Monthly Archives: April 2011

The I Was Made For Sunny Days Skirt

I have to say, I do love when the weather gets nice because I’m really a skirt person. Or a dress person. I’ll take either one. But I love Spring with all of my heart because I re-discover all of these garments which have been hibernating over the course of the winter and can finally expose my now pale and scary legs to the light of day, hopefully to get some color and stop causing birds to drop out of the sky etc. Of course, now that I sew, I can also MAKE new garments to celebrate the springtime, which…is exactly what I just did.

You see, my beloved but savings depleting Spool will on some occasions have sales on selections of fabric that for whatever reason aren’t selling well or things they want to rid themselves of. And sometimes there is a gem in that group, something I absolutely adore and absolutely adore paying half price for which. And one such a fabric emerged a few weeks ago, gorgeous, special, and perfect for spring. And so I purchased it, and a zipper, to match:

But what to do with this cute cloth? What to make? I decided it was too loud for a shirt, though so might disagree, but to that I say, go get your own, dude. So skirt it would have to be, but what kind? I thought about a circle skirt, but after twisting the fabric this way and that I couldn’t figure out how to cut a circle skirt while maintain the zigzags in a uniform position that I liked. I considered the Michelle Skirt by Burda Style, which I’ve made for my mother, so I already have the pattern, but I wanted something with more of a waist. So I said, screw it, and with reckless abandon drafted my own skirt pattern, and I came out with this:

Which once I applied the zipper (hand-picked, of course, no zipper foot means lots of hand sewing..) and hemmed and finished the hem with bias tape to give it some weight, became this:

Can you tell its windy today? No? Then check this out:

A major thanks to my amazing mother for shooting these photos by the way. I’m such an ungrateful little person and yell at her to “give me direction” and “fix my face” and “make me look thin” and god knows the woman does a lot for me already, she really shouldn’t have to put up with my model moments. So if you know anyone in the Philadelphia area who wants to take photos of me in various homemade outfits, you know, give me a ring…

How did I make this stripy slightly 1970’s wonder, you may ask? Well, it was easy. I just made a series of box pleats in the fabric until it had condensed to the measurement of my waist (I don’t know if that sentence makes sense but just go with it, you know what I’m saying) and then attached a waist band. Generally you need about three times the length of your waist to make box pleats all the way around, and this ended up a bit bigger then my waist which is fine, because I do so enjoy breathing.

I like box pleats. I think they drape really nicely and create a full effect without making your hips look huge, as gathered skirts can often do. An exception to this is Sewaholic’s new pattern, the Crescent Skirt, which looks amazing. You can buy it here.

See? My posterior does not appear to have been grossly expended by the drape of the skirt. Win. A favorite show of mine, Coupling, the UK version, obviously, has a great quote about junk in the trunk, and it is the following ” You’ve never understood about bottoms, Jane. Having a bottom is like living with the enemy. Not only do they spend their lives slowly inflating, they flirt with men while we’re looking the other way.”. Genius. And so sadly true. But not in this skirt!


I do so love these box pleats, but they are honestly a bit of a bitch to keep neatly ironed and in their correct positions. Oh, well. If you want to make your own box pleats you can follow this uber easy Burda Style tutorial, it’s what I did, and it turned out pretty well, don’t you think?

And the zipper, you say? Show us the beautifully hand-picked zipper? But of course!

I will forever be grateful to Tasia from Sewaholic for her tutorial on this. It’s just too helpful for words.

Glamor Shot!

And finally, for your escapist viewing pleasure, a blooming iris from my garden:

Oh, and the skirt title? Is the name of a song by the Weepies, whom I love. You can listen to the song here. Happy Springtime, everyone! Go forth and get skirty.


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Awesome things you ought to know about 4/26/11

I recently caught another cold. Which isn’t great. But it happens. And normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, I would just spend a few days wallowing in congestion and Law and Order re-runs on USA and then be fine, but this time that wasn’t an option because my awesome mother had gotten us tickets to the Roberto Capucci show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art! Which is awesome! But I was sick. But I wanted to see the show! But I was totally out of it. But screw consciousness, I was going to see CAPUCCI. So I gathered my tissues and cough drops and made a solid attempt to look like a human being and I went to the show. And I’m so glad I did, because it was truly amazing.

In case you don’t know who Capucci is, he’s an Italian designer/fabric artist/maverick (drink!) who creates Sculpture Dresses. He started as a young designer creating works based on shapes he saw in nature (sort of like the Gaudi of clothing) and his works were wildly popular.

Capucci's uber famous "Bud" dress

He was part of the Italian fashion movement of the 50’s, loved by American buyers and fashion critics because it was half the price of the French catty couture club. Capucci did end up in Paris, briefly, but he soon returned to Italian where he still creates fabric Sculptures today.

This dress has 13 layers of skirts.

This was from his show in 1985 at the Armory in New York

How cool is that? Capucci. Seriously, if you live anywhere near Philadelphia it’s worth taking the trip to see this amazing and beautifully curated show.

Other awesome things you might want to know about?

My friend Haley has this great short video series and I’m in her latest offering of “Give Me A Job”. You can watch it here.

Manolo Blanik has a dairy farm. You heard that right. And my friend Selin uses the same shampoo as Blanik uses for blonde cows. Read about it here.

Not only does the Washington Post HAVE a Peeps Diorama contest, but this is it’s fifth year. See all the runners up here, and be warned, it’s addictive.

Finally, there is a website that specializes in reproductions of historic and vintage fabrics. I’m really glad I didn’t learn of this earlier, because I would literally have no money right now. Drool over their stock here.

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Filed under Fabric, Inspiration

Captain’s Log 4/20/11 and GIVEAWAY WINNER!

First of all, congratulations to my very first giveaway winner, Alice! A helpful internet program randomized the results, and her number came up! So thank you so much everyone for entering and I will be hosting another one soon, I promise. Alice, I’ve already emailed you, but please let me know how I can send you your new package of goodies! I had, mistakenly assumed that it would actually be nice by this point but it’s cold and rainy here and I want to cry. Oh, well, have this charming series of magnolia, cherry and pear blossom photos for your escapist viewing pleasure:

Nice, right? But it’s all a lie. The silly trees bloom in response to changes in light, not changed in temperature. Silly trees…well, a girl can dream. And compulsively check

Now, onto more sewing productivity project! Here is a helpful if totally obvious tip that I can now offer after an evening spent hand sewing and then cursing. When you plan a project, BUY ALL THE STUFF YOU WILL NEED AT ONCE. Or, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU START. Because otherwise you will be ALMOST done your project, say, Simplicity 6723 and then realize that you need a zipper before you can go further. So you will go to, say, the adorable if expensive Spool and buy yourself an invisible zipper and hand sew it on because you don’t have a zipper foot only to have the damn thing break because Coats’ invisible zippers are literally the worst things in the world. And no, it wasn’t expensive and yes you can get another zipper but what you really want is that TWO HOURS OF YOUR LIFE BACK. And, also, what the hell with the vilification of zippers? I like zippers. I don’t need them to be invisible, I like seeing them, why must we relegate the poor zipper to invisibility? Why can’t we all acknowledge that we need zippers and garments don’t just magically fasten on their own and stop demanding invisible zippers? They always break! And they are fussy! And expensive! And I hate them! Argh!

Of course, someday I will get a machine with a zipper foot and probably jump on the invisible zipper bandwagon, but until then it’s all just hateration.

And so, confronted with such pain and anguish, I turned to other projects. And that’s another productivity tip, keep small easy to finish projects around for when you hit a road block (or zipper) with a bigger project and just need something quick and satisfying that you can finish in one sitting and restore your faith in sewing/humanity/life. Lately I’ve been making little birds for the Nichole Canuso Dance Company Benefit (you should come!) and when those are done I’m going to do some embroidery for it as well. I use a pattern by Michael Fulkerson available for FREE on the Spool blog and it’s a great way to get rid of scraps of fabric. See?

Sewaholic did a post on scraps that was very interesting and if you read the comments people gave all kinds of great ideas about how to use scraps. You can check it out over here. I like to make the birds, because they are fun and easy and remind me of all my past projects. I think covering buttons would also be fun, but I’d need a kit. Oh, well, one more thing to add to the list.

So that’s my sewing advice for the week. Buy everything at once, and make sure you have fun small back ups so you can feel accomplished rather then frustrated. So don’t feel like this:

When you could be like this:

And for the love of God, explain to me the appeal of invisible zippers. Anyone? Bueller?


Filed under Giveaway, Sewing

The So Close But So Far Away Pinafore

In theory it’s springtime in Philadelphia. In practice I just endured three miserable days of pouring rain and sad lonely low temperatures while biking around, which isn’t a lovely combination. And while I desperately wait for warm weather I, foolishly enough, keep making warm weather appropriate clothing, which is as useful as a chocolate kettle (to borrow a phrase from Terry Prachett) and a real tease. Oh, well. These things happen. But the truth is that I’m just done with wool for the season, I’m over it, I can’t think about sweaters and tights and coats. I know as soon as the weather really does warm up and become humid and sticky I will be longing for cool crisp breezes and cute winter weight wear, but as it is I want gauze and bare legs and sunshine, none of which the city of Philadelphia seems to want to provide me. Struggle.

But I made the Angela Kane Pinafore ANYWAY, because the rain can’t keep my hopes from blooming anew. The Angela Kane Pinafore is a FREE PATTERN and the best part is that it comes with these really charming and helpful videos explaining each step of making the garment. I’m assuming it’s Angela herself who is explaining, in her lovely british voice, about darts and hemming and why you should personalize the back pockets (which I omitted, sorry AK!) because when else will you have a chance to practice your embroidery? I mean, no one makes samplers anymore, which is sad, because when I was a child I was addicted to these “Young American” books describing the childhoods of future leaders or inventors etc. and I adored the Young Martha Washington book and read it over and over again and SHE made a sampler and cried and had a pet bear….I think I’ve gotten away from the point here. The POINT is that Angela Kane made her pinafore in denim, but I made it in this amazing fabric that I adore and had not quite enough of to make something, or SO I THOUGHT. Because one of the many things that is great about the Angela Kane Pinafore is how fabric efficient it is. I made a cute wearable dress with POCKETS out of less than a yard and a half of fabric. You go, Angela. And here it is:

I’ll be honest with you, it was nowhere near warm enough to wear this garment without tights and a sweater, but I did it, because I am that vain. I made a medium, as the pattern only comes in three sizes, and the fit was fine, though you do have to add your own seam allowance if you are doing this project, so be warned. I just adore this fabric, I got it at my beloved PA Fabric outlet and it’s modeled after Victorian Wallpaper, which I happen to find awesome. Mr. Malevolent liked the fabric too:

PS If you haven’t been to this website about cats where they DO NOT BELONG, please go there now. It’s amazing. The photos are courtesy of the lovely Selin who put up with me and helped me pose:

I…look like Carmen Sandiago. Which is okay, because I love her. The hat was my grandmother’s and I thought it would give the shoot a little something, a panache, if you will. I don’t know if that worked….The shoes were also my grandmother’s, as were the earrings. Of course. I love love love the pockets:

And I applied bias tape to the neck and shoulders, which was my first time with bias tape! Which I now love! Angela recommends clipping and sewing the edges, which I feel like works better with denim then this lightweight cotton. Thoughts?

I also hand picked the zipper because A. I have no zipper foot and B. I actually find hand sewing rather soothing. Plus I think it looks awesome, and will forever be grateful to Sewaholic for Tasia’s tutorial.

And now a photo of me taunting my cats because I can go outside but they CAN’T.

Oh, you want a close up? But of course!

All this modeling is very hard work. I can see why those America’s Next Top Model girls cry all the time. Me, I prefer to laugh it out instead:

Oh, springtime, please come so I can put all these outfits to good use!

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You’re Turning Violet, Violet!: Refashioned Men’s Shirt

Here you have it, folks, step right up and see my second attempt at remaking a man’s shirt into a woman’s blouse. I don’t know why, but I always assume that it’s going to take me far less time to refashion something then is does to make it from scratch. And on some level that’s true, because I don’t have to put together the pattern (assuming I downloaded it rather then had it sent to me) and cut out all the pieces and read the instructions six million times until I have some idea about what’s going on, but refashioning doesn’t make me the five minutes I feel that it should, and I’m left thinking, oh, my, where did the time go?

Nevertheless, it’s still worth it. I do so adore the idea of taking something and making a completely different looking garment out of it so that you can look at the end result and not understand how you got from point A to point B (or point Z, as the case may be). In this case, there were several steps. I really should have taken a photo of the original shirt, but I didn’t, because I’m the worst. So you will just have to trust me when I tell you that my father gave me a shirt that was a sort of pale lame lavender color. And that simply would not do. So I dyed it, and I came out with this:

Better in color, but still a large men’s shirt. So I cut and sewed and tucked and pleated and I came out with this:

What’s with the bow, you might ask? Well, I had to add some material in at the sides so that the shirt actually covers my bra and doesn’t leave me with a dreadful side breast situation. And then I added a bow in the same material so it seemed like a choice and not an act of desperation.

See? I’m footloose and fancy free.

Tucks! They really make a difference. And I pleated the collar, which I believe turned out pretty well!

I don’t look pleased, but I am, I promise you. I used the cuffs of the shirt for little sleeves, I got the idea from a BurdaStyle user whose name I don’t know, but THANK YOU, kind stranger!

I forced my friend Selin to take these photos after we stopped at my house on Saturday after our trip to Sazz Vintage Warehouse, which is AMAZING. It’s this enormous warehouse of vintage clothing and it’s usually wholesale only but on Saturdays and Monday’s it’s open to the public to buy at retail prices. It’s totally overwhelming and exciting and you need to bring a buddy or you may never emerge from the haven of 80’s polyester, 40’s sweaters, 70’s maxi dresses and SHOES. I got some great things, some of which I will refashion and some of which I will wash and wear with pride.

Obligatory indie shots:

Thanks, Selin! These are awesome. Go forth, and refashion, folks, but remember, it takes more time the you think! Still, I have an adorable new top that came from something old. Win.


Filed under Clothing, Dye, Refashion, Sewing

Captain’s Log: April 11th, 2011

You may or may not have noticed a little button haunting the right hand margin of this blog. It’s an adorable little badge that I got from Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons (which is awesome. Seriously, check out her blog, it’s magnificent. She did this amazing photo shoot when she traveled to Washington D.C. and wore Colette Patterns Beignet skirt made three different ways, it’s delightful!). And she proposed this great project measuring your sewing productivity, as a way to log how and why and when you sew and then to compile tips about how be remain productive in the the face of a very busy world. And here is the thing about time management, it’s one of my odder passions. I just adore time efficiency, it’s a fascination of mine.

I have always been someone who does a million things at once. As it turns out, I get bored very quickly, so I seem to need a ton of things to fill my time or I get frustrated and upset and lethargic all at once, it isn’t pretty, I can assure you. As it stands now, I have two jobs and I am on several committees and I work on various theater projects and maintain three blogs and somehow, (dear lord, someHOW) I manage to find time to sew. It’s that tricky sleeping thing I just can’t seem to find time to do….

So I am extremely excited by Tilly’s proposal, which is why I grabbed the badge and dove right into logging my sewing productivity. I sew a lot more on the weekends then during the week, though I do manage to fit some sewing in after dinner and family netflix time. So here are the results of this weekend’s labors/record of the work:

Time spent sewing: Probably about 6 hours, two on Saturday and four on Sunday, man, I got a lot done on Sunday…And then an hour this morning. So 7 hours over the past four days. Not too shabby!

What I worked on: I finished up a little dress I made for the Nichole Canuso Dance Company Benefit (check it out here! And COME, it’s going to be amazing!). I’ve made two little dresses from a FREE PATTERN (Oliver and S) for the silent auction.

Cute! And stash busting, as I used the blue and white Beatrix Potter print mentioned in this post. And I refashioned one of my father’s shirts, that was fun:

I really need a stand for my dress form. And then I made a muslin for this dress:

Which I will be making with the fabric below. I’m very excited about this, I’ve been planning it for a while! I’m doing variation C, the sweetheart neckline with the puffed sleeves.

Tilly also included some very helpful questions:

– What are you spending/wasting the rest of your free time on?

Hmmmm. Well, I write a lot, so that takes up a fair amount of my time, especially when I’m writing a play (which I really need to get back in gear and DO) and my reviews take up a lot of my time. And I cook. And I watch a lot of hulu, which lives in a room that isn’t my sewing room, so I can’t do them together. Though I do get hand sewing and embroidery done sometimes when I’m catching up on 30 Rock or Castle or Body of Proof or Community or… many other shows…. And I go see a lot of performances, and I meet up with friends. So I wouldn’t say any of those things is a waste, and I defend my huluing to the death. I do wish there were more hours in the day, though.
– When you do sew, how do you feel before, during and afterwards?

This weekend I felt excited at first and then sort of dreading because I messed a few things up and had to rip stitches and start over and that’s just so annoying. Generally I would say that I have a bad habit of stopping when I’ve made a mistake and starting again the next day, so I stop sewing on a down note, rather then after a victory. That’s probably not the best thing to do, because the first thing you have to do when you start again is curse your past self and fix the problem. Bad Leah.
– What factors are you aware of that impact upon when you make time to sew?

My apartment showing schedule plays a role (I’m a real estate agent, as well as the development associate for a small theater company). And if I see a performance and get home late then I don’t get to sew, really, because drinking and sewing isn’t the best mix (though…I’ve done it, honestly. It was a mess.  Now I just slowly sip some wine or something in between seams, because anything else will only end in tears)
– What are you learning about sewing productivity from this process, if anything? What tips can you share?

So far I’ve learned that just like you shouldn’t go to bed angry, you shouldn’t stop sewing just because you make a big mistake. It feels better to end satisfied rather then just throwing up your hands and walking away. Right, Mr. Malevolent?

He agrees.

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You say Tomato, I say Shibori!

I need to let you in on a dirty little secret. I hate tie dye. Like, with a passion. I think it looks silly and messy and reminds me of summers spent in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains where I attended horse ridding camp, like you do. And those summers were great, honestly, except for the tie dye. This isn’t a Grateful Dead revival, people, come on. And I think that it actually does look good on a lot of people, boho chicks with huge bags (to be fair, my own bag is huge, but not all fringey) and long hair and toe rings look GREAT in tie dye. Blake Lively, or as the Fug Girls so aptly title her, Boobs McLeggy, would look amazing in a floor length tie dye business with a braided belt on, like, a horse or something. I feel like I’ve even seen that sort of thing in a perfume ad, “Wind Swept Hippie” by Dior.

But I live my life along the lines of WWJHD (What Would Joan Holloway/Harris Do?). Don’t get me wrong, I love Peggy, I do, but girlfriend has made some BAD decisions. (DUCK PHILLIPS? PETE CAMPBELL? COME ON, Peggy, shape the hell up!). But while bad things have happened to Joan, Joan in general makes really great life choices, and therein lies the difference. Generally, I say, generally, because Greg Harris is the worst, even though the actor who plays him is DREAMY. SEE? But the point is, would Joan wear tie dye? Or would Joan turn up her nose and utter something cutting, cigarette in hand? I think we all know the answer to these questions.

So all of this is here to explain the fact that the craft project I did last weekend was not, I repeat, was NOT tie dye. No, not at all. It was Shibori, the Japanese art of dying with indigo that dates back to the 8th century. See, it’s historical. It’s cultural. It’s foreign. It certainly isn’t tie dye. Agreed? Agreed.

I got the idea from the fantastic ladies over at Honestly…WTF, who post amazing tutorials as well as fashion tips and inspiration photos. If you’ve never been over there check them out, they throw beautiful photos and ideas up there all the time, I love this post on miniature worlds. And they published this lovely and helpful tutorial on Shibori dying, which seemed intriguing to me. You see, I have this FREE PATTERN from Burda Style, the Naomi jacket, and I wanted to make it but I couldn’t find a fabric that I thought would be perfect for this lovely and complicated kimono inspired jacket. So I thought, I’ve got some sheets lying around, why not just MAKE a fabric that works? And so I did. Any then I went a little crazy and dyed myself and my mother and my father some items so that we can all look like Japanese nobility of the 8th century. Like you do.

So I bought this kit:

And followed all the instructions so kindly supplied by Erica and Lauren on their DIY tutorial. I prepared my vat of dye as instructed, which put me in mind of the witches cauldron from Robin Hood, Men in Tights (a highly undervalued piece of cinema, I must say), and the smell is rather terrible, but I let it sit and had a murky bucket of green-yellow dye on my hands. Indigo turns blue when it oxidizes, which I find endlessly cool. Go, science. Here is my vat:

This was a gift I got for my older brother, like, five Hannukahs ago. It was a cooler, but I removed the Styrofoam, so now it’s just a bucket. He left it here when he moved from Philadelphia, so I just assumed he knew I would someday need it for dying purposes. Thanks, brother! The box says this is a group activity, but literally none of my friends had any interest in doing this with me, and my cats, well, they don’t have opposible thumbs, so…they did this instead:

I really loved the Arashi or Storm technique so I thought I would do some experiments with that for the bedsheets turned material:

I folded the fabric in two difference ways and bound it with twine and rubber bands and then dyed it twice. I’m pretty thrilled with the results:

This is actually three different sheets I dyed in different ways. The left and top portion were bound and the bottom right was just wrapped and dyed in a weaker dye solution, giving it a gently ombred effect. The box says the vat will last for days, but in my case it grew significantly weakened after one day and had to be thrown away after my second dying attempt. It probably oxidized too much, oh well. Here is a view of the most Arashi effected area:

Stormy, no? And I ran to H and M to pick up some white garments for my family to get all indigoy. I made a t-shirt using the Kumo method in which you bind the fabric with found objects, in my case pebbles, and wrap twine or rubber bands around it:

And it makes little spider like circles:

And then I did a little Itajime, ” a shape-resist technique”. Basically you fold up the fabric or clothing item and bind it with wooden blocks or boards and see what happens:

This photo is cool because you can kind of see it turning from green to blue. And the results?:

We are clearly a gorgeous family. But I can see now why shibori masters train for 15 years at least to master this art, it’s hard, people! But fun. So if anyone wants in, I’ll give it another go this summer! Any takers, fellow Philadelphians? I’ll even, gasp, take a Jerseyite, but you have to bring wine, that’s the rule.


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Filed under Dye, Fabric