – perhaps I should try Barry’s next?)

This was not the best morning. I woke up 30 minutes before I had to leave the house, it was raining in a very ominous way, and I couldn’t find where my husband had parked the car (several blocks away, it turns out.) I quickly brewed this tea. Luckily, I got a new electric kettle to replace my old one last night, so I didn’t have to wait ages. I steeped for 2 and half minutes in boiling water, then dumped in my usual amount of milk and splenda before running off to class. I didn’t actually get to try this until I was actually in my British literature class, discussing our term paper (so, an appropriate tea choice for the day!)

My verdict? I see what my friends meant. This tea is strong and dark, but by no means bitter. It held up to milk and sugar, and had a nice dose of caffeine. It’s very drinkable. I may have to make it my standard tea to go – I find that I don’t enjoy more subtle teas in a travel mug, as I can always taste the plastic. Not in this tea! On another note, I love the commercials with the monkey:

 

Other Recommended teas

Red Velvet Cake by Republic of Teas

Red velvet cake is my favorite dessert, so when I saw this today at Whole Foods I had to buy the tin! I was a little hesitant because I haven’t always loved rooibos in the past, but – red velvet! in tea form! I am usually pleased with Republic of Teas, and they did not let me down.

I don’t think the tea smells overwhelmingly like cake, but the taste comes out after brewing. I cut open the teabags and used my infuser. I like large cups, and find I need 2 teabags from most of their teas. I steeped for 5 minutes, and I think it could even have gone a little longer.

The color is beautiful. After adding a splash of milk (1%) it did turn a slightly odd looking pink color. The taste is very smooth. I can taste vanilla, with a slight tang like cream cheese frosting. The chocolate taste is light (but that’s ok, because I find it light in the cake too!) There is a slight citrus flavor in the background. I finished my cup and had to hold myself back from immediately making more!

I think I’m going to have to give Rooibos teas another try. I always thought I disliked them, but I’ve recently realized that I actually dislike the hibiscus that was in the rooibos I had before!

Hot Cinnamon Spice (Harney and Sons)

Years ago I was addicted to a tea from Celestial Seasonings called “Cinnamon Rose.” It had a great intense cinnamon flavor, and I drank it daily. When it was discontinued I was really upset, and I bought tons of cinnamon teas trying to replace it. Bigelow cinnamon was disappointing, and while I love chai I sometimes want cinnamon by itself. They were all unsatisfactory until today! The scent in the package is intense, so I was excited! I brewed 2 tsp in a big (16 oz) mug using my infuser for 5 minutes. I tasted cautiously, and was rewarded with tons of cinnamon flavor! The tea is naturally sweet, and that is coming from someone who sweetens everything. It’s as though the cinnamon is tricking your tastebuds into tasting sweetness – at first sip it is not sweet, but leave it in your mouth for a second and the sweetness comes out. I can’t taste orange/cloves/whatever else is supposed to be here, but who cares? Cinnamon is my favorite spice, and I will be ordering this tea!

 

Yay tea!

Random obsession of the moment: tea

I am possibly a little bit obsessive.  Ok… possibly more than a little!  Maybe you’ve noticed, if you’ve been reading for awhile.  I can’t just try to learn something, I have to set out to know everything possible (see: knitting, sewing, cooking, fitness etc).  I don’t suppose it’s a problem, as I do function quite well in everyday life.  I basically have two types of friends: geeks (mostly of the computer type) and classical musicians.  I myself am a musician married to a computer guy.  I think those two groups have more in common than you would think – namely, high intelligence combined with a level of obsessive focus that is not always socially acceptable, but which leads to being really good at something.

Not all of my interests are all life changing the way sewing was for me, but every few months I do develop an interest in something new.  This month?  Tea.  Real tea, the kind that doesn’t come in a bag.  When I was growing up we always had a few boxes of Celestial Seasonings tea in the house.  Sleepytime tea has a lot of fond memories and good associations for me, and I still drink it.  I don’t recall ever having black tea.  When I went away to college I developed quite a coffee habit (still with me, sadly) and was looking for a way to replace some of that with another hot beverage.  I happened to be rewatching Star Trek: the Next Generation at that time, and Jean-Luc Picard’s constant order of “Earl Grey, hot!” led me to buy a box of Twinings at the supermarket.  Earl Grey tastes rather like perfume, but as it turns out I love bitter or perfumey tastes!  I’ve been drinking the Earl (as I like to call it) ever since (and it’s possible that I may own a set of glass mugs like the ones on the Enterprise… not saying).  I really like Earl Greyer from The Republic of Teas.  It has rather a lot of bergmot, and thus I like it.  In time I branched out to chai (mostly Tazo, because I like the peppery burn) and English Breakfast teas.  I was still using bags, as early experiences with a tea ball had not been good to me.

For the past few years I’ve been attempting to eat very clean – I eat very little meat, lots of fruits, vegetables and grains, and very little processed food.  At this point, I pretty much prefer to eat this way.  Processed food doesn’t taste right to me, although I am never giving up coffee, chocolate, or wine.  I’ve been trying to cut back my coffee a little though – I don’t think too much makes me feel great.  So I turned back to my old friend the Earl of Grey.  I got online and started reading about teas, and found a whole community of people who are really into tea.  I decided I was interested in trying out loose teas, and even some types of tea (like green tea) that I did not care for in the past.  I placed an order for samples and an infuser from Upton Tea, and it arrived today!

The teas come packaged in individual containers with labels and steeping instructions for each tea.  I wish they could be closed – the samples are large enough for quite a few servings!  I also got their current catalog, which is old fashioned and full of awesomeness.  I’m pretty impressed with the way it manages to make drinking tea into a lifestyle!

I also got a permanent filter basket.  I love this thing – it holds all the leaves in, and it’s easy to clean.  Best of all, it fits in my Star Trek mugs!  I’ve already made myself a cup of their Bond Street English Breakfast and it was lovely.

If anyone has any suggestions for teas I’m all ears – I especially love spicy or perfumey blends (I ordered a chai that has pieces of chili peppers in it… I am looking forward to that!)  I want to like green teas, but they always taste like grass to me (I do like green jasmine, again with the perfume.)

So there you go… my obsession of the month.  My husband says that life with me is never boring!

Butterick 5247

Pattern: Butterick 5247 (OOP)

Fabric: Poly sweater knit, 2 yards

Notes:

I had my doubts about this one.  It is, after all, a big blocky sweater with no real shaping.  The sleeves are dolman, which is generally iffy.  But I had this sweater knit, which is complicated enough to really need a simple pattern.  And I liked the idea of a tunic, especially as we have seen our coldest temps this winter in the past few days.  I was kind of unenthusiastic as I sewed it, but you know what?  I really like this sweater!

I have always worn fitted clothes, and the current fashion for oversized (with skinny pants) has been hard on me.  It took me at least a year to find skinny jeans that I liked (this pair is from Charlotte Russe, believe it or not, and I’ve also had luck with the ones at the Limited.)  But now that I have I’m embracing it!  Back in the 80s I loved this look – drapey top with a chain belt worn low.  I didn’t wear it then, as I was 9 years old and firmly in my nerd  stage, but I was so envious of my older cousin and her awesome belts!  I found this belt last week at Goodwill, and I’m trying out the style after all these years!  All I need are some stone washed jeans, an ill advised perm, and an unsuitable boyfriend who is in a metal band to complete the picture.  Ok… maybe I don’t need those things.  But the point is, after swearing that I would cling to my bootcut pants forever I’ve finally adjusted to the look.   I find that I take awhile to get used to trends, as my style is not super trendy.  After awhile I figure out how to make it work for me, without making it look like I’m wearing someone else’s clothes.

As for the pattern?  Well, it was super easy to sew.  It only had 4 pieces.  I had a little trouble with being short on fabric, as I had only 2 yards when 2.25 were needed.  I ended up cutting a length about an inch longer than the tunic (as I knew I wanted to wear it bloused out.)  I had to seam the neck piece, so mine is a little strange.  Speaking of that piece, it’s the only bit I don’t love.  It’s neither a cowl nor turtleneck, but somewhere in between the two.  I think I would like it better if it could decide!  Even so, I really like the top.  The sleeves I shortened by an inch.  I think that for dolman sleeves you should leave at least the wrist exposed.  Otherwise the proportions can be off, at least on me!

As you can see, it does work over leggings as well.  It’s a touch short with the belt – I originally went with the look above, but then decided I wanted to wear it with jeans instead.  I was teaching today, and I do like to avoid really short hemlines (but I would wear it with leggings to go out or on weekends.)    I would not wear it this short without leggings, as I don’t really think it’s a dress.  I really wanted it an inch longer, but oh well – you work with what you’ve got!  The print does a strange sort of optical illusion thing in the back, but I assure you that it is not stretched out!

I’d also like to try it with a darker belt.  I think the style works, but that belt is awfully bright.  I will keep an eye out for one, now that I have something to wear it with!  If you have this pattern (or find it) I totally recommend it.  The style is versatile, and it looks great in all the versions I’ve seen online!

 

McCall’s 6404: the pants of meh

Pattern: McCall’s 6404

Fabric: Black ponte knit (rayon/poly/lycra blend)

Notes:

This is the final unblogged project from my fall sewing.  Let me start by saying that I don’t make pants.  Although it might be annoying to shop until I find RTW pants that fit, it’s not as annoying as making a pair that doesn’t fit me correctly!  I have been wearing pants more this winter, in particular a pair of Michael Kors black skinny ponte pants.  I thought it seemed simple enough, so I decided to try making a pair of knit pants.  I chose McCalls 6404 because I thought the seaming on the legs was interesting.

And it is interesting.  Unfortunately, it also contributes to the problems I have with this pattern.  First off, the envelope describes these as leggings.  These are not leggings!  They are pants, and they aren’t particularly fitted pants.  I had read some reviews stating as much, so I cut each leg 2″ smaller in width to start.  This didn’t help with the problem.  The problem is that these pants are not shaped like human legs.  Are your legs shaped like triangles (skinny at the ankle, gradually widening as they go up with no knees?)  Then this is your pattern.  Seriously, they are shaped like stirrup pants (bad memories there!)

Beyond the issue of the shape of the legs (which might be fine on normal pants, but not on something pretending to be leggings) there is the seaming.  The seaming is interesting, but the problem is that it affects the grain of the fabric, causing the pants to hang (for lack of a better word) wonky.  Again, not a problem if they were actually leggings, but they are not.   Because we are all friends here, I will give you a look at the rear view:

Between this and the closeup I think you can see the issue – the fabric will want to hang in different directions, and is interrupted by those seams.  I don’t think the shape would be so bad without them.  I’m not upset that they aren’t flattering from behind, because I wasn’t planning on ever wearing them with shorter tops (leggings are not pants!) but these are a bit much.  Also, observe how much extra fabric there is behind the knees.  My legs are not bent in the photo, that’s just how much extra is back there!

Other issues: They were long.  I don’t have long legs, so I was fine with that (hemmed them 2.5″ shorter.)  The elastic casing is exactly the same size as the elastic.  I recommend adding just a little bit to it, because threading that elastic was such a pain that I ended up bribing my husband to do it!    In the end, realizing that I was not ever wearing these with the waist exposed, I zigzagged over the back waistband seam to both close the seam (slip stitching does not hold on knits, so I don’t like that instruction) and to keep the elastic in place.

I think these are going to be loungewear only for me.  I’m wearing them today, because I wanted photos and it’s a snow day, but other than that?  Only at 2 am on a friday, when I’m hanging out with my husband playing video games.  Seriously.  I am not encouraged by the pants making.  I cut another pattern at the same time as these, and now I’m a little afraid to make it up!   I know that I could dedicate myself to making muslins and perfecting a pants pattern, but I don’t think I have it in me – I just don’t enjoy sewing basics at all.  I think I will leave the pants to rtw and concentrate on making the rest of my wardrobe fabulous!

Winter sewing pt 2

I’m pretty proud of myself for making through most of the projects I cut this fall.  I have two more that I haven’t gotten to yet, but hopefully I should get to them before the thaw (usually March around these parts!)  I think that having the projects cut really saved my productivity with how busy I’ve been.  This semester will be even busier – I’m still singing in two ensembles, teaching a full load, freelancing at churches, and taking a class/graduating!  I also have to make time for my workouts every day (I have started getting up earlier to do them then.)  I should probably state that I actually enjoy being really busy, as long as the stress is all of my own making. Moving on… since I was so successful in the fall I’ve decided to go ahead and precut some winter/early spring projects (speaking of spring, shouldn’t we be getting some new Vogue patterns soon?)  I’m trying not to buy fabric while I’m paying for school, so I went through my bins and came up with these five projects (no storyboards, as Photoshop is being buggy:)

Butterick 5247 in Sweater Knit:  This pattern is discontinued now, but I’ve always liked it.  I’m planning to make this what I call “legging length” – in between the tunic and dress lengths, so I can wear it as a dress (over leggings/opaque tights) or a tunic.  This fabric came from fabric.com, and is much nicer than I thought it was going to be!

New Look 6071 in ITY jersey: I am planning to make this with sleeves.  Dress length on this one I think.  The color didn’t photograph well, but it’s a deep yet intense magenta.

Simplicity 2406 in ITY print: This fabric is from the last batch of knits I got from fabric.com.  They were really varying in weight and quality, but this was the nicest.  It’s thick with a lovely drape.  I’m making the long sleeved version, and I’m sewing up that back slit (I cannot understand that… don’t people wear bras anymore?)  The pattern doesn’t all for knits, but I think this style (sack with a belt) is suited to knits.

McCalls 5752 in ITY print:   I got the fabric from fabric mart.  I think it was a Maggy London print.  I love it – circles and green, how could I not?  I’m actually planning to make the cap sleeve version of this dress, so that I can wear it more than one season.  I’m thinking of leaving off the ties (as in the black one) but I’m not sure yet.

Vogue 8530 in rayon jersey: I ordered this fabric from ebay, and I ended up being a little disappointed in the colors.  They are more on the faded/southwestern side than I usually go for.  The print is also rather large, so I wasn’t sure what to use it for.  I think I’m decided on this dress, in the short sleeved version.  I have a similar rtw dress that I adore, so I would like to make another.  I think the colors will be good for spring when it gets here!

There you go – I’m trying not to overburden myself, so I think this is a good number of projects for the next few months.  Of course, as always, I may get tired of something, or get a new pattern and have to make it first, but I will try to stick to the plan!

Vintage McCall 5336: Things I have learned from sewing vintage

I am often asked about sewing vintage patterns.  I don’t use them as often as some bloggers, though I do have a collection!  I finished up a vintage dress today, and I thought it might be nice to blog about some of the difficulties found in sewing something from another era.  Here is my pattern, McCall’s 5336 from 1976.  I have a hard time calling the 70s vintage, but I suppose they are!

Lesson #1: The drawings can be more fanciful than modern envelope illustrations.

This dress looks to have a certain elegance.  I liked the full sleeves and tall neckline.  The skirt appears to skim the body nicely under the empire bust. The pattern is in my size, or at least the size recommended for my measurements.  When I cut and basted the pattern for fitting, here is what I actually got:

                               “Would you like to buy a nice caftan?”

I guess it looks like the drawing… if you squint… and if my legs were twice as long.  This is actually the shorter length of the pattern.   I hate to think how long the maxi would have been!   I am tall (5’8″) and generally do not have trouble with long hemlines.   Fashion illustrations tend to have disproportionately long legs, so if you aren’t paying attention it can be misleading.  Looking closer, I can see that the dress is illustrated hitting below her knees, and that her femur is approximately twice the length it would be on an actual, non-mutant human.  But length can be altered easily. What about the fit?

Lesson #2: Sizing can be wildly inconsistent.

Vintage patterns are sized for the era in which they were designed.  Women in the past wore different undergarments, which may have radically altered the shape of their torsos.  Different eras also called for differing amounts of ease.  I find that vintage (pre 1980) patterns and garments are considerably smaller in the shoulders than modern patterns.  Since I have wide shoulders for my size (and they aren’t getting smaller with all the weights I’ve been lifting!) I have to watch for that issue.

Other things I know to watch for: 1950s patterns tend to run very small in the waist, and very large in the bust.  As a smaller busted person, I have to both cut the waist larger and do a small bust adjustment for patterns of that era.  The bust darts can also be strangely shaped.  Patterns from the later parts of the 1960s are often illustrated considerably more fitted than they actually are.   Most companies use terminology like “close fitting” “fitted and flared” and “loose fitting.”  Pay attention to these terms, as they have actual meaning (going back to old sewing books will tell you how many inches of ease each term allowed, and it does vary by company.)  I can tell you that I don’t attempt any pattern that says it is “fitted and flared,” as they always turn out more flared and less fitted, but that’s a personal preference.

Lesson #3: Learn to fit as you go

Have you see this video?

Pattern for Smartness is a “how to sew with patterns” video by Simplicity in 1948.  Printed patterns were pretty new then, and it goes into some detail about them!  The interesting thing to me is the fitting – there is a little tissue fitting, but most fitting is done after basting the garment together to check for fit.  This is also the case for most of the vintage sewing manuals I own.  It seems that the idea of making a muslin or toile wasn’t really done.  Now, we all know that I recommend making muslins, especially when you are starting out, or if the fabric is very dear.  As you keep sewing, you will find you have certain alternations that you always make, and learn how to adjust without a muslin.  I make the most adjustments to length  and to the side seams, both of which I prefer to do at the end.  I try to always make my side seams last, so that I can check fit.  My enthusiasm for this method does not extend to basting in sleeves, as in the video, but if I’m really uncertain about something I will occasionally do so.

Luckily, in the case of my pattern I was not shocked.  It is basted together above, including the sleeves in this case.  The sleeves had a rather insane amount of ease (something like 4 inches) so I had to baste them in to see where I should take it out (I promise a tutorial on the sleevecap ease someday soon!)    Here are the problems I found after basting:

1. The length:  I marked 9.5 inches(!) to cut off the hem.

2. The sleeve length:  I reduced the length by 3 inches (I like shorter sleeves.)

3.  The bustline: Sits rather low.  However, I suspected that this was caused by the weight of the incredibly long skirt, so I did not make an adjustment.  Luckily I was right, and it fits now!

4.  The overall size: Too big by several inches above the hips, but it fits ok below.  I marked and then took it in by 4 inches total (2 on each side, so I sewed my seams 1 inch in from the original seams.)  This is more than I usually am willing to do at the sides, as more than 2-3 inches can look odd, but it’s not so bad here.  I only reduced the sleeve circumference   by an inch.

I also decided to leave out the neck facings, as my wool crepe fabric is heavy enough.  I chose to use decorative topstitching around the neck opening and all hems.  The results:

Rear view:

I apologize for not managing any front shots where I am not folding my arms.  I must have been feeling cranky!

I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite dress ever, but it is wearable and warm (made of wool you know, which the video says is very smart in a cold climate!)  The color is not so much my thing, and I really don’t know why I decided to make a pattern from the 70s out of orange fabric, when the primary thing I disliked about the era was all the orange.  I will say that the shoulders are not too tight, probably because it was originally so big!  There is a little wrinkling at the top of the sleeve in the photo, but I think that’s because I stand with unnatural posture for pictures (or because the sleeves were so hard to set in… after removing 2 inches of ease I discovered 2 more, and had to sew them in where they wanted, so they may be a little off grain… that’s what I get for lazy measuring!)

My methods of fitting are my own, and they certainly aren’t the last word on fit!  Some adjustments must be made before cutting, but luckily I am a pretty standard size so I rarely have to do them.  It all comes down to what works for you – I’m still a big fan of muslins, but lately I have no time for them (which is unlikely to get better) so I will always choose finishing a garment!