Monday, January 28, 2013

Visual Inspiration and Craftsy Pants Fitting Course

I'm back from a long weekend in Carpinteria, and eager to get started on the trousers again.  Here's some visual inspiration.  I love the first look in a kind of 70s sic-fi TV special kind of way.  She looks like the token female Captain of a galactic star fleet.
Gucci Spring / Summer 2013

Marni Pre-fall 2013: Not loving the forest green and the peach combo, or the shoes, but love all the pieces individually.

Marni Pre-fall 2013. Exactly how I want to look this Fall.

90's Vogue Inspiration

Marni Pre-fall 2013.  Love.
Sunni was so ahead of the trends with her brightly colored trousers. I'm loving these looks, especially the Marni color combos.  The last pair is the fit and style I'm going for, though it remains to be seen if it will actually be a flattering shape on me.  Any thoughts about fit?  I'm thinking the last pair don't actually fit the model that well.

Has anyone else signed up for the pant's fitting course on Craftsy?  Since I'm engrossed in trying to make a decent pair of pants it seemed like an obvious choice, however I'm struggling with it.  Sandra seems like a) a very knowledgable and accomplished woman and b) a sincerely nice person, but there's something about the course that makes is very hard to watch and follow.  It feels like they scheduled way too little time for the filming and as a result were under a huge amount of pressure to move quickly through the material.  I can almost feel the producer looking at her watch as they film! Sandra seems flustered and tends to start and stop sentences, interrupt herself, begin chains of thoughts without finishing them, and so on.  I'm going to try and get through it because the information is really useful, but it's my first "not-great" experience with Craftsy.  I wonder if they are taking on too many courses and don't have the time to film them in a more thoughtful, careful manner. Anyone else signed up for it?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Burda Math

We all have things in our life that, if we explain them to our friends, sound completely freaking insane.  For the last two years nearly all my worldly goods have been locked in a storage unit in a state that is at least two states away from anywhere I've actually lived.

Long story.

...and the insanity of renting a storage locker is a whole 'nother post.  Are storage lockers every anything other than a weighty psychological burden, nagging and guilting us like a 15' x 15 x 5' pile of dirty laundry?

But I digress.

Two weeks ago my boyfriend agreed to fly out, pack up, and drive back my many, many Piles of Cr*p.   We drove 1,000 miles in 14 hours, stopping only for lunch in Flagstaff, AZ (one of my favorite towns ever).

Turns out that most of that cr*p was comprised of Burda, Patrones, Threads and piles of sewing magazines.  Who would have guessed?

Some quick Burda Maths (number of magazines) x (years subscribing) x (regular size ladies patterns per issue) means I have about 1,500 potential makes in Burda alone!

Here are a few I've pulled from the archives as possibilities.  

Meanwhile I'm spending a few days in Carpenteria and the pants are on hiatus till I return Southward...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Set Pants to Maximum Magoo

I finally took my cr*tch depth measurements; and I'm flummoxed.

I tied elastic around my waist and measured the depth from front to back.  End measurement: 31.5".  It seems as though the front depth is 15.5" and the back 16".  My high hip seems to be 6" down from the waist and the full hip 12".

The pattern piece has a front depth of 10 5/8" and a back depth of 15 1/3".

The waistband is designed for the top of the band to sit right at the waist.  Using my cr*tch (ugh) measurements and comparing them to the paper pattern reveals that the back pattern is only 2/3 of an inch too short.  The front however is 5" shorter!  How can this be?  If I added five inches to the trouser front I'd be sporting a full-on Mr Magoo.  Surely not?

My eyes tell me that I need to add width to the front pattern piece (it's straining over my stomach).  There are all sorts of fit issues in the pant legs themselves (worse at the front), but I'll deal with them after I figure out the torso.

Round Two of many rounds of perhaps foolish Internet over-sharing:

I've let out all the inseams by about 1/3 of an inch from the original pattern.  I've taken in a horizontal tuck at the top of the back thigh and also done a tiny sway back adjustment.   I'm going to try adding an 1" or so to the crotch depth.  Bear in mind that today's pictures have been taken with a flash, which may change the way the wrinkles photograph.

Confused, but keeping going.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Oh, the sweet humiliation

Here you go:
Dear baby J*sus.  That's my ass.  I just pray that no-one who knows me in my non-sewing civilian life reads this thing.  The pattern is a menswear inspired trouser from an ancient copy of Burda:

Burda 10 / 2005 #113

The sizing is, somewhat horrifyingly, 42 in the waist / hips and 38 in the legs.  The truly frightening part is that the pants pull somewhat at the front, which conceivably pushes me up to a 44.  I'm not calling the idea of being a 42 / 44 horrifying, it's the fact that less than a year ago I was a 38.  I don't eat much and I work out, so I have no idea what is going on; maybe it's time for my once-a-decade physical.

The muslin is a mess of wrinkles, but I feel like most of them are fixable.  I'll be googling around, but I'd love opinions and feedback: 


Ok, getting closer to something I can live with here....

I experimented with the legs; the original was way too wide and baggy for me.  My first alteration was to take them dramatically for a straight pant (right leg in the above picture).  TOO straight!  I need some width in the leg to balance out the width of the pant around the torso.  Then I took them in between the crotch and the knee but let them flare out beneath the knee (left leg in the above picture).  Neither is perfect, but the wider-below-the-knee look is more flattering. 

These pants look almost nothing like my Sunni Inspirational Pants, but then I don't look much like Sunni.  If I can get a pair of menswear inspired pants that are chic and comfortable and don't make me look like a Kazakhstani tour guide at the height of the Cold War I'll be happy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Newest Mechanical Family Member / Fashionmate 237

I saw this machine sitting in a thrift store in Goleta, CA this weekend.  Now, I generally walk past vintage machines, but this one gleamed... her case is filthy, but the actual machine seems almost virgin and untouched.  She's a subtle mushroom color and I love the absolute "Straight Stitch only" simplicity of her.  The store clerk was open to negotiation, and I walked away with her for just over twenty bucks.

She seems to work really well.  At first I was worried that the tension discs were broken, they seem "loose," but they clearly are adjusting and maintaining tension so they must be working!

I do have a loose plan in the back of my head for her.  Like everyone else on the planet I'm worrying about money and income in the long term.  My main revenue comes from publishing, which is an industry that is constantly threatening to evaporate like a puff of steam. I'd like to find some other income sources and I have a vague idea about teaching sewing, but in the very specific way that I learned, which is "jump into the deep end with a wildly ambitious project and figure it out as you go."  I think women like me would respond to that method... 

I'm starting to understand the addiction to vintage sewing machines.  I'm jonesing for a Fashionmate 239 now... the model with zig-zag stitches.  Oy vey.

Long Term Plans.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I was a Male War Bride vs I was an aspiring NY fashion editor

After the rousing and gratifying success of my coat it's on to my next projects.  I feel radically inspired to try some more difficult and more "fashion-y" designs.  Sunni's Pants have inspired me.  Maybe I can make pants too?  

I've made exactly one pair of pants; a Marc Jacobs for Vogue Patterns pair of capris out of lightweight denim that I sewed up in the mid 90s. I proudly wore them into work (a family business with my grandmother and my uncle) and Mimi (a proud and glamorous Chilean socialite who fell one slightly hard times after her divorce, and became a pretty impressive entrepreneur as a result) took one look and said, "you're far too hippy for those dear."  Well, if she thought I was hippy at 24, I wonder what should would think of my hips at 41, but I digress.

I've muslined a pair of menswear inspired pants from an ancient copy of Burda, and after failing to do them up accepted that I need a 42 (wtf!?!?) around the waist and hips, tapering to 38 in the legs.  OK.

On to jackets.  I'm still obsessed with my Patrones assymetrical fashion editor jacket, but also equally obsessed with Ann Sheridan's uniform in I Was a Male War Bride.

How chic and crisp and capable she looks!  And Burda had another of those fabulous, "under the radar" patterns that no one responds too in their November issue:

How adorable would this look over a skirt or dress (Ann of course wears it over menswear pants, but she has a teeny little waist).

Anyway, on to the next!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Vronsky's Revenge aka The White Coat

I finally was able to twist my boyfriend's arm into taking pictures. He is not a natural photographer, unlike my sister, who has an instinctive grasp of light, angles and the need to take 500 pictures in order to get one decent one... Oh well!

Excuse the harsh shadows.  I have a narrow window of opportunity before my photographer runs off to sue someone.

I am 80% happy with this coat.  There are some issues and things I don't like, but this was my FIRST attempt to make anything tailored or "four dots" in Burda. In fact it's probably my first truly complicated project ever. I may add shoulder pads, and I need to resew the hem at the opening edge (it looked fine pre-pressing, but now it hangs unevenly).

Things that worked:

The pattern.  I used Burda's 12-2012 asymmetrical coat pattern.  It's a great design with lots of fun details including vented sleeves, a fabulous Nehru or Mod (depending on your perspective) collar, seam lines that meet pleasingly in the back (where the sleeve and bodice come together) and a perfect length for me.  There is a reason that I sew 95% Burda.  Their drafting is truly fantastic.  I may well sew this coat again, but in a lighter fabric.

The Fabric. The winter white wool fabric is from Mood (as is 99% of the fabric I sew with).  It is extremely soft and quite thick (which made pressing it very problematic).  My favorite detail is the line of what seems to be plastic, but probably isn't (since it doesn't melt) running through the fabric.  It gives the coat a great dimensionality and texture that elevates it significantly.  Having said this, the fabric probably would have worked better with less seam lines and details, as it is very trick to work with when there are multiple layers.  My Janome hated this coat! Thank g*d for my grandmother-in-laws fifty year old New Home, which has metal throat plate and a stronger motor, she just steamed through with no problem at all.

My Sewing.  The best thing about this coat is realizing I am capable of making trickier pieces.  I did it all Gretchen / Tailoring style.  Hair Canvas, sleeve heads, etc.. I came away with a lot of questions (mostly about how to anchor the various interfacings to the fabric and whether I should have caught the hair canvas in the waist seam) but in the end it was a fantastic learning experience.  My boyfriend estimates I spent about 120 hours on this coat, which seems crazy, but he is a lawyer, so maybe he is right!

There are a few things I will fix.  1) is the hem, which came back from the rich-lady dry cleaners uneven.  2) looking at the photos it seems like I may need to add better sleeve heads or shoulder pads. What do you think?  3) the buttons are perhaps too big, though I'm not sure I care enough to change those.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vintage secrets and out-of-date makes.

Yesterday I was invited to a private showing of the Alfred Shaheen archives here in Los Angeles.  I won't say too much since this wasn't "my" event, but it was astonishing, inspiring and visually overwhelming.
Vintage Alfred Shaheen
We got to touch these!
  Joss SticksHibiscus ForestTahitian Girl
We were given a chance to inspect the inner workings of virgin, unworn, sarong dresses (the iconic green dress above) and got a one-in-a-million chance to look at unwashed, uncut fabric that was essentially fresh off of the print line.  My fingers itched to take about a million photos, but it didn't feel appropriate, so the memory will have to be enough for now.


And very inspiring as a seamstress.  

All photos from the Alfred Shaheen website.

This got my thinking about my own-very modest-collection of vintage pieces, none of which fit me or suit me any longer.  My instinct is very much "anti-archival."  If something doesn't work for you anymore then release it into the wild and let some other person enjoy it, but for whatever reason I haven't been able to let these pieces go.

Cowboy style bomber jacket that my ex boyfriend gave me as a "parting" gift.  

Interesting underarm gusset to allow the sleeve lining to have some movement and ease

Fabulous welt pocket with silk triangular appliques

1930s wool crepe day dress that my sister bought for me in a thrift store in Idaho.  I LOVE this dress, it may actually still fit.  Look at the seam lines and the details.

John Galliano's first design studio was at the end of the street I grew up on in London.  One day he donated a ton of dresses to our local charity shop and I bought this, even though I was 16 and had no place to wear a highly dramatic, Miss Havisham esque, ladies day dress with bustle and asymmetrical hemline.
The dress is shaped by pleats upon pleats, godets and tucks.  Sadly I wore the dress very carelessly and the silk fabric is dirty and giving way at the seams.  

Incredible bustle detail.  The back of the dress is about a foot shorter than the front.  It's a "statement" piece.

Givenchy dress that was owned by a princess in Luxemburg, but somehow was handed down to my stepmother.  Astonishingly small and utterly unforgiving.  There is not "ease" to be had.

I'm guessing this isn't the original zipper!  Surely Givenchy wouldn't be so sloppy.

Wonderful kangaroo pocket detail with big welted openings.

And then there's one's own vintage.  I made these tartan wool skirts when I lived in Miami, yes, Miami.  Let's just say I was a bit of an odd duck running around Miami Beach in clothing better suited to a brisk Highland fall. I'm not sure what I was thinking but for the duration of my time in Florida I dressed in cozy wools, warm tweeds and reassuring sweaters.  Part of this was aesthetics (I just love wool!) and part of it was not wanting to fight a losing fight.  Miami Beach in the mid-90s had a very distressing hierarchy whereby being a model trumped everything and anything else.  Clubs had seating sections that were "models only" and even the most insipid pretty girl from Nebraska knew she had you beat if she'd booked a few german catalogues.   I knew I couldn't compete with the model babes so I choose to go in a totally different direction, and people did respond to it ( even if in a rather perplexed way).

My grandfather's tartan.  I made a series of skirts in this fabric over the years.  This is the only one that remains... boy my South Beach roommate thought I was nuts!

This was my beloved stepfather's tartan.  He gave me the fabric for Christmas one year. I'll NEVER get rid of this skirt, even though I can no longer do it up...

When we were touring Shaheen I could swear I heard the fabric whispering, "sew me, sew me!"  But alas, it's not to be!