Friday, January 2, 2009

Black bodice

Project: Fitted bodice
Pattern: Kwik Sew 3060, view A
Fabrics: Black satin brocade with red flower embroidery

Last year, I was having trouble finding a dress for Riley's school's auction, so I picked up a pattern for bodice and skirt. I loved the black and red Asian-themed brocade fabric. But, I began making it only a week before the event, so was no where near ready to be finished. However, I did find a fabulous dress after all. Still, after almost another year, I decided to give it another try.

The good: To be entirely honest, I've actually made the thing twice now. The first attempt was...not good...but this second attempt came out quite well. It looks really good and is well constructed. I added about 4 inches to the bottom beyond the original pattern, and I'm surprised at how well that turned out and think it would have been really too short as originally patterned.

The bad: It is extremely fitted, to the point where I may not be able to sit in in comfortably. But, I'm optimistic :-).

The ugly: While this one turned out fine, the first one was pretty frustrating. By the time I had got done adding the lining, trimming seams, and turning the shoulder straps, the straps came out mis-shapen and unequal. I did the seaming much more slowly this time and this attempt came out much better.

Wearability: Give or take (mostly take) a few pounds and the right occasion, not bad.

Monday, December 22, 2008

PJs and Robe for Riley

Note: This project was started and completed awhile ago (2/9/08) but I've just now got around to posting it. It was (mostly) a good one, so I wanted to be sure and get it up there :-)

Project: Robe and PJs for Riley
Pattern: See & Sew 4322
Fabrics: Turquoise fleece (robe), white and dark pink jersey knit (PJ top), and blue sleeping doggie flannel (PJ bottoms)

A couple of years ago, Chelsea made a great robe for Riley. It was a rich, dark purple fleece with a cozy hood and belt. When Riley first put it on, it was a bit big, so we rolled up the sleeves and she pretty much wore it daily from there on out. One day I noticed that the sleeves had become 3/4 length (or even 1/2 length!) and the bottom of the robe barely kept her upper body covered.

The only way to get her to give up wearing it was to promise a new one in whichever color she choose. She said she wanted turquoise, so I bought the pattern, bunches of turquiose fleece and fabrics for matching PJs as well. When I brought it home and showed her, she said, "Oh. Is that turquoise?" I said, "Yes, what did you think turquoise would look like?" She said, "Pink." Uh-oh, I thought. Then she fortunately said, "But I love it anyway." Good girl, Riley!

The good: Riley loves the new robe and wears it daily. It went together remarkably easily and looks and fits great. Good pattern. PJ bottoms were equally easy to put together and worked out equally well. Very cozy and good fit. Both were a pleasure to cut and sew.

The bad: Not so much with the PJ top. Cutting was fine and most seams went together pretty easily, but the middle front and back seem to be quite short compared with the sleeve lengths and the length of an actual sized-seven child. I give it about a month before it is way to short for Riley to wear. Hrumph!

The ugly: Again with the PJ top. I have to assume that this is my inexperience sewing stretchy fabrics like this jersey, but all three narrow hems (both sleeves and the bottom edge) came out wavy and almost fluted. Yuck! I must have either stretched it during the ironing or sewing, though I tried to be careful not to. Ah well, better luck next time!

Wearability: Robe and PJ bottoms: Super-high. PJ top: Super short-lived.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Over on the fun side of the building

I have a new job (still within Microsoft). Looking back over my e-mail, I realize it's been a long time in the making, but I officially started on 11/3. It's a big transition in many ways: moving from program management to product planning, moving from part-time to full-time, moving from wearing any old thing to the casual end of business casual attire. In other ways, it's a ridiculously small change: moving from one end of my building to the other, even staying on the same floor.

So how is it going so far?

The truth? It's good, very good. As much as anything, I think it is about habitat. The natives are friendly, the atmosphere is inquisitive and knowledge-thirsty, the challenges are big, and the topics are exciting and interesting.

And speaking of habitat, I decided I was suddenly tired of the desk-crammed-against-the-corner-with-random-computer-equipment-piled-everywhere look for my office and I needed to do some serious nesting in my new place, particularly since my new place has this kind of cool cement wall. So, I dragged Jeff down to Ikea and we hunted up some furnishings to spruce it up:

I find myself thinking about pears more than I used to.

Nothing says 'business environment' like a black shag rug.

"x" marks the duck.


Monday, December 8, 2008

DOCS roundup - 12/7

Rolling the dice. Taking that first step into the unknown. Closing your eyes and hoping for the best.

Okay, it might not have been quite that dramatic, but the summary word for the most recent DOCS is: risk. Will one sleeve really match the other? Can I stand using DPNs for two whole sleeves without throwing my knitting across the room? Can I manage to make both shoulder straps look the same? Will it look like I am wearing pants on my head? We addressed these questions and more.

Projects worked: 5
New projects started: 2
Projects finished: 1 (if you count the frogging)
Snacks: Veggies and hummus, potato baguette and basil cheese spread, mini croissants

Donna - It's all about the DPNs. Following in Sam's footsteps with the same sweater pattern and having finished the main body, Donna pulled out her DPNs and continued work on sleeve number one, reinforcing her opinion that the only thing worse than DPNs is having to use them. In spite of that, the sleeve grew in good length during the day. I suppose the real risk here was on the rest of us if Donna's normally-excellent self-control would snap and she would huck some DPNs our way. Those suckers are pointy! Pointy on both ends!

Chelsea - It's all about the using what you already have. Chelsea's been finding herself scouring her rather large home stock of fabrics and trims, rather than haunting the local fabric stores. (She's been haunting the local beading stores instead, but she didn't bring that project along.) She began another tattoo-baring off-the-shoulder shirt. (See previous post for a short description of the tattoo. It's a dragon. It's really cool. I'll try to get a good picture of it next time.) The primary fabric is a soft black wool with wide light pinstriping, and for the trim she brought into play some trim (that she describes as Byzantine) from her home store that had been waiting for that special project. She ran the risk that this would not, in fact, be a special enough project for the trim or that the wool pinstriping would look too much like wearing pants in the wrong place. However, by the end of the day the project was looking good, as is the usual for Chelsea's projects!

Sam - It's all about the sleeves. Being a few steps ahead of Donna on the sweater project, Sam, after quickly frogging a failed wrap candidate with Reed's "help" turning the crank on the winding machine, spent the day finishing up sleeve #2. As opposed the usual practice of knitting both sleeves of a sweater at the same time to ensure identical results, these sleeves are knit separately. The risk, of course, is that the sleeves would come out completely different (or as Sam's put it, the errors would not be exactly duplicated for each sleeve, ultimately leading to a mis-match). But, at the end of the day she'd finished sleeve #2 and it looked just like a twin of sleeve #1--no problem!

Me -It's all about the second time being a charm. Last winter, when faced with some formal events, I sewed a fitted bodice sort of thing out of this cool black-with-red-flowers Asian-style brocade (wrong side of the fabric is shown in the picture, making it look red with black flowers - sigh). Although I made several mockups, my first attempt at the bodice last year didn't fit very well. And, one of the straps came out shaped like a snake that had swallowed a pear and the other looking like it hadn't eaten in months. Mindful of risking a repeat of the great strap snafu of '07, I took another run at it using a smaller pattern size. On the plus side, the straps both look relatively (and similarly) healthy and the fit is better. On the down side, it is a teensy bit too small in some places now. However, I think I can correct. We shall see!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DOCS roundup - 11/16

Has it really been 8 months since my last blog post??? Holy cow! 'Bout time to restart, no? Here's a rundown of our latest DOCS. It was just Chelsea, Sam, Donna and I this month, and I'd say that "make some steady progress on something you love" would pretty much sum up the day.

Projects worked: 4
New projects started: 1
Projects finished: 0
Snacks: Fritatta, gooey pecan roll, doughnuts, 7-layer dip

Sam - It's all about the sleeves
Sam found, tried, modified, frogged, and is now making excellent progress on a blue pullover sweater with kind of a basket-weave cabled front piece. She has gone through a couple of the iterations on the sleeve, but her FaceBook reports she's now finished one. You know, one great thing about Sam is she does just does not fear the frogging as the price paid for experimentation!

Donna - Seeing it in red
Donna has been eyeing Sam's pattern for the last couple of DOCS, and she decided to take the plunge on the same pattern but in dark red (I think) Alpaca. In addition to the excellent progress she made on the new creation, she wore one of her previous creations--a gorgeous green pullover! Go, Donna, go!

Chelsea - A bit o' the dragon
Chelsea worked on a really cool loose belted tunic-style shirt using a funky argyle knit fabric. As usual, she made it look as easy as argyle pie and finished all but the belt by the end of the day. She admitted her chief concern while selecting shirt patterns (and shirts) these days is that they show at least a bit of her fabulous new back-shoulder dragon tattoo. The shirt came out looking great, and does indeed show a peek of the dragon tail :-).

Me - Quilt management
I've (finally) begun working on the quilting for the Women's Voices quilt I've been working on for approximately forever. Started as a hand project BEFORE MY CHILDREN WERE EVEN BORN, I've had it tacked and awaiting quilting for at least a year. So, between this month and last, I (finally) stitched-in-the-ditch the stabilization lines along the sashing between blocks. The biggest challenge is handling the large quilt in conjunction with my sewing machine, which feels somewhat like threading an elephant through a needle. Still, I'm now ready to begin quilting in earnest (finally).

Monday, March 17, 2008

DOCS roundup - 3/16

Plot summary for "DOCS - 3/16", in which two women finish projects unexpectedly and a third revisits an old friend.

The scene opens on a cozy sewing room with early afternoon winter light filtering in through sheer curtains and a fire dancing merrily in the background. In the center of the room is an arrangement of tables abutting the windows on one side. Three sewing machines sit facing the center, one on each of the three remaining sides. A woman sits at each machine with various fabrics and patterns spread out before her. The women chatter in gentle tones while working on the machines. A nearby table holds various snacks.

Donna - Donna deftly fingers the previously-cut black cotton with vertical patterning, holding it up for the other two women to see. She then holds up a pattern that was purchased two years ago (or more) and points at one of the drawings on the front. The drawing shows an impossibly thin female figure modeling a button-front, puffed-sleeve blouse with attractive ruffling around the bottom. The other women exclaim delightedly as Donna bends to her work.

Chelsea - Chelsea sighs unhappily as she reaches into the sewing bag at her feet and withdraws a partially completed dress. The dress is beautifully finished, with gathers and simple ties around the waist line and hoop closures for the small, round buttons that will adorn the front. She dejectedly pulls the dress over her head for her companions to view. As the other women proclaim the various merits of the dress, her countenance gradually lightens as she contemplates the project anew. With confidence now enlivening her movements, she removes the dress and begins work on the hem. Little does she know that her new found confidence will be severely tested as reworks the hem throughout the afternoon.

Cyndy - The grim cast to Cyndy's features tells the tale. She contemplates the sheer, pin-tucked blouse that has occupied so much of her time as of late. Her companions lend sympathetic ears while she regales them with tales of seams unravelling, stitches bunching, and fabric floating every which way. Bolstered by their compassionate utterances, Cyndy turns to her task with a fatal look of determination, knowing that by the end of the day, the unfinished project will have either perished or finished.

As the afternoon wanes, light fades from the windows and the day draws to a close. The fireplace has long since gone dead and the snacks have dissipated. At the table sit three now-triumphant women. The bodice of Donna's blouse has flourished under her tender care and now stands ready to move forward to the next stages. Chelsea's dress appears to virtually glow as she tries it on again, gloriously finished but for a few remaining buttons. Cyndy's exultant posture as she wears the finished pin-tucked shirt proclaims to the world that she has emerged from her ordeal victorious.

In the background, the sound of children's voices bubbling with excitement can be heard as the lights close on the happy scene.

DOCS roundup - 3/2

Before I launch into the summary of our next-to-latest DOCS (I'm behind by one!), I'd like to make a little side trip to explore why it is that when I coordinate these get-togethers via e-mail, I can't seem to match up the day of the week with the correct date. I double check and triple check and yet still send out things like "Let's plan to get together on Sunday the 2nd for our next DOCS," and then a sentence later adding "Looking forward to seeing you all on 3/3." Honestly, every single one of these I have made some day-of-the-week/date mismatch. Sigh.

So we had the four core folks on 3/2, and the theme for the day was sewing machines (sorry, Sam). Myself, Donna, and Chelsea have all recently purchased Pfaff machines to augment or replace our Bernina, Singer, and Elna, respectively. We very much enjoyed the machine talk, and we are now thinking of ways to lure Sam away from her Bernina to create a matching set. So far she's not budging.

On to the day's progress...

Projects worked: 6
New projects started: 2
Projects finished: 1, nearly
Snacks: lunch sandwiches, chips, chocolates, and ... okay I'm completely forgetting

Sam - Unexpected results
If you recall, the previous DOCS Sam was working on various mathematics to customize a knitting pattern to accommodate the yarn she wanted to use. Well, an off-by-one stitch gauge error compounded into a few rounds of knitting that would have accommodate Sam twice over, and probably Max and Colin as well (okay, not quite that far off). So she spent some time puzzling over that. Back to the calculation board!

Chelsea - Unfamiliar territory
If you talk with Chelsea, she'll tell you that she tends towards a certain style of dress: wrap or kimono, beautifully trims, stretchy non-man-made textiles, bold patterns and color combinations. While still retaining the bold pattern and stretchy fabric, she opted for a different sort of dress with a kind of double-gathered waist treatment with front ties and cute buttons down the front. The original pattern had put the gathers in the most unflattering location possible--empire--but she'd altered the pattern to drop the waist several inches, shortened it a bit once she'd tried it on for us to examine, then made good progress (with some amount of cursing) determining placement for the extra buttons she wanted to add.

Donna - Uncomplicated entry
For her first sewing project on the new machine, Donna chose some great flannel-backed black satin to make some simple pajama pants and went to it. After having carefully sewn the pants together incorrectly (if you have ever tried sewing simple pants together, it is remarkably easy to assemble them incorrectly--it is sort of like working out the reality of an Escher drawing to get it right), she spent some quality time with the brand new seam ripper that came with her machine, ultimately completing all but the gathering for the waist.

Me - Unsatisfied meandering
Apparently suffering from restless needle syndrome, I hopped from project to project a bit. Rather than finishing the pin-tucked shirt I had started first that needed much seam overlocking and trimming, I worked on an embroidered suede skirt that I had started second and added the waistband. Once I found out that I would need to take it in by an inch or so, which meant undoing the waistband and bringing in the side seams, I moved along to another shirt project in the wings and completed the cutting and the gathers in the bodice. Much work, little payoff.