Saturday, November 26, 2011

Music to Sew By

I'm in the country this evening. We had rain last night and today. The winter grass is coming up, emerald green. There is no sewing machine here, so I bring hand sewing to work on when I'm here. Maybe some day I'll set up a sewing machine here.

Hand sewing is actually a very calm, soothing activity. I brought the thrift-shop silk suit that I still have not finished taking apart; a pair of  RTW trousers that are still wearable for working in the garden, but for the relaxed elastic at the waist; and the Batman top, which still has some buttons to sew on (no, I have not given up on the Batman top -- I was merely delayed, because it turned out that the jacket pattern is for a reversable jacket -- I ordered some black satin for the reverse side).

Pour Quoy is one of my favorite compositions of Tielman Susato. Here is another version I'm fond of: and another very fine one on the virginal (this time only one musician rather than a duet) .

I know this is terribly off-topic for a sewing blog, but I want to remember where to find this video of a woman playing the harp and singing. If I don't embed it here, I fear I'll lose track of it.

I cannot resist one more. I love Sefardic music, especially the love songs. This one was inspired by the Song of Songs of King Solomon.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lois Hinse Kimono Jacket

I'm using Lois Hinse's kimono jacket pattern. The main part of this jacket is made from a very loosely woven wool that I imagine might be somewhat like woolen garments worn by medieval European peasants. Here's an example of homespun wool offered for sale this very day by Faserhaus:

My fabric, however, is machine-woven. It's an excellent insulator and so will be perfect to wear on a cold day. Unfortunately, it's also very scratchy, so I have no choice but to line it. I'm making a Bemberg rayon lining. 

For the collar I used upholstery fabric. I'm quite pleased with the jacket so far. I still need to hem it and insert the lining, and probably shoulder pads, which are optional. I've really enjoyed making this -- the instructions that came with it made it all very easy. The pattern was for an unlined jacket. I cut a lining from the same pattern pieces as the jacket, with an added pleat in the back for wearing ease.

I avoid shops on Black Fridays, but I did stop by Saks earlier this week and had them set aside a jacket, which I called in and paid for today, at a deeply discounted price. I feel somewhat guilty for buying a jacket, as though I should be making stuff, not buying RTW. I assuaged my guilt by telling myself I can learn something useful from the construction details of the jacket. Not that I plan to take it apart any time soon! Here's a photo of the jacket from online. Of course it doesn't look quite as good on my aging body as on this model, but still ... 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Weekend freedom from work gives me a chance to catch up on interesting blogs.

I got this from a comment by Joanne (Stitch and Witter blog) posted on Tilly's blog (Tilly and the Buttons). Joanne got it from Amanda, who was quoting Ira Glass, host of This American Life, which is one of my favorite radio shows. Mr. Glass is talking about making videos, but what he says applies to any creative work.

To summarize:

1. Be aware that when you're a beginner, you'll go through a period of time (years) when your stuff isn't all that good;

2. To get better, you have to keep working hard;

3. Give yourself deadlines -- for example, one project per week.

This is such good advice, and comes at such a perfect time for me, when I need inspiration, that I'm going to take the liberty of repeating it once again here, so I can be sure to find it next time I get discouraged.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giving the Student Encouragement

Both gamblers and students need to acheive small successes from time to time, to keep them going. With this in mind, I took a break from the dreaded Batman top and gave myself an easy project today, a project that provided almost instant gratification.

This is a Christine Johnson tee shirt pattern.

This tee could be called a wearable muslin, because my ultimate goal is to make this tee in silk jersey. But it's much more than a muslin. I used very light-weight rayon jersey, and in this loose fitting tee, it's like wearing a gentle spring breeze. The intended purpose of this tee is night wear. It's easily the most comfortable nightwear garment I own, perhaps the most comfortable I've ever owned. From laying out the pattern to the final stitch, it took only about an hour to make it. I sewed and finished all the seams in one pass of the serger and didn't bother with hems. It's so comfortable that after I tried it on (great fit) I couldn't bear to take it off. 

I wish I knew exactly what sort of fabric this is, so I could get more. It would be wonderful to use for camisoles. I keep saying I'm going to start a notebook with detailed descriptions of all fabrics I buy, a swatch attached to each description. So far I have not taken the time to do this, but I really must start.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Not Gonna Let This Top Get Me Down!

I'm probably revealing a deep character flaw here, but I can't stand to be beaten by an inanimate object. After spending a few hours brooding about my major failure with the Batman top, I decided to make a loose fitting unlined (i.e. easy-to-make) jacket to wear over it and cover up the hideous godet in the back.

So after work on my way to the grocery store, I stopped by Joanne Fabrics and picked up some rather pleasant polyester moleskin that's exactly the color I wanted.

I plan to use Vouge 1243 as a pattern for the jacket.

I've never sewn mole skin before, but I've long been intrigued by the name. From time to time I've found dead moles in the garden, and their coats are very soft and velvety, as is this fabric. I generally don't like using polyester, because it doesn't breathe, but at this point I don't care! Anything to salvage the Batman top!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Fifth Alternative

The top looked pretty bad as a jacket, and I could tell it would look at least as bad if I cut it off at the waist. I doubt that anyone would want it if I tried to give it away. That left the scarf alternative. But as I gazed sadly in the mirror, I thought of another possibility -- a godet. Yeah, I know godets are generally inserted in skirts, but why not a top?

I found a video on How To Insert a Godet, and it looked easy. The video also has some nice guitar music at the beginning (it is from a website called Actually, I became quite distracted by the various flamenco videos that showed up. If you like flamenco music, listen to this by Paco De Luci:  and here's a TV documentary on the life of the magical flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya:

Anyhow, back to the godet. Sadly, I didn't have enough fabric left over to make the godet in the same fabric as the top. I had some black silk broadcloth that was of approximately the same weight and a not entirely dissimilar texture.

So I inserted the godet, using the instrcutions in the flamenco skirt video. The process was successful, and the top is now more than roomy enough at the hips to button in the front. The problem is that from the back, it looks very silly. My husband commented that it looks like a Batman costume.
Here it is viewed from in front:

And now the back:

What a terrible failure! I can't even pretend it's a fashion statement. It's just plain ugly! I should have made 3 or 4 small godets instead of one large one. I'm not going to try to rip this one out and do it again. The fabric is too delicate. But I think I'll make another top like this, the same too-small size, and insert 4 small godets in the back. It would look something like this, except I think this dress/top has godets all the way around.:

Hmm ... maybe all the way around would be good. Instead of all one fabric, I think I'll use two different colors ... maybe solid red, and white with red dots, like a flamenco dress. This time, I'll remember the lesson I should have learned a long time ago -- make a muslin first.

Even though the top I'm working on now is a failure, all is not lost. It will look OK with a jacket. The bright point of all this is that I learned a couple of new things, for the cost of my time and about $17 worth of fabric. Plus, I found the website of a very interesting woman, Anke Hermann. It was her video I watched to learn how to make a godet. From her website:   In 2004, after years of working in Information Technology as a programmer I decided to leave the corporate world behind and turn a dream into reality: to combine two passions of mine - sewing and flamenco - as a dressmaker for flamenco artists. Now, my clients include flamenco schools, flamenco dance companies as well as numerous flamenco dancers and students 

After so many benefits, being able to actually wear the top is gravy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rayon Top

I'm making the long-sleeved version of Vogue 1071, copyright 1993.

I still need to put on the cuffs, top stitch around the edges of the top, make button holes, and sew on the buttons. From the project, I'm learning how to make sleeves with pleats and cuffs at the bottoms. I'm also learning to handle a rather delicate rayon challis (I bought it from Vogue Fabrics). I was quite pleased with the top until I tried it on (belatedly, alas, after I'd already cut and sewn it). I sort of forgot that when garment extends over the hip area, even if it's a top, the size in the hip area must be larger than my hips. I forgot the lesson I was supposed to already have learned -- measure for size & try on the pattern before cutting the fabric. So I don't get a passing grade on this one.

At this point, I can think of four alternatives: (1) give the top to someone with smaller hips than mine, or donate it to Goodwill; (2) cut the top off just below the waist; (3) wear the top as a light-weight jacket, with the front open; (4) cut up the top and make the pieces into a scarf. I think I'll probably choose (3) and wear a silk tee under it. One of the things that appeals to me about the style is the length.

Although I had planned to make a woolen jacket next, I'm going to make this top again instead. This time, I'll make sure it fits properly.

In April when I first decided to learn how to sew, I had no idea I would also need to learn about fashion. I knew the importance of color and style, but my original plan was to make whatever garemnts I felt like, regardless of current fashion trends. Lately I've been spending more and more time looking at fashion websites. I've even subscribed to Harper's Bazaar. I still don't feel compelled to conform to currently popular styles, but it's fascinating to see what the designers are coming up with.

Monday, November 7, 2011

More Fashion

I love the spring 2012 fashions that are being shown, for example, in Paris. I long to improve my sewing skills so I can see an outfit and figure out how to make it. In a way, seeing these beautiful clothes is discouraging, because I have such a long way to go. But it's also inspiring. Some, like the one below, would be difficult to do, because the fabric is unique.

But some, such as below, would be possible for a talented person:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Knit Pants

These pants were made using Butterick 4348, a "vintage" pattern from the 1990's. I made the leggings in the large size, which means they hang a bit loose on me. The result is a very comfortable pair of pants.

More thoughts about wearing high heeled shoes ... in the top photo, I'm standing on the balls of my feet, as I would be if I were wearing high heels. In the second photo, I'm standing with my weight distributed across the full surface of both feet.

Putting the weight on the balls of the feet decreases the apparent size of the hips by a couple of sizes, pulls in the stomach, and increases the girth of the calf muscles. No doubt about it -- the high heel posture is highly flattering.

So I wonder if one could somehow adopt a high-heel posture without standing on the balls of one's feet ... perhaps if one's muslces were strong enough ...

For inspiration, here's a photo of Joseph Pilates at age 82. He didn't need no stinkin high heeled shoes.

Rib Knit Top

This is one of the quick projects I've been working on while also doing a more time-consuming lined jacket.

There's plenty wrong with this top. The bottom hemline stretched when I topped stitched it. The sleeve opening needs to be a bit deeper. The bust darts need to be smaller. Instead of ripping out, which I've found is very unpleasant with stretch knit fabric, I'm going to wear the top as-is. If I go public with it, I'll wear a jacket over it to hide the wrinkles under the arms. Despite its shortcomings, it's comfortable, and the color is good.

This was made from Vogue 8151. I used fabric left over from another project. There was not quite enough fabric, so I had to shorten the sleeves and the top itself.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fashion - Shoes

I've had an interest in fashion, as art, for as long as I can remember. When I was in my late 30's and early 40's I took time off from working as a lawyer so I could spend more time with my daughter. One of the things I did to earn a living during this time was to make and sell dolls, and one of my favorite parts of doll-making was designing the costumes. The dolls were from various periods in history. I gave each one a name and wrote a short biography to go with him or her. Most of the dolls had accessories -- for example, a Celtic woman from Gallia Narbonensis, before the Roman Gallic wars, had a basket made of reeds, and a wooden walking stick.

Anyhow, I loved studying the history of fashion and doing my best to capture the old styles for the dolls, and I love looking at fashion magazines such as Vogue and W, but my desire to be comfortable has always limited my ability to dress myself stylishly. 

One major fashion-fail has been my refusal to wear high heeled shoes. When I was young, I considered my feet to be one of my most beautiful features. They were strong, sturdy feet with excellent arches and lovely smooth skin. I went barefoot or wore sandals whenever I could. I remember seeing my mother's feet when I was a kid -- they were wrecked from wearing high heeled shoes -- she had horrible sores on her heels, and corns on her toes, and her toes were all squished together. They were quite disturbing to me, my mother's feet -- she was a young woman at the time, too. Although I don't recall consciously thinking of my mother's feet when I bought shoes as a young woman, I surely must have been at least somewhat influenced by my negative reaction to them. 

The current shoe fashions are disheartening. Despite the generally available knowledge that high heeled shoes can cause permanent damage to the feet, knees, hips, and spine -- not to mention the danger of falling; despite the horrible pain of trying to walk with one's feet in such unnatural positions, women seem to love to wear them. Some people say it can be explained by each woman's need to compete with other women for the attention of men. High heels make women's legs look longer, make their busts and butts protrude -- in general emphasize their female sexuality. But I don't think that's the whole of it. Women also judge each other according to clothing choices. I was amazed at some of the vicious comments I saw on the
Corporette website -- women making disparaging comments about other women who wear ... shudder ... panty hose that are darker than their skin tone, or who make other equally unfashionable choices. 

The thing that really depresses me, though, is that wearing high heels seems to be almost as mandatory as foot binding was in China during the period when women without severely deformed "lotus" feet were considered unworthy as wives, and thus pretty much unworthy as humans. Women in most "developed" countries these days have choices other than marriage. But it appears that one's career choices may be limited if one decides to forego wearing high heeled shoes in favor of having a healthy musculo-skeletal system. Being able to wear high heeled shoes is so important to women that they are willing to undergo surgery to adapt their feet to the shoes. See Plastic Surgery - Are Feet the New Nose? 

There are a few notes of encouragement out there, though.
Gisele Bundchen refused to wear ultra-high heels on the runway. Referring to women injuring themselve with high heels, Maria Cornejo said, "That’s just sad, you know? It’s boys dressing women. I’m sorry — they don’t have to wear the **** shoes. It’s quite abusive. Because, you know what? We have to run around and walk, and nobody has a chauffeur waiting for them outside. And it really pisses me off and makes me really angry because it’s that boys thing about making women into victims. You know, it’s not nice."  See Maria Cornejo Rebels Against High Heels at the New York Fashion Week

A Detroit lawfirm was sued by a secretary who was required to wear high heels to work and injured her back as a result. The firm settled with the plaintiff (Denise Fitzhenry v Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn).

I read somewhere online that not wearing high heels in the courtroom can be detrimental to the careers of female lawyers, I've done fine in my own practice wearing low heeled shoes. In fact, not only do I wear low heels, I wear comfortable low heels, such as Danskos and Clarks and Merrells. But who knows? Maybe I would have done even better if I'd been willing to bear the pain and damage my feet.

I think it was George Bernard Shaw who made the comment, "If a woman rebels against high heels, she should do so in a very smart hat." That's probably a valid observation. To get away with wearing low heels, I must take care to stay slim and muscular as long as I can, and try to wear very smart clothing. Unfortunately, I have no sense of fashion or style when it comes to dressing myself. But perhaps these things can be learned ...
P.S. My feet are still in pretty good shape, considering they're 62 years old. They can walk for miles without faltering. My legs are OK too, except for the scars where I was mauled by two pit bulls one day while I was out walking. 

Speaking of dogs, as I did to my husband a few minutes ago, here is a limerick he composed on the spot, about a blogging dog:
There was a young girl with a dog
Who wrote on cuisine for his blog.
He enjoyed steak tartare
Or a plate of jugged hare
And then buried his snout in her grog.