just beginners

Announcement: Anyone interested in drinking with me?  If any of you DC-area sewers (or readers) are interested in commandeering the back of a bar after work or sitting on a porch somewhere on a weekend afternoon, then shout me a holler here or at seamripped@gmail.com.  I am only sort of using you for companionship.  I’m not calling it a meet-up, but a “let’s kick it over sazeracs and see where the evening takes us.”  That sounds like I’m hitting on you.  Let’s keep it that way.

Per usual, I’m answering old comments late, but you should find responses (t)here shortly.  End of announcements.

I’m trying out a new sewing philosophy—you may have heard of it.  Giving no fucks?  No?  Unfamiliar?  I’m going for the proverbial quantity over quality, in hopes of technical improvement over time.  So, I’m taking a lot of deep breaths and just sighing through the suckage.  Usually, I rip seams and throw tantrums and agonize over the topstitching.  Now, I’m just sewing through it.  Waistband didn’t catch with topstitching?  Just slipstitch it down.  Topstitching uneven?  You’re the only one who cares about that.  Collar stand a little lumpy?  Character is what that’s called.  Naturally, it’s healthier than my old hair-pulling ways.  Obviously, it’s killing me.

All of this preamble to say: This dress sucks.  I know it does.  You probably won’t, just looking at it from afar, but deep in my soul, I understand that this is not my best.  It’s all made up in a Japanese salt-shrunk cotton gingham (read: those ain’t wrinkles, but are intentional).  It is the second of three M6696s I’d made within a seven-day span, and for some strange reason, the calamity kept coming.  (The other two are bangin’, if I may say so myself.)  Skirt pieces were attached the wrong way, the hem grew unevenly, my perfectly matched skirt rebelled against me.  That waistband comment was not a joke, this em-effer would. not. catch. because I ran out of fabric glue.  (Let’s bow our heads and thank the universe for glue basting.)  But, you know what?  I’m going to wear the shit out of it this summer, I just know it.

It all used to line up, I promise!
It all used to line up, I promise!  The buttons screwed everything up.
Before the buttons of horror and woe.
Before the buttons of horror and woe.  Collarbands, button of waistband, and hem lined up.  GAH.

Plus, after I put the buttons on, the pattern in the front just stopped matching up.  Don’t get me started on how every single thread I snip seems to have a dozen more rise up to come to its funeral.

Waistband of doom
Waistband of doom.  The placket is not smushed, it just doesn’t overlap all the way.

And the waistband!  It actually, believe or not, lines up when I line it, the collarband, and the hem up, but because one side is 1/8″ larger than the other (for serious).  But!  The buttonholes ruined everything.

And speaking of good old Bernina buttonholes:

That old Bernina buttonhole.
Perfection.  (And, yes, the collarband is symmetric in real life.  Miracle of miracles.)

My machine went ape on the last one, which happened to be the uppermost buttonhole.  APE.

This gets me to thinking about the Coletterie post on being a beginner.  Now, there is a part of me that thinks this is a gender thing, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it is a U-shaped curve.  True, rank beginners, in my experience, tend to be really confident.  As in, “I’m going to make an evening gown on a Saturday” confident.  Some people can do that, sure, but it takes a while to know your strengths, and to actually sew rather than simply put together a wearable-enough garment.  Then, after a while, you start realizing that it’s not that easy.

Then, you see really good sewing.  I mean, really good home sewing.  Then, you realize that your stuff just isn’t that.  At the same time, you’ve got the cacophony of sewing noise, the Susan Khaljes (who is still mean in my head, I don’t care what you all say), the Threads features.  You start really looking at your department store finds, and not just comparing your stuff to the goods at Forever 21.  This, friends, is the nadir.  The quitting point, even.  Some people get so discouraged here that they either stick themselves in a playpen, never to expand their skills outside of pinking and a whole bunch of the same garment, or they just flat-out quit.  Others see this as a challenge.

All of a sudden, after a really long time pounding at it, you lift up your head and see.  Hey, your topstitching isn’t that bad.  Same goes for your hand-stitched hems.  What’s that over there?  Is that a welt pocket?  You did that without a second thought?  Yeah you did.  And up that little ladder you climb.

I think that a lot of people end up in the doldrums, and either keep that doldrums mindset as their skills develop, or corral themselves into a certain sort of sewing that does not leave room for a lot of development.  I think I’m in the doldrums right now, and I’m trying to power through with sheer volume and force of will.  But, truth be told, I wonder if that welt pocket moment is going to come.  We can’t all be Ann of the Sewing Bee, can we?  But, should we try?

voyage into the land of eileen fisher

A quick announcement/request before we get started on today’s post.  Does anyone have/is anyone willing to part with this Vlisco fabric?

I’m actually quite surprised that there isn’t a huge Vlisco secondary market, like there is for Liberty, given how many yards you have to buy in one swoop.  I’ve scoured eBay and Etsy, and even reached out to a couple of people who were selling sketchy “inspired” garments, but have come up with nil.  My thesis is on sub-Saharan African gender equality, the textile and apparel eligibility provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and labor force participation, so I’d quite like to present it in this fabric.

Naturally, I would pay you.  In money.  Ain’t none of that hug shit happening here.  (I think I’ve given up on cleaning up the blog, reader.)  Please do let me know, reader.


On to the actual post.  So, due to new medication and old stress, your old Seam Ripped is considerably rounder than she was this time last year.  Last October, I measured in at around 40-30-41, and now we’re around 42-32.5-44.  Perhaps I spend far too much time on the Internet, but it sometimes seems as if everyone is either rapturously in love with their bodies or providing us with #fitspo.  Meh.  I’m sure a lot of it is performative and self-perpetuating, and not everyone falls at the extrema, but damn it’s a little suffocating.  I’m mildly dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, but I’m addressing it by eating fewer doughnuts.  A surprisingly difficult task, as I live a mere eight blocks away from what, for my money, is the best doughnut shop in DC.  That’s neither here nor there.  I’m also having surgery in a week and a half, and getting shelved from rigorous physical activity for something like a further two-to-four months after that (which is why I am writing this from Charlotte’s House of Mirth, and not the overnight train to Chamonix, sigh).  I’m trying to figure out what this means for sewing.  As of now, it means elastic.

I remember Oprah giving a tour of her closet (note that I cannot, as of this moment, locate my glasses, keys, or wallet), and saying that she has every size in there from an 8 to the land of elastic.  There’s something weird about knowing that your general equilibrium weight is two stone (my favorite unit of measurement ever, ever, ever) less than where you’re sitting and happily slicing into your nice silk.  That said, I’m as uncomfortable with the notion of not cutting into the nice silk as I am with the notion of cutting into it.  Implicit in the act of saving it for “better days,” is the idea that your current body doesn’t deserve it, which is bullshit if I’ve ever heard it.  It runs completely orthogonal to all but two things that I believe in.  The two mischief makers?  There are better ways to spend time than doing alterations.  Thou shalt not cut into the good fabric if you foresee waste or unavoidable calamity.

There’s also the secondary issue of what your larger-you style looks like.  My true style self is a weird cross between eccentric, 1970s billionaire and disgraced politician’s second wife.  I want knuckle-sized earrings and garish prints on one day, and tasteful low-rent Jackie Kennedy khaki Halston with closer-to-God hair the next.  With the larger size wardrobe, I’ve been making a lot of solid knits.  I’ve been so bloody bored of them, a lot of them remain unfinished.

We’ve had the discussion about style, and figuring out what one’s style is.  When I had an enormous abdominal tumor, I wore vintage-style dresses with dish plate-size flowers.  It seemed subversive, to have a wildly non-traditional figure juxtaposed with such a traditional silhouette.  While intellectually, I thought that in my solid knits I was sewing versatile basics for work and size fluctuations, I wonder if maybe there’s something else at play.  Maybe part of this whole equation is the desire to not be noticed?

[Long aside: I was at Patagonia in Georgetown the other day, trying desperately to buy a ski jacket.  I walked in—it was a hair more crowded than usual—and tried to find some help.  [crickets]  “Excuse me, could you—”  “I was hoping to—”  “Pardon, but do you know—”  All of the sales associates seemed to beeline past me, to other customers, as I was talking.  One, and sometimes two, sales associates were hanging fleeces kitty-corner and within sight and hearing range of me, and they kept on as I accidentally knocked over a display while helping myself, without even turning my way.   My attempts were intercepted twice, and I had opened my mouth to ask for an associate’s help as he walked past me and asked the woman three feet behind me if she needed anything.  I suppose the most logical explanation is that the Witherspoons of years past ravaged the ancestral village of Yvon Chouinard, and the cool indifference is the product of a centuries old grudge.  Other than that, I’m thinking that I might not dress or behave to get noticed.  I think about the people—women, actually—who managed to wordlessly get the sales associates’ attention as I was trying rather desperately to do just the same thing.  Cool, tall blondes who needed only cock their heads before an associate beelined towards them, and I think about my mother’s ability to go into the shoe section of a department store and get all of the associates swarming her like moths to a flame (while she is in jeans and a t-shirt, no less).  I, meanwhile, always want to stand on a crate and say “WHO DO I HAVE TO [redacted] TO GET HAAAALLLPPP?!”]

I own a tripod, and a camera, but I have decided to keep in the tradition of crappy Seam Ripped photographs.  You’re welcome.

So, I made two more Monetas.  The second one had a wonky waist, and I have to fix a hole that I made while overzealously seam ripping the clear elastic (blog has its name for a reason, y’all), so you won’t see it, outside of the “clear elastic is the devil, whhhhhyyyy?!” Instagram photo.  By the bye, Trixie (my dress form) is always wearing a necklace, which I find curious, because I own several necklaces, but never wear them.  I like the idea of them, and see people like Jenny from Cashmerette and Kelly from True Bias doing the statement necklace thing and think, “That’s so chic.  I shall do that,” then I proceed to do nothing.  They feel so. . .conspicuous? on me.  I only just got over wearing sunglasses outside, though, so don’t take my word for it.

Also, this was my first time twin-needling, and I’m trying to figure out if the tunneling is the product of the unironed stitch witchery, or if I messed up.  I should probably just press the stupid hems to figure it out, but I like a little mystery in my sewing.

Seam Ripped: Now with more litter box and cat tree.  Don't ever say I don't keep it real, reader.  This is a weird, double-faced double-knit from Mood, which I happen to love, but its doing that weird boob flap thing.
Seam Ripped: Now with more litter box and cat tree. Don’t ever say I don’t keep it real, reader. This is a weird, double-faced double-knit from Mood, which I happen to love, but its doing that weird boob flap thing.

Are you bored yet?  Let’s check out the dark and seedy Instagram photo of its twin’s waist.

Ugh.  Clear elastic can officially kiss my grits.
Ugh. Clear elastic can officially kiss my grits.  Also, this looks off-grain, but actually isn’t when it isn’t on the dressform.  (Does that mean it is actually off-grain, but good at hiding it?  Is that a thing?)  I think I pulled it onto Trixie a bit too hastily.

Then, I made M6931, and perhaps ill-advisedly used a lightweight silk (I’d hesitantly call it a lightweight crêpe de Chine or a heavier georgette).  I underlined it with a slightly heavier crêpe de Chine, and now I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in it.  Not good.

Ignore the fact that the squares are uneven.  I haven't tacked down the waistband, and overtucked that one piece when I was trying to see how things were shaping up.
Ignore the fact that the squares are uneven. I haven’t tacked down the waistband, and overtucked that one piece when I was trying to see how things were shaping up.

I cut out a Mabel with a turquoise wool double knit from Mood, but got so damn bored just looking at it, I’ve yet to take the forty-five minutes to put it together.  Sigh.

Now, I’m on the hunt for tasteful muumuus.  Up next are Grainline studio’s Alder, McCall’s 6885 and 6952, Vogue 1236 (I feel like this was OOP at one point?  I’ve owned it for six years, and have only used it once, woefully).  Maybe the Sewaholic Saltspring, but I’m not 100% sure.  I’m shocked by how reticent I am to shell out real money for patterns, when my threshold is so much higher for fabric.  I suppose it’s because fitting skills and a good eye for drafting can help patterns, and because the Big Four make available some truly good (I know, I am one of five people who think this), affordable patterns for my student budget.  Anyhow, find the proposed patterns below, in the above order, clockwise from top left.

Proposed post-surgical schmattas
Proposed post-surgical schmattas

Do you have any other muumuu ideas for my post surgical, paunchy lifestyle?  Should I just say screw it and make a caftan?

the things i do for sewing, man

I went to G Street Fabrics last Friday.  Actually, I went on a Rockville odyssey that involved G Street Fabrics last Friday.  The Falls Church store is way closer, but their rental machine was out, so I had to go to Maryland.  (That is, their machine was out until they called me as I was on my way to Rockville, to let me know it had been returned.  Facepalm.)

I suppose the first thing I should tell you is that I got slapped in the face with a bus door. G Street Rockville is two buses and a train ride away from campus and I got slapped in the face in the home stretch.  See, I was running to catch the bus and turned the corner to board as the driver was closing the doors.  That was my introduction to Rockville.  Charmed, I was!  Then I got lost in a sea of strip malls on the .7-mile hike from bus stop to store.  I like to pretend that it’s because I’m a New Yorker and not because I’m an idiot.  Just go with it.  Finally, after finding a kindly man and his dog on Hoya Street (waiting to find Saxa Road, obviously), I found G Street.

Fun fact: There is a gym above G Street Fabrics but underneath its sign.  Isn’t that confusing?  Just for me?  Awesome.

As I was waiting for them to resurrect the rental form I found this beauty:

An Ascher polished cotton.  Gorgeous print, fabulous colors, $30/yd.  I died.  I am actually writing this from beyond the grave.  It is Ghost Charlotte, I hope you don’t mind.  I will never ever complain about the prices at Paron ever again, amen.  G Street has another $30 cotton that actually costs $5/yd a Fabrics for Less, $4 if you bring my baller mom with you.  I never knew I was a whiny cheapskate until I started sewing.  (I understand why it costs more, I just don’t like it.)

In an uncharacteristic move, I made my way to the discount section in the back, where everything is $2.97/yd.  Much better.  Mama doesn’t dig for fabric, as a rule, but I emerged from the polyester haze with this beauty:

Uneven because it’s on my bed, but isn’t it pretty?  I think I might be alone there.  The woman who cut it out for me looked doubtful.  Hell, I’m having second thoughts.  It’s a heavy-ish canvas with a bit of body.  I thought it would make a nice pencil skirt, but I’m wondering if I can overcome the stiffness and whip up a pleated A-line skirt.  Doubtful, but windmill tilting is the best part of being a beginner.

Nobody puts Bernina in a corner.  Unless it’s getting late and your roommates probably need to relcaim the postage stamp-sized dining table, then maybe.  The 1001 is lovely and just hums along like a dream, even though I think she’s about twenty years old.

Oh, and I muslined the Colette Meringue skirt in a lovely cotton from none other than Kashi.  This is an excellent picture of it, obviously.   The scallops look like fangs, despite my best notchery, so I’m thinking I might follow this tutorial on my next go (which, erm, should be happening right now).

Advice, yo!

Note: It’s midterm season so I’ve completely given up on decency and coherence.  Arguably, that ship sailed a while back, but at least now I have an excuse.

I went home this weekend.  It was absolutely fantastic, no question about it.  I got to show a good friend around Ye Olde Garment District and the madhouse that was Mood.  I’m back in Washington and already jonesing for a trip home.  Now I’m going to boss you around because I need to live vicariously through you.  Game?

– Fabrics for Less and Chic are both owned by the nicest man on the face of the planet (well, maybe he’s tied with Kashi).  For that reason, you should totally go to Fabrics for Less, claw your way to the middle wool clump-type thing near the $15/yd sign and buy some of the wool/cashmere/mink blend coating.  It’s so beautiful I could weep.  I left it behind because I couldn’t decide on color (also my mum tends to negotiate with Balal and I am just the worst at that sort of thing).  They have midnight blue, forest green, and camel.  Do I have photographs for you?  What do you think I am, some type of blogger?  I’m hoping they have enough of the camel left for when I come back home around Thanksgiving, but I sense it won’t last that long.
– I can not, shall not, will not ever go to Mood on a Saturday ever, ever again so help me Claire Shaeffer.  In the midst of the madness, there was a woman with a DSLR shooting macros of fabric bolts and notions at all sorts of angles.  Ladies and gentlemen, she is a Blogger—Capital-B badge-wearing and all.  I am someone who requires smelling salts when there are more than three people in my immediate vicinity.  Lo siento, reader.
– This all has a point.  I have taken photographs a few hundred miles away from Trixie and my mama’s camera.  What does this mean, you ask?  I am an absolute Luddite and am not in any way willing to buy a camera.  At least I wasn’t until I tried to photograph this dress in my roommate S.’s wee Target mirror with various lighting combinations.  Bathroom, bedroom, desk, and staircase lights were all in play; I’m sure roommate #3 thinks I’m a nut.  Now I’m actually considering taking the plunge into cameraland like one of those people who isn’t mortally afraid of electric outlets.  In the mean time, I have crappy photographs, but need uncrappy advice.  Ready to see the subject?  Let’s hit it:

And so I had a brilliant idea.  Simplicity 2444 on the top with Simplicity 2215 on the bottom.  You might know these patterns by their alternate names, Best Bodice Ever and Best Skirt Ever.  I used this blue eyelet from Chic Fabrics.  (It’s still there, and was the only eyelet they had in stock as of Saturday, 6 October,  $7/yd.)  I had a second brilliant idea (I am full of them) and decided to fully line the dress in the standard batiste.  Instead of underlining the eyelet, I used the eyelet as a shell and did some creative-for-me lining insertion.  Now I find myself with a bit too much bulk around the pleating at the midsection.  When the outer bits were just a shell, the skirt fell better and the pleats were more defined.  Now they’re just rather stiff and bulky.

The color in this photograph is much closer to the real thing, I think.  Notice the bulge?  It’s partially me (gastrointestinal turmoil, for the win), but partially the lining.  (Yes, I’m on the telephone with my mum discussing what to do with the dreaded lining.  Yes, it’s super professional.)  I sewed the lining bodice to the shell by sewing the shoulder seams for lining and bodice respectively, then stitching the neck and arm holes right side to right side, flipping the whole thing right-side out, then stitching all four side seams so that they face another seam.  Then, I inserted the zipper leaving a bit of space so that I could attach the skirt shell and lining in two big old circles, again with the ugly bits facing one another.  (I should make a career out of describe sewing processes, I know.)  If I nixed the skirt lining completely, I could just seam rip that circle, hem up the bottom bit of the bodice lining and anchor it to the shell around the bias-taped midsection seam, I think.  Maybe.  Sort of.  But then what would I wear underneath it?  Would it be weird to just toss on a nude-for-me slip with a bodice that’s lined in cobalt?

Also, there’s the matter of the pocket bulge that won’t quit.  I could always either close up the pockets or rip them out in favor of a fabric with a bit less body.

Looking over these admittedly awful photos, I realize I don’t think it looks too bad.  At least not as horrid as I think it does in person.  Now I have to go study.

The saga will continue.  Eventually.  We hope.

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.


The Internet made this dress, then my mama ruined it.  Well, kind of.   I literally saw the fabric over at Male Pattern Boldness around the same time that Gertie made McCall’s 6503 then marched on down to the apparently-not-closing-anymore H&M Fabrics/It’s a Material World to make something happen.  I mean, a rose print Ascher polished cotton fashioned into a pullover dress?  Come on.  The dress basically made itself.

So I was swanning around on my weekend back home, trying to get into a good pose with this baby on.  I got in front of the bookcase and made faces.  I stood before the mirror.  I even tried leaning on a bare wall.  I listen to myself saying it, then I say it without listening, then I hear it without saying it.*  My mum (and photographer) started making faces, too.  God, it’s contagious.

The faces gave way to outright laughter.  (My posing, it sucks.)  “You look like a maid.”  Sigh.  A maid and a housekeeper are two different people; at least she recognizes that.  The more I look at this dress, even on dear old Trixie, I have to agree that it is has a certain 1960s domestic look about it.  Maid or housewife, it works either way.  Care to see?

She’s only missing the feather duster and glint of domestic despair in her eyes, no?

She could totally be caught holding a freshly shaken martini for some frazzled, behatted ad-man husband, methinks.  I don’t know if other people who sew that “sort of vintage, sort of Zooey Deschanel cutesy” look are confronted with this problem, too.  I would totally wear it but then spend oodles of time wondering if I’ve crossed the line into costume territory.  Then again, does anyone really care about how an individual chooses to dress?  For the serious.  Will I get treated differently in this dress than I would in something from J. Crew?  Ponder.

Shall we talk about the actual physical pattern now?  Let’s.  It was easy.  Full stop.  The end.  Have a nice evening, ladies and gentlemen.  Do try the veal.  No closures, no pleats, two darts.  The ruffle was the hardest part.  Specifically, the gauging of size and scale.  Once I got a handle on that, everything else seemed to come together quite nicely.  I’m not quite sure I would make this again.  Sure, it is a pretty dress.  No one is arguing otherwise.  But it is very specific.  Then again, I think that it might look just a bit less precious in a solid, neutral-ish fabric like navy.  Do you have thoughts?

I have an upper body.  Trix doesn’t (poor baby).  So the lumpy bits are generally smoothed when on.  Also, I did not style the old girl as I was on a bus pointed southward when this was taken (you thought I was lying when I said my mum was my photographer?  Death to cameras!).  Generally, the collar is a bit more spread out when the garment is worn, but this is it.

I’m not sure what to call this.  I’ll just go with Super Rad 1960s Person-Who-Probably-Dusts Dress and call it a day.  What, too complicated?

*From the brilliant Billy Collins, in case the italics and hyperlink aren’t sacrifice enough for Ye Olde Copyright Lords.  Oddly, with the meter of the sentences before it, my mind just slipped into “Japan” and out this came.  Yes, I am insufferable.

manic muslin

It’s the middle of the day and I’m in bed with hot water and lemon.  I’m not sick; I’m just letting my mind wander as I take a break from blood-boiling bureaucracy.  I don’t have time for righteous indignation during the semester since my whole life descends into a jumble of lists and schedules.  Best take advantage of the privilege now, I guess.

In an effort to cool off, I’m trying to figure out whether I’ll get a job-job after graduation or if I’ll apply to law school and/or grad school.  I’m fantasizing about personal statements and interviews.  I’m trying to figure out what all to pack for this week.  (I had my own apartment in New Haven and packed everything, but now I live with three other girls and am determined to only bring six weeks worth of stuff.)  I’m trying not to think about whether student health insurance is worse than freelancer’s insurance, as nobody wins in that game.  You know what else I’m thinking about?  My muslin.  (Beautiful segue, I know.)​

This is Vogue 8723.  A very easy pattern, indeed.  (Though I didn’t line the muslin.)​  I put this on last night and asked my mum what she thought.  I quote, “That color looks lovely on you, dear.”  Me: “It’s just a muslin.  I’m going to rip it apart in a few hours.  Do you have any notes on fit?”  Her: “Why wouldn’t you wear that outside?  It looks darling.  Except for the straps.  What’s with the straps?”

Sigh.  I wonder how sew-speak sounds to non-sewers (or rank beginners).  The other day she told me she really liked a fabric in my stash.  I said it was just fabric for a muslin.  She commented on how she’d never felt cotton muslin ​so soft.  Gadzooks!  (Hey, I’m bringing it back.)  I worry about her projects when I leave.

8723 is plain and pretty.  I think that fabric choice will be key.  I’m always worried about skidding into to twee territory.  I like full-skirted dresses and fun prints so it’s very difficult to not look like I’ve lifted my look from a six-year-old’s closet.​

I’m off to a) finish my McCall’s 6503 muslin, b) cut out the fashion fabric​ for both dresses, and c) find some mustard yellow wool suiting for a pair of cropped trousers.  Exciting stuff.

i don’t know why the belt is there, either

So much to say, so much to say.  I’m going to break it up and schedule it out.  I probably shouldn’t blather on about the whats and whys, but I am a chronic over sharer.  Want to see my alleged works in progress?  Tally ho!​

This is Simplicity 2215 in an amazing cotton I scored from Gorgeous Fabrics somewhere around the dawn of time.  It falls far better on my body than it does on Trixie, for I have narrower hips and shoulders, actual breasts, and am generally shaped differently than the dear old dress form.  Sadness.​

I can’t for the life of me figure out if the bodice is really uneven.  It is uneven in this photo, but it is also sans buttons and too tight for Trix.  Whenever I manually straighten it out, it looks fine.  I imagine that buttons have the effect of a manual tug.

Also, she’s unhemmed.  I shortened the bodice by an inch, as my muslin’s bodice was comically long, but now ​I wonder if I took it too far.  Only the hem will tell.

The real reason I put this dress on the form, other than ​to figure out why the damn zipper is having some sort of personal crisis (aren’t we all?), was to figure out the color and quantity of buttons.  I tried using quarters but found the size a bit garish.  I used dimes and they drowned in the print.  Then I pulled a button from my jar and the size and medium seemed to work.

​I think brass might just be the ticket.  The pattern calls for four buttons, but that would look absurd on my frame.  I’m thinking six or maybe five.

Now, to unpick the zipper and measure yet again.  We won’t even go into how long I’ve been working on this project, reader.  I wouldn’t be able to handle it.​

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.


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.

who are those capable people, anyway?

I can’t make any decisions.  From the title of this blog to the use of my fabrics, I just waffle away.  (Seriously, though.  The Stitch, really?  Doesn’t that sound far too much like I’m positioning myself as an authority rather than a bungler?  Ripped Stitches is more like it.)  I have tons of posts in draft mode, but I haven’t finished any of the projects to which they’re attached.  Not to mention, I’ve suddenly lost all ability to insert an invisible zipper, which is usually my favorite part.  I’ve decided to just go with it.  Care for an example?

I have two Simplicity 2215s dresses that are almost done.  One needs a zipper, and both need buttons.

The first is with a black-and-white printed Marc Jacobs cotton.  It’s from Fabric Mart, so I’m not thoroughly invested in its future.  The question is about button size.  How much is too much?  The pattern calls for four 1/2″ buttons, though that strikes me as odd on a bodice that long.  Six, maybe, or four 3/4″ buttons.  Then again, I can’t quite gauge scale.


See?  It’s a nice, petite print, but I’m not quite sure of how the (black, average-looking) buttons will work out.

I also made it up in this pink ikat that I love.  I am not married to button size on this one.  Originally, I was planning on self-covered buttons, but that might be a bit much.  Maybe solid, hot pink fabric-covered buttons?  What about the exciting world of brown?  Leather or wood or metal?
Pink Ikat Fabric Buttons

I just can’t decide, so these projects live in limbo with the dress that refuses to just take a darn zipper, the one for which I haven’t topstitched the arm facings (I can’t decide whether or not I want sleeves), and the one that just sits there all cut out and basted with a missing sleeve and an off-the-market fabric.  Is there a sewing muse?  A sewing god in some sort of obscure mythology?  Whose candle do I have light, is what I’m asking.

Line drawings from Simplicity, buttons from M&J Trim, awful Photoshopping and even more awful fabric photography by yours truly.  Fin.