31 March 2009

124. Facing Facts

First fact: I have wonderful friends in Blogland. Thank you for your words of support and encouragement with the micro-line with the 302Designs shirts. Doesn't 302 make beautiful stuff? They and their shirts are a pleasure to work with and I will keep you posted as things move along.

Second fact: It's 10:18p on March 31 and my pants are not done. I don't have an update or photos to share since the last post with the ill-fitting Betsy Ross pants. I just need to face the fact that March ran me over like a steamroller. I underestimated March. But I'm still moving forward! My next post, or at least the one after that, will be pants-related and I will cross this finish line with the sew-along, even if I am the last one!

Mary Nanna has completed the most breathtaking Burda pants. I have not felt a strong pull to BWOF till I saw her finished pants, which are a brilliant and compelling sales pitch for a subscription if I've ever seen one! Her photos/ scans of the pattern modifications she made are also helpful, even for those of us who are not sewing Burda pants.

Cindy had pretty great results with her muslin, so I'm curious to hear what additional changes she wanted to make after finishing and wearing the pants. Diana completed a stunning knit top from Misses Stylebook (is that all spelled, marked, and annotated correctly?) and is working up her mojo for her Go pants. Johanna Lu had probably the most complex pants in this sew-along, with her 26 buttonholes, and has made considerable progress. DD and Berry, we miss your posts and hope all is well! :)

Third fact: Springtime in Austin is lovely, bright green all around, and is my most favoritest, bestest season of all except for the many, many allergens that come with it. I have spent two days in the last week with my nose running 24/7, and that's after the Claritin D. Plus itchy eyes and itchy nose and general inability to sit or stand and be productive. I think fall is the new spring for me.

Fourth fact: When did some of the popular Japanese pattern books get translated to and published in English? Like this one:
image from Amazon.com

And I don't think I recognize this cover as a Japanese title but it looks like it could be:
image from Amazon.com

Nearly 2 years ago I bought about $200 worth of Japanese sewing, patternmaking, and general zakka books direct from Amazon.jp. Why spend so much? That's the dollar amount that justifies the crazy shipping -- at the time they only shipped with expedited shipping. Good thing is I was able to buy pretty much every title I wanted, and a few outside my normal sewing zone (i.e. craft). If some of the more popular titles end up in English I may never need to pay those astronomical shipping fees again... (Tomoko Nakamichi's Pattern Magic Vol. 2, anyone?)
image from Amazon.jp

26 March 2009

123. Surprise!

Before the surprise, an update on the sew-along: There has been a brief slowdown/ burnout/ general pause this past week for many of us working on our pants. I believe Mary Nanna has crossed the finish line, and Cindy finished but wore the final pants and wants to make more modifications. Johanna Lu and Diana suggested feeling a bit of a pause. DD, Berry, and I have been silent on the topic for a couple of weeks, though I can confirm that I will make some pattern alterations based on your thorough feedback from my last post and should have another muslin for you to see. Hopefully that muslin will reflect the right amount and quality of effort, but if not, I will push to the finish line!


The surprise: I'm working on a micro line of refashioned t-shirts with 302Designs!

Remember when I told you in February about the month I recently spent with an "anything goes" mentality? (To save you from clicking around to re-read the post, the quick summary is that I had a month off between Jan & Feb from my day job and just recorded every idea I had, and I tried to explore them all.) One of the first ideas I had during that month was to identify a company that could offer lots of raw materials for refashioning. 302Designs is an Austin company that produces screenprinted t-shirts, and I figured that they would have some overstock/ misprint/ deadstock/ mildly damaged/ otherwise unsellable shirts sitting around that they could offer a better life as a new garment. I'd met the owner, David Walker, about 18 months ago, and last month I just picked up the phone to explain that I had some ideas, and could he meet up? We scheduled some time to brainstorm, and I left the meeting a clothing designer. Say what?

Yes, it happened that fast. Even though my head is still processing this, I have forced my hands to start working on the clothes. I didn't have a specific intention in mind when I went into the meeting but the end result is that I'll be taking these 16 t-shirts, which had been sitting in a box on a shelf for a long time, from 302Designs, and I will refashion them into new garments in a micro sample line. Micro as in 6 pieces, sample as in "the only one available". David has local press contacts and will invite them to check out the goods when the line is complete.

After, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?", and, "Me? Design clothes?", the big question for me was, "What could happen from there?" I've decided to start a company/ clothing label to see where this little project can go. I don't have any intention of leaving my day job as a corporate trainer and business consultant, and I am thrilled to have a chance to extend something I love creatively into a business, even if it is a one-woman operation (with lots of support and cheering from my friends and family). It's kind of like bringing the two things I love -- being a businessperson and sewing/ creating clothes -- into one venture. Really the most amazing opportunity!

It's important to me to set up a separate site for the company/ label, so that CleverGirl.org will continue to serve up the familiar dorkiness and angst, nearly unconditional love, lessons from sewing and life in general, the results of interesting sewing experiments, and the occasional tutorial and sew-along. :) I'll add links to the sidebar in case you're interested, but the basic blog and what I blog about won't change in an icky, uncomfortable way.

It's a good time to introduce you to Carmen:

Carmen is staying with us for a few weeks, thanks to my awesome friend and sewing guru, Shauna, to help out with the micro collection. It seemed like a better idea to sew this sample line for a body with a more average (read" BIGGER") bust size than Clementine's. I think Carmen has a 35" or 36" bust -- spicy name for a curvier gal. You can see Clementine sulking in the edge of the shot, but she'll get used to sharing the space. Plus I'll be keeping her busy, too.

21 March 2009

122. For the Boys

I.  Kyle the Gal, not Kyle the Guy

I drove to San Antonio this morning to meet up with Kyle, who I originally struck up an online conversation with over at PatternReview.com last summer.  You see, we are both ruffle lovers and found much to bond over.  (Kyle is female but has a traditionally male name, which is a topic I covered here several months ago.  LOL)  She is in S.A. for a conference and today was her free day to mosey about town, so I joined in on the fun.

We spent the afternoon at the Southwest School of Art & Craft, which I'd never heard of before this week and which Kyle had visited her last time in S.A.  The main building is an historic landmark and is just beautiful and amazing.  This fountain was out front and Kyle shows what a great photo subject she is (natural smile, no tension or apprehension... much for me to learn here!) in her impeccably-sewn -- and self-made, I might add -- pink double knit shirt.

We also went to the S.A. public library, which had pretty remarkable sculptures inside and out.  For a few more photos from this day trip, check out the Flickr set.  

II. Bradley Baumkirchner

Over lunch, we talked a little bit about her meeting Kevin from Project Runway Season 4 last spring.  It reminded me that I'd met Bradley Baumkirchner from Season 3 (while he swung through Austin on a quick tour about a year and a half ago) and I don't think anyone but the photographer and me have ever seen the photo!  So I thought I would share:

Bradley is delightfully random and funny, pretty much exactly as he was on the show.  Very good-natured guy.  It's interesting how there are just as many male Project Runway competitors as there are female, although in the home sewing world that male-female ratio seems way off.  Just last week I thought I had my first-ever blog comment from a male sewist, but it turned out to be just spam.  Boo.

III.  RocketBoy

Toward the end of the afternoon today, Kyle asked me if I'd been to PatternReview.com lately to read any of the reviews by the new male pattern reviewer who is causing a bit of a stir.  Funny enough, after I got back to Austin and was catching up on the day's blog updates before sitting down to write my own post, Mary Nanna mentioned this same new pattern reviewer, the self-named RocketBoy.  He seems to be a real technician with his sewing and pattern drafting, and is a fun stylist for his photo shoots.  He's also got a model (his bf?) who dons several variations of swim trunks and briefs, much to the collective delight of the PatternReview commenters.  I appreciate that there's a guy in there mixing things up, and I love the positive effect he has on the group!  Many of the comments are LOL funny, and they are all written tastefully, respectfully, and in the supportive spirit of the community.

IV. The Sunday Best

And it all reminded me of a male style blogger I've been meaning to share with you.  The only one, really.  I've followed him on and off since last summer and his name is Thomas Wong.  He's Canadian and blogs at The Sunday Best.  Pretty good stuff there, and this blog got me on the post tracking system of numbering each title so I stay on top of just how many posts I'm publishing.

Kyle already posted about our afternoon in S.A. and I concur that we'd def. hang out in person if we lived closer together!  Actually, I suspect that would be the case with each of you regular commenters -- my sweet blogging buddies.  So be sure to ring me if you head for these sunny climes.  At the very least find me on Facebook and we can virtually hang out more.  I hear Sarah is due up for a Texas trip next...  ;)

20 March 2009

121. Spring Breakey!

Spring breakey from pantsey!  Subtle, no?  Sorry for my lack of/ late comments on everyone else's sew-along-ish pants posts.  My internet access has been spotty (see paragraph below) but as of tonight I've updated the sew-along section in the right-hand column.  Extra apologies to DD - for some reason I am not getting your RSS feed as I am the other participants so I am not as punctual adding your updates.

It's been a busy spring break here in ATX.  We moved -- long story, more space, closer to Lou's school -- but moves are always at least a little stressful and this one has been kind of long and drawn out.

We didn't go out of town but got out into the sunshine every single day.  It has been beautiful and warm and I got some great tree shots like this one:

In case you're wondering how warm the sunshine was, we went to one of the most popular local parks on the hottest day this week -- it felt like 90 in the sun! -- when the pool was packed, the line for the kiddie train went forever, and we made it to the bottom of a green sno-cone:

Tomorrow morning I'm driving to San Antonio to meet Vacuuming the Lawn's Kyle, who's attending a conference there for a few days.  She's come all the way from snowy New Jersey to hot Texas and it's kind of fun to finally meet someone I've only known online for this last year or so.  More pics to come!

10 March 2009

120. Pants Part II: For the greater good

Two quick things before we talk pants.  After Craft featured last week's refashion tutorial (thank you to the powers that be, you know who you are):

1. Maria Robles friended me on Flickr and I clicked over to her blog and saw a beautiful collection I think she made, in action, on the runway.  She doesn't blog in Spanish and English, so if you click to the comments section you can see my messy attempt at letting her know what a great job she did in my rusty, broken Spanish.  I also realized I have no way of doing the upside-down question marks and all that on my ingles keyboard.  Non-global alert!

2. Allison at Adventures in Trashion says she was inspired by the tutorial and refashioned herself a beautiful new shirtdress!  I love her design and now I will need to make one of my own.  :)

And now, on with the pants.  I thought that Mary Nanna's post, modeling her pants lining/ muslin, was endearing.  Now that I have taken photos of my butt and lower body, up close and personal, in dark denim, I respect her for her sheer courage (hahahaha!!!!  LOL  Sheer!  Ahhh, there is danger in being the person who laughs loudest at her own jokes).  I appreciate her sacrifice and now I will make one of my own and show you these photos.

I use humor to procrastinate sometimes.

Helpful editorial note: I found myself in analysis paralysis with this first muslin for the sew-along. I kept thinking that if I messed up the fly front, which would be a new skill, I might not get an accurate fit.  Which is why several of you suggested making a sloper first.  Oh, now I get it!  ;)  Took me a few weeks but I'm there.

I pulled out the previous two patterns I tried but didn't work.  The first one was the Betsy Ross fancy pants pattern, which has pants front and back, front and back facings, and a side zip.  In theory, with a handful of pattern pieces, this is more of a "sloper" pattern than Simplicity 2700, even though the shape is meant to be bootleg.  I knew where these unsuccessful, unfinished pants were in my closet, so I threw them on and took pictures.  Here they are:

FYI, the hems are pinned for these photos.

The pants front.  Those diagonal lines are wrinkles, not pulls, I promise.  There are small front darts, which I hate.  These pants go pretty much to the natural waist, above my belly button.  Not comfortable.  I think I could cut the pattern piece right where the darts begin and make a contoured yoke so I don't have to see or sew those darts again.  

I'm not pleased with the hip area.  The waviness on the right side of the pants is from the invisible zipper (OK but not great installation) and no hook and eye closure at the top of the waist, so it gaps.  

The bootleg looks off to me.  Like it doesn't taper right at my knee, and being on the short side, I guess that doesn't surprise me.

The right hand side looks suspect to me.  Let's see if we can find more clues in the next few photos.

Here is the left hand side of the pants.  Overall, I am happy with this view.  If I could find a way to walk sideways, with my left side leading, these pants would be perfect!

I'm afraid those shadows are playing tricks (or maybe illuminating problems?) or it could be my posture.  Let's keep rotating to the back.

I am constantly distracted by my lopsided posture from carrying my son all the time until he was 3 or 4 -- bet you have no problems guessing which hip he resided on.

And those twin inverted triangles under my bum.  They are like a hidden message for a secret society.  I have a hard time keeping secrets so rest assured there is no Universal Pants Conspiracy.  Maybe it's so much bigger than me, a Da Vinci Code-scale conspiracy.  I'm digressing and procrastinating again.  Back to the pants.

I would understand those triangles and the general bunching if the pants were dragging on the floor, but they are pinned so that the pants don't touch the floor, and the weight of the fabric isn't enough to pull those wrinkles out.  Why is that?

It's hard to say if I don't like the fit or the style.  I feel like I am looking at mom jeans or something.  Oh wait, I am a mom and these are denim.  Identity crisis forthcoming.  I'm digressing again.

Help!  Take three.  I feel like this, and the front photo, make it seem as though the pants' hips are lower than mine actually are.  I know that the pants are supposed to be fuller from the hip down, but it just seems that the contours are not quite right for my body.  

To complete the 360-degree tour of my lower body in these pants, here's the right side of the pants.  The invisible zipper is exposed because I sewed these pants 2 1/2 years ago, when I guess I still had some post-baby chub on my rear.  I could barely squeeze into these pants then.  Now they fit. 

Seems like there is an odd diagonal draping of the fabric around my knee.  Could just be bad sewing.

Additional notes: when I sit, the pants are uncomfortable but mainly due to the high waist.  I do feel like I could use some extra ease in the crotch but it is not uncomfortable or painful to sit.

My idea with getting your feedback on THIS muslin, from the Betsy Ross pattern, is to get the fit just right so I can use it as a sloper for Simplicity 2700.

Told you I'd be a mess about these.  Thank you for your patience and friendship.  I realize I am cashing in credits for your help with this post and these pants.  OK, that's all for now, I look forward to reading your thoughts and suggestions.  Love ya, bye.

08 March 2009

119. Sisterhood Award

Cindy at ColourByNumber has passed on a sweet blogging award:

So, the rules of this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.

Cindy has tagged the other participants in the March Pant Sew-Along(-ish) and with good reason!  It really has been great to see how much experience with pants my blogging sisters have and how quickly everyone jumps in to help with fit issues as they come up.  

A few random "awards", for mostly previous and a couple new blogging buddies, all regular commenters who I don't think have been tagged yet, who I invite to play along if you want to:
* Christy at Columbia Lily
* Tina at GlamSpoon
* Sarah at Sewer-Sewist
* Kyle from Vacuuming the Lawn
* Lisa at An Examined Life
* Lisa H. at Sew On and Sew On

Pants update coming!  Have a great week, everyone.  :)

06 March 2009

118. First Pants Update - Wish I Had More

3/5/09 - 1:36p CDT [I dial 1-888-588-2700.]

Me, after selecting the option to leave a message b/c no one is available to take my call:
Hello, Simplicity? My name is Antoinette. I would like to sew S2700 but I am not sure what size to use. According to your pattern envelope, based on waist and hip, I am a size 8. But my total crotch length is 24", which is an 8 Average according to the pattern insert, and my back crotch length is 12.5", which is an 8 Slim according to the pattern insert. I am not sure which size to choose.

Will you please call me at 512.xxx.xxxx and let me know which size I should sew? If I don't answer, please leave a message letting me know which size I should sew. Thanks!

3/5/09 - 2:41p CDT [I am in a 15-minute meeting and don't hear my phone ring anyway]

Simplicity rep:
Hello, this is Simplicity returning your call. If you still require assistance, please call us at 1-888-588-2700.

3/5/09 - 4:16p CDT
Me, after selecting the option to leave a message b/c no one is available to take my call:
Hello, Simplicity? My name is Antoinette. I called earlier, and left you a message, and missed your call back. I am working on S2700, the Amazing Fit pants, but I am not sure what size to use. According to your pattern envelope, based on waist and hip, I am a size 8. But my total crotch length is 24", which is an 8 Average according to the pattern insert, and my back crotch length is 12.5", which is an 8 Slim according to the pattern insert. I am not sure which size to choose.

Will you please call me at 512.xxx.xxxx and let me know which size I should sew? If I don't answer, you'll go to voice mail again, so if you will please leave a brief message telling me which size I should sew, I would really, really appreciate it. That's all I need to know. I'm trying to sew along with friends and I'm behind and if you can just tell me this one thing, I'll be all set. Thanks so much!

3/6/09 - 9:25a [I am on a 90-minute walk/ visit with friend]

A different Simplicity rep:
Hello, this is Simplicity returning your call. If you still require assistance, please call us at 1-888-588-2700.

3/6/09 - 10:22a [I realize today is my husband's birthday and I have a gift to finish sewing and lots of birthday-related errands to run before the end of the business day, and I have neither the patience nor the attention to spend on one or two more rounds of this madness]

[Emits vaguely muffled scream in the privacy of my car. Drives to grocery store in stony silence.]

Despite all my efficiency, which generally breeds productivity, I've spent two business days trying to get one simple question answered from the folks who wrote the book, so to speak, to no avail. Knowing that that goal is to have a muslin complete in 24 hours....

Did you wonder how Simplicity determined if we're Slim, Average, or Curvy to get an Amazing Fit? Total crotch length and back crotch length. I read every single review for this pattern on PatternReview.com, and no one addressed this unique sizing -- either the sewist compared the pattern to a sloper and adjust accordingly, or she sewed it right off her interpretation of sizing charts and instructions, with no explanation.

What size/ curvaceousness level do you think I should sew based on my measurements? I technically have one more day to cut out and sew up a muslin to fit. I can make it! If I don't get another perspective on this, I will sew out the 8 average and pray! Here are the size charts, and thanks in advance:

UPDATE: 3/7/09 - Didn't realize that clicking on the second photo above doesn't enlarge the photo much, so here it is, bigger.

04 March 2009

117. First Men's Dress Shirt Refashion Tutorial!

I have to admit that this photo tutorial was kind of fun to put together in Flickr.  :)

I got really good results viewing the tutorial when I clicked play below, then clicked on the fullscreen icon.  When the fullscreen slide show came up, I pressed pause at the first slide, then clicked Show info in the upper right, and all my notes came up in this translucent window.  I could go to the next step or back on my own from there using the intuitive navigation.  I think if I were following someone else's tutorial this Flickr slideshow would be perfect for me, the visual learner.

Please TOTALLY tell me what you think!  Leave me comments here or in Flickr comments, but let me know!  I am very curious, as a professional trainer, if I did a good job translating my skills to this photo tutorial environment!  :)  And especially if you sew this up, send me a link to your shirt.  More editorial notes are underneath the embedded slide show if you are so inclined to read...  So here's the tutorial.

I'd been dreading the thought of creating this photo tutorial in Blogger, and my fellow Blogger users know what a treat it is to add, resize, and caption many photos in one blog post! Luckily, I came across a Flickr photo tutorial by a really neat refashionista who operates as Outsapop. She is from Finland, so extra-cool points there.

Also, my original intent was to make a an empire-waist shirt like the Grainger shirt from January, but every men's shirt I've reconstructed is different enough to present different options. This one was long enough to be a dress, unlike the Grainger, and I like the tent-y shape of this dress. So I added a couple of suggestions in the tutorial for other ways to finish the garment. I wanted to refashion one of the many plaid options in my men's dress shirt stash, but it is so much easier to see and photograph chalk lines on plain, light-colored fabric, so I chose this yellow oxford instead.

Finally, if you were to look at the Flickr set and read the intro on the set page, it has very specific verbiage about who and how I hope to help with this tutorial. Since you probably won't see it if you only look at the embedded slideshow above, I'm copying the most important part of the disclaimer here:

"This tutorial will be most helpful if you have at least an advanced beginner's sewing skills and vocabulary. I won't teach how to sew here, I am just sharing how I make these shirts in case you'd like to try your hand at it."

Thanks to all of you who requested this tutorial, and who read and offer your feedback and suggestions continually.  I appreciate you and all that you add to my creative life.  xoxo

03 March 2009

114. I didn't win!

Do you see how my post numbers are a little out of order now?  I started this post last week or so but didn't finish and publish it!  So here we go!

I didn't win the PatternReview.com refashion contest, in which voting ended on Feb 11. In my concession speech, I must thank all of you who commented on the dress and voted for it.  :)  The dress may have lost the battle, but it's nice to see that we're gaining ground in the war for "green" sewing and sustainable style.  One of the 1st place gals made a Vogue/ Michael Kors jacket from Capri Sun bags!  I doubt she will wear it to Sunday brunch, but that, combined with projects such as this excellent blue wool coat refashion, do a lot to open our eyes to the potential of the very clothes and materials already sitting, unused, around us.

Since this was my first contest with PR (my first sewing contest, for that matter), I was perplexed by the whole process. After voting was done, there were a couple of days where nothing was different except that voting was closed. Then, one day I went back and saw that votes were showing up for some entries. When I sorted by vote, there were 2 entries tied for 1st place with 28 votes each, another entry with 24 votes, then mine with 18. When I came back the next day to see if it was spelled out for me, I sorted by votes and there was another entry before mine with a note saying it was ineligible because the person had won another contest in the past 6 months. The next day, there was ANOTHER entry right above mine, with no indication of the number of votes. [Update - Now the top 4 all show "not eligible for votes" b/c they won a contest in the last 6 months.  See screenshot above.  Meaning this refashion contest???  Perplexing.]

The official word from PR in the last newsletter is that there was a tie for first AND second place, so technically the blue coat would have been next in line and then my Chanel knock-off? I guess? 

Any which way, it was a great experience to prepare for and hit a deadline, knowing my work was going to be judged and scrutinized. And it was fun reading the comments about the dress because it wasn't really that hard at all.  A couple of folks asked for a tutorial, which I'm happy to oblige... after I finish the other tutorial I already started!  I'm about halfway through and should finish by the end of this week.  Hope you are enjoying pre-spring, even those of you in the snow!

01 March 2009

116. Pants Sew-Along Begins

I'm back home and today is the day:  Day One of the pants sew-along!  I have chosen Simplicity 2700, and I'll be using a big wad of a lightweight - 8 oz? - black denim (with a touch of lycra for stretch, as Sarah and Violet suggested in their recent comments), unwadded of course for this project.  This pattern is not a Palmer Pletsch pattern but includes 1-inch seam allowances for fit -- I guess that's not limited to Palmer Pletsch pants but is just smart pant-fitting, right?  

The new technique for me is the fly front.  It takes me ten times longer to exit the ladies room these days as I have to carefully study the construction of the fly front of the pants I'm wearing, compared to the instructions in Simplicity 2700, before leaving the stall.

As I deplaned in Orlando last week, a fellow short-legged colleague of mine commented on the decent fit of the pants I was wearing, and she lamented the lifelong challenge of buying RTW pants as a 5' tall woman in a world of 5'4" and 5'6" standard blocks.  I bragged about this little adventure you're guiding me along, and I think she was hopeful I would help a sister out and sew her some perfect-fitting pants while I was making my own.  We'll see how this sew-along goes and then maybe I can think about a career as pantmaker to the stars.

Cutting the pants tomorrow!  As of today, Mary Nanna the Pant Goddess has gotten started fitting her muslin!  Check it out...