Saturday, May 31, 2008

It made me smile

I so want to make a pair of boxers out of this fabric. Because it's just so wrong ...

Progress update

Well, my pledge to sew a little every day has worked out well. So far I've made sexy elf garb for the ren faire (and wore it) and I'm nearly done with a beautiful though fiddly robe for a friend. I'm also getting ready to make the prototype I-Spy bag for our church and have the stuff for half a dozen more once I get the dimensions and methods right. And buy better fabric than I had in my stash. Unfortunately I can't share my creations at the moment because DH has the camera with him 800 miles away at a friend's wedding. Drat.

Oh, well, we'll have a big photo shoot next week when the camera's here again. Until then I've got stuff to keep me busy. Including a nightgown to go with the robe, the sloper for my skirt for the Your Own Pattern contest on Pattern Review and, on the not-at-all-fun side, a full out war against fruit flies. Right now the kitchen stuff is half in the kitchen, half in the living room and I'm meticulously scrubbing every surface in there. And even with that it looks like we'll have to call in the exterminator. Stupid flies. I've put out apple cider traps and taken the chance to run a scientific experiment to determine which trap works best. It turns out that a wide mouth jar with 1/4" apple cider vinegar with just a drop of detergent in it to break surface tension is, in fact, the best. They get in to take a sip and wind up drowning. I can't say I feel sorry for them.

A wet paper towel and a quick hand is second best.

All the rest of the traps seem to serve more as single bars than anything else. Not what I'm going for ... the idea is to decrease the population, not increase it.

Oh well. Hopefully I can carve out a little space in the living room to sew (or, novel idea, actually clean off my little sewing table in the office and sew there) and get some more work done. Sure beats squashing fruit flies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Prayer for China

A few people know that I spent one summer in China six years ago. It seems like less. I was in the Sichan provence teaching middle school in the school buildings, living in a hotel surrounded by apartments, and shopping in their malls and little store fronts. It was amazing and wonderful and overwhelming.

And now I'm not certain if any of those buildings are standing. The city I was in was fairly far from the epicenter but still close enough to be in danger. And I have no idea what kind of building codes those buildings were built under.

On May 12th a huge earthquake hit Sichan. More than ten thousand people have likely died. I can't even imagine ten thousand people. That's a huge number. In some cities most of the buildings are destroyed or in imminant danger of collapsing. Roads, water lines, gas lines, train tracks ... it's all damaged. In 1989 I was in San Francisco when the Loma Prieta quake hit. The quake was surreal - nothing was solid any more. The after affects are unworldly and terrifying. And it was only a 6.9 quake. The Sichan one was a 7.8.

My prayers go out to all affected by this quake. And I also pray that we here in the US will take the time to notice and to help.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tempting New Looks

With the semester over I'm looking forwards to finally getting back to my machine.  I desprately need some clothes for my new job as a teacher and research assistant.  Starting next Monday I'm going to try sewing for 20 minutes a day and see how much I can get done - hopefully I'll be surprised how the time adds up.  We'll see.

Anyway, just in time for this resolution, New Look released some great patterns.  Granted, they're mostly casual wear but I need some of that as well.  Besides, if I only sew stuffy teacher stuff I'll get bored and we can't have that.  

New Look 6801

Isn't this a great summer dress?  I love the neckline and the sleeve options.  Cut mid-thigh lenght it'd be a great tunic to wear over pants (NOT leggings, thank you very much) while that long sleeve version would be so fantastic with black boots come fall. 

New Look 6802

Here's another great knit dress.  I probably wont' get this because neither option is flattering to my figure but I can still appreciate it, right?  I like this interpretation of the twist front and the modesty panel underneath that keeps this from being as, well, showy  as many of the other twist tops and dresses are.  I'm not overly excited about the other dress option and can't say I'd really want to sew  darts in knits but, well, that's me.  Still, the twist dress is great.

New Look 6815

This is my hands-down favorite of the bunch. If this had only been out when I was planning my SWAP for Timmel this year ... not that I participated but I did dream and my biggest frustration was finding a wardrobe pattern that had three pieces I'd want to make in it (per the special twist in the rules this year). I've wanted to make a shirt dress for a while now and those button-up shirts would be great for my wardrobe. Bonus points since once I've gotten the fit right in the dress, the shirt would be super easy. I even like those pants and I NEVER like wardrobe pants. The button flaps on the side really make them chic.  This is one pattern I totally plan on getting and making up for my coming professional wardrobe.  And speaking of SWAPs and wardrobes, I should get a plan together.  Hm.

New Look 6807

Another great casual piece, though made up in the right fabrics I can see this with a nice skirt and jacket.  I love curved, gathered necklines on knit shirts and they love me so obviously, this pattern should be mine.  I like the raglan sleeve look as well, especially with those cute little cap sleeves.  I don't have any knit shirts with 3/4 bishop sleeves but maybe it's time for a change.

Ok, time to get to work to plan the mothers day stuff we're doing and then to clean up my sewing area so the 20-minute sessions can get started!  

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Best of the Summer from Butterick, Simplicity, and McCall's

After the horrors of tents on straps (thanks keely for the mental image!) and horrendous jumpers, here's something far more soothing.  The top five patterns (in my book) from Butterick, Simplicity, and McCall's.  Enjoy!

#5 - McCall's 5658

The more I look at this, the more I like it as a great summer party dress set. The inverse pleats at the waist give it shape while being very now, and the different necklines give you the option to make it perfect for a summer wedding (A) or a more formal affair (B).  And C is just right for a casual and cool day dress.  Also, with the sea of sacks this season, it's great to see something that shows a waist!

Plus I just love that shade of blue, especially with gold.  So that might affect my judgment.  Still, neat little dress, neat options, neat job McCall's!

#4 - McCall's 5651

It really doesn't get more basic than this - undies, bras, and slips in simple, easy-to-sew styles.  But what really makes it special is that attitude.  Look at that, it's a DIY Style pattern targeting those in their teens and 20s.  I love that and want to nurture and encourage it as much as I can.  Really, just looking at that pattern makes me think of my two sad slips and want to replace them with knit silk versions.  Maybe with some contrast lace and ... see what it's doing?  It's INSPIRING, just from the envelope.  Now that's something special.  And this is one pattern that won't be out of style in a year or two.  No, we've been quietly wearing all these for a while and they're here to stay.  

Besides, just a few weeks ago someone on PatternReview was complaining about the lack of slip patterns available.  Well, here you go, one new one to add to the drawer!  Thanks, McCall's, and great job showing how a pattern picture (even if it's just line drawings) can be truly inspiring!  And even more for helping the new generation catch the sewing bug.  Great job!

#3 - Butterick 5218

The Big Shirt is back and this is a neat variation on that simple theme.  I really like the placket, the front pleat, the different collars (specifically A), and the sleeves.  The only thing I'm not liking is the length of C but, fortunately, there's three other lengths to choose from.  This style looks great over skinny jeans on those fortunate rectangles who can wear both styles and tucked into a high waisted skirt for us hour glasses.  Made up in a rough cotton it's got the safari look that's in, while made up in something nicer, like silk or a nice cotton, it's perfect for the office and church.  

Similar to this, and a close runner up, is McCall's 
5664.  Again we see the elegant placket that I love.  Does it tell you anything about my button-hole sewing skills that I'd rather do a placket than a row of buttons?  I thought so.

The sleeves are different on this, and different in a good way.  I really like the shorter sleeves and the 3/4 bishop sleeves can be really great, especially as fall creeps up.  The reason I went with the Butterick over this one, though, is the twin problem of the volume and the under bust tie.  On the model it's not bad, though the bow's a little odd.  However I'm not certain how it'll look on others, especially me.  That tie keeps it from being tucked in as a random high-tie plus tuck equals two waist lines.  One is plenty for me, thank you.  And those two style details are so 2008 that they're going to date this pattern long before the Butterick goes out of style.  I might still get the McCall one because I think it has potential but if either become TNTs, I'm pretty certain it'll be the Butterick.  Still, can't go wrong with one more pattern in the drawer!

#2 - Simplicity 2899

Remember on the "Worst Of" list how McCall's completely bombed with their plus sized shirt? Remember me telling them to check out Simplicity's stuff to see how it SHOULD be done? Well, this what I was talking about.   This is a FANTASTIC jacket with more options than you could exaust in a wardrobe of jackets.  Those lines are incredibly flattering, giving waist definition and showing off the legs.  And it's only available in Women's sizes.  That's right, one of this year's hottest jacket patterns and women less than size 18W are missing out.  How's that for a change?  

I love that Simplicity has embraced their Women's line enough to give them great, modern styles made for THEM (not a 16-year-old size 6) rather than throwing them the normal assortment of sacks and sized-up misses stuff that never fits right.  Good for you Simplicity!  

#1 - Butterick 5206
What a fantastic basic wrap dress.  I love it.  Great V-neck (and work-safe with the addition of a camisole), great sleeve options, fantastic obi-belt for showing off the waist, and nice, flattering skirt.  What's not to love?

Sure, it's no show-stopper but that's what makes me think this'll be this year's best little knit dress.  You can make it up in different fabrics with different twists and each one will be fantastic.  I can imagine this in a solid black with a red belt and contrasts, a cute floral with solid contrasts for summer, and a rich olive with black accents for fall.  I need to get this pattern and then get back to sewing knits.  It's been too long and this is just the pattern I need to get started again!

Good job Butterick, you win Best Pattern for Summer 2008!  At least in this competition.  I guess it's even since you also lost ... but we're putting all memories of jumpsuits out of mind and focusing on this lovely dress.  Good job!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Summer Patterns

irst McCall released their summer line. And I yawned. Then Simplicity and I wasn't sure what to say. Now Butterick has shown their line and once again I'm underwhelmed by far. It'd be one thing if, like the Vogue line, they were all so crazy, so out there that I could find some enjoyment commenting on them. Or if they were horrendously terrible. After all, I'm not above laughing at travesties, provided no blood is involved. Or, best, if each pattern were inspiring, beautiful, and new jewels for the pattern boxes.

Unfortunately the 3 lines managed to miss all possible targets. There were one or two crazy items, but no theme like Vogue had. Just the odd crazy, like Uncle Ben at a funeral. Yeah, there were a few bad calls - but very little that was so mind-shatteringly wretched that I HAD to drop everything and comment. And there were the occasional nice items, but again, nothing worth writing about. However once the total count has reached three lines and 99 total patterns I figure I have to say SOMETHING. So I present the best and worst from the three lines.

The Worst

#5 - McCall's 5652

 Let's start at the top, shall we?  Spaghetti straps forbearing any bra wearage?  Check.  Tiny little bodice designed to best minimize and pull down the most endowed woman?  Check.  Gathered empire waist to completely obsure any hint of a figure?  Check.

So in basic we've got a 4-year-old's dress in misses' sizing.  Gack.  And the fabrics and colors picked for the sample couldn't be worse.  Seriously, who decided this was a good idea?  Maybe done in lace and frills with a cute undershirt covering up all that skin for a western take on sweet lolita ... no, not even that would work.   Maybe just adverting the eyes until McCall quietly discontinues this odd pattern.

#4 - McCall's 5666

This shirt really rather deserves the triple six in the pattern number.  Really, what team of evil comes up with something like this?  It's like some twisted designer, saturated with images of anorexic teens, decided that any woman with a healthy or slightly more than healthy BMI must be horrendously ashamed of herself and unwilling to go out the door in anything less than a full on duvet cover.  Really.  And then, when someone complained about the lack of shaping, the designer said "FINE!" and cinched it in at one of the worst possible places.  Look at that poor model.  She's either drugged into staying there as the camera snaps or dreaming up various ways to torture the designer.  Preferably the latter.  Good grief, pay a ten minute visit to Simplicity and LOOK at their Woman's stuff!  There's a number of designs that help women rock their bodies of all sizes.  This - this is not rock.  This is karaoke.  Karaoke at a country western bar in Portland at 3 am during a beer shortage.  Except worse.

#3 - Butterick 5227

This is one of GFY's scroll down disasters.  That is, it starts out innocently enough.  Yes, that white top's too wide and unfitted and the fabric looks like it came from a long picked over dollar bin but it could be nice.  And the brown version is rather cute on top with that scoop neck and nice little cap sleeves.  And then you scroll down.  No waist definition, flare at hips and then - wow.  Extra volume right at the thighs.  Every woman's worst nightmare and you went there, Butterick, you went there.  Really, a little shorter and it might work.  Longer (as shown in the yellow dress) and it's quite nice.  But right there?  Oh no.  Oh no no no no no.  And it's just made all the worse by the fabric and fitting.  I get it, this is a fast and easy (and super-tacky) pattern.  But if it doesn't look good in a fast and easy fabric then why by all that's good are you selling it???  Ick.

#2 - McCall's 5656

I actually debated on this one.  After all, the two line drawings aren't bad at all.  A lot more volume than any woman I've met likes in her jumper but beyond that they're inoffensive.  But that white one.  Oh my.  We see here that someone clearly failed their proportions class.  Badly.  Those sleeves are just too big, those shoulders too small, the neckline too oddly smallish big, and the dress too wide for any of it to work.  It really makes you wonder - why did no one step back and LOOK at the dress and say, "hey, the sleeves are really messing it all up - how long would it take to rip 'em out and make this baby sleeveless?"  It's not like they don't have other garments to shoot.  Then just sketch sleeves on the yellow drawing and, while it's probably still not great, there's at least a chance someone will buy the pattern.  Maybe. 

#5 - 5229

I'll admit, Butterick's Fast and Easy line has never been exactly cutting edge.  Actually it's almost exactly what my favorite thrift store back in Virginia regularly has in their pattern rack.  For 10c a piece.  Half off on some days.

But for all my low expectations ... this one still stunned me.  Stop for a moment and look, really look, at E and D.  That's right.  You're not hallucinating.  Those are, in face, drop-waist, wide necked, dowdy-sleeved jumpsuits.  

If this isn't a sign of the end times I don't know what is.

I'm looking and a sadistic side of me is trying to imagine how they could look worse.  Maybe if you turned them into high waders, those pants that make a model look stubby - oh wait, D is already doing just that.  I know, pockets at the thighs so that the woman looks even wider ... oh, they beat me to it.  Ok, I'm stumped.  Apparently these can't get any worse.  And my eyes are watering.  This is, without a doubt, the WORST pattern released this year.  Yay butterick, you lose!

And this post is getting long ... ok, then, top five tomorrow!