Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Custom fitted pants, take one

After slowly but surely turning my custom fitted pants sloper into an actual pants pattern, I sat down tonight to start cutting and sewing. My SO is still away in Germany, so I had the evening and the house to myself to sew. Whee! I tried to really take my time on these pants and go slowly and carefully, making everything as neat and professional as possible. Behold the loveliness of this single welt pocket.

And my fly front zipper, inserted with the Sandra Betzina method (this is an awesome video and makes putting in the zipper much easier than I would have ever imagined). I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but it's looking pretty good, eh? I'm quite proud of how these are turning out so far.

After I put in the zipper, I went to pop these on for a quick try on in the mirror, and was horrified to find that they're HUGE. Like, falling off, inches too big huge. I was seriously not expecting that, since I know that these pants fit me after having tried on several muslins for the research project already. Arg.

I've come to the conclusion that it's probably the linen. I've heard that linen "grows," I just didn't think that it could grow this much. I compared the pants to one piece of the original pattern, and they're probably more than an inch bigger just in one piece!

I'm trying not to be too bummed about this, because I think it is fixable if I can manage to keep myself from getting too discouraged to do the work it will take to rehab them. For starters, I reduced the size of the waistband and used some of my newly acquired twill tape to make sure it doesn't stretch out.

I was planning on putting some twill tape in here anyway, but I decided to put in two rows for good measure. Next I think I'll have to go back and try to take in the pants by a few inches at the sides. That makes me so sad, because I did a really meticulous job on finishing the seams and now I'll just have to slice it off. Such is life, I guess. Hopefully it will all be worth it in the end!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

NYC garment district, I heart you

Seriously, if I lived in New York City, I'd be down there all the time, checking out the remnants and picking up just a little bit of this or that. Things which I've looked for in half a dozen stores around here and failed to find were there in bucketloads in NYC. Sigh.

I went to three stores while my SO and I were on our mini vacation. First stop was Paron fabrics, which wasn't actually the store I intended to go to, but we ended up there anyway because it was the only store that was open on a sunday. It wasn't a giant store, but it has a fantastic 50% off room and the salespeople were really nice. I picked up three pieces of fabric from the sale annex, all 50% off:

The middle one is a lining for the dress I plan to make for my brother's wedding, and since I needed a good bit of fabric I was determined to find something cheap. This was only two bucks a yard! Good deal. The fabric on the left is a really soft shirting with stripes. Now that I have the power of the FBA, I'm determined to make the classic button down shirt that I've never been able to wear before. The tag said it was a Banana Republic remnant. I asked for two yards, but the nice guy at the store gave me the last yard that was on the roll for free, so I got three yards for $13. The flowery fabric was one that I just couldn't resist. It's a silk chiffon, and I noticed after I bought it that it's Besty Johnson remnant. It was still $10 a yard, so not exactly a steal but also not wallet-breaking either. I haven't decided exactly what I'll do with this yet, but some sort of floppy, cute blouse that I can wear with my Beignet skirt is likely what will end up happening with it.

The find of the day, though, goes to my SO. While I was pawing through the chiffons, he noticed a sign in the corner next to a pile of buttons: "Buttons. $1 each or $25 for the box." I walked right by this until he pointed out that the boxes were HUGE.

Look at all these buttons I got for only $25 bucks! After having spent ten dollars recently on a dozen red buttons, this box is going to pay for itself pretty quickly. Six different colors (they look a little funky under the flash here, but they're browns, blues and blacks), all different sizes, and enough for tons of projects. This thing was heavy to drag around after I got it, but still worth it. I already gave a few buttons to friend in Philly for her coat.

On my way back through NYC at the end of my mini vacation, I stopped at New York Elegant Fabrics, which was the store I had planned on going to. It was huge and wonderful, just as I'd imagined it, but unfortunately elegant fabrics = expensive fabrics. Since I already had my Paron finds I was happy to just browse, but on my way out I noticed a little rack of remnants and of course had to paw through that. Most of what they had there was pretty small cuts (averaging around a yard), but some were still big enough for a skirt here or a blouse there. I ended up buying these:

The green wool with the cool pattern is a pretty small piece. I'm a bit worried about whether it's actually enough to make something, but I thought for $7 I'd take it home and see if I could squeeze a short skirt out of there. The black fabric is an incredible lightweight wool that was originally $50 a yard! As soon as I touched it, I was sold. It just feels so, so luxurious. Buying fabrics by touch is something that I do miss, since I do mostly web based shopping these days. I bought 1.25 yards for $30. It's 60 inches wide, so I think I might be able to do a really classy black blazer with this.

Finally, I stopped by Pacific Trimmings and got some twill tape, some cord for making my own piping (which I just could not find for love nor money around here), and a lightweight zipper for the wedding dress. All of these things are things which are pretty new to me, so I was a bit bumbling in the trim store. Eventually I just asked someone about the zipper, and the saleslady just grabbed my swatch and came back about ten minutes later with the perfect zipper. Weird experience, but very efficient!

All in all, I can't imagine a better place to be a hobby sewist than NYC. Except that maybe my habit to stash fabric would probably clash with my terribly small apartment if I actually did move there. Maybe it's time to put in an application for that NYC job?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Live from times square

Yep, that's right... I'm sitting in Times Square right now, enjoying free wifi courtesy of McDonald's and resting my feet. The SO and I took a little trip to NYC this weekend. He's flying out of Germany today (he's on his way to the airport right now, in fact!) and I'm going down to Philly for a day or two to visit a friend. I'll blog more about our weekend when I have a wifi connection fast enough that I can actually upload pictures, but for now let me just say that I finally got to go fabric shopping in NYC, and I am currently carrying a ridiculous number of buttons in my suitcase. Life is good :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring weather biking

Biking outside... what a novel idea! Much as I really do like biking on the trainer inside during the winter, it was an amazing experience to be outside biking again over the past few weeks. It's been sunny and breezy here, just warm enough that with a sweater or a bike jacket you can hop on and go. Biking on the trainer just can't compare to the lovely free feeling of getting somewhere all on your own power.

My SO and I did two rides together in the past weeks, the first a quick sunday ride up on South Hill, and the second a ride out to Taughannock park. My SO has a map of the second ride on his blog, but I stole some of his pics to repost here. Here's me with my ridiculous knee socks on the second ride:

The trail at Taughannock park that leads to the waterfall was actually open at this time of year, despite the fact that it was pretty icy and slippery. We slipped our way down to the falls anyway to get a look at it in its iced over state. There's a huge mound of ice down there at the bottom of the falls, although the falls itself isn't frozen (I don't know if it ever freezes over in the winter.... seems somewhat unlikely).

The other ride up South Hill was definitely more challenging for me. It was one of those rides (like so many rides in Ithaca) where you spend 40 minutes climbing, 10 minutes on top of the hill enjoying the view and then 10 minutes zipping down the hill at speeds that terrify me. I should have known better than to say yes to this ride when my SO started by saying, "Well, if you're willing to do a little climbing, we could go this way..." I guess it's time to reset his internal biking-with-partner sensor that helps him distinguish between rides that will make me smile like this pic, and rides that make me wish there was something even lower than granny gear.

A final great thing about outdoor biking is that in these two short rides we went over 30 miles, putting me at about 950 in my winter biking challenge. Do the miles count if I wasn't actually on the trainer? They were certainly easier to come by, so it feels a little like cheating!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New foot!

I finally got around to doing some sewing errands today... I popped over to my friendly local Pfaff dealer to pick up an invisible zipper foot because they have a 20% off feet sale this week. It's just a little plastic doodad that looks like this pic here, but it retails for thirty bucks! It's kind of an expensive thing to buy just for putting in zippers, but the zipper on my Rooibos muslin just really isn't as invisible as I would like it to be. It seems there's a limit to how accurate I can be with my normal zipper foot and without endangering my fingers.

I also dropped off my wool crepe fabric that I'll use to make the "real" version of the Rooibos at the drycleaners today. Apparently it's only $7 or so for them to pre-treat it, which seems perfectly reasonable to me since it would probably take me a good hour (and an annoying hour at that) to steam treat it myself. Obviously I won't have the dress done in time to go to NYC this weekend, but I did finish my Beignet skirt. It looks great! My SO took a few quick snaps when I got dressed this morning. I'm tempted to pull them off of his camera now, but I'll resist doing this because I know he'll be annoyed if he doesn't have a chance to "process" them (whatever this means for digital pictures). Pics to follow soon!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rooibos fitting

I've been rewarding myself with some sewing time this week after a tremendous push to get some stuff done last week, and as a result I've been able to finish my Rooibos muslin! I decided to make a "wearable muslin," because the idea of using all that fabric only to later wad it up and chuck it annoys me. What do people do with their muslins when they're done? Make rag rugs? I don't know. I'm not exactly the most eco friendly dresser what with my penchant for buying new fabric and all, but I still can't get behind the idea of making something that I know I'm going to throw away.

I opted to make a muslin using a combo of things that I had in my stash (the bird fabric from Ikea) and $3/yard black broadcloth from At least this way I'll probably get some wear out of it instead of just chucking it at the end of the day.

So, fitting. I'm really glad I did a muslin of this first, because I definitely had some fit issues here. First, the body ended up being too big for me. I cut a 12 and ended up taking it in by 1 inch on each side, so I figure that means that I probably should have cut a 10 and will do so for the final version. Even with 2 inches out, it's still plenty roomy enough to not be clingy. So yeah, I think we're good there.

The top on the other hand, now that's a whole different story. Looks cute enough when I'm just standing there, right? But it's really too big. This is definitely obvious from the back, where you can see I've got some gaping and some off the shoulder issues going on.

From the sides, it's even more obvious that something just isn't quite right. One side looks not too bad, but the other side (my right, the left photo on here since I'm taking this in a mirror) has some major gap problems. You can see my bra when I'm just standing here hanging out, let alone when I'm actually moving around. You can also see in the right photo that the neckline jumps away from my body a bit in the front, although not as badly as in the back. Big siiigh there. These fit problems are exacerbated a bit by the fact that I probably used a little bit too much interfacing here and so the fabric isn't conforming to my body so well, but the issues remain.

I would say that all signs point to this top needing a full bust alteration. I was hoping that I would be able to get away with not doing an FBA in this pattern, since Colette patterns are supposed to be drafted for a C cup and can fit a D cup. Now to be fair, I'm a D or a DD depending on how you measure, so maybe I was pushing it a bit, especially in such a fitted pattern. I think I'm going to try to start with the size 8 pattern piece and alter that one. Now, here's a really radical idea -- I think I'm going to try to do a two sided FBA, meaning that instead of adding 1.5 inches to each side, I'll add 1 inch to the left boob and 2 inches to the right, to compensate for the fact that I'm a cup size larger on one side. I'm not sure how well this will work. It could end up just drawing attention to my lopsidedness, but I *think* that it's actually going to work out well. We'll see. Obviously more muslins will be in order (although I'll just make up the bodice this time).

For the back, I think the sensible thing to do is just take a little tuck out to bring the shoulders closer together. Unfortunately sizing down in the bodice won't help this problem, since the size 8 shoulders are pretty much the same as the 12. Normally I would applaud this since it means that the pattern maker recognizes that just because you have a big bust you don't also have football player shoulders. In this case it's working against me, though. Fortunately I think it's an easy fix. I tried tucking some of the extra fabric out just quickly with some pins, and it looks much better. This pic has about an inch at the top tucked out.

Since this piece is cut on the fold, I'll just angle it a little bit to get rid of that extra fabric, and le voila! Hopefully it will all work well.

I also started cutting out my Beignet skirt this weekend, and I'm already done the lining and the facing. Woot!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I am the statistically average woman

As I found out today in my fitting for the custom fitted pants project, I am the statistically average woman. As it turns out, I am the height of the average North American woman (162 cm) and have almost exactly the average hip to waist ratio for "body group 2," which is the average body group for this study (a butt which is neither flat nor prominent). So, I am the average of the averages! Who would have thought? You'd think that if I was so ridiculously average I would be able to find reams of nice-fitting pants. In fairness, I have an easier time finding pants that fit than shirts that fit, because my bust size is definitely (ahem) above average.

I tried on my pants muslin today, and my friendly local pants-fitting grad student marked off the areas where it needed adjusting. She had me try them standing, sitting, and walking -- when I first tried them on I thought that they were much too big, but with a non-stretch fabric you definitely need some extra bagginess for sitting in comfort. I often forget this when I'm adjusting stuff myself, and then it looks awesome in the mirror but is uncomfortable to actually wear all day. Note to self -- try stuff on while sitting down in the future, unless I'm only planning on walking around and looking cute all day. I can't wait to get the final pattern so that I can make myself a pair of pants!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bound button holes

Since it was finally sunny out today, the SO and I did a little photo shoot of some of the projects I've been working on recently. What with him being somewhat of a perfectionist about this and all, not all of the pictures made the cut. The only shot my new Sencha blouse that he thought was acceptable was this shot from the back.

Fortunately for me, this pic does a nice job of showing the bound button holes that I did on the back of this blouse! This was a new technique for me. I've always thought that they look really cool, but I've never tried them out on a blouse. I figured that the basic idea was pretty close to doing a welted pocket, but somehow the idea of doing it at such a small scale and with a slippery silk charmeuse had me pretty intimidated. This blouse seemed just perfect for bound button holes, though, so I had to try it.

For the most part, I'd say they turned out pretty well. I had a few issues with figuring out how to finish off the bound button holes (ie, how to make it so that the button hole flaps don't show through on the wrong side, which would just not be cool). After doing a little research, the best way seems to be to put in the button holes before you put in the lining, then cut the lining and hand stitch the opening so that the button hole looks right from both sides. I thought since I had already put the interfacing on what would be the back of the shirt that I would just do them from the back and then hand stitch them from the front. This was fine in theory, but the hand stitching was harder than I thought (especially around the corners). I think it would have been better if I'd done it the other way around, but I'm still pretty pleased at how it came out for my first attempt. I'll definitely use this on other projects.

Coming soon.... the Sencha blouse from the front!

PS. My tiny tuck dress made it to the front page of BurdaStyle today! Maybe it's silly, but that totally made my day...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(Over)ambitious sewing plans

Coming home to the mail yesterday was a real delight, because all of my sewing stuff arrived yesterday! How's that for good timing? I ordered much, much more fabric than I should have, especially given the amount that I have stashed away already. But somehow these things just have a way of getting out of hand.

It started with the Gorgeous Fabrics anniversary sale. I'd been eyeing up some wool crepe on there, and when it went on sale for 25% off that was just the incentive that I needed to buy. I bought the Colette patterns Rooibos dress a while back with my hemming income, and I loved the way that it was done up for the photo shoot so much that I wanted to make a navy/white version as well. Here's the fabric that I settled on:

A bright navy wool crepe, and an off-white Bemberg lining (the color is called "cool fluff"). I didn't want to go pure white, because I think that could end up being a little sailor looking. Isn't it super? I bought enough lining to make it fully lined, which I probably will do. I really want to make this dress up before my SO and I go away for our little NYC getaway weekend. Can't you just see me having high tea in this dress? Totally! I'm not sure if it's realistic to get this done before I go, but we'll see how it goes. I'm making a muslin for it now (in fact, my SO is on his way to the fabric store to pick up some interfacing for me. Don't you just hate it when you have everything you need but interfacing?).

While I was at Gorgeous Fabrics, I also had to shop around at least a little and see what else they had. I somehow always manage to talk myself into this based on the shipping costs... like if I'm going to spend eight bucks on shipping anyway, then I might as well stock up. Hoarder mentality at work there. Anyway, I ended up picking up a bright red stretch cotton twill, which I thought would be perfect for the Beignet skirt (again, loving the way it was done up on the website). The only flaw in that plan was that I didn't actually have the pattern for that skirt, so I had to hop on over and get that one, along with the Chantilly pattern.

I picked up lining for both of these projects on, which has officially become my new go-to store for cheap-ish fabrics. I used to buy stuff at Denver Fabrics because they have a great selection and stuff is cheap, but every time I've shopped there, something weird has happened -- they lose my package, they don't have a fabric in stock and neglect to tell me so I open up the box and it's just not there, it takes foreeeeever to get here, etc. I'm officially done with them now, because is equally as cheap, has free shipping over $35, and often has great coupons (I used a 25% off coupon for this order). So there, Denver Fabrics.

I got a hot pink stretch satin for the lining on the Beignet. I do hope this ends up looking decent on me, because it could very well make me look like I'm about four feet tall. Hard to tell without trying it, though, so I'm just going to dive in and see if I can make it work. It looks great on so many other people that it can't look that bad on me!

White outside, green inside

It's been lovely and snowy here the past few days. Normally I'm not one to celebrate snow, but when I'm inside writing anyway, it's kind of nice to feel all cozy and snowed in. We got a really insane amount of snow a few days back, as you can see by the half buried cars on my street!

While it's all white outside, it's all green inside my tank. Boo. What I thought was a bacterial problem has now shown itself to be definitely not a bacterial problem. The tank is now fully, insanely green. Like, I can't see the fish if they're halfway back in the tank green. Big sigh. I guess this is what the WetWebMedia people mean when they tell you that killing off BGA with antibiotics isn't really going to solve the problem.

I'm a bit at a loss for what to do here now. I've still been doing weekly water changes, but do I do more? Less? Fertilize or no? Add a flocculant? Opinions are so mixed on what seems to be the source of the problem. Generally, most people seem to think that when you get a bad algae outbreak, it's because there's an overabundance of one type of nutrient, or a lack of another type that prevents the plants from actually being able to make use of the nutrients properly. I know it's not an excess of nitrate (can you say ZERO nitrate?). It could well be phosphates, but I don't have a kit to test for that. I'm tempted to keep adding fertilizer in case the limiting nutrient is something like iron, but it could be that I'll just be making more algae soup. Another tidbit that I found from the interwebs is that algae don't grow as well in blackwater conditions, so I could try adding some blackwater extract, which would probably be nice for my fish anyway. For the first year of the tank it was probably a little full of tannins from the driftwood, so maybe this kept me from having problems before.

For today, I think I'll just do a water change and be patient. But I'm setting the timer on this one -- if the tank looks this bad by March break, I will 1) do a 50% water change, 2) add flocculant, and possibly 3) add blackwater extract. It sucks majorly not even being able to see my fish.