Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Successful Failures in Skinny Jeans DIY

I sewed my first pair of jeans!  I'm calling these jeans a successful failure.  I don't actually love, love them, yet am still satisfied with the experience of making them - but more on that in a minute. These are the Burda "five pocket trouser" from the 3/2014 issues.  They have very detailed and illustrated instructions, which helped.

I had big plans for a late spring eve photo shoot outside, alas there is a distinct lack of photographers!  So selfies it is.

I'm happy with my rear.

I must growing wiser in old age, these are in no way perfect, yet I'm still quite happy with them. 

I was going for a matt black Oslo-chic look

It turns out that I have skinny and slim jeans mixed up.  Skinny=not a good look on me.  And these legs are SKINNY.  I have very puny calves, but the lower legs are still too tight for me and bunch weirdly around the knees.  This problem is mitigated when I roll up the hems and go for a 50's rockabilly kind of look.  Most of this is probably that my stretch denim isn't stretchy enough.  I had to go up a size to a 40 to accommodate the lack of stretch - everything would have worked better if I'd sewn my regular size 38 in a stretchier fabric.

The inner crotch seam (running from ankle to ankle) is  probably closer to a 38 now anyway, since I took that in a bit.

Interestingly my fabric has that old-fashioned, pre-Seven Jeans texture.  Do you remember buying jeans in the 80s?  When they felt like cardboard for the first month or so, till you slowly started to break them in? This is that kind of fabric (with a little lycra thrown in).  I don't actually mind it because it feels a little retro in an interesting sort of way.

The sewing was all very straightforward - no hiccups at all except for one major issue - sometime back in the mid-90s I made a few skirts that had a men's style trouser fly.  So, naturally, I figured I had that skill on lock.  If I'd done it once in the 90s I should be able to do it now.  Wrong.  My zip is buggered up.  I think that I should have scooted the zipper further over before I made the initial insertion - right now you can see the zip which obviously defeats the point of the fly.  Oh well - like I said - successful failure.  I think I understand what I did wrong and I'll do it right next time.  I can't get my Mom's machine to sew a zig-zag stitch - so no buttonhole yet.

I'm wondering if taking in the legs more would improve the overall look?
So - successful failure. I don't like the way the jeans look unrolled, but with the deep cuffs and capri length I think these have a certain vintage allure.

I love the backside of these jeans - I think they fit decently.
I added a small loop of black grosgrain ribbon to give it a bit of  Swedish design flair.  But in the future I think I'll use stretchier fabric, go down a size and use more convention jean legs to get a more flattering fit.

I would LOVE any constructive criticism on the fit...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lady Gaga sews?

I'm not a Lady Gaga fan.  I appreciate the commitment to her creation, but it all feels very forced and not particularly original to me.  As Madonna once (very cuttingly) said; "she's reductive." i.e., making a simpler and cruder version of something that was once original.   Clearly she's also popular, since she's constantly on the cover of the various glossy magazines I love so much.

Still, this quote from the new issue of Porter jumped out at me.  It's in the text at the bottom:

I wonder what Lady Gaga sews.  Does she have skills?  Does she prefer a centered, lapped or invisible zipper?  Does she pad-stitch?  If she pad-stitched, would she wear the pad-stitching on the outside?  Can a Singer handle a slab of meat?  Feathers?

I don't know about you, but I'd buy a "Vogue Patterns by Gaga" pattern, just for the fun of it.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Great British (Vintage) Sewing Bee

Did anyone else watch The Great British Sewing Bee last night?  Silly question; of course you did.  What a fabulous, fabulous episode.  Spoilers aplenty ahead…

For starters it was a vintage themed episode.  Everyone arrived at the sewing space to find their modern machines had been replaced with 1930s era Singer 201s.  Tamara and Lynda took it in their stride (Tamara learned to sew on treadles, dreaming of being trusted with the electric version!), but everyone else was temporarily flummoxed by the retro gear.

The first project was a Bette Davis blouse from the 40s - I suppose the actual patterns were created by the production team, but they were faithful reproductions - no lines, just holes and notches to figure out what was quite a complicated pattern.  I was pretty impressed by the sewing!

Some of the finished blouses were quite nice - I have to admit I can't actually remember who won this segment.  I was more reeling in joy from the in-depth reporting pieces on the history of the Singer 201, and especially the revolutionary scheme Singer came up with to make these incredibly expensive machines affordable to everyday people.  Who knew that the Singers we all love to buy at flea markets used to be, "the most expensive thing in the house, other than the house itself."

This episode was an absolute joy of reportage - worth watching for the interviews alone - we learnt about how these mass produced sewing machines literally changed women's lives - and also how amazingly reliable they are.  "You set your stitch length at 8 stitches an inch - you get 8 stitches an inch!"

The next challenge was another classic 1940s era, "Made Do and Mend" style challenge. The contestants were given a man's suit to remodel.  Chinelo (who I think pretty much has this Season of the Bee in the bag), easily won with her frankly spectacular dress: 

Then it was the really fun stuff:  The sewers were given the task of creating (in six hours!) a vintage-inspired coat.  How brilliant!  The time allocated was somewhat nuts, but the contestants were allowed to sew a sample garment at home, and then cut their fabric beforehand to save time.  I love, love, love that someone at the GBSB gets what home-sewers are obsessed with right now.  Somewhere out there is a GBSB producer reading a ton of blogs and "getting it!"  Patrick specifically said he was looking for  "hair canvas, bound buttonholes, and other tailoring techniques" to give these coats that added quality.  A man after my own heart.

The sewers had all brought in pictures and vintage patterns to work from:

 Tamara and Lynda had great inspiration images

I loved Tamara's buttercup yellow coat - I actually had that pegged for a winner.  It was certainly my favorite out of the bunch.  I also loved David's vintage policeman's jacket:

Lynda sewed up Gertie's coat pattern, and got quite emotional discussing her Mum and how much her Mum had loved sewing - specifically tailoring.

In the end Lynda's Gertie coat won.  I don't have a great screenshot of it - the coat was black and hard to get a good snap of but she did an excellent job. I may go back and try again.  Chinelo's coat was oddly underwhelming - essentially the same Gertie shape as Lynda's, but she would have benefitted from using a pattern this time. David was sent home - very reluctantly - by the judges.  He was clearly much loved by his fellow contestants.

After a seriously crappy few weeks it was wonderful to watch this episode. It felt like it had been made for me.  A serious discussion of vintage sewing machines, vintage style and quality tailoring.  There is something so kind of nurturing about sewists - and this episode really reminded me of that. I wish I could fall into their jolly arms for a nice cup of tea.  Maybe I will get my own sewing mojo back soon!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee---Pad-stitching!

Of course I can't find the link now, but one of the UK papers had an article about TGBSB in which it mentioned the contestants pad-stitching!  The photos for the article seemed to show David (he and Chinello are my favorites) inserting a sleeve into a blazer.  I'm beyond giddy that they are introducing real tailoring into the show.

I'll be doing some pad-stitching of my own.  In typical fashion I purchased a few different variations of this style of jacket:
off of ebay.  I used to love these late 60s pattern envelopes, with their "styling options."  My life has always felt border-line out of control.  But look how in control these ladies are!  I'm sure if I had a corduroy double-breasted, pea-coatish suit (worn with kitten heels and perfect hair) like Miss Second-From-the-Right my life would feel more manageable too.

I"m still in England, and I'll be in London for the first half of April.  I'd love a meet-up!  I'll reach out to the bloggers I've been communicating with before hand… but drop me a line if you know of any sewing / socializing opportunities.  I'll be in Crofton Park (which basically seems to be a fancy way of spelling Lewisham ;-) ).

I could do with some human interaction.  My life in rural England is very quiet.  Dealing with the council, the nursing home, trying to find some way for my Mother to be happy without me living the rest of my life in her tiny village --- on edge that she's about to slip, fall and be rushed back to hospital.

 I spent most of February with some very rock'n'roll friends.  But part of the deal of having rock'n'roll friends is not talking about them. It's kind of like fight club in that way! Discretion is part of the deal.  You'll just have to take my word for it that there are parts of my life that aren't completely depressing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New York / Ithaca / Wherever

I'm back on the road again.  As usual my travels are highly unplanned and a little random.  I've already pissed off one dear friend by airily announcing I'm not staying with her after all.  Funny how my loosey goosey lifestyle leaves me blind to other people's practical realities.  Of course hearing your houseguest say, "I'm not coming after all," would be really effing annoying.

I'm up for any meet-ups, hang-outs or get-togethers.  You may have to hold my hands and reassure me that, "it's all going to be OK."

My sister likes to point out that in the pending post-modern, pre-apocalypse world the concept of "home" is probably going to be winnowed down to whatever you can fit in your back pocket and whoever is kind enough to offer you shelter for the night.  Maybe my itinerant life is simply way ahead of it's time?

'till then.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Modern Megan Draper Red Coat

I used to love that terrible plastic surgery make-over show, "The Swan."  The best part was, of course, the Big Reveal.  Here's my Big Reveal.  This coat has suffered from my insane life-breakdown of the last two months.  It's been stuffed in suitcases and sewn at borrowed machines from LA, to Carpenteria to Wiltshire.  I'm really happy with it though.  It's exactly the Modern Megan Draper look I was going for.

I made only two changes: one was to sub in two piece Burda style sleeves.  The sleeves gave me tons of grief but now that the coat is done I'm pretty happy with them.  They are very slim (probably too slim since you can't fit a big sweater under) and long.  I love long sleeves.  I also nipped in the waist a bit more and shortened the very long back vent.  The turn of cloth at the collar didn't work out, but I'm ok with that. 

Royal blue china silk lining.  I love the color and the feel, but I should have interlined the coat.  It's really not warm enough for a winter coat.  I may make another lining and quilt flannel to the lining to add warmth.  But not now...

The Guts.  Weirdly this coat doesn't seem to have taken as long as you'd think.  My white coat from last year took foreeeever.  This one would have been done before Christmas if my life hadn't crumbled two days after I cut out the fabric.

 I LOVE the insane collar and lapels.  The pattern has a dart that runs parallel to the roll line, under the lapel which I think helps shape the lapel to the bust.  The lapels and collar are heavily pad stitched which also gives it a nice shape and prevents the lapels from flapping around your face.

A very tempting cake shop in Dulwich.  We got some funny looks but the photo shoot was worth it.

 What do you think about the buttons?  They look like a perfect match in real life, but here they don't seem to perfect.

Marlybone Train station.  This seemed all too apt for where I'm at right now, life wise.  There is a lot of examining and pondering and fretting.  These past two months have been grueling.  There was the insane break-up, my sister's new baby and then I flew over to the UK to help my Mum whose been struggling with ever worsening health issues.  It's been utterly exhausting and I haven't had time to think of "real work" or do anything related to getting my own life on track.  It's funny how this work doesn't really count as work.  There's no prestige or paycheck yet it's ultimately the most important work there is.

Any London bloggers reading this? I'll be back in London in March and probably living for a month in Crofton Park (SE4 I believe).  I'm totally game for some meet-ups!

I love the welt pockets.  They really need to be stitched down by machine though - my slipstitching isn't going to hold them in place for long.  This coat calls for topstitching but my machine can't handle it.  If I ever return to California I'll be bumming some time on one of my sewing group's Berninas.

 So that's my coat, and my life.  Hope you are all well!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

So, what happened next?

The last month has been a blur.  My relationship ended in one terrible therapy session, my Mom had a serious fall and broke her hip, and I packed up my life in one 23 kilo bag (thanks Air New Zealand) and came to the UK on a one-way ticket.

It's been hard.  I've been learning all about the intricacies of the NHS, found my Mom a horrifyingly expensive retirement home (she's only 72… which makes it even worse) and done little else other than sit and stare at the gales that have torn our garden to pieces and blown down trees all over our lane.


 One of my core philosophies is "don't look back."  I ignored this philosophy when I agreed to move back from Wyoming to give my relationship a second chance.  Dumb choice.  However, here are some lessons learned that I'll carry forward into 2014:

  • The smaller the town, the happier I am.  My friends keep encouraging me to move to NYC, or London, or other mega-cities but the reality is I get lost in those places.  
  • I need wilderness to be happy.  Trees and green and animals and sky.  Non-negotiable.
  • Sewing friends are the best friends.  You guys know who you are!  It made a huge difference to my life in LA to meet a group of like-minded women as warm and creative and as much fun as my sewing group.
  • Listen to yourself.  I knew it was probably a mistake to move back with my ex.  But I ended up giving him almost three more years of my life.  We had some incredible experiences together, and I'm grateful for those, but I wish I'd listened to myself and saved myself a lot of grief.
  • Buprenorphine is the devil.  I'll save this story for IRL friends, but watching someone you love be torn apart by this drug is truly awful.  If you or a loved one is trying to come off of a prescription pill jones then read up on this stuff before you agree to take it. 
  • Sewing… sewing!  I've done some, I swear.  but it has taken a back seat to all the insanity of the last six weeks.  My coat is almost done and that will be my next post.
Happy 2014 people!

Benedict Cumberbath for no other reason than he makes life a little bit better….