Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sew I thought you should know…

How grateful I am to all of you. Every single person who stops by and reads this thing. Seriously, it makes me a little dizzy sometimes when I consider how three years ago I didn’t know a thing about sewing, and now it’s this huge part of my life. It has become a form of therapy, an outlet of creativity, a way to be part of a community and a continual delight for me, so despite the long nights of hemming and the occasional (frequent) “what the hell does that instruction mean I hate facings/zippers/basting/the world” moment, I am so grateful for my little sewing addiction. Through sewing I’ve been introduced to so many amazing people and ideas, primarily digitally, and yet I feel connected with people across the world when they say, seam rippers, AM I RIGHT? And I’m like, bitch, please, I totally get you on every level.  Some of us serge and some of us hand stitch everything. Some of us love synthetics and some of us swear by naturals. Some of us love punk, some prep, some (a lot) vintage, some modern, some cutesy, some chic, but I have learned so much from so many people out there, and I can’t help but be insanely grateful for every blog, comment and query I’ve discovered along the way.

Brother Cadfael, contemplating how hard it is to measure stuff without opposible thumbs.

As a mostly self-taught sewer, I’m sometimes embarrassed by the gaps in my crafting knowledge. That’s why I’m so thrilled for each and every tutorial and tip that drifts my way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone post something about “look how I finished this seam” or “easy buttonhole tips” and I’m like, seam finishing, eh? What’s that, then? (I do know what it is now, but it’s sad how long it took me to realize that A. fabric frays and B. you should do something about that.) So I’m grateful, deeply, to everyone and their blogs, because my god have you saved my sewing ass, as it were.

I’m also so so so grateful to my mom. And my grandmothers, both of them. Not because they taught me how to sew, but because they didn’t.

So many people out there have these amazing stories of sewing at their mother’s knee or knitting along with their grandmother. I don’t have that, you know what? I got My maternal grandmother, Isolda, could barely sew a button. And honestly, she never had to, she was the daughter of wealthy Russians who emigrated to Iran, then Persia, in the 1920’s. She had maids and pet bears (true story!) and several fiances. She was, in a word, amazing. And when she met my grandfather and moved to the States, she brought a bunch of fabric with her. And, somewhere along the way, bought more. And never used it, ever ever ever. Instead she bought bags and bags of clothing from American department stores and considered herself under-dressed in less than four pieces of jewelry. She read me Pushkin and took me to get manicures and made me eat weird Russian foods (which I in turn grew to love, and to this day am bonkers for borscht).  She has a sense of style that was essentially Parisian, but with that Eastern European taste for the gaudy (what? It’s true! I lived in Moscow! I would know!). And she never ever did anything with all the fabric and thread and buttons and snaps she had bought. She was a buyer. And it all sat, unused, until my mother unearthed the box from Iran and I discovered the yards and yards of shirting and boxes and bags of notions. My grandmother never knew about my sewing hobby, she passed away before it became such a big part of my life. But something tells me she would have liked it. She liked everything else I did (what else does a grandmother do?).

My father’s mother died when I was very small. But as it turns out, she was an embroiderer. I never knew.

And then there is my mother.

My amazing unbelievable delightful mother, who suffers through kickboxing with me and puts up with my bratty bitchy abuse when I force her to take my picture and lets me know gently, but in no uncertain terms, when I’ve made something that just doesn’t look awesome one me. My mother who, unlike her own mother, hates shopping and make up and buys small batches of really good quality clothing once or twice a year, at most. Thanks to her guidance and my ever-expanding pattern collection, I’m trying to erase the Forever 21 and H and M that have long littered my closet, and instead replace the crap with a small collection of great quality highly flattering garments. She is always willing to put up with me babbling about work or life or sewing techniques or why I think standing on an escalator should be illegal (it really should).  She watches Downton Abby and she laughs at Parks and Recreation so hard she once cried. She bought a fedora because she wanted a hipster hat (her words). She loves I Am Maru almost as much as I do. And she doesn’t think it’s weird that I jumped headfirst into making my own clothing and devoting a lot of my time to grainlines and pinking sheers. So while my lovely father just says, “nice” when I model a new blouse or skirt or hand dyed shibori inspired jacket, my mother actually stops, looks, and tells me how she really feels. And I am, and will forever be, grateful.

And of course, I must thank all the cats.

Tiny Tiger and Mr. Malevolent, who live with my parents.

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And Brother Cadfael, who lives with me.

Thank you all, everyone, I am sew grateful. And as for anyone who actually read this 1000 word post, thanks for that too. I’m sew grateful for you, too.

Don’t forget about the giveaway! Debi listed 4 rounds of links here, and you can still enter my grand giveaway here! I will be drawing a winner on Sunday, so enter by Saturday, February 11th at 11:59pm and you will get a shot!

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Filed under Inspiration, Sewing

Sew Grateful Giveaway! Get it while it’s hot!

It’s Sew Grateful Week! First of all, a huge thanks to the lovely and amazing Debi (she truly is amazing) for hosting this! I’m so excited to see what everyone creates and gives away and reflects upon. I will be posting a reflecting post by the deadline of this Thursday, never fear, and I have to say in advance, I’m so grateful to so many people out there for being amazing resources for a new sewer like me. This is an amazing community of people creating marvelous things with their hands, and the support and encouragement and sheer knowledge and advice out floating around in the interweb never fails to amaze me. I wouldn’t be half the sewer I am today without all of these amazing people making things and sharing ideas, so thank you. I’m truly Sew Grateful! Read more about it here.

Now, enough jibber-jabber, on to the giveaway!

Sidenote, did anyone else watch Jabberjaw growing up? It was awesome. It had a shark. Who played the drums. How cool is that?

Yeah. It’s awesome. You know what else is awesome? This giveaway! And what am I giving away,you ask? It’s a trinity, or a triptych, or for those less dorky, it’s three things. Whatever, I like to get fancy with the verbage, sue me.  Number one is this lovely pattern, Vintage Vogue 8728. This guy has been all over the internets since it’s release last year, and there are some lovely versions out there like this one by Mena or this one by Casey or this one by Erika! So here it is, yours for the taking:

Uncut, unused, and ready to go! And to pair with it, we have three yards of this coral pink silk:

Fun fact, this may or may not come with a dusting of small grey cat hairs. I will do my best to insure this is not so, but just giving you fair warning.

But say the 1940’s isn’t your style. Well, not to worry, because I’m also giving away this groovy pattern, Butterick 6258!

This one has in fact been cut, I believe, but I personally have never used it. And it’s not just a dress, but several whole outfits! What? Yes. You read that correctly.

So to recap, Vintage Vogue 8728, Butterick 6258 (with some CHARMING cover art, one might add) and three yards of silk to make a halter top, a dress, or whatever the hell else you are into! All for the low low price of free! Just leave a comment below letting me know what you would do with any of these items, or really what you are working on right now to make February a little more fun! Or tell me what you’re favorite childhood cartoon was. Obviously I enjoyed Jabberjaw. That’s just a give-in.

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The Vying for the Viaduct Sweater

Stop everything you are doing and pay attention to me. I made a sweater. A real, honest to God, knit by hand sweater. A WHOLE DAMN SWEATER. I, Leah Franqui, struggle extraordinaire, 4 month knitter, completed a sweater. And it’s awesome. Right?

Yeah. It’s awesome. And I made it. WITH MY HANDS. Bam. The sweater is the Berocco FREE PATTERN the Aidez. Over 1500 Ravelry knitters have made this beautiful open cardigan, and they are chalk full of advice and modifications and ideas. Did I take any of them into account? Of course not. That would be madness.

No, I’m just kidding. I actually took a class at Loop to make this sweater. I was a bit concerned that despite my mad knitting skills honed over the course of several scarves and snoods, I wouldn’t be able to master the art of sweatery (it’s my new word, deal with it) all by my lonesome. And I’m glad I took the class, because a lot of learning anything new is vocabulary, and it’s nice to be able to look at my lovely instructor and be like, YTTB, WTF? And she could be like, that’s actually a simple concept you know intuitively and here’s how to do it. And I could be like, JK! TY! So all my thanks to my instructor and the wonderful ladies in my class (no gentleman, sadly, step up, boys, join the world of knitting!) for getting me through to the other side and helping me make this masterpiece.

I love it. I LOVE IT. There are a few little mistakes which I wont bore you with/want you to be impressed with me so I don’t want to point out my silly errors. But this is a really nice pattern, and though it looks really complex, it’s actually pretty simple once you memorize the pattern, but not at all boring, at least, not for me as a beginner! There are four kinds of cable on this puppy, which make it look amazing.

I knitted up a small, which worked perfectly for me. This yarn really does bloom (expand after washing, for you non-knitters out there, look at me, picking up the lingo!) and it blocks beautifully. I used the recommended yarn, Berocco Peruvia, because I honestly didn’t know you could deviate from the recommendation. Now that I do, consider my mind BLOWN.

I really liked knitting with this yarn, though, it’s chunky and knits up really quickly. This sweater took me about 5 weeks, or in TV terms, 5 episodes of Downton Abby, Season 2, 3 Miss Marples, 2 Poroits, countless 30 Rocks and Parks and Recreations, 2 Midsummer Murders, and a lot of things I’m ashamed to list here (cough, Hart of Dixie, cough). But I made it through and got all my pieces knit and blocked by the final class, where I learned that seaming is just like sewing. Which is nice, because I totally know how to do that.

This is the face I make when I have completed an insanely cool sweater WITH MY HANDS. Yeah. Expect to see that one more often, people. Thought honestly, not THAT often, because knitting takes FOREVER.

Now, you may at this point be wondering, what the hell is a Viaduct? Well, it’s actually really cool. My friend Ben took these photos (thanks, Ben!) yesterday when we, along with my mother and father and a group of about 35 other people, participated in this walk along the three mile stretch of what was the first railway line into Philadelphia, the path of the famous Pennsylvania Railroad! The track went dead in 1991, I believe, and since then has been a three mile expanse of nothing, without use or really much public knowledge of its existance. But that all might, hopefully, change soon, because there are two organizations pushing to repurpose and reclaim the now abandoned tracks to create a Viaduct, much like the wildly successful New York High Line! This would be an amazing boon for the city, and really revitalize a few areas that currently act as urban no-mans lands.

The issue is now that part of the Viaduct, the part known as the 9th street viaduct or the Reading Viaduct, is more likely to be made into a pocket park in the next few (I hope just a few) years, while the underground cross-city tunnel part seems less likely, at least, right now. So while one organization, The Reading Viaduct, its focused on transforming the above-ground elevated 9th Street portion of the 4 track wide (that’s pretty wide) space into a park, the Viaduct Greene Organization wants the whole 3 miles reclaimed, and wont take anything less. So there is some conflict there, a bit of vying, if you will. Personally, I hope the 9th Street Viaduct becomes the first phase in a multistage project that eventually spans all three miles of railroad track and revitalizes those areas of this delightful but really strugglesome city. And I know that wont happen any time soon. But, hey, I got some good pictures, at least:

How cute is my mamala?

And there's my papa.

And Ben, my fearless photographer.

With the view of Philadelphia behind me, aglow with the warmth of my sweater. Can you imagine anything better?

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got going on lately. What about you? Big projects? New strides? Reclaimed spaces? Any trespassing (which is totally what we were doing, shhhh, don’t tell the Mayor!)? Or maybe just learned a cool new thing? Let me know!

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Filed under Berocco, Knitting

Knickers In A Twist

So, it’s that special time again, the time that single people and coupled up couples…also hate, I assume. Yes, that’s right, folks, it’s Valentines Time! The big day is just a scant 14 days away and already Etsy and CVS and Godiva have teamed up to make everyone feel bad about themselves at all times. It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiime, of the YEAAAAAR.

Oh, that’s just the bitterness talking. Really, I don’t actually hate Valentine’s day, I think it’s sweet if it’s done in an understated way and HILARIOUS if it’s not. And I look awesome in red, so I don’t really mind the color-scheme. But given that as a single woman I’m entitled to, nay, SUPPOSED to, EXPECTED to hate this holiday, I figure I might as well act the part. Which is a shame, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sewing my own unmentionables.

Which brings up two questions. One, as a single person, why am I expected to always be sad and bitter and especially angry about couples? I’m happy for people in relationships, if that’s what they want. I’m especially thrilled for people like my friend Jenny, who is getting married this summer, or my cousin Jessie, who is getting married this spring. Not only are they celebrating their love, but I get to make some new dresses! It’s win win!

And number two, what do you call your undergarments? Underwear? Panties? Knickers? Immortal Enemies? Best Friends? And, perhaps more importantly, would you make your own? Would you make your own slips, your own negligees? Would you, in fact, make your own Valentine’s day/Friday night/Tuesday morning (what? I don’t know your life or your, um, schedule) ensemble?

Now, I’ve made my own pajamas, and even a half-slip for an event, but I’ve been more and more interested in breaking into the world of what-to-wear-under-there. Luckily, BurdaStyle just released a couple of new patterns to that effect including this retro-charmer:

Cute, right? But they have a zipper which is just odd. Who has zip-up underwear? Burda has also released this business:

Which is not exactly my cup of tea but I could see many a woman or daring drag queen rocking it. They actually made 9 bedtime inspired patterns, and why any person needs a boudoir bolero escapes me. But apparently they do, and you can see all 9 patterns here.

I recently bought a few downloadable patterns off of Etsy, too, from the lovely Anna Depew, who blogs at A Few Threads Loose and offered a sew along based on these patterns:

Is it weird that I really want to make myself tap pants? Maybe I just like the NAME, tap pants? But really, I’m sure I would wear them with everything. All the time. Of course.

And there is a matching slip/camisole. But say you don’t want to spend any money? Personally, I never want to spend any money. Well, then you have this amazing slip pattern/sewalong from Sherry at Patterns Scissors Cloth (clearly I love this woman, I keep linking back to her, she’s just inspirational and helpful, why isn’t everything in my life like that?)

Behold, the Ruby slip. It’s a FREE PATTERN.  Actually, in these shades it looks spot on, as Sherry might say, (she lives in New Zealand, they say that there, right?)  for Valentine’s Day, but you could also go with classic cream or chartreuse or cerise, whatever. Life is about choices.

But really, if we want to get right down to it, there is also underwear. And I found a world of tutorials and patterns of how to make your own.

This one from Drumbellina has a host of cute illustrations. This FREE PATTERN from BurdaStyle is mighty cheeky. And this classic layout teaches you how make a hanty (panty from a hankerchef. If I didn’t hate the word panty so much I might find it cute.)

The question is, should I? Would you? Is it worth it? Honestly, it might be the most cost effective sewing possible, you can cut up old t-shirts, make cute undergarments out of mere 1/4 of a yard of nice knits and luxurious stretch silks and laces, and really be able to make your own outfit, from the foundations on up. So, what do you think? Would you get your knickers in a twist? Or make a slip? Or join me in tap pants adoration? Or do you leave that the professionals at Victoria’s Secret? Discuss.

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Filed under Burda Style, Clothing, Inspiration, Refashion, Sewing