Sunday, March 30, 2008

Problem Child

I am pretty excited because I finished the linen/rayon blouse that was giving me so much trouble a couple of weeks ago. As is so often the case, the problem child has ended up being near and dear to her mother's heart. I just love this blouse: the rumpled look of the linen (hey, what can I camouflages those puckers!); the buttons my daughter picked out; the tunic length; the cuffs, which, for some reason, just strike me as being really beautiful. Thanks to everyone who offered advice an encouragement, here and at PatternReview. It's due in large part to you that this blouse was finished rather than becoming a wadder. Although this is not "officially" a part of my PatternReview mini-wardrobe, it is, in fact, the first piece of my new wardrobe capsule.

I have high hopes for my April sewing projects...let me list them for you.

* A birthday dress for my granddaughter, for which I've found the most adorable fabric. You can't see it in the photo, but it's sparkly!

* Also some clothes for her American Girl "Girl of Today" doll, a hand-me-down from my 16 year old daughter, using Simplicity 7083.

* Several ribbon belts for my oldest daughter.

* Muslins of Butterick 4991, McCall's 2818 and (hopefully) Burda 7944 in preparation for the mini-wardrobe contest.

I also have two other tops I'm itching to make, which will be great add-ons to my mini-wardrobe. I seriously need to figure out how to carve more sewing time from each day. Suggestions, anyone?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Meet Polly

I long for long, willowy legs; alas, it is never to be. I occasionally mention that I have the bone structure of a brontosaurus - think Dino Flintstone - and people assume I'm kidding.

I. Kid. You. Not.

Yes, my legs are disproportionately heavy and, unfortunately, it’s not because they are fat. I don’t mean to say that I couldn’t stand to lose a few pounds, but excess fat is not the reason my legs are so large. If it were, it would give me hope that their appearance could be improved through hard work and determination. Not so.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Project Runway Croquis I got an e-mail newsletter from Simplicity Patterns today, touting their Project Runway patterns and the included “Designer Croquis Kit.” Check out the length of the legs on that figure. Honestly, is anything going to look bad when drawn over that form? If my torso/leg ratio was the same as that of the figure in the Croquis Kit, I believe I would be somewhere around 5’10” rather than 5’4”. Maybe even taller.

I wonder if Simplicity believes that people will be encouraged to buy more patterns after the disappointment they may certainly feel when their completed garment doesn’t look as good on them as it did on the croquis?

I had actually seen the Croquis Kit before, as I own one of the Project Runway patterns. I think the concept is good, so I made my own croquis. Please meet Polly, my alter ego. As you can see, she is far less inhibited than I, being willing to pose on the internet in her undies, whereas I feel the need to wear a cami under a linen blouse.

I believe she is a fairly accurate representation of my basic shape, having been created from a photograph. She may be a tad heavier than I am…I say this because her head looks a little small compared to her body, and I have a rather large head.

I share Polly with you today because I plan on posting the results - some of which are quite eye-opening - of some of my croquis sketches in future posts and I think they’ll be more more interesting if you’ve seen Polly au naturel. I think it will be especially interesting for people whose shapes may be similar to my own.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mini-Wardrobe: Part Two - The Bottoms

Deciding on bottoms is ever so much more difficult than deciding on tops. Pretty much all of my experience in sewing for myself has been with blouses and dresses. Searching through the mists of memory, I believe I made a skirt for myself one time that was wearable, but I have definitely never sewn pants for myself. I've never even attempted it, faintheart that I am.

I am pretty sure about Butterick 4233, View A, which is shown in the lower, right-hand corner. I will, of course, be making it in the longest length, just above my ankles. I think I will probably make it from the same red rayon challis that I'm considering for Butterick 2818. I don't actually have this fabric yet, but hope to acquire it come payday!

For my second piece, I'm torn between Butterick 4136, a very basic skirt. Or Burda 7944, an extremely cute pair of trousers. I'm attracted to the Burda mainly because of the high waist. As I'm so long waisted with such short legs, I'm looking for a little longer line than you get with low rise pants. I'm not sure why...I always wear my shirts untucked. I guess this way, I'll feel like I have the option to tuck if I choose to. Either way, the second piece will be made of black linen.

Now interestingly enough, there's a third part to my wardrobe. The pieces are not/will not be part of the Mini-Wardrobe contest, but they will an integral part of the wardrobe. Details forthcoming.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mini-Wardrobe: Part One - The Tops

I'm starting to plan the patterns and fabrics I'll be using to construct my entry for the PatternReview Mini-Wardrobe contest. Since my current wardrobe consists almost entirely of jeans and t-shirts, I'm going to use the contest to add some nicer pieces.

The first definite piece is Butterick 4991, View A (Vest). I'll be making this out of silver foiled, black linen. This is the same linen I posted about a couple of weeks ago. I chose this pattern because (a) I wanted a cropped jacket or vest and (b) I felt like a boxy shape wouldn't be the most flattering for me. My shape has gotten pretty rectangular as I've gotten older and I felt like the tapered silhouette of this vest would add some shape. If it turns out well, I may make try grafting a different collar onto the jacket. I will probably just wear the vest over a cami or a short sleeved tee.

Next on my list is McCall 2818. (Wow, that picture is really tiny; sorry!) I'll be making view D, the split neck shell. This is a Palmer/Pletsch pattern. I'm eager to try it out and see how the instructions are. As a bonus, I can learn how to fit a full bust! That will be useful information if I ever get a full bust! I'm not sure on the fabric for this yet. I did see a nice red rayon challis an Hancock the other day; I may go back for that.

Mini-Wardrobe: Part Two - The Bottoms will be coming in the next day or two.

I've Been Tagged

I've been tagged - thank you very much, Dawn - so now I must wrack my brain for seven interesting things to tell you about myself.

1. I like to read the dictionary. I am a serious word nerd. For example, I wanted to check the spelling of "wrack" before I posted this blog entry and spent several minutes - okay, half an hour - reading all the synonyms of "wrack" included in the thesaurus at, plus looking up some of the more interesting words I encountered. Did you know that "wrack" when used in this sense, means "to dismantle?"

2. I prefer sci-fi and action adventure movies to chick flicks. Same with books.

3. In keeping with the theme of #2, I love Star Trek in all it's iterations BUT what I really love is Stargate - the movie, SG-1, and Atlantis. My daughter and I crack ourselves up when we find, in the middle of a conversation, that we're talking about the Asgard or the Genai or some such race as though they were real.

4. I've never stayed at the same job for more than three years. Change is good, right?

5. My husband, myself and two of my/our daughters are left-handed. It's good to be in the majority occasionally. I once found myself in a room of 30 other people where I was the only left-handed person. That was just weird.

6. I never wanted children, so of course, I had three.

7. I was my blue-eyed grandfather's only blue-eyed grandchild, which is why he named an orchid that he developed after me, miltonia Paula Jean.

I'm not going to tag anyone as I believe that nearly everyone I "know" well enough to feel comfortable tagging has already been tagged. But I thought it would be fun to post some random information about myself anyway.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Tough Job

A quick update on my's coming along. How ironic is it that I ended up carefully trying to get each seam to pucker X amount so that they would all look the same? Anyway, the front and back pieces are sewn together, the fronts are faced and the blouse fits. Onto the collar but not until later today. (I hate it when work interferes with sewing!)

Now for some more interesting stuff. I was considering entering the One Fabric-Silk contest for April, but I have decided against it. I need - well, want, actually - to get some sewing done for my granddaughter for her birthday. But what's got me even more excited is that I'm going to be sewing for The Hundred Skirts Project. I'll be making seven size 3T skirts for the Guatemalan orphanage. I'm really excited about the Project. I'll be drafting my a-line pattern off of an ancient skorts pattern that I've had lying around unused for about 13 or so years. I've shopped my tiny stash and found a couple of suitable fabrics but that's okay because I happen to know that there are tons of really cute cottons in the fabric stores right now and I don't mind fabric shopping. As the old saying goes, it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bordering on Obsession

I know I said I was going to lay my linen blouse aside, but aided by my good friends and enablers from PatternReview, I revisited the blouse, sans underlining.

Let me backtrack for a moment to thank all of you who stopped by my blog or posted on PatternReview to make suggestions or offer sympathy. Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Now back to the blouse. As I mentioned, I started again, this time without the underlining. I now know for certain that the puckering is caused by the linen/rayon fabric shrinking when I press it. Even on low heat, without steam. However, with careful pressing, I've definitely minimized the problem. You can see there's quite an improvement. I think it will be okay once the finished blouse is washed. There's sure to be some general shrinkage and I'm hoping the puckers will disappear into that. And that the blouse will still fit.

Here's the back side of the seam. I just overcast the the seam allowance, then trimmed it down after top stitching. I'm reasonably satisfied with how it looks. I actually would have preferred the finish to end up narrower because of the show through, but I didn't want to serge the seam allowance because I didn't want the added bulk and because I wanted the double topstitching.

So that's where I'm at right now. I'm kind of excited because today, I'll actually get to sew a different seam!

* I apologize for the quality of the pictures. I never realized before how difficult it is to photograph white!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Time To Throw In The Towel?

I've been working on my blouse for the Fitted Blouse Contest for nearly two weeks and I have exactly one seam to show for it. That's not to say that I've only sewn one seam, because I've sewn that particular seam numerous times on the first and the second set of pattern pieces...

My pattern is McCall's 3340, a fitted blouse with armhole princess seams. I chose a very light weight linen/rayon blend in white. The fabric is just sheer enough so that I didn't think I'd feel comfortable wearing it without an underlining. So for the underlining I chose a very thin cotton batiste. I pre-washed both fabrics and proceeded onto cutting.

I sewed my first seam, pressed it, clean finished and trimmed the seam allowances (this looked amazingly good, by the way), and top stitched it. Unfortunately, when I looked at it in the harsh light of day, I could see that the seam was puckered and no amount of pressing made it any better.

I managed, after three trips to the fabric store, to acquire more fashion fabric and cut my two pattern pieces again. After a lot of good advice from the sewing gurus at PatternReview, I carefully hand basted the fashion fabric to the underlining - two rows of hand basting, one down either side of the stitching line. Then I hand basted the seam. To stitch the seam I got out the walking foot for my Ellegante. After a 15 minute struggle to decipher the scanty installation instructions and inadequate illustrations, I was ready to stitch.

The seam looked perfect! I was quite excited as I proceeded to finish the seam allowances. Then disaster struck and I believe I have discovered my problem. As I pressed the seam open, I noticed some puckering. I think what is happening is that either the fashion fabric or the underlining is shrinking when I press, causing the puckering. Although I'm disappointed, I am happy to know what the problem is at last.

I'm going to set this aside for the time being and find some other fabric for the contest blouse. As the deadline approaches, the frustration is too great to continue with this project at this time. I'll come back to it, but when I have the time to approach the problem in a leisurely fashion.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friendly Competition

I love the contests on They encourage you try new techniques, challenge your self-imposed limits and shame you into actually finishing your projects. But even as important as those things are, the best thing about participating in a contest is the easy camaraderie that develops amongst the contestants. No matter what obstacles you encounter or how discouraged you may become, there’s always someone there with an answer or an encouraging word. It’s a virtual sewing circle.

My first contest was the Ready-to-Wear Knock-off contest, for which I copied a pair of Bensoni shorts. (Review of Simplicity 3849) How cool is it to be able to own a reasonable copy of a pair of $195 shorts...for only about $35? By the way, in case you're wondering, the tush in the photo is courtesy of my 16 year old daughter.

Currently I’m participating in the Fitted Blouse contest. I’ll be making McCall’s 3340 (Review of McCall's 3340), an armhole princess blouse that I'll be making in a tunic length with long sleeves. I’ve made this blouse before, so most all of the fitting issues are resolved. It sort of feels like cheating to use a TNT pattern, but the contest only runs four weeks and I am a very slow sewist.

My intention was to use a white linen-rayon blend in almost a handkerchief weight for the blouse, but after washing the fabric, I felt as though it might be just a little too sheer for me. Rather than select a different fabric, I’ve decided to underline the body of the blouse with cotton batiste. Even so, I may need a cami underneath.

I have a couple of ideas for new techniques to try; hemstitching and faggoting. I’m not sure if I will actually use either. It will depend on time constraints and whether or not I can figure out how to achieve the look I want with Lily.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Lengths We'll Go To

This is some silver foiled, black linen that I've been wanting.

I first saw it at the Joann Fabrics nearest my home. I fell in love with this fabric. I didn't buy it at the time and Friday, when I finally made it to back Joann to purchase it, of course it was gone.

So yesterday I called another Joann to see if they had the fabric in stock. I was put on hold and no one ever picked my call back up. I hung up and called back...the line was busy. I tried every five minutes for half an hour but never got through again.

I really wanted this fabric, so I decided to make a special trip to Joann just in case they happened to have it in stock - a 45 minute drive one way during rush hour traffic. I was almost there, less than 200 yards aways, so close I could almost smell the sizing in the fabric. I stopped by my bank to withdraw enough cash from the ATM to purchase the fabric...and realized that I had left my ATM card at home. I returned home empty handed again.

This afternoon, armed with my ATM card, I made the drive again. I pulled up to the ATM at my bank was temporarily out of service. Undaunted, I dashed into the nearest Safeway, used the ATM, and continued on to Joann. And they had the fabric!

Finally, success. I'll be using the fabric to make this Butterick 4991, View A, hopefully as part of the Mini-Wardrobe contest on

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


On August 22, 2007, I became the proud owner of a brand new Baby Lock Ellegante. After struggling for several years with a 25 year old Kenmore Sensor Sew 70, it was time for a new machine. The old machine was tired; the poor thing could sew only in reverse. I tried several options for continuing to use it, including sitting on the back side of the machine, but it just wasn't working out for me; hence, the new Ellegante.

I'm slowly getting to know Lily. I have every expectation that she's going to go take me to places I've never been before. She will transform me from a competent hobbyist to an artisan, an artist as we push back the boundaries of what I believe is possible. At least, that is my hope.

I am reborn as a sewist.