Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas sewing and street style

Well I finally came down with the flu, full-on this time.  I've had small bouts of illness over the winter but Saturday night I started feeling a bit icky and woke up yesterday with a fever and aches and cough and all the rest.  I felt bad enough to stay home from work today though I'll be back tomorrow regardless.

I have to say though that having the Macbook makes being sick so much better!  I watched documentaries all day yesterday when I wasn't napping, and most of today, and I didn't even
 have to move out of bed or off the couch.  And there's a bonus: it keeps me toasty warm.  Very crucial with the flu.

Anyhow I was lucky to get sick after Xmas instead of before, and though I didn't have time to sew everything I wanted to for gifts I got the most important ones done.  Couple weeks before Christmas I cut out the pieces for several small boxy zipper bags and not quite so many shopping bags. 

 I organized all the materials into their own ziploc bags as I do for my projects, and as you can see to the right.  

Then I gradually sewed them up, finishing 2 shopping bags and 1 zipper bag in time for Christmas Day, and getting some others started to send out late or give as gifts throughout the year.

Today I felt marginally better and although I slept most of the day I also did some web 
surfing and online shopping.  First I poked around on in their section on beauty icons, mostly from the past, which I love for finding retro looks and beautiful old photos of starlets and divas of yore.

I am also interested in street fashion blogs, and I rediscovered the Sartorialist and Facehunter and also found links in another blog (can't remember now which) to a blog on stylish older people called Advanced Style which is fab!  I wanted to find some street style from Eastern
 Europe, preferably Warsaw, Prague, or Budapest, but haven't had any luck yet.  
I love that Eastern style, so chic and sort of world weary especially in the winter time, but I haven't seen any street fashion blogs based in those cities exclusively.  I found one or two Moscow sites, but they seem younger or more party-scene-oriented than I prefer.  I also like this Copenhagen blog, but it doesn't seem to have as frequent postings as some.

One of the things I bought was a wrap sweater from Target, as seen here.  My only reservation about it is that I am most likely to wear it when it's cold out, obviously, and I don't know how I can wear a jacket over it very well.  I was hoping to find some images of folks pulling it off but couldn't so far, so if anyone has suggestions please let me know!

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I thought I had posted about this already, but on
 second look it seems not.  While I was procrastinating working on my wedding dress, I decided there was no possible way I could work on something so darn important until I spent, oh, like 10 hours shopping for organizing supplies and then another 5 or so using those supplies to organize my entire sewing area.  Yay!
Now this of course was classic procrastination and avoidance, but it really turned out to be a good idea and made it a lot easier to do the dress--and all my sewing--when I finally got around to it.  which was of course mere days before the wedding itself, but that's no longer important.

I like seeing other people's systems for organizing themselves, so I took some pictures to post here for anyone else who shares my obsession.  Of course it's all very messy again by now, since I've actually been using the space, but for a few brief shining moments it was perfect as pictured here.

The top picture shows the thread holder I hung up above my cutting table which also holds my sewing machine.  I put various zippers, bias tape, hem tape, lace, and ribbon in zip lock bags which I also hung on the extra pegs, and 2 clipboards on the bottom row of pegs to hold pattern instructions for easy reference as I cut or sew.

the bottom picture is of peg board which I hung to the right of the sewing table for all my scissors and rulers and tape measures, etc.  I also left space at the top for zip lock bags with unfinished projects, though I hope to eventually cut back on those by, you know, finishing them.  Or giving up and getting rid of some which I've already done.

Under the table, where you can't see it all, is a laundry basket with mending, a shopping bag with scraps, and some cutting mats and other things too big to hang elsewhere.

vintage buttons

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I went to Calistoga for the day with my friend L. She is not a sewer like me, but she has many obscure interests, and she was a very good companion for the day as it turns out because one of the best things we did, besides drink margaritas and then hang out in the hot tub at Calistoga Spa, was to shop in little antique stores and clothing resale shops.  

I'm pretty sure there are very few people in my life besides L. who would be willing to spend as much time as we did looking at vintage buttons. We went shopping around, and this one really fabulous consignment shop drew us in with promises of sequined caftans and rhinestone clip on earrings and gold lame turbans, but kept us there with a wall of vintage buttons to peruse!

The clothes and accessories were awesomely flashy, just like the kind of things that I could see my dear old Mamaw and her twin Mildred going ga-ga over.  They're no longer with us, but I like referring to them as the Glamor Twins of Marlow, Oklahoma.  They used to wear matching outfits that included plenty of gold lame, normally in the form of appliqued sweatshirts, and they carried gold mesh cigarette cases and wore gold lame wedge mule shoes with clear lucite rhinestoned uppers.  

That was the kind of stuff they had in this shop.  Unfortunately it was all
 either too expensive or too small or too incongruous for me to buy (where would I wear a lame turban?  hm, not quite sure), but we did find vintage buttons that I was interested in, as well as some belt slides (or they could be scarf holders, not sure  yet).

When we told our friends, even our most fabulous friends, that we spent almost an hour pawing happily through old buttons they looked at us like we were insane.  But I don't care.  

I have plans for most of the buttons, as you can see from the fabric that they are pictured with here, and will post more about it all as I get around to it.  I already started on the card print dress which will have the red buttons on it.  That one is a Burda pattern that I've made once before in a cheetah print. 

The wooden ones will go on the pictured plaid, probably in a 1960s or 70s vintage shirtdress pattern I've been hoarding for a little while now.  I'll have more to say about the card print dress, and maybe a couple of other projects I've started planning, in the next post.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

History in the making

History in the making
Originally uploaded by fishbellywhite.
this has nothing to do with sewing (I didn't even wear anything I made for the occasion) but is more important to me than anything else right now.

I also took a picture of my NO vote on Proposition 8 but the print was too small and it didn't come out very well.

I'll be on pins and needles all day long waiting for all the results!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dia de los Muertos dress

I have always been fascinated by Dia de los Muertos.  I like the way it combines mourning with a certain lightheartedness, with sugar skulls and dancing skeletons and visits to the graves of those we've loved.

A few years ago I bought some Day of the Dead themed fabric, and have been planning to make something out of it ever since.  This year I finally got around to it.  I didn't have anything to do for Halloween that warranted a full-on costume, so I wore this instead.  If something that required a costume had come up last minute I would have
just painted my face like a skeleton and gone as one of the skeletons on my dress, but that didn't happen.

It's a duro dress, which is a design that I think lends itself to themes.  I don't normally like to sew theme dresses, because then I feel limited in how often I can wear them and my thrifty nature requires me to only make things that have multiple uses, or at least things that I can convince myself will have multiple uses even if that is just denial on my part.  but this?  I can wear it every year!

So I wore it to work Friday, and got many compliments, particularly from strangers on the Muni train in the Castro.  I would have worn it Saturday too at the Dia de los Muertos
 procession, but it was raining cats and dogs so I didn't go.  Then I wore it again today under my choir robe at All Souls' Day mass where we sang the Mozart Requiem.

I also included a picture of my skull necklace,
 which I bought in San Antonio over 10 years ago at an artsy shop in the King William District which specialized in such things, shortly after I first developed this ongoing fascination with Day of the Dead.  I used to wear it quite a lot, though nowadays I'm only goth on Halloween itself so after today I'll hang it back up on the vanity where it's been for all 4 and a half years we've lived here.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Back on the Blog, and what I learned by sewing my own wedding dress

When last I blogged I had plans to sew every day.  Since almost a year has passed since then it may seem as if I must not have met that goal.  Truth is, I didn't sew EVERY day, but pretty close to it for several months, if not sewing then definitely knitting.  I just didn't blog any of it.  At first because I was making things to give people for Christmas and didn't want to ruin the surprise for anyone by putting it on my blog.  Then, because my computer died.  And then the camera died.  

Plus, I am lazy.  I'll blog if it's easy, but not if it isn't.  Now it is easy again because I got a Macbook which I love more than pretty much anything else I've ever owned, and even though we still haven't replaced the digital camera I figured out how to use the PhotoBooth feature to make images that are plenty good enough for blogging with.

Since then a lot of things have happened, the main thing being that I got married.  I sewed my own wedding dress from Vintage Vogue pattern V2903.  I had these great plans to get it 
all done early and avoid last minute stress, which of course didn't happen at all and I was literally hemming that thing at 2 AM on the morning of the wedding.  

I didn't mind though, I'm pretty much at peace with my procrastination habit and I figure that as long as things that have to get done actually do get done it doesn't matter so much when.

the main drawback was the annoyance of having every single person I encountered ask me every single day during the two weeks before the wedding, "how's the dress coming?" and then react with extreme abject horror when the answer was inevitably oh I haven't started yet but I will soon, don't worry! 

Seriously, people looked at me like I said I had killed a puppy or something and everyone else was 500 times more concerned about it on my behalf than I was.  Including people I hardly even know: the hipster dude who cuts fabric at my fave store, the little old lady who struck up a conversation with me at the bus stop, waitresses at the rehearsal dinner restaurant, everyone.

I will admit to feeling that if I had given myself more time I might have been able to make it into a more flattering fit, but everyone I've mentioned that to says I'm crazy and it looked great so whatever.

I learned a LOT by making the dress myself.  Technically I didn't do it all on my own; my friend Carrie who is a dressmaker and has been sewing for longer than I've been alive helped me out, and having someone actually show me how to do things that before I'd only ever taught myself from books or websites made a huge difference.  Here are the things I learned for the first time, or learned how to do a whole lot better than I knew before:
  • Making and fitting a muslin: before I'd been too lazy to do this, but it wasn't hard at all and didn't take as long as I feared.  I still won't be likely to make muslins all that often, but now I won't avoid doing it if it's a project that really calls for it.
  • Installing an invisible zipper: this is one of those things I had always thought would be difficult but it was so super easy that I only want to do invisible zippers in pretty much everything from now on!
  • Using bias tape to finish the arm opening: I wanted to make the dress without the sleeves, and wouldn't have known how to make this work without help.  Carrie showed me how to finish the raw edges with bias tape, which before I had only ever used as a decorative trim, not as a way to smoothly and invisibly finish a raw edge.
  • Clipping curves: this one feels so dumb and simple when I think about it now, but I never truly understood what the instructions meant when they said to do this!  now I do, which is great because I tend to like designs with princess seams or other curved lines and it is much less challenging for me now to make these things work for me
Besides learning this stuff, working with Carrie helped me get a better sense of what parts of a project to spend lots of time on and what's safe to let go of.  For example I normally like to have very nice finished seams on the inside of my garments, french seams usually, but given the time constraints and the fact that I'm unlikely to wear this dress more than the one time it was nice to be able to give myself permission to just not worry about that.

Also, turns out I've gotten much better at sewing in general and I totally don't need to use as many pins as I have been.  Things do come together just fine without all the overthinking and fretting I'm usually in the habit of doing.

Overall, it was a great experience to have, and I am so very proud to have sewn my own wedding dress.  It gave me a great deal of confidence that I'll take with me when doing other, much less momentous sewing projects.  I'm at the point now where I pretty much sew an outfit for myself for every special occasion, whether it's formal or casual, a once in a lifetime event or just a day trip or regular old garden party or holiday celebration.  I intend to post about this much more often now and share my crafting fun with whoever is interested enough to check in on this blog.  Enjoy!