Monday, February 28, 2011

New Dress, New 'Do

Bangs! I have them. I went to get a simple trim on Friday, and walked out all Bettie Page-ified. The stylist suggested it and I was ready for a change, I guess. I feel pretty sassy and Jeff says I look 24 again. (Ha!)

Hey, I also finished a dress that I've been working on bit by bit for a couple months now. I drafted this pattern myself (by draping the bodice and making a simple rectangle for the skirt pieces), and am really happy with the fit. The fabric is a striped cotton faille from B&J. I bought it last year after seeing Sweeney Todd. (By the Sea, anyone? I loved those Victorian Nautical stripes!)
I got the stripes to form a sort of double chevron in the front bodice by pivoting the darts to the center front seam, under the bust. The hem has a little extra poof, thanks to some 1" horsehair braid.
I just kind of let the stripes on the back waist darts do what they wanted to do.
The belt is one of my favorite accessories: a simple fabric sash with a rosette and d-ring closure from Anthropologie. Pink suede pumps.
This get-up is pretty spring-y. I didn't really do much fall/winter sewing this year, I've realized. And lately I'm definitely into spring dresses. They're easy enough to wear now with black tights and a colorful cardi.

My new hairdo has given me a new relationship with the humble ponytail. It's such a blah look on me without bangs. I love it now!
A couple Henry shots. Doesn't he look like a little grey teddy bear in this one?

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Color of the Year

Do you all follow the seasonal Pantone color forecast? I always forget it even exists until it pops up in my reader or something (as it did yesterday, thanks to The Mahogany Stylist!). Did you know the color of the year is Honeysuckle? (Not exactly breaking news; it was announced in December--before the year even began.) Also, did you know that in the Pantone universe, honeysuckle is a "festive reddish pink"? Very surprising. When I was little, we lived in Michigan for several years and I loved the honeysuckle, which was white and yellow. You could peel back the stamen of the flower and get a tiny, delicious drop of sweet golden yellow nectar. I think I would have loved it even more if it were pink!

Anyway, I love Pantone's honeysuckle color. It's such a pretty coral pink color that I would adore to incorporate into my wardrobe a bit more this spring.

I'm also loving lavender for spring (I've been wearing my new J. Crew cardi in orchid almost every other day) and what do you know? Pantone predicted that I would like that too. Here is their color forecast for spring, released months and months ago.

And here's fall 2011 already! It's just been released in conjunction with Fashion Week, along with coordinated sketches from major designers.

Which kind of makes you wonder: did Betsey Johnson (for instance) agree to use Honeysuckle in both her collections this year? Did she agree to that sometime in early 2010? Is this some kind of color conspiracy?

Which all means, of course, that we must end with a quote from The Devil Wears Prada:

But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent... wasn't it who showed cerulean military jackets? . . . And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.

P.S. Did you know that Pantone announced Cerulean as the color of the current millenium in 1999? The conspiracy grows!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reader Request: Fitting It All In

I got a really lovely e-mail yesterday that I thought I'd share. It's in line with others I've received, as well as comments from readers, so I figured it was time to tackle this subject. It has to do with time management, or really my perspective on fitting in all the stuff that I do every day. I'm hoping I can provide some helpful insight! Here goes the letter, edited down a bit:
I've been following your blog for quite a while now and honestly, I'm quite jealous.  Apart from style differences, you are doing with your blog exactly what I've always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten the courage/gumption/time to do.  I know it's largely a matter of will on my part, but I'm curious as to how you do it.  You have the blog, you are writing a book, sewing garments and documenting their construction, painting fabric and the list goes on and on!  Are you still working for someone else?  Do you sleep and do laundry?  How much time does it take to maintain your blog? Make a video blog?  I am just continually amazed at how much you have going on.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you are able to make time for everything that you do, and I'm sure others would as well.
First, the basics. I have a full-time job editing books, and it's a creative and interesting job. It can also be pretty high-pressure, but I try to keep the bulk of my work at the office. I read manuscripts on the train and at home, so the job doesn't keep me chained to a desk for super long hours. (If you want to know more about my job, I happened to do an interview on the subject just yesterday. My interviewer was also my husband, so the post title may be a wee bit biased.)

As for my home life, I'm married but don't have kids. I imagine the "kid-free" part of the equation is what helps me pursue my hobbies more than anything else. I sleep about 7 hours a night. I absolutely don't do laundry! A grand thing about living in New York is that you can drop your wash off at the laundry in the morning, and pick it up, all clean and folded, on your way home. They charge by the pound and it's worth every penny. I wash my handmade dresses in a tupperware bin at home and let them line dry in the shower. I don't clean as much as I should and my husband does most of the cooking. (I wash the dishes.) I also don't go to the gym as much as I should.

The work week is pretty routine. I get home from work around 6:30 pm, and I usually have a little free time to relax. Usually this means sewing (or in the past week, painting a little), but sometimes it just means collapsing on the bed catatonically. After dinner, I get my second wind and that's when I get my real work done. I write a blog post for the next day and set it to go up at 7:00 am, a full hour before I even get up. I would say I work on my blog for 1-2.5 hours on the weekdays. If I have time left over after writing my post, I'll do something creative like work on a sewing project for a bit. Or sometimes Jeff and I put on a pot of tea, make some cookies, and watch sitcoms together. Then I shower and go to bed around midnight or so.

The weekend is when I get bigger projects done: working on my book, making a video tutorial, or just sewing for hours on end. I always sleep in. (People are generally worried about me being sleep deprived, but I'm really not!) I would say I put in a good 6-8 hours a day on the weekends working on various book, blog, and sewing projects. I break up my days into tasks I know I want to get done (i.e. finishing a chapter, hemming a dress, writing a post). Videos are quite time consuming, as you guessed. Even if they only take half an hour to shoot, the editing takes twice that usually. One thing that seems to fall by the wayside is answering reader's e-mails. (Sorry about that! I try; I really do.)

Those are the nuts and bolts of my schedule, if you will. But it's less robotic and much more intuitive and emotional than it sounds. My blog writing is generally about whatever I'm feeling most passionate about at the moment, whether it's shoes or bound buttonholes or silk painting. It's easy to be motivated when something is really speaking to you. I also keep pretty close tabs on how I'm feeling. Last week I got really overwhelmed (stressed, tired, and anxious), and that was what prompted me to take a week off blogging. I'm definitely ambitious, but I'm trying to learn when to back off and give myself a rest.

Speaking of being ambitious, I would definitely describe myself as someone who's always looking toward the next level, so I really related to this e-mail. There are so many creative women out there who seem to have it all (pattern companies, fabric lines, multiple books, etc) and I often compare myself to them. I wonder if I should be trying to make a living out of what I do in my free time (even though I think my day job rocks), or if there's something more I should be pushing myself toward, or if I'll ever be good enough to get there. When I fall down this rabbit hole of anxiety, I remind myself that it's all a process and we're all at our own place.

I didn't start my blog until after I turned 30, and I've recently been feeling so inspired creatively, like I'm getting closer to what I'm supposed to be doing. When I'm 40, maybe I'll be even closer. I'm a work in progress, no doubt.

Things will change a bit in the months to come. I'll be sewing garments for the book, so I won't be able to share what I'm working on. And the entire thing has to be finished (edited, revised, photographed, etc) this summer. But it will be a temporary thing, and I guess I'll figure it out as I go along! More to come on that front.

I hope this helps answer the question! I'd love to hear from all of you what your perspective on this matter is. How do you fit it in everything you want to do?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I Did on My Blogging Vacation

1. I wrote like the wind! I finally finished my fitting chapter (well, the first draft of it anyway) and turned it in to my editor. Sweet relief! Amazingly, the basic text of the book is written (sans revisions, of course). Next, it's on to the projects. Ten patterns—with variations. I can't wait to start sewing the garments for the book.

I managed to get my chapter in last Wednesday, which left me plenty of unwinding time before I picked up blogging again. Here's what else I did . . .

2. I painted. Remember when I wrote about being interested in silk painting to replicate some vintage rose prints? Well, I got some shantung and Dye-Na-Flow paint and sumi brushes and had myself a ball. I started with the roses in a deep blue.

Guys, I painted two and a half yards of roses. I can't wait to make a dress out of them. The trick is that you have to stabilize the fabric. I used embroidery hoops since that's what I had handy. I could only do two roses at a time, but I was persistent! I covered up my ironing board with a towel and used that as a surface.

3. I moved on to poppies later.

4. I learned Photoshop. Well, as much as one can in three hours. I invested in a one-on-one lesson to learn the basics of manipulating images. It was fantastic! I learned how to do some awesome stuff with scans of my silk paintings.

5. I came home and started designing fabrics on Spoonflower. Readers, I went crazy. More on this later, after I get swatches of my designs in the mail.

6. I bought a sweater. It's a casual sweater in bubblegum pink. I wore it for three days in a row over the weekend.

7. I started a book. My Life in France by Julia Child, at the recommendation of commenter thatgrrl. I'm loving it. It makes me inexplicably happy that Julia didn't start learning French cooking until she was 36. Also, she adored her husband so much. It's a great love story.

8. I watched TV. Community, Glee, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family. (I think my favorites are Community and Parks and Rec, you? Might have something to do with my crushes on, respectively, Joel McHale and Adam Scott.)

Okay, I'm going to quit before I start telling you what I had for breakfast each day. I'll leave it at this: it's good to be back!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Modeling My Crepe

Hey everyone, I'm back! I thought I'd ease back into blogging by showing you pics of my finished Crepe. This is a great dress, so comfortable and flattering (if I do say so myself).

I used a Liberty lawn for the body,  underlined in white cotton batiste, which gives it a nice pop and opacity. The sash is a black and white polka dot lawn.
All the fitting on the back paid off!
I futzed around with the sash a lot.
Pockets! Yay!
You can go back in time and relive the whole sew-along here. Don't forget to share pictures of your finished Crepe!

I'll be taking a break from running sew-alongs until my book is completely finished, around late summer. We'll have to do something fun for fall!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Writing a Book Is Hard

Well, that title probably says it all. I'm in the thick of writing the fitting chapter for my book, and it's proven to be the most challenging chapter yet—even more so than the 70-page technique chapter! I've always thought there should be an intuitive way to approach fitting. But this chapter has just shown me that there are so many different ways to write about fitting. I hope I find one that works.

I spent a weekend traveling with my editor recently and we laughed about what a huge project this book has become. When I met with some other publishers early on, they seemed overwhelmed by the scope of the book and suggested that I cut it down considerably. But Melanie was the exact opposite—she suggested that I make the scope bigger! I think I knew I'd found a kindred spirit then.

Anyway, this is all kind of a roundabout way of saying that I'm going to take this week off blogging to focus on my book. I know how much we all struggle with fitting, so I feel a huge responsibility to get this chapter right!

Have a fab week, and keep your eye out for good cat videos to share. Better yet, record one of your own! Pip is weirdly photogenic, so I figure it's only a matter of time before we have a viral hit on our hands. (She's still working on her people skills, though.)

If you're interested in watching a cat chew his toes, Henry's your man.

Yep, we'll definitely be recording that viral YouTube sensation any day now.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Seen Any Good Cat Videos Lately?

Whew, nothing like a good sew-along, a couple book deadlines, a full-time job, and a teaching gig to keep you busy! I'm pretty brain dead, so today I'm revisiting a blog feature called "I'm Tired; Here's a Video of a Cat." Scintillating, I know.

If you haven't seen this one, you're in for a treat.

How about you? Seen any good cat videos lately?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crepe Sew-Aong #16: It's a Dress!

I told you we were close!

So, last time you sewed your skirt front and back sections at the center seams. Now it's time to do your pockets and side seams. Finish your pocket edges.
Pin and sew your pockets to the skirt pieces as directed by the pattern instructions. The instructions are great, so just read carefully and you'll be golden.

Don't forget to press the pocket out after stitching.
Pin your front and back skirt pieces together, pinning all the way around the edges of the pockets.
I like to draw in my stitching line where I have to pivot.
Stitch down each side seam and around the pockets. Follow the purple line!

I finished my side seams by zigzagging together and then trimming. Press these seams to the front.
 Now, finish the back side edges of the skirt. Measuring carefully, press under first 1/4" and then 3/8".
Edge stitch this hem. This just means stitching very close to the fold. (You could also slipstitch it to the underlining for an in visible hem.)
Now for the waist seam! Pin the bodice to the skirt, right sides together. Stitch carefully, making sure your darts are facing the right directions as you sew.
 I finished my waist seam with some folded-over pre-packaged bias tape.
All that's left is the skirt hem. Try your dress on and determine if the 5/8" hem allowance is the length you want. Once you've adjusted your hem, press and sew it in the same manner as the back edges. (Pressing under 1/4", then 3/8" and then edge stitching.)
And your dress is done! Snip off any final threads, make sure your facings are all tacked down, give it a final press and take some lovely pictures! Don't forget to post them in the Flickr pool. I'll be taking some action shots of mine this weekend.

I'm still around for questions, of course. (I know there are some I haven't gotten to from the last post, but I'm on it!)

Hope you've enjoyed these Sew-Along posts!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Animals that Say Hi


So, okay. I probably haven't mentioned this here before, but I'm a bit of an embroidery dabbler. It's a little side activity I enjoy, mostly because it frees me from the perfectionism of sewing. For whatever reason, I just don't feel the same need to be meticulous which—sometimes—can be a very refreshing thing.

For the past couple years, I've slowly been stitching away at a kind of bizarre goal: I want a whole wall full of embroidered animals that say hi. It started with this little bird. (Taken from a Sublime Stitching pattern, and then embellished with hand lettering, as all of my little creatures are.)

 A monkey came next. Embroidering the type is the hardest part!
 This hedgehog greets you cordially.
 As does this blue squirrel.
 The Tiki god is a little more intimidating, and not technically an animal.
 The kitteh speaks LOLCat, of course.
Jeff and I just hung these up in the entrance way, which seemed an appropriate place. Between you and me, it's my life's goal to have a full hallway of these little creatures by the time I'm an eccentric old woman.

That's all! Just a window into my weird little life. Kthxbai!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

French Seams (Crepe Sew-Along #15)

Yep, French seams can make you feel like singing Stevie Wonder.
Hey, does everyone know how to sew a French seam? If not, it's time to learn! There are a ton of tutorials out there, but I thought I'd share my process on the Crepe dress. I use French seams on my skirts all the time, because it so nicely encloses the raw edge.

For this dress, I'm only using French seams on the center front and center back skirt seam. This is because there are pockets on the side seams, which would make the process more complicated there. (But it is possible to do French seams with side seam pockets, as you can read here.)

First, start by putting your front skirt sections WRONG sides together. This will feel very weird if you've never done it before. (And, truthfully, even if you have.)

Now, follow the directions in the pictograms! (Yeah, that word definitely doesn't mean what I think it means.) Start by pinning and sewing your seam together with a 3/8" seam allowance. (Oh, and double-click any of the pictograms to see them bigger.)
(Note: If for some reason your pattern seam allowance is different from 5/8", just subtract 1/4" from your seam allowance and use that number in this step. So, if you had a 1/2" seam allowance on your pattern, you would sew a 1/4" seam allowance on this first step. Make sense? The point is that you want to have 1/4" left to work with after this step.)

Now trim this seam allowance down to 1/8".
Press your teensy-weensy seam allowance open. (If you're anything like me, this is the step where you start to panic that you've done it wrong because it just seems so weird to have your seam on the outside of your dress. Don't fear! You're on the right track.)
Now, press the skirt pieces right sides together, making sure to align that seam right on the edge.
 Go back to your machine and stitch at 1/4".
 Press to the side.
 Here's the seam from the outside; it looks like any other seam.
That's it!

Crepe Sew-Alongers, do this for the front skirt section and the two back skirt sections. We'll do pockets next time!
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