ne-cess-it-y

First off, totally fine.  Had surgery this (yesterday, now—er, three days ago in the. . .) morning, and am hobbling about relatively well.  Answers to all manner of communication forthcoming, including finishing up answering comments to the last post.  I am just breaking the rules all the time, reader.

On to the post: I like doing experiments.  Nooooooo.  Yeeeeessssss.  At the end of last year, I decided that I would keep ten patterns (plus patterns for UFOs) around the house, and then edit down my selection of fabrics to suit those ten patterns.  Everything else was sent to live in New York with Mummy Seam Ripped, because there obviously isn’t enough fabric up there, anyway.  The one mistake I made was making a really internship-centric list of fabrics and patterns, because, due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to give up my really fancy and hard-won internship, I didn’t need all of my envisioned tweed skirts and silk blouses.  So, a lot of the patterns and fabrics languished because I am a frock girl through and through, but I made some pretty interesting (or interesting-to-me) decisions that I think might be worth sharing in a more in-depth post.  Usually, I marry fabric to pattern and absolutely, positively refuse to compromise on the original vision.  Recently?  Not so much.  It’s been illuminating.  Did you know that you could diverge from your original plans?  That’s a thing you can do, reader.  I know.

To start with, in addition to the eight staid separates and sheaths for work, I kept S1609 and a McCall woven wrap dress I can’t be bothered to look up, and patterns for which I had UFOs: Colette’s Beignet, Hawthorne, and Zinnia, M6696, plus a Belladone.  Instead of requesting that my mother just send me down patterns, I ended up buying just a couple off of Amazon and from Finch.  Namely, McCall 6931, Simplicity 1689, and the Grainline Alder and Linden patterns.

Phew.  After writing that all out, it doesn’t seem as if I was all that limited.  Truth be told, I wasn’t.  And yet.  I got used to having upwards of fifty (tiny compared to other pattern stashes, I know) patterns hanging around at any given time.  I’d wake up and think, “I really should make an S2215, shouldn’t I?”  And then not have the pattern.  Or the fabric.  Or any way to just hop in the car to go to Jo-Ann to get the two of them, mostly because I neither have a car nor know how to drive nor live within ten miles of a Jo-Ann.  (Though, there is a Hancock’s in Alexandria.  I repeat, there is a Hancock’s in Alexandria.  Field trip leaves from my house at 08h00.  Get it together, ladies.  This is not a drill!)  The patterns I did buy, I cut open and made immediately.

I’ve had an otherwise stressful semester, so productivity has gone down; however, I no longer feel damned (damned, I tell you!) by my two-to-three-yard cuts of fabric.  With 2 yards of fabric, you can make a dress, reader!  That never occurred to me.  1.5 could very well be a skirt, if you cut it the right way.  I think my penchant for full skirts blinded me to the possibility of an economical use of fabric, besides blouses (which I’ve decided give me no joy).

In any event, that experiment is done, and now I’m itching to start a new one.  I did just panic-purchase a trillion yards of cotton, because I had one piece left under my bed (don’t judge me), so my spring-summer plan might be to simply settle all of my UFOs (all of which need one or more of the following: armhole binding, buttonholes, buttons, hems, waistband stitch-in-the-ditch.  Fancy that, my least favorite sewing tasks!) and to sew through my new cotton boon.  To boot, I’m trying to make no more than five shirtwaist dresses.  I know, right?  This is madness!  Here is my UFO tentative plan and my learning outcome goals:

1. Finish the Alder and fix and/or finish all shirtwaist dresses.  Learning outcome: Conquer the collars and waistbands.

For some strange reason, those fold-under-and-sew tricks never, ever, ever work for me.  Not with pinning, not with basting, not with my walking foot, not with modified presser foot pressure, or even with modified patience.  Never.  Surely, there is a reason behind this, and this summer I’m going to get to the bottom of it.  To that end, I have to finish the Alder whose collar I’ve unpicked seven times, and also finish up my three unfinished 6696s (hems, buttonholes, armhole facing, buttons), and my Hawthorne.  You will probably never see them modeled photo-shoot style, so I figured I’d show them to you on Trixie.  You’re welcome.

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2. Gussy up the Belladone.  Decision-making!  I’m a fairly decisive person when it comes to school and work, but with hobbies I just waffle myself into incompletion.

It that my wonky stay-stitching?  Yowza.  Well, that’s gonna get fixed.  Also, I have to decide where to put the remaining piping.  I’ve got piping all over the back and on the pockets (which I rather regret), so I’m debating the neckline and armholes.

The skirt is not attached, because I didn't love the way it was lining up.  Piping around the neck?  Armholes?
The skirt is not attached, because I didn’t love the way it was lining up. Piping around the neck? Armholes?

3. General laziness and/or disgust.

BHL Anna Nanette Lepore fabric

I am the only person in Bloglandia who hates her Anna.  My waist is higher than Trixie’s, and I’ve had to lengthen the waist by an inch.  Though my thickish linen-blend did cause some waistline unevenness, this photo not level, and I think a good press would solve a lot of problems.  The floral placement might be what got me.

Christine Haynes Emery

 

I love this dress.  It fits better on me than it does on Trixie.  It literally just needs a hem and to have its lining attached to the zipper.  Why the delay?  I thought it was a little too 1950s when I tried it on.

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i really can turn anything into major life question, reader.

Yes, my to-post queue is going to suffocate me in my sleep.  I’m going to do what any mature adult would do in this situation, and completely ignore my entire drafts folder.  Sue me, reader.  Ah, yes, I detect the sound of you not caring.

You’ll be pleased to know that I signed up for a sewing class, at long last.  No?  This is not a fulfillment of your hopes and dreams?  This isn’t the announcement for which you’ve been waiting?  Whatever, reader.  I don’t know about you, but I’m completely self-conscious about being self-taught.  Well, self-, Internet-, and book-taught.  Home-taught?  For instance, I think I spend three to five minutes at the ironing board for every minute I spend at the sewing machine, but I’m still not pleased with my pressing results.

The people in my life think that making fabric fit a three-dimensional body is a miracle of the water-to-wine variety, so every time I ask them for criticism, it goes a bit like “Dude, you made that?  Awesome!”  Sigh.  (Same goes for cooking.  If you ever want to impress a twenty-something, I strongly suggest making pizza.  Apparently, pizza is a thing that is supposed to come in a box?  Way to ruin everything, Domino’s.)  I’ve gotten better at a lot of things, sure, but I think a steady stream of direct critique from an expert would pay dividends.

Anyhoo, the class is at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, which just so happens to be across the street from my spin studio, and ridiculously easy walking distance from my house.*  I’m really, really, really excited.  The instructions say that we’re supposed to bring our pattern of choice, its fabric and notions, and our tools to our first day of class.  Naturally, I have worked myself into a righteous lather over what to make.  15 hours of sewing instruction!  Is it like regular school, where we’re expected to do three hours of outside work for every one hour spent in the classroom?  So, a 60-hour project?  Does all the work happen in class?  Will the sewing instructor adore me, and think I have the most brilliant project, elegant in both design and execution?  (Yes, I am Tracy Flick and I have exactly no shame about it.)

I’ve got goals, naturally.  The top three are improved fitting, seam finishing, and hand sewing.  They’re all abysmal, right now.  I think I’ve got the curse of a reader, rather than a doer.  I can give you flawless instructions on how to do things that I cannot actually do.  I make French seams, but my hems get kind of weird around them.  I hand-sew like a six-year-old with horrendous motor skills.  Oh, and lining.  I try to line just about everything I make, but I’m lost when it comes to lining shirtwaist dresses or more complicated bodices, or doing a facing-lining combination that I’ve seen and loved on higher-end ready-to-wear.  Anyway, I have no frickin’ idea what I’m going to bring in.  I want to make all of the things.  All of them.  I need your help, is what I’m saying.  Here are my top two contenders:

Carolina Herrera silk twill matched up with view A of McCall's 6696
Carolina Herrera silk twill matched up with view A of McCall’s 6696

Oh, disclosure: I used to intern for a large fabric store (if you’ve been kicking around here for more than five minutes, you probably know which one) and got just about every nice piece of fabric I own from there, during and after my internship.  I don’t work there anymore, and any time you see them mentioned around these parts, it’s with my usual unwelcome-but-totally-honest opinion.  I’m not sure how to strike the balance between transparency and discretion, and I certainly don’t want to do a What I Did on My Summer Vacation Two Years Ago post on my internship, hence the uncharacteristic opacity.  Plus, I got sick towards the end of it and had to cut it short, and I feel tons of guilt about that.  So maybe there is some sort of weird subconscious bias going on?

Who cares?

Anyway, you’ll find a Carolina Herrera silk twill above.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  The green stripes are yard-dyed, while the navy are printed.  It is wide as ever and has great drape.  I luff it.  You know which pattern ties my love for it, though?  McCall’s 6696.  When I started sewing, in the Paleolithic Era, all I wanted was the perfect shirtwaist dress pattern.  I wanted a waistband, a collar with a stand, and a full skirt.  I searched high and low, and never hit the trifecta.  I bought a half dozen not-quite-right patterns, hoping to learn to love them, to no avail.  Then, my Platonic ideal pattern materialized herself.  Bless you, McCall’s.  There are no words for how much I love this design.  I am honestly considering buying one during every McCall’s sale at Jo-Ann because I am actually afraid of changing sizes or of the pattern going out of print.

Between 6696, the Colette Hawthorn (which, despite my crowing about the collar instructions, I really adore), Grainline’s forthcoming Alder shirtwaist, and perhaps a Deer and Doe Bleuet or McCall’s 6885, I’ve got at least a dozen shirtwaist dresses set to come down the pipeline at some point in our natural-born lives.  What’s the point, you testily ask?  Well, it would be great to learn some shirtwaist skills.

But can’t you learn shirtwaist-applicable skills on other, more ambitious projects?  Would McCall’s 6696 take up my projected 60 hours of sewing time?  Would I get bored after five weeks of it?  Enter: cocktail dress.

Vogue 1048 matched up with the really nice panel of uncertain origin.
Vogue 1048 matched up with the really nice panel of uncertain origin.

So, at last year’s Lauren Comes to Town meet-up, we went to Mood.  I glanced over at the silk-lace area cutting table, and saw this fabric.  “Isn’t that pretty?  Is it navy?”  “I think it’s black,” said one of the meeter-uppers.  (Meredith?)  I asked Dennis and he said, “Actually, it’s more of a Prussian green; it’s one of the most exquisite fabrics in the store.”  Now, if you’ve never met Dennis, I suggest that you close your computer, head to the airport, and get thee to his side.  I can honestly say that the fact that he does not narrate my life is one of my greatest disappointments.  If Dennis says that something is nice, you should consider yourself fortunate to be in the presence of said thing.  Seriously.  Swayed by Dennis’s endorsement, I bought two two-and-one-eighth-yard panels of it. Which is to say, I’ve got a lot of this fabric and it scares the living shit out of me.  I don’t think I’d be able to cut into it without adult supervision and some sort of breathing aid.  I’m getting a little jumpy just talking about it.

It seemed kind of vulgar to pair this fabric with just any old pattern.  So, one day, I was poking around Etsy, and found this amazing vintage Vogue pattern from 1961.  It is 1048, from Lanvin, and is very ambitious (for me).  (There is another one floating around on Etsy, in case you want to be twinsies.)  I may or may not have decided to forgo a few exercise classes and a pedicure so that I could get my hands on this pattern.  It has a dizzying number of pieces, and its instructions fit on one demi-broadsheet.  (Nineteen pieces, with allowances for facings and linings, plus underbodice and underskirt pieces.)

Isn’t this becoming a classic frosting v. cake debate?  I generally try to make my sewing patterns come down to about $5 per garment, or one garment for every muslin made.  (Kind of arbitrary, but it makes me feel better about my life decisions.)  That would not happen here.  The pattern was worth the outlay because of all of the nifty things I’d learn from it, were I to use it for the class.  I should probably mosey around to the point: I’d make the short version, nix the ass bow (which is the technical couture name, from what I understand), in the above Prussian-green-or-is-it-black fabric and then try to wrangle a friend into a fancypants Kennedy Center evening.

Over a thousand words to say: Which one?  Frosting or cake?

My absolute favorite part about this is that I’m treating it as if this is the only sewing class I shall ever take.  From what I understand, the instructor teaches a demi-couture class, as well as this one, and will probably be teaching another five-week session in the fall.  But shouldn’t I make a jacket in the fall?  Ugh, why do I make my own decisions?

*Do you remember back when the Internet was super scary, and people took extensive precautions to both conceal their identities and whereabouts?  Are we still doing that?  Because, the thing is, between Instagram and Twitter and this space, you can pretty much pinpoint my location and suss out my schedule.  I’m not exactly keeping any secrets.  On one hand, you used to be able to look people up in the yellow pages.  On the other, I’d rather not get murdered.  So, let’s make a deal: You consider perhaps joining me at spin (Biker Barre, if you’re interested) or for the sewing class, but manage to refrain from causing me physical or emotional harm, please and thank you.  Sound fair?  We could even get a drink afterwards.

‘splain this to me

This’ll be a quick one, as I am exhausted.  (Just handed in my last two papers for this session.  Woot!  I have written forty pages since Saturday.  Go me?  Poor me?  The jury’s still out.)

In an effort to relax, I’ve decided to digitally organize my stash.  Expert enabler and generally awesome person, Meredith, mentioned using Evernote.  Never occurred to me, believe it or not.  Anyway!   I’m matching fabrics to patterns and getting all nerdily organized (before being colossally disappointed once the fall semester rolls around and I realize I’ve got everything but time).  I can’t wait to hit Jo-Ann with my fall pattern list.  Before my dreams get totally crushed, I generally like to confirm that I have enough yardage for the pattern.

Evernote!
Say hello to organizational superiority.

I have encountered a roadblock.  Behold!  The deeply confusing yardage chart for Vogue 8901.

Vogue 8901 Yardage, View A

I’m finally getting in the practice of FBAs.  My high bust measurement is about 32-33″, depending on the day, and my full bust is 40-41″, which puts me at a 10-12 starting point.  My waist measurement puts me in a different stratosphere (three cheers for my gastrointestinal system!).  I have 2.78 yards of fabric that is 56″ wide.  How screwed am I, exactly?  Is the leap between the 14 and the 16 a cutting layout thing or what?

V8901
This is the Vogue sketch, shamelessly lifted from the Vogue website.

Novita from Very Purple Person made one, and I am now emotionally attached to the idea of it.  Go look.  Hers is super cute and involves pineapples.

Oh, here is the fabric:

Carolina Herrera Pink Splatter Check

Yeah.  Do we all remember that Pee Wee Herman episode?  If you love fruit salad so much, why don’t you maaaaarry it?  This fabric and I are pretty close to that.  I’m pretending I can wear it to class with a brown belt, navy cardigan, tights, and flats.  Let me alone with this delusion!  Also, this not effing up of the silk crepe de Chine delusion, but we’ll worry about that later.

Last night, I was photographing and cataloging the fabric.  Clive climbed on my bed, did a double take, sniffed the fabric, kneaded it, then decided it’s where he’d prefer to sleep.  He rejects cotton and wool, but has a thing for silk.  Fine, cat.  Fine.  I’ve been trying to institute a cat sheet policy, so that I can spend less of my life vacuuming (you can see a peek of it in the photo).  It’s obviously been going well.

Cats, y'all.
Cats, y’all.

A quick admin note: I’m messing around with themes in an attempt to find something that is functional and attractive.  I cannot figure out how to get the font smaller.  Oy.  I will eventually take the plunge and get all designy and shit, but I have no idea what I want this space to look like.  Clean?  Not cluttered?  Less dreadful than usual?

In any event, opinions are welcome on this most eventful post!  I’m rolling my eyes, reader.

life choices

Ain’t no lining here in Washington.  Well, that’s a lie.  Let’s start from the beginning.  In my first few weeks in Washington, I realized that I have neither the room nor the energy to sew, so I packed up my in-progress makes and hauled them up to New York for Labor Day weekend.  Then I discovered that Bits of Thread allows workroom rentals and now I’ve just got some completely inappropriate fabric to work with. (Hey, did you know that you don’t have to cut things on the coffee table?  What?  More on BoT in a later post.)

My long-suffering mother has had to send me almost-weekly packages of random things that I’ve forgotten, so I feel beyond guilty asking her to post fabric and lining, most especially since I’m going home for Columbus Day weekend.  But, I have an appointment at Bits of Thread that I had to reschedule and should probably use sooner rather than later.  So, here’s what we’re working with: I’ve got Gertie’s book and all of those (fabulous) patterns, Simplicity 1873, 2444 , 2215, and 2180 (no BMV stuff, oddly).  I also have the following:

There’s also a completely seasonally inappropriate coral border print (which you can see blown up to elephantine proportions on the inaugural Seam Ripped post), a solid navy stretch sateen, and two African prints that my mum very randomly got (“Hey, they were only like $3 a yard, love!”), but I have to go to office hours in like ten minutes and if this doesn’t get written now it will die in the drafts folder.

Anyway.  I’m trying to figure out what to make.  I also don’t have any muslin and G Street Fabrics charges a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching $30/yd for silk crepe-de-chine for lining, so I’m trying to figure out how to work within these constraints.  It’s like a super fun logic puzzle, reader!  Okay, maybe it’s not.  In any event, I have a few options: I could high-tail it out to the ‘burbs to visit Jo-Ann’s or the mysterious Hancock’s (I’ve heard so much about it, I’m kind of thrilled by the prospect of Hancock’s—or maybe I just like saying Hancock’s) or I could go to the Bits of Threads $3 wall and pick up something random and whip it into a muslin.  Then, I could order lining online from Mood or one of the $1.95 blowout sale fabric people (fabricmartbarntopia, et alia).  I quite like all of the above fabrics and for the most part don’t know where to get them again, so I’m reticent to hack on into them without some sort of plan or direction.  I could always just wait the two weeks until I go home, but what fun would that be?

Also, there is the question of matching fabrics to patterns.  The floral brocade will hopefully be a pair of trousers (I have but 1.5 yards of it, though, so we’ll see how that goes), and everything else will be some sort of wear-with-tights dress.  Will I look too much like Mrs. Roper if I make a full-on dress with the paisley fabric?  Is the double gauze cotton a recipe for freezing my ass off in the meat locker that is my government lecture hall?  Will everyone accidentally see my kibbles and bits in the cobalt and gold number if I leave it unlined?  Major life questions, I’m sure.

It’s just fabric.  There will always be more of it.  Every project is the opportunity for improvement.  This is all stuff I say to myself until it’s time to take scissor to thread and I catch a case of the vapors.

put a bird on what?

I’m still trying desperately to go back and plug in photographs and resize the bloated mood-boardy things.  I haven’t the time to do all of it at once, so in the interim how about a quick post?

Do we have thoughts about this as a pencil skirt?

Image

It’s home dec fabric.  On one hand, awesome and sturdy.  On the other, there will be woodland creatures decorating my ladies’ equipment.  Hey, we’re just putting a bird on it.  Um, right?  Even if the fauna placement were good, there’s still the business of frames.  Yet!  It’s so cute I could squeeze it.

Image

Maybe it’s just slightly less, “I work in a marvelous and charming library where elves stock books and hummingbirds conduct story-telling hour” in a neutral.  Though, I would rather like to work in a marvelous and charming library.  Build it and they will come?  (The elves, that is.)

(Upper fabric lifted from the good people at Purl.  Lower from Fabric Worm.  Buy stuff from them, for they have the cute.  The end.)

(Okay, not the end, because there’s also a hipster deer print.  I mean, I want my deer to wear skinny jeans and ironic glasses whilst staring pityingly at the uncool underclasses.  I especially want them to do all of that in skirt form.)

winged things

Anthropologie Mariposa Dress

This dress makes me so very happy.  The color is not the best for my skin tone, but an interesting lace with a keyhole back?  Yes, please.  I was hardpressed to find a pattern that is a good dupe.  I imagine that just cutting your go-to dress’s bodice back on the fold and actioning some sort of half-circle might do the trick.  This would require a side zip, which is basically my sewing nemesis, but it seems worth the headache.

Retro Butterick 5605 is quite nice, though it does have a gut-wrenching five-yard requirement.  (I swear, one of these days I’m going to sew up some of these five-yard dresses and report back with the actual amount of fabric used.)

Can we talk about the fabric now?   I am a fabric hound.  Interesting lace just might do me in.  The top three (butter, banana, and olive) are lovely cotton laces from Mood.  They are super lovely, relatively inexpensive ($14-$18), and would make sweet dresses.  The soft rose-colored lace is from B&J, purveyors of fabrics that make you wonder what the heck you’ve been sewing with all this time.  The grayish celadon lace is also from B&J, and I intend to run away with it.  Reader, I love it.  Reader, it’s perfect.  Reader, it costs $130 a yard.

Screen Shot 2012-07-09 at 3.45.04 PM

Isn’t it beautiful?  Just me?

I’ve been thinking a lot about slow, thoughtful sewing and wonder if that also extends to fabric buying.  Instead of heading down to 39th Street and haggling over fabrics of questionable provenance, why not just save for something that will really make a splash?  That’s always been my RTW buying philosophy.  Fine, I’m just rationalizing at this point.  Mark my words, you will be mine, my pretty.

portlandia: 2; witherspoon: 0

I’m not a huge believer in direct knock-offs.  They make me really uneasy.  However!  I do like getting inspired by an original piece and taking things from there, as you’ll see with this Milly dress.  This shirtdress is beautiful in every way, but it is too short for my taste.  I’d love to find a fabric that’s just on the gray side of taupe with a lovely print, but try as I might I cannot.  Do feel free to send over a heads up if you can, though.

Even though I prefer to dress like a nun conservatively, I still can’t quite shake this dress.  Maybe with tights and flats and legs that don’t start at my throat it might. . .oh, blast it.  It’s in the scrapper.  I do love a good bird, though.

Milly Cleo Bird Print Dress

I think that an integral part of slow sewing is careful wardrobe planning.  So a dress like this is in the queue.

This is more about inspiration than anything (and aren’t those Murano chickadees from Gump’s inspiring?).  A shirtdress with buttons on top, a defined waist, and a full-skirted bottom would be very Betty Draper.  These things eat fabric, though.  McCall’s 6506 calls for about 4-5 yards.*   Simplicity 2403 seems to be a good choice, too.  It’s one of the Project Runway patterns with a bunch of options, including a collar and sleeves.  No full skirt, though.

The fabric is not spot on, but rather helps capture the essence of the dress.  (La dee dah.)  The one on top with the meshy, netty business is from Manhattan Fabrics (aka Paron).  I’ve seen it in person, and it is so, so pretty.  The silk/cotton voile in the middle is similarly gorgeous in the flesh, and is from Mood.  The rose print on the bottom is impossibly inexpensive, which somehow cushions the five-yard blow.  However, I haven’t seen it, so I can’t vouch for its quality.  It could be sandpaper, it could be softer than vicuña.  Gamble, shall we?

*Randomly: When I first started sewing, I’d only had vintage dress shirtdress patterns, each of which called for upwards of 5 yards of fabric.  My grandmother always told me that three yards was a dress length, so I was basically drowning in three-yard cuts.  I thought I’d have to make baby clothes or something!

in which i am obsessed

I’m still having dart issues, I can’t seem to quite get any of my dress bodices to behave themselves, and I am on the hunt for a new sewing machine.  Yet!  Yet, I am still consumed by my white whale: the Chanel jacket.  I’ve been thinking about it, though.  I really love the classic Chanel jackets of the 60s, but what of the actual suits?  I love them, love them.  Not all of them have the signature boxy shape, bouclé/tweed, trim-to-the-hilt look.  Karl Lagerfeld (our dear leader) has done an amazing job, but I don’t think very much can compare to the suits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s archives.

Behold this gem from Mrs. Lewis Lapham:

Chanel Silk Jacket Met 1963

Where’s the wool?  There isn’t any!  It’s silk.  All, all silk.   Aren’t the pocket marvelous?  Granted, I am a famous pocket abuser, so those wouldn’t quite last a day of use, but still!  I especially love the ribbony trim and the sleeve length.  I think this could be recreated without too much anxiety.  (Let me alone with my delusions!)  There’s a skirt, too, but I think that the jacket completely outshines it.

What about this guy?

Chanel Suit Met 1964

I was looking at it and thinking that it had to be bouclé, but a quick glance over at the medium tab reveals that it is made of silk, plastic, straw, and metal.  Metal chain, silk fabric, plastic shiny stuff, but straw?  My favorite thing is that it doesn’t actually look like a suit.  I’m not wild about the bow, as I think I’d look gift-wrapped, but the rest of it could totally pass for a dress.  I am all. for. the short-sleeved suit.

Chanel Suit Met 1953-59

This is from the fifties.  I don’t think it looks too dated now, but am not sure how well I can handle a double-breasted suit with what looks like bracelet (or maybe 3/4) sleeves.  I have to admit, I’m totally enamored by the idea.  The blouse underneath it is to die for, though.  Observe:

Chanel Blouse Gray Met 1953-59

That, I’m definitely dying to make.

Navy Chanel Suit Met

But this one looks pretty classic Chanel, you say.  It is wool bouclé, and it is boxy, but there is absolutely no trim.  This really appeals to me.  Also, see the pockets?  They’re on the diagonal, which is fabulous.

Of the suits above, I’ve decided to choose the two I’m mostly likely to make and wear in the fall.  I think I’m still young enough to get away with the double-breasted—youthful insouciance and all that.  The navy is just far too much for me to pass up.  Naturally, the fabric comes before anything (including the skill and the pattern), so I’ve scoured the stores to see if anything matches up.  I’ve got a handful.

[This used to be an image of a badass collage.  Unfortunately, it was eaten during the Squarespace conversion.  However, I have this placeholder until I figure this out.  So sorry!]

The double-breasted suit would look really great in one of these gray tweeds from Mood.  The Oscar de la Renta at the top particularly speaks to me.  The navy is a bit trickier.  I once had a swatch of tropical-weight, basketweave wool from Gorgeous Fabrics (it still haunts my dreams), and I think it would make up a beautiful suit.  Unfortunately, it has long sold out, and the above have to do the job.  The top two are from Gorgeous Fabrics (and 25% off as of this writing) and the one on the bottom is an Oscar de la Renta bouclé from Mood.  One day we will discuss my obsession with OdlR.  Until then, we shall fantasize about Chanel.

All clothing images are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A quick advanced search for Gabrielle Chanel will do the trick.  The fabric images are from their respective vendors (Gorgeous and Mood).  The sucky Photoshop was done by yours truly.  The end.

but there are birds, you guys.

My birthday is on Saturday (Bastille Day).  I’m turning old.  This is usually the time of year when I load up my shopping carts around Ye Olde Internets, and start plotting for the birthday/back-to-school deluge.  I sew now, though.  While I’ll probably buy some stuff, I’d rather like to make things, too.  My new rule is that I’ll only buy things that I cannot make (be it because of design technique or just a really amazing print).

This got me to thinking about why I buy things.  Really.  The reason I started sewing is because I noticed that all of the dresses I bought kept to a pretty standard formula.  Full skirt, fun print, would work with a cardigan or with tights during the winter, slightly retro flair.  That’s doable, I suppose.  Also, I wanted really exquisite garments and was tired of just drooling at streamed Oscar de la Renta runway shows.  The print issue tends to be what really gives me pause.  I can find fun prints on quilter’s cotton, but I hate using it.  Finding fun, non-floral prints on garment-ready fabrics is not as easy.  Japanese cotton, Liberty, and widely available designer fabrics do help a ton.  However, it’s really hard to keep this in mind when I’m in a store and a see beautiful dress with a lovely, interesting print that seems like it can’t be replicated.

The Anthropologie Native Birds Dress is a prime example.  I was looking at it and thinking that the darling birds would push it from my sewing inspiration queue into the to-buy folder.  Then I realized that there isn’t very much special about the birds, is there?

Anthropologie Bird Dress

Finding a strapless dress pattern is pretty easy.  I own the Colette Eclair and Vogue/Cynthia Steffe’s 1174.  Both patterns use boning, which is a key feature of my favorite RTW strapless dresses.  I think I could get away with doing it in an underlined (interlined?) cotton or silk.  Maybe.  (Erica B. did it in a linen/rayon blend a bit back.  Then again, she could pretty much make anything look doable.)

What about the fabric, then?

Childhood Tana Lawn A

This is Liberty Tana Lawn in a print called Childhood in view A.  I love the color scheme and the whimsy of it.

IMG_1573

I actually own this one.  It’s a Milly georgette and wildly inappropriate for this application.  It would make a horrible strapless dress (or, rather, I would make it into a horrible strapless dress), but it is one of my all-time favorite prints.  I actively regret that I have but 2.5 yards of it.  Plus, it’s basically the Tupac of fabrics.  Just when you think it’s gone for good, Gorgeous Fabrics gets just a bit more of it in stock.  Tease.

Marc Jacobs Birds!

This Marc Jacobs fabric from Mood is lovely and bright and young.  The black makes it a bit more dramatic than the first one, though, doesn’t it?

I’d rather like to do this a bit more, this channeling the dress spirits and working on my crappy mood boards.  I do need stuff for school and this clarifies things greatly.  It would be two birds, one stone, yes?  I slay me.

My Mama Told Me. . .

Bernina 1008

I went to the City Quilter to test drive Berninas a few weeks ago.  I knew I’d probably fall in love with the 1008 as I am a huge fan of big, metal, clunky beasts.  I did, all was well, but I decided I should shop around.  After all, there are about six Bernina dealers in the area, why not see who has what?  Apparently, shopping for your dealer is as important as shopping for your actual machine.  More on that in a later post.  I had my heart set on either the 1008 or the Aurora 450 (big jump), but both salespeople threw other machines into the mix.  Now, obviously, I’m totally confused.

Bernina 215

 At the City Quilter, the (lovely) salesperson had me try out an Activa.  I think it was because I was also considering Bernettes at the time (hey, don’t judge; I’ll be in an itsy dorm room pretty soon).  I tried it.  It was fine.  The 1008 took my breath away, though.  This one was nicer than the Bernette and than my current machine, but nothing to write home about.  It seems rather. . .dinky.  I think I’d grow out of it pretty soon, just sizewise.  It didn’t feel like a real machine, if that makes any sense.  However!  I’ll be moving into a dorm pretty soon, and will probably not have enough space for a big old Aurora.  It also doesn’t take the old-style feet without an adapter.  However!  It is really reasonably priced.  $799 at Hartsdale Fabrics and $850 at the City Quilter.  Plus, Hartsdale has 20% off sales at least twice a year.  Have I mentioned my love of a bargain?

 

Bernina 330

At Hartsdale Fabrics the (also lovely) salesperson recommended that I try the 330 because they no longer stock the Aurora 450.  It’s a 3/4 size machine.  I didn’t get to test drive it, so I have no idea if the shell is metal or plastic.  I don’t know how it runs.  Nada.  Even if the 330 were to suit all of my needs just fine, I think I’d still kind of want more, you know?  The fact that it’s 3/4 sized will still be in my head.  I don’t necessarily need a separate motor for winding bobbins or visual pressure foot control or any of that, but what if I want it at some point?  If I’m going to leap from mechanical to computerized, I’d rather like more than one type of buttonhole.  I suppose that’s why this seems to be a second sewing machine for a lot of people.

I mentioned that I had no interest in decorative stitches or the alphabet or any of that mishigas, and the sales associate said, “Wait until your friends start having babies.”  That never quite occurred to me.  It is $900 at Hartsdale and I-forget-what-price ($1000+, if I recall correctly) at City Quilter.

I’m still crinkling my nose in the direction of these machines and their dealers.  I feel all sorts of awful when I go in to check out dealers—they’re people, not machines!  Yet, it’s a big commitment. These people will service your machine forever and ever.  I’m galled by the fact that prices aren’t readily available (which is why I shamelessly post them here).  Also, you’re apparently supposed to negotiate prices and extras?!  Have we met?  That’ll go swimmingly, I’m sure.