Monthly Archives: February 2013

Waiting for nice weather…

I now have two dresses to blog about, one handmade and one altered, but it has been too cold and rainy for nice outdoors pictures these last few days, so I haven’t been able to blog them yet. I was optimistic this morning, but by the time I was done with lunch, it was raining again. I also have a growing list of things-to-sew, but most of them require fitting, and it’s tricky to do by yourself in a mirror. I really wish I had a dress form, but they’re so expensive! It is incredibly useful to have a sewing room, though, where this is room for fabric chaos and two sewing machines set up at all times. I’m afraid my empty room next door is going to get taken away from me in the upcoming health-and-safety inspections.

To make up for not having pictures of new things, here are some pictures of a pre-existing dress, taken on Halloween in a mass costume-photoshoot with my friends (it’s not a costume, but I wear it every Halloween anyway). I’m pretty sure it’s from the 19-teens or maybe the early 20s, judging by the general shape and length, but it seems odd that it would have survived so well. I wear it once or twice a year and though it has always had some tiny pin-holes, it hasn’t ripped or begun to fall apart yet.

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Standing pointlessly by an obelisk-thing. It felt right at the time.

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Being very careful not to fall in the reflecting pool in my vintage silk. Don’t mind the black and white, we were being artsy.

I really love this dress. The sleeves are actually attached to an under-bodice, which closes in the center front with snaps, and then the rest of the dress snaps up the side. It has a lace collar that snaps, too, but whenever I wear it, it comes unsnapped and looks silly. It can’t have been very practical in its day. The fabric actually used to have geometric shapes on it in dark blue, I think, and sometimes in the right light I can just see the ghost of the pattern. It doesn’t photograph at all, and half the time I can’t even see it.

Yesterday was cold and rainy and quite unpleasant, and I was in such a bored, unsatisfied mood that I decided I was good for nothing but television and mundane hand-sewing, and consequently I managed to bind an entire side of this quilt. So pretty soon there will be pictures of that, too! If the weather ever gets dry again…

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a sunny day and a colorful dress

Although I was initially overjoyed to be reunited with my extensive wardrobe after winter break, I have quickly fallen back into the habit of wearing a few key items over and over again, and letting the others stagnate. This is partly due to laziness, partly due to weather, partly due to “saving” dresses for the right occasion (which is completely imaginary and does not exist in my life). In short, there are many reasons, and none of them are very good. But Saturday dawned sunny and warm and positively springy, and I had no obligations more taxing than a stroll around campus and some physics homework, the perfect opportunity for a new dress.

floral dress

It’s not actually new, but it has languished in my closet for what–six months? a year? and this is the first time I have worn it. It was given to me by my friend Jessica, the source of most of my vintage clothes. I think it’s from the 70s, but what do I know? It’s polyester, simultaneously both slightly fuzzy and slightly shiny, and quite warm, which is a plus since it’s not really spring yet however balmy it feels.

My roommate Sierra (who took these pictures) lent me a big pale-green flower pendant. It’s mother-of-pearl-y and amazing and goes very well with the dress’s crazy oversized pattern.

I wore it with white tights and my poor beat-up black mary-janes. I love these shoes to death but I’ve had them for nearly three years and they have been sorely abused in that time. The Lewis & Clark cobblestones do no favors for shoes, and nor does the rain…

floral dress

These photos are taken partly just to capture the beautiful Imbolc light quality before it completely disappears behind three more months of rain. Also, I live on the loveliest campus I ever have seen, which is the closest I come to having school pride or whatever.

Dragon-skin Parka

Over winter break, I made a brief foray into the World of Practical Sewing, and sewed an actual, functional, waterproof garment. Not for me, of course, I have far more waterproof garments than I ever wear in my indoors-y lifestyle.

My dad bought several parkas a couple of years ago, made of canvas. I think they were Swedish army surplus or something, effective windbreakers but not terribly useful in the rainy Pacific Northwest. He took one of them apart to make a pattern, and bought a great deal of Goretex. I sewed it up, with some alterations of course, and finished it mere minutes before I returned to school.

The Goretex didn’t iron very well, even on low heat with a towel, and all the seams were flat-felled, which would have been a lot easier if I’d been able to press it without melting it. I had to use a 100 needle and change it regularly, especially when I got to the point where seams began to intersect and the fabric dulled the needle really fast. I pretended that I was sewing out of dragon skin, in order to make the fabric’s idiosyncracies less frustrating. It worked pretty well to imagine myself as an apprentice dragon-skin-tailor, who had finally earned enough skill to try making something out of real dragon skin (I spent most of my formative years reading fantasy novels, if you couldn’t guess). Because I was flat-felling my seams and working with such an unusual fabric, I could look past my slightly wobbly seams and see the beginnings of a ready-to-wear garment–except not ready-to-wear, made by me! It was really exciting to be making something so practical and ordinary-looking (weird…).

This sort of excitement really only lasted up until I had to put the underarm gussets in. I’d never done gussets, and in a stiff fabric with flat-felled seams–well, it wasn’t too pretty. Everything really started to disintegrate around there. Gone were my clean, straight (ish) seams and smooth surfaces, now all was wrinkling and puckering and weird gathers. I managed to set in the sleeves, though I had to re-do one of them and probably should have re-done them both, if it wasn’t for the holes that the needle made in the fabric. I knew they would leak forever, and in a parka specifically made to keep water out, I decided that a wrinkly sleeve was better than one that let the rain in.

Because of the nature of the pattern, there were no instructions whatsoever, so I sort of had to make up the order of construction and how the pieces fit together. That was most troublesome with the hood, which had be far the most pieces, but it the end it looked better than the sleeves.

Here is the parka, as seen already in Mother’s post of a few days ago:

parka front

And here is the back:

parka back

I have a few conclusions from this whole adventure:

Goretex is a pain to work with.
Flat-felled seams are now a piece of cake.
Practical sewing is kind of fun! My dad has swatches of super lightweight waterproof synthetic something-or-other that you can use to make backpacking tents/tarps. It’s super cool and comes in all kind of bright crazy colors, so there may be a neon tent in my future…

wip and new fabric!

I have been working slowly but surely on the lap quilt for kim.
my studio today
This is a nice shot of my studio area. Or at least the entrance to it. I have carved out space in a cluttered home to work in. I am liking this top so far. I really like the some of moda’s puzzle pieces line. The greys are really warm, dove grey you might say? The idea of bright colors on neutrals is one I will explore further.

roman stripes

I am so new to quilting, and entirely self-taught. This is my second project with half square triangles, and I want to practice them more and more until I get those darn points sharp every time! The situation is improving with practice. I sew such wobbly seams.
After such a long break from the internet, it is really exciting to read blogs again and gain inspiration. I look forward becoming a more skilled quilter!

I did get a piece of new fabric:
frippery
This from andover fabrics Frippery line designed by Thomas Knauer. There is some of that line in the above project, it looks like little eggs…
I couldn’t resist cruising Hawthorne Threads’ sale page the other night. I am on a super budget (for me), but that’s what several shots of herbal liqueur will do to you, I guess. Hawthorne Threads has such super fast shipping! I got 5 yards of this bad boy in the mail within two days. And that’s across country! So, I am figuring this will be a back someday. I did find a pretty neat piece of apparel fabric at the thrift store for you, Alice, but I don’t have a pic of it yet so next time.