30 April 2009

136. Pop Quiz answer and an Earth Day class project

The answer to yesterday's pop quiz is: You never know!  I appreciate all your comments, and have had similar ideas and strategies.  It's really a universal experience, isn't it?

You probably guessed I was in line when I wrote that post, and this time I chose the faster cashier with million-item-cart-lady ahead of me.  By the time my cashier got to wrapping the breakables, she signaled a nearby back-up cashier to open a third checkout lane, and I got served right away, to my pleasant surprise!  This almost never happens.  Like some of you, I inevitably pick what ends up being the slowest line, no matter how much or how little thought I put into the choice.

This long checkout line scenario, almost no matter the day or time of day, is one of the reason I avoid the craft store except for that inevitable, once-a-quarter purchase.

Thank you for playing along and commenting!  

This is for Cindy and I'll be quick.  Last week I worked on an Earth Day project with Louis' class.  Each child brought in an outgrown t-shirt they wanted to give new life as a reusable bag.  Two weeks prior, I started receiving the first of the bags and prepping them by:
  1. Cutting out rectangles based on the size of the shirt and orientation of the design, if any.
  2. Sewing 3/8" twill tape to the top of the rectangles to reinforce where the handles would be attached.
  3. Cutting and sewing grosgrain ribbon handles to each rectangle.
Another mom brought her machine to the "sewing station" we set up in class, and we helped the kids sew the three seams to create their reusable fabric bags.  It took about 50 minutes for the two of us to work with about 18 kids.  The bags turned out cute, and the kids were sooooo excited!  Here are a few:

28 April 2009

135. Pop Quiz

You are at the craft store, which you normally avoid, for the one bona fide craft item you need this quarter. The checkout line on the left has four customers ahead of you, a few items each, with the slowest cashier in recent history. The line on your right has a fast cashier with one customer ahead of you, with a cartful of Easter clearance items, some breakable. Which checkout line do you choose?

Answer coming in next post.

26 April 2009

134. Refashions 17 & 18: Thanks and a Giveaway

UPDATE: Giveaway is now closed. Thanks for participating!

As of last week I've won two blogger giveaways: Columbia Lily's silk shantung purse and nowSHELTER Home's Domino book. I'd worked on a couple of giveaway projects to thank you for reading some of those 100 posts but didn't finish them on time. Now, at post #134, it's way past time to say thanks and pass on the juju.

This giveaway shirt is the empire waist "after" shirt above. It is made to fit like a glove on someone with 35.5" bust and 36" hips. This seems to translate to a size medium, perhaps on the smaller side of medium. But you can see it's not ultra-fitted, so there's wiggle room if your measurements are different by a little here or a little there. Plus, with the empire waist, this will still look great on you whether you are petite, average, or tall in stature. The fabric is a wrinkle-free cotton/ poly blend (55%/ 45%), in a sunny yellow. I apologize for the paled-out color in the "after" pics -- it's been very cloudy and the "before" picture shows the true color more accurately.

Borrowing an idea from Tina at glam.spoon to spread the blog-lovin', here's the low-down on the giveaway: if you would like a chance to win this shirt for yourself or someone you love, visit one or more of the blogs I read in the sidebar, and leave one quick comment with who you visited and what you liked. I'll ship internationally so get your comment on!

Every eligible comment left by Sunday, May 3 at midnight CST will be randomized and I'll let you know the winner on Monday. Sound good?


On a related note... I had a review meeting a week and some ago with David Walker at 302 designs, and to make a long story short, I rushed to find a model I could photograph in the first 3 shirts. (And this someone needed to be the same size as the form I draped on, and who would photograph well, and who looked like Austin, 'cause this whole 302 designs project is about Austin.) First call was to Meg Kanewske, a friend who was my prenatal yoga instructor and whose daughter is in the kinder class down the hall from Louis. She now owns a studio called Kula Yoga in Austin and still teaches, so here she is, tall and thin and fit and photogenic and she called me back and said she was up for it. Lucky me.

She fit the clothes perfectly. How many sentences can I italicize in a row? How great to see how the tops fit and draped on a real body that moves and breathes, and to hear Meg's feedback about how it felt to wear them. I shall keep those photos under wraps for now, but to give Meg a personalized thank-you, I thought I would make her a men's dress shirt refashion. After all, now I know she and Carmen have the same measurements!

I'd never draped a men's dress shirt refashion on Carmen, and I remembered one specific comment she made while trying on the 302 refashions: She liked how the yellow & black top gathered at the empire line without making her look pregnant. So instead of using the full width of the original men's dress shirt, I draped and cut it so that the gathering would be more strategic and less... gestational. She wore it today, so I think she likes it!

How generous of Meg, right? What a spirit, so ready to give of her own time and energy. AND so generous of you to read along this past year and a bit. Thanks! Meg's shirt below, in case you're curious:

23 April 2009

133. The Pants Sew-Along lives on

The March 2009 Pants Sew-Along is still moving along.  It has been a while since I've given a formal update not in the sidebar, so here goes.  Of the 6 who sewed along, two have crossed the finish line!  Congratulations!  

First up was Mary Nanna, who actually finished her pants on time, meaning by March 31.  She speaks pant fluently, like a second language.  I had a college professor who believed in language immersion, and I would focus on Mary Nanna's pants posts like I focused in this college Spanish class: intently absorbing every tiny bit I could.  What lessons to learn!  She picked a great-looking pattern, by no means uncomplicated, and she made a series of impressive modifications (13 total, if I recall) to create a smashing pair of trousers!  Love those side vents!  Ooh and ahh here over the almighty pants of Mary Nanna's, if you haven't yet.

My college Spanish professor, Prof. Arturo Flores.  Funny man, good teacher.  
Photo from TCU Daily Skiff.

Next to finish was Johanna Lu, who moved her household during sew-along month and drafted some complicated pants patterns from scratch on the way.  At one point in the process, she posted photos of her patterns that were so meticulous and beautiful I wanted to tape her pattern pieces together and wear them.  It was easy to see how she got so much inspiration from her original inspiration photo.  Imagine my surprise the other night, going through my old Anthropologie tear sheets, when I saw this photo of a green shirt I love from a few seasons ago -- but look at the pants!  I never noticed the pants till now.  The photo below is not of her inspiration pants, but I guess Anthro loves button front pants and is on the hunt for them every season:

I did see these pants below in one of the recent Anthro catalogs, and felt vaguely inspired.  Made me think of the Palmer Pletsch pants book I have and their recommended paper bag waist method of fitting pants, and since these Anthro pants in fact have a paper bag waist, maybe I should use a pants pattern to make these pants?  Then I would focus on picking a pattern with good crotch curve/ depth, easy hip fit, and drape to the waist?:

Another view, with model wearing them:

Also liking these high-waist shorts from Anthro... a nice way to take short-shorts with you in your mid-30's:

Always so much green!  For good measure, this green Anthro dress:

And a clip from Lucky.  I know I can make this dress in my sleep:

What's inspiring you this spring?

22 April 2009

132. Happy Earth Day from the Space Cadet, or Refashion 16: Earth Day Pintucked Shirtdress from Men's Button-Down Dress Shirt

Or, the post with the longest title in the world.

I've felt vaguely out of it the last few days. I think it is mainly Louis' birthday and the several celebrations over the weekend that kind of knocked the (?) out of me. I've still managed to be productive, crossed things off my to-do list for sure, but for some reason there's a certain extra something that is not there. Can't even articulate what it is. So I have felt a little like a space cadet. No stress, just curiosity.

Anyway, Earth Day is here and all good refashionistas know that today is not the only day to sew something that's more considerate of our natural resources. Nonetheless, I present my latest project, the Pintucked Shirtdress, made from a 100% cotton XL men's button down dress shirt, in honor of Earth Day:

I'm not sure what to make of it even now that it's done. There's goes that space cadet thing again. I like to wear it, though it is about as short as I am comfortable with. I prefer how it looks on me to how it looks on the form. I'd been wanting to do 3/4 sleeves on one of these refashions for a while, but note that this left precious little usable fabric when all was said and done. So I bound the neckline instead of going for a collar of any kind.

The original idea was to pintuck from center front to about the princess line, but there wasn't enough width on the shirt for that. So I stopped after 4 pintucks on each side. I love how pintucks leave this graceful, gentle pool of fabric where they release. But I didn't like the collective dumpy puddle right on the inside of the bust:

This morning I decided to extend those pintucks downward by a few more inches, so that they would release just under the bust. Still not the ideal placement vertically but it's much better than before:

And here's the back. I'd started out with a pintucked yoke, but it's hard to make neat-ish pintucks through multiple layers of fabric, so I unpicked them this morning and went for the single inverted pleat. It still looks like a big bag from the bag, but a neater bag:

I see some room for improvement with my side seams on these shirt refashions, which means I will have to give up some length in exchange for more shape on the side and more visual interest from the back. It's nice to have something I like to wear that has saved another shirt from a landfill, or from someone who couldn't see the potential in this basic men's wardrobe staple!

Happy Earth Day today and every day! :)

19 April 2009

131. Style 1003

Brown and green...... I love these colors in nature, but in t-shirts with identical screenprint designs, that will come together to make one top......

Hmmmmmmm... Brown and green...

These two shirts have the same screenprint in similar colors, a series of eagles and the message, "When I grow up I want to be free." My friend Ashley felt strongly that the brown be the foundation and the green be the accent. The screenprinted message put in my mind this image of the vibrant green breaking free of the oppressive brown, and after consulting with sewing guru Shauna on the structural integrity of diagonal seams, she suggested exposed seams instead of internal seams where my green would break free from the brown. I like what happened:

Full disclosure: I knew I wanted to insert the green through the words and the big eagle, but I was terrified to cut into the fabric for fear of mis-cutting and thus mis-aligning the screenprint between the two colors of fabric. I sat on the concept for 3 days before getting up the gumption to measure and cut, and for all that worrying it took me what felt like 10 minutes to measure, cut, and insert that green strip of fabric! And it turned out A-O-K.

I've got to figure out the neckline. The "collar" in the photo above is just pinned in. I would love to scoop the neckline more but don't want to cut into the screenprint. A plain neckline looks too plain to me, but an embellished one might really take away from that green insert. I've been fussing and fidgeting with fabric but The Right Answer hasn't hit me yet. As always, I am open to suggestions if you have any and appreciate your time and considered responses. :)

15 April 2009

130. The Fashion Show vs. Project Runway?

Hadn't heard of The Fashion Show till yesterday -- I'm late to the game again.  Bravo is launching its own fashion design reality show with Isaac Mizrahi co-hosting on May 7, a month before Season Six of Project Runway starts at Lifetime, with not just $100,000 in prize money, but $125,000!

image from Bravotv.com

Have you seen a preview?  Does it look as irresistible as Project Runway?  Will you give it a look-see?

12 April 2009

129. Refashion 15: The Reflex Shirt from Men's Button-Down Shirt

I'm a big believer in the idea that the most growth happens when we head outside our comfort zone, and being a fan of growth, I try to get there pretty often. I don't really associate fear with discomfort anymore -- I can feel uncomfortable and that's not usually intimidating to me. But this 302Designs thing has kept me outside my comfort zone for almost two months, and tonight I craved the comfort and reassurance of something familiar, like... oh... a men's shirt refashion. You know, made from that fabric called a "woven"?

This Izod camp shirt was a men's size M, and because I wanted to cruise on auto-pilot pretty quickly, I decided to keep the collar and go vaguely Grainger.  It was a wonderful couple of hours, with no agony, no big decisions, very few measurements, sleeves from Simplicity 4179 (this seems to be OOP now?).  After sewing the casing on the inside instead of on the outside like the Grainger, I stepped back and thought, Hey, did I sew that on the correct side of the shirt?  I guess an inside casing had been on my mind for so long that it was a reflexive movement.  The whole thing came together like a reflex.  It didn't even occur to me to try on the shirt until after it was done.

Easy-peasy.  Might need to shimmy the gathered fabric around the back more so it doesn't look so much like my bust is drooping.  Drooping would require a more substantial bust anyway so it's just an inaccurate look.  LOL

Outsapop ran a blurb on the runway bunny ears at Louis Vuitton Fall 2009.  I guess I felt inspired.  Judging from the look on my face I could stand to work on my camera presence again for a little bit.  I am hoping the helmet draws your eyes away from my tiredness!

After a few hours enjoying my distinct lack of growth, it's time to head back into the fray, to start doubting my every decision again, to hope I get this whole thing right, to feel a pang of terror as I cut into a 302 t-shirt and know there isn't another one if I make a mistake.  Thanks for taking this trip with me.

[Still some boxes with contents to deal with, shelves to be filled, pictures to be hung around the house, and a ladder to do it with.  This is my life, right now.]

11 April 2009

128. Style 1002

Moving right along in the 302Designs project... I had started a muslin on Clementine a few weeks back, using one of my husband's shirts. The simple sleeveless shell had ruched shoulders, was fitted around the bust and flared into a slight a-line, and truthfully it looked fine. Uneventful.

After my exercise last week, laying out shirts in a variety of combinations to see what jumped out at me, I decided to tackle the lavender and navy shirts next. I semi-draped all over Carmen for a while and didn't feel anything coming together. The thought of "the illusion of layers" kept surfacing, and when I looked at Clementine, she still had that white shell on her. I can't explain how, or why, but the thought came to me to cut another white shirt from the underarm seam down, and attach that tube to the back of the shell. I was taken aback by how much I liked the result:

It's just this versatile garment. It can be worn like a capelet, like a hoodie, like a front or back neck cowl, doubled over into a bunchy turtleneck... It felt like divine inspiration for a few minutes, and then this fear came over me, "Where have I seen this before? Whose design is so ingrained in my subconscious that I am re-creating what has probably been done before?" I sent it to Shauna to see if she knew. She agreed that it does look inspired by someone else, but couldn't put a finger on who.

Part two of Style 1002 is, then, taking the concept from muslin stage to the "fashion fabric" -- namely, the lavender and navy shirts. The two white muslin shirts were a size Large on Clementine, which left some room to cut and play. The two 302 shirts were also a size Large, but on Carmen there was very little room to cut and play. In fact, by the time I got to the navy shirt, I had to do some very creative piecing so that it was long and wide enough to do the same things on Carmen that the muslin did on Clementine. Plus, the design on the navy shirt was sooooo big....

Anyway, the goal was to let the design on the navy shirt show when the design on the lavender was covered up, as below, shown front and back, when worn as a capelet:

When worn as a reverse cowl, the front looks well-draped and the back looks like a hoodie:

And below shows, from L-R, hooded, doubled over turtleneck, grecian or roman, you decide (or you tell me, Lopi, if you are reading this LOL), and high-necked front cowl.

And on to the next look...

05 April 2009

127. Style 1001

After feeling overwhelmed by too many possibilities, I decided to let the 16 shirts guide me. I laid them all out on the floor and spent a few moments pondering the graphics and messages on each shirt, and saw some groupings emerge:

This set was first. The black shirt had a little motif on the front:

And on the back, it reads, "There's a fire in me/ A passion so hot/ That if you tapped it/ You'd get burned":

Then some decisions became clear about putting these shirts together, into a new garment:
  • The graphic on the back of the black shirt is very, very literal. I preferred the subtlety and size of the coordinating print on the front chest pocket area of the shirt.
  • The yellow was too, too much. I wanted to ground the color. Seemed to make sense combined with the fire/ hot theme of the black shirt.
  • With the intensity of the yellow, I wanted to keep the shirt sleeveless or short-sleeved to minimize the punch of color.
  • In order to keep this "local", I thought about the challenge many Austinites have in wanting to dress in layers when it gets above 90 degrees for at least 6 months of the year. I went back through my sketchpad to find a sketch of a garment idea that could give the illusion of layering without someone actually putting on two shirts.
A contrast yoke, using the black shirt's smaller motif was the solution. I cut out a muslin from one of the scrap shirts from my husband, measured and cut carefully, and used that as the pattern piece for cutting the motif from the black shirt:

Except that, when I laid the pattern piece on top of the black t-shirt, I found that the black shirt didn't have enough fabric to cut out the yoke as it was. I turned the motif upside down and had more fabric to work with, but it didn't look right. So I cut the top of the yoke piece straight.

Now onto the yellow shirt. I used the back of the largest one, a size 2XL, so that I would have the most available fabric for gathering around the yoke. And it still wasn't quite as much as I wanted! But I like how it turned out:

In this photo you are just looking at the front of the shirt -- no back is attached yet. There's a bit more shimmying and negotiating of the fabric to be done. But I think this is the last you'll see of the top before it is complete. :)

Back I go into the workroom......

04 April 2009

126. 302Designs T-Shirt Refashion Project - Getting Started

Diana asked me, via a comment on my post about my self-dubbed "micro-line" with 302Designs, if I planned to blog about the process of creating the garments/ line.  Since this is much of the sewing I'll do the next few weeks, I thought I would.  The timing of Diana's comment was uncanny -- Martha McQuade from Uniform Studio had just posted on her blog about the benefits and challenges in blogging her clothing design process, and then wrote a great follow-up.  So blogging process/ progress for an unfinished product was already on my mind.

I rarely show, in my self-sewing for fun, pictures of works in progress;  nothing trumps the contrast between a "before" photo and an "after" photo.  But since the final garments from this project will get more attention than my clothes are used to, I'll probably only blog works in progress for this line.

About 302Designs if you haven't been over to their site yet... I don't want to oversimplify and inaccurately describe what they do by saying they are a t-shirt screenprinting company.  Their design and production process is very unique:

image from 302designs.com

Their key executives drive the vision for each collection by setting the initial theme, but the entire process is collaborative and productive, all the way to the end.  I've always appreciated 302's process, guiding beliefs, and involvement and leadership in the Austin community.  You can read more about 302Designs here. 

So, you see, these 16 shirts are really not just any ol' t-shirts.  The printed designs are much more than pretty pictures.  If I had picked up old corporate t-shirts at a clothing swap, I wouldn't think twice about hacking out the graphics and tossing those into the trash.  For 302, the graphics and concept really make the shirts and, as long as the printing is clear and in good condition, they should be worked into the new line.  Here they are:
(BTW, the shirt on Carmen in the bottom right corner is not a 302 shirt.  I just needed one more photo to complete the mosaic.  Haha.)

I had a really hard time getting started!  At first, for a couple of weeks, I was sketching out ideas, assembling an inspiration book from old tear sheets and various images, and still kind of in shock over how I got into this agreement.  There was a significant part of me thinking, "You've only been seriously sewing for 2 1/2 years -- why do you get this opportunity instead of someone who's made far more sacrifices for much longer?"  And then it occurred to me that I'm getting to do this because, basically, I asked for it.  I try to remind myself of that when I need to.

It was important to me to get clear about my own philosophy leading this whole project, and my mantras are: sustainability -- which is multi-faceted -- and local.  I knew I would stick with sportswear separates because I only had these 16 specific shirts, in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and printed designs.  Even with this in mind, I couldn't figure out where to start with my pile of sketches and pile of 302 shirts.

I felt that there were suddenly too many limitations:
  1. Color.  Three shirts were that golden mango color, which is such a strong, intense color.  Three were that green I can't define.  I just know I would not wear that color or pick it for myself.  (Which is one habit I need to break if I am going to keep designing clothes for other people.)  
  2. Fabric weight.  The shirts range from semi-sheer to lightweight, so unless I doubled up on fabric I couldn't see successful skirts coming of these recons.  So now only tops in the line?
  3. Size.  My form has a 32.5" bust, and the size 6/8 that I borrowed has a 35.5" bust with matching proportions.  Even though a Size 2XL shirt would make a great dress for short me, it's not long enough for a (decent, modest) dress for a size 6/8 woman.  Another reality check for designing for others!
  4. Damage and inconsistency of printing.  The whole reason why these shirts were not sellable is because a couple had stains, a couple had holes, at least one had a print that was asymmetrically printed on the front that was obviously not supposed to be asymmetrical, etc.  Just more details to mind that equalled more limitations.
  5. Time.  As in, sew.  Right now.
I could feel my energy stalling out, so I just started with a huge pile of old white t-shirts and company shirts from my husband.  I cut out and sewed up three muslins based on sketches.  I wasn't in love with any of them and couldn't come up with any ideas about how to make them love-worthy.  I went back to the sketchpad, created some variations, and was suddenly lost in the myriad of options.  In a week, I had gone from too many limitations to too many options.  What is wrong with me????  LOL

So it occurred to me to lay out all the shirts on the floor, like a puzzle, and see if things started to make more sense.  Fortunately, they did.  This post is looooong enough so I will fill you in next time.  Hope your weekend is off to a great start!

01 April 2009

125. Thank you, BWOF

Not for a pattern, but for this:

And this:

Which helped me get this:

I usually grow my hair out in the cold (well, OK, cool) months and thought about skipping it this year in favor of a Beatles-esque shag.  I scoured Flickr for just the right photo, but most were either not mod enough or too androgynous (I am OK with a boyish cut but don't want to be mistaken for a boy).  So I grew it out like normal.

Last summer I decided to buy a BWOF to see if I actually sewed anything from it before investing in a subscription, but I didn't like most of the styles in the summer issues.  Fall rolled around and I liked many of the clothes in BWOF 11-2008, plus the cover model had The Exact Haircut I Wanted.  Someday I'll get around to sewing one or two of the garments, for sure.  No really, for sure!  I really mean it.  Kind of.


Kyle mentioned Blogging Project Runway to me when we met up in San Anton. a couple weeks ago, so I paid a visit this morning and saw the news that Project Runway's next season - 6 - will start in June on a new network called The Weinstein Network.  I will have to check out whether this new channel will be available on DISH or if I will need to look at Time Warner or DirectTV or whatever.  I'd rather subscribe online... maybe through iTunes?

Update 9:41 p.m.: Blogging Project Runway was playing an April Fool's joke, and there's no TWN or a season 6 that begins there in June???  That's choice, that I have never gone to the site except on APRIL FOOL'S DAY and decided to share the good but inaccurate news!  Yeah, you got me.  Awesome!  

But really, Kyle says no April Fool's, it will be on Lifetime for 5 years?  This time though, look for yourself.  The last time I tried to report on it I got punked.