Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Loot! From Eddie's Quilting Bee

When the sewing bug first bit, I lucked out when I discovered that I live so close to Eddie's Quilting Bee.  Yes, they are geared more towards quilting, but they have been expanding their fabric selection to lure in (garment-sewing) suckers like me.

I live in Palo Alto, CA, yes, that Palo Alto, where Stanford is, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, etc., but it's not exactly the place where you'll find Mood Fabrics à la Project Runway.  It's the 'burbs.  The closest thing we have to Mood is Britex Fabric, the famously expensive fabric store in San Francisco.  I thought I was SOL until I discovered Eddie's secret stash of fashion fabrics.

The story goes like this: a San Francisco fabric store by the name of Edward's (ironic, no?) went out of business some 30 years ago and someone has been holding on to all the leftover fabric.  Eddie purchased the whole lot of vintage fabric and it is now available for purchase at his store at ridiculously low prices.  I bought beautiful coating wool for $9.99/yard.  Say what?!  This is my favorite place to buy fabric right now.  One of the gals at the cutting counter routinely recognizes me when I come in for a fabric fix.  That's embarrassing.  There is also a growing selection of new bolts of fabric.

Anyways, check out some of my recent acquisitions!  I'm really excited to get started on projects with these lovelies.

Floral cotton for a spring/summer dress

For a blouse (it's more emerald in person)

Gonna make this into a scarf!

Swiss cotton...need to find the right dress pattern since there is only 2.25 yards

Wool for a cropped coat.  I have fantastic pistachio green silk crepe to line it :)

For a flowy blouse (sorry it's blurry!)

Skirt wool

Gorgeous, albeit spendy, vintage lace.  $80/yard now, regular $150/yard in 1970

If the photo quality is kinda bad, that's because these are all iPhone photos.  I just didn't have the time to re-take the pictures with my DSLR.

Can't wait to see my wardrobe start to take shape!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Dress: DONE!

My Christmas dress is finally done!  I'm so excited!  This is the first dress I have ever made and I had a lot of fun putting it together.

Front of dress on my new dress form, Betty (get it?  my sewing machine's name is Peggy? *cough, Mad Men, cough*)

I used Vogue pattern 8766 and had no problems assembling the dress.  The instructions were very clear and easy to follow, even with the few adjustments that I made.  My waist and hip measurements were more on par with a size 14 and my bust/shoulder along the lines of a size 12, so I cut the pattern accordingly.

After assembling the bodice I tried it on and found it was waaaaay too tight across my tummy.  I removed the front darts and put smaller ones in their place.  After attaching the skirt to the bodice and installing the zipper, I tried it on again for fitting.  Apparently I am very high waisted (basically where my ribcage ends), so I ended up taking the dress in about 1.5" where my waist is.  I evened out the skirt with dressmaker's shears before hemming it (hemmed the lining about 1.5" shorter than the lace).  I finished the raw edge of the sleeves with bias tape before hemming it because the lace is really unbearably itchy on my skin.  Lastly I installed a hook and bar above the zipper.

Closeup.  Sleeves were lined and cropped.

Back of dress on Betty (her new nickname is "Big Butt Betty" after fiddling with the sizing dials)

After all that I thought I was done, but then I decided to treat the hem of the skirt with trimming from the lace border.  It just looked more finished when I pinned a test swatch.  I cut enough of the border to cover the circumference of the skirt.  I attached the trim with a small zigzag stitch to prevent the raw edge of the trim from unraveling; the stitching is discrete enough that no one will notice...except maybe me because I tend to be a perfectionist like that.

Lace border trim

Overall the pattern worked well for me and I loved the fabrics that I used (vintage lace and silk/cotton blend lining).  I finished just about all the seams with bias tape which is something I had never tried but was pleased with the results.  I can definitely see myself using this pattern again in the future.

Yay!  I can't wait to wear my dress!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Prettiest Wrapping Paper Ever

Having grown up in a family that appreciates aesthetics (my grandfather is a retired master carpenter, uncle is an architect, sister studied graphic design), I really love quality goods with great design.  Which is exactly why I have a crush on really cool paper.

Sometimes if I find I have time to kill over the weekend, I might wander into Paper Source and check out what they have in stock (Paper Source also happens to be next door to Sur La Table *drool*).  I love their gift wrap, cards, envelopes, etc. because they are made well and have clean lines.  So of course when I found out one of my friends at work was getting married, you betcha I went to PS to buy gift wrap.  It's not necessarily the cheapest, but seriously, how many times is a close friend going to get married?  ...I hope the answer is only once...

My colleagues and I pitched in to buy the bride a Le Creuset pot, so I needed the prettiest paper I could find.  I chose PS's Marigolds Wrapping Paper.  I added a little raffia accent and was thrilled with the result.  Paper Source gift wrap is heavy and creases nicely, unlike most of the crap you will find in stores these days.  Oh, and since it's so thick, I wasn't concerned about the LC logo showing through the paper.  Not bad considering the pot packaging is orange, white, and black.

If you have the cash and want to make a gift extra special, I recommend Paper Source gift wrap.  You can also buy single sheets of various handmade papers from all over the world.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decorative Stitching: Corded Neckline

My obsession with "Mad Men" combined with the plethora of vintage sewing blogs on the web has really piqued my interest in vintage sewing techniques and details.  One of those techniques is to use cording.

I've seen a couple of examples of corded garments, but I found one I'd really love to try at Coletterie.  It's simple but it adds a lot of visual interest.

I swear I saw a Bernina video a few months ago about cording, but I can't seem to find it.  So instead, I found an equally informative article from "Threads" magazine that explains how to stitch cording by winding it onto your bobbin.  I'd love to try this kind of cording on a dress, so I'm going to keep this up my sleeve until I have the right project to try it on.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Ordered: OttLite Task Lamp & Dritz Dress Form!

Hooray!  I took advantage of Joann's online Black Friday and ordered a couple items that I've been needing.

Anyone who is into sewing/crafting/etc. knows you need a good light source to get the job done.  I have always admired the OttLite lamps and I finally got to the point where my meager Ikea lighting just wasn't making the cut (har, har, get it?!  okay, yeah, not that funny...).  Thankfully Joann's had some terrific Black Friday deals online, including an OttLite Task Lamp for $19.99, down from the regular $89.99 price tag.  At some 77% off I just couldn't pass it up.

I also go a dress form.  Oh. My. God.  I've been reading all sorts of reviews and decided to give the Dritz Simple Fit dress form a try.  I really wanted to buy the Fabulous Fit dress from, but at $400, I couldn't justify the price even though it had good reviews.  The Dritz model I ordered is newer so there weren't many reviews.  Reviews for similar models complained about how the stand was unstable, but it looks like the Simple Fit model has an updated base.  I checked the return policy, so if it ends up being a disaster, I'll just bite the bullet and pay for the return shipping.

*If* the dress form looks like it will work well for my purposes, I'll probably order the Fabulous Fit fitting system to help mold the form into an Angela-shape.  Dress forms are always going to be imperfect unless you pay to have a custom form made.

I can't wait until my goodies arrive so I can put them to work.  Yay!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Color, Pattern & Texture Inspirations

I've been playing around with my camera and iPhoto quite a bit and captured some pictures that I find inspirational in terms of color, pattern, and texture.  I'd love to use these as a sewing guide some time in the future.

I think this is my favorite picture from the whole trip.  It's currently my desktop.

All but the top two photos were taken in Iran.  I really need to scout out more SF Bay Area locales for photo ops.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Progress: Christmas Party Dress

My dress is almost done, but with the short week because of Thanksgiving, I doubt I’ll have time to finish it until the weekend.  Nonetheless, I am very happy with how it’s going!

After assembling the bodice I discovered I had to make some alterations to the vertical darts.  I consider myself to be a fairly slender person and I did compensate for my less-than-hourglass figure by cutting the waist and hip a size larger, but it was still far too tight in the waist!  To fix the problem I removed the darts and replaced them with narrower ones.

Chalk outline = original dart per pattern 

Assembled bodice with adjusted darts

I also needed to make some adjustments to the seams on my dress.  The lace on my dress is made of synthetic material, so it’s pretty darn scratchy on my ridiculously skin.  To avoid any problems, I finished all the seams with bias tape.  Not only does the tape help stop the itchies, it also helps prevent the silk fibers from fraying because we all know what a huge mess that turns into about 0.2 seconds after cutting out all the pattern pieces.  I wanted to get a crazy-obnoxious color bias tape (magenta!), but Joann’s didn’t have the colors I wanted in the width I wanted, so I settled for lavender.

Scratchy seams!

Seams with lavender bias tape (note my iPhone on the left playing Mad Men)

I finally have the skirt attached to the bodice, and am left with sleeves, a zipper, and hemming to complete.  Hooray!  I’m so happy it’s turning out well!  There are sequins all over the house and I’m sure it will shed more during the party, but I don’t care because it’s going to be so purdy.  Yes, purdy.  Unfortunately pictures with flash just don't do the dress justice.

Left: front of dress.  Right: back of dress sans zipper.

I hope to have a final product to share within the week!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Iran Souvenirs: Tchotchkes for the Home

I decided to share some pictures of the souvenirs I brought back from Iran.  They had such great stuff at the bazaars that I had a horrible time choosing what to buy!

Because the United States embargo on Iran, I could not use travelers' checks, credit cards, or debit cards.  Strictly cash only.  Since the Iranian rial is so weak against the US dollar, I wasn't too worried about running out of money before the trip ended.  I stowed $1000 cash in my money belt and boy was it more than I ever needed.  I bought a ton of stuff, used a chunk of it for tips for our drivers and tour guides, and I still had several hundred leftover when I was done.  Iran is an incredibly safe country, and the only time I felt slightly unsafe was being corralled through "airport security", which basically is where, in my case, women elbowed each other to get themselves and their possessions through the scanners first.

Here are some of my finds from Esfahan...

This is an enameled copper dish, about $10.  Iran is known for its miniaturist painting, i.e. pictures and designs painted with teeny tiny brushes containing only a few hairs.  The man who owned this shop allowed me to try painting an item he was working on, but I think I did a horrible job!  He asked me how hard I thought it was, and I admitted it was very difficult.  Bowl is for my mom.

Turquoise!  These 6 pieces cost me $250, including the 10% I negotiated down.  The four round ones on the bottom are for earrings (pair for me and a pair for my mom).  The one of the top left is for my sister, and the top right is mine; these two will be made into pendants.

Camel bone boxes painted by a miniaturist student.  My box is on the top, sister's is on the bottom.

What the inside looks like.  I still can't believe it's made out of camel bone!  $50 for both.

My "apothecary" jar.  Enameled copper by the same artist as the bowl.

Inside the jar.  This cost about $15.

And the pièce de résistance: my copper lantern.  These things are everywhere.  Solid copper and hand forged.  Cost: $35.

A couple of notes!
  • Bargaining in Iranian bazaars is not the same kind of bargaining we see at garage sales here in the States.  Americans are used to automatically offering half price, but this is totally unacceptable to Iranian merchants.  Standard discounts are usually no more than 10%.  Depending on whether or not I was buying multiple items, I adjusted my offer accordingly, and I was never declined.  A nice thing is that all merchants generally accept USD.
  • Turquoise is cheaper in Iran because of the exchange rate and the plentiful supply of quality stones, but they are not dirt cheap.  On the upside, they are actual turquoise stones.  The majority of turquoise in the US, as I have learned, is reconstituted.  Because turquoise is so fragile and the layer of stone so thin, it's hard to get good pieces.  In the States it's a common practice to take inferior stones, crush them, then mold them into a desirable shape.  I may have been able to get cheaper stones at home, but they more than likely would have been artificial.  I purchased my turquoise from a reputable jeweler.  Also: jewels/stones are usually purchased separate of a setting.  Labor is cheap in Iran, so most Iranians have their jewelry custom made.  I unfortunately wasn't in any city long enough to get my stones set.
These are only some of my souvenirs, so I'll have to take pictures of the rest.

Hope you enjoyed looking!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Sewing Inspiration: Betty Draper

I am kind of obsessed with the AMC television show, "Mad Men".  Like seriously.  I currently have season 4 on my iPhone and I watch it while I'm on my elliptical machine.

All kidding aside, "Mad Men" has fantastic costuming and is great inspiration for sewing ideas.  I admit I dislike Betty Draper as a person, but I love her clothes.  Here's my Betty Draper inspiration wall...

Season 2

Season 1?

Season 3

Season ??

Season 2

The only major problems I find with these silhouettes are (a) you need a petticoat of some sort to add volume to the skirts, and (b) you need a bullet bra to properly fill out the bust.  I read a fantastic article over at Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing on bullet bras vs. t-shirt bras.  It was both funny and informative.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hot Patterns Wong-Singh-Jones Marrakesh Drawstring Pants

Um.  I might not know where to start.  Well, I most definitely know you don't start with the instructions.  Because there barely are any.

I'm pretty new to the world of sewing, but I'm always up for a challenge.  Maybe it stems from my teacher's pet days, or maybe it's because I'm incredibly stubborn and refuse to give up.  I figured drawstring pants would be a great place to start when it comes to pants.  They're not incredibly fitted, and there are fewer seams.

I needed a pair of loose, comfortable pants to wear in Iran because I knew it was going to be hot.  I found slub linen on sale at Joann's and got to work on my pants.  Or at least I tried.

The instructions are incredibly confusing and are not ideal for someone with very little experience.  With broad statements like "attach waistband", unless you have done one before, you probably won't know how it's supposed to work.  Also, I was not a fan of the approximations of how much fabric I would need.  I don't want to be told, "You'll need about 2 yards of fabric", because it depends on the type of fabric, the pattern, if there's a nap, if you are making super big pants, the width of the fabric, etc.  I am paying you, the pattern manufacturer, to tell me how to make these pants, so can't you at least give me proper instructions?  I almost feel like someone who didn't know how to sew wrote the instructions.  That bad.

In the end, the pants turned out okay, and just okay.  They were too tight on my butt, so I had to make some adjustments for that, and the zipper is a bit wonky because the instructions are really terrible (I got to the point where I had to pull out a pair of my jeans to figure out how they had been assembled).  The concept of the pants is nice, but execution-wise, I need to re-design the assembly process.

Pants before I attached the waistband: crazy zipper, prominent pockets, and "pilates bedonkadonk" before I adjusted the seat

The pants worked out great for my trip: they were comfortable, breathed nicely, and dried quickly, especially when given how low the humidity is in Iran.  I'm glad I chose a slub fabric because it needed zero ironing, even though it is indeed linen.  I've worn the pants a few times at home, but since the weather has cooled off, I haven't been wearing them.  I'll be keeping them for at least another season.  Perhaps I'll make another pair of pants in the future, but only after I've had some practice with a different pants pattern.

Persian culture has a thing for unibrows.  And for some reason my pants look incredibly short here.

I would only recommend this pattern if you are particularly masochistic, or you have a decent amount of pant sewing experience under your belt (pun intended).