26 August 2009

170. Wednesday Workshop: Bikini Undies to Hipster Undies

Last week, Gattolina responded to my Wednesday Workshop tweet/ post on copying your own undies. The pair I chose were bikini-style undies and she asked for suggestions for hipster or boy short-style undies. So I decided to try converting the bikini undies pattern to hipster panties. The short story is that is was very simple to do. The longer story is that so much depends on your style, preferences, etc. I grabbed two pairs of hipster-ish undies to study them more closely:

The top pair are from AE, and they are probably a size too small. They are more bikini than hipster, but the leg openings offer much more coverage than a bikini. The waistband and legbands are elasticized, and the casings are sewn from a coordinating solid knit. The bottom pair are from Target. I think the center front and center back seam are a big mistake, though they obvz do lend some, well, definition between the cheeks. There is no elastic at the waist or in the legs -- the raw edge was turned in and coverstitched.

Two extra notes: From a design perspective, the leg openings on hipsters are much lower than on bikinis. And these undies are made of 94% cotton, 6% spandex, which have so much more stretch than 100% cotton jersey that they are tiny and have negative ease. I worked with the remains of the kelly green t-shirt from last week's Wednesday Workshop, so here's how to modify the bikini pattern without adjusting for negative ease:

I decided to lengthen the side seam for a total length (incl. seam allowances) of 5". I suspect this will be longer for taller folks. Then I used my french curve ruler to connect the bottom of the new side seam with the point where the panty front will meet the crotch piece.

Then I lengthened the side seam on the panty back to the same 5" as I did on the front. I drew a line connecting the bottom of the side seam to the bottom of the pattern piece using my hip curve.

And I sewed the waistband with elastic and did a simple hem at the legs.

Original vs. new DIY pair. I know the new ones look huge, but they do fit. Not sure about the non-elasticized leg openings though. I'll test them out and let you know. I also don't have any shirts to cut up that are knit w/ spandex but I'd like to modify the pattern with negative ease and a stretchy fabric to see if they are more comfortable, etc. Stay tuned for the next Wednesday Workshop....

24 August 2009

169. Summer Lovin' / Had Me a Blast

Ahh, what a summer. School started today so officially summer break is over for us, but summer lingers on. I can't wait for fall weather to arrive. In Israel, it doesn't look unbearably hot, as Selvi, winner of my first ever blog giveaway, models the Grainger top she won:

May I say, how exotic to send a package to Israel! I felt so official filling out my customs form!
And what a cute model. Thank you for sending the photo, Selvi.

This has been a summer of lovin' all over my little nook in Blogland. I won a giveaway I really, really, REALLY wanted to win -- for the Domino book over at Lisa's SHELTER Home. I still have almost every issue of Domino and secretly hope that, when the economy recovers, Domino will be resurrected:

CarrieGirl had a photo of the sweetest terrarium, and I couldn't help but ask where the little mushrooms in it came from. We proceeded to engage in a not-so-secret trade agreement: her three extra, unused mushrooms for a clear plastic irregular french curve #17 ruler. I think you'll agree it was a smart move on my part. Now I need to visit that garden shop when the temps dip below 90 and I can browse for my terrarium plants without sweating:

Poplin, nee Geek Sewing, sent me some presser feet to use from a Janome she no longer owns, that happen to fit my Kenmore (apparently mine was made by Janome). She included a couple of cute vintage patterns and fabric swatches from her recent projects. Since we have never met in person and live quite far from each other, this was such a neat way to experience the garments she makes since I will not soon have the benefit of seeing them in person:

Wendy from W. 38th posted a giveaway on her blog to the first respondents for various groupings of patterns. I was keen on the panties, sundress, and romper patterns, and Wendy was kind enough to think of my Chanel undertaking by including the extra pattern for the collarless jacket:

But wait! There's more! Kyle let me know a few weeks back that she was de-stashing patterns and fabric, and sent me an inventory of items to choose from. (!!!) It was like a sewist's dream come true: patterns, articles she'd saved for me, back issues of ReadyMade magazine, and some knits I might not have bought for myself:

She not only decorated the mailing box with Texas- themed stickers, but she also included a handwritten note and a handmade card:

And the inside of the card:

Wendy's and Kyle's packages came Saturday (two days ago). Today, another package arrived, this time a birthday package from Christy at Columbia Lily! Say what? Yes indeed, another package. Christy said she'd received some garment-related sewing items and wanted to send them to me, but what a trickster -- she included a Columbia Lily original Mini Pouch and some vintage buttons!

And don't forget that I won Keiko Lynn's Modcloth gift certificate giveaway just a month ago. (BTW I still haven't used it because their inventory turns over so quickly! If you see something there you can't live without, buy it now cause it may not be there tomorrow!) I'm not sure what I did right in the universe for all this goodness to come my way this summer, but I sure appreciate everyone's generosity.

It's been a while since I mentioned the Pay It Forward meme. Just a quick re-cap: I am making items to give to 5 people. I've finished two of them so far but will not blog any of them until I know the recipient is in possession of said item. I believe the first three will be done and shipped next week. It has been a lot of fun and a creative stretch working on these items. I started out digging through each of my 5's blog archives for clues, ideas, etc. Each of my professional and personal projects gets its own bulletin board -- they all hang on the wall in my sewing room -- and there is now a Pay it Forward bulletin board with all my notes, like a dossier on each blogger with notes and ideas. I sent some of them emails asking various questions to narrow down my options. It was very important to me to inject some of my ideas and influences, and I've enjoyed the process of marrying each of my 5's aesthetics and preferences with my own. I really hope they like what I make!

I'm not ignoring the question I raised in my last post, about dressing one's age. I have enjoyed reading each comment and challenging myself to see things differently. Truthfully though, it seems many of us share the same basic philosophy about dressing our age, whatever age that may be. I started a follow-up post to that last night and will publish it late this week. For the next few days things heat up for my day job, so... catch ya later, cool cats. xo

21 August 2009

168. Refashion 29: Coco Top from Men's Dress Shirt and "Dressing Your Age"

Before I forget: PR last night was fun to watch in a large group! I highly recommend trying this if you haven't done it before!

It always starts out with an idea. In this case, after a couple weeks of Chanel immersion, I got an idea to make a birthday top for myself, refashioned from a men's dress shirt, of course. I have wanted to get more comfortable with asymmetry since the start of the year, so this was a great opportunity to work on something simple and to play a little.

From Chanel: Black & white palette; "epaulets".

From me: Pintucks; asymmetry, buttoned openings at the shoulder to get in and out.

From my mistakes: Asymmetrical pintucks (below) didn't drape well so I made them symmetrical (as in photos above)... better but far from perfect; as a result neckline is a little poochy; cut the armholes way too low, so little cap sleeves were not an option; changed my mind about how I would use the shirt placket so there are no pintucks on the back; just an inverted pleat (sorry, no pics).

I have to admit that, after weeks of torturous pattern refining and production sewing, this was quite a bit of fun, even though it didn't turn out like I thought it would at all!

There have been a lot of thick topics floating around in my head...
I am really curious to know what you think about "dressing your age". This is subjective and personal, but please do share what's on your mind. For me, this has a lot to do with grace. When I turned 30, I got rid of those ridiculous miniskirts and chunky platform shoes in my closet. I mostly don't wear sweats ever, have banished most capri pants and hoodies for good, and assess, each year as my birthday approaches, if I feel like I'm "dressing my age".

What does "dressing your age" mean to you?

20 August 2009

167. HBD to me

Every year on my birthday, I am a little more amazed and definitely more thankful I am still alive to greet another year. Life is a marvelous journey. I am so grateful.

What a blessing among many blessings then that Project Runway season 6 premieres tonight. I'm headed out to a local cafe to watch with friends and PR fans. Even though I haven't enjoyed the last two seasons so much, I have a feeling it's going to be a lot of fun! Can't wait to hear what you thought!

19 August 2009

166. HBD and Wednesday Workshop: Sew Your Own Skivvies Tutorial (Refashion 28: Panties from T-Shirt)

1. Happy Birthday
I read a Chanel biography a few weeks back and noticed her birthday was fast approaching. Today's the day. Happy Birthday, Mlle. Chanel.

2. Sew Your Own Skivvies Tutorial
I've been mulling over sewing my own underwear for a long time now but didn't want to buy a bunch of patterns that I would have to modify for best fit. So I deconstructed a pair of my all-time favorite, on-their-last-leg panties and copied them. The original panties were regular 100% cotton jersey so I used a t-shirt in excellent condition to refashion into my new panties.

Of course, I took photos in case it might help anyone heading down a similar path, and I posted a Sew Your Own Skivvies Tutorial on Flickr:

To view and sew along from right here, click play above, then click on the fullscreen icon. When the fullscreen slide show comes up, you can press pause at the first slide, then click Show info in the upper right, and all my notes will came up in this translucent window.

3. Wednesday Workshop
My "day job" title is corporate trainer and business consultant, and it's always in me to share and teach what I learn when it's appropriate. This week I'm kicking off a blog series called "Wednesday Workshop". I'd like to post something every Wednesday -- might be an idea, a peek into a fast-and-furious DIY project (might not necessarily be related to sewing), a link to someone else's cool idea or project, or maybe a full-blown tutorial. It will probably be related to sustainability in some form or fashion... sustainability is on my mind all the time... thanks for letting me share. :)

13 August 2009

165. Revisiting the Nurse Ratched Shirtdress

The last post and a few of the comments got me thinking about why I haven't blogged more about sewing projects gone wild, i.e. the "failures". I certainly don't feel any shame in sharing the questionable along with the experiments that work. I guess I've been doing a lot of work and volunteer stuff in Excel lately, so I put my thoughts into a little worksheet, and look at what came out of that private brainstorm:

Note that these percentages are not calculations -- they are guesses, though I bet they are pretty accurate. And I purposely didn't pick round numbers like 10% and 25% because I like to counterbalance my obvious geek tendencies with a good dose of snarkiness.

Also note that a personal decision when I started blogging was to only show finished projects, not works-in-progress. The purpose behind that decision was to increase the number of finished projects, as the other goal was to blog twice a week.

So check out those numbers:
  • Most of what I sew gets finished, and the results are "good". I wear these clothes.
  • There is a tiny percent of clothes that are really perfect the first time out. Put them on and it's instant magic.
  • Only a small percentage of the clothes are so "tragedy in the making" that I throw them in the UFO pile before they're actually done. It's good to see that I'm doing this a lot less. These are the projects that I would deem the "failures", and I am not used to blogging them because I typically don't blog unfinished projects! (Mystery solved.)
  • Maybe 8% of the projects are in good functioning condition but I am always messing with them. I might wear them, but I feel when I wear them like they are not complete. Usually the clothes that land here are really simple styles need some embellishment.
One of the projects in that always-messing-with category that I wore today is the Nurse Ratched Shirtdress. This was my sixth refashion from almost a year ago, and was a white shirtdress made of two men's shirts. I took some reader suggestions as to what to do next, and ended up dyeing it a teal blue from Rit or Dylon, can't remember now.

The original dress was white, and I thought it had looked like a nurse's uniform. I laughed after I dyed it, threw it in the laundry, and took it out of the dryer: It was the color of medical scrubs!

Picture taken today. I remembered one of my little secrets, that there are two patch pockets, one from each original shirt -- so one pocket is in a herringbone-weave like the shirt that the skirt is made from:

And the other pocket is in a regular twill weave, so it doesn't match the skirt fabric:

And this surprised me -- the serger thread (yes, the serger was broken when I sewed this so it is wonky) did not dye teal like the thread I used on all the seams. It stayed white, even though it has a hint of blue in it:

So do you think this dress looks too scrubby? Do you blog about the projects that don't go well? What do you do when it looks like a garment is headed for a sewing train wreck? Do you build little secrets into your clothes as you sew them?

12 August 2009

164. Refashions 26 + 27a + 27b: All from men's shirts


It has been a lot of fun to kick off Vocabulary and read your many supportive, encouraging comments... to see how many of you became Facebook fans, how many of you re-tweeted the shop opening announcement, how many of you wrote a whole new blog post to share the news! I've always enjoyed finding a place in the blogging community and making new friends in a new way. Launch weekend could have been way stressful but it ended up being very exciting and fun. Thank you for your friendship.

2) A disclaimer

This is my third time writing this post -- I actually deleted the first two drafts and started fresh each time. Because I am blogging about 3 tops, two of which I really don't care much for, and it made me tired to re-live the experience draping/ drafting/ sewing them up. And I thought if it was deflating for me to show you the pics and describe the challenges, maybe it would be deflating for you to see and read about them. But I've decided to document some of my lessons learned anyway in case they are interesting or helpful to you (and you can just close the window now and wait for the next post if you like, I would understand!).

3) Refashion 26: Pintucked (Shoulder) Shirt from Men's Dress Shirt

This was my first design idea for Vocabulary's summer camp shirt variations. The original was a 100% cotton, short-sleeved men's shirt. The resulting women's shirt was challenged:
  • Shoulders too wide
  • Neckline too big, odd shape shape (the shirt started out collarless but I didn't like it, unpicked the binding, adjusted the original collar and sewed it on)
  • Silhouette boxy, unflattering
  • You can't see the pintucks on most patterned fabrics unless you're up close
So I ditched the whole concept. I'd tortured the fabric on this sample enough and still couldn't get the shirt where I wanted it. I've worn the shirt a few times and you know what? It isn't really comfortable! So I moved on to the next style without tinkering with the pattern/ first sample more.

4) Refashion 27a: Gathered Raglan Top from Men's Dress Shirt

This eventually became the Dulcet Top that's in the shop. But getting there was pretty much torture for me. In summary, the process for this top was:
  1. Sketch the design
  2. Drape a sample
  3. Transfer to pattern
  4. Sew the first sample
  5. Refine the sample
  6. Alter the pattern
  7. Sew the second sample
  8. Refine second sample
  9. Alter the pattern
  10. Sew the third sample, refine it, alter the pattern
  11. Lather, rinse, repeat
  12. Sew the top in its final form
  13. Then grade the pattern into multiple sizes, but I'll get to that later
Honestly, I wasn't unhappy with this first sample. I like wearing it and have gotten compliments. But when I thought about how much better it needed to be in order to be sustainable, a closet staple someone else would love and pretty much wear to death, it needed some changes:
  • Silhouette is straight from the front but a-line when looking from the side. Decided to make the whole thing a-line and hit at high hip.
  • Neckline was higher than I wanted it to be.
I thought I'd make those changes, make a perfect second sample, and we'd be ready to production sew! Not the case.

5) Refashion 27b: Gathered Raglan Top from Men's Dress Shirt

Well, just look at it. Not ideal. When you mess with patterns, there's a very real chance that when you change one thing, it will affect something else that you might not have considered. I'm pretty comfortable modifying patterns for tops with set-in sleeves, but obvz. was thrown by the raglan style:
  • Neckline binding too short
  • Too much fabric in the sleeves
  • Never again use seersucker for this top b/c the fabric is too stiff, won't drape well

I didn't photograph the third sample because it is pretty close to the final Dulcet top. Anyway, the point is it took 4 samples to get it just as I wanted it. Which is why people work far, far in advance of the season they are designing for. Which is why I learned my lesson and am working on Fall/ Winter ideas now, as I boil. (BTW, 52 days over 100 degrees so far this summer.)

6. Pattern grading

For the average home sewist, pattern grading is about using a commercial sewing pattern and drawing a new line from a smaller size for bust to a larger line for hips, or something to that effect. Maybe it means buying a sweet vintage pattern that's too big and drawing a new set of seamlines to get one size smaller.

Until this experience I had never done the manual pattern grading, garment industry-style, for multiple sizes. This involves taking your sample pattern, which is usually in the middle of your size range, cutting it along various vertical and horizontal lines, and separating by fractions of an inch to grade up, or overlapping by fractions of an inch to grade down.

Now that I've done it, I could grade another pattern much more quickly and less painfully. But that first time, it was tough. I felt overwhelmed by the many pattern pieces now scattered about the floor like a puzzle. Louis was walking around the house with my camera, practicing his composition, and he snuck up on me and took this picture, which in retrospect says it all:

There are many more lessons to share, but another time. :)

10 August 2009

163. Talking shop

Just want to preface by saying that I don't want all my posts from here on out to be about Vocabulary. But a question came up from several blogging buddies about my decision to use Big Cartel for my online shop instead of Etsy. The response I wrote back in the comments section got reallllly long, and I wanted to hear about your experiences, so here it will get its own post.

BTW, I'm not endorsing any one product/ provider, just sharing my thought process. From time to time I can get stuck in analysis paralysis, so when I feel that about to happen, I make a decision and make sure that no one else is harmed and I can change my mind later. So as far as I'm concerned, nothing is set in stone here.

I started evaluating different online storefront providers several months ago. My #1 priority: the simplest storefront possible. It would have been my #1 desire to use the Paypal storefront widget, speaking of simplicity, and I did set one up to see how it would work for my shop. But you can't enlarge the pictures much, you can only show one photo per product, and it didn't integrate with the Facebook fan page. So no go on my beloved Paypal storefront widget.

I checked out Etsy and opened a shop (didn't put any products up for sale) to get a feel for how it would look. The way the shop looked, with my logo and colors and layout, didn't convince me that I'd found the right solution. The people I visited with about why they chose Etsy mentioned they did so because everyone else is on Etsy, or because it was the only option around when they opened their store, or because they thought they would get more "foot traffic" from people browsing other shops on Etsy. To be fair, I didn't engage anyone in super-rigorous discussion about their reasons for choosing Etsy.

So, on to Big Cartel. With as few products as I plan to have available for sale at any given time, Big Cartel's simple, clean layout and ease of customization won me over immediately. Plus, their pricing structure is more my preference -- their base package is limited but completely free, and if you upgrade, you pay a monthly fee. No contracts. No listing fees, no per transaction fees, no extra-photo fees, no nickel-and-diming. All the money stuff is handled in my Paypal account, not in Big Cartel. The simpler for me, the better. I haven't discounted using Etsy in the future, but I will stick with Big Cartel for a while and see how it plays out.

I know many of you have your own shops, so I'd love to know: Who hosts your online storefront? What do you love about it? What do you wish were different? When you buy online, what do you love/ wish were different about your experience at small indie designers' shops?

07 August 2009

162. The Shopkeeper is In

Today is the day: My little online shop for my little clothing label is open! I'll save my "lessons learned" for another time; this post is to let you know the shop is open. You're really the first folks that I'm announcing to because you've been soooo supportive along my way getting here, and I appreciate that more than you know.

If you're in an extra-supportive mood, I'd be ever grateful if you:
* Check out the shop and let me know what you think;
* Visit the Facebook fan page and poke around, and if you're on Facebook, I really really hope you'll become a fan!; and/ or
* Email / Facebook/ tweet everyone you know today to invite them to check out the shop.

And of course, if you see something you or someone you love might like, please do buy it! :)

There's a grand opening sale this weekend, with everything 20% off. In this limited run, there are 2 styles of tops (7 tops in total), refashioned from men's shirts, in a variety of sizes. The run is called "Vocabulary of Plaid" because, as you guessed it, they are all plaids! My inspiration was a very expensive ($170), classic Lacoste camp shirt that I saw in a magazine this spring. I wanted to present variations on this classic camp shirt, without having to drain much more of the earth's resources to produce them, and priced much more reasonably -- so here they are!

I hope you have a great weekend! (Hope I do, too. *nerves nerves* LOL) xoxo

01 August 2009

161. Chanel-Style Blog Header

Just a quick little weekend note. In case you haven't noticed, there's a bit of Chanel madness 'round these parts. The new sew-along blog badge is in the sidebar and, with the Chanel-style font on my computer, I couldn't help but mess around with my own blog header and have a little fun.

The last blog overhaul was around for maybe a month... I'll try to keep this one around longer for some continuity. ;)