Monthly Archives: April 2012

Goal-Setting and Me-Made-May ’12!

This past weekend, I read a great post by Dani over at Cotton Handy, about goal setting in sewing. She lays out nine goals she has to further her sewing, and also gives time frames in which she plans to achieve her goals. The rubric she is using for her goal setting is called S.M.A.R.T.

Using this framework, I decided to try laying out some of my own sewing goals:

1.  Participate in more online groups (i.e., Me-Made-May)

2.  Get better at fitting pants

3.  Ditto fitting dresses

4.  Make my own well-fitted underpants

5.  Make my own bathing suit

6.  Become a better, less wasteful fabric shopper

7.  Learn to draft and/or adapt patterns to get a specific look

Timeline: Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 6 are ongoing. I am working on the fabric shopping by noticing which fibers and weights I wear the most and trying to remember to stick with those fibers. Although silky sheers come in cute prints, I just don’t wear them much even in RTW. #4, making my own underpants is something I will be working on within the next year. I have a pattern but expect I will need to adapt it a lot. #5, the swimsuit is probably something I will put on hold until I achieve #4 so that I have a basic bikini bottom all ready to go and can just focus on the top. #7 is something I will be addressing off and on, as I learn more about how certain shapes fit my body.

Now for my first goal, participating in more online sewing activities! I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring for Me-Made May ’12.

I, Andi of Lazysubculturalgirl, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’12. I will endeavor to wear at least one me-made or refashioned item five days per week for the duration of May 2012. I will also attempt to avoid repeating any outfits throughout the month. My exceptions are: pajamas, workout wear, socks and shoes.  

Now, in looking at my closet, I realize there will be some challenges. I have three pairs of shorts and umpteen skirts (I’m too tired to get up and count skirts, I just know it’s a lot). However, I only have one pair of pants for May’s mercurial temperatures, and only one shirt that fits correctly. So, the purpose of doing Me-Made May for me is not only to use the clothes I currently own to the best of my ability, but to identify and start to fill the gaps in my closet. This will encourage me to try new sewing patterns, fabrics and skills. I am also going to work on using the self-timer and tripod on my camera so I can offer more variety in my photos. Zoe at ‘So, Zo…’ has all the details on Me-Made-May here if you’re interested.

What about you? Any goals or skills you are working on at the moment?

Sci Fi Sunday — Speculative Fiction?

Most libraries and bookstores classify science fiction and fantasy as the same genre. However, horror is shelved separately which can cause classification issues with authors like H.P. Lovecraft or Poe. Some people have called for sci fi, fantasy and horror to be classified together as SF, or speculative fiction. How do you feel about that? Do you think horror is an appropriate offshoot of the fantastical genre, or should it continue to be considered a separate category?

Currently reading: a book that makes me think about these things

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

 

If you went to high school in America, you’ve probably read Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” Jackson has a gift for imbuing everyday, humdrum occurrences with a touch of dread. She writes horror, but not the horror of blood and guts or the sudden leap of a zombie. Rather, Jackson specializes in stories about the dark side of human nature — the sort of things that most of us know we are capable of underneath the thin veneer of civilization.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of the Blackwood family. The narrator, Mary Katherine, begins the book by stating that she is eighteen and lives with her sister Constance. “Everyone else in my family is dead.” Why they are dead and who killed them is the dramatic tale told in an extended flashback by Mary Katherine. The narrator’s childlike voice and odd, ritualistic behavior adds an extra level of creepiness to her story. We see how Mary Katherine is shunned by the village before we ever discover why. The villagers themselves are not innocent in this narrative; they are complicit in the horror that befalls the Blackwood family. Watching their behavior, we start to understand why Mary (also called Merricat) compulsively buries objects and nails things to trees to act as wards around her house. The creeping dread of the story makes her aberrant behavior seem mundane, even necessary. As in Jackson’s other stories and novels, there are several plot twists that take your breath away (and one that seems almost obvious in hindsight). Highly recommend, even if you don’t like horror. Don’t be surprised if your neighbors weird you out for a while after reading this…

Who the Heck is Christopher Webb?

I ran into the thrift today to drop off a bag of clothes, and came out with these jeans:

The back label says Christopher Webb, CW Jeans.

I had never heard of Christopher Webb, so I did what any sensible person does — I hit Google.

And Google failed me. It gave me Christopher Webb, filmmaker (not a likely crossover). A few regular schmoes and a lot of mug shots (apparently, if you want your child to be a law-abiding citizen then Christopher Webb is a poor name choice). Oh, and a headstone.

I’m pretty sure THIS guy has no connection to the denim industry.

Whoever CW is, though, he makes some pretty soft jeans. I was looking for jeans because one of my workhorse pairs started scratching me in the hip every time I wore them. The rivet had broken and I couldn’t figure out where in the fabric layers the thing was hidden. I finally found it and pulled it off today:

That looks even more painful than it felt.

So, I have a slight hole there but now I can patch it. I don’t REALLY need your jeans, Mr. Christopher Webb, whoever you are.

I’ve been working on a skirt that has been giving me kittens (metaphorically, that is — actual kittens would be much cuter and less frustrating) so I spent today pre-washing and sorting fabric. Including this black twill:

O HAI, I HELP U FOLD.

Crystal insists on rolling around on any fabric I lay out for cutting. She’s magically attracted to dark fibers and snag-prone weaves. It’s a good thing she’s cute.

Speaking of cute, crush of the week:

Silas Weir Mitchell, from the TV show, “Grimm.” He plays a werewolf. What? Personally, I prefer furry to fangs.

I missed my 200th blog post on Sunday so I’ll be doing some kind of celebration over the next few days! THERE WILL BE SHENANIGANS. Oh, yes, there will.

The Coachella Shorts

Now, don’t get excited — I didn’t GO to Coachella. I just worked on these shorts last weekend, during Coachella (which I didn’t attend) and found myself thinking of them as “festival shorts.” As in, they’re lightweight, easy to pack and travel in, probably easy to wash and dry overnight. I used Simplicity 1887, View C (the short shorts) on the right:

Misses' Pants & Skirts

And here’s the end result!

The lighting is weird because the Hubs couldn't get a good photograph of this fabric. He finally put the lamp on the floor. I think the shorts are much cuter in person

Some of you will recognize this as the same fabric I used for this dress. It is still a challenge to sew, even with spray starch, but I’m getting used to the softer hand (going slow and being patient helps). I left off the tie belt because I didn’t want a lump under my shirt if I decided not to tuck in my top. I was really looking for something super easy, and this pattern delivered with a few caveats.

1) I measure as a 14 but sewed my usual 12. The rayon challis was really forgiving, but a stiffer fabric might have wound up too tight.

2) The instructions say to use 3/4″ elastic, but there’s pretty much no way to get 3/4″ elastic through the narrow channels in back. 5/8″ elastic would have been ideal but Joann’s had none, so I used 1/2″ non-roll. It’s a little less firm than I would like but works fine.

3) The instructions also say to pull the elastic through one big opening in center front, but I found that too awkward when I wanted to trim off the ends. I wound up leaving two small openings in the sides so that I could adjust the elastic easily.

This is a pretty easy pattern, but I don’t think I’ll make the shorts version again. I might try the skirt next time in a firmer fabric, but I feel like the shorts wind up a little too poofy even in soft rayon challis. Fine for jumping around in festival mud or running to Target, not so stellar if you’re trying to look svelte.

My backside, not being svelte.

Anyhow, I’m jealous of all of you who get to go to festivals. Go party for me, will ya?

 

Sci Fi Sunday — Girl Power

Currently Reading:

The Looking Glass Wars

Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars, which is a retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story. This is a YA book that I had put on my “To Be Read” list, but it wasn’t a priority until Dana the Biped reviewed the last book in the series, Archenemy. I said, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to read this,” and she was all “DO IT.” So I did. Because I’m suggestible like that.

Basically, if you’ve read Alice in Wonderland, you think you’re familiar with the story. No, no, you’re not. For starters, her name is spelled Alyss (Beddor won me over with that alone — an avowed name nerd, I’ve always preferred the medieval spelling Alys) and she’s a princess. The Mad Hatter is actually Hatter Madigan,  a bodyguard, and the Cheshire cat? Is an assassin. Seriously, how awesome is that? Anyhow, the Red Queen takes over the kingdom and Alyss is forced to flee into what turns out to be Victorian London. At first, she sticks out like a sore thumb and has to learn the hard way to conform. I particularly liked that Beddor has her break with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) be over the fact that he wrote her story down wrong — in real life, Alice Liddell broke ties with Dodgson but nobody ever discussed why. Anyway, she is settling down to a very boring life when the Cheshire cat shows up and well….alarums and excursions ensue!

This is a really good adaptation of the Alice story. I think it’s improved by knowing the original so you can pick out the references, but it can be read on its own. As a YA novel, it seems pretty tame…I haven’t seen anything yet that I would object to any of my kids reading. Basically, if your child is old enough and sophisticated enough to want to read this, you’re probably ok. As far as adult reading, I think being a fantasy nerd or a literary nerd ups the chances that you will enjoy this book. Highly recommend.

Currently watching:

If you’ve been watching Eureka lately, or if you’ve enjoyed Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, then you’re familiar with quirky/cute actress Felicia Day. The Guild is Day’s pet project, a short comic show about a group of misfits that bond through playing an online MMORPG. To further their online game and watch each others’ backs, they’ve formed the Guild, led by Day’s character Cyd Sherman who goes by the online name Codex. When Cyd decides that their problems might be better addressed by having a Guild meeting in person, hilarity ensues. I have to say here, I am not a gamer and don’t get all of the geek humor. I still thought this was pretty funny, although a lot of the humor veers into the inappropriate (if neglectful parenting, overbearing mothers and someone trying to hang themselves with a computer cable isn’t funny to you, this will not be your show). The production values are kinda low because this was filmed by Day and a few friends, and I think she actually posted it online to begin with. Fear not! The lighting is excellent and the quality is documentary style, not “I filmed this on my iMac so it’s gonna give you a headache.” I recommend this to anyone who is a gamer or familiar with gamer culture. So far I’ve seen Season 1 and am eager to see the rest!

It Must Be Thursday. I Never Could Get the Hang of Thursdays.

POINTS to the first person who identifies the speaker of this quote, and its source!

Ok, so….I shortened one of my thrifted skirts and wore it today:

Sorry about the wrinkles, I was sitting in it all day. Also, I need to stop wearing that shirt every time I take photos in this mirror.

I took 4″ off the bottom of that sucker. It was like a boarding school uniform for fundamentalists. I also hemmed it 3/8″ shorter on the sides and 3/4″ shorter in the front, because apparently that’s what it takes to even out my swayback. The hem is nice and straight now, and I didn’t even have to buy matching thread because I had some in stash. Let this be a lesson to you: NEVER CLEAR OUT THREAD STASH.

Coincidentally, I checked out Pantone’s colors for Spring 2012 and it turns out that this color is on trend —  or at least, it’s pretty darn close to Cockatoo, Pantone 14-5420. Which is weird because I’m pretty sure I remember this skirt style from at least two years ago. Well, what goes around comes around, and it fits in with my tendency to only be hip by accident.

Next project: the Elastic Fantastic! I’m gonna be sewing up some easy, summery bottoms from the following patterns:

Ok, one of them is a top. I guess I'll use that too.

Reasons:

1) My weight is fluctuating and I need more bottoms than tops right now.

2) I sew elastic waists pretty well. I’ve also added to my skill set in the last year, so I can finish these patterns more nicely than I have in the past.

3) I have a very busy but casual life, and need patterns that I can finish quickly with wearable results.

4) It’s going to be over 80 degrees tomorrow and Saturday.

SO! The Elastic Fantastic sewing will start tomorrow. Anyone want to join me?

“Muffy, you killed him!” Or, the Bloody Garden Party Dress

I grabbed the fabric for this dress at the $2.50 per pound shop, mostly because I loved the swathes of red. It’s basically all pastel and springy…and then you killed somebody. Yes, I know that dried blood isn’t bright red but rather burgundy or brown — I watch enough crime dramas, for pete’s sake — but NEVER MIND THAT. I just like the idea of Muffy finishing off the butler in the conservatory while wearing this dress.

I dumped the knife and plastic gloves in the planter.

I used New Look 6457, View E, because I wanted a very traditional party dress silhouette. The only change I made was leaving off the piping detail. I do not have much of a waist, though, so I sewed a size 10 but tapered my bodice seams to 1/2″ at the sides and back. It’s still a smidgen tighter than I prefer so if I make this again, I would probably need to do the same adjustment at the back and front darts as well. I also sewed the waist seam at 3/8″ to allow for my long waist. However, I’ve mentioned before and I will say again that this is not the best silhouette for the small-of-boob, so I am unlikely to sew it twice. You can see the gap at the neckline that I complained about earlier in this photo, but it’s much less prominent if I’m standing straight:

If I stand with both of my hands at my side, the gaping at the neckline disappears. I'm calling it good.

I had trouble with the lining and as a consequence, I lined the bodice but not the skirt. That’s what I get for following directions too literally. I know what I did wrong and will fix it in future dresses, but I did end up going out today to buy a white slip. What the heck, I need one anyway and they’re inexpensive. The red belt I bought way back when at Target, because I wanted a red belt for an outfit that never happened. Then while working on the dress last week, I had to take the offspring to be shod and what did I spy on the clearance rack? These perfectly fitting sandals for $15! They go with my pirate dress too. I am podiatrically challenged so if I find shoes that fit, it’s a freaking miracle. If they don’t hurt my feet and are in a color I like, I buy them immediately and offer up a burnt offering to the Shoe Fairy.

For those of you who enjoy pictures of my backside:

There ya go. Holy crap, that debutante slump is appalling. Someone should tell me to stand up straight.

I put in an invisible zipper, and it’s ACTUALLY INVISIBLE. *dies of shock* I put it in with a combination of a regular presser foot and regular zipper foot, too. I was so happy to get a match at the waist that I’m trying not to notice the eighth of an inch or so where the top of the dress doesn’t line up perfectly. Repeat after me, perfect is the enemy of good…perfect is the enemy of good…

Now that I’m ready for any random fetes, murderous or not, I’m also making progress on my other projects. I made it to the gym this morning, ate no sugar or bad carbs all day, fitted and pinned a skirt hem, and the kids are downstairs watching The Finder on DVR. Which I’m choosing to believe is teaching them to respect diversity, work with their strengths and avoid parole officers. All good lessons. So I had a White Russian to celebrate….ok, ok, ALMOST no sugar or bad carbs. Perfect is the enemy of good, remember?

The Sci Fi Monday That Almost Wasn’t, Because My Brain Got Et

I was going to write a post about how I hadn’t read or seen any new sci fi this week, and I said to myself, “Self, how did this happen?” Not because I expect a good answer but because it amuses me to say, “Self,” when I’m talking inside my head. Then I was browsing on Amazon and realized this book looked awfully familiar:

Touched by an Alien (Alien Novels)

 

There’s a good reason why Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch looks familiar, and that reason would be because I read it this past week. It’s actually sitting on my bookshelf, mocking me right now. So you wanna know how it was? Besides forgettable.

Ok, everybody’s seen the movie Men in Black, right? If you haven’t, log off and go watch it right now. We’ll wait. You’re back then? Good. So, this book is exactly like Men in Black, except Will Smith’s character is a girl and all the agents are hot. And Agent Kay is in love with her, except it’s not Agent K but Agent Something-Else-I-Can’t-Remember. Also, scary aliens trying to take over the world. Oh wait, that was in the movie too.

I could go on, but you catch my drift. Read it, don’t read it, what the hey. It’s amusing enough.

Anyhow, the Hubs is out of town for the week so I’m severely discombobulated. I need another adult around to make sure I don’t eat ALL THE THINGS or stay up all night reading or watch trash TV for eight hours straight. I read somewhere that your self control is like a muscle — not just that you can expand it, but that you have an upper limit and if you try to exceed your limit, your muscle (or your control) fails. So, this week I am trying to make it to the gym four days, cut back on sugar and refined carbs, finish at least three mending projects (really,  my “needs alterations” pile is embarrassing), keep the kids alive and post more often.

I’m guessing I’ll end up drinking White Russians in the corner in the fetal position. Close enough.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a garden party!

 

 

Spring Broken

The kids had their spring break last week. Every time they have a school break, I assume things will carry on like normal, except with more short people underfoot.

I am always wrong.

We had a number of house guests this week, friends of Oldest and Middlest. This is how I know I can never be an actress, because acting as if I am a concerned, involved parent for four or five hours at a time is FRAKKING EXHAUSTING, y’all. One of their friends doesn’t eat, like ever. I think he’s decided that our house is like Fairyland and if he partakes of food or drink, he’ll have to stay permanently. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I worry over the fact that this child can miss lunch and snack and still turn down a juice box.

In spite of everything, a little sewing happened:

The Garden Party dress, work in progress

I still have to pick up a 20″ zipper, and the lining means I have to try putting in an invisible zip. GAH. Hate invisible zips with a white hot passion. This dress may end up driving me around the bend.

Also bumming me out is the fact that I’ve gained a bit of weight. While working out, lifting weights and running circles around my family. LIFE IS UNFAIR, wah, whatever. Some of my me-mades still fit, some don’t, so I headed to the mall yesterday to see what they had.

That was a waste of three hours I’m not getting back. I think they should pay us to shop there, and issue us an apology on the way out for the crap they’re peddling. On the way home, I ran into the local thrift which was — get this — having its annual 50% off everything sale. The parking lot was a madhouse. To be fair, they share a lot with the DMV so the parking is always, er, “special” but it was worse than usual. I parked on the street, ran in, and picked up four skirts for $11. I didn’t try them on because hello, madhouse, but I did all right.

Skirt is by Athleta. For $2.50.

This baby cord skirt may not be the most flattering thing in the history of ever, but it is warm, comfortable and so soft. It’s like wearing kitten skin.

Cat headdesk

I did say, “wearing kitten skin,” didn’t I? Oops, sorry. I’m heartless. Anyhoo, here are the three other skirts:

The black one is hard to see, but it's the exact same as the blue one. That blue spot is a smudge on my camera, not on the skirt.

You’ll notice, if you look closely, that the blue skirt still has tags. SCORE! Of course, they’re all mid calf on me and need to be shortened but whatevs. These are going to be knock-around skirts, nothing fancy. The tan one is actually a little big, so I’m undecided about whether to try to alter it by adding a waistband or just send it back.

I’m going to be doing some remakes this week — just pulled belt loops off a skirt that didn’t need belt loops, and added a hook and eye instead. The thrift store will be getting a nice stack of everything I decide not to alter, and I might actually accomplish stuff. Y’know, cause the kids go back to school on Monday.

There Will Be Sewing

I have some fabric that is dying to be a garden party dress (never mind that I don’t attend garden parties), so I decided to do a muslin of New Look 6457. The dress I want to make is View A, the big photo:

Misses Dresses Just like that, except I plan to omit the piping trim around the edges.

I opted to make a muslin of the bodice first, since it is princess seamed and those are hard to fit on the small of boob. Here we go:

Fitted bodice without any alterations.

I have two qualms about the fit: first, there’s a bit of gaposis at the neckline. However, the gaping shows up on the pattern cover model as well so I suspect it’s just how the pattern is drafted. I don’t think it’s off by enough to try to fix it, and lining and stabilizing the fabric will help. The other issue is a bit more significant — the Hubs pin-fitted me into this bodice and he had to take a 3/4 inch seam at the top of the back, merging to 5/8″ and then 1/2″ at my lower back edge. When I fold up a hem at the bottom of the bodice, the fitting wrinkles disappear so I think this is the correct amount of ease. However, it means that I don’t have a lot of margin for error in inserting the zipper. I don’t have the patience to alter princess seams at the moment, so I’m torn between muslining another dress or pushing ahead with this one. I could also let out the side seams a little bit, and that might be the best option.

I’m also craving some schoolgirl pleated skirts, thanks to Battle Royale. I wouldn’t mind dressing like this all the time:

The skirts are comfortable and hey, sailor collars are cute. Of course, I have nothing in my copious stash that would work for this kind of outfit. Anybody got any spare ponte knit?