Saturday, December 22, 2012

cameraman jacket

Ha-cha-cha. It's done! After maybe a month of toil (with a few much-needed breaks to sew other things), I finally completed this jacket for my boyf. It's probably the most time and effort I've ever put into any garment, so I'm incredibly relieved that it's done, that it fits, that it's actually what we both had envisioned, and that I didn't accidentally chop a huge hole into it in the final moments.

This jacket was not difficult in technique, per se, but it was time-consuming because there were a lot of fiddly details, and I kept making mistakes or deciding something wasn't good enough. Annnnd I had to match plaids at the side seams, at the bottom band, at the button placket, and across four lined pockets with corresponding lined flaps. Oy. 

Corey likes to say that he "designed" this jacket, but I'm not quite on board with that statement since we essentially copied a RTW design and I used a sewing pattern as the base. The inspiration was the high-end Nigel Cabourn Cameraman Jacket, which retails for over 1,000 USD at places like Barney's, or $500 on eBay. Uh, yeah.

We cut down on the sporty outdoorsman style by using leather patches and wooden toggles instead of metal snaps, nixing the drawstring hood, and sticking with the classic sleeve instead of the raglan.

I was lucky to find Vogue 8842 for the core jacket construction, which is more of a parka pattern that's meant to be made of (-shudder-) nylon fabric, a plastic zipper, Velcro and elastic. The shape of it, though, was almost exactly what he was looking for, and I liked that it already had a hood and a full lining so I wouldn't have to figure out that nonsense by myself.

I made a size 36 -- whatever that means in guy-sized jackets -- and it basically fit right out of the envelope. I did take in some of the bagginess at the sleeve and armpit, and added 2 inches in length to the sleeves to accommodate his long arms. In terms of the pattern design and construction process, I changed a LOT and eventually just tossed aside the instructions.

The changes included:

1) Adjusting the proportions of the color-blocking -- scooting down the plaid section by 2.5 inches. The vintage wool was part of the fabric haul gifted to me recently (blog post here). The upper section is a sturdy cotton twill from JoAnn.

2) Eliminating the multi-seams in the sleeves so it was just one pattern piece instead of three.

3) Drafting new pockets and pointed flaps for the front. As with the Cameraman style, the top two pockets sit a bit higher than the division line of two fabrics. Definitely unique.

4) Interlining (underlining?) for more warmth. The lining is made of gray flannel with a subtle herringbone print. It didn't feel thick enough on its own to make the jacket wearable in cold months, so I basted leftover ponte knit to the wrong sides of all my lining pieces. The jacket is now surprisingly heavy (especially with all those pockets) and super cozy on the inside. Corey has worn it everyday for the past week, which has been in the 40s temperature-wise.

5) Using three toggle buttons plus three regular buttons on the front placket instead of a zipper. We mocked the Cameraman style in this way to mix button styles. The toggle buttons and clasps came in a set (hallelujah) from M&J Trimmings' online store. The leather patches were THICK and required a size 110 needle and vigorous churning the hand wheel of my machine to stitch them on. If I tried to use the foot pedal alone, my machine squealed in protest. My stitches are messy, but actually better than I expected they would be. I'm just glad I got the toggle patches on at all, because for awhile there I doubted that I'd be able to do it with my limited skill set and equipment.

6) Adding cuffs with adjustable buttoned tabs.

and 7) Adding a snap to keep the top of the placket closed. This was the very last thing I did, and I had a HELL of a time hammering on this stupid snap. After five busted and bent snaps, I finally... finally... realized I was trying to attach one of the pieces the wrong side up. Truly infuriating to be SO close to done and yet wasting a couple hours on figuring out one friggin' snap.

This jacket is unique enough that quite a few strangers have complimented it out of the blue. Special shout-out to the Fresh Grocer cashier who has my blog address now because of one of these little interactions.

So that's that. Merry Chrimbus, Corey ! ! ! !

I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday. We're flying home this afternoon to be with our friends and family for the week, but I promise that now that the gift-making season is almost over, I will soon be back to more frequent posting. I've missed you all!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

walk this way?

Ah, the face only a mother could love. My walking foot is one of my most prized possessions, for real. I bought it in the midst of a desperate plaid-matching fiasco and I'm so glad I did, even though it's the cheap kind made of a questionable ratio of plastic to metal. Still, it's valiantly trudged over bulky corners of cotton twill. It's glided smoothly through jersey hems. It's gracefully aligned stripes across seams of spongy wool.

If you're unfamiliar with what a walking foot is, I'll explain briefly: it features its own feed dogs (the things that look like shark teeth... or, I guess, dog teeth) that press down and help scoot your fabric from the top, creating even pressure on both sides of your fabric as you sew. This distributes layers evenly under the foot so as to prevent puckering and shifting. GREAT for matching plaids and stripes, helping you achieve this type of thang:

That, my friends, is what Neeno likes to call "chevron p o r n." 

Anyway, I swear I have a point to this post. I need you to help answer this question: is there such thing as TOO much walking foot action? Or is there a time when I should not use a walking foot? I'm a bit hesitant to admit that for my past several projects, the only time I ever not used my walking foot was when I was using my buttonhole or zipper feet. Otherwise it's been permanently nestled on my machine, sinking its little monster teeth into all my projects.

Yesterday I stopped myself, though, because I was about to start sewing a slippery polyester fabric with my walking foot. Is it a no-no to use this foot on this type of fabric? I have no idea. Is there any time you sew where you should NOT have an even feed? Is there any time when you actually want to have your regular presser foot digging aggressively into the top layer of your fabric until it folds over on itself (I exaggerate)? 

It seems like it's probably fine, but I also just feel like I'm wearing out its tiny plastic comb teeth by using it for simply everything. What if my confident strut turns into an aimless meander?

(This photo was staged. I don't normally use bright blue thread for beige garments. Or do I? Beige garment post coming soon, btw.)

Any thoughts either way? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

black raspberry chocolate chip

Normally I would reach for black accessories to pair with a fuschia-esque garment like this. Well, uh, I've actually never owned anything fuschia before, so how would I know? But it felt slightly "off" to go for chocolate brown accessories here since the dress is such a bold jewel tone, until I realized that they do it in desserts all the time. And if a dessert can get away with a certain color combo, so can I, right? I'm just that sweet.

Wow, I just spent an unreasonable amount of time on Pinterest looking at chocolate raspberry desserts that match my outfit. The things I do for my blog readers. (The recipe for the raspberry cream-filled chocolate candies, pictured above, is here.)

I kinda wish I had a different type of garment to share right now, because my last project post was also a scoop-neck knit dress with a fitted bodice and A-flare skirt. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. My blogoversary post revealed the unfortunate fate of most of my me-makes, so I'm learning to stick with what works. And making clothes that are essentially fancy pajamas? It works.

Can you guess what pattern I mostly used for the bodice? Is it even worth mentioning or does the mere sight of the word cause your eyes to roll by now? The skirt is a pleated rectangle. I'm kinda afraid the front center pleat makes it look like I'm wearing culotte shorts instead of a skirt. I guess I just have to do a lot of curtsying (more than usual, I mean) so people understand I'm a lady wearing a dress.

This fabric's from Jomar and it's awesome. It's a stable knit with a soft texture that's kinda like waffles, but it's not a waffle knit, if that makes any sense. Hmm.. black raspberry chocolate chip waffles. Get on it, food bloggers! 

I tried to show my shoes in some of these shots but I didn't do a very good job. One of my readers wondered about the shoes I typically wear on a daily basis, since I never actually show my feet in my photos. My hard-to-fit feet + frugal approach to shoe-shopping is a bad combination, so I don't have a very interesting collection and tend to wear the same things every day: these brown Clarks knock-offs and my tall caramel-colored boots from Aerosoles. I also have black flats from Payless that have gaping holes in the soles but I still wear them because I'm insane. Don't take shoe style advice from me, is what I'm saying.

What kind of shoes would you wear with a dress like this? 

I'm craving a fruity dessert now, and I happen to have raspberries in the freezer that go absurdly well with my new dress. Til next time...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

sewing room tour

I love nosying in on others' sewing spaces (I've spent far too much time reading these features), so I figured it was due time to show you my own. It's nothing that special, but I might as well give you an insider's look at my creative environment and what I stare at everyday. Welcome to my lair. 

This is the view from the door. The A-frame shelf was from Corey's last apartment -- it's not the most practical storage solution, and it's VERY difficult to style without looking crazy messy, but hey, A is for Andrea and A+ sewing projects.

Moving counterclockwise. That's the closet that holds all my fabric, full and empty moving boxes, unfinished objects, unwanted objects, objects I need to but don't want to alter or refashion, and our off-season clothing. The door currently hangs Corey's cameraman-jacket-in-progress. And YES, that's the door that provides the glamorous backdrop to all my stunning blog photoshoots. To the left is the dark yellow cave that hosts my makeshift Ikea-bought cutting table with two adjustable legs in front. It's bracketed to the wall in the back. I'm considering draping a curtain in front of it so I can shove more clutter under there and hide the lamp cords. 

I used paprika-colored wood stain on the birch tabletop to match the hardwood floors. This is the first time in three months this table was clear of junk. Savor it. The red pendant lamp is this one from West Elm.

My machine and overlocker share the same table so they don't have to fight too much for my affection. It's efficient this way, but I have found myself accidentally pressing the serger pedal when I mean to press the sewing machine pedal and vice versa. The little dressing table was my grandma's, and despite the limited leg room, the drawer space is great for hiding all my tools. The obnoxiously yellow lamp was obnoxiously expensive from Urban Outfitters but I'm kinda in love with it. The frames above my machines hold a print from this artist on Etsy and a poem my boyfriend wrote for me. Awwww-gag.

Everyone should study world geography while ironing their party dresses. Wait, where's Antarctica? Eh. Map print is here on Etsy.

I use 4-oz quilted crystal Ball jelly jars to store little loose things, like hooks & eyes, safety pins, bobbins, covered button kits, etc. The jars are clear enough that you can kinda tell what's in each one, but they're not cluttered eyesores either. I like their country charm.

I store my patterns in these IKEA PRĂ„NT plywood boxes, organized by garment type. They're the perfect width for commercial patterns, but unfortunately I can't find this size on the Ikea website anymore. 

My button stash floats loosey-goosey in this old wooden box, which belonged to my great-grandmother. I'm not sure how she acquired the box or what her connection was to the Art Club of Philadelphia, but obviously I had to have it for my new home in Philly.

I don't have too many sewing books though I do appreciate them. What can I say? I'm a Gen-Y'er and the Internet is almighty.

So there she is. Small and sweet. A grab bag of vintage hand-me-downs, handmade Etsy stuff, colorful Urban Outfitters stuff and blah Ikea storage. I'm very lucky and grateful to have a whole room dedicated to my hobby, and I'm thrilled it's actually... clean right now. Time to sew.

Sorry that my posts have been few(er) and far(ther) between, but November and December are my busiest months at work so I've been putting in a lot of hours there lately. I definitely haven't been able to pump out a sewing project a week like I had been! Corey's jacket is coming along, but I need to buy lining fabric and figure out how to make toggle buttons. Does anyone know a resource for buying toggle button sets, that come with the buttons, cord and ready-made leather patches? Or do you just have to make that stuff yourself?

So tell me, what is your sewing space like? Or what do you WISH it was like? Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Hey! I made a striped knit dress. Revolutionary. 

This is a sleeveless version of McCalls 6599, a Fashion Star pattern. What is Fashion Star? I just Googled it and I'm very disturbed by what I'm seeing, and not just because the landing page is plastered with a huge photo of Jessica Simpson and Nicole Ritchie. The grand prize, essentially, seems to be the opportunity to sell your soul and relinquish all control of your production process to H&M and Macy's so your designs can be manufactured for dirt cheap in mass quantities of polyester in Bangladesh factories. Wow, chance of a lifetime! 

Moving on.

Yes, please note that McCalls so graciously drafted us a large rectangle pattern piece so we can make a scarf to wear with our dresses (view C). Innovation celebration.

I made the dress in a knit instead of the called-for woven + zipper because, c'mon, I'm me. This meant cutting the back on the fold instead of as two. The bodice is fully lined and attached to the skirt as one. The stripey design element is my own doing, not the pattern's. 

I made the dress sleeveless because with sleeves, the stripes were rather overwhelming when they were moving in all those different directions all over my body. I like wearing dresses with sleeves that I don't have to layer, but I didn't want to look like a jailbird. 

I originally cut the bodice so I could add the waistband panel thing as in View B, but decided that I preferred to have only one seam that hit my natural waist (surprise). So I just attached the skirt higher up than where it was meant to go. Works fine.

There ain't a whole lot more to say about this dress, but I kinda think it's a perfect addition to my wardrobe. It's just a princess-seamed bodice and a some-fraction-of-a-circle-skirt, but I love that it's simple yet still interesting. I cut down the amount of circle to make it a little less fussy so I can easily wear it just about anywhere. 

I used cotton jersey for this project, partly because it was the only dress-worthy fabric I felt like using from my stash, and partly because I don't abide by seasonal rules like "Don't wear short cotton dresses during Nor'easters or Frankenstorms or winter in general." I do what I want! And I own thermal tights.

I considered erasing that door hook from this photo because it's positioned awkwardly right by my face, but it looks like a little wonky-eyed two-legged octopus and that's kinda cute. Just consider him a loyal participant in my half-assed photo shoots, please.

Anyway, how do you feel about the show Fashion Star? If you know nothing about that, then tell me how you feel about wearing cotton knit dresses in winter. ;)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

rainbow bright baller style

Oh 'scuse me. Can I get an award please? For most incredible one-sleeved muslin that's ever been created on this earth?

Hell. Yes.

I never really show or talk about my projects in-progress on my blog, but how I could I resist it this time? I guess I need to explain what's going on here. This jacket ain't for me, for one. My boyfriend requested a jacket made from some of the wool I was recently gifted (story here). He wanted it to be Nigel Cabourn Cameraman Jacket style, with wool/tweed for the lower half and contrast cotton canvas for the upper. Par exemple, with amazing hair man here:

I found a Vogue mens' parka pattern (V 8842) that seemed easy enough to tweak to achieve the Cameraman look. Since I'm sewing for someone else, I went through the trouble of making a muslin to test fit and make sure I got the proportions and pocket sizes right. I chose this fabric from my stash for the test version because it's canvas-weight, but also because I just wanted to see a clownish plaid made into menswear that I could force my boyfriend (and me) to try on constantly so I could giggle.

Appropriate jacket for West Philadelphia, eh, where the Fresh Prince himself was born and raised.

Anyway, while this whole muslin process has provided some laughs, the fabric is a bit too distracting to even determine if it fits well and looks decent. I ran out of canvas scrap fabric to sew in the second sleeve, but I reckon I should make a sleeve out of something in order to fully check his range of arm motion. This muslin is going to look INSANE. Even more insane, I mean.

I'm pretty excited to solider on with the real thing. And memorialize this test beauty by displaying it on the coat rack for all eternity.

Monday, October 29, 2012

sandy beignet

There's a first time for everything. Like, taking blog photos while being shut-in for an impending Frankenstorm. Sandy the Frankenstorm. Have you ever known a malicious Sandy in your life? I think not, but this ole girl's supposed to be a doozy. I masked my terror for these photos.

There's also a first time for sewing a Colette Pattern, and hey, you guys weren't kidding about them being awesome. That would have been a weird and cruel joke otherwise. I finally arrived to the Colette party and I totally approve of what's going on here. It's like the sewing pattern equivalent of free booze, thoughtful snacks, happy friends, and a minimal but still acceptable amount of Rihanna on the playlist. 

I've been wanting to make a Beignet skirt for about a year now. I can prove it; the Beignet skirt pin on my "Things to Sew" Pinterest board says... "Pinned 1 year ago." I've seen many-a-version pop up on sewing blogs in the meantime, so I had plenty to plagiarize. I ultimately decided to blatantly copy Mika's blue corduroy version. Thanks girl.

I finally bought the pattern a few weeks ago, and I'm pleased with the result. I know I already have a couple button-front Kelly skirts, which I kinda wear here and there, but I think I prefer the straighter-fit paneled style of the Beignet. It's certainly more flattering from the side and be-hind, so it'll get more wear for that reason. 

I shortened it from the original, which I was planning to do anyway before my boyfriend started muttering "Shorten it" every time he walked by during my fittings. I agree with him that I have too many knee-length dresses and skirts that are more appropriate for work than the typical weekend house party. Not like a slightly above-knee-length navy corduroy skirt is actually appropriate party wear. Ugh, I'll never get it right. 

I only had eight of these buttons so that's what I used instead of the recommend 12,000. I also omitted the pockets by accident, but decided I was fine with it because layers of corduroy always iron weird.

The pattern instructions have you make belt loops by stitching them right sides together and then turning them with a needle and thread. Okay, I tried that:

OK, that didn't work. Plan B was to use the selvage so I could fold the fabric lengthwise in thirds, top-stitch it down on the edges, cut the strip into six pieces, then proceed as instructed.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway because I'm a blogger whose duty it is to ramble about what everyone else already knows: this pattern is drafted impeccably, everything in the instructions makes perfect sense (besides the belt loop thing), and it results in a cleanly-finished and professional-looking garment. I think everyone also knows that Colette gives you super generous yardage requirements. 2.5 yards for the shell of this skirt? No way. I used like 1.5 or less. 

I initially cut a 4 for the waist and graded to an 8 in the hips according to the measurement chart. I took the hips in afterward, though. It's a pear-shape-friendly skirt because of the curved waist, and any friend of the pear is a friend of mine. 

The fabric's from I used to order from them all the dang time but then UPS started requiring signatures for the packages, and of course I'm never home during typical delivery hours. Why do I have to sign for a package? I'm trying to imagine someone walking down the street who decides to snatch a lone package from someone's stoop. "Ooh, Joel Dewberry cotton prints for $8.99 a yard?! Jackpot."

This photoshoot was more frustrating than usual. Does anyone have any tips for how to style a stupid rectangular scarf? I clearly struggle with such things.

Collage overload? You're welcome.

For your northeasterners, especially those directly on the coast, please stay safe out there during this hurricane!