Sunday, July 18, 2010

Next up: a pattern from 1968

I hope everyone had a good weekend, in the realm of sewing or otherwise!   I finished another version of Butterick 6574, the sundress from 1953 that I've made twice already.  I made one minor tweak to the fit, and tried a new-to-me technique that I think makes this version the best one yet!  But I have no photos, so I'll save those details for another day.

Today I started a new project with another vintage pattern, this one dating from 1968. I'm making view C (on the right) on the pattern envelope.  The fabric is some shirting I got on clearance at High Fashion Fabrics a while back, and I cut the center bodice panel on the bias, as shown in the illustration.  I'm a little unsure about how much I'll like that raised neckline, and debated changing it, but I decided what the heck, I'll give it a try.  Maybe I'll love it.   As is my preference, I'm fully lining the dress rather than use the fistful of facing pieces that exploded out of the envelope.   I'm really glad I don't have to figure those out!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Liberty of London

Screw historical monuments and the like -- Liberty of London was my top London destination!  I love Liberty of London designs, but had never bought any of their fabric before this trip.  Not for lack of pining for it, though: I had visited their website, and fondled the few bolts that my local fabric store, High Fashion Fabrics, carries.  (And watched others fondle them, only to drop the bolt as if burned when they spot the $45.00 a yard price tag!)   I also bought some Target items bearing Liberty of London prints earlier this year, but nothing made of fabric.  I was disappointed in Target's Liberty clothing offerings, which is just as well because there was nothing left in my size by the time I got to them.  But, back to the *real* Liberty of London!

I thought I might just browse and come away empty handed.  Yeah, right.  Once I got in there, there was no hope for me.  I wanted to waltz around the store with bolts lovingly cradled in my arms.  In fact, I wanted to waltz right out the door with most of the stock, but the 20-pounds-a-meter price tag (or alternatively, those pesky laws about stealing) prevented that.  So I had to content myself with a few hours of covetous fabric petting, followed by a few carefully agonized purchases.  Shall we get to those now?

Four three-meter lengths of the Tana cotton lawn.  I have NEVER spent so much on fabric before.  I usually stay closer to the $10/yard price range.  But I figure this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.  And oh, how I love the exquisite detail in the prints ... the colors ... the way the fabric feels ...  Hopefully I won't become addicted and start placing weekly orders through the website. (Which alas, has significantly less stock than the store does.  Things that are listed as out of stock on the site are there in the store.  And there are plenty of prints in the store that aren't on the site at all.)   Hopefully I will sew up my purchases into fabulous garments I love, and not just drool on them or roll in them or something.  And I will use every little scrap!

We decided that we had a little extra time on our last day in London.  What did I want to do?  Go back to Liberty.  I spent more quality time with the fabrics, but what I bought were trims:

This Liberty fabric bias binding has a website on it!  Maybe I will buy more of this online.

Liberty of London is a department store, with all kinds of stuff in it.  I dutifully checked out the other departments while I was there, though it was hard to leave the fabric.   My mom had requested an English teapot, and I found a nice one for her in the china section, and had it shipped.  It reached her in Florida in less than a week!

I was disappointed in how cheaply made much of the clothing at Liberty was.  They have a few things made with Liberty fabric, but I feel like I could have done a nicer job with construction (and I'm hardly an expert).  Much of what they stock is designer label stuff, albeit not couture. I found a few very vintage-y looking dresses I liked, but they were falling apart!  And even on sale, still quite expensive.  Possibly sewing my own clothing has raised my standards, but I'm pretty sure I always have expected seams to be intact and all buttons to be present.

Goodbye, Liberty of London, and thanks for the great memories!  Maybe I will visit you again someday ... until then, I'll see you in my dreams.  :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Next up ... trims!

Trims were high on my Paris shopping list.  They're another thing that I normally don't let myself buy without a project planned out, so just buying ones I liked without bringing any other criteria to bear (well okay, besides price) felt quite decadent.  Most of my trims were purchased at Mercerie Saint Pierre.  It is one of the larger fabric stores in the Monmartre area, and the trims are actually in a building next door to where the fabrics are.   In the photo above, the building with the trims and notions is in the foreground, but you can see the fabric store behind it.

Here again, my husband rescued me with his knowledge of French.  Rather than bring the trims to the cutting table, you must bring the cutter to the trims you want.  My husband helped me flag down a sales associate and conveyed the lengths I wanted.  Once your trims are cut, the sales associate holds them for you while you pay.  You bring a receipt back to her to collect your purchase.

Sooo, here are my selections:

I'm especially ecstatic about the three patterned bias tapes, as I have never seen such a thing for sale here in the US, outside of eBay auctions of vintage goods.  As for the beaded laces, I've never used any sort of lace before, but I loved these, and I'm sure they'll be the start of some sort of wonderful project.

I bought a few sewing-related implements at Mercerie Saint Pierre too:

 The two pairs of scissors came from there.  One can never have too many pairs of scissors, and these are pretty distinctive!  The square object is a tape measure, and it was purchased later, in Oxford, at a store called Octopus.

My husband had a few extra days in Paris while I was attending a conference for work at a chateau just outside the city.   When we were reunited for our ride on the Eurostar to England, he surprised me with more trim that he had picked up at a store called Entree des Fournisseurs (or at least that is what it said on the bag).  Here are his selections:
Didn't he do a great job?  Clearly my ravings about the bias tape from the previous store did not go unnoticed.  :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Parisian buttons

My first and in many ways most memorable purchase in the Paris fabric district was from Dam Boutons.  I had read the reviews about this place on and knew I wanted to stop there.  My plan was to buy only (or at least mainly) small sewing notions that I could bring back easily, so buttons (which I love anyhow) were an obvious choice.  The plan changed when I set foot in Liberty of London, but I'll get to that in a later post.  :)

Dam Boutons is a small store, but then so are buttons ... most of them, anyhow.  There were a few staggeringly larges ones: I can't imagine what you'd sew them on.   Photography was not allowed in the store, so you'll have to use your imagination!

The buttons are stored in tubes, stacked horizontally into wall units.  I saw buttons stored this way in other shops I visited as well, but in nothing like the quantity at Dam Boutons.  Each tube has an example button attached to the lid, and a price on the edge of the tube.  Signs in French and English request that you not remove the tubes from their locations, and given the thousands of tubes and their careful ordering by color I can sympathize, though it made it hard to remember which ones I was considering since I couldn't carry them around with me.  I took ages to make my selection.  There were so many beautiful ones, but they weren't cheap, and I didn't have a specific project in mind to narrow my consideration.   The shop's proprietor didn't speak English, and I speak no French, but we were able to communicate somewhat through my husband, who speaks some French.  I think the store owner was puzzled that I was choosing buttons with no clear plan in mind for them.

In the end, I chose five different styles of button, and bought six of each.  The store's proprietor packaged them nicely in a tiny paper sack that was stapled shut.  I kind of hated to open it, and I did wait until I had returned home, so that I could "rediscover" my buttons (and not lose them all over my luggage while in transit).  If you've seen these same buttons at your local Jo Ann's, please do not tell me about it!

Finally, I leave you with ... button porn!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Paris shopping, part one: a little about the fabric district

While I swear most of my trip was spent sight-seeing or working, somehow quite a bit of shopping got wedged in there too!   Sewing supplies were what I most wanted to have as souvenirs: for years to come I'll remember this trip as I incorporate them into things  I make.  So, visiting the fabric district in Paris was high on my to-do list.   

The fabric district is located in the Monmartre area, in the shadow of Sacre Coeur, which sits on the top of a hill overlooking the rest of Paris.   Sacre Coeur was also high on our to-do list (and probably our favorite monument in Paris) so we headed for Monmartre on the second day of our trip.   We arrived very early, and had Sacre Coeur almost to ourselves for a few minutes.  If you have been to Paris, you know how rare it is to be anywhere that isn't jam-packed with people, so the solitude was a treat in itself.

After seeing Sacre Coeur and exploring the area behind it (where there are are lots of artists ready and waiting to do portraits)  we headed down the hill into the fabric district.   There are lots and lots of shops, but most of them are fairly small (though so packed with merchandise it spills out onto the street!)   I only went into a few, as I was more on the lookout for trims and notions rather than fabric, and it seems that those aren't sold in the same stores in Paris.  Many of the stores seemed to specialize in a type of fabric: home decor, silks, etc.

I found some notions (more on those in a later post) but I did end up buying one piece of fabric as well, from Paris Tissus.  They had a few bolts of Liberty of London cotton lawn for the great price of 15 euros a meter, so I could not resist buying a few meters.  The print is not extremely Liberty of London-ish -- it's a little looser in style, and has less detail than what I associate with the brand.  But it *feels* like Liberty of London lawn, so I think it probably is. And I love the colors!

I discovered another treat in a Monmartre-area grocery store: these waffle-cookie things.  These seemed to be very common in both Paris and London, and in London you could sometimes buy freshly made ones too.  Soooo good!  

Friday, July 9, 2010

Eight questions

The lovely Bea of Butterfles and Hurricanes tagged me for for the "Eight Questions" game.  (Her responses to the questions are here.)   This is the first time I've been tagged for something like this, at least since I have had a blog!  Here are my Qs and As:

1) What outfit from a movie would you love to re-create?

Argh, a stumper right out of the gate!   I don't watch many movies, and tend to like ones that focus on maximizing body count rather than style.  Also, I am quite new to sewing: it's only been in maybe the past six months that the idea of re-creating something I saw out in the world would even occur to me.    It seems like I should be able to come up with something nonetheless, but so far no luck.

2) Tell us about your sewing spot/room. What is your favorite thing about it?

I have the most awesome sewing space -- it's the biggest and best room in the house! It used to be our living room, but we spent very little time in it, as we don't entertain.   And after the dog ruined the sofa and we had to throw it away, there was even less reason to go in there.     It was my husband who suggested we move my sewing stuff down there from the hot, cramped loft space where it was at the time.  This is the result:

And a couple of months ago, I traded the fish tank (the dark thing at the far left in the photo above) with a friend for a shelving unit to hold my fabric and patterns:

My sewing space has great light, and lots of room to move around and places to store stuff.  We moved my husband's comfy chair in there too so that he can read with (and sometimes to!) me while I sew.  I guess I pretty much love everything about my setup!

3) Where did you learn to sew? Who taught you?

My mother laid the foundations of my interest in sewing.  She learned to sew at age eight, and made all her own clothes from then until college, and much of my childhood wardrobe.   As a result, it was sort of hard for her to teach me when I first became interested as a kid: she had been sewing for so long by that point it all seemed obvious to her!  Plus, I have to admit to being a hard-headed and inattentive student.   I tried sew again in my 20s, but was frustrated at how my projects fell short of my dreams.  I now realize that the sewing machine I had at back then deserved some of the blame: it was a low-end model, and never truly worked right, but at the time I thought it was me who was doing things wrong.

So, now in my 30s sewing is finally "taking", and I have to say that the Internet has been my best teacher!   There are so many wonderful tutorials online, and so many fellow sewists who serve up inspiring projects and helpful tips daily.  Even hearing about others' sewing mishaps is very helpful, since it has made me realize that my own failures are totally normal.

4) If you could have dinner with one person from the past, who would it be?

Hm, maybe one of my favorite artists, like Yves Tanguy.   He was a Surrealist painter, and completely self-taught.  

5) What/Who inspires you?

As far as sewing goes,  the biggest ones would be my vintage pattern collection, the stock at Anthropolgie, and stuff I see people wearing out in the world.  While we were in Paris, I was amazed by all the wonderful dresses and skirts with interesting details I saw -- I wish I could have documented them, since I've forgotten most of them already!

6) What will always make you laugh?

My husband (for laughing with) and my dog (for laughing at). 

7) What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

My digestive system prefers frozen yogurt to actual ice cream.  Right now my favorite is peanut butter from Tasti d' Lite.  Preferably with some Oreos crumbled on it.

8) What is something you would like us to know about you that you have never shared on your blog?

I happen to have a job that I love, as a software developer.  I was an art major in college, and never imagined that I could have the kind of career I have now!  I'm glad I discovered my interest, however, late, and that I finished my computer science degree, even though at times I didn't think I could do it.   If any woman out there happens to be thinking about getting a CS degree, please read the book Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing, which explains why women are intimidated by computer science programs.  Understanding why makes it so much easier not to be!  

OK, that's my eight!   I'll nominate a few people to do this next if they are so inclined ... my best friend schmeebot (who may need to replace the word "sewing" with "knitting" in her answers), Georgi of Dinner with Picasso (who may not know I have a blog yet, come to think of it) and Sophie Miriam.  I think most everyone else I can think of has been tagged!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Journeys through time and space!

My husband and I returned from our vacation to England and France last night.  And what an amazing vacation it was -- it was my first trip out of North America, a fact which amazes my co-workers, most of whom were not born in the US and do plenty of globe-trotting.   We were gone for two weeks (my last two blog posts were scheduled), and spent time in Paris and London.  I was working for part of the time, and that took me to a chateau outside of Paris for a conference, and to the company office in Abingdon.  And paid for my plane ticket -- hooray! 

We hit many of the sites on the tourism short list, and just enjoyed being together.  But we also made some time for hobby-related shopping.   For me that meant sewing, of course, but also I added a few cameras to my collection.  I'll share my haul in later posts, but for now let's just say that I won't be spending much time in fabric stores for many months to come.    

I shot five rolls of film, and well over a thousand digital photos -- I won't bore you with too many of them, but I had to share this shot from our last day in London.  Any Dr. Who fans in the house?  This police call box was just outside the Underground station we used daily, but we somehow missed seeing it until the very last day.   I like to think it had just returned from a trip through time and space.  :)

Awesome as the trip was, it's also great to be home.  I missed ice in my drinks and washcloths in my bathroom.   And France, what is up with putting ham in every-freaking-thing?  I hate ham!   

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vintage pins

Recently I bought a bunch of enamel flower pins on eBay.  I think they're from the 1960s, but I have no idea, really.  I just think they're pretty, and they're also very easy to find.  However, now that I have them, I need to figure out how to wear them.  Moving them from my kitchen to my bedroom would probably be a good start.  

I have nine or ten of them in all.  Pictured below are some of my favorites.  I guess I loves me a polka-dotted flower.  Who knew?