Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Mound of Patterns

I am digging out from under a mound of patterns for dolls, fabric for dolls, and accessories for dolls. I have almost found the surface of the bed that serves as a cutting table when a cardboard mat is placed on it. If I stack all the commercial doll clothing patterns in a closet, I might die from the avalanche when the door opened. We are not counting hand drawn patterns or indie patterns.

Once upon a time, a pair of denim pants tried to strangle me around the waist. These hybrid jeans had a waistband that was half elastic and came up too high. I tossed them into a To Do pile and ignored them for months. A couple of months ago I chopped off the waistband and a bit more, and the pants fell off. Today I took in the waist and gave the pants a band cut on the bias. Better. Not great, but better. They neither fall off nor strangle.

When sweatpants the same color as some I own and love turned up at a 2nd hand store, I couldn't leave them there, even though they were much too small. Enlarging sweatpants takes time, fabric,  and a seam ripper. The stash spat out a cotton knit that does not scream too loudly with the lavender of the sweatpants, and I was able to piece in a stripe at each side. I had to remove elastic at waist and ankles, add strips, and put in more elastic. This is not worth the bother until you look at how much all-cotton sweatpants cost compared to acrylic and polyester sweatpants. Costly and comfy vs. cheap and itchy. The pants will never be lovely, but will always be comfy, unlike clothing with more than 20 percent polyester. I tried to take a picture, but the pants refused to cooperate.

Yes, it is possible to find 2nd hand pants that fit pretty well for a good deal less than it costs to buy the fabric to make my own, provided I search through several thrift stores and am not terribly picky about color. On the other hand, once I have the fabric (and I have a basement full of copier paper boxes of fabric), there is nothing to stop me from using a tried-and-true pattern to make pants day or night. I want corduroy pants, but I have a box of velveteen. I now have a pattern that fits tolerably well but cannot be considered tried and true. Progress has been made.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Traditions of the Season

Dashing through the malls? No.

Candy canes? No.

Staying up all night to finish sewing or baking something? Yes.

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, eighty dolls in sizes from 6 to 18 inches left my house and were delivered to Catholic Social Services. Why do I redress dolls? I can turn junk dolls into nice toys. My nieces and nephews aged out on me, so I do it for kids I don't know and will never meet. The idea of children without toys in the darkest days of the year worries me. This is romantic and naive. I saw a parent walk away from CSS with two trash bags of gifts he'd chosen for his family. Next time I will close my eyes and preserve my illusion that each parent is choosing one or two things for each child. 

One would think I'd be tired of making doll clothes, but a few dolls missed the cutoff. I'll save them for another year. The nude vinyl Madeline with 2 books needs a dress and red tie to go with her shoes, socks, and hat. A one-legged doll needs mending, as does a doll with bad hair. Vampire Ken's 1980's clothing is obscenely tight and his cape won't stay on. Generic Male Action Figure requires a chef's apron and barbecue mitt to go with his chef's hat. He can transform into Dentist Guy with a change of shirt. Camo Max is still fussing about his shirt and demands mossy green socks as well. I'd like to give him a mossy green gag.

I'm not the consumer the ads are aimed at. Years ago I went into a mall pre-Christmas and was scarred for life: the interminable caroling, the cloying odors, the hordes of people, the same merchandise at all 240 stores! The only stores I go into between Thanksgiving and Christmas any more are grocery and 2nd hand stores. I shop in my basement for fabric to turn into tote bags; nearly all of us take our own bags into stores, and even fabric totes eventually wear out. And I make cookies, because this allows me to sample several kinds. They get given away and do not stick around to tempt me into sugar shock and worse. 

My family is on the odd/eccentric side of Christmas as well. My mother says that anything that cannot be thrown away after a reasonable amount of time, or eaten, is not a good gift. My brother claims that anything he really wants is so specialized and expensive that he can't ask for it as a gift, so he gives it to himself and lets the rest of us supply what he really needs: new socks. A cousin believes we can never have too many refrigerator magnets. What do they want and expect? Christmas cards.

I haven't mailed Christmas cards I wrote out 2 years ago. It's the last week before Christmas, and I have not started to construct a good many things that I had thought I'd get around to. I avoid the entire Christmas mail-by rush and mail presents after Christmas. Think of it as my New Year's celebration. Who knows, I might get it done by April 1.

What do I want for Christmas? Space. I'd like to see the floors in my basement and garage. I'd like to move the car into the garage and not have to dig it out after the rare Dayton snows. Oh, I know! I'd like an e-mail mailbox with more mail than spam. Send me emailed greetings and a silly joke, and I'll be happier than if you spent hours searching out the quintessential wonderfulness. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Sewing at Clutter Haven

Note: if the pants you need to alter are black and you live with cats, you will not get them altered fast enough to prevent them from turning gray with cat hair. I pieced in waist adjustments at the side seams with wide grosgrain the precise same shade of black. If you think that is not an accomplishment, think again. There are greenish blacks, brownish blacks, gray blacks and navy blacks as well as coal black. By the time I had marked the hems, the pants were fuzzy. By the time the hems were done, the new and unworn pants looked like dust rags.

I try to be organized so that I can do my sewing in short spurts, but it may be a lost cause. All the in-between times allow me to lose  pieces. Why do I have 3 bodices and 2 skirts for 3 dolls? Why do I have 10 pairs of pants and 3/4 of a shirt?

Putting the pre-Christmas sewing in the sunniest room in the house was a tactical error. My mother came for a visit. That's the room she sleeps in. When she's out of the room, we are together. I'm frustrated. I have stacks of boy doll pants cut out. They've been moved. When I find them, I can't use the sewing machine. The stack gets lost again. 

I borrowed back a machine I had lent, but forgot to get its box of accessories. Half the stuff I can do with the newer machine is not possible with the one I borrowed, and I've had to set it up in a room that has lousy lighting at night, a room that I've never before used at night. I managed to sew hook & loop fasteners to a lot of things. The older machine refuses to sew knits. Just eats them into the hole in the faceplate and growls at me. Half the shirts are knits, and itty bitty garments at that. Argh.  I can't bear to think of what it did to tiny necklines.

There are recycled 4x9 envelopes into which I've stuffed every pattern for dolls I developed over far too many years. Many are dupes, because I take patterns out to use and some never find their way back to the original envelopes. Commercial patterns have pictures on the fronts as reminders. All I wrote is doll sizes: toddler 10 inch, skinny 8 inch, Lady 18 inch. I think I need subcategories and sub envelopes. The last time I tried that, I had to recreate the entire series of patterns.

I am suffering from TMS: Too Much Stuff. I keep thinking that I ought to organize it and give some away, but when I spend time sorting, acquisitive lust takes over. My clutter is much better organized, though.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2nd Hand Dolls , New Clothes

If it's November, it  must be doll sewing time.  I plan and sew clothing for dolls to be donated to Catholic Social Services.

Second hand girl dolls are most often found nude; boy dolls are often found with a pair of pants and nothing else. All dolls get washed, and face paint is touched up. Theoretically I could count the number of  dolls and make the same outfit in a variety of colors. One year I made a dozen karate outfits. Yes, I cut them all one day, sewed the next and dressed them the third day, but it was a grind and it was boring.

Boy dolls (more properly action figures) usually have camouflage pants, all in different camo patterns and colors, and need camo shirts. I bought a mossy green nylon and all the camo boys are getting mossy t-shirts. Live with it, kids. Most of the dolls are 12 inches, but  Mattel's Ken is less bulked up than that company's Max Steele, and Max is smaller than Hasbro's GI Joe. Joe is smaller than a couple of male dolls from Formative. Those dolls are so much wider that it is easier to cut down patterns from 14 inch dolls than to widen those for 12 inch dolls. This years crop includes a fireman, some military men, some Louts About Town (droopy drawers and bomber jackets), and an Earring Ken with a vampire cape

 I  like to alter or incorporate bits and pieces from commercial and home made outfits which landed in second hand stores  or in bags of scrap fabric left on my doorstep. These clothes may have outlasted the dolls they were meant for, but there are so many dolls in so many sizes that judicious use of Velcro fastening will make most wearable. Then all I have to do is fill in the gaps with some of my standards.

The girl dolls range from 6 to 12 inches. Even dolls of the same height have significant differences in arm length and waist sizes, but I can make multiples and cover up the  difference with judicious use of Velcro. I have tried and true patterns I developed, a wrap skirt,  sleeveless blouse, and pants. I also have a vast and terrifying collection of commercial patterns for dolls, but I tend to stick to a couple of tried and true Simplicity doll patterns. Their ease is such that any child can play with  the clothing. Some of the newer patterns are for adult dexterity.

No matter what I do, there are some dolls who insist on individual treatment. This year it was Get Real Girl, a multi-jointed female action figure who came out about 10 years ago. I wanted to stuff her into a t-shirt and gathered skirt, but the  doll would not cooperate. When issued, Skylar of Get Real Girls was a snowboarder. Nothing less than  sweatshirt and pants would do, she informed me. I spent more time on her t-shirt, pants and jacket than I did on clothing for a dozen other dolls. Also had more fun.

I wrote this 4 weeks ago, hoping to persuade the camera to cooperate. It has not.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sewing from My Stash

There are online seamsters who sew something new every week, but I'm not that sort. While I need clothing and own more fabric than I can make up and wear, I approach each project with the speed of an arthritic tortoise. 

When I'm sewing for myself, I'm very picky. I rummage through my patterns and winnow things down to 20 or more possibles. Deciding on a fabric is also a production. My basement is full of boxes with fabric. Some fabrics are bits and pieces, but a few boxes are marked "Dress and Pant lengths." I haul upstairs a bag of patterns and a box of fabrics, and cogitate at length. Eventually everything gets taken back to the basement, and sometimes is even returned to the correct places. More rarely,  I've even cut and sewn something.
Jacket with darts, but before shortened sleeves and sleeve linings.

The magenta plaid jacket has simplified things. Refashioned with lots of darts in the body and linings for sleeves, it is my focus. My stash yielded two moderately astounding fabrics. The brighter one will be a jumper or a dress, mostly because I need a success and dresses are easier to fit than pants. It's lightweight cotton and rayon, and will require a lining. I've settled on an eye popping scarlet batiste because I've already got it and won't need to visit the fabric store where temptation lies.

The darker fabric is heavier weight, and will be pants when I achieve a reliable pants pattern. I approach each attempt at pant making with great trepidation because of  past unhappiness. There is hope. Last spring I happened upon Make Your Own Clothes by Marie Clayton and PatternMaker, a book and CD combo, gave it the pants test, and discovered that the wearable muslin for pajama pants needed only minor adjustments. 

Despite this success, it took awhile for me to approach the software again. This time, I mastered the "move" command, and achieved better use of paper. It took me a couple of weeks to approach cutting the pants after I printed out the jeans pattern and taped the bits together, and even longer to baste them together. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that once again, alterations will be minor! The waist is too big and the back rise is a hair too short, but I can fix both things by redrafting the back yoke. Right now I'm croggling at the near-success. Soon I will undo the basting, put in the zipper,  and inch toward a wearable result.

Technically, the pants are "jeans cut." The fabric is not a twill or denim, but an olive greenish cotton waffle weave from the clearance counter somewhere. I'm not cutting decorative back pockets. My rump doesn't need the attention. Belt loops? Don't be silly. The last time I wore a belt was 15 years ago. If this pattern works, I will use  jeans cut for many many pairs of pants, I hope.

Make Your Own Clothes  came out 3 years ago, and is still available in stores and online for $25 or less. If you have no patience with commercial patterns and passed cutting and pasting in kindergarten, this book /CD will work for you. It is a scaled down, training wheels version of PatternMaker software. I don't think I'm a serious enough seamster to blow the budget on the full version, but things may change.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fur Magnets, or Why Magenta Is My Neutral

Wardrobe advice from 1940 to date demands neutrals and a Little Black Dress. Whoever made these rules probably had a personal maid to take care of clothing. Black is not a neutral color; black is a magnet for pet fur. All the suits in stores for women seem to be black, burgundy, dark green, or charcoal. Fur magnets, all of them. Why would anyone want to own  and wear something that will acquire every piece of lint in three counties?
I disappear when I wear neutrals such as  beige, tan, caramel, and ecru. When I wear black, I acquire so much fur I have fuzzy edges. This is not the look I was going for. Some people have such colorful personalities that they can wear black and tan and still be vibrant. I'm not one of them.

Clothing ought to provide a few clues  about the wearer, other than the fact that they live with animals. I try to conform but can't quite manage it. Every time I read about LBDs, I have to translate it into my wardrobe experience which is no black, no dresses, precious few dress pants and two pairs of jeans. 

I want purple, magenta, teal and burnt orange. I own pant lengths of fabrics in those colors. (Actually, I have no pant lengths in orange. A person has to draw a line somewhere.)
The line stopped at magenta with a black pinstripes about an inch apart. (I might have called the color fuschia, but dictionaries confuse that with the flower fuchsia, and I'm really not up for long discussions with  a spellchecker.) By a happy coincidence, a trip to the thrift store yielded a magenta plaid jacket. Its boring boxy shape was easily modified to that of a 1940's suit jacket. If I  shorten and line the sleeves, it will be a very satisfying piece of clothing.

Chez moi, magenta is a neutral. I have turtleneck jerseys, mock turtles and even scoop-necked Tees in magenta. Not all the same shade or intensity of magenta, but you can tell it is the same family.

I took photos to go with this, but the computer does not wish to recognize the storage device.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Red, Bloody Red

Oh, the horror! Every unworn item in my closet is red. All my "new" clothing is second hand,  but why am I giving house room to things I don't wear?  

Sometimes I am seduced by fabric. Oh hey, that's linen! Linen is comfortable! Color didn't matter. It was linen, glorious breathable linen, and the sun outside was brutal. 

Sometimes intricate seaming  persuades me that living without the skirt is not to be borne. The only way to make it work for a short person is to eliminate a good many of those delicious seams. Feh!

 And sometimes, I think an alien being was practicing mind control on me in the store, because I'll never wear red linen pants with a striped and embroidered top. Too costumey! Bring on the swansdown mules and cat's-eye glasses, and we'll have loungewear circa 1956.

A Guatemalan jacket in roughly woven, riotously striped cotton is something I might actually wear. It sat in the closet until I took it apart, cut it down, and put it back together.

Sadly, you can't see the seams.
What about the skirt with multiple godets and fascinating seamwork? Once upon a time things were only 6 inches too long. This skirt is a foot too long. It will lose all its flare, not to mention flair, if I cut that much from the bottom. I must remove the zipper, cut a foot from the top, put the zipper back in, and, I hope, decrease the waist. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Desk Failure

This was meant to be a success story. It is instead a story of the triumph of hope over reality. I found a 3 legged desk with pigeon holes in the alley a few years ago, but before I could do more than disassemble it for refinishing, I moved. At one point I had leg #4 made for it, and bought hardware to attach it. I sanded the legs, primed them, hunted for the other pieces ... and discovered that one of the original 3 legs was missing.

The project went on the back burner. I found a set of 4 top mounting table legs and thought the matter was resolved. But this summer when I attached the legs, not only did they look spindly, they wobbled. I couldn't use one of the new legs with 3 others, because they were longer. To complicate matters, the corner bracket for the missing leg was also missing and a chunk of wood was gone.

A sane person would have put the table back in the alley, but I went in search of a second corner bracket. Of course I had forgotten who made them, and had misplaced the first one. I tried to duplicate the pieces at Ace, where I found the right size nuts but no bolts or brackets. Home Depot, as usual, had brand new clerks who were willing to help me look but were clueless.  My last stop was Lowe's, a place I try to avoid because its ventilation is not good. There they were, beside a display of table legs and an assortment of leg mounts. (Waddell makes them, Lowe's sells them, and they are so simple that I can install them). They had even gone down in price since I first bought one.

Meantime back at home, the pieces to the table had decided to scatter. The baggie containing the perfect nuts vanished. The original corner bracket, still shrink wrapped to its cardboard, was no longer in the basket where I stash all my nuts, bolts, screws and nails. The backboard that would support the tiny pigeon holes that make this table/desk so cute was nowhere to be found. 

Slightly daunted, I found a piece of wood from a deconstructed pallet and, using a circular saw for the first and possibly ONLY time, cut it down for leg #4. After sanding, spackling and resanding, I had 4 legs, two with bolts. Marking the new bolt holes was simple. Finding the size drill bit called for by the manufacturer meant another trip to Lowe's. I found 5/32 drill bits, and 17/32 drill bits. A salesperson found the 9/32 bit, for under $4. I was on my way again. 

Have you ever tried to drill a hole on a protruding corner? Not easy. I carved away a small bit of the corners, drilled with a smaller bit, then with the larger one. The table was primed and had its first coat of spray paint. It had the original two legs. And ... the bolts on the new legs were too high. I turned the legs, filled the holes and started over. I filled in the missing chunk of wood with wood filler and attached the corner brackets.

pigeon hole pieces
The backboard reappeared. It was in the garage approximately where it had been dumped by movers years ago. In other words, I had to move a lot of stuff and climb over boxes to get to it. The drawer has lost its back, but all the pigeon hole pieces and the pencil tray are in the same 10 x 10 foot room with the desk. I'm learning. I have no idea where the original screws that held the pigeonholes cubbies to the backboard are. I also have no idea whether I will use the  pigeon holes and backboard, but they get painted anyway. I'll laminate layers of cardboard for the back of the drawer. It couldn't be any more horrible than my bathroom storage furniture, and the backs of shallow desk drawers are rarely wet.

It is still a 3-legged desk. Wood filler is not strong enough to hold a screw in place. Laminated cardboard is next. The bolt is fine. It is the screw holding one side of the corner bracket that is the problem. I really should abandon this project entirely, but instead it goes back to the garage while I attack less demanding projects, such as dinner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Don't Believe Everything You Read

One would assume that anything sold as bathroom storage furniture would be okay in a humid environment, such as a bathroom or the entire state of Ohio. One would be wrong.
Bathroom furniture bought at big box stores, the kind you put together yourself, is really cardboard. Why it is sold as bathroom furniture when it is not waterproof or even water resistant, I don't know. It should have come with a warning label that says DON'T USE NEAR WATER. Sooner or later the edges will blister.

Top edges buckled up, bottom edges  buckled outward.

You have to refinish the thing immediately, or down the road, say in a month or two, it will look scruffy. After 2 years, you either fix it or replace it. I could spend $4 and fix both cabinets, or I could spend a whole lot more to replace the things. As luck would have it, I had $4.

The fix: white glue and water will seal the edges. Nylon glides on the bottom will keep bottom edges off the floor and away from damp tile. Once you've sealed the edges, blow $3 on a can of spray paint and paint the thing inside and out. Give two or three coats to the top. High gloss spray paint is the best choice to waterproof this junk. I used Rustoleum spray paint.

Once the edges have blistered, you may have to remove a few layers to get the surface flat.  Sealing the new surface with white glue and water is not enough. You need a thin layer of wood filler or spackle before you try to paint it. Alternately, you can put on new adhesive-backed paper and pray that the new stuff works better than whatever they put on to begin with. If you wisely do not trust it, spray paint the adhesive paper once you've got it stuck down.

All this work does not give you a wonderful piece of furniture. It just gives you a less annoyingly ugly one. The moral of the story: if the furniture isn't wood or metal, you must seal all the edges before putting it in a bathroom. Or using it in Ohio.

Moral #2: if you have to refinish it before you use it, buy 2nd hand furniture to begin with.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Color Me Surprised

Lichen green.  It was a compromise color because I could not get the grayed purple I longed for, and it was the only neutral without oodles of yellow. Once it was on the nightstand, I went back and bought more of it because it goes on so well, covers so nicely, and I really like the color. I thought it would be on a nightstand, folding chair, and bathroom storage. That's enough, eh?

Today I brought up from the basement some shelves from  bookcases I've lived with more 30 years or more.  I had thought they were a whispery turquoise, but side by side with other storage, I found the color almost indistinguishable from lichen green.

The one on the left is the original color. The one on the right is the Rustoleum color.
Part of me said, Gee, I'm consistent/predictable. Another part said, of COURSE a double Pisces likes watery colors. While I'm irked to be so predictable, it will be simple to touch up nicks on the bookshelves, or even to completely refinish them.

Five years ago I found a charming child's desk that had pigeon holes on the top. I took it apart to refinish it, and bought  the hardware to put on a fourth leg. Before anything at all happened, I moved.  After the move, I had fourth leg cut and  then could only find two of the original three. The project went on hold for a few years. I bought and installed a set of four legs. They wobbled. I left one of the four with its top mount hardware on, because the desk was damaged in that corner. But I will be using corner mount hardware for the others. The braces are already there. How hard can it be to drill a hole in the side of a table leg? We'll see. However, the pigeonholes that originally delighted me will not be used, because a flat table will be more useful. And yes, this too will be painted lichen green.

While I was attempting to use up 3/4 of a gallon of country white paint because the rim of the can had disintegrated, it occurred to me that paint now comes in plastic, and that Glad plastic food storage containers could hold paint. Now, about a quart is in  food storage container, suitably marked. Whew.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Little Homework

Garage after things moved out. Lots of work still to do.
Living with other people would be simpler if only we didn't come with so much STUFF! I gave away 18 car loads of things before moving my mother from Texas to Ohio 5 years ago.  My house went from slightly under furnished to bursting at the seams.

Our fabric stashes, her vintage quilts, her lace collection, furniture from her garage that I grew up with and wanted to keep, boxes of photos she inherited from sisters, my modern doll collection (I collected nothing older than hard plastic until one day I decided I'd rather have pictures of dolls than dolls), her pottery collection, my books -- they all vied for space and all lost. 

My mother took two cats and an assortment of possessions with her to Texas last week and left stacks of things to be taken to Goodwill, and  now I've  got space! I can see my floors! I can CLEAN my floors easily, without moving things in puzzle formation. I can and do mop and remop some areas that probably didn't get cleaned more than twice in 5 years. I've got the space to overturn chairs and get a good adhesion with the nylon sliders. Hey, this is a big deal for me!

In the formerly crammed to the rafters garage, I can move a couple of boxes, and sand a bookcase or a night table. When I had no time and no space, I occasionally bought a can of spray paint in an intriguing color: dusty grape, French rose, teal blue.  Now I wonder why I stopped at one can, because a can of paint will cover a wooden chair or an end table, but a 3 x 4 foot bookcase takes 2 cans.

Why spray paint for bookcases? Because it dries quickly. Regular latex paint takes 3 weeks to cure hard enough that  books won't stick to the paint. The first time I heard this horrible fact, I didn't believe it. I also didn't believe that someone would endure 3 weeks without books just to have bookcases painted in a color, and 3 more weeks after they covered the latex with clear polyurethane.

I have hopes of moving my books (My name is Mimi, and I am a bookaholic) from boxes in the basement to bookcases on the first floor. Some people can read a book just once and never go back to it. If it is truly satisfying, I hang onto it because there will come a day when I NEED a very good book, as opposed to a competent book or a collection of words masquerading as a book.

Discovery: Krylon's idea of plum is actually screaming roaring Dayglo purple. My idea of plum is a black with purple overtones. Discovery: Kilz primer in a can comes out as lumpy foam no matter how long  and how often you shake the can. It dries quickly and requires oodles of sanding.  Discovery: the can for 5-year old Behr paint holds up well but does not protect the contents.  The paint inside is a hockey puck. Discovery: the can for 6 year old Valspar rots around the rim. After opening the paint and stirring it up, I must use it on everything because that can is never closing again. Never ever.

Country White is everywhere, on a formerly depressingly dark bookcase, on a putridly pastel green bookcase, on a desk rescued from an alley and given with new legs. There's no shine at all, but it's a thick paint that covers well. Every brushstroke shows, but wet/dry sandpaper and a lot of elbow grease will smooth the paint. I am contemplating spraying on a polyurethane for a small gloss, simply because glossy paint doesn't seem to attract and keep as much dust. I'm sure there are learned studies somewhere on dust adhesion and paint surfaces, but I have not consulted them.

Some of the pieces I've been sanding, scraping, refinishing, reeling in horror from.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Relearning -- sewing for myself

After 25 years in which the only sewing for humans was mending, I am seriously sewing-impaired. I have distant memories of being able to cut a patterns and sew the item within hours. 

In the early days of my return to sewing for people, I created neatly sewn items for small, young relatives. This didn't help me adjust to my larger size. Then, threads were trimmed and facings were neatly in place. Now I sew with basting stitches and slash and whack with abandon, more or less creating my garment as I go along. The result is clothing that fits, but don't look at the seams. And don't look in my trashcan, because there are far too many broken needles scattered among the shreds of thread, tissue paper and fabric. Oh, don't look too closely that the clothing either, because threads dangle and there may be a pin somewhere.

I'm averaging 1.2 needles per zipper. If I remember to change the needle position in time, then I hit the metal glide stops. It is possible that with care and attention to detail, I will move beyond my current role of Doom to Sewing  Needles. It is possible that if I follow the instructions in the zipper package enough, they will begin to make sense. It is also possible that I will go back to hand basting every zipper the way I used to when I was 12.

I should not complain. If you don't ride bicycles for 25 years, it takes awhile to get your balance. I can't expect to sew nicely for myself after 25 years of sewing only for dolls. Dolls are one fifth my height, and made of plastic. They don't complain about fit. They have yet to demand that I use  invisible zippers. We won't even talk about comparative weight.

My expectations are out of whack. I want my home sewn creations to fit better than store bought.  I've achieved that. But I also want them to be free of dangling threads, and I want all the thread snarls to be invisible. This is not going to happen, because often I get entranced by a fabric and want to use it regardless. My gauze shorts have more seams than they ought to, and each seam is double sewn and zigzagged.  My Eddie Bauer wrap skirt became shorts, and yes, there are pieces left over, but Oh, it was close. I had to piece the rear. Well, I won't see the rear when I'm wearing the shorts, and they do feel good.

I know I ought to fold and pin and use the machine hemstitch on hems for my shorts. Instead I  folded and topstitched. Twice.

I wanted a waistband that would accommodate  normal expansion when I sit. It does. It stands out around me when I stand, though, and must be hidden under shirts and  blouses. The jury is not in on whether a comfortable waistband that looks like hell is better than a waistband that looks good as it strangles one.

My pockets are patch pockets that I don't even cut out until the side seams work properly. Someday this will bother me.

What bothers me at the moment is that it took a revolution for me to get back to sewing for myself, as if sewing for myself were somehow selfish. In fact, it is necessary. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from finally getting something to fit is good for my soul. I may be a better human being because I have a visible result. I am a happier one, now that I no longer have to settle for the least offensive commercially manufactured clothing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wedding Guest as Sofa Cushion

I created the perfect outfit for a  garden wedding: flowing floral skirt, blouse whose print matched a flower in the skirt print, buttons the shape of the flower.  I created it for someone who is roughly six inches taller than I am. I discovered this when I tried it on in front of a mirror.

The first set of culottes was more like gauchos, and I abandoned patterns of my own drafting for a more skirt-like commercial pattern, which turned out to be skirt like only in front. I redrafted the back to be skirt-like and was thrilled with it until I paired it with the blouse, which works very well with the gaucho silhouette and not at all with the skirt. At least not on me. The blouse looks fine with the gauchos but as casual attire, not as anything to wear to a wedding.

I contemplated adding poufy sleeves, so my blouse would more closely resembled the one the pattern front paired with its culottes. I drafted a sleeve pattern on tissue, folded and pinned it, slid it on, and abandoned the entire concept. 

It was now the day before the wedding. I could hem the trial dress of my dreams and wear it. Wear a dress made from upholstery fabric? Wear a dress whose fitting errors were quite visible?  In the end, that's what I did, because the colors are nice and the shape is good. While we were out in the heat and humidity, it was fine. Indoors, in air conditioning, I wished I had worn chinos and a tshirt. 

Upholstery fabric rendered as dress. Yes, I wore this to a wedding.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Two Weeks To Go

Dress of my dreams
The wedding is 2 weeks away. I have made  three successful muslins, and two that needed modifications. The A-line dress works but bores me. I made it with a lower oval neckline and have an urgent desire to fill in the neck. I've gotten the modified nomad dress pattern to fit, but that's it. The high waisted dress with neck and sleeve band, the dress of my dreams, hangs in the closet with its zipper half sewn. 

I have abandoned  the entire idea of wearing a dress. A heat wave encouraged me to think along the lines of shorts, gauze pants, and culottes. It encouraged me to think of clothing made from ice cubes and battery operated fans, if you want to be picky about it. Divided skirts and culottes are probably  more socially acceptable than  ice coatings.

5 yd. culotte
2 1/2 yd. culotte

Using my tried and true shorts pattern -- the pattern that works up  differently in every fabric, so it is always new to me but eventually fits -- I devised a divided skirt pattern and sewed it in a striped twill. Looks fine in front but is too skimpy from the rear. I tested my less than satisfactory pattern up against a Butterick pattern that promises to be more skirt like. I think I may even add more flare, making it more like the Simplicity culotte, but using fewer than 5 yards of fabric. The purpose of the culottes is comfort, not creating scandal.

Eighties fashion was bizarre and oversized, but I do like those puffy sleeved jacket/blouses paired with floaty culotte skirts. I love the combination of a fitted waist and loose sleeves. It goes with my belief that in summer, clothing should touch on the shoulders and nowhere else. My 2nd hand pattern has everything but the sleeve piece. I'm not worried. I can draft my own sleeve, but I probably have a sleeve pattern somewhere that will work. 

What is the ideal summer blouse? Tshirts collect sweat and cling stickily. Gauze shirts come in such horrible colors. Muumuu tops and baby dolls are cool but they sure don't fit my idea of wedding attire. Camp shirts  do touch on the shoulders and nowhere else, but they have collars that collect sweat. Urk. 

What about a shirt with no collar, an elongated shoulder line, and a waist shaped by long tucks? This has possibilities. It sounds almost 1940's-ish. Looks that way too. Yes, there is a definite air of movie star about this shape.Either the red (no lapels) or the yellow ( lapels).

Friday, July 22, 2011


Those Hawaiian missionaries had a good idea with muumuus. They touch on the shoulders and nowhere else, the perfect clothing for days when the humidity is high and there's no rain except your own sweat.

We're in a heat wave. I found myself wanting to wear my nightgown all day long, so I hauled out  the  Pretty Blouse pattern by  Amanda  from the Modern Marigold blog 
for its second use. The first time I lengthened the straps and made the yoke wider for use as a nightgown.  The verdict is that long straps are good, wider yoke, never again. Sorry, no photo of my work, but follow the link. The designer's work is wonderful.

This is a dandy pattern. Even with dithering, it is no more than 2 hours from  deciding to make a blouse to wearing it. Next time, the straps will be 3/4 of an inch longer, and instead of lining the bodice, I will use bias tape. In fact, I may deconstruct the blouse in order to use bias tape.


Thanks to the good example set by bloggers with my figure who took pictures of their struggles, then added a back yoke when a pants pattern didn't work out,  I have a wearable pair of shorts from a commercial pattern. The fabric is a magenta striped sheet that had been holed once too often by cats. The weave is so dense that getting pins to go through was almost Mission Impossible, so I'm not sure how the cats managed. The back yoke is not very deep and needed inches removed from its middle. For the future, I added tissue to the pattern. Before I traced it off in shorts length, it had been a pants pattern.

Through trial and error and stubbornness, I managed to turn a pair of too tight gauzy pants (formerly Gap) into a pair of loose shorts. They were one-seam low-waisted jobbies with a drawstring. At first I thought I would just add another gauze to the sides, and had sliced the legs. Then the heat and sanity got to me, and I chopped off the legs to shorts length and  used the chopped bits to widen here and lengthen there. I love the stripes of my new shorts, which are less low-waisted and have non-roll elastic.
I have come to the conclusion that sewing pants is like writing -- it's all in the redoing.

Onward. I'm using the altered pattern from the loud striped shorts as I chop up a wraparound skirt and try to turn it into shorts. Why bother? The skirt is linen, which is cool in hotter than the hinges weather. I'll have to piece the fabric,  but I love it. I was about to toss the skirt into the Goodwill bag when it occurred to me that I might be able to make shorts from it... and I desperately need shorts.