Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I make CRAZY mistakes.

Sometimes my friends say to me, "Wow, it's so cool that you make clothes and stuff. I wish I could do that."  I always try to explain to them that if I can make stuff, so can they.  I really have NO idea what I'm doing and when I DO feel like I'm in control of a project, I tend to make crazy mistakes.  Seriously crazy mistakes.  The sort of things that I should know not to do by now.  It's maddening.  Most of the time I can fix things but when I can't it's so frustrating!

For example, I just completed a two piece outfit using some pink suiting I had lying around.  I originally bought the suiting to make a full skirt, but then realized that it was way too stretchy for that sort of project.  Disaster averted!  Almost.  I used the pattern below.

It did not go well.

Unfortunately, I didn't take into account just HOW how stretchy my fabric is. With a fabric this stretchy the fit needs to be just right or you get all sorts of weird wrinkly bits that stretch out and sag with wear.  Instead of really thinking deeply about what to do I simply took the completed trousers in by about an inch all round, which did not work at all. 

Now they kind of fit but the legs are too narrow and the hems ride up my calves when I walk or sit.  Meanwhile the waist sits a little low, accentuates my belly, and stretches in this weird way whenever I sit down.  I could deepen the darts but my stitches are TINY and the seam ripper goes right through the fabric like a hot knife through butter. 

I'm trying to convince myself that these pants are done, but I am very sad about them.  Mostly because this is a fail that could have been avoided if I'd taken my fabric into consideration and adjusted the pattern before I cut it.  I should have used a stitch length that could have been easily picked out. 

Believing I'd eventually come up with a solution, I went ahead and made the matching top.  It was SUPER easy to cut out and whip together and I got a chance to use my new buttonhole attachment which makes PERFECT button holes.  I mean really perfect. You just get everything lined up and the attachment does all the work.  I love it SO much!

Look at those perfect buttonholes!

BUT after I was essentially finished with the top, button holes on, trim attached, top stitching completed, I realized that I'd stitched the shoulders together UPSIDE DOWN!  Fail!  Sigh.  This is the sort of thing that if  I'd been paying attention, I should have been able to avoid.  Now how the heck am I going to pick this out?

This distracted sewing has GOT to stop.  I had planned to wear this outfit in Vegas, but I don't think I'll be able to fix these problems in time.  If at all.  It just breaks my heart.

Whats a careless and ditzy sewist to do?  Ugh.  I just don't know.  Do you ever make stupid crafting mistakes? Do you throw away imperfect projects or do you keep trying to make them work?  Do you have a "pile of shame" for UFOs that you can't stand to pitch but can't fix either?  How do you stay focused?

While I try to figure out how to fix this sewing disaster....please enjoy this clip from Bye Bye Birdie.  So many matchy pants and top sets in bright colors! I really do love this look!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Found Objects

There is a strange phenomenon in Fogville and it's surrounding cities.  The hubs likes to call it the Sidewalk Lending Library.  From time to time people will put excellent stuff out on the sidwalk for others to take, partly because it's too much trouble to have it taken away by a charitable organization or sell on Craigslist  (silly, lazy people), but also because most of the time someone will come and take your stuff within an hour or two.  (Of course, this really only works if you live in a neighborhood with lots of foot and car traffic.  Otherwise those beautiful things just end up getting ruined.)  I've gotten 1970s lucite bar stools, a mid-century morrocan hanging lamp, a repro 60s bubble chair, vintage clothes (from a clean box marked "free" and all items were immediately laundered), a fully functional 1960s stereo cabinet and many other really wonderful things this way. 

Let me tell you about my latest find!

I have loved "elevator" and "mood" music ever since high school.  Back then I had no job and a teensy allowance and pretty much everything I owned came from thrift stores, including records.   Initially, I was fascinated by the ridiculous/amazing album covers but I gradually fell in love with the music.  When I'd make cassette tapes to play in the car, Side A would be The Cramps or The Clash (borrowed from a friend) but I'd put Harry Belafonte or Frank Sinatra on Side B.   Even now, when my friends are digging through flea market racks hoping for rare rockabilly singles, I am looking for 101 Strings, Alfred Apaca, and Irving Fields.  I may hang with the swingin' rockabilly kids, but I have the musical taste of a 1950s or 60s conservative adult: totally L7.  So you can imagine my joy when the hubs and I saw this Readers Digest LP Box Set lying on the sidewalk!

Not only is the box un-damaged, but all of the records are present and in perfect condition, and so is all of the additional material!

It even still has the set of stamps that you would use to order additional Reader's Digest collections!

The best item by far is the Pleasure Programmer.

Yes, it's a cardboard slider that allows you to choose which records to play for any given event.  For example, when the boss comes to dinner.

Mind.  Blown.  Now I only wish our living room was this groovy. 

Love that chinoiserie chair in the background! I guess I'll have to keep my eyes on the sidewalk lending library for more super cool stuff.  Have you ever found something irresistable on the street?  What was it? Did you take it home?  Do tell!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Cut My Hair: And I Like It!

I am one of those women who hates getting her hair done.  I'm never really comfortable in a salon. It seems strange to have someone focusing all their energy on me and I get intimidated and shy.  Plus,  my hair is stick straight and kind of puffy and it only really does one thing (look vaguely straggly), no matter how it's cut.  Because of that, it seems that no matter where I go, no matter how much (or how little) I pay, I'm never completely satisfied.

So... I picked up the scissors and cut my own hair.  And you know what? I don't hate it.  All I did was trim my bangs and sort of angle the rest of it into a basic pageboy, but I am super happy with the way it came out. 

I'm loving how easy it is to style: a few minutes with the curling iron and I'm done!  I haven't tried hot sticks or roller setting it yet, but I'm hoping it will come out well.

Unfortunately, I still need to have a bit of the length chopped off.  I'm not quite brave enough to try snipping at the back of my head!  I will probably get that done, by a professional, before Viva, but I'm quite happy with the way the front came out and I would (and likely will) do it again!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Joaniest of Joanies

Well, friends, guess what I've learned?  I've learned that I don't look all that great in shift dresses.  But I love a wiggle dress!  It doesn't get any more Joan Holloway-Harris than this dress.  She's even on the pattern cover.

The person who owned the pattern before me slashed the front and back bodice in half.  Luckily I bought some pattern paper a while back so I was able to trace the split pieces into one.

The only major issue I had was that there is supposed to be a lapped zipper and I just could NOT figure out the instructions.  I inserted the zipper in the usual way with no problem.

And the dress fits like a glove.  Literally.  It's like a second skin.  It's really comfy despite being snug.  Is it too snug?  I don't know.   A lot of my ready-to-wear fits this way.  I don't think I'd be worried about it being too tight if I'd bought it off the rack.  Anyway, I love it and the husband says it's va-va-voom fabulous.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shifty 70s

Working on this 1973 shift dress drove me crazy.

All the problems are my own fault for being impatient and not following instructions to the letter, but still...  It is so frustrating when things don't work!  This one was tossed into (and retrieved from) my sewing trash bin more than once before it was declared complete.

It called for a stretch fabric and I used a woven poly gabardine with only a little give.  The sleeves aren't too tight (for once) and I can move my arms just fine, but the back neck curves up towards my hairline and floats away from my neck in this really strange way.  It might not do that if it was able to stretch properly across the shoulders.

My trusty Husqvarna portable died (permanently this time) mid-sew and I used the Pfaff, which does not have a zipper foot, to complete the dress.   ...why yes, I did attempt to stitch in a zipper with a regular foot.  In case you were wondering, it doesn't really work all that well.

I ended up sewing over the zipper teeth in a few (read: a zillion) places.  In other places the fabric is stitched so close to the zipper that it catches badly.  For a while there the zipper was completely un-usable.  Because I'd stitched it in with extremely tiny stitches and the fabric was fraying like a mo-fo,  ripping the whole thing out and starting over wasn't going to work.  Instead I had to carefully pick out all of the stitches between the teeth with a seam ripper and then tack the zipper down again.  Next time I haven't got the right foot I will sew the zipper in by hand.  I detest hand-picking but it couldn't have been worse than the amount of struggling I had to do to get the zipper to work.  It mostly works now and it doesn't look as bad as I'd feared.

Side Note:  All my seam ripping and crying made my husband feel very bad for me and, as usual he came to my rescue.  He figured out a way to make the old Husqvarna's snap-in feet work on my Pfaff...AND bought me a new vintage Husqvarna machine.  Yay!

Anyway, despite being snug in the shoulders and hips, I still had about 4 inches of extra fabric in the waist.  After re-curving the side seams and adding back darts it looks much better.  It was worth all the suffering and I like the way it came out, but next time when a pattern calls for stretch fabric, I'll use stretch fabric!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Edwardian World's Fair

Mid-January the hubs and I, along with our friends Kristen and Shelly, attended the Edwardian Worlds Fair.  The Worlds Fair is part of a weekend-long celebration of all things Edward Gorey capped off by the Edwardian Ball.  As usual I neglected to bring my camera but you can see event photos at the official website here.  (If you happen to be in Los Angeles, the Edwardian Ball is coming to you on February 19th.)

The hubs and I prefer the Worlds Fair to the ball as it is a bit more relaxed but just as fabulous.  People dress to the nines for both events and the costuming ranges from characters from Edward Gorey books, to Edwardian era styles, to steampunk, to 20s gangster/flapper, to general chappishness, to just way out and drool-worthy lush and louche fantasy ensembles.  More photos here.

The headliner was Professor Elemental and despite the sound system refusing to play his backing music with any kind of consistency, he was wonderful.  He had the crowd chanting along with Cup of Brown Joy.  "When I say Earl Grey you say, Yes Please!"  "Early Grey!" "Yes please!" etc.  Great fun.

I self-drafted a 20s-ish dress by tracing together a 1980s dress pattern and a 1950s blouse pattern and I think it worked out rather well for a first effort.

I should have graded the underarm section a little differently because it sticks out a bit and I probably should have finished the bottom of the drape instead of leaving the selvedge edge.  These are things I can fix at a later date though.

As usual it looks better on the dress form than it does on me.  Naturally I neglected to take any photos until late at night after we'd gotten home from the event.  It's really hard to pose at 1am when you are half asleep.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This Time It's Green

This 1965 pattern is a little more fitted then the last one.

I wasn't too sure about the big bow in the front.  It looks great in the drawings, but I'm not really a giant bow kind of girl.  I ended up attaching it to a pin rather than stitching it to the dress.  It doesn't lie flat which is annoying.

This dress was super easy to put together. The only thing I can't quite figure out is how to iron the collar.  I haven't been able to figure out a good way to get the wrinkles out and still maintain the curve, so it looks a little rumpled.  I will see if the dry cleaner can do anything with it.  If not, it may have to go.

Again, I can't seem to get the waist fitted enough and it's still baggy.  I've intensified the curve in the side seam and deepened the front darts.  All told, I've taken it in by about four inches and, while it does fit better,  I've messed up the way it drapes in the back.  Oh la!  A little more fiddling, I think and it will be fine.  As it is, it's fine to wear to work.