Monday, April 26, 2010

Dear Anne Adams

I have a complaint.  I spent hours last night on my vintage pattern entry, attaching the waistband piece to the top and bottom parts of the dress.   It's a painstaking process.  First fold in all the edges on the belt, on both inner and outer pieces then press them in place. Then pin them to the bodice part, adjusting the gathering in the back.  Machine baste that in place, dealing with the inevitable stretching of the non-interfaced top layer that makes the pointed ends not come together perfectly.  Then do the same for the bottom, which has no gathering and should fit perfectly ... hm.  I tried it on and yikes!  Even though the waist measurement given for my pattern is an inch bigger than my actual waist, I can barely get it around me.   So I'll have to re-draft a belt with an extra inch or two, pick all last night's work apart, and try again.  Anne Adams, how could you?

Actually, aside from the fact that I'm trying to meet the vintage pattern contest deadline (this Friday -- may sound like plenty of time to some of you but not for me, slow as I sew) I don't get all that upset about stuff like this anymore.  Ten years ago, I'd be reading Anne Adams the riot act, even if I had to exhume her to do it.   But now, no sweat really.  I like to sew ... I guess I'll be doing a little more of it on this dress than I thought.   I don't know if this change is maturity setting in, or merely that life has beaten me into submission.

I have to confess, another factor also impeded my progress this weekend, though more happily -- my husband surprised me with a new iMac for our upcoming anniversary!  My MacBook Pro is three and a half years old, and the hard drive has been pretty much full for the last three of those years, so I hadn't been able to upgrade my software, and was constantly shuffling my files to my backup drive.   Plus the display had weird lines on it from time to time.  Well that is over now, because the iMac has a freakin' TERABYTE of disk space, ten times what the old machine has.   And the bright, beautiful screen, the spiffy new software ... yay!   The only blip in the process was that the first one we brought home had a busted display, but we exchanged it at the Apple store with no hassle the next day.

Anyhow, I did make some progress on the dress this weekend that I won't need to un-do.  The bodice is done, the skirt is done, and while the belt do-over will be time-consuming, after that is just hemming and buttons and buttonholes.  I think I can finish in time, barring no further catastrophes, either in sewing or in life.   One thing I have already noticed that I'm not going to like about this dress is that interfacing the neck edge with actual interfacing (instead of just fabric) could be a problem, in that it reduces drape in that part and you can tell.  Of course, that might have been a side effect of having the bad waistband pinned super-tight around my actual waist, whereas I actually aim for a smidge below that when I sew, so that I don't look so freakishly high-waisted.   There's no removing the interfacing at this point, so I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope this is yet another thing to blame on that dastardly waistband.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pleated skirt with extroverted lining

Regardless of what it might look like based on my flurry of pattern reviews in the past week, this skirt was the first thing I finished during this calendar year.   I had another version of this skirt almost done, but it turned out I'd traced a size too big, and my half-assed attempt to fix it by adjusting the side seams just didn't fly.  I couldn't work up the enthusiasm to pick it apart and perform major surgery, so it'll just have to be a wadder.  

Pictured is the successful second version.  For some reason, I really loved sewing down those little pleats, and as you can see from my detail photo, it wasn't because I did such a great job at it.   I'm sure a therapist could tell me why.   I always try to line with a "fun" color if I have one on hand that works, and hooray, my favorite watermelon-colored batiste matched this.  I used it to line the last skirt I finished, and also the dress I made for last year's vintage pattern contest but failed to finish on time.  I bought all that was on the bolt, because for some reason, it seems to match everything.  I'm not sure why, I'm not really a "pink" person -- nothing against it, but I'm more into greens and purples.   I let the lining hang an inch or so longer than the skirt for that "double skirt" effect.   Such gorgeous watermelon lining does not want to hide, and this seemed better than flipping up my skirt in public.

I wore this to work on Earth Day, which wasn't intentional, but it does have a rather "earthy" vibe with all that green and brown.  Nobody asked me if I made it, but that might be because they saw the fabric when it arrived at the office from   I get all my packages shipped to the office because they're occasionally stolen off my doorstep.  And my co-workers usually want to see what's in the box.  Which is why, when I ordered some bras recently, I took my chances with the doorstep bandit and had those delivered to the house!

Anyhow, the pattern review for this is here.  I'll almost certainly make it again before too long.

Indian fabric shopping adventure

A few weeks ago, my friend and co-worker Sunitha invited me to accompany her to look for some fabric for her daughter's Indian dance recital costume.   We headed out on out lunch break (which turned out to be a long one, because we went to many stores, not just one!)   Before our trip, I was aware of Houston's South Asian shopping district on Hillcroft near Highway 59, and had even been there a few times, to buy stuff at the Indian grocery store and rent videos.  I had never been in any of the many sari stores, so I didn't know they also sell FABRIC.  On the bolt.  At pretty decent prices, especially if you are a skilled bargainer, which fortunately Sunitha was!

The first store we stopped at was called Fashion Fabrics, or something like that.  We didn't stay long -- all the fabric was behind a long counter, so I couldn't get a good look at it, and Sunitha didn't like the proprietor or the prices.   Like all the stores we visited, there's a lot of ready made Indian clothing in the store, but they will also take custom orders, which is what the fabric on the bolt is for.  Sunitha tells me that this is still the way she gets her clothes when she's in India -- she "has them stitched", as she puts it.   She wasn't too impressed with the prices in any of the stores we visited, compared to what she pays in India, but with no thousand-dollar plane ticket required, they were looking like good deals to me!

The next store we went to was Sari Sapne: it's a small store, and the fabric bolts are way in the back, though there's also some behind a counter on the side.  There's not a whole lot, and I was surprised at how much of it was eyelet!   But I did find a piece of butter yellow silk (dupioni?) with a silver design on its border that I loved.  I didn't buy it then, but went back for it while Sunitha picked up sweets at the store next door for another co-worker.  Because I went alone, I didn't haggle over the price.  I paid $12 a yard for 3 yards, and it was the most expensive piece of fabric I bought that day.

Next up was Sansar Sari Bridal Boutique, which was on the second floor of the next shopping center over. It's bigger than Sari Sapne, and had more fabric, some of it behind the counter and some not, but I ducked behind the counter to look at a few that caught my eye and was not reprimanded.  I bought several pieces of fabric here, and Sunitha handled the price negotiation.   She's ruthless, but never stops smiling which I suspect is a key to success, at least when bargaining with women, and women were running every store we visited.   Anyhow, my loot from that store included two bright floral cotton lawns for $3.99 a yard,  a slinky embellished yard-and-a-half remnant for $5, and a gorgeous champagne-colored sequined piece that Sunitha bargained down from $20 a yard to more like $10.

Our final stop was Roop Sari Palace.  It's huge!  The ready-made stuff is a treat to look at in this store especially: they have some seriously fancy duds, and they don't come cheap!   They also had a lot of jewelry for sale.   They probably didn't have any more fabric (and possibly a little less) than Sansar Sari, but they had these bundles of fabric for saris (one long, six or seven yard piece) and sets of three fabrics for making salwar kameez (which have a tunic-like top, loose pants, and a long scarf).   The bundles were mostly $9.99 and $19.99.  I was surprised at how much cotton voile was included in the $9.99 bundles, and grabbed a bunch.  This stuff feels wonderful, and I'm already using some of it to make my vintage dress for the pattern review contest.   I think there's some polyester in it, because while it takes a pressing well, it doesn't wrinkle all that easily.  It's a dream to work with, actually.  The pieces in the three-piece bundles seem to be 36 inches by 8 feet each, and conveniently lots of vintage patterns give fabric requirements for 35 inch fabrics.  Roop Sari wasn't open to price negotiations, but the prices were pretty compelling already!

Looking online for the addresses of the stores I visited, I found that all three have very mixed reviews, which surprised me.  But I guess it may depend on what your service expectations are, and of course I had an easier time because I was shopping with a South Asian native who knew how to approach the store-keepers.   Anyhow, for Houstonians who might stumble across this, here are the addresses:

Sari Sapne:   5651 Hillcroft
Sansar Sari Bridal Boutique:  5700 Hillcroft (second floor)
Roop Sari Palace:   6655 Harwin

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's Friday! The weekened cometh. Sewing awaits.

I've been able to work on my Anne Adams dress a little almost every evening this week. I've got the bodice and bodice lining assembled and joined at the neck/front seam. Next up is attaching sleeves. I am hoping that I can finish it this weekend.

I also posted another pattern review for stuff made in 2009: McCalls 5431, a fairly simple skirt. I made it five times, because I had so little time to sew, which was not doing wonders for my stupid mistake ratio when I was sewing, so I stuck with something simple that I know. Besides, I <3 a-line skirts. Can't have too many. The pattern review is here. I think the fifth and final skirt I made is my favorite. Mainly because I love the print on the fabric. I know sewing with quilting cotton is the epitome of uncoolness, and yeah, I get that it doesn't drape as well as other fabric. But there are a million out-of-this-world gorgeous quilting fabrics out there, and relatively few great prints on other fabrics. I wish somebody would start cranking out lawn or voile (what's the difference between those two, anyhow?) in such awesome designs. I did buy some of Anna Maria Horner's voile prints ... I'd love to see other quilting fabric designers produce lines like this too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pattern review catch-up: giant tulip dress

I had a pile of things (Six! Seven if you count the pattern fail.) that I need to write pattern reviews for. One down now, three to go. The review I've finished is for American Weekly 3869, a mail-order pattern from the 1940s. 1940s patterns may be my favorite, at least if you ditch the linebacker shoulders some of them have. Anyhow, AW 3869 is a simple a-line dress with some neckline interest. And a giant tulip. After some deliberation, I decided to leave that part off, but I think I am a giant tulip-wearer in spirit.

The dress was pretty easy to sew, as I recall. I had to remove excess fabric at the side seams, but that seems to be the norm for me. I've thought about trying a 30 rather than a 32 ... maybe that would fit better, but I can't get past the fact that the number is too small. :) My standard alterations that I do on the pattern are to add an inch to the length in the bust and add in the hip area -- based on the pattern measurements I added two inches total for this one.

I made two versions: a quilting cotton "wearable muslin" and then a Fall plaid one with an underlined skirt. I might actually like my wearable muslin one better. I was amazed that I got the rick-rack in on the first try on my first version. I basted right were I wanted my seam to go, and then followed the dotted line, as it were. I do wish I'd taken the time to figure out how to line the bodice part on both dresses, but other than that I'm pretty happy with them. Especially now that some time has passed since I sewed them. Right after I finish, I'm too aware of the parts I feel critical of, be it my sewing skillz, fit, fabric choice or whatnot. Does anyone else have this problem? Maybe it goes away as you sew more (and better).

The pattern review is here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Behind before I even begin

The vintage pattern contest is the only one I've ever contemplated entering at Last year I had work crap and didn't finish in time. This year, they didn't include it as one of the annual contests, but snuck it in as one of the two-week Project Runway-esque assignment contests. It was announced a few weeks ago, but I only noticed today, three days after the start date. And I sew sloooow, folks. Nevertheless, I'm gonna try to get something started. I'm thinking this Anne Adams pattern from the 1940s, using some cotton lawn fabric I bought at Roop Sari Palace a few weeks ago. Hopefully I can cut all the main pieces out of one of the two 8 foot by 36 inch pieces, and then use the other for the sleeves and pockets so that they can be all accent-like.

It would appear (based on my long and tedious search for an available name on blogspot) that 99.5 percent of humanity not only got around to blogging before me, but abandoned it already. Perhaps blogging is already retro ... if so, then I am right on time ...