Monthly Archives: June 2012

I Sew and Fitting Happens

I have been sewing. What I have not been doing is actually making anything worth wearing. Here is Simplicity 1808, the shorts version:

Now, if you are observant, you will have noticed that this is essentially Simplicity 1887 with the shorts about two inches longer. I made this pattern because I did the 1887 version and felt like it could use a bit more length. However, I think the longer legs make the shorts fit more awkwardly, and the stretch sateen I used is probably too thick for this pattern. The entire effect over my hips is less than desirable, but I would generally wear my top over it like so:

My feeling here is kind of “meh” but I might keep them around as sort of a wearable muslin, if I can get over the way the fabric catches on my underpants and on itself. I think the pattern definitely requires a more lightweight, slippery fabric.

I made three muslins this week in an effort to see if I could recreate some jean shorts. The only one worth considering is a mashup of Built by Wendy’s carpenter jeans pattern (now OOP), Simplicity 4110, combined with Butterick 5682 for the back yoke and waistband:

The bottom is leftover twill and the waistband is a way too stretchy and lightweight poplin — I just wanted to test the fit of the pieces.

That actually looks better in the photo than I thought it did. Hmm…of course, the back is a little awkward:

The back waistband is too wavy because of the material I used, but I think I’m more concerned with the weird fabric gathering around the back seam and under my butt. Does that mean I need more fabric back there, or less?

As a muslin, this isn’t terrible but I’m not sure it’s anything to write home about either. WHY don’t pattern companies make patterns for the clothes we see in the stores? I’m sure there’s a good business reason for their refusal to acknowledge fashion, but I DON’T GET IT. Either everything has to be designer and way overcomplicated (which I do understand — that type of sewing definitely has its place) or completely dowdy and something my grandmother wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. My kingdom for the ability to use a CAG drafting program!

Dear Romance Writers…

I love your stuff. I really, really do — so much so that I neglected all my sci fi this week to read your heavy breathing instead. Yay, sexytimes! HOWEVER, I do have a bone to pick with y’all:

Funny Reminders Ecard: The only thing more torturous than the sex in Fifty Shades of Grey is the writing in Fifty Shades of Grey.

1) For the love of all that is holy, your character’s interest is not “peeked.” It is not even “peaked.” The word is “piqued” and I will hit you over the head with a “pike” until you get it right.

2) DO NOT name your female character Brie. I will laugh and point at you. The only exception would be if Brie is a pale-faced girl whose tough exterior conceals a soft heart torn in two by her love for Camembert and Gouda. I’d read that.

3) “Too thin” is not a flaw. Neither is being feisty, spunky, or outspoken. Neither is having too large a chest (is that even a thing? Now I want to read a romance about those freakish triple HHH porn stars). If you want to make me interested in your characters, give them real challenges to overcome. Make them disabled, older, overweight, cranky. Give them acne, addictions and dental problems. Perfect people are boring.

4) There are enough cowboys in Romancelandia. Also, enough firefighters, cops, club owners and self-made gazillionaires. Just once, I want to read about a bike messenger or a cat breeder. Heck, I’ll take a good plumber. God knows they’re hard enough to find in real life.

5) Beautiful, virginal college students are like honest, faithful politicians. Nobody has ever seen one, but they always exist in someone’s misty watercolored memories. Ugly, promiscuous college students are way more interesting to write about anyway.

6) NO MORE ELVES, DAMMIT. Unless they’re the blood-drinking, crack your bones open and eat the marrow type — then ok.

7) Vampires do not sparkle, and they need to be at least somewhat dangerous to be appealing. Ditto were-animals. We’re not talking live-action throw rugs here.

8) Stockholm Syndrome is the exception, not the rule. People generally do NOT fall in love with their captors, hence the word “syndrome.” Otherwise, it would just be called “that thing that happens to prisoners.”

9) There’s a thin line between “Alpha” and “asshole”. Try not to confuse the two.

10) Stop describing women as having curves and men as angular. We all have curves, otherwise we’d poke each other with a bunch of corners if we got too close. You don’t want to know the mental picture I get when the main character is pressed up against the “hard planes” of a guy’s chest.  I mean, OW.

Just a few suggestions, ya know….so I don’t throw my books across the room.

Fabric Hate

I’ve had a frustrating week, creatively speaking.

1) I tried to make a Renfrew out of two cheap t-shirts. That did not work, partly because the material was too cheap and nasty but also because I tried to make the V-neck view and let’s just say….it has a steep learning curve.

2) I tried to make a t-shirt from my TNT pattern (New Look 6735) and the material was so shiny, scratchy and nasty that after two different machines chewed on it, I decided to take that as an omen and bin it. The print is cute and I still have quite a bit, but no idea how to use it. It will NOT take a crease, is impossible to press, and is slightly sheer.

3) I started cutting out a shorts pattern from this fabric today:

I don’t think I like this material either. It is a medium weight stretch sateen with a satiny surface that has a slightly rough feel under the satin. It collects fuzz like crazy. It also has ginormous flowers on a black/gray/cream background, and the flowers are of the size and style that invariably look obscene in the wrong place. You know what I mean. I have to cut it very carefully, and the whole time I can feel the rougher weave underneath the satin surface. AAAAAGH. I just creeped myself out describing that.

I find the shorts pattern rather disagreeable as well. I’m annoyed by shorts that expect me to do a full fly front treatment for material that is lighter weight than denim or twill.

(Your homework activity for today: Say “full fly front treatment” three times fast. Whee! That was fun.)

4) One of my former bullies from high school started following me on Pinterest. Ok, that one is just weird. I’m positive he’s not looking for crafty tips. Maybe he needs to prove to himself how dorky I still am? But then, who collects ammunition to use against someone they see, at best, twice a year? I am baffled. BAFFLED, I TELL YOU.

Anyhow, my sewing mojo has gone completely to hell and it’s all the fault of my whimsical fabric buying habits. I am going to exercise restraint from now on! I will confine myself to jerseys and twills! I will purchase better quality in much smaller quantities!

P.S., I gave myself this pep talk before. I didn’t listen then either.


Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Am I quoting a song here? I have the distinct impression that I am, but I could be hallucinating.

I did sew another skirt last week, this one from Simplicity 5101 (long since OOP). 5101 is a juniors pattern, and features elastic-waist pleated skirts. It is also super-comfy so I made one out of jersey:

I didn’t bother to stitch the pleats down because jersey has the tendency to fall back into place when you sit down/stand up. I made this in the largest size (15/16) and I feel like I could go down a size in the front, but that might just be because of the forgiving nature of the material. This stuff only has two-way stretch, so it’s not great for super-fitted clothing but it’s very comfortable otherwise. I also wanted to make a skirt because the main background of this material is cream and cream has a tendency to make me look like I’m carrying the Black Death. Keeping it away from my face is best. However, I couldn’t pass up the rows of roses in varying stages of decay….very Snow White and the Huntsman, I think.

I did the waistband and hem with my coverstitch machine and I really like the way it turned out:

See how neat and (almost) professional? If I could just get it a little closer to the edge….

Anyhow, this is a bit shorter than I really prefer (and I know I’m getting old because I’m starting to want to LENGTHEN my skirts) so I don’t know if I’ll make more like this or if I’ll try to add some inches to the pattern.

The kids have two more days of school and I’m barely able to focus myself. I have a few other projects in the pipeline, but I keep pushing them back because HELLO SUN and NO MORE HOMEWORK. Dirty little secret of adulthood #2543: the school calendar still holds way too much sway over our lives. Who doesn’t feel renewed and ready for growth in September? I rest my case.


Sci Fi Sunday — Couch Surfing Edition

Thanks for all the well wishes on my last post! I think the ear is healing (it seems better anyway) and the swelling has gone down enough that I don’t feel tempted to cut my head in half. Of course, I spent most of the weekend being a laze-about and discovered a new show. Yesterday, I subjected the Hubs to an entire marathon of Oddities on the Science Channel:


See these folks? Their names are (from left to right): Mike, Evan and Ryan and they can find anything for you. Their specialties are antique and vintage items with a gruesome or macabre bent. You want a deformed baby ostrich in a jar? An eighteenth century engraving of bloodletting? A genuine shrunken head? They got it, or can get it for a price. Along the way, they introduce the viewers to their clients (almost as odd as the items they’re collecting) and an assortment of artists and carnival types who are happy to show off their talents for a national audience. There was a guy who swallows balloons — while inflated — and someone who walks on glass. I was completely diverted by the show and now I totally want to meet Mike, Evan and Ryan. I’d like to hire them to redecorate, but I think the Hubs might have some choice words about that, along the lines of airborne swine and spherical ice crystals in hot places.

Also currently watching:

Battle Royale Poster

Ok, remember when I reviewed the book Battle Royale here and suggested it was worth the time for sci fi fans? The same can not be said of the movie. I watched it with the Hubs and had to keep explaining things. “It’s different in the book; no, I don’t know why they did that; I’m not sure what the point was; they don’t show it but here’s the back story….” Basically, if you’ve read the book and are curious about the movie? Go ahead and watch because it’ll make some sense to you. If you haven’t read the book, don’t bother. You’ll be lost from the get-go.

Back Soon!

I have an ear infection, and the entire left side of my head is swollen, inflamed and stuffed up.  I’ll be back after the weekend, or whenever I run out of home remedies to shove in my ear.


The Hubs is on a business trip this week. For some weird reason, business trips make me feel like a teenager whose parents are away for the weekend. PARTY, MY PLACE, 10 PM. I’m never going to sleep again! I can sew all day and night! I can stay up late and read books! I WILL DO ALL THE THINGS.

This usually lasts for about 24 hours, or however long it takes me to fall over from fatigue.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Simplicity 1887, View E

I wore this skirt today, and it’s pretty comfortable. The fabric is a soft stretch woven that I might call poplin, but it doesn’t seem nearly crisp enough. This pattern does call for softer materials, so the weight is fine as far as that goes. I was a bit worried at first that it might cling to my legs while walking but that hasn’t happened. The design is far too busy to pick out any of the waistband/pocket details, but I think this is a nice pattern for folks who like the flat front/elastic back waistband treatment. The longer version of the skirt is knee-length at 21″ so that would probably work better for most people but I like to live dangerously.

I also made this epic fail:

RUN! It’s McCall’s 6566!

It may be partly the color, but I can honestly say the last time I wore anything that looked like this, I was in the hospital. I made McCall 6566, View D a while ago and blogged about how badly it turned out. This attempt was View B, which I made in an XS because the Small was too big last time. Yes, the pattern went straight into the circular file after that. In my own defense, I did the neckline EXACTLY the way they described even though it made absolutely no sense. Note to self: when instructions make no sense, don’t follow them. Someone screwed up, and that someone usually isn’t you. Also, HOLY SHOULDERS BATMAN. I look like I have a set of pads on under there.

Other things I’ve done while not sleeping:

— Looked up twatwaffle on Pinterest. There are not nearly enough twatwaffle pins. GET ON IT, PEOPLE.

— Plucked a silver dollar-sized patch of hair out of my shin. Not for any good reason, just because I like plucking hair and didn’t want to remove my eyebrows.

— Looked up everybody in Babylon 5 on IMDB. Did you know Richard Biggs died young? OMG, TRAGIC.

— Drank two White Russians (on two different days, I’m not a complete lush).

— Made another skirt, which I will attempt to wear tomorrow. I used my coverstitch machine for the second time, with much better results. I AM A ROCK STAR.

— Bookmarked instructions on how to cut, bleach and dye my own hair. It costs over $100 to get my hair done, people. Even a hair cut alone is $60 with tip, and  I need that money for fabric. I may end up bald but I will be WELL DRESSED.

I could list more things, but for some weird reason I can’t stop yawning…

Another Renfrew, Another Show

Seriously, where did this week go? I know we had events every night, but it still feels like we accomplished absolutely nothing. I DID manage to sew another Renfrew between yesterday and today (go me!):

Renfrew #2!

I did what I said I would do last time; all of the body is in size 8, while the sleeves/cuffs are in size 12 and gathered to fit the sleeve cap. I don’t like gathering knits and probably won’t do it again, but I tried tracing the 8 sleeve and doing a conventional full bicep alteration and it wound up distorting the sleeve cap badly. The way I did the sleeves here fits ok, but oddly enough, the armscye is a little tighter than I prefer (just a smidgen) and I know it’s because I sewed the entire underarm and side seam at 5/8″. So, my general feeling is that I will need to enlarge the armhole to a 10 or a 12 then use the sleeve from either of those sizes. I am confident this will improve the fit, but I am startled at how hard it is to truly SCREW UP this pattern. I mean, I feel like I could tweak all day and still wind up with something wearable. That, folks, is what a well-drafted pattern looks like!

The fabric I used here is a lovely and stretchy jersey knit — it’s a bit more soft and flexible than regular jersey, and I fell in love with the print:

My attempt at a fabric close-up.

The print has seagulls, ducks and boats on a white background. It’s very busy, but I still feel like it looks grown-up without being overwhelming. And in a purple/white color way, it goes with all my black.

For those of you who care about my hair saga, I dyed my hair violet on Saturday (for the zebra party that night) and it turned out blue with gray highlights. It looked AWFUL, so I dumped Manic Panic’s Hot Hot Pink on top and muuuuuuch better… It wound up being a cool variegated purple/pink for the party, and now it’s fading out in lighter tones of pink and purple. It’s astonishing how much it’s faded in 6 days, but I still think the pink is taking longer to fade than purple usually does on me. I may have a new favorite hair color….

I’ve been inspecting the backlog in my sewing room, and some things have got to GO. I did get a big new plastic box and pack away my winter clothes, but now I am busy being horrified by my stash. Does anyone want to own 5 yards (in two yard and three yard lengths) of non-stretch black twill? A whole bunch of leftovers in various sizes? What the heck am I supposed to do with all this STUFF? Don’t tell me to sew quilts because I will laugh hollowly at you and freak you out.

The Return of Sci Fi Monday — THE VORKOSIGAN SAGA

During Me-Made-May, thanks to Amazon’s used book connection, I became the proud owner of this:

I love this book so much, I want to tongue kiss it and have its babies.

As I was preparing this post, I looked back through my Sci Fi archives and was shocked to find that I’d never reviewed the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. I said to myself, “WTF, self? How could you have missed possibly the MOST IMPORTANT space opera ever written? Not to mention one of your own all-time favorite series? Especially because I’m pretty sure you read Cryoburn within the last year. I mean, REALLY….” Because I lecture myself like that.

The Vorkosigan Saga came to my notice because of the book A Civil Campaign, which is often listed by commenters at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books as one of their favorite romance novels. I like science fiction and love space operas [quick aside: if you don’t know what a space opera is, it’s basically a look at humans and human nature but from the viewpoint of our possible interstellar existence. A good space opera has elements of mystery, romance, technology, violence, humor, lots of politics, interspecies relationships, and everything you would expect in a dramatic opera — but in space. Star Trek is a space opera, as are Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, et al. Star Wars, however, does not qualify because its view of good and evil is much more black and white. Everybody got that? Ok, moving along…] so I checked out A Civil Campaign but realized two chapters in that I was completely lost. I didn’t know any of the characters and couldn’t figure out what was going on. So! I went back to the very beginning of the Vorkosigan saga and checked out Cordelia’s Honor…and was immediately hooked. As in reading all night and all day, in imminent danger of neglecting my family, HOOKED.

There is a very good timeline of the books in the Vorkosigan Saga at the Wikipedia page here. I won’t repeat the information, except to say that I have missed most of the shorter stories/novellas (other than “Winterfair Gifts”) and also missed Ethan of Athos, but I was still able to keep up with the most important aspects of the Saga storyline. Many of the books have been published in omnibus editions that include the novellas and shorter form stories so it’s worth seeking those publications out if you can — but don’t be dissuaded if you can’t find every story.

I find it hard to describe what the story of Miles Vorkosigan means to me. This series profoundly changed how I view the world — both how I view disabled people, and how I think of relationships. Miles is born with terrifying handicaps, thanks to his mother’s exposure to a nerve toxin while he was in the womb. His story takes a very realistic approach to disability — Miles is in pain sometimes, he’s humiliated sometimes, he constantly has to overcome the limitations of both his body and his mind. He is, frankly, an unlikely hero…five feet tall with stunted limbs, disproportionate, an overlarge head and an intense stare. He is born into an aristocratic family on a planet with zero tolerance for mutations (his own grandfather tries to kill him), and so he spends much of his young life in a desperate attempt to prove that he deserves to exist. He becomes, almost by accident, a pirate — then a soldier and a spy — then a diplomat. It is gradually obvious that Miles’ survival is entirely due to the strength of his personality. He has a knack for winning people (including readers) to his side. By the time you are halfway through the series, Miles’ ability to make everyone fall in love with him seems as natural as breathing and every bit as much of an evolved survival skill.

Cordelia’s Honor is the story of Miles’ parents — how they meet, and the circumstances surrounding Miles’ birth. I strongly recommend starting there, as the series is very interconnected and incidents in every book are referenced in later parts of the story. Miles in Love (the omnibus I own) contains Komarr, A Civil Campaign and “Winterfair Gifts.” A Civil Campaign is actually Bujold’s tribute to the Regency romance (she very much references Georgette Heyer) and is on my list of all time favorite romances. One of the factors I love in this series is that all of the women are considered to have the right to autonomy and self-agency. This isn’t a romance like, “I want to sweep you off your feet and marry you,” it’s more of an “I want you by my side, but to enhance rather than consume you.” Twilight can’t hold a candle to this. It’s not just Miles’ courtship that you end up rooting for, it’s the parallel story of his brother Mark, and by extension the wedding of his friend Gregor. I should mention that there is a subplot of heartstopping political intrigue, as well as several hilarious side plots (don’t ask about the butter bugs). The end of the book makes me catch my breath and grin from ear to ear, and want to cheer for all the couples.

What are you waiting for? THE VORKOSIGAN SAGA, people. Read it. You will not be disappointed.

The End of Me-Made-May — Lessons Learned

I didn’t manage to post my last picture for Me-Made-May yesterday so here it is:

Me-Made-May, Day 31

Top: Me-made Renfrew shirt, combination of Views A and B

Bottoms: Me-made shorts, McCalls 6328, View F (with a hem rather than cuffs)

This was pretty much the only fully me-made outfit I wore this month, although I own several other me-made shirts. The thing that distinguishes this particular outfit from some of my others is that the materials are all completely comfortable, and the look is close enough to RTW that I feel like I look “appropriate” whatever I’m doing. Yesterday, Youngest had a new friend over for a playdate and that’s not the time I want to be busting out my wildest skull skirts.

I found this Me-Made-May experience to be very challenging. Partly because my body size and the weather both started changing halfway through the month, and partly because I’m going through a shift in my style. I also tried to do 5 outfits with at least one me-made element per week, no exact repeats, and didn’t quite achieve my goal because I had some weeks with only 3 or 4 me-mades. I didn’t have any repeat outfits, though! What I’ve learned so far:

1) I get really, really grumpy if I don’t shop. I don’t need to buy a lot, but I don’t like an entire wardrobe of me-mades either. Some people enjoy that, but I don’t sew fast enough and I prefer having a mix of clothing options.

2) Last year, I started feeling like full skirts were too childish and I began working on straight skirts, tulip skirts and slight A-line skirts. After all this time, I have only an A-line skirt pattern as a TNT and I can honestly say that full skirts are far easier to fit and more flattering on my body. I have no idea why I thought they were too young, except that I may be getting long in the tooth for some of the shorter lengths. At this time, I plan to shift back to sewing fuller designs.

3) My most successful makes (in terms of wearability and how much I like them) have been shorts. I don’t like wide-leg pants, but I do like my shorts with a lot of leg room and that seems to make them both easier to fit and more flattering. I think I want to experiment a bit with pants shapes, to see if I can find a compromise between wide legs and the more fashionable narrow legs which don’t suit me.

4) I still have a “subcultural” style, but I find myself moving away from the typical goth motifs. Although my favorite neutral is still black and I don’t think I’ll ever get over a good skull print, I’m starting to get bored with the same old homegrown Hot Topic look. Along with more comfortable fabrics, fuller skirts and wider pants, I’d like to experiment with a modern take on period clothing. Petticoats, vests, peasant tops…that sort of thing.

5) I need to pack away seasonal clothes. I live in an area which has, at best, two and a half seasons — summer, fall/winter, and a truncated spring. Because of that, I’ve always kept my clothes out and accessible in all weathers. Unfortunately, that means I get heartily sick of looking at them and end up getting rid of perfectly good clothes that happen to be temporarily too small/too large and out of season. I also need to pay attention to materials when I’m making clothes and buying fabric, because it looks silly to wear heavy twill skirts in the middle of summer.

6) Things I should stop buying:

a. slinky knits for dresses (do I wear knit dresses? no)

b. silky material for any reason (HATE sewing silkies and don’t like wearing them all that much either)

c. blue denim material (prefer to buy blue jeans and make denim/twill pants in other colors and patterns)

d. large t-shirts to use for material (real jersey fabric is cheaper and more versatile)

Things I should start buying:

a. rayon blends or challis (after embracing spray starch, I’m starting to really appreciate the flow of challis)

b. patterns for loose garments that still have structured lines (I have enough basic patterns, I need to do more styling)

c. lengths of heavy twill in three yards or more (if I can’t make pants out of them, it’s pointless)

7) Thanks to the way my body fluctuates, I really need to err on the side of looser when I am buying and making clothing. I am getting better about picking out potentially flattering designs and matching them with appropriate fabrics, but having a stable of patterns that fit within ten pounds up or down would really help (I’m not going to say five pounds because I fluctuate that much in 48 hours. Trufax).

8) DO SOMETHING WITH THAT HAIR, HONEYCHILE. I mean that with love, but holy carp. I really don’t do enough to make sure I have a “proper” hairstyle. Growing out the layers and blowdrying it would help enormously. I have Helena Bonham Carter hair — all unruly, and I look like I should be a Tim Burton villain. Oy.

Anyhow, here’s a shout-out to Zoe over at “So, Zo…” for starting and organizing the Me-Made experience! Go and check her out if you haven’t already; she’s awesome. What about you all, my chickadees? Have you learned anything about yourself, your style, and/or your sewing from Me-Made-May?