In which I publish our bimonthly half-hour-long video.

Because I was dragging my feet in answering the comments from “Shibboleth” and as my bottomless well of laziness bubbled its way to the surface, I’ve made our video.  I answer the comments, in helter-skelter order, as well as Craftastrophies‘ comment on “for those who think young.”  I forgot to answer Laura’s comment on “shibboleth,” because I’ve been so dreadful at keeping up with responses and am basically just going to write her an email.

Per usual, the rules sit thusly: This video is long. as. all get out.  I ramble.  The three of you who make it to the end get cookies.  Or undying gratitude.  To-may-to, etc.  Shall we?


word from around town

Hey there!  How’s it going?  Well, it is Monday, I have made four Emery muslins (five, if you count the full-blown, not-quite-there dress), and am ready to donate my bustline and dowager’s hump to science.  How about we talk about what other people are saying?

Mikhaela’s posts about barriers to sewing, and her recent UFO-busting streak, have had me nodding in absolute agreement.  Indeed, if you were to replace all of the husband and kid mentions with talk of school and cats, and all of the allergy-free meal references with asides about oysters and gin, I could have written them myself.  The cats have never treated me to a day at the museum, though.  Ugh.  Kids today, am I right?

Anyhoo, it is so comforting to know that someone else banishes their makes to the UFO pile after a roadblock.  I’ve drawn up thorough notes on how to line the Hawthorn, cut out everything but the skirt lining, and have the bodice shell and lining assembled.  Yet!  Yet!  That bloody collar’s poor directions make me want to set the entire thing aflame.  (You’re supposed to sew the whole thing with a 1/4″ seam allowance, not the standard 5/8″.  The instructions not only fail to mention this, but instruct you to trim down to 1/4″.  This is addressed on Flickr and in the comments on the Sewalong post, but I missed it.  Harrumph.)  I’ve been working on it for a month!  I need to just buckle down and soldier through it, and Mikhaela’s UFO ass-kickery is a total inspiration.

– This isn’t recent, but I’ve been thinking about Neemie’s New Years posts and the “Me, too!” school of pattern buying.  Mimi, at Shop the Garment District, used to work for a major pattern company, and she says that 75% of patterns purchased aren’t used.  That gives the me the sads.  I’ve been doing a thorough assessment of my pattern reserves, and I think I have something like 60% of my patterns cut out, but given the size change I’ve just experienced, I have to really go through and have a major purge.  A style cull, for someone like me who cannot picture garments on herself?  Not that easy.

The difference between buying a pattern and buying a dress in the store is, well, trying it on.  I can see someone wearing a cute dress from Anthropologie, pop in to try it on, decide it doesn’t work, and grab a couple of cookies on the way home.  It takes, at most, fifteen or twenty minutes of time, and costs me two Baked and Wired cookies.  (I go to school near DC’s main shopping drag, to be fair, and dozens of stores are literally on my route home.)  With patterns, though, I have to buy the pattern, cut it out, and make a muslin (or two, or six), before deciding whether or not it works.  Hours of time and a concrete monetary investment.  I sometimes feel obliged to make all of my patterns work, most especially the ones that required a lot of fitting time.  (Looking at you, Anna!)  Anyway, smarter pattern buying would save a lot of time, here.

-Michelle just had a not-so-great experience with BHL’s Flora pattern, and posted a detailed review of it.  She actually got some responses from the BHL ladies, and recently posted her final thoughts on Flora. The whole exchange is worth a read, but the most striking thing about the entire discussion, to me, is that people got testy around the idea of pattern testers being paid.*  Edited to add: The root of the tension is the notion that pattern testers are being paid for endorsing the patterns, not necessarily for the act of sewing up the patterns itself, but I guess things get kind of murky when someone is paid for doing something, and then writes a glowing review.  Talking about this issue is like untangling one big knot.

I made a vague comment about the “sketchy compensation issues” at play, if a blogger were asked to write a post about a make, in addition to pattern-testing.  I think it may have gotten misconstrued as insinuating that there are some secret backdoor deals happening.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Now, I’m going to give you a long preface to my response to this.  I first started reading blogs in ancient times, when I had a TA who had small children and wrote a well-received blog about motherhood.  Personal blogs published by women who weren’t Heather Armstrong were only just getting taken seriously, and corporate sponsorship in this corner of the Internet was really in its infancy.

In any event, bloggers were just starting to get approached to write reviews for companies (large MNCs, in a lot of cases).  At one point, though, someone said, “Sooo, we’re spending large swaths of time writing 2000-word “reviews” in exchange for. . .fabric softener?”  The tides changed.  There emerged a distinction between reviews (for which someone buys the product out-of-pocket, and writes about it on his or her own) and sponsored posts (when the company is involved, in whatever capacity), never the twain shall meet.  I think this raises a whole ton of interesting questions about women and money and friendship and business and skill and the general grayness of the (still!) new online frontier.

Years and years on the sidelines of that community means that I would totally think an exchange of money would legitimize a sponsored post, and professionalize a relationship, rather than call into question a blogger’s motives.  For me, the grayness comes when we’re drawing the distinction between pattern testing, reviewing, and sponsored posts.   They’re not mutually exclusive, nor are they necessarily dependent.  I do think it is telling, though, that a lot of people seem to have married the idea of pattern testing to reviewing.

– I’ve been on the fence about buying the Colette Guide to Sewing Knits.  Reading Maddie’s review side-by-side with Nancy K‘s has been pretty illuminating.  I’m leaning towards no right now, but would love to hear about your experiences.  The thing is, my Moneta fits well enough, but I’ve got a bit of armhole gape (as I do on all knits forever and ever, amen) and would love to know what the heck is going on with it.  Nancy K recommends the Taunton series, Connie Long’s Sewing Knits and Marcy Tilton’s The Easy Guide to Sewing Tops and T-Shirts.  A trip to the library might be in order, for me.

Kristin at K-Line has a marvelous post about wardrobe culling, and the seemingly Internet-wide purging cycles.  I’m not afraid of my wardrobe, per se, but I am the sort of person to regret getting rid of something much more than holding on to it.  I feel a sort of, not quite shame or embarrassment, but bashfulness, I guess, about selfishly wanting a large wardrobe.  I am fickle, and there are days when I want to wear an obnoxious floral, and others where I want to pare everything down like Calvin Klein in the 1990s.

Also, I’m in a weird place where I have to sew, because my old wardrobe plum doesn’t fit, and I have too much fabric and too many patterns to justify a summer of J. Crew.  I love reading all of these posts about simplifying while I’m amping up and feeding my fatted wardrobe.

I loved Mary’s comment on Maddie’s post about fast fashion and fast sewing.  I have a similar talk at school all the time, about politics and the golden ages of philosophy.  It goes a little something like, “Do you know what my favorite thing is about my life?  Not having polio.  Waking up, and not worrying about getting polio.  Seriously.  That and suffrage.  Property ownership.  Small potatoes, I guess.”  I’m working on an overwrought post about being taken seriously, and what that means for ye olde wardrobe, but I’ll spare you a preview.  You’re welcome.

Now, I’m off to finish another Moneta (armhole gape and all) and maybe head down to the World War II memorial.  Enjoy your Memorial Day, folks!  Service folks and their families, especially!

*I changed the word balked to got testy around to clarify the statement.  If only I could leave track changes on a blog post!

** I added some conjunctions and stuff, generally proofread, and questioned my grasp of the English language.  Must hire copy editor.

a question of ease

A few administrative notes before we start, yes?

– We’re moving!  Hosts, that is.  I’ve had the business all purchased but not put together since, er, last November.  I have to figure out what I’d like this corner of the Internet to look like, and it’s surprisingly hard.  This will never be a capital-S, capital-B Serious Sewing Blog.  I’m probably not going to monetize it at any point, and if I did, we’d have a roundtable discussion about it.  I’m a total nerd for transparency and fairness, and you shouldn’t have to pay for this tripe, even if it does “just” mean clicking on an affiliate link or some such.  Furthermore, it’s more a blog about talking about sewing than it is about the act of sewing (I run the Seinfeld of blogs, folks!), so I have to take that into account.  I just want to land on something that is clean and approachable, without being too polished or too twee.  You’ll get a heads up when that happens.

– I am essentially having a fabric garage sale on Etsy.  Well, let’s not call it that.  It’s a dual-purpose experiment.  Purpose the first is to get rid of my some five bins of fabric.  It was easier when all of my fabric lived in New York, and I had a big old bookcase to accommodate it.  In my little, old, storage-challenged apartment?  Not so much.  (I have one drawer, reader.  There is one drawer in my entire apartment.  Isn’t that wild?)  I’ve been sewing up a storm, but I have made an awkward peace with the fact that I do not look good in orange or brown, and I do not need six yards of just about anything.

Purpose the second is to gauge how this sort of thing works.  I constantly agonize over the future of the Garment District.  I also want to find  balance between going to school, doing research, working at a (more likely than not) unpaid internship, but also living a life that involves money that does not come from my family.  So, you know, there.  It’s tentatively called I Refuse to Iron This, because it is so much damn yardage, that I’ve neither the time nor the patience to iron it.  Professionalism at its best.  Anyway, this is it: Shop Seam Ripped.  Buy something.  Or don’t.  Or just think about it.  Or get disgusted and frustrated by the entire enterprise.  Really, I run a very “Free to Be You and Me” sort of dictatorship.

On to the actual post.  Jeez, this is long.  I should have broken it up, no?  Anyway, we’re going to trudge through, almost there.

In the past month, I’ve made muslins and/or finished garments of the following:
– By Hand London’s Anna dress
– McCall’s 6696 (a shirtwaist dress)
– Colette’s Hawthorn dress
– Christine Haynes’s Emery dress
– Colette’s Zinnia skirt (versions 1 and 2)
– Megan Nielsen’s Kelly skirt
– Deer and Doe’s Belladone
– Simplicity 1873

I’m just learning how to do FBAs, and I’ve noticed this weird bagginess around the bust (but not directly at the apex and points latitudinal to it (I really need to find the proper geometric/sewing terms for this stuff when I finish this post—Catja, any opinions?) when I make them.  I’m a 34DD, but I’ll make a muslin that should bring things up to my measurements, with or without adjustments.  (I measure 40-30-41.5, with a 33″ high bust.)  I’ve had oddly mixed results.  M6696 is supposed to measure 42″ around the bust for a size 14 C/D cup, but I literally could not close the muslin at the bust.  I brought the Emery and Simplicity 1873 up to a level that should accommodate a 40″ bust, and they were seriously baggy around the bust, everywhere but the point of greatest projection.  I made the very same adjustment to the Robe Belladone, and it fit me like a glove.  Ponder.

Then I started thinking about the skirts I’ve made lately.  I always just go by the waist measurement, but with each skirt I make, I could comfortably lop off an extra inch or so around the waist.  Perhaps the answer is ease.  The Emery is built with two inches of ease in mind, the 1873 has 3 (but I made a smaller FBA to bring it down to 2 around the bust).  The Belladone?  She doesn’t list finished garment measurements, but mine seems to measure 41″ across the bust, as a size 42 with a 1.25″ FBA.  So that’s about .75″ of ease.  Big difference, no?

I thought my findings were rock-solid until I moved on to skirts, though.  Zinnia is supposed to have only .5″ of waist ease, 1″ for me.  Yet, I can easily pinch out a solid 2″ from the band.  I suspect this might have to do with the infamous misalignment of the waistband and the skirt.  (The waistband is more than 2″ too short for the skirt, on the size 10, and I had to add a supplemental piece of cotton.  Thrilling, as you can imagine.)  Anyway, let’s get to some pictures.

Behold!  My Zinnia!  (I’m trying to exhibit the waist room without doing the whole Jenny Craig, clown-car trousers thing.  “Look how many people I can fit into my old jeans.”  Shut up.)  This is version 2, in a size 10, with the length of version 3’s size 18.  (Back story: I am having a bit of a midi moment, because Kiehl’s discontinued their Imperial Body Balm (as they do with everything I’ve ever loved), and my knees look like early-20th-century Fascist dictators.  True story.  I can’t decide if it looks like I’m wearing longer skirts because Christ has compelled me to, or if it seems like a conscious fashion decision.)  Anyway, if you look in the middle, there’s a weird pucker out.  If I look down through my waistband, I can see the floor.

Zinnia Wearable Muslin I


“Why is your head cut off in the picture, Charlotte?”  Well, this:

Zinnia Muslin Outtake

Hey, I didn’t say I was cleaning up the blog today, reader.  This is a face I made, unprompted.   To answer your question, I totally have a tripod, but look like a turtle when I use it.  Not jacked like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but like one of the slow-chewing oldsters at the zoo.  Not cute.  Not cute at all.  In any event, until I figure out how I’d like my face to look there, you have to settle for cute pictures of me in the cheapest mirror at Target, with the view of my messy-because-the-cats-went-on-a-tear closet/bedroom.  Only the best for you, reader.

Where were we?  Yes!  Ease.  Perhaps I am more comfortable with a smaller amount of ease than your average bear?  That translates easily into skirts, but what about bodices?   I’m unclear about the engineering, here.  For instance, S1873 only gives the finished garment measurement for the bust.  At a size 14, for which one is supposed to have a 36″ bust, the measurement is 39″.  It’s built for a B cup, so I figured 36″ – 2″ = 34″ but three inches of ease seemed ridiculous, so why not corral it into 2?  I made a compromise, and did a 1.5″ FBA.  Does the excess ease mean that I have to take a smaller FBA?  Should I assume that the ease is limited to the bust, or that is present throughout the garment?  Should I cut a smaller size all together, and then work up from there?  Do I decide on the smaller size and its accompanying FBA based on the formula Finished Garment Measurement = Body Measurement + 1, or do I go with the envelope back?  When there aren’t finished garment measurements available, is tissue measurement the answer?

Simplicity 1873 Botched FBA 1

Everything looks kosher at the bust, except for that weird side thing and then, bam!

SImplicity 1873 FBA II

Here we have wrinkle city, a peek at my Anna, and the my cat-ravaged closet (it is one of my intersession break goals to tackle that monster).  No, I am not sporting a baby bump, that is just a surfeit of fabric.  Oy.

Simplicity 1873 Side View

The issue is, I don’t want to look like too much sausage stuffed into too little casing, if that makes any sense.  I think I’m going to have to dive head first into Pattern Review and Artisan Square to see what everyone else does, and then cook up an answer that works for me.

The weird solution was to take out two wedges from either side of the bodice, going from 1/8″ to 3/4″, for a total of 3″ taken off of either side.  I think that might do the trick.  I’ll show you the results after I press the bodice, and give the old girl a hem.  Plus, I have to figure out how to finish the waist seam, which always kills me.  Overlock it?  Stitch in the ditch?  The options, they are endless.

Who knows, maybe I’ll see you in another six months?

How’re things on your end, reader?   Not a rhetorical question, I’d actually like to know.

in which people who aren’t my mother read my blog

So the light around these parts has been kind of dark and gloomy this week.  Despite my best efforts to photograph my makes, everything looks really sad.  However, Aretha has been super productive.  (Three UFOs down, two more to go.  What, what!)  Sonja from Ginger Makes tagged me in one of those awards-type things, so we can have a fun post while the sun decides whether or not it wants to come out.  (Ahoy, people who have come from Ginger Makes!  Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from here!)




Per the rules of the award, I have to share seven things that you might not know about me.

1. I am an oversharer.  If you stick around here long enough you will pretty much know everything about me.  Also, since my full name is attached to this website, so will everyone else.

2. Oh, this one might be interesting: I left high school early to traipse about and find myself.  I took distance learning university courses at a fancypants school in the interim.  I do not recommend doing this, as reintegrating into regular old life is. . .hard.  Also, I’m three years older than everyone else at uni.  Pleasant!

3. I watch The Golden Girls and can pretty much recite entire episodes of the show.  However, as of right this instant I have no idea where I put my keys or my wallet.  I totally cultivate the right major life skills.

4. I sew through pins.  Not all of the time, but enough of the time for it to be shameful.  (But it’s so easy to forget.)

5. My mum and I are close.  Like, Grey Gardens close.  However, instead of living in the Hamptons we’d live in Northeast Harbor, Maine and instead of having film crews come in and expose the squalor we’d just have YouTube videos of us talking to our cats and raccoons.  You have to admit, Little Edie was quite chic.  (I’m kidding.  Kind of.  Mostly.  Whatever, reader.)

6. I get rull Southern, rull quickly.  Too bad I’m from New York.  Seriously, I get accents on a layover and completely Madonna out after five minutes of Downton Abbey.  When I’m upset the Southern just escapes.  It’s not regionally specific Southern but rather an amalgamation of every Southern accent I’ve ever heard.  Be amused.

7. I like psychics, but I’ll tell you a story about that in the post after this one.  Hopefully, that’ll be tomorrow.

8. Oh, bonus one that I just remembered: I’ve had the Salt n’ Pepa song “Push It” stuck in my head for something like six years.  I am not joking.  A professor in my American Protest Literature class used it as an assignment and sang a few chords and I’ve been cursed ever since.  Undo this, universe!

Now, the rules for this sort of thing requires me to tag people.  However, I’d rather not skip over someone who reads this and would like to do it or tag someone who is just not in the mood, so tag yourselves freely!  For serious.  Even if you don’t have a blog.  I don’t quite know how that would work.  Do you want to send me an email with random facts about yourself?  Would that be weird?  Yes.  Let’s do it!

whoa now, calendar

Oh, hi there.  How are you?  It’s been a while.  December was, shall we say, not my favorite.  The fall semester brought me five colds, four ankle sprains, a constant need for Kleenex, and a compromised will to live.  (I’m kidding about that last bit.)  Then December came and brought the death illness for all of the reading days, finals week, and beyond.  I suffered, my grades suffered, and now I’m pretending it never happened.  That’s healthy, yes?  I find myself inordinately glad to say sayonara to 2012.  2013 is set to be the year of “Let’s Not Do That Again, Shall We?”

Enough with this life business and let’s talk about sewing/fashion goals.  I have them.

1. Make a dedicated sewing space.  When I’m a good girl (um, fantastic strong and independent woman—huzzah feminism), I have to spend thirty minutes unpacking and setting up my sewing things.  Mama ain’t got a whole lot of free time, so that’s not great.  When I’ve been a horrible person, I have to hunt down seam rippers in kitchens and rescue pattern pieces from my impish kittens.  Let’s not do that anymore.

2. Buy and use more patterns from independent companies.  I’m a student; therefore, most of my money goes towards things like food and $200 textbooks I only need to use twice.  I have a really hard time justifying an $18 pattern to myself when I can just wait patiently for the Simplicity sale at the Jo-Ann.  Yet, I believe in small business and independent pattern companies and keeping the spirit of sewing alive.  Sigh.  Will I drop 30 bones on the Milano cape pattern from Papercut before it gets warm out?  We’ll see.

3. Clear up my UFOs.  I have five of them—all of which were tweaked to some extent over this weekend.  One needs facings and four (four!) need closures.  I am sans machine, as my Singer sucked in ways that will become legend, and I still have not decided on a sewing machine.  I’m using my mum’s, but it leaves a lot to be desired.  Namely, uniform stitch quality, a reliable back tack, and a zipper foot.  So the closures might have to wait until I. . .

4. Buy a damn sewing machine.  I’ve been agonizing over this for months and I just need to bite the bullet and make it happen.  I thought I had narrowed it down to three machines, but then I asked the good people on Pattern Review for advice and now it looks like I’m in for a month of research and testing.  I feel so much guilt about this, though.  More on that later.

5. Buy more fabric.  Yes, you heard me (er, read me).  I’ve actually been really good about stash busting this year (not that you’ve seen very many of the results), especially cottons.  A bad rayon lining experience caused me to give up on silk, which I now have coming out of my ears, but once I get over that business, it’ll be good.  I do need to pay closer attention to how I buy fabric.  I tend to buy loads of fabric at one time and then fabric fast for months afterwards.  No bueno.  I live in New York City.  A place with a real, live garment district.  I really need to shop more often and shop with a plan.

6. Take photographs.  Sweet baby james, this is hard.  Well it isn’t.  I actually just don’t take photographs.  I’ve been known to go off on solo vacations and return with one photograph.  (“But I took that photograph for you.”)  There are whole years of my life for which there is no photographic evidence that I even existed.   I am badass and old school, like a lady Ron Swanson.  Both being in front of or behind a camera kind of make me want to ralph.  Must get over that.  On one hand, I feel like I’ve lived a better life because I haven’t had to stop press to take a selfie.  On the other, I like looking at other people’s pretty pictures.  Also, this is weird because I am 11/10 vain and have never met a mirror I don’t like.  Odd.

7. Embrace the uniform.  In the summer, I lived in these cotton capris, button-front shirts, cardigans, and flats.  In the winter, I either did a dress, cardigans, tights, and flats or stovepipe-y jeans, button-front shirts, and cardigans with my old man Merrell mules.  Sure, we had the occasional marniere, or t-shirt/cardigan combination tossed in for good measure, but I pretty much just wore what I wore and liked it.  Bully for me.  More of that, I think.

8. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.  My mum and I constantly argue (actually, politely debate) about when it’s worth it to sew something instead of buying ready-to-wear.  I always want to sew everything; she thinks it’s a waste.  I do think that sewing certain things just won’t make my heart or budget sing.  Button-front shirts, jeans, t-shirts are on that list.

9. Buy fewer, better things.  Instead of three J. Crew cardigans, how about one from Brora or Elgin or Eric Bompard?  I don’t know how well this would work if instead of buying ten Old Navy button-front shirts, I bought one from Ann Mashburn, but how about we just take baby steps?

10. Be a better blogger.  See: photographs, sewing machine, space, and all of that jazz.  I read so many sewing blogs but I rarely, rarely comment.  I don’t spend nearly enough time taking care of my corner of the Internet or being supportive of people who are deadset inspiring.  I think I need to dedicate more time to being a productive member of the online sewing community rather than a deadbeat half-asser.

I have other general goals that aren’t quite resolutions.  I’d like to exercise more, be better at answering emails (so sorry, M!), learn how to ride a bicycle, read more books for fun, start writing creatively again, enjoy New York while I’m here again.  I’m sure these are the usual suspects.  Well I’m off to 2013 (verb).  Let’s do this, reader.

a treatise on expectations and other, well, stuff

It’s Saturday night and I’m in the library embarrassingly trying to stifle my mouthings-along to Nina Simone.  Whatever, nerds.  I skipped out on the LOC Book Festival because I’ve been dog tired and just not in the mood for crowds and lines and the promise of rain.  Slackery actually meant I had time to do things like comment on blogs and do tech upkeep.  (Randomly, does anybody favor an email client that isn’t Mac’s Mail or Thunderbird?  Both are compromising my will to live in a very real way.  Yet, I can’t quit them because I’m too lazy to delete my own junk mail.)  I’ve even ventured out into the wild for food instead of trying to action something out of my half-dead leeks and mountains of pasta.  Highly recommend the lot of it.

A couple of nights ago I was talking to my roommates about stuff.  Spanx and corsets and that sort of thing.  Anyway, I mentioned that in the sewing community, I feel that there has been a rash of people making corsets.  My roommate Jenni snickered at “the sewing community.”  Y’all, it’s true.  There is a sewing community and it’s awesome.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been at this new school for almost a month and I still haven’t made any sort of meaningful connection with anyone or anything (which is so very unusual for me) (but it’s totally fine, I’m just using it as a basis for conjecture), I’ve been awed by the depth and breadth of the online sewing community.  (That was the longest sentence ever.  We’ve also hit this evening’s parentheses ceiling.  Thanks for playing along, ladies and gentlemen.)  It’s so funny how the importance of physical distance diminishes when you share something with another person.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about the whole “lost blogger” business.

MPB did an excellent post on lost bloggers—Selfish Seamstress is lost?  Huh?  I had to stop reading because Aretha does not do a partial feed, but I’m still saddened—and wondering about the exact relationship between blogger and reader.  Blogs and the online community obviously forge friendships and business relationships, but  how do we define the most basic and common connection?  Specifically, what are reasonable blogger-reader expectations?  Someone in the comments section at MPB likened it to celebrities and fans.  I disagree, actually.  Not everyone is exchanging friendship bracelets, but there’s not the same distance.  It’s an odd gray area.  I suppose maintaining a healthy connection is about landing on the right side of the line between claiming real ownership over someone’s life and presence and just feeling an investment in it.  All that considered, do we owe each other anything as bloggers and readers and members of a larger community (whether at its core or periphery)?  I dork out to these sorts of questions, especially when navigating such (relatively) uncharted territory.

This is what I’m doing in the library.  The thug life, I lives it.

I was going to talk about bloggery, journalism, and the tension between amateurism and authority but I’ve decided to spare you that tripe.  You’re welcome.