Friday, June 29, 2012

Meet Rosie

We have a new family member! Meet Rosie, an adorable miniature pinscher mix who captured our hearts last weekend at Pets Alive, an animal sanctuary in Middletown, NY. I'm happy to report that everything is going great, even with Henry and Pip, the cats. We were nervous to adopt a dog after our last try (blogged here), but we learned so much from that experience! We knew what to look for this time.

We went to Pets Alive so we could meet lots of different types of dogs. It's an amazing place, and all the animals look happy to be there. We knew we needed a mellow, not-too-big dog to fit in with the cats. We spent a few hours meeting dogs, walking them, and getting to know them. We met Rosie (then called Carmela) and knew she was a good candidate: sweet, quiet, friendly, easy to walk. We slept on it, came back the next morning, and we knew she was ours when she gave us a shy little greeting and climbed into our laps. She's been a blast to have around: a great cuddler, goofball, lap dog, walking partner, and companion. We are so lucky!

We learned a bit of her backstory. She came from Puerto Rico, where Pets Alive has another location. She was found abandoned on the side of a highway with her three puppies, who were very sick. Pets Alive rescued them and nursed them all back to health. Rosie came to New York, where she had a better chance of being adopted.

A few pics. You might notice that I made her a kerchief to match my blue roses dress. We looked mighty snazzy walking around town, if I do say so myself.

Many more pics to come, I'm sure. Welcome home, Rosie!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Winner of the STC Craft Book Giveaway!

As always, thank you all for your enthusiasm for my latest giveaway! I'm pleased to announce that WendyBird1015 is the winner of the two books, Sewing Basics and Fabrics A to Z. Wendy, I hope you will find much inspiration in these titles.

Thanks again to STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books for providing the books!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sewing Book Giveaway from STC Craft!

Happy Friday, readers! It's a beautiful day for a giveaway, don't you think? My publisher, STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books has generously offered two sewing books to one reader. I'm thinking of it as a basics bundle: Sewing Basics: All You Need to Know about Hand and Machine Sewing by Sandra Bardwell and Fabrics A to Z: the Essential Guide to Choosing and Using Fabric for Sewing by Dana Williard.

Some info on Sewing Basics:
Sewing Basics is the ultimate encyclopedia for sewing at home. This thorough guide covers everything from choosing fabrics to operating a sewing machine to hand sewing, fitting, fine-finishing, trouble-shooting, and more. Whether the sewer is trying to decipher the symbols on a printed pattern, line a pocket, work French seams, or fit a muslin, she’ll find what she’s looking for here, all precisely explained and illustrated with hundreds of step-by-step photos. Both for beginners learning how to hem and for more experienced sewers who need help mastering advanced techniques, Sewing Basics is an invaluable reference tool sewers will want to keep within easy reach for many years to come.
And Fabrics A to Z:

Fabrics A to Z is the essential guide for sewists and fabric enthusiasts of all levels. This thorough resource explains the unique characteristics, strengths, and limitations of more than 100 fabrics in easy-to-understand terms, so any sewist can enter a fabric shop with confidence. From dotted swiss to silk charmeuse to faux fur, each entry includes a close-up photo of the fabric as well as an overview of its characteristics, ideal uses, and special considerations when sewing. As a bonus, the book concludes with a section on the best tools and notions to use when working with particular fibers, as well as tips on how to read patterns. The small size and flexibind format of Fabrics A to Z make it perfect for tossing into a bag when headed to the fabric store. 
To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post by the end of the day on Monday, June 25th. Please make sure that I have a way to get in touch with you, i.e leaving your email/Twitter handle or making sure your comment is linked to your profile or blog. 

A big thanks to Melanie and STC Craft for providing these books. Good luck, readers!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Few Hats from Millinery Class

Hey readers! Back when I was in the midst of millinery class finals, you all left me so many encouraging words. I'm happy to report that I got my grade and I am officially an A student! As requested, I thought I'd model a few of the hats I made. Here are three of my favorites.

This red beret might be my very favorite. (Also, it's the only one I've actually worn!)

It's made out of a velour hat body, blocked on a wooden beret block, and accented simply with a bow made from velour remnants. (If you're unfamiliar, blocking is the process of steaming and then shaping material on a block--a hat-shaped piece of carved wood.)

Secondly, a sapphire blue cloche. This one is also made from velour. The crown was blocked on a "headsize block" (just a head shaped block with no design details) and the crown was done on a cloche brim, with the pleats added by moi.

This little series of pictures is also the result of me trying to improve my photography skills. The one below came out overexposed, but I actually quite like how it highlights the hat.

The trim is a silk ribbon with some vintage millinery berries.

Lastly, a saucer hat. This one is really more of a fascinator, head onto the head with an elastic. The material is black straw, with decorative hot pink leaves.

I have 8 more, which I hope to take photos of soon. I'm now deep into the summer semester, with the class "Fabric Hat Construction." This entails lots of berets, which makes me happy--I don't think there's any style I really love more than a beret. I'm registered for two more courses in the fall (Contemporary Men's Hats as well as Bridal and Evening Hats). It turns out that millinery has quite a hold on me for some reason. I enjoy the way it's given me a different perspective on fashion and sewing. So, more hats to come!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cocktail Dress in Blush Shantung

This is one of those projects that was inspired solely by the fabric. I saw this blush pink shantung at Mood, and it was unlike any other shantung I've seen: drapey, soft, and like heaven on the skin. I found some perfectly matching cotton and silk voile to line it with, and was at the checkout in a matter of minutes. A fabric impulse control problem? Nah, not me.

Anyway, it was worth it. I initially envisioned a full-skirted frock, but realized that might be a tad bridemaid-ish. So the idea of a drapey sarong-style skirt was born. 

The pattern is almost entirely my own, except for the bodice top, which began its life as New Look 6002. The skirt is my own pencil skirt pattern, with a separate drape and "cascade" as a top layer.

I underlined the bodice in silk organza to give the bust pleats some extra body, and stabilized the neckline with silk organza as well. The entire thing is lined in the airy cotton/silk voile.

I did a narrow hem on the outer layers, and a rolled hem on my serger on the lining. Here are the various layers on the front skirt, from the inside.

I'm quite proud of it. I don't really have anywhere to wear it yet, but that's a minor detail, right?

I used an exquisite metal RiRi zipper, and did an application that exposes the teeth only. I saw this method on a designer dress in Nordstrom, and really liked it.

Don't worry, I would not dare to wear the infamous green clogs with this number. I do, however, have a new sparkly pair of Miss L-Fires that I think does quite nicely with the blush.

The hair accessory is one of my own felt roses.

Cat not included. 

Happy Monday, readers!

Friday, June 8, 2012

McCall's 6503 and a Cat Bed for Henry!

I made a dress and a cat bed! I'm really more excited about the cat bed, can we talk about that first?

My mom gave me this pattern a couple years ago. It's Simplicity 9065, now out of print. (But available here and elsewhere on the web!)

I finally made it up last weekend, thinking that little Henry Higgins needed a place to hang out in my sewing room. I was very proud of it, and then a little disappointed when he ignored it. But lo and behold! This morning I walked into the room and what did I see?

How cute is that?

And this?

I'm so pleased he likes it! He spent all morning there. I made it in a simple blue ticking stripe. Very masculine, don't you think?

Okay, the dress!

It's McCall's 6503, View A, and made with another fabulous Ascher print I got at Paron's. (They have more! Call them and tell 'em Gertie sent you. They're quite familiar with me by now! 212-768-3266)

 I loved the pattern itself. Simple, slightly 40s inspired, and super cute in the ruffle version. It's one of those easy breezy summer dresses that you find yourself reaching for all the time. 

I wore it out to dinner last night. 

I added my own little design feature: a tiny pocket!

The easiest way to make a pocket like this is to cut out a template--without seam allowances--from a sturdy paper. I used an old manilla folder. Cut the fabric out with the template, leaving about 1/4" on the sides and bottom, and 5/8" on top. Press the seam allowances over the template, so they're turned in crisply. Topstitch the hem at the top of the pocket. Apply to your dress by edgestitching. That's it!

This dress has no linings, just a neckline facing and bindings around the armholes. I went old-school and pinked my seam allowances.

Happy weekend, readers!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blue Rose Sheath Dress

Lookie, it's another version of the pink dress I posted last week! This one is the basic sheath pattern from my upcoming book, no frills added. The frills are in the fabric, which is a really interesting blue roses border print.

Lots of people on the blogosphere seem to have bought this fabric online too! (See Erika's amazing dress here.) It was a great steal. I am probably the only person who bought 20 yards of it, though. Which guess what? Means this dress is an offer in my etsy shop. I'm making it in standard sizes 0-18, if you're interested.

If you look closely, you can see that there's a jacquard pattern in the background of the fabric. So cool!

More pics! This is our backyard, by the way. I love our rustic fence. (Rustic sounds much better than weathered, right?)

The chainlink fence behind me here keeps the two neighbor dogs where they're supposed to be. I adore them, they look like little muppets.
I lined the bodice only in a thin white cotton/poly fabric. The zipper is lapped, for that vintage look!

Goes great with blue sunglasses, by the way.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Bernina 1008: Two Years Later

I only just now realized that I've had my Bernina 1008 for over two years! When I was in the market for a new machine, I asked your opinions on mechanical machines and then discovered how much I liked them. I haven't written about my machine since, because it's been a smooth, drama-free relationship. (Yes, we're in love.) But I've been getting lots of emails about machines lately, so I thought I'd revisit the topic.

If you're unfamiliar with the 1008, here are a few facts: it's a simple mechanical machine (no computer or LED display), but it's made by Bernina (renowned for its quality) so you're looking at a higher price tag than for other mechanical machines. I paid $850 for mine, but I think the price has gone up slightly since then (anyone gotten a quote on this machine recently?). It's an all-metal machine, so it's very sturdy.


Let's talk about the good stuff.
  •  I love the way this machine sews. It's smooth and fast. It does 1,050 stitches per minute. For comparison's sake, you can usually expect 800-900 from a home machine. The downside is that when I sew on other machines, they feel so slow!
  • It's an easy, no-fuss machine. It does what I expect it to do, and doesn't jam or have other annoying issues.
  • The stitch quality is lovely.
  • It sews chiffon and heavy wools with ease. It doesn't have adjustable presser foot pressure, but I haven't even noticed because it just takes whatever material you give it and sews it flawlessly.
  • When oiled and dusted regularly, it purrs like a kitten. I haven't taken it for maintenance since I bought it because it does so well with proper home maintenance. (And I'd miss it.)
  • No extraneous features and stitches. I love the simplicity of it. It doesn't have alphabets or alligator-shaped stitches; it just does what I need and does it well. The majority of my time is spent on a straight stitch, with occasional zigzagging. I'll use the blindhem and the buttonhole every now and then. That's all I really need.
  •  The metal case is sturdy and good-quality. 
  •  The 6-step buttonhole is a revelation! Not having to deal with my machine jamming in the middle of an automatic buttonhole is lovely.

  • It comes with snap-on feet, as opposed to Bernina's standard kind with the shaft attached. This was disappointing, since everyone raves about Bernina feet. So one of the first things I did was start replacing the snap-on feet with the traditional Bernina feet. I've spent a pretty penny on feet, some utilitarian (zipper, invisible zipper, edgestitch, clear, blindhem, etc.) and then lots of fun extras (ruffler, walking foot, pintuck, narrow hemmer, and the list goes on). Many of these I would have had to buy extra anyway, so it's not entirely a fault of the 1008. But damn, these feet are expensive!
  • It's heavier than a small child. Not really an issue if you're not planning on traveling with it. (I lugged it on a bus to Baltimore, along with luggage, and it was hell. I couldn't get a taxi home from the bus station on the way back, and it was raining, and it was awful, readers.) On the other hand, metal has that nice, quality, long-lasting feel to it.
  • There's only one buttonhole. I love keyhole buttonholes, so this is sad for me.
  • The price makes it out-of-reach for beginners. The quality makes it worth the price, in my opinion. But beginners always ask me for my recommendation for their first machine, and while the 1008 would be a fantastic machine for a new sewist, the price tag just isn't practical for a newbie.
  • It's made me a speed demon. (I've always had a lead foot, just ask my parents and the California state police.) If I were to get another machine, it would be a straight stitch or semi-industrial that sews more like 1,500 to 2,000 stitches a minute.
All in all, I couldn't be happier with my machine. The pros far outweigh the cons. I have other machines, but they've all taken up permanent residence in the closet since I got the Bernina.

I feel like I'm missing stuff here, so let me know if you have questions and I'll update the post! I hope this helps you all in your quest for your dream machine.
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