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.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

If You Would Like To Sing

Maybe it's the odd pairing of  New Orleans of the 20's & 30's and NYC of the 80's for Paula Vogel's The Oldest Profession. Maybe it's a line in the audition notes: "If you would like to sing, you should have 16 bars of something prepared to sing. "

Off I went, imagining a playlist of contemporary and vintage songs. Kiss & Say Goodbye by the McGarrigles is a heavy favorite. Jimmie Rodgers' Any Old Time is a close second. What do you mean, if I would like to sing. I'm always ready to sing. Try and stop me.

In any case, since the Dayton Theatre Guild first mentioned its plan to stage The Oldest Profession, I found myself thinking about it at odd moments. The director included a link to a site featuring actresses over 60, presumably so those under 60 will know how to age themselves. It's no surprise that a lot of these actresses got better looking with age. It's a little hard to imagine these actresses as aged prostitutes whose beaus have all died off.

It's also hard to imagine 1920's clothing as sexy. Yes, I know the term "cocktail dress" came into being in the 20's. But  the women were covered from ankle to neck in mostly straight swaths of fabric. Shapelessness was in vogue. How is that sexy? Beaded tulle over satin was lovely, but it tends drip beads and silk shatters and rots, so there isn't a whole lot left and what there is would not be suitable for heavy use. Before I read the play but after looking at images of one of the productions, I thought perhaps that 30's clothing would do, and this provided a theme for recreational shopping at thrift stores. I've ended up with brighter summer clothing than usual.

I've discovered that not all shoes with high heels are instant pain, but also that no one my size gets rid of  wearable high heels. (What? You thought I'd dash out and buy a pair of spikes from an actual shoe store? My recreational shopping destination is secondhand stores.)  I do not need a pair of spikes to take up space in my closet. Carmen Miranda wedgies, maybe, but not spikes.

It's the music that grabs me. More than once it's been midnight before I shut down the computer, because wandering through the videos of vintage songs I lose all track of time. I listen to 6 or 7 versions of a song, take side trips to lyrics sites, sing along with the videos. Richland Woman by Maria Muldaur on You-tube is nowhere near as sultry as the versions she sang in clubs in the 70s.  And in a much lower key.

The music propelled me into the basement to look through available fabric and patterns. Fortunately, I wore a pair of high heeled shoes to do it, and came to my senses in half an hour. I am NOT going to cut and sew a dress, torture my toes and my hair just to sing 16 bars of a song and go home. There are limits. And yet...the music swings, bounces and teases.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Truth in Pattern Sizing

I want truth in pattern sizing. I also want pattern companies to give a pattern a number and stick with it. B0454 is also B5108. I found this little trick annoying enough in craft patterns, but could understand it, sort of. I won't bore you with my rationalizations, because at this point they sound irrational, even to me.

Connie Crawford's line for Butterick is billed as "Modern Fit with Ready-to-Wear Sizing." The pants feature a mock fly front with elastic in back, and the back rise is indeed longer than most. Connie Crawford's instructions are impeccable.  Her styling is delightful. 

But somewhere between the design and the printed pattern, sizing was changed. "Ready-to-Wear Sizing" means to me that a person who wears size 10 jeans in manufactured clothing would wear a size 10 in this pattern. Not so. Because right there on the pattern back is the proof. The measurements given are the standard Butterick measurements. 

Wishful thinking beats logic every time. I went ahead and carefully folded the lines on my multi-size pattern to get the smaller size, and I cut the fabric for the smaller size. Then I let it sit for 14 months. Last night, the truth came out. Bored for the simples while waiting for my room to cool down enough so that I could fall asleep, I sewed the first UFO that came to hand. There it was, Butterick 0454, fabric and pattern neatly in a gallon Ziplock bag.

As I unpinned fabric from tissue, I thought, "This looks awfully small.What the heck, I've put together things that were funny looking before." It went together very nicely, and I was delighted to find a construction quirk of mine repeated in Ms. Crawford's instructions. I rarely follow instructions to sew the zipper into the front of the pants before sewing pants together, but I did this time. Ms. Crawford's instructions and design gave me a nice flat zipper front.

As I sewed, I told myself that the human body is a geometric shape and that pattern pieces of different shapes can hold the same body. Technically  it was a muslin, but a muslin made of print fabric captured at Goodwill. The pants looked wonderful, sewed up and flat.

Usually, when a pair of pants is too small, I know by time I've slithered as far as the thigh, and there is no chance that the zipper will zip. I slithered. The pants zipped. The side slit pockets poked out, and the pants fit like wallpaper. I was unhappy.

I held the pants pattern up against one the computer says will fit me. There's an inch difference. At first I thought I would add bits to the fabric and make it fit that way. Then I thought I must need my head examined. I need to cut out the pattern a couple of sizes too big and take it in.

I wonder what "Modern Fit with Ready-to-Wear Sizing" really means. It does NOT mean buy the same size you would in a store. It does not even mean, Buy your hip measurement for a pair of pants and your bust measurement for a top.

What makes the fit modern? The fact that the pattern was issue in 2007?

And while we are at it, why do the measurements on the pattern back show XL and  XXL as being  smaller than 1X. I'm delighted that Ms. Crawford  cared enough to redesign the clothing for Plus size women, but if XL and XXL are both  smaller than 1X and 2X, we need to have measurements printed on size tags, or no one will ever be happy with their clothing. 

True, cutting out anything without  testing the pattern against something that already fits is a bone-headed move. Most people, given the line about RTW sizing, would make the same mistake I did. This doesn't make me any happier. People will misunderstand almost anything, and we've been lied to by pattern envelopes for so long that visible contradictions such as the measurements for an RTW 10 actually applying to a Butterick 12 don't sound a warning gong.

 I wish  pattern companies would  just tell the plain bald truth. Regardless of what size they say it is, go by the measurements, especially if you have more shape than a board. I realize it may be harder to sell  something based on  measurements, when RTW is based on whim and fancy. Today's size 0 is the size 6 of 40 years ago, and 40 years ago  a size 6 was too big. Now I'm muttering because a 10 won't fit, and it wouldn't have happened if I had cut based on measurement as opposed to a sizing system based on whim and flattery.

Listen up, pattern companies! I want truth in sizing. I do not care if you cringe at putting Hip 60 on a pattern front. Making a mistake in size for doll clothing is annoying, with a small investment in time and materials. Making a mistake for standard and large-sized people is enough to turn people away from sewing because the investment is much larger. If no one buys your patterns because you've lied egregiously and continue to lie and then lie about lying, what then, eh?