Sunday, March 9, 2014

An accidental cropping and a lesson in learning to love mistakes

Oh, Albion.  You and I have had our ups and downs for sure.  It was love at first sight for me.  You were more complex than I first gave you credit for.  You were stubborn at times, I didn't always understand you and I made mistakes, many, MANY mistakes but, in the end, it was all worth it.  So, without further ado, here is my Colette patterns Albion. 

It's a coat full of firsts.  First outerwear, first time working with wool (which I love), first time working with plaid, first time making adjustments to a pattern, sewing welt pockets and the list goes on and on. I actually intended to make something solid initially, maybe with some color-blocking (I even have the navy and camel wool so I may still sew another) but fell in love with this fabric at Mill End and had to have it. Everything started out pretty peachy. I did make a muslin shell of V.1 and chose to do some of the adjustments in the companion guide (narrowed the shoulders by an inch and brought in the waist about 2 inches for some definition) but otherwise stuck to the XS.  My muslin was feeling a teeny bit iffy in the hip area but seemed ok.  Once I started sewing the actual fabric I was ultra careful with checking the fit EVERY step of the way.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I finished sewing the lining to the facings, put the coat on and cried when it suddenly would. not. fit. around. my. hips.
So, I cropped it.  I didn't really like the long version anyway.  Something about the plaid lines, my lack of height and hippy hips just didn't work together.  And I am happy to say, I like the short version so much better.

I added welt pockets last minute because the patch pockets looked too bulky and it was too late for inseam pockets.  They were surprisingly easy but I made mistake number 1,438 with them and they ended up too close together, but there is no going back from that!  I omitted the hood tab because of itchiness.  The toggle tabs (is that what they're called?) were crafted with two pieces of the wool sewn together and then hand-stitched on.  I hemmed the coat with a hand-stitched catch stitch. I added sleeve heads (what a difference those make!) and set them using the technique outlined in Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing.  

  The flannel lining combined with the wool makes for a very warm coat so, sadly, I may not be able to wear it until next fall as we have been having 60 degree days here in Portland!  The flannel looks white in the photos but the actual color (more of a greyish lavender) matches the lightest color in the coat pretty well.  Speaking of matching, check out my plaid skills!

Overall, it's been quite the adventure.  I love what the coat ended up being and can't wait to wear it! As usual, Colette patterns did a beautiful job and the Sewalongs website has been so helpful as well as the Facebook group.  I love the online sewing community and am looking forward to getting more involved. This project was the perfect partner to the Wardrobe Architect posts I have been reading.  I am trying to hone in on my personal style and how to sew with that in mind.  As a beginner, I can count the number of things I've made on both hands.  The items that I have sewn that I wear in my daily wardrobe?  Zero. I try to take the positive route and realize that with each new thing I made I am increasing my skills and experience...but I also want to make pretty things I will wear and be proud of. This coat may be the first but it won't be the last.  I will do another blog post going more in depth about all this next week as well as my first foray into knits!  But enough talk, here are some more photos.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Like a virgin...matching plaids for the very first time

I procured the fabric for my Albion last weekend and am so excited to get started.  I sewed my muslin in a size small and managed to work out the fitting changes (looks like I might be learning something after all) including bringing the waist in and narrowing the shoulders.  Everything was coming up roses until I layed the fabric out to start cutting and I realized, "Oh, shit, plaid".  What the hell was I thinking? I knew I had seen tutorials for matching plaids before but payed little attention, storing them away for the future so off to the interwebs I went. Here are some of the most helpful tutorials/tips I found:

- Matching plaids like a boss with Lladybird gave me a good starting point.
Grainline Studios has a number of tips and tricks that go a bit more in depth as well as some awesome info on sewing a wool coat.
- And if you want to get extra geeky head over to Sewaholic for this step-by-step tutorial.

The matching itself isn't that hard but, as ususual, its the little things that get you.  Figuring out how the plaid lines will look, cutting the yoke on the bias, making sure the sleeves match, attempting to visualize how the hell the 3 hood pieces are going to come together and hoping it all works out because I realllllly don't want to start over again is making my brain bleed.  I have to keep reminding myself that its an awesome mind puzzle and that I am learning something new.  But, you guys, seriously WHAT was I thinking?

Anyway, off I go to cut more pieces!  Here's a peek of the wool coating I got...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Masters of Fashion

I recently started watching Showtime's of Masters of Sex and highly recommend it.  In case you haven't heard of it, it's basically like Mad Men but with doctors and is based on the real life sex research of William Masters and Virginia Johnson during the 50s and 60s.  I love clothing from those time periods (who doesn't?) and tend to get obsessed with it.  Peter pan collars, head scarves, sleeveless shifts, pencil skirts with belted waists, and prints and patterns everywhere.  I am always curious about how costume designers deal with period films/series, particularly with this show being that there is a fair amount of undressing going on.  I came across an interview with Ane Crabtree, the wardrobe designer, where she talks about the process and what is involved in either finding or making the vintage clothing and undergarments.  Here are a few stills from the show, mostly featuring Lizzy Caplan, who, with that long neck and tiny waist, looks like she was made to wear vintage clothing.

Lizzy Caplan and Caitlin Fitzgerald looking radiant whilst sipping martinis and wine.

That collar.  Swoon.

More of the cast looking fabulous with Michael Sheen sporting one of his many bow ties.

If you are a fan of mid-century decor as I am, there is plenty of that to drool over as well.  Sometimes, during the scenes that are filmed in the Masters' home, I find myself getting so distracted by the furnishings that I forget to listen to the dialogue.  I mean, just look at those little triangle pillows.

The Wardrobe Architect: In what ways does body image affect your choice in clothing?

     Watching Masters of Sex has really got me thinking about personal style and the questions posed by Sarai's Wardrobe Architect project, specifically the one about body image.  I have always been attracted to vintage style but rarely find myself wearing it.  Part of that is due to the fact that true vintage clothing from that period rarely fits me (did they really have such small waists?) and part of it is because it's simply not me.  My style has always been more 90s grunge than 60s Mod.  I also value comfort immensely.  Not just physical comfort but making sure I am mentally comfortable with what I wear. Or, as Sarai puts it, trying not to feel "alienated" from myself.  For example, I love high waisted skirts and fitted dresses but am not sure they are flattering to my body.  In fact, I have a hard time wearing any kind of skirt or dress because it feels strange to me.  Disingenuous, even.  I am petite but curvy with not much definition in my waist and I have a hard time figuring out what works for me.  Body types confuse me; am I pear shaped or hourglass?  Fretting over what to wear is self-defeating at times, making me revert to the old standby of jeans and a t-shirt.  But I long to wear more beautiful, tailored things.
     Often, what we love seeing on other people isn't what we wear ourselves, even though we want to. How many times have you said, "I wish I could wear that ___"?  Do we say that because it doesn't look good or because we are not accustomed to it?  Our perceptions of our physical appearances (accurate or not) heavily influence what we are comfortable wearing.  Can those perceptions be changed?  Do they need to?  One of the main reason sewing appeals to us is that we can now create for ourselves.  However, it's still hard, maybe even harder, to define your style when you can make whatever you want.  Hopefully, by participating in this project we can learn to pin down what we really love and learn how to build a wardrobe that fulfills both the comfort and aesthetic needs we all have. For me, maybe it's as simple as finding the proper pattern or fabric or style of dress that looks right on my shape,  or discovering what enhances the features I am happy with.  Perhaps, if I really want to wear something, I should just do it and see what happens.  I might surprise myself.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Crafting a wardrobe

The Wardrobe Architect

Sarai from the Coletterie recently came up with the Wardrobe Architect: Designing and Building Thoughtful Attire.  It's an experimental group project and the purpose is to help us discover and refine our personal style and build a wardrobe around that.  She will post a weekly topic for discussion or exercise with the idea that we will be learning together and helping each other out.  As a self-taught newbie, this really appeals to me.  Because I am eager to learn I often pick patterns and fabric that I wouldn't normally purchase.  I have made numerous skirts and dresses and rarely wear them.  I also feel very overwhelmed when I go into a fabric store (who doesn't?! Seriously, who?) and end of spending too much time and often buying things I don't end up liking once I get home.  I know some of this is due to lack of experience but I can't fault that entirely.  The idea of cultivating personal style and figuring out how to incorporate that with my skill level sounds lovely.  I am going to try to participate as often as I can and will post on here when I do.   So, who wants to join me?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Albion sewalong and contest!


Colette patterns is having another sewalong/contest and the prizes are ridiculous!  They've really outdone themselves this time as the grand prize is the lovely Bernina 380 pictured above.  The two runner-up prizes aren't too shabby either, over $400 worth of crafty goodness.  The sewalong starts January 24th.  Check out the link above for details.  I am super excited as I have been wanting to make a coat for awhile now but was waiting for the perfect pattern.  The Albion is a classic duffel coat and there are two versions offered.  I've already downloaded and cut out the pattern, no easy task I might add, but I do love instant gratification.  I have the fabric for my muslin cut (a vintage teal wool blend gifted from a friend's grandma's stash) but haven't decided on what to do for the "real" coat.  My brain (and my pinterest page) has been going wild with ideas, most of which I have no idea how to implement. Here are some of my favorites:

I love the mustard color with the cocoa brown toggles.  And how adorable is the rest of the outfit?  I'm seriously coveting everything about this.

It's amazing how a simple element turns a traditional design into something more.  The piped edges adds structure and dimension to the shape.  I wonder how this would look with a plaid fabric...

I have a bit of an obsession with capes and this navy and brown combo is so lovely.  The only problem is that I have absolutely no idea how to convert a coat pattern to a cape pattern or if it's even a good idea.

Ombre.  That is all.  Also, her hair please.  Oh, and those boots.

So many ideas!  I am really excited to get started and am looking forward to the challenge.  This will be the first project I will actually document on this blog so there will be lots more to come.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

“We're all mad here.” ― Lewis Carroll

     I've always been crafty.  My mom was artsy and always encouraged whatever creative endeavor I decided to undertake. But I always felt like I was searching for...something more.
     I've tried all sorts of crafts, oodles in fact.  Each new thing led me into something else, a swirling labyrinth of craftiness I was determined to navigate with very little instruction or guidance.  I gravitated towards the difficult, the more steps involved the easier it was for me to become entranced.  Charcoals and acrylics were my gateway drugs.  I painted, did collage, took printmaking and pottery classes.  I learned how to use a darkroom.  Knitting led to felting and a winter spent needling miniature wool animals that now reside on a bookshelf collecting dust.  My friend taught me how to Viking knit (her boyfriend made us the dowels), I painstakingly inked and colored shrinky dink necklaces, made bath bombs, soaps, body butter and lip balms one Christmas.  I suffered from craft ADD. I was a quick learner but didn't particularly excel in any one thing and still hadn't found IT.  This went on and on for years.  If I saw something I liked I bought the materials and taught it to myself (thank you, internet). The result was a room full of craft materials, unfinished projects and handmade gifts.  And disasters. Lots of disasters.
      I don't know why it took me so long to take up sewing.  My grandmother was an avid seamstress and taught all 7 of her daughters how to sew.  Or attempted to anyway.  My mom's first sewing lesson ended when my grandma asked her if she was having fun and my mom instantly broke out into tears. Needless to say, she was not a fan.  
     I had sewn before, in high school Home Ec.  A backpack made out of some dreadful slippery material that refused to get along with me.  I remember being confused by the machine and bored out of my mind.  After that, I may have hand sewn things here and there but didn't touch a sewing machine again until last year.  So, when I bought my Singer I did it with very low expectations.  I never intended to follow the white rabbit into wonderland but that is precisely what happened.  
     Sewing satisfies the need I have for my craft to be ritualistic.  Meditative.  I like how it makes me lose track of time.  It can make me feel very small (like realizing I've sewn something on upside down) and very large (attempting an invisible zipper for the first time and nailing it) all in the same project.  I love the ups and downs of it.  The frustration and feeling of accomplishment.  I am constantly learning and completely mystified and absolutely in love with it.  It's magic to me.
    I've gone down, down into the rabbit hole and found my craft.  Sometimes, I wonder why I didn't find it sooner.  But, I think it happened at the perfect time, what with the vast amount of information out there.  This blog is a way to chronicle my progress and provide other new sewists with the inspiration, tools, tips and guidance that have been so immensely helpful to me, as well as thoughts and meditations on the wonderful, exciting and often beguiling world of sewing.