Slow sewing, and belated Valentine’s day!

I’m still working on Vogue 1317.  I will tell you all the truth – I never would have started this dress if I’d realized just how much work it was!  Every seam is sewn, edge stitched, and top stitched.  In addition, every edge is faced instead of hemmed.  I’ve eliminated the back zipper, pockets, and hem facing, and it’s still taking ages!

I’m pretty unhappy with the way the ties are sewn – they call for making mitered corners on the back, hemming, and trimming close to the stitching.  There’s no way that wouldn’t look terrible in my fabric (ponte) so I eliminated them entirely.  If I were making it again, I would cut two tie pieces and sew them together.  I don’t have enough fabric to make that work, so mine will do without!  Ah well though – I’m nearly finished, so hopefully I will have photos as soon as I sew on the neck facing.

I know my posting is sparse, but I am incredibly busy this semester.  I have rehearsals three nights a week minimum, sometimes more, and I’m maintaining my teaching studio at home along with my teaching at the university.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything though – I love my job, students and colleagues!  We leave for Europe soon, and after that I am going to Dallas for a conference.  After that my schedule should settle down a little.  I am not complaining – I know how lucky I am to do what I love for a living!

In the meantime I’m trying to get together my travel wardrobe, reading a lot, and sewing when I get a chance.    On Valentine’s day Marc and I went to Skyline chili as per our tradition:

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Yes, that is red wine in kid’s to-go cups!  Our Skyline has a 3 course meal every year, complete with fancy desserts.  Since Marc is from Cincinnati, he’s always happy to go, especially since most of our friends don’t care for Cincinnati chili. Not to be gross and sentimental, but as each year goes by I am reminded of how lucky I am to have found him – I know I’m not exactly normal, but he’s never expected me to change who I am!  And just to be increasingly sappy, here is my favorite photo of us: we don’t celebrate anniversaries (I’m not a fan of them) but I love this picture from our wedding five years ago!
Wedding

I always tell my friends this: It’s totally worth waiting to get married until you meet the right person.  I could have gotten married younger, but I’m happy that I didn’t!  It’s worth the wait for someone who will understand you – someone who will never expect you to change into their idea of a perfect spouse.  I never had that before, and now that I do I can’t imagine going back.

Happy belated Valentine’s day!

 

 

Book recommendations: January 2013

Before I get to my book recommendations this month, I wanted to show off my new haircut:
New hair

I had 6 inches cut, and ended up with a nice layered bob.  I’m pretty happy with it – it looks good curled or straight.  I grew my hair out because I hadn’t had it long in a decade, but as it turns out I prefer shorter hair – it suits my personality, and I don’t have to spend nearly as long fixing it in the morning, which was becoming quite daunting.

Cutting my hair also set me off on revamping my wardrobe.  I have a new job and new goals, so it was time.  I will post about that later this week, so look for that.

I didn’t have a lot of time to read this month, but I did finish four books, three of which I would recommend.  This month I delved into young adult fantasy and Swedish crime novels.  As always, you can friend or follow me on Goodreads!

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The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

I technically finished it early in the morning on February 1st, but I say it counts for January.  This was my favorite book this month!  I’ve previously read all of Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next novels.  I loved the first, but became a little less enamored of them as they went along.  I got a bit of quirkiness overload, and quite frankly the ideas got a stretched a little thin.  So I wasn’t certain I even wanted to give this a try – YA novels from established authors often overdo the simplification of their style.  But to my surprise I loved it!

Jennifer, the narrator, is a teenage foundling.  She has been apprenticed to Kazam, where she spends most of her days watching over and taking care of wizards.  Yes, I said wizards.  In the universe of the book (an alternate United Kingdom) magic is very real.  It is not, unfortunately, very fashionable at the current time.  Indeed, it appears that for years the source of magic has been dying off, with most wizards unable to perform the feats they could have in their youths.  This, naturally, makes them rather cranky.  The wizards are easily the most amusing part of the book, with their self-proclaimed titles and childish jealousies.   They earn their keep by taking on mundane duties – delivering takeaway by flying carpet, predicting odds at the races etc.  One of the precogs has a very vivid vision – that the last dragon is about to die – and that’s where the book really takes off.

I won’t spoil things for you.  If you enjoy humorous fantasy a la Terry Pratchett then it’s a safe bet you will like this book.  It’s worth the price of admission for the Quarkbeast!  What is that, you ask?  Well… I will let the book explain:

“Quarkbeasts, for all their fearsome looks, are obedient to a fault. They are nine-tenths velociraptor and kitchen blender and one-tenth Labrador. It was the Labrador tenth that I valued most.”

There you go.  The book is the beginning of a series, but unlike some it has a real conclusion.  My only quibble is that it is very short – under 300 pages.  I wanted more, but there is another in the series out, with the final book to follow this year!

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

That’s a great cover, right?  I’ll admit I wasn’t excited about this book, but a book club I am sometimes part of was reading it, so I picked up a copy.    I cringed starting it, remembering the time I had to read Wicked for a similar club.  I know, I know everyone loves Wicked, but it tops the list of my most disliked books.  Blah.  So I fear retellings, which often try too hard to be different from the source material.

I’ve been reading more Young Adult novels, mostly because they are what’s being published right now.  Although I initially dismissed them all, I found that there is plenty of good in the genre.  Of course, because there are so many being published, there is also a lot of dreck.  And since there are plenty of women willing to give 5 stars to anything involving a love triangle, it can be hard to find the good ones.  This, let me tell you, is one of the good ones.

Cinder is a loose (very loose) retelling of Cinderella.  Cinder is, as you can tell from the cover, a cyborg.  She has no memory of her early life, but she’s spent the last decade living with her stepmother and two stepsisters.  She supports them by repairing electronics at a stall in the market.  One day Prince Kai, the soon-to-be Emperor of New Beijing, stops at her stall, asking her to repair his childhood tutor android.  This sets Cinder on a path to unwind the secrets of her own path.

There is plenty here that was not in Cinderella, from a deadly plague sweeping the country to a race of beautiful aliens who live on the moon (The Lunars).  Cinder herself is a great character – independent, outspoken, and not the sort of heroine who makes moon eyes at the prince.  The Prince himself was a really decent character – he’s funny and resourceful, and I understood why she would like him.  It was a little more of a mystery why he was so drawn to Cinder, but that’s the fairy tale aspect for you.

If I have a complaint it’s that the central mystery of the book was laughably easy to guess – it’s basically thrust in front of you within the first 50 pages.  So by the time Cinder gets the big reveal at the end, it was a little anti-climactic.  I would have also liked a little more resolution – I know Cinder’s story will continue (the second book is out soon!) but I do like real endings.  Highly recommended!

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Let the Right One In by Jogn Ajvide Lingqvish

Let me start with the summary from the back of the book:

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

I’ve come rather late to Swedish novels.  My grandparents were from Sweden, so it would seem I should be interested in them, but I don’t read many crime novels these days.  I decided to explore the genre this month.  I started with The Ice Princesswhich I found disappointing – there was too much love story, not enough crime.  This book was recommended to me as a really great vampire novel for adults.  And you know what?  I think it is.

It’s also quite disturbing.  I feel the need to point that out, as it is so very different from the sort of thing that I usually recommend.  I didn’t find it scary in the traditional, Stephen King sense.  It was more that it gave me a creeping feeling of being unclean.  Eli is the little girl mentioned in the summary above.  And yes, clearly she is a vampire, but she’s not the monster of this book.  There are many, many humans who manage to be far more monstrous through the course of the book.  Perhaps this is the point – that we are scarier ourselves than any monster we might make up?  Every character in the book feels real.  They have motivations and back stories outside of their purpose in the novel.  This makes the setting and characters feel absolutely real, something that I cannot say I have experienced before in a novel about vampires.

I’m not even sure I would read it again, because it is rather not my thing, but I still feel as though I want to recommend it.  If you like thrillers and dark fiction, I highly recommend this book.  I understand there is a movie, which I may see now – it appears to focus more on the relationship between Oskar and Eli than the book.

Vogue patterns, Spring 2013

Yesterday was the longest workday known to man.   I got to work at 10 am (hey, that’s early for a musician!) and didn’t make it home until midnight.  So I was super happy to see the new spring Vogue patterns awaiting my return.

I think it looks like a decent crop.  There is a nice basic trench coat (which I won’t make, but it is nice!) and even a few men’s patterns.  There is, of course, some inexplicable posing, but there you go.  I can mock Vogue, but the truth is that they fit me the best out of the Big 4, and they generally have the most current patterns .

I’m thinking of joining Club BMV.  Does anyone have any feedback on that?  I feel kind of bad because I do live in driving distance of Joann’s.  But with my schedule the way it is now, I don’t have any time to.  Or rather, I do, but if I spend the time to do that I don’t have sewing time.  Or they are out of my size, or I can’t make the days they are on sale.  I think I’d rather just spend the postage.  Maybe it would keep me from buying shoddy Joann’s fabric as well?  Because I need to stop doing that.

Let’s start with the designer patterns.  Sadly, Donna Karan has let me down here.  I usually love her designs, but these are too fussy for me.  I do like the red one from the front, but not the back… and besides, I’ve sworn off pencil skirts for a bit.  Here is what I do like:

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Vogue 1344, Rebecca Taylor

Go ahead, laugh at the “thinking” pose, because that model does it many more times.  This dress is really cute!  The details are lost in the print, so here is the line drawing:

Print

It calls for light fabrics (crepe de chine, voile) etc.  I think I would use a rayon challis.  I like that it’s lined.  Should make a great summer dress!

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Vogue 1343, Tracy reese

I call this her “spying on someone around the corner” pose.  This appears to be a mock wrap style, which I prefer.  The pattern calls for crepe de chine or jersey.  I think this is crepe, and that’s what I would use.  Jersey might be a little loose.

Other Dresses

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Vogue 8871

Not that you can tell from the modeled photo, but this dress has cute lines.  I like the middy length and the fact that it calls for a knit!  I’d use a lighter doubleknit or ponte.

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Vogue 8872

According to the ladies on Patternreview, this dress (with the straight skirt) is a knock-off of a famous design.  I would be more likely to make this version, though I might make the top symmetrical.  I’ll have to see some completed versions first!  It is designed for wovens.  I am imagining a dark gray lightweight suiting for the body, and a contrasting band in the middle (I might use a color, as once I tried a contrast band out of black and it looked super homemade.

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Vogue 8873

This is different enough to pique my interest – maybe in a plaid because I have no imagination.  The description reads : Dress has bias overbodice, fitted, lined bodice and back zipper.

What, pray tell, is an overbodice?  I’m assuming that’s the cowl bit, and the piece behind (looks like a dickie, sorry!) is the bodice.  I would assume that the overbodice attaches at the waist and sides to the back, so I don’t really understand the descriptions.
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Vogue 8870

Hmm… maybe.  I think this looks breezy and fun as pictured, with cute flat sandals.  Of course, that totally ignores the fact that I basically don’t wear sandals at all, no way.  Especially not that kind, which I think make my feet look enormous.

Tops

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Vogue 8881

I love this!  I lack tops to wear with skinny jeans and leggings in the summer – I pretty much only have sweaters!  I think you would need to take care and reinforce the neckline and armholes, otherwise the longer piece would stretch unevenly.

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Vogue 8880

Guys, this isn’t even the same model, which means they were directed to do that gesture!  Anyway, I like that there are pleats instead of a gathered neckline.
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Vogue 8877

Not setting the world on fire, but I want it to replicate a top I saw at Saks.

That’s it for now – I will buy the two designer patterns and the last top first.

 

Next project (and an award!)

I’m planning to make Vogue 1317 for my next project:

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I bought the fabric a few months ago, and was inspired by Erica B’s finished project today.  I am going to make it in either the magenta/plum color above or this turquoise knit:

Double knit

I’m in love with both colors (the plum is much darker than it looks above, a very nice color for me.)  I’m planning to omit the lining and the back zipper.  I love ponte!

Thanks for all the nice comments on my last dress.  I wore it to teach at the university, and the college age girls loved it, so I guess that means it’s trendy!  I’m planning to take it on my trip – it’s quite warm!  I’m hoping this dress will also work out.

I also received a very nice blog award from Alison at Cats and Crafts.  She posed 11 questions, so I will answer them here:

  1. What other crafts do you do? I’ve been doing a lot of cross stitch lately.  I love it, but wish it wasn’t so hard to find designs that aren’t religious or country themed.  I don’t enjoy needlepoint or embroidery as much.
  2. What is your favorite food?  Sushi!  I love all Japanese food, but I’m a sushi addict.  A great place opened on my street last year, and it hasn’t been great for my budget!
  3. How tall are you? I’m 5 foot 8 inches tall.  True story, I grew 6 inches in college!
  4. What is your best physical feature? How does that affect what sorts of garments you sew, knit, etc.? I think I have a nice clavicle/collarbone area.  Yes, that’s a random thing to like.  I almost never make high necklines because not only does that hide it, it actually looks a little strange to me.
  5. Can you drive a stick shift? No, much to my husband’s chagrin.  He loves them, but I don’t see the point of adding something else to pay attention to.  I tried to learn twice and failed.
  6. What is your worst habit? I am a big coffee drinker.  Now that I’m working away from home I find myself at the coffeeshop every day (mostly Einstein Bagels, since that’s what we have in the student center.)
  7. What are three words you would use to describe yourself? Opinionated, introverted, sarcastic.  Things that don’t seem to go together, hmm…
  8. Do you have any random or bizarre talents? I don’t know that it’s bizarre, but I read extremely quickly.  I don’t skim or speed read, I just am able to read whole sentences in one glance.  I’m also a really good sightreader (in music) and I think the two are connected.
  9. Would you ever go sky diving or bungee jumping? (Or have you ever been sky diving or bungee jumping?)  Nope.  I am super risk averse.  I could not even imagine wanting to do those things.
  10. Who is your favorite fashion designer? I love Carolina Herrera.  Her designs are timeless and feminine, and I love how they work for all ages.
  11. What is the best advice you ever got from another blog?  When I was first learning to sew, Robyn at Yarn Crawl gave me some great book suggestions.  They enabled me to start my new (and current favorite) hobby!

 

Vogue 8787: Asymmetry

Vogue 8787

Pattern: Vogue 8787

Fabric: Blue ponte from Fabricmart

Notes:

I’m not usually drawn to asymmetry.  I generally prefer both sides of my neckline the same, because I fear looking like a kooky artist (even if that’s what I am!)  I really liked this pattern though.  I was going to make the version with the drape neckline, but I decided to try something different.  Happily, I think it turned out well – I really like this dress!

I made a few alterations to the pattern.  Since my ponte was a medium to heavy-weight, I knew that I wouldn’t want to line it.  That was fine, but I had to figure out what to do with the neckline!  I decided to do a bias facing, so I removed most of the seam allowance in order to sew a 1/4 inch seam there.  Because of the way the bodice is constructed (with a seam at the corner of the square) it’s relatively easy to bind the square neckline.  You don’t even have to reinforce/clip the corner because it’s already open!  Just be sure to sew that seam up to 1/4 inch away, but not all the way to the edge.  Here is how mine came out:

vogue 8787

After sewing on the bias (and stretching the corner apart to sew a straight seam – similar to a v neck) I pressed the seam towards the facing, rolled the entire facing to the inside, and topstitched 1/4 inch away from the edge.  I then trimmed the leftover facing right next to the facing on the inside.  I’ve done this treatment several times (I’ve made several Vogue patterns that use it.)  It isn’t neat looking on the inside like a traditional bias binding, but it is faster.  And I’ll be honest – if I know the insides will not show, I will worry about it being sturdy, and not really care if the edge still showing.  Ponte doesn’t ravel, so it doesn’t require seam finishing.

I opted for the long sleeves, which wasn’t one of the views with listed yardages.  I ended up using nearly the full 3 yards of fabric I had bought.  Why is that?  Because of the skirt.  It’s very full and heavy, and it takes up lots of fabric to cut properly:
vogue 8787

After the dress was mostly completed I let it hang in my closet for a week.  Since the skirt is heavy and has bias pieces, it could have stretched out unevenly.  I didn’t want to have to redo my hem, so I always recommend hanging full skirts for a few days.  Luckily, this one did not stretch out of shape.  I ended up removing 4 inches in length, so that the dress would clear my knees.  It’s a little bit longer than it looks on the package, but not outrageous (I’m 5’8″ tall, if that helps!)

I cut a straight size 8 with no alterations.  I considered taking some width from the underarms, as they are a little loose, but I decided that I valued the comfort of the dress.  I also omitted the center back zipper and cut the pieces on the fold.  It is a little tight to get into, but it’s fine once it’s on, and I’d rather not have a zipper in a knit.
Vogue 8787

I have not hemmed the sleeves.  I have long arms, and I like where they are now.  I will probably leave them that way.

One final thing to be aware of – you cannot wear a normal bra with this neckline.  I’m wearing a strapless, and I’m fine with that, but it will expose any straps.

Overall I highly recommend this pattern.  I think it’s different enough to be fashionable, but it’s comfy (in a knit) and easy to construct.  I want to go ahead and make that other view – wouldn’t the drape neck look lovely in a black ponte?

 

Cold weather style

This is the first year that I’ve worked outside the home in quite some time.  For the past 4 years I’ve been able to basically ignore the weather and turn up the heat if I got cold!  That doesn’t work so well now, when I have to park far away and wander around campus in the cold.  In addition, my studio has moved this semester to be right across from the outside doors, and it is absolutely freezing in there most of the time.

In February, I’m going out of the country with the university.  We don’t exactly have the most frigid weather here (it gets cold, but we rarely have lingering snows or more than a few days in a row below freezing) but I have a suspicion that I’m going to freeze.  The last time I went away for this long was two years ago, when we spent 2 weeks of March in Italy.  I was not expecting how cold it was, especially in the churches and cathedrals where we performed.  There’s nothing like seeing your breath while you sing!

This time I have vowed to be prepared.  I’ve been going through my wardrobe, looking for things that will work (both for the trip and at home).  I found that I didn’t have a warm coat, so I bought this coat from London Fog:
Winter coat
I’m surprised by how much I like it – I never thought I would own a puffer coat, but it’s so lovely and warm!  It has a hood, and the collar is lined with soft faux chinchilla fur, which is lovely.  I didn’t like the scratchy fur that a lot of coats had.  It’s much more stylish than the puffy coats of my childhood!  And since it’s the end of season, I got this coat for 1/3 price!

I also needed to find warm boots.  I have been finding that my toes go numb inside my boots after a walk.  I have a really hard time buying boots because I have skinny (12.5″) calves.  Most boots look like rainboots on me, and I wanted warm boots to fit snugly so the wind can’t get in!

I have found over time that the only way to get well fitting boots is to give in and buy nicer brands.  They seem to be sized a little smaller in the calf, and they do last longer, but I am very thrifty.  I knew i didn’t want Uggs (don’t like them) or the more high tech/snow boot looking things.   I wear mostly skirts, so I wanted something that looked ok with them, but would also work over jeans.  It took me weeks, but I finally pulled the trigger and bought these, the Trevis boots from La Canadienne:

boots

Yes, that’s my Butterick 5523 dress.  I still love it and wear it constantly!

Amazon had the best price, so while they were more expensive than I would  like I can comfort myself that they were over $100 off the price over at Zappos!  The boots are waterproof suede, and they are fully lined in that fuzzy material (it feels similar to the hood of my coat.)  I like the slouchy style, which reminds me of the 80s (I had pink glittery slouch boots then that 8 year old me wore into the ground!)  They are so warm, they fit my legs, and they can also be worn with the cuffs up:

boots

Closer:

boots

 

I also bought some fleece lined leggings to wear under dresses (I find that layering them with tights is warmer than wearing pants in the cold!)

I’m planning to make a few knit tunics/dresses before I go.  I will have a post about that soon!  I’ve also finished my new vogue dress, and it is fabulous.  I will take photos tomorrow on my husband’s day off and write about it then.

Simplicity 1777: why 40s patterns aren’t for me.

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Pattern: Simplicity 1777, reprint from 1943.

Fabric: Poly/cotton jacquard

Notes:

I loved this pattern at first sight.  I haven’t made a lot of 1940s patters, and I thought it might be a good choice for me.  I had a few concerns about the  neckline, but I decided to give it a try.

I cut a size 8 on the top, and a 10 on the bottom.

I was expecting the center panel to be irritating to sew together.   It wasn’t really that bad, but it does make for a bit of bulk in that area.  My fabric is medium weight – in a light weight I’m sure it wouldn’t matter.  I opted not to interface the panel, choosing to underline instead.  My interior may not be as neat, but it’s less bulky!

Here is the dress sewn as drafted:

Picture 880

My issues: the skirt has too much volume – because of the deep pleats I needn’t have cut a size larger.  The dress is also too big around the waist and too tight in the arms.  The length is a little long.  The neckline is really high, even for vintage, see:Picture 885

I went back to the machine and made the following alterations: I removed 4 full inches of ease from the skirt and 2 from the bodice.  I let out the sleeves slightly.  I redrew the neckline.  The new one is about 2 inches lower in center front:

Picture 892

The skirt is much better, and I like the neckline.  The sleeves were still tight, and I had taken too much from the bodice, so I let the bodice back out a little  and let out the sleeves are much as I could.

I sat down to sew the final seams (up until this point it was all basting!) and that’s when tragedy struck!  I was finishing a seam allowance on the serger when my serger managed to grab part of the skirt and cut a nig hole in it with the knife before I could stop it!

I know you can repair a hole with interfacing, but I didn’t think it would look good – it was right in the middle of the back, and it was noticeable.  I decided to just shorten the skirt.  Unfortunately, now it’s too short.  I mean, it’s wearable, but I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable in it.  I don’t really wear skirts that are shorter than 2 inches above the knee.

The neckline is also finished with a strip of the cotton as a bias binding.  I made one New Year’s resolution I didn’t mention, and that’s to stop putting in neck facings unless they are completely sewn down.  In cleaning out my closet this year I noticed that the dresses I didn’t wear all had one thing in common – shoddy facings (is there any other kind?)  I have a few dresses I want to take the facing off and replace with a better method so I can wear them without fear!

I’m going to call this a learning experience, but I didn’t get a wearable garment in the deal.  I doubt I would have gotten one even if the skirt hadn’t gotten eaten.  A few things to note about the pattern:

1. The arms are small and short.  I have long arms, but not that long.  The sleeve length was so short that the sleeve darts ended up in the wrong place, contributing to the tight sleeve issue.  I would cut a size up in the sleeves, possibly even two sizes up.   Maybe that’s just the nature of long sleeved woven dresses?  I’m pretty sure that’s why I don’t make them!

2. There is a lot of bulk at the waist. I would either use a lighter fabric (such as challis) or opt to leave out one of the center panel layers.  The pleats are also bulky, so be sure to trim them down!

3.  The neckline is higher than you think.  Picture the highest neckline you can.  Then add an inch.  Now you might have an idea!  I dislike high necklines because of my irrational belief that it makes you look like your head is on backwards.  I redrew the front only, as I had already sewn the zipper, and I would totally redraw if I made it again.  I didn’t try the v-neck, because it looked like a pretty high cut one, which isn’t better on me.

I’d rate the difficulty on this pattern as medium.  The front piece is a little tricky, and there are a million little darts and pleats.  It’s not hard, but it is time consuming.  I would recommend either a lighter fabric or a stretch woven.  Definitely not a stiff fabric (no idea why the envelope is recommending taffeta!)

Ultimately I think that while I enjoy 40s patterns, they never look as good on me as some other eras.  All the pretty draping and ruching never looks right for some reason, and they don’t have the fuller skirts that I love (I know this is due to WWII era fabric restrictions).   I feel like gathering around a bodice just adds bulk to my waist, and I don’t have an enormous difference between my bust and waist anyway, so I like to emphasize what I have.  This style makes me look a little boxy.  I never think of that when I’m sewing, but occasionally I’ll end up with a garment that makes me look that way.

I did make some fun changes to the hem and neckline, choosing to use a hem band and a bias binding:

Picture-910

Is anyone else with me on the facing hatred?  I think the above finish looks so much neater, even if it does take longer.    I made a 2 inch hem band to finish the bottom, but couldn’t get decent photos.  It’s a good option for when you can’t afford to lose anymore length.

Moving on, I’ve been sewing this dress:
v8787

It’s nearly finished, and unlike my sad 1940s dress I really love it!  I will get photos when I can… right now I can only get them on weekends, as I’m in rehearsal or class most nights.

What I did on my winter break: bathroom repaint

Thanks for the advice on my pattern – the consensus seemed to be no contrasting panel, so I’m trying the high neckline without contrast.  I can always cut a contrasting panel if I change my mind!  I started it last night, and so far (knock on wood!) it’s going well.

Our bathroom has long been a work in progress.  When we moved in it was apparent that the previous owners had cared about having a nice shower, and not much else, thus this sink and light fixture:

The light fixture was homemade, probably from the remnants of the homemade trim:
526055_633735193233_1280387168_n
Yes, that is a 2×4, glued to a quarter round and a piece of tiny trim.  They also didn’t believe in priming, as you can see from the bubbled and peeling paint.  I repainted it (using primer this time!) and it’s better.   It’s still not great, because it’s very hard to clean in the gap, but I don’t have the cash at the moment for what I wanted (tile or wainscotting.)

Here is the color it was most recently:

The entire bathroom, including the door and door trim was painted pale flat yellow when we moved in.  I painted the door white, and the rest a pale blue (Martha Stewart for Valspar, discontinued.)  I never loved the paint color – it looked ok in sunlight, but dingy at night, and it didn’t match the purplish undertones in the stone shower.  It also developed steam marks almost immediately – the kind where it looks like the walls are weeping.  They were impossible to wash off, so I knew I needed to repaint in a paint specifically for bathrooms.

Here is the result:
New bathroom
This color is Iron Mountain from Benjamin Moore, the same color I used in my hallway.  I like Iron Mountain because it’s somewhere several colors at once – both an almost charcoal, a taupe brown, and a plum.  It’s also nice and dark, which I like better than bright colors for a bathroom.  I used Aura Bath and Spa paint, which is supposed to keep off some of the weeping (steam marks on the walls) that I had with the cheaper paint.  We will see – I’ve banished all towels from the bathroom and plan to shower with the door open from now on.  We don’t have an exhaust fan, and with this being a second floor (out of 3) bathroom, we can’t really install one.  I thought of having one installed out the wall, but I want to see if I can solve the problem another way first.  I’ll try opening the window as well after a shower – that’s the reason why it’s up to code, because if you have a bathroom you aren’t required to have a fan.

I bought new rugs:
Picture 877

All the bathroom rugs now seem to be made of memory foam, and I don’t like them.  We had a set of those, and they were impossible to keep clean and nice looking.  These rugs are nice and soft, and without a rubber backing they can go through the wash.
I need something for the walls, so the room isn’t finished, but I feel much better about it now.  On to the sewing room!  I managed to pawn the bed off on one of my friends, so now I can get started.

New project: vintage Simplicity

Thanks for all the comments about your sewing rooms – I’ve enjoyed looking at them all, and I’m starting to get a handle on what I will need.  Right now I plan to buy a corner desk for my machines, and get a freestanding kitchen island from Ikea to use as a cutting table/ironing station.  I will post more as my plans start to shape up – right now I’m just trying to get rid of all the bedroom furniture, as we will actually have 2 extra mattress sets otherwise (I’m buying a new mattress/bed for our bedroom later this year.)

Realizing that I only made one vintage pattern in 2012, I’m starting out 2013 with a vintage reprint – the recent Simplicity 1777.

Simplicity 1777

This fabric is a cotton/poly jacquard, originally used for a dress by Alice and Olivia.   I bought it from Banasch’s in Cincinnati.  It drapes well, but isn’t limp, which I think it what this design needs.  On the envelope, I like the looks of the floral version, but the red one is a bit sad:
S1777

It looks like they’ve used some sort of crepe for the floral, and a softer fabric (challis or jersey) for the red.  I prefer the crisp look.  I’m aware that the print will obscure some of the details, but I’m fine with that – I am planning on doing the center front panel in a plain black fabric so that it’s not circle overload.   Should I use the V or the high neckline?  Looking for opinions…  I want to get started tonight!

Book reccomendations: November and December 2012

I haven’t been home much, but thanks to my Ipad I have been reading up a storm!  These are the books I read in November and December.  Not all of them, mind, but the ones I enjoyed enough to recommend.  As always, I’m on goodreads here if you would like to be my friend or follow my reviews.

Best fiction:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

There is so much fiction on the market right now being categorized as “young adult.”  Some of it seems very young, in both situation and characters, while other books seem to have been characterized that way only because YA is currently the hot market in publishing.  Seraphina is definitely the latter.  The main character, the eponymous Seraphina, is technically a teenager.  In this book she is living independently in a world that expects her to be independent.  The normal cliches and tropes of YA are almost entirely missing, so I would recommend this book to any fan of high fantasy or YA fantasy.

Seraphina has a secret (this is not a spoiler, it’s the premise of the book).  She is half dragon in a world where dragons and humans have the most fragile of political alliances.  To be the product of a human/dragon marriage is unheard of, and so Seraphina must hide her true identity.  She has taken a position as choir mistress and assistant to the court composer.  As a musician I must pause to say that all of the descriptions of music in the book are accurate.  The main character and others play instruments that would have been common in the renaissance, and all they play them accurately.  This is an accomplishment!  Most books gets the music wrong.

The dragons in this book are fascinating.  They can take human form at will, but claim to be creatures of logic (think Vulcans and you’ll be close.)  Someone, whether dragon or human, appears to be trying to upset the fragile peace that has been formed, and this conflict forms the basis of the plot.

Seraphina is a wonderful character, fully formed and real.  I loved all the other characters, from her composer boss to her dragon uncle.  They were all wonderful.  There is a romance, but it is not the focus of the plot.  I prefer this, as I read enough romance as is.  I don’t want too much in my fantasy, but this was just enough.  If you have any inclination at all towards fantasy I’d recommend this book – and even if you don’t, I think it would be enjoyable.

Best non-fiction:

Inferno: The World at War by Max Hastings

I have a difficult time reading books about war or military movements.  I find myself less interested in the chess game of war, and more interested in how the war affected the people experiencing it.  I want to know what happened, how they experienced it, and what we can learn.  This book is a history of World War II, told by the people who lived through it.  We see letters and interviews from solders, civilians, and all people who in any way touched the war on all sides.

Some reviews of this book mentioned that you needed to be familiar with the basic movements of the war before reading it.  I have a basic understanding of the chronology, mostly from watching documentaries on the subject, and I was fine.  I did learn a great deal, particularly concerning Russia and Japan.  I was never lost, and while I can’t say it was fun to read, it was engaging.  Highly recommended to anyone interested in a more personal look at WW II.

Also recommended:

Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

I hope I’m not the only one with an unholy addiction to gothic novels.  There are, of course, the classics: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights etc.  I love them all, but I also love the more modern gothics, everything from the books of Mary Stewart to my most recent favorite The Thirteenth Tale.  Unspoken is a nice addition to the genre.  The novel is about Kami, a high school student with a secret (don’t they all start out that way?)  She has been speaking to a boy in her head her entire life.  She’s never been sure he’s real, but she’s learned to hide it from other people.  The Lynburns in the title are the ancestral family of the town where Kami lives.  They’ve been away for many years, but they have returned.  What secrets are hiding in this old manor house?  Ooooh… my kind of book.

It’s actually got a sense of humor.  Kami is funny, as are some of the other main characters.  There is a romance, but it isn’t the focus of the novel.  I have two complaints: first that the characters seem to have basically the same voice.  I would like to see more differences.  The second is that the novel ends on a cliffhanger.  I don’t mind a sequel, but I’d rather just a little more resolution per book.  But eh… the next is coming out, and I recommend this one!

Click over to Goodreads if you want to see what I didn’t love.  It seems I really can’t handle too much romance in a book lately.  I’m reading too many books that start out well, but then veer off into romance land the minute the main character meets a physically perfect, brooding specimen of the male gender.  Don’t get me wrong, I love actual romance (mostly historical) but I don’t really want too much in other genres.

Do you have any recommendations?  I’m always looking for something new to read!