Friday, August 29, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

I'm kind of ready for this season to be over. I'm not rooting for anyone and that's kind of the point of reality competition shows. What about you? Do you have a favorite?

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: I'm not sure that this episode had a highlight. Am I being a Debbie Downer? Oh wait, I know! The outdoor shots of the NY skyline were pretty awesome. The hotel where the designers are staying looks pretty swanky.

Lowlight: I call shenanigans on the Korina-Amanda pairing. ARE YOU KIDDING ME show? Do you think I'm stupid? I don't believe for one second that it wasn't manipulated that way.

Why is everyone telling Amanda she's fake and not wanted there? What is the point of that except to be mean, manipulative and to play mind games? Weird.

Best garment: Kini again. And again he doesn't win. I have two feelings about this. First, Kini should have told the judges that he made the shirt. Especially if he was going to complain about it later! Second, Sean should have said something, but it's also a hard fact that fashion designers do not construct the majority of their collections. I follow Zac Posen on Instagram and he always posts photos of his atelier...full of other people doing the constructing.

Aside from that, Sean's had a touch of pirate to it and I think Kini's design fit the challenge better.

Worst garment: So many. Again. But Sandhya's was terrible.

Best line of the night: "Sandhya's looks like a corn cob, after you've eaten all the corn off of it." --Alexander

"Hashtag...Throwback Thursday." --Nina


I liked Char and I'm really disappointed that she went home. I think we can officially say that this season is one of the worst. These designers have a terrible dynamic together. I'm sure they're lovely individually, but together they're like a moody group of middle schoolers. Let's get it over with already.

Next week: DIAMONDS!


I haven't yet mentioned anything about this, but a few months ago I enrolled in the online course Pattern Workshop: From Sketch to Sale (affiliate link), taught by Lauren Dahl. I'm slowly working my way through it, and it is AWESOME. A full review will be coming when I've completed it. But I wanted to let you know that this weekend the course is $20 off with code LABORDAY20. This course is worth about 5 times what it costs even without the sale price! If you have any interest in creating digital patterns, this course will teach you everything you need to know. Happy Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tribute August: The Quirky Peach

Sewcialist: a person who enjoys sewing and uses social media to engage with others who also enjoy sewing

I discovered the Sewcialist website a few months ago, shortly after joining Instagram. I love the Firehose, which gives me a huge window into the world of sewists that I don't regularly follow. Every month, the Sewcialist blog sets a theme and gives us all a chance to participate in a great big kind-of-sewalong. This month it was Tribute August.

A while back, The Quirky Peach, aka Sally, blogged Simplicity 1463 and I absolutely fell in love. And not only did she make her own, but she hosted a giveaway for a lucky reader to win the pattern as well, because she's cool like that.

Image blatantly stolen from The Quirky Peach

Speeding along to enter the giveaway, it dawned on me that I already owned this pattern! Sally's version was so fantastic that I simply didn't connect the dots back to the pattern envelope. 


Unable to forget about her beautiful grey modal knit, I schemed away. I saw that Girl Charlee had two yards left of a knit that looked identical, and I snapped it up, fully intending to copy Sally. So I did!


One thing I could not copy was the beautiful lilacs in her photos, since that was 3 months ago. Will this patch of weeds wildflowers do instead?


Aaaaahhhh I love this top! In my Sewist's Notebook I titled it "Awesome Shirt" and it is! The fabric is incredible and I REALLY hope it holds up without pilling. The front of the shirt looks pretty basic (a good canvas for accessories) but then BAM!


I should have called this a mullet shirt, because it's all business in the front, and a definite party in the back. But you can still wear a regular bra! Hooray!


I made a size XXS in the bust, grading to an XS in the waist/hips. This was kind of a pain because those two sizes weren't nested together :/ Sally lengthened her top by 2" and I wish I would have done the same, but I didn't think to do it because she's way taller than me! It's not TOO short, I'd just prefer a little more length in the front.

Oh, and in case you didn't notice...I cut my hair! And when I say I cut my hair, I mean I cut it myself. Scary! I used the famous upside-down ponytail method that you'll find all over Pinterest. This is the shortest my hair has ever been, but I like it! It's also a good opportunity to grow my bangs back out (my husband hates them...which I knew before I cut bangs for myself!).

But anyway, back to the top! I did have some fit issues, which is weird for something so simple. After sewing it all up, I saw that there was some blousing going on at one side seam. Crappy in-progress-Shar-pei-photobombed shot:


It was only on this side, due to the way the back is asymmetrical. I imagine it had to do with my narrow shoulders and also just the way it's constructed. Since there is all kind of draping in the back, I thought it would be a simple fix to gather the back portion that was causing problems. I don't know how anyone else feels about it, but I like it!


I literally just gathered the fabric right there and tied it off. Done! I also used two short pieces of fabric in the back instead of longer pieces for ties. I knew that ties hanging off would bug me so this was an easy decision to make.

Whoa Farrah Fawcett...I promise the humidity  
was just making my hair act weird here.

Thank you Sally for being an inspiration for my favorite new top! If you've never been over to The Quriky Peach, then you definitely need to check it out! I mean, where else can you see an Anna with giraffes on it?!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I'm Reading: Christian Dior

For as long as I can remember I've had a fascination with France. I remember going to the library at the tender age of 11 and checking out books about speaking French ("Je m'appelle Beth!"). I took three years of the language in high school, and obtained a minor in French in college. Sadly, a foreign language is pretty much use it or lose it, so don't ask me to speak anything now.


I felt my love for all things French being rekindled while reading the book Christian Dior: The Biography, by Marie-France Pochna. Christian Dior was a French fashion designer best known for his design called the New Look, which debuted at the end of World War II. I don't necessarily consider myself a fashion designer, just an avid home sewist, but I still think it benefits me to know as much as I can about fashion history (I highly recommend Tim Gunn's book on the topic). 


I know what you're thinking, oh a biography...yawn! But honestly, I almost couldn't put it down! The author did a fantastic job of including historical context for Dior's life. Whether it was a beautiful description of his childhood home in Normandy, or the glitter of the Paris art scene, or the reality of Nazi-occupied France, I felt like I understood what influenced Dior. Being American, I'm pretty terrible at remembering all the history I learned in school, so I appreciated the author providing so much background. There were even long discussions about the world of fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and how they impacted fashion design.


After reading this book, I'm considering including others like it in my rotation of reading material. It's hard not to be inspired by famous designers, no matter their particular aesthetic. One negative word about this Dior book in particular; it was translated from the French publication, and as such there are quite a few errors, mostly in misplaced punctuation. Normally that kind of thing would drive me bonkers, but I enjoyed the content so much that I could forgive these mistakes.


What about you, have you read any books about particular fashion designers? Or do you think there isn't much place for that sort of high fashion among us mere mortals? Inquiring minds want to know!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fall sewing plans

This summer has been unusually cool for Indiana, so it hasn't been hard to turn my thoughts to fall sewing (except for the last two weeks, it's suddenly 90 degrees again!). I'm wrapping up everything I had planned for the summer so why not?

If you recall, I used Sarai's (from Colette Patterns) Wardrobe Architect series to develop a spring color scheme and silhouette preference. It taught me a TON about my own style and I was excited to go through a similar process for the fall (images from my Wardrobe Architect Pinterest board).


My fall colors are the same as spring, except I eliminated pale pink (a nearly neutral) and a more bold coral (a statement color). Pale pink is a color I can only pull off with a tan, and bold colors are hard for me to get behind in the winter for some reason. Probably because winter is depressing. I want to limit my palette so that it's easy to layer without a lot of competing/clashing colors.


Silhouettes were a little harder. Fall/winter requires so many layers that it was difficult for me to envision and choose the proper proportions. Did I mention I usually hate cold-weather clothing? I'm pretty particular about long sleeves and sweaters and don't like feeling constricted. But I hate being cold. Honestly, the above photo is just kind of my rough go at it. Footwear can also play a huge part in silhouette, and in the fall/winter the weather usually dictates what goes on my feet. I often start at the bottom and dress my way up!

Once I had my silhouettes worked out, I went through my closet and took stock of what I have already that worked. I picked a random number of items from each category that seemed ideal, then I looked for holes so I could decide what to sew.


In general, I need skinny jeans, warm dresses, and long-sleeved tops that I'll actually wear. Once I knew which pieces I needed, I could go through my patterns and plug in styles and fabrics. (Click the photo to make it bigger.)

wardrobe architect

wardrobe architect

I'm sure this all looks very ambitious! But that's what I said in the spring and I managed to get most of my items done. I am worried about the three pairs of jeans I've given myself to sew...not scared of sewing them, but worried that my machine won't deal. It may not be able to do fancy topstitching but I think it can manage general construction. In the meantime I'll be daydreaming about a vintage Singer 15-91 (more on that coming soon!!).

Soon to be jeans!

Soon to be dresses!

As I look over these plans, I'm a little concerned about overall warmth. Last year we experienced record-breaking cold with temperatures going well below zero. Like, don't leave your house kind of cold. I've got one or two wool knits in my stash and some sweatshirt fleece; the rest is medium weight cotton knits. Any other recommendations for winter fabrics? I hate defaulting to a big ugly sweatshirt just because I can't put together a "real" outfit.

I'm sure my plans will evolve over the season (for example, I already found a new pattern I can't live without). What about you, have you started planning for fall? For my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, are you ready to be done with your cold weather?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

Normally red carpet episodes are super fun for me to watch. Sadly, Heidi has a way of spoiling things and she posted photos of herself on Instagram wearing the winning dress AND tagged the winning designer. So without any mystery about the winner, this episode kind of dragged for me. Curse you Heidi!

Spoilers ahead...(see Heidi, this is called a spoiler alert).

Highlight: You know why Kini gets done so quickly? Because he doesn't waffle on his design. Now that I think about it, why do so many designers waste time doing nothing? They go into this knowing that the setting is intimidating, yet they still can't believe in themselves enough to commit.

Heidi is terrifying. She's SO nice and vanilla as a judge on America's Got Talent, but on this show she scares the crap out of everyone except Tim.

Lowlight: It aggravates me when designers complain about working with new (to them) materials, especially when they've been to Mood (twice!) and had complete reign over their choices. If you're a fashion designer, I think you should have at least slight experience with as many fabrics as you can. C'mon, this is Project Runway, you KNOW there will be at least one red carpet challenge! And if you're not comfortable with satin or charmeuse or whatever, use a double knit like Kini.

Sandhya getting all that extra money...eh, I'm glad it came to nothing since she was safe. I don't know if I can blame her for what she did, but I don't think I would have done it.

What does it say about this season that Alexander sent down a model with her butt hanging out, and he was safe?

Best garment: Kini's was my favorite but even that one didn't blow me away. None of them did, really, when you think about some of the other red carpet dresses that have appeared on this show before.

I think Fade pulled out a great look after it was looking kind of drab before. If it had been a different color it would have been a stunner.

Worst garment: So many. Besides the obvious bottom three that didn't finish or execute anything wearable, I didn't like Amanda's. Too Cleopatra for me and the beading looked sloppy.

Best line of the night: "Wksahfk jsnskajd aslkjdf klsjdfhg askdjf" --Heidi speaking German with Fade.

This episode really highlighted the problem with this season. These designers are very narrow-minded and apparently don't have the ability to make it work. Given a second chance at Mood, Kristine did not simply buy lining for her first see-through dress, and Korina still went with green. I don't know if it's fear/pressure or a lack of confidence, but it's not fun to watch. We waited almost a year for a new season and THIS is it?

Next week: Another team/pairs challenge? Blah.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tribal Print Knit Romper

I decided that one romper wasn't enough. Whether you call it a jumpsuit, romper or playsuit, you have to admit that there's something appealing about one-stop dressing. That's why we all love dresses, right? So why not up the practicality and dive into rompers? I know what you're thinking...but where does one wear a playsuit? A playground, of course!


Although you should probably have a small person with you, otherwise you're one of those creepers that I avoid when we go to the park.


The pattern for this romper is Simplicity 1355, View D.


I originally wanted to make View A (top left) with shorts, but after seeing a bunch of cute versions of View A on Pattern Review, I took the plunge. Obviously, this view isn't terribly bra-friendly, but oh well. It's fun. And yes, I own those Strap Perfect doohickeys that convert any bra to a racerback.

ethnic romper

The fabric is a cotton/rayon/spandex knit from Girl Charlee, and I ordered it specifically for this purpose (don't you love when that works out?). This pattern is meant for woven fabrics, so I made some adjustments since I was sewing a knit:
  • finished the armholes with a single-turned hem instead of bias tape
  • cut a smaller size (XXS for the bodice and XS for the shorts)
  • omitted the pockets
  • used store-bought cording for the drawstring (from the jewelry section at Jo-Ann's)

Unfortunately, I had to sew most of this on my sewing machine instead of my serger. The front and back keyholes and the underarms all needed single-turned hems, the center front and center back seams required the seam allowances be open (and not serged), and the casings for the neckline needed to be sewn on a regular machine. The fabric was NOT pleasant to sew that way, so I kind of hated this whole thing while it was in progress. But once it was done, I LOVED it and might have worn it three two and half days in a row. You cannot beat a knit romper for comfort!

ethnic romper
I adore the back!

One major change I made was to add a middle band with a drawstring, resulting in a more drop-waist style. Frankly, I hate waistlines at my natural waistline. I think a drop-waist is more forgiving since it doesn't expand when your tummy expands, and for me it's more comfortable. I did remove a few inches from the waist portion of the shorts since they're sitting lower on my body than intended.


I'm super proud of the pattern-matching on this romper. Can you find the center-front seam on the bodice?


The middle portion is a black cotton/spandex knit, double-layered so it creates a casing. I interfaced the center front and then sewed two buttonholes for the drawstring. Bathroom visits are kind of a pain with TWO drawstrings (this one and the neckline) but meh. I've gotten over it.


Sometimes when you play hard, you pop stitches, which I apparently did during this photoshoot.


I know summer is coming to a close for half the world, but I encourage anyone who hasn't tried a romper to DO IT! Sometimes trendy sewing is just as rewarding as making those long-lasting navy pencil skirts. And c'mon, don't we all have a playground-loving kid hiding inside us?


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Tips to Build a Better T-Shirt

After having so much fun with my Knit Finishes series, I knew I wanted to expand it with some tips for sewing t-shirts.

sewing a tshirt

I had the opportunity to write just such a guest post for Sew Mama Sew, which appeared last Friday. I cover things like fitting the shoulders, understanding ease, and knowing your stitches. Go HERE to check it out! Thanks to SMS for having me and I hope you find the tips useful!