28 September 2009

174. Refashion 31: Art Therapy Tunic from Skirt and Jeans

I've been absent from the blog.

It's been almost two weeks since my last post and I haven't even responded to the comments yet -- sorry. The last month has been a real doozy, ladies (and the occasional gentleman). It's been a tough year for my friends and family in the areas of jobs/ careers and divorce. Maybe because of our age, or the length of time most of the people we know have been married, or the economy, or some combination of all those things, there is an almost alarming frequency of major career or family upheaval around us. So the blogging has been slow. It has felt this past week like my creativity has been muffled.

After some news Saturday, it's fair to say that I felt quite funky (and not in the good way) on and off all day Sunday. I needed some art therapy big time.

Kyle recently posted a photo of her favorite skirt, and I recognized the fabric from a thrift store garment I bought to refashion. So I pulled it off the shelf and threw it on Clementine:

It was very big on Clementine as a skirt:

I didn't want to just make it a smaller skirt, though I guess that would have been the easiest route in retrospect. I pulled it up on Clementine and the size L skirt was fine around the bust with an extra inch or two to spare. From the front:

From the side:

From the back:

So I sewed pleats on the back, effectively taking up two inches of diameter around the waistband. I'd been working with some distressed black jeans, and I had one leg left from the previous project. I cut it open and draped out some sleeve-ish things. I worked up a sweat. Me, a pair of scissors, a handful of pins. I don't even know if I think it looks good! It's just barely "finished" -- but I'm done, I think:

Nothing like a fake moustache to lift the spirits. I'm 1000% sure the (un-?)sleeves were inspired by a houndstooth Alexander McQueen dress I've shown you before. Wednesday Workshop returns this week! xo

15 September 2009

173. Refashion 30: Men's T to Women's T (New Look 6762)

Oh boy... this is one of the least exciting refashions I've done, but so very practical. I made a t-shirt for myself from a men's XL tee.

Kyle was kind enough to send me New Look 6762 in my recent goody box, which she made and narrowly averted disaster with last fall. Her finished product looked so different from the pattern envelope that when I saw the pattern envelope, no alarms went off. She reminded me, and I checked out all the reviews of NL6762 at PR.com, so I felt ready to tackle this beast -- view E, the raglan tee.

I didn't bother taking a photo of the original men's tee because you know very well at this point what an oversized tee on Clementine looks like. :)

There is strangeness and oddity with this pattern. Specifically, there is a sleeve dart which has befuddled and perplexed my predecessors. I've sewn raglan-sleeve garments with 2-piece sleeves so I figured closer contours were the goals behind the sleeve darts in NL6762. Also, previous reviewers noted that the neckband notches didn't match well with the notches on the bodice front and back. A recent reviewer said she did fine when she divided everything in quarters and stretched the neckband evenly around the neckline.

Also, the t-shirt I used for this is not the ideal knit. A swatch of my t-shirt does not stretch as the pattern envelope suggests it should for this pattern. I knew all this going in.

As a result, it took me about 30 minutes to deconstruct my men's tee and cut out the pattern pieces, and 45 minutes to sew it all together. I had to fight the neckband a little because it really did not want to stretch as much as I was forcing it to. I also did not hem the sleeves because they are already an inch shorter than the pattern piece (not enough fabric from the original tee), and decided to leave the bottom hem unfinished as well to match.

The sleeve darts are kind of pointy, even though I took extra care to sew them a little longer and more rounded than the pattern showed. At times, like when I've been moving a bunch and haven't smoothed out the shirt in a while, you can really tell, like in the photo at the end of the post. Most of the time, you can't tell the pointy shoulder darts from rumply cotton:

Other notes:
  • I took my usual 1" petite alteration at the waist.
  • I added about 4-5" at the bottom because the original t-shirt had enough fabric. This is tunic-length, and I really like it.
  • I like the overall silhouette of the tee, and more importantly, I think the neckline is the perfect shape and size for me.
I'll definitely sew this again with an appropriate knit, and will make the sleeve pattern into a 2-piece sleeve. Chances are I will make long sleeves, too, to carry me through the winter. Geez, do I look angry in this photo or what? It has been almost a week straight with no sun and I think it's getting my energy level down! (I know, I'd never make it through the winter up north.) But I'm not complaining -- we totally need the rain. My review of NL6762 is at PR.com.

09 September 2009

172. Wednesday Workshop: Bikini Undies to Boy Short Undies

People, I am not even kidding! This is part 3 of 3 in a comprehensive exploration of sewing your own undies. This weekend I saw another $7 escape my life forever as a pair of nylon boy short undies from Target bit the dust, after maybe 20 wears. Never ever ever again. That was $7 that could have bought a month's worth of coffee, or a matinee ticket to The September Issue or Coco Before Chanel, or 3 jars of Nutella, or a yard of decent fabric. I'm not buying undies anymore, mark my words.

Here's my completed boy short version. You know I don't shy away from the colorful and bold when it comes to the undies:

It has actually been 2 weeks since my last Wednesday Workshop post. Things were quite busy 2 weeks ago with my training work, and I couldn't get my head around converting those bikini pattern pieces into boy shorts. I knew it could work... just took me some time to get in the right mindset to figure it out. Here's the good news: it might take 30 minutes to draft the pattern, but if you've sewn up the bikini panties from two weeks ago, putting these boy shorts together will take 15 minutes. Here's the Flickr tutorial:

This concludes the undies workshops! A few notes after wearing the three prototypes:
  • I've tried elastic casing, sewing regular elastic right on the fabric, and sewing a lingerie elastic with a picot edge right on the fabric. The most comfortable so far, which happens to be the easiest to me, is the lingerie elastic with the picot edge. I used it on the boy short undies, it is very comfortable against the skin, and it has just the right amount of give and stretch. A package of this (enough for one pair of boy shorts) was $0.38 -- yes, 38 cents -- on sale, but at regular price was $1. Worth every penny.
  • I will try two more kinds of elastic on future undies: the legendary fold-over elastic, as suggested by Johanna Lu, and elastic lace, which I had a hard time finding locally. I think the elastic lace will do a better job of hiding pantylines. If you have worked with these or end up using these in an undies project of your own, please let me know what you think.
  • The hipster undies were originally sewn with the leg hems just turned under and sewn with a zigzag stitch. This did not wear well -- the leg openings (predictably) stretched with wear, and more than I was comfortable with. I will probably sew a 1/4" elastic on this pair. But hipsters are not my favorite style of undies to wear, so I doubt I will sew them again.
  • I suspect that you can draft the boy shorts pretty easily without converting a pattern. But I'll save that experiment some other time. I'm burned out for now exploring undies.
A Flickr user asked me how sewing your own undies is more economical. Let's calculate the cost of 10 pairs of undies I've bought in the last year, several of which are already falling apart, at an average of $6 per pair: $60. I can get 4 pairs of boy short undies (which use the most fabric of all types) from a yard of 60" wide cotton jersey. Let's say that runs $6 a yard, so for 2 1/2 yards I'd pay $15. Plus 10 packages of elastic for a total of $10. Including a spool of thread for $2, that brings my monetary investment in self-made undies to $27 for the same 10 pair.

What about the time investment? I've invested about an hour of pattern drafting time and 15 minutes per pair of undies, for a 3 1/2 hour total time investment. When I purchased the last 10 pairs of undies, I probably spent more than 3 1/2 hours hemming and hawing over how much longer I could use the tattered and torn undies I had, driving to the store, trying them on over my undies in the dressing room, thinking about how poorly some fit or how uncomfortable they were while I was wearing them, and dropping to the ground to curse the heavens when some of them started falling apart within a year.

So the undies are done and it's time for a new project! Any ideas for upcoming Wednesday Workshops? I have a short list of experimental DIY kinds of projects, but am open to suggestions. :)

01 September 2009

171. Dressing My Age

Thank you for all the comments on my recent question about dressing your age. If you and I were chatting over coffee, we might have this conversation over several visits! (Maybe we will have this conversation over several visits anyway, in Blogland.)

A work colleague who I playfully call "my personal style icon" told me that she was assessing her closet contents by whether they were age-appropriate. She is beautiful, high-energy, smart, and talented, and in her mid-50's has two adult children and a grandchild. And she dresses really, really, well. She has a unique ability to look professional and credible without sacrificing a very identifiable sense of relevant style. Not long after this conversation, I read Angela's birthday post, and then I'd been considering for VOCABULARY who would wear the clothes I make. Are they too "young"? Too "mature"? Will I ever get to an age where I am making clothes I would not wear myself?

Multilayered issue, this dressing your age thing. It can get complex.

I think that we access something very powerful when we decide what to put on today. It is sometimes a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, and conversely (sometimes simultaneously) it can do a lot to influence how we feel about ourselves. And it almost always influences how people see us -- an obvious first clue others look for when they try to understand who we are.

I remember the point in my youth when I understood that clothes had the power to establish my identity. As a child, I was 100% tomboy, kind of tough-minded, and in junior high school I didn't wear a skirt or dress once. (I never had a boyfriend then even though I had my share of crushes and I'm betting the tomboy thing had something to do with it.) We moved the summer I turned 13, and knowing I was going to a new school with people who'd never met me, I took the opportunity to change how people would see me by changing the way I dressed: I showed up to my first day of high school in a sunshine yellow knit romper. I noticed that my attitude softened a little, too.

Me at ~age 9, tomboy as ever, looking like I'd just been playing baseball, but
still chill with Ricky Schroeder, in all his Tiger Beat glory, looking on.

Since then, I've spent a lot of years trying to wear clothes to appear older than I looked. I remember trying to be very smooth in college, working some snug-fitting clothes into the mix, to accentuate any hint of curve to compensate for looking like I was still 14. And right out of college, I took the advice of my first business mentor, who suggested I only wear suits when working with clients to increase their confidence in working with someone who looked so young and "green".

I stopped thinking about these things when I got pregnant -- "Can I just get something that fits?" -- and dressed a bit sloppier than usual until my son was about 3. And now that I've been paying attention again these past few years, I wonder if I'm coming out on the opposite end when I address the question, "Am I dressing my age?"

This is where your feedback really helped to get clarity this year. Dressing one's age overlaps issues like dressing with confidence, dressing to show respect for yourself, dressing to show respect for others, dressing in flattering styles, dressing with trends. The styles that stay in our closets for the long haul are really ageless -- we simply change what we wear with them. As I study Chanel more and more, I see the genius in a designer who created a garment so iconic it's still revered and copied 60 years later, and looks appropriate on women of any age:

I must apologize for the lack of credits for these photos. I am trying very hard
to finish this post as it's been languishing for a week and I grabbed these from
Google image search. Please let me know how I can credit you if these are
your original images, etc. etc.

Sooooo... feel free to grab your cup of coffee/ tea and keep this conversation going with another comment to this post. The subject is not closed by any means. You know I'll ask what you think about it again in another, oh, 350 days or so.