Monthly Archives: November 2011

Hi, My Name is Andi and I’ll be Your Object Lesson for this Evening

Reason #34726 why you should never leave your rotary cutter blade extended when you put it down:

Yes, I am an idiot. This is not the first time I’ve taken this kind of damage, either. I have a scar on my hand from doing the same dratted thing last month.

Anyhow, I spent today cutting out skirt patterns. Both are patterns I’ve made before; this one I used for the Bird Sh*t skirt:

New Look 6873, View C

And this one, which I haven’t made in a while:

Simplicity 4420, View E/F

I cut them out in black. Blackety, blackest black. The goth in me needs more black — cotton/poly blend and stretch woven cotton, respectively. I feel like going back to my roots.

Um, wrong roots. Also, Holy Blurred Photo, Batman.

My Owl Shirt Brings All the Boys to the Yard

This is one of those fabrics where I bought it with a pretty clear purpose in mind. I mean, what else are you going to do with thermal knit except….make a thermal shirt? Ok, I guess long underwear but I live in Southern California. This IS as much cold weather gear as I need.

Hair is a mess, skirt doesn't match....whatevs. Also note the lovely bra strap showing. Aren't we all glad I wore a "nude" bra? Yes, yes, we are.

This is the same pattern I used for the Vippy Bunny shirt — New Look 6735. It doesn’t have a long sleeve option, but it DOES have a 3/4 sleeve option. I traced off the 3/4 sleeve, slashed and spread it to add two inches, then put on three inch cuffs. I was worried the whole time that the sleeves would be too long, but they are pretty much perfect. I think I could add another half inch if I really wanted more length.  This is one of those times where you just kind of eyeball everything and it all works out. Magical.

I’m actually impressed with the way the owl print lined up on the seams — I didn’t try to cut it very precisely but everything seems to be nicely matched, with the exception of the cuffs. No matter what I did, the owls ended up upside down on the cuffs. See here:

That's a bit odd.

I’m not too worried though, because no sane person is going to be looking that closely at my wrists (and who cares what insane people think?).

You can’t see it in the picture, but some of the owls have the word “primp” printed under them. I’m not sure if it’s a commentary, a command or a brand name, since this is one of those L.A. Fabric District purchases and they’re often mill ends left over from clothing factories. I actually didn’t notice the word until I got home…then I read it as “pimp” and was nonplussed for a while, but decided to carry on with the shirt anyway. It wasn’t until I was staring at the print, trying to line it up so I could cut out the pieces, that the letters resolved themselves into “primp.” Be that as it may, I was willing to leave the house in a pimp shirt. With my bra strap showing. That’s all you need to know about me.

Sci Fi Sunday

Currently Reading:


Clive Barker’s Abarat. After reading Necklace of Kisses last week, I felt drawn to more magical realism type stories so I went looking online for book lists. One of the lists I found suggested Abarat. I’ve never been big on Barker’s work, since I’ve always lumped him in with Stephen King and horror isn’t really my thing. However, Abarat is the best kind of fantasy — the kind that takes the mundane and elevates it to the magical while dancing on the edge of horror. The main character, Candy Quackenbush (and how’s that for an utterly pedestrian name?) finds herself traveling to a magical land after a series of strange compulsions leads her to walk out of her school and away from her life. Compulsion notwithstanding, the book makes clear that this is Candy’s choice and her adventures stem from being willing to believe in and trust an increasingly alien set of circumstances. The first friend she makes, John Mischief, also brings her her first enemy, and her instinctive good nature leads her into ever more dangerous territory. Abarat is classified as young adult literature, but I think it is best for the over-fifteen set. The book does not gloss over issues of abuse or violence, and it’s difficult to picture a preteen who would identify with its protagonist. I feel comfortable recommending this story to fantasy-loving adults as well, but be aware that the themes can be rather dark.

Quick side note: In a review of past Sci Fi Sundays, I realized that I’ve been using italics for some book titles. Books really should be underlined; movies and TV shows should be italicized. I think. It’s been a long time since I perused my Strunk and White. Anyhow, I will attempt to be more consistent about this in the future.

Kiss of Life

I stayed up to hit the Black Friday sales at midnight. Grand total: $400 damage, 2/3 shopping list completed, 3 hours sleep. I think I might need CPR — or maybe just this song:

Zero Waste, and Gratitude as an Action

I finished a skirt (New Look 6854) today — I’m pretty stoked with it:

New Look 6854. The t-shirt is from Threadless, "Edgar Allen Crow." What can I say, I like bad puns.

I’ve made this skirt before, but it fit too low on the hips so I didn’t realize how short it would be at the proper length. Then I decided anyone who has a problem with my knees can take a flying leap. I added belt loops, but not pockets since I had just barely enough of this fabric left to cut out the skirt.

This is what I had left over when I finished cutting out two skirts yesterday:

Itty bits and pieces

I’ve seen a number of Thanksgiving posts out in the blogosphere; a lot of people giving thanks for family and friends, home and food. I’m grateful for all these things and more; we have enough left over after providing for our needs to help others. However, sometimes I feel quite wasteful. Yesterday, I threw out two big bags of scraps — they all looked like the pile up there, they were tiny bits and pieces, yet I found myself thinking of people who make postage stamp quilts or items from strips of selvage. Then I had to forcibly remind myself that I hate quilting and if I pieced together selvage, I might actually LOSE my mind and my family deserves a woman with her mind more or less together.

But it did make me think of gratitude as an action, rather than an emotion. I’m grateful we have enough — so I donate to charity. The Hubs and I are grateful for his job — so we offer to pass around resumes for friends who are looking. I’m grateful for cotton farmers, weavers, exporters and sellers — so the least I can do is make sure I don’t waste the fruits of their labor. Cotton is called the “most toxic crop on the planet,” due to the pesticides and chemical processing necessary to grow the plants and turn them into fabric. While I’m not willing to do without my cotton fabric (thanks to allergies), and recycling secondhand clothes for fabric is prohibitively expensive in my area, I can and do try to use the fabric I have wisely.

Zero waste is a concept involving making clothing from a single piece of fabric. Clothing may be cut and sewn; it may have darts or tucks, but generally it will stay in one piece. It takes some pretty intense engineering to make clothing this way, and it isn’t feasible for more form-fitted garments, but it’s an interesting concept. Zero waste is an ideal. Minimal waste is a more attainable goal; to dispose only of those pieces that have no further use. I’m not going to suddenly take up postage-stamp quilting (that would require a personality transplant), but I’m trying to be increasingly mindful of how I use my resources — in sewing, as well as in other pursuits.

Epic Fail

In order to keep myself humble — and prove that sewing is a skill, not a talent — allow me to present the Waste-of-two-days-and-three-yards pants:


I can’t even remember the last time I had a pair of pants that went all the way up to my belly button. I might have been in grade school. Admittedly, the pattern (McCall 3731) is older — but it only dates to the nineties and it’s a teen pattern. The silhouette here is pure seventies, right down to making me look way wider in the hip than I actually am.

While I’m on the subject, a rant — why don’t pattern companies make pants with a modern silhouette? I think I’ve tried them all. Since I know my body type isn’t off the rack, I’m fine with making adjustments to a pattern so that it will fit. However, most pattern adjustment rules say to add a half inch here or take out a half inch there. There are no instructions on how to add two inches to the back rise and remove them from the front, which is closer to the kind of adjustment I need — on pretty much every pair of pants. It is not that hard for me to find pants in stores that fit better than this.

Ok, rant over. I’ll start something else tomorrow, to wash away the bitter taste of failure.

Sci Fi — Actually, Fantasy Sunday

Currently Reading:

Necklace of Kisses

Necklace of Kisses, the most recent novel in the Weetzie Bat series by Francesca Lia Block. If you’re not familiar with Block, she writes young adult fiction set in a magical realist version of Los Angeles. I would characterize her books as fantasy, but it’s the fantasy of Like Water For Chocolate rather than The Hobbit. Necklace of Kisses is, in some ways, a young adult novel for grown-ups. Block’s best known character, Weetzie Bat, turns forty and runs away from home to stay in a marvelous pink hotel. Weetzie’s love, Secret Agent Man, is in the grip of a profound depression and has stopped kissing her — in fact, he doesn’t seem to be interacting with her much at all. The characters Weetzie meets in the hotel are fantastical, including a fairy and a mermaid, and the kisses she collects have an important role in linking the characters and their stories together. I don’t want to give away too much, because the way Block plays with mythology has to be read to be appreciated. This book will stand alone if need be, but I highly recommend first reading Dangerous Angels, which is a compendium of all the Weetzie stories. Warning: I will not be responsible for any desire to move to Los Angeles and wear vintage tutus that may result from the reading of these books.

The Sewn-On Fly Tutorial!

If you aren’t a seamstress (or a seamster), stop right here. You’re going to be bored stiff otherwise. Come back another day, when I’ll have a music video or a book review or a picture of Ben Browder. Oh, what the heck.

There ya go. Gratuitous picture of Ben Browder. Now GO AWAY. The rest of you can stick around.

Here it is, by nobody’s demand — the sewn-on fly tutorial. Note that this isn’t the “correct” way to do a front fly, or necessarily the easiest way. It happens to be the way I like to do it, because it encloses all the messy edges, finishes the seams neatly, and looks good on the inside.

First off, you will have two mirror fronts that look like this. On the pattern piece, there is usually a large dot that indicates where the fly should begin. Mark the dot on the fabric, then sew the fronts together to the mark, backstitching to reinforce there.

The front of the skirt or pants should look like this.

The two pieces of your fly should look like this, except the single curved piece (the front fly) will sometimes face the other way, depending on which side your fly opens. Both pieces should be fully interfaced.

Fold the double-curved piece, right sides together, and sew across the bottom according to the pattern instructions. Trim close to the stitching. I like to use pinking shears for this because they notch the fabric and help the curve lay flat.

Finish the long side of the front fly piece, by serger or with a zigzag stitch.

Sew the front fly piece to the front, right sides together, stopping at the same mark you stopped at earlier.

There will be a small part that is not attached at the bottom. Ignore it, it will be tucked away when we fold the front fly over.

The wrong side should look like this. You can see my blue mark and where the stitching begins and ends.

Clip the seam allowance, close to the mark you made earlier, ONLY on the side where you've sewn the front fly.

Trim your seam allowance above the clip you made, grading the allowances so they are of a different width. I left one at 1/4" and one at 3/8".

Clip the OTHER seam allowance about 3/8" into the seam, directly below the fly, and press the seam back.

Finish the edge of the seam allowance above the clip. At this point, thanks to the two clips, it is easy to finish the bottom part of the seam allowance as one and press it to the side along with the front fly.

Baste the zipper to the 3/8" side of the fly, lining up the edge of the seam allowance with the zipper tape. Make sure the zipper stop lines up with the stitching mark on the fabric.

Finish the long side of the fly protector.

Baste the fly protector behind the zipper, lining up the 3/8" seam allowance, the zipper edge, and the edge of the protector on the wrong side.

Using a zipper foot, sew close to the zip through all of the basted layers. Remove basting stitches afterwards.

This is what your front fly should look like so far.

Now, a lot of instructions will tell you to fold the fly protector out of the way and sew your front fly to your zipper, catching all layers. I don't like to do that because it winds up looking strange -- see how narrow the fly would have to be to catch the zipper edge if I sewed it that way?

Instead, I do this. Pin the front fly to the unattached side of the zipper.

The flip side of the front fly with the pins.

Tuck the fly protector out of the way and stitch only through the front fly and the zipper.

Now the zipper is securely attached, but the fly front is not attached yet.

Now you can attach the fly at a reasonable width. I like to use painter's tape, cut (with cheap scissors) into the proper shape for a template.

Sew carefully, right by the edge of the tape. Remember to keep the fly protector folded away so it's not caught in the stitching.

When you get to the very end, you may find it useful to lift the presser foot and fold out the fly protector so you can catch all the layers at the bottom. Sew through the last half-inch a few times to make a tack.

This is what the outside of your fly should look like. The bottom part looks wonky because of the fabric print, but it's actually curved nicely.

AND....ta-da! The pretty inside of your new fly.

Goodness, it sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? I promise, doing it is much easier than reading about it. Also, once you’ve done a couple (or ten), then most of this stuff becomes second nature.

Good luck! Come back soon, we often discuss our flies around here.

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Goth….

But you can’t take the Goth out of the girl.

Finally! I finished my latest iteration of New Look 6083. This one, I made from really stiff non-stretchy twill by Lip Service (picked up for a song on Ebay). Because the material had so little give, I sewed 1/2″ seams on the side instead of 5/8″ seams. Now the skirt seems slightly loose, but I suspect that is just as well since this will be a knock-around skirt, to be worn with my black band tees and Doc Martens. Here it is:

Looks long in this picture, but it actually hits several inches above my knees.

When I put on the skirt for a photo this morning, Youngest was walking into the bathroom to take out his spacers. He inspected it and announced, “That looks good.” Then he looked closer and said, “But you shouldn’t wear it NOW. Because it isn’t October anymore, it’s November, and those are skulls. And that looks like blood.”

I told him, “It’s a STYLE.” Geez, everybody’s a critic.

By the by, this skirt has a SEWN-ON FLY. And I took copious pictures while making it, so I’m going to be doing a SEWN-ON FLY Tutorial. Stay tuned!

Sci Fi Sunday

Currently Reading:

Snuff (Discworld Novels)


Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel, Snuff. Pratchett is well known as a satirist, and his humorous novels of Discworld poke fun at everything from rock and roll (Soul Music) to death (Mort, and others). Snuff is Pratchett’s take on the stereotypical British country romance novel — think Jane Austen, but with a lot more goblins. Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, has married up — very far up — and is being dragged to the country for a vacation by his wife. While there, he is delighted to discover that skullduggery is afoot, and goes about solving crime while exposing his young son to the improving effects of the country climate and educating the local population about what a Duke really does (as it turns out, quite a lot).

Snuff is not as laugh-out-loud funny as some of Pratchett’s other works, and it doesn’t stand alone very well — you need to be familiar with the other City Watch books (start with Guards! Guards!) and I missed the previous book, Thud!, so there were some references I found confusing. If you’re not familiar with Discworld, by all means start with The Color of Magic, which is the first book.  However, if you want a shortcut to funny, I personally recommend Jingo (satirizes war with the Middle East), Small Gods (religion) and Pyramids (the Ancient Egyptians).


Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter)


Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh is a Guild Hunter novel. The Guild Hunter novels take place in a world ruled by archangels and populated by humans and vampires (who serve, and are made by the angels — a very interesting premise). However, unlike the previous 3 Guild Hunter novels, it doesn’t focus on Raphael and Elena but on the vampire Dmitri and an emotionally scarred hunter named Honor. This book can be read alone, but it improves with knowledge of the back story (contained in Angel’s Blood, Archangel’s Kiss, and Archangel’s Consort respectively). It’s satisfying to find out why Dmitri behaves the way he does, and to watch Honor’s recovery from a horrific vampire attack in one of the earlier books (where she was a minor character in a much larger story). All in all, a very enjoyable addition to the series, but one that focuses on a different group of people. I’m hoping the Guild Hunter series will branch out to cover more of the minor characters and their relationships.