Wednesday, October 29, 2008

B is for

B is for Blazer. The blazer is a fashion classic. Borrowed from menswear, the blazer (with a woman's cut, of course) is very flattering and "finishes" an outfit. You can wear your Black Pants (another B essential), a T shirt, and the blazer will make the outfit. Blazers can be made from cotton or linen and unlined for the hottest months, or they can be wool and lined - and even underlined - for more warmth. Pick up any pattern catalogue or BWOF magazine, and you will find a host of blazer options. The traditional blazer is longer in length, but in today's fashion world, there is everything from very cropped to below the seat. Pick the style that works best on your body type.
Wikipedia has this to say about blazers:

A blazer is a type of jacket, often double-breasted, and sometimes single-breasted, worn as smart casual clothing. The term blazer is also sometimes used as a synonym for boating jacket or sports jacket, though in fact it is neither. A blazer resembles a suit jacket, except that it has a more casual cut, and features as patch pockets with no flaps and metal buttons. A blazer's cloth is usually durable, because it was designed as a sporting jacket. They often form part of the uniform of bodies such as airlines, schools, and yachting or rowing clubs.

The blazer began as a jacket worn in boat clubs, for rowing, and was brightly coloured, often striped, with contrasting piping, and single breasted; it was essentially an early sports jacket. At that time, the double breasted, navy blue jacket was known as a reefer jacket. Eventually, as the original blazer became less common, the term come to be applied to the naval version, which gained its modern metal buttons. It is still sometimes called the reefer jacket, and is worn in its original form by some yachting clubs.

Although this definition refers to a man's blazer, that is, after all, where we women got the blazer in the first place!

Textile Studios' Florence Jacket is a good example of a feminine version of the blazer sans the pockets and brass buttons, although either would be easy to add. Silhouettes 1500 is another example of a more traditionally styled blazer, whereas Vogue 8333 has more of a 40's flair, and Simplicity 4273 offers one with princess seams.

B is for BLACK PANTS - almost every woman needs a pair, if not multiple pairs of black pants. There are literally thousands of pants patterns out there, so find one that fits you well, and STICK WITH IT. It is easy enough to change a pocket detail, leg width, etc. But the important thing is to get a pattern that you make fit you perfectly, and use that as a basis for all other pants you make. (I'm still working on this myself - but after all the trial and error, I am determined to get the fit right and then make that my TNT.) This time of year, I'm realizing that I need pants - and I'll need them in a hurry. It is in the high eighties today, but won't be next week. I'll be needing some pants - er, some BLACK pants to be sure! Black pants can be made from a variety of fabrics depending on the look you want. Fuller cut pants look best in drapey materials. RPL , triacetate, and polyester pants are great choices if you need workhorse-pants in your wardrobe that can be thrown in the washer and dryer. Wool pants are very durable and the fabric is easy to work with. As a rule, wool pants should be drycleaned, but if you pretreat your fabric carefully, you may be able to wash them, but probably would want to dry flat or hang to dry. One alternative to lining pants is to make a washable pants liner. The FSG pants pattern comes with a pants liner, but you can also use a pajama pants pattern for a liner. You may need to cut out some of the fullness. An advantage to the pants liner is that it can be washed over and over and the pants will only have to be cleaned about half as often as lined pants. Cotton and linen are great choices for summer pants and can be lined or unlined.

B is also for BIAS CUT SKIRT and I think this is the next thing on my list. I chose McCalls 4258 for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was the 99 cents sale at JoAnns. This skirt has a narrower version (shown at left) and a fuller version. Both versions come with a zipper and with or without a waist band. I will be needing some long skirts when I go to Uganda in April, so I want to make a few now. Also, a long skirt is great for winter. It keeps your legs warm, looks good with flats, heels, or boots, and can be made from anything from chiffon to wool. Rayon and cotton are good choices for hot weather, where as moleskin, wool, and velour are great in the winter. You can usually tell if a pattern is cut on the bias because the catalogue almost always will show at least one view with a bias plaid or stripe. Bias cut skirts hang more nicely and move with you gently. The seem more feminine and flattering to the figure. Remember when working with bias garments, to let them hang at least overnight before hemming, as they will stretch. It is also a good idea to interface the zipper area (if there is one) to keep it from drooping.

Edited to add:  Oh, how did I forget to add on BLOUSE?  We all need at least one, if not several blouses in our wardrobe.  There have been controversies over what the difference between a blouse, shirt, and top are.  For my purposes here, if it's not a T-shirt, it's a blouse.  I don't consider most knit tops blouses, but BWOF had a beautiful knit blouse in the magazine some time last year that I would have never known was a knit had I not read the instructions.  So, leave it up to your own interpretation, but we definitely need BLOUSES!

And, of course, B is for BLOGS. How would we keep up with what everyone else is doing if we didn't have our blogs??

So, I would love to hear your thoughts on Blazers and Bias cut garments. I know there is a real art to working with bias cut blouses and dresses, but a skirt is not as difficult, and well worth it. So, what are your experiences with bias cut garments or blazers? And what would you suggest for those who may not yet have taken the "pants plunge", but would like to try?

A is also for...

Animal Print. Now, every fashionista should have a dash of animal print. Animal Print is best used as an accessory or accent. Personally, I have animal print gloves and a scarf. And I'm absolutely in love with the animal print coat that Tany made last year and would love to try one myself. There is too much of a good thing, though. You don't want to wear animal print head to toe.

A is also for ANORAK. I love this Mc Calls pattern and have bought some silver metallic linen to make it up. There are a few different styles of anoraks that I have seen at green pepper patterns, Jalie, and somewhere else that I can't remember. The anorak is a great throw on jacket for transitional weather. I have one in a microfiber fabric that folds up into it's own totebag. It was made by a company called Weekenders, which is no longer in business.

Oh, how could I forget to add ACCESSORIES to the list of A's?

Accessories are a must. You can make or break an outfit with the accessories. Now, I’m no expert on accessories, and I can’t affort to hire Rachel Zoe, so it’s the trial and error or “practice makes perfect” theories you want to put into effect here. Think of this, vibrant green satin blouse, black skirt, and clogs. Just doesn’t work, does it? Or how about that beautiful evening dress and a big black leather hobo purse? I think not. If you’re iffy on what’s “hot” as far as accessories go, check out any number of style magazines, and pay attention to jewelry, shoes, bags,

Monday, October 27, 2008

A is for ...

I just recently finished reading Nina Garcia's book The One Hundred. Although this is a good read, and there is lots of usable information in the book, these books usually make me feel blown off by about the second or third chapter. Yes, I would love to have Manolos and Jimmy Choos, own a Burbury trench and shop for Lanvin, wear tights that cost almost one hundred dollars, and of course, be seen in Chanel. Well, I can appreciate these styles and designers, but my budget and lifestyle just aren't there. Why is it that all writers of fashion books seem to be out of touch with the way most of us live? Well, at least out of touch with the way I live. Also, if I wore high end designer clothes to work a)I doubt that anyone would know who the designer was, and b)if they did, they would think I was out of my mind.

The One Hundred is written like an alphabet book, with a variety of items under each letter of the alphabet. It covers everything from clothes, underwear, accessories, and outer wear, to champagne, passports, and Pearls. I will say, that there was a lot of useful information in the book, and it is a quick read. On the other hand, a Birkin bag and original Pucci will not be adorning my closet any time soon.

I have decided to do my own ABC list of sorts for the "real woman", in fact, for the real sewing woman. I will be using a combination of ideas I have read in a variety of books, magazines and articles. I will be reflecting on things I see in real life and what I've known to work for me. I live in California, so my my views will be a little more relaxed than the East coast view, but hey, It's just a blog... Enjoy!

A is for A-line dress. Now this is one of the things in Garcia's book, but trying to find a pattern for a true A-line dress is not as easy as it seems. I just recently purchased a couple of vintage pattern from Out of the Ashes for a 60's A-line dresses. A-lines were very popular in the 60's and 70's. and yes, I'm old enough to remember. The beauty of the A-line is that it is (supposed to be) flattering for all figure types. If you are having a poochy tummy day, it will never be seen in an A-line. A-line dresses were also considered "mod" dressing. Bright colors, color blocking, and large prints made these dresses mod. Most had high necklines; either jewel or nehru. These dresses were either just above the knee or mini length. The A-line came into being as an offshoot for a slimmer line than the trapeze dress. Women were in love with this style after years of cinched in waists and fitted bodices.The A-line is the easy to wear go-to dress. I'm anxiously awaiting my pattern so that I can make up one or two!

So, I'm wondering... How many of you have an A line dress? And do you believe that they are flattering on all body types? Do you have any pattern suggestions to share? remember, the A line was not shaped at the waist. I'd love to hear what you have to say about A-lines.

Next - a couple of more A's.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Book Giveaway

Today I drew the name for the book The Collection. The winner is Janene. So Janene, please send my your address info to nwinning at gmail dot com and I will get it out in the mail. I am sending my original book to Summerset, because she was supposed to get it the first time around. So, both of you, please send me your mailing info, and I'll try to get those out this week. thanks to everyone else who put their names in and posted on my blog.

Your condolences mean so much

Thanks so much for all of your prayers, well-wishes, thoughts, and encouragement. It means so much to you. Even though I have never met many of you, there is something about the online sewers community that is like family and sisterhood. Even though we've been expecting the passing of my father for some time, it doesn't remove the sense of loss or grief, although it does make it more bearable. I think that we've been grieving for so long because of the Alzheimers, that we are at the point where we are glad to see his suffering finally at an end. He was a real fighter, and though he lost much weight and mobility at the end, he never gave up the fight against cancer. The timing was perfect since I was able to spend the entire day before his death with him and my brother Tony was with him the whole morning of his passing. Of course, we did not know it would be his last day, but Tony played guitar for him that morning which he always loved. My other brother, Paul, from Tennessee was able to speak to him the night before on the phone. So, God made sure that the three of us were with him all the way up to the very end, and we are all thankful for that.

I have updated my photo album of Dad with some interesting information, so take a look if you like.

We are all doing fine, though a little exhausted. My brother will be flying in from Tennessee on Veteran's day weekend and spending the week with us. My dad did not want a funeral, so we will be having an open house/celebration of his life on that Monday. I think it will be just what he would like.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In Memory

more photos

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Books, books, and more books

First of all, I'd like to thank all of you who sent me well wishes and prayers.  This has been a really difficult week.  Today I was off work because of health issues of my own (looks like I'll be joining the hysterectomy crowd soon), so I went to see Dad in the morning.  I found out that he has not been out of bed, nor has he eaten in 2 days.  I was there on Monday, but he was in bed asleep.  He is sleeping most of the day now.  It won't be long.  I spent most of the day with him, and he was awake off and on.  He is not able to talk much, but does give an occasional "yes" or nod.  We will miss him greatly when he is gone.

Today I got a few books in the mail.  First of all, The Collection.  Last year I wrote a review on this book and offered a give-away.  Well, like a dummy, I forgot all about it and never gave the book away.  Well, today I got another copy in the mail from the publisher with a letter from the author asking me to let people know that the book is now available in paperback.  It really is a good book, and for anyone who likes fashion or sewing, it's an eye-opener.  Well, at least it was to me.  So, here I go again; if you would like to put your name in a drawing for this book, please leave a message on my blog or email me, and I will put your name in a drawing.  I will pull the name out on Sunday and post the winner - and if I don't, BUG ME UNTIL I DO!  And, even if you don't win the book, I'd encourage you to buy a copy or see if they have it at your local library.  It is a quick read and fun.

I had also ordered two other books from Amazon, and they arrived today.  I had watched the Rachel Zoe Project on Bravo, and even though I didn't like the previews and thought "what a waste of time that would be" I ended up watching about 6 episodes in a row one day!  I had seen the book along with Nina Garcia's book in my local Borders, but I can usually get them cheaper on Amazon, so I ordered them.  Now, I'm just wondering, how many of those hundred essentials do I even come close to having?  We'll find out as I read the book :-)

This evening I worked a little bit on my FSG pants, and I think I'm really going to like these.  Well, hopefully they will still fit.  Today I was getting in my car (fortunately at the mailbox on my way home) and the back of my jeans split right down the back!  These are not even old jeans and the fabric isn't even thin.  I didn't really think they were that tight.  Well, more on that later.

Back to the pants,  I did the pleats in the front and top stitched them.  I like the way the pockets are made and I got those finished too.  The next step is the fly  front.  Now, I used the FSG directions to do the fly on my muslin, and it was very quick and easy.  However, I am a creature of habit on some things, and I just love the Sandra Betzina method outlined in her Power Sewing Step by Step book.  It is one of my favorite sewing books and I like her fly front application because it is more secure than other methods I have tried.  It also has a great look.  The FSG directions had a great look too, but I'm  still going back to the SB method.  So, I'll probably get to do that tomorrow night.  I would love to have a sewing marathon this coming weekend, but instead, I'll be having a report card marathon - ugghhh!

OK, back to the split pants.  Well, I would think I would be losing weight, because I have totally changed my eating habits.  I have a number of health issues that could really become serious if I'm not careful.  I have decided to try to combat these things by totally changing my diet.  The plan is outlined in a book called The Ultimate Ph Solution.  The premise is to keep your body chemistry in an alkaline state since diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis and many others cannot survive in an alkaline environment.  I already know 2 people who have beat cancer using this nutritional plan.  Basically it is a vegetarian diet which also excludes dairy, wheat, sugar, and anything fried, processed, or over-cooked.  When I first started reading about it, I was like, what's left?" since my diet was less than optimal (which my daughter was already protesting that all I have is "healthy" food in the house before I began this.)  I have been following the plan for over 2 weeks now, and I have noticed more energy, less stomach problems, and feeling better overall.  I am still learning what to eat, but the good thing is that 70-80% of your intake must be alkaline foods.  The other 20-30 can be otherwise.  So, nothing is totally ruled out, although healthy alternatives are encouraged.  I thought coffee would be the hardest to give up, since I hit Starbucks several times a week, but I've been OK with that.  

BUT, today was a difficult day and I went to Starbucks and had a latte and a cookie!  Other than that, though, I've been really good, and will continue to do so.  It's kind of a challenge, but I know I need to do it.  I will be sharing my journey with you from time to time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Sunday

It's Sunday, and my vacation is over :-(. I didn't get nearly the sewing done that I would have liked to, but I did finally get myself to work on a pants muslin yesterday and get the fit right. I am making the pants from FSG 1961. The picture doesn't show them well, but I think I'm really going to like this pattern.
Here are the features:

  • slant pockets in the front
  • inner pocket piece has a "tummy panel"
  • waistband with fly zip
  • 2 pleats in each front and 2 darts in each back piece.
  • pants pattern includes a separate "pants liner" that can be worn under many pants.
I checked the measurements of a pair of pants I already have, and decided to cut a 10, but leave 1" seam allowances. I'm glad I did, because after all my fitting, my pattern now lines up exactly with the 14. No change in rise, crotch length, curve of hip. A 14 will fit me perfectly with no alterations other than 1" off the bottom hem! Now of course, I made the muslin of, well, um muslin, and my fabric does have a little stretch, so I may end up taking in the waist a bit. I'm making them black, so I know they won't photograph well, but I have another pair planned in a lighter color as well.

I would be sewing right now, but I'm too sad today. Dear old Dad is just not doing that well. He is finally at the point where he is now on morphine round the clock and we have taken him off of his other medications. He is not eating much and spending most of his time in bed. Today when I went to visit him, he could barely speak and just really didn't want to wake up. We've known this time was coming, and in fact, expected it to be much sooner. I'm so glad I have had these past several months to really spend a lot of good quality time with my dad. This whole thing has actually caused my brothers and me to become much closer, and I am so thankful for that as well. So many families disagree and argue at times like these, and I feel like we have just grown closer and stronger. It's really painful to see a loved one go downhill physically and mentally to the point of needing assistance with everything they do. I did get a good picture of him yesterday though.

A couple of people have commented about the fabric in my new background. Well, some of you may remember my poltergeist post a few months back. I had two pieces of this fabric that I had ordered from Nancy Erickson at FSG. To make a long story short, I had one piece, it wasn't enough, tried to order more, they were sold out, a week or so later, a lady returned a piece and I got it! Then, I lost the original piece and never did make the jacket. Well, this is the missing fabric. I do plan to make a jacket from it this fall using the FSG 1945 pattern. Hopefully, I'll be able to work on my pants this evening.

OH, and another exciting bit of news! A few months ago I was listening to Lori's Sew Forth Now podcast and she was interviewing Sandra Betzina. Sandra mentioned that she just got back from Uganda (I think it was Uganda) where she spends a year each week teaching women to sew. When I heard this, I told my husband, "I want to do that." Well, today I was talking to a friend of mine at church who made a trip to Uganda in the mission field as a nurse. I was telling her this little story and her eyes lit up. She said she knew someone who had sent out such a crew and that he was coming to their house for lunch today. Well, we went over to lunch and I talked to John about this opportunity. Lord willing, I will be going to Uganda this spring for a week to teach women to sew!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Top - FSG 1960

Since I have the whole collection of FSG sewing patterns (except 1) I figure it's time to start using them. I have made the coat, skirt, jacket (not quite finished) and now the top from the twinset.
I like the pattern, but there are a few things I will change next time. First, I will make the longer version. This is the shorter version plus 1-1/2 inches. I will also raise the shoulder point and the armscye each 1/2 inch. This is a great basic T and I used a cotton/poly/lycra blend fabric from (I love those stickers they put on the fabric so I always know what the content is and where I got it.) This top is part of a twin set pattern, so, being inspired by Carolyn's twinsets of late, I hope to make a twin set soon. However, I think I will use my CJ Patterns turtle for the under layer.

Next up, I'm hoping to cut a muslin for the FSG pants pattern today. I have some great black stretch crepe fabric that I've had in my stash for a while. I washed it with this top fabric and it came out beautifully. I'm sure it's some kind of poly blend, which is perfect for work and everyday pants

The hardest part about working with knits is laying them out. Jersey is really hard to tell grain and it isn't always cut straight. I got lucky on this piece because the pattern was printed on grain, so I was able to line up the pattern. But oftentimes, the pattern is not printed on grain, or there is no linear pattern. NancyK sent me a great tip on PR and I'll share it with all of you. THanks Nancy!

I use blue painters tape, and on a very fine knit I use a magnifying glass. I lay out the pattern piece to see about where I have enough room and where the grain line is. I take up the pattern piece and I find a straight edge of one of the knit rows. That's where the magnifying glass comes in. I carefully lay down pieces of tape; its too hard to lay out a long piece of tape. Then I put the pattern piece back on and line up the grain line with the tape. Obviously, make sure that the tape doesn't damage the fabric before you use it. I haven't found one yet.

She also suggested using full size pattern pieces rather than cutting on the fold. I have found that doing this really makes it easier to lay out and cut, even though it takes extra time to cut the pattern pieces and fabric. It's well worth it in the long run, especially with unruly knits!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I need more tops!

I've had this fabric pulled out for over a week, but haven't had a chance to do anything with it. I knew I wanted to make some quick and easy tops, so I decided on this poy jersey knit fabric, but did not know what I was going to do with it. I only had about a yard and an eighth, so I started looking through my patterns. Then I remembered this one (NL 6731) and decided to go for it. I'm so glad I had already made this before and did not have to do any alterations. I practically made the whole thing on my serger and used the coverstitch machine to do the hem and armholes. I'm still figuring out how to use the coverstitch and have to admit that I have not used it much. I think the more I use it, the more comfortable I will get with it.
I'm so happy because I have this week off work. Our district always takes a week off in October. I was hoping to get a lot of sewing done, but since my husband took this week off too, I doubt I will get nearly as much done in the sewing department as I'd like to. I'm still hoping to get more done this week than I have in the last few weeks, so hopefully you will see some new pieces coming out soon.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

States of Dress - Wyoming

And we thought making a dress could be a lot of work?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Guestimating Fabric - or How to Build a Stash!

In my previous post, Charlene asked, "...what method do you use to determine the amount (of fabric) to buy" Well, this really got me thinking. First of all, I don't know that I have a much of a "method", but I guess, in a way, I do. A couple of years ago when I started getting back into sewing, I really had a desire to sew with some fabrics that were new to me. Living where I do, my only local fabric stores are JoAnns and quilt stores. This means little to no wool, rayon, silk, rpl, ultrasuede, knit prints, batiste, or many other fabrics that I was dying to try. So like any good girl would, I turned to the internet. Oh, what a dangerous thing that is!
Now, I'm not one of those people who knows what my full season line up will be. I tend to sew what I feel like at the time. I always do have a plan of a number of things I want to make, but I may or may not end up making them. When I do buy fabric on line, I usually try to look at patterns I have and figure out what I'd like to make with the fabrics. I kind of came up with a general rule of thumb based on a variety of patterns that I have, making generalizations about how much a basic pattern would take. This is what I came up with based on my size (I usually plan on the fabric amount for a 12 for a blouse or dress or 14-16 for pants or skirts(
Most fabrics other than cotton and some silks are usually 55-60", so I base yardage on these widths. If the fabric is 45, I usually add more or check the pattern

Pants - 2 yards, 2.5 for wide legged (I'm assuming 55-60" wide fabric here)
Jackets - 2-3 yards depending on the style
blouses - 2 yards of f 55" will make a long sleeve or short sleeve blouse. A sleeveless blouse takes about 1.5-1.75. Sleeveless, 1.5 I tend to add about 1/2 yard if the fabric is 45"

Knit tops - 1 yard for sleeveless, 1.5 for short or long sleeves.
skirts - my favorite pencil skirt takes exactly 1 yard of fabric. Skirts with more detail, I plan on 1.5 yards. Fuller skirts, I buy 2 yards.
long skirts - 2 yards
dresses - a basic sheath or straight dress can be made with 2 yards, fuller dresses take aprox 3. Vintage or very full dresses will take up to 4 yards.
Vests - 1 yard - yay!!
shorts - 1.5
crop pants - 2 yards.
2 pc suit - 3-4 yards
3 pc suit - 4-6 yards depending on type of skirt, jacket, pants.

These are just general guidelines that I use if I am just buying for my stash (collection, inventory, store-house, whatever, it's still stash!) If I KNOW what I want to make with a pattern, I do go by the amount on the pattern envelope. If it is a fabric that shrinks (like cotton, linen, rayon) I buy extra to allow for the shrinkage. Also, be aware that most of the 45" fabric at JoAnns is actually 42-44" These couple of inches can make a huge difference in a layout, so I will buy 1/2 yard more. Again, these amounts are just guesses, but it kind of helps to know a ball park figure so you don't have to carry around a bunch of patterns with you every time you step into a new fabric store. These amounts change with the styles, for example, I used to always say 2 yards for pants, but now with wider width legs, most patterns need 2.25-2.5. So, check your favorite patterns and most used styles in your size and get a general idea of what works for you!

So, with this information in hand, I will let you know some of my favorite internet haunts.
First, I must mention Fabric Mart. This is one of the first places I bought online fabric and a lot of my stash has come from here. They have great "bundle" deals and deep discounts on a lot of their fabrics. Selection is limited, but you can oftentimes find great deals here
has a much better selection than Fabric mart, and they also have good prices, although not as deeply discounted. I like that they put information labels on all of their fabric cuts. Both of the aforementioned stores also have good service and quick shipping.

Gorgeous fabrics - the name says it all! Ann has a wonderful selection of fabrics here and one of the best selections of fashion knits at a reasonable price I have seen. She also has good service and fast shipping.

Fabric - my absolute favorite stop for shopping for linen. It takes a little bit of expoloration to find your way around the site, but they have a fabulous selection of linens in different weights and colors.

Textilestudios - this online store sells Textile Studio patterns (Loes Hinse) and a variety of fabrics. They don’t have a huge selection, but they have good quality fabrics that are different than you’ll find at other sites.
Denver Fabrics/Fashion Fabrics Club - a great selection of fabrics with a good search engine. They really do have super prices, but my experience has been that they need to step up their customer service and shipping. Don’t order here if you are in a hurry to get your fabric. But, you can find a better deal here than most other places.
Fashion Sewing Group - run by Nancy Erickson. She has her own line of patterns and newsletter that features pattern updates/ modifications to keep things fashion forward. I have ordered a number of beautiful fabrics from her. I would recommend subscribing to her newsletter for great fashion information, sewing techniques, fabric swatches and pattern updates.

There are lots of great online fabric stores out there, but these are the ones I have ordered from most often. I’ve orderd from a few others and gotten some great fabrics as well. Among them, Sewing Studio, Trim Fabric, and Thai Silks.