Archive | January, 2012

The Traveling Seamstress

19 Jan

I’m going on a short business trip at the end of this month. I’m tempted to give myself a mini-challenge, and pack and wear for the trip only clothing I’ve made, myself. A sort of test, if you will, to see how well I’m laying down the groundwork for the larger project: can I, by the end of January, get by for just a few days with nothing store-bought?

It’d be easy if I stick to shift dresses, I have enough of those by now! But I’m not sure how many days in a row I want to wear just a shift dress. Harder, if I try to do separates. Harder still when limited to things that coordinate with my most comfortable walking shoes!  I have some good work-ready hand-knits from years past, but what this idea reveals, even in its conceptual phase, is a lack of handmade tops: while I have some knitted overlayers, I still rely on basic shells and tanks and shirts along with my handmade skirts.  And there’s the shoe thing. I foresee a lot of forced pairings with black.

Still, I’m tempted to try it. I like the idea of living out of suitcase filled with items that are unique to me. I’m planning on making a number of short (2-4 day) trips this year, and if I do it consistently, each trip, it may be a good measure of progress along the way.

In the fantastical world of my imagination, this all looks glamorously like an old airline ad. A carefree, jet-setting lifestyle of freedom brought about by modern technology and fashion.  Reality, of course, has a way of turning out somewhat different.

I suppose now that I’ve written it out, I’ve as good as committed to it. Well, I’ll let you know how it goes! You can have hotel outfit updates, and grade me on my success or lack thereof. We’ll play “count the retail items in Julie’s suitcase.”

One More Skirt!

16 Jan

Another long weekend, another skirt completed:

This one, I think, is a little better. I like the shape of it, straight through the hips and then with a little flare. It’s based on the skirt pattern from the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook. This time, I just copied the pattern pieces and then put it together myself, bypassing any potential confusion in the directions.

Between my rust handbag, my olive-green shift, and now this skirt, I have now depleted my stash of all corduroy fabric. But it’s such a good wintery fabric, I will relish wearing each of these items.

DIY bargains: the jewelry edition

14 Jan

I’ve been looking at over-sized plastic chains. *Ahem*, I mean resin chains…that seems to be the preferred terminology, when plastic is used as a medium for jewelry. Big ones. Faux tortoiseshell ones. Chunky ones, like these:

(Clockwise from upper left: Pono, Luxe Collections, Pono, Anthropologie)

The lightweight, uh, resin, lets them be upsized to outrageous proportions and still be comfortable to wear. So I looked, and I looked…and then, when I was browsing in a favorite bead supply store, what did I spy?

Oversized tortoiseshell plastic chain, by the foot!

“Ahoy!” I said. “I can make my own!”

And so I did:

For a moment, I wanted to run back and buy a longer length, to make some extras, perhaps list them on Etsy. But alas, I have no time for Etsy. If you are in a like-minded DIY spirit, you can get tortoiseshell plastic chain from Toho-Shoji, at 990 Sixth Avenue in NYC (at 37th) for $5.50 a foot. They’re also online, but I don’t see the tortoiseshell varieties. Some nice wood chains, though, shown on their website.

I love that crafting sources follow the same trends as fashion, so whatever is in, likely the materials are “in”, too, and available somewhere or other, if one keeps one’s eyes open.

My question for today

12 Jan

I can’t decide which is more aggravating:

Realizing too late that something you’ve paid money for is ill-fitting and unflattering


Realizing something you’ve spent time and creativity making has turned out to be ill-fitting and unflattering.

On one hand, with the store-bought thing, you can shrug and say “Darnit, why don’t they make things in MY size?”

While although the investment is greater when I’ve spent a lot of time and anticipation making something myself, even when it isn’t perfect, I still get a sort of pleasure out of wearing something that I know I made with my own hands.

A Skirt of Marginal Success

9 Jan

I made a skirt this weekend.



I was taken by the beautiful angled folds of a skirt making the rounds on the internet, but when I tried to duplicate it myself at home, well…it took about six tries and even now there are things both objectively “wrong” with its structure as well as things I would change, creatively, if I was making it again.  It’s too hard to discern the deliberate folds from the accidental folds, for one thing. For another, the waist fits funny, and I suspect that’s just additional proof that you can’t make a fabric tube and have it fit a not-tube-shaped person. This is a lesson I’ve learned over and over, and while I’m pretty clear on the concept, I’m still not always sure about the remedy.  “Why” is easier than “how”, in this case.

The one thing I did learn, though, is that if I’m going to do an extreme pleated/folded project in fabric, it helps to visualize it first by folding a comparable strip of paper. I probably won’t be remaking this design, but I might try a different “folded” style design just for the fun of it, using a similar process.


Fun Fashion Illustration

9 Jan

One of my many favorite Etsy shops is Matou En Peluche, illustrations of fashion, and cats, and birds, and other lovely things. I think they’re elegant and often portray a good amount of fashion detail in their spare and elegant lines. I have a few of these prints in my sewing room as inspiration and decoration.

The Dress-form

8 Jan

One thing I learned working on my Shift projects was that dear Mr. Worth, of The New Butterick Dressmaker, likely has a very good point when he writes “It is necessary in dressmaking at home to have a perfect duplicate of your own figure on which you can try your clothes as you make them.”

I found it very hard to get the dart size and alignment right on the first try, particularly for the back darts. The trouble is that while I can try on a dress-in-progress and check it out in the mirror for the front side, but twisting around and trying to analyze the back while peering over my shoulder and reaching around to pinch up excess fabric is not always so easy.

For my knitting projects, I made one of those do-it-yourself duct tape dummies, and I find it helpful for things like determining if I’ve knitted a long enough body before decreasing or binding off for armholes. However, the duct tape dummy is a squashy, lopsided sort of a thing, and far less than “a perfect duplicate” of my own figure. For one, duct tape stretches. As soon as I started stuffing it to make it stand upright, it began stretching out of shape. It also squashes, and a bit of pressure here or there easily makes it lose a shoulder or a breast (sad things to lose in the middle of a clothing project, indeed.)

I find The New Butterick Dressmaker‘s suggestions very interesting. In the era before dial-out injected plastic forms covered in flocking, the proposed formula was to buy a dress form one size smaller than your own body, and then sew a muslin form like a tight-fitting dress that fits you closely. Then pull the muslin over the dress form, and pad it out with rags or “wadding”. That way you can customize not just the overall dimensions but also the particular shapes of the various parts of your body, right to asymmetries and unevenness–“prominent hips or a round abdomen.”  I might like to try this.

Clothes Shopping and Fantasy Fulfillment

7 Jan

How the retail clothes-buying experience usually goes:

1) Spot some item you didn’t know you needed but that suddenly seems, upon looking, like exactly the thing you always desired, and that instantly promises a life of glamour and wonder to go along with it.

2) Buy item, with momentary burst of excitement and enthusiasm for it.

3) Spot some new item, at which point first item becomes “old” and the cycle immediately begins anew.


How this project is supposed to work:

1) First identify a need. Decide upon an item that might best fulfill that need, and design item specifically to fit all details of that need.

2) Produce item beautifully and in top quality, to wear and love long-term, knowing that it fits its purpose (and your life) exactly.

How this project is going, so far:

1) Think of all possible needs, and all the items that might fill them. Then think of any other items that might be desired, though not needed, and try to create some need for them. Once you’ve completely overwhelmed yourself with all possible choices, settle on one that might be actually feasible to produce.

2) Attempt to design and make this item, using materials found in your workroom, and fitting it to your body.

3) Give up in exasperation. Go look at pretty pictures on the internet of things that other people have succeeded in making.