Monthly Archives: February 2012

Moves Like Jagger — Butterick 5682 Jeans

I DID IT! I made pants! These lovelies are from Butterick 5682, which is a basic jeans pattern. I made View B, which has straight legs, in a size 10. The finished hip measurement was pretty close to my exact measurement at 37.5 inches. I’m positive this worked as well as it did because I used stretch denim — if I want non-stretch jeans, I’d have to go up to a 12. The only change I made to this pattern was to sew the inseam at 3/8″ instead of 5/8″ which is how I work around needing more room for my thighs. Frankly, that extra quarter inch was very necessary here. Otherwise, this came together remarkably well. I think this is the fourth (maybe fifth?) pair of jeans I’ve tried to make on this blog, and by far my favorite.

A few quirks: the allowance for the front zip is definitely short, as I noted when I first made this pattern. Next time, I’ll lengthen the fly and fly shield by a bit to allow for a longer zipper. The pattern piece for the waistband demands that you cut it on the cross grain, which made my print go a bit wonky. I get why this is necessary — to avoid undue stretch in the waist — but if I’m using a patterned denim, I might try cutting it on the straight grain and interfacing the heck out of it next time. I did have to lay out the pieces carefully, to match the cheetah print at the pockets and so on, but it was relatively easy to do with four yards. I still have enough left to make a skirt, assuming I need any more cheetah print in my closet.

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere due to brain drain, and the schedule won’t let up anytime soon. We’re coming up on March Madness, and I don’t mean basketball; choir, sports and Scouts all have events this month. After the jeans project, which took about six days, I’m ready for something quick and easy!

To sew, that is.


The Taming of the Challis

Remember the EVIL fabric of last week? Well, thanks to my intelligent and capable commenters, I figured I could whip it into shape with a long weekend and a whole lot of spray starch. This is the pattern I decided to use:

New Look 6096. I made View A with the flutter sleeves, in a size 8. I normally would sew a 10 thanks to a small high bust measurement, but all the ease in the pattern convinced me to go down a size. I’m glad I did; I think a 10 would have been too large. As it is, this dress veers dangerously close to maternity territory.

Here is the end result:

Pretty much exactly like the pattern envelope. Ignore my expression, it's been a long day. Look at the adorable cat in the background instead.

First off, I used Magic Sizing on the fabric and it was still WAY too slippery. So then I used Faultless Heavy Starch — which helped, but the material was still more slippery than I would really prefer. It shifted all over the place while I was sewing it. I could probably have done with a second (or third) coating of starch. Secondly, I wanted to make peasant sleeves with elastic but a look at the pattern convinced me to go with flutter sleeves because there is no armpit seam — the sleeve ends basically tuck into the bottom part of the armhole. I am not a fan of this style because it puts bulk in the armhole, but my fabric was lightweight enough that eliminating the sleeve elastic eliminated the bulk. Overall, this was a test of both the fabric and the pattern and while I like the fabric, I’m not sure under what circumstances I’d make the pattern again. I have a large rib cage and really need the elastic to hit a little lower so that I don’t look like a fence post. I’m tempted to hang on to the pattern and lengthen the bodice a bit because I want to try out the long sleeves….

But hey! I conquered my fear of challis, and I have three more yards of this stuff for the next time inspiration strikes. Now, anyone with tips on sewing silky charmeuse? Spray starch is a no go, as it seems to permanently change the hand of the fabric. Twenty yards in my stash is waiting for your help!

Sci Fi Sunday — Cowboys & Aliens

I apologize for not publishing this yesterday but I was out getting my drunk on. That’s a good reason, right? Anyhow, I got the Hubs a gift package for Valentine’s/his birthday (they’re one day apart so we celebrate them together) which included several movies. One of those movies was Cowboys & Aliens, which really should be Cowboys vs. Aliens — and that’s just the beginning of the problems with this movie.

Here’s what Cowboys & Aliens has:

— Daniel Craig’s ass in chaps

— Harrison Ford being rugged and growly

— Olivia Wilde being…there. And also, briefly, naked although you can’t see much.

— The usual faithful dog, tough orphan, prostitute with a heart of gold, gang of outlaws, Indian sidekick, et cetera, et cetera. In fact, the title really should be Cowboys & Cliches.

What Cowboys & Aliens does NOT have:

— a comprehensible plot

— narrative continuity

— good acting

— dialogue that doesn’t make you want to throw your shoe at the TV.

Three-quarters of the way through the film, I turned to the Hubs and said, “I think this is in the top ten worst movies I’ve ever seen.” He said, “Oh, that’s a little harsh. Top ten, really?” “Well, it’s not in the top five, but that’s only because of all the pretty people.”

Verdict: Mildly entertaining, assuming you can turn your internal critic off. A preliminary cushion of alcohol is recommended. Do not expose to children — there are a few scenes that veer into racist, sexist territory. Besides, you could be arrested for contributing to the stupidity of a minor.

On Doing Things Badly

The sewing graveyard this week.

Flow. It’s what every artist, writer, or creator seeks — that feeling of being in the moment, where everything comes together smoothly and you lose yourself in the process, only looking up to check the time after hours have passed.

There’s also the opposite of flow; wrestling both with ideas and output, when it feels like every choice is a chore. We don’t have a convenient catchphrase for this mode….being blocked or “blockage” works, I guess, but doesn’t really convey the depth of frustration that the experience entails.

I’ve been blocked all week, actually since coming back from Monterey. I’ve been sewing badly — two bad pattern choices and one bad marriage of fabric and pattern in this week alone. I’ve been parenting badly — forgot to wash PE clothes, forgot to pick up Youngest at early dismissal, forgot to give Middlest lunch. I’ve even been BLOGGING badly, for crying out loud. I could make excuses, but they would be neither truthful nor interesting (and if you’re going to lie, it should at least be interesting). I considered giving up sewing. I seriously contemplated raising spaniels instead. I’ve always harbored a secret desire to be one of those practical British countrywomen in tweed skirts who would go tramping through the countryside to see a man about a dog. “Always see a man about a dog — that is the secret to a long and happy life,” said P.G. Wodehouse — at least, I think it was Wodehouse and Google is being unhelpful here. Anyway, tweed skirts and a long and happy life…what’s not to love? Aside from spaniel drool?

Never mind the drivel — it’s Friday, the kids have a long weekend, and I’m looking forward to some productive time. By productive, I mean I might go shopping and spend a lot of money (a lot of money relative to me, not a lot of money relative to, say, the Kardashians) and then watch TV in bed for five or six hours. It’s a thought. Here’s an old favorite to rock in the weekend — and as a bonus, the video cracks me up:

I Blame the VD

Valentine’s Day, of course, not the other VD. Why else would I have dug this maroon twill out of stash and attempted New Look 6106? Here’s the pattern, one of the new spring releases:

Misses' Skirts Now, there’s nothing much wrong with this pattern. It looks like a nice, simple A-line skirt with pockets. I was particularly happy to se darts in the back for shaping and a center back zipper. Hard to screw up, right?

Here’s the result:

Wow, that's fug.

I think you need to see the back to appreciate the full effect:

Those wrinkles are not from lack of pressing, they're from the way the skirt hangs. Really.

I think there are two problems here — one, this skirt was designed for someone with an exaggerated hourglass shape. I am not that person. Two, I made it out of cheap twill fabric that any sane sewist would have binned without a second thought. Curse my sudden and inevitable frugality!

In a side note, I measure as a 14, but normally sew between a 10 and a 12. After looking at the teeny waist on this pattern and comparing it to some of my TNTs, I sewed a 14. I think that was the correct choice, but it does mean this pattern runs really small in the waist and large in the hip. Kinda short too, in the shortest length — which I’m showing here, it’s supposed to be 18 inches long but doesn’t quite make it. I won’t be making this one again — the drafting is just too far off for my figure, and I think the style is too sweet.

However, I’ve cut out another New Look, this one:

It’s a Suede Says pattern, New Look 6103.  I’m making the curved hem skirt in the second view.  That curve is going to be the devil to turn….

Sci Fi Monday, What I Did On My Vacation

I read an arseload of books, for one thing.  Here are the two that stood out:

Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, Book 1)

Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace, first in the Sirantha Jax series. How much do I like starting a new space opera series? Way too much. Sirantha Jax carries a rare gene that allows her to navigate ships through interstellar space. Her ability makes her highly prized in the Corps, but a terrible accident and Jax’s own faulty memory soon put paid to that job. Languishing in a Corps prison, increasingly uncertain if she can trust herself and her recollection of events, she is sprung by a group of rebels with their own agenda. Jax will have all her wits and abilities put to the test as she evades recapture and discovers what her new masters want from her.

Like all good space operas, there’s a little something for everyone in this story. The science fiction aspect is not as well developed as I would like, although this is a first book so some things may be explained in subsequent novels. The characters are interesting, their motives are understandable, and there’s a nice romantic element that is not overdone. I don’t recall any humanoid aliens, and there seems to be a bit of speciesism in how Aguirre handles the alien characters. Other than that, Grimspace is a really fun read that managed to be both escapist and unexpectedly profound.

Product Details

The Family Trade, by Charles Stross. I have to blame SeraphinaLina for this one. On one of my earlier Sci Fi Sundays, she recommended Stross’s The Atrocity Archives, which begins his Laundry Files series. I read The Atrocity Archives and enjoyed them, but felt bogged down a bit by all the IT slang (what I know about the Internet would fit into a thimble). So when I was browsing at Barnes and Noble, looking for books for my trip, this paperback caught my eye and the synopsis seemed right up my alley. I read it in an afternoon and was pulled right into the series.

Miriam Beckstein is a reporter who stumbles across a hot story, one afternoon at work. Before she knows it, she has been dismissed from her job and is getting threatening phone calls. She has unwittingly stumbled across a hot mess of drugs, hierarchy and greed, all tracking back to one big cartel….The Family. By the time the day is over, Miriam has received a locket from the mother she never knew and used it to transport herself to another world. Who Miriam really is, where she comes from and how The Family ties into her story makes for a delightful read. Part of the fun is reading about a modern woman who isn’t afraid to use her business skills and practical acumen to fight back against fantasy villains. Miriam is a likable heroine who manages to kick butt without being a ninja or having magical powers. I’ve already read the second book, The Hidden Family and enjoyed that one as well.

For anyone who came here for the sewing, sewing has indeed been taking place. More on that tomorrow!

Evil in the Attic

No, not a horror movie (although it would make a good title for one). By attic, I mean my sewing room loft and by evil, I mean this:

This is rayon. Sorry about the eye-searing image.

I really, really wanted to make a summer dress this week. However, the first fabric I dug out of stash had a big honking stain in the middle (it was not cheap, either) and the second one was….this. I’m pretty sure this stuff is rayon challis, between 4 and 5 yards of it in fact. Rayon challis is unstable. It frays. It pulls off grain. It resists all attempts to press it into submission. It does hang beautifully, assuming you can get it on grain at all. However, after taking six unsuccessful photos of this print, I’m guessing it’s a good idea that I finally gave up on the dress. I don’t really know where I would wear something that makes me look blurry. Sneaking into a drug den? In my new career as a kleptomaniac? Going into Witness Protection? Hmm….

I did make some earrings. Back in the day, I used to make a ton of jewelry — until I realized I really only wear simple designs. I sold or gave away a lot of jewelry stash, but I still have all my tools and a few pieces. Came up with this:

Floral...but not girly

The ear wires are real silver, and I think the flowers are enamel of some kind — not sure. I bought a few more jewelry pieces at Michaels tonight, since I’m hoping that this will be a less frustrating creative outlet on the days when my fabric and pattern stash are just not coming together.

So anyway, I’m dedicating this Friday song to bad fabric.

Bad Idea

This is an actual email I actually received from Oldest’s Social Science teacher:

Dear Parent or guardian:

Students in our social science classes are currently studying medieval Europe.  No study of medieval Europe would be complete without analyzing the role of Christianity.  From the fall of the Roman Empire through the Renaissance, the Church played an enormous role in the lives of medieval Europeans.

In order for students to sincerely understand the role of the Church in medieval society, they will have an opportunity to participate in a unique social science simulation, which on a very limited scale will recreate the silent and solitary world of a medieval monastery.  For one period, students will give up their personal possessions (i.e. backpacks) and take a vow of silence.  During the course of this activity, students will read about the daily life of medieval monks, listen to Gregorian chants, illustrate a Latin proverb, and complete various custodial tasks.  At no time will students be reciting any prayers or simulating any religious rituals.  Furthermore, no religious organizations will be involved in any portion of this activity.

We feel that under our strict supervision, this activity will be a memorable learning experience.  As a result of his/her participation in this activity, your child should be able to:

•     Describe the daily life of a Christian monk living in medieval Europe.
•     List some of the reasons for the growth of monasticism in western Europe during the Middle Ages.
•     Explain the importance of Christianity as a unifying cultural force in medieval Europe.

If you do not choose for your child to participate in the “Vow of Silence” activity on Tuesday, February 14th, please reply to this email.  If we do not hear back from you, we will assume that your child may participate in this simulation.

Thank you,

Funny Valentine's Day Ecard: Sorry about Valentine's Day.

And this is the reply I am actually NOT sending:

Dear Teacher,

Thank you for discouraging my child from pursuing the monastic lifestyle. I was not hitherto aware that this was a risk, due to the fact that we aren’t Catholic, but I appreciate your foresight. The use of boredom to forestall any incipient monkishness is particularly masterful. As this event is to take place on St. Valentine’s Day, am I to understand that the class will also be reenacting beatings, stonings and/or beheadings? In which case, I would like to excuse my son from participating. Although if there will be a Viking Raid, I am willing to let him take his chances with the rest of his classmates. Some concessions must be made for authenticity.


Perplexed Parent

Let Me Entertain You…With Delusions of Importance

By now, everybody knows I’m heading to North California tomorrow, right? I won’t be taking my computer to Monterey with me. As much as I love my computer (and my blog), I just transferred to a big, 17 inch laptop and it’s awkward to carry — doesn’t fit into any of my current padded cases. Plus, this is supposed to be a vacation and I should probably pay attention to the person I actually married, just in case he decides to stick around. I did buy a new coat for the blustery weather:

I'm pretty sure the leather is fake. Still feels nice and warm.

It passed my coat test with flying colors. The coat test is very simple; first, put on the coat. Walk around the store with it. Forget you have it on and almost leave your other coat in the fitting room. If a coat passes the test and doesn’t make you look like a marshmallow, BUY IT.

Coat buying advice aside, I’ve convinced myself that y’all are going to be bereft without me. I don’t get back until Tuesday. So I came up with some things for you to do in my absence:

1) — They have a “Create” feature where you can create your own shoes. GO WILD! You can even get shoes with two sides in different colors. Come up with themes. Go Mardi Gras. Celebrate McDonalds, or the Mighty Ducks. I don’t know, whatever floats your boat.

2) Head on over to OUR LIFE IN 3D and come up with your very own Blues Name! Mine would be Fat Hips Dupree.

3) If you’ve lost control of all but one of your digits and are incapable of doing more than pressing a button over and over, allow me to recommend to you the Harlequin Title Generator, actually called the Random Romance Novel Title Generator but the titles are total Harlequin rip offs. Also really funny, if your sense of humor inclines that way.

4) If you’d prefer smart commentary on romance novels, I strongly suggest Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. If you need a laugh, read some of their “worst” reviews. They are so funny, I promise you will pee your pants. Wear Depends.

5) If you like commentary on books, but eschew romance novels for rather more highbrow fare, I recommend the Bookslut blog. I’m not the sort of person who reads a lot of “modern lit” but Jessa Crispin’s trenchant commentary makes me wish I was.

6) For those of you who sew, a game — Apocalyptic Patterns! Ok, this is my game so I need to explain how it works. Basically, the Apocalypse has happened but lucky you — you still have fabric and electricity! Just no way to get to the mall. You’re going to have to sew all of your own clothes, but you can only have one pattern (or two, or five — it’s up to you to set that parameter). I confine myself to the Big Six patterns (here and here) for the purpose of this exercise. Be sure to consider things like outerwear and underwear. In a good season, I can get it down to two patterns.

7) Last but not least, I was startled this morning to find Newt Gingrich in my pantry. After I took a step back and a deep breath, I realized it was the Quaker Oats guy. So if you are not from the United States, be very glad you’re not in an election cycle. Or if you are, that you’re not in an election cycle with the Quaker Oats guy.

And just so you don’t miss Friday Headbanging:

Ok, I think that covers it. Stay safe, keep dry and don’t accept laxatives from strangers.