Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shoe insanity and dress up fun

My friend M came over today to find a ren faire costume and, you know, it's just as much fun to play dress up now as it was as kids. Even better, the shoes usually fit and I've gotten MUCH better with that lipstick. :) She did find some stuff that looked like it was made for her - a Rohan-ish linen dress I made years ago for a Return of the King party and haven't worn since, mostly because the dark blue with gold accents does nothing for me. She, however, looked gorgeous in it. We're going to Scarborough Faire with her and her husband in a few weeks so I'll snap pictures then, promise!

For my own outfit I plan on re=using my fairy garb from last year but the boots I wore with it are a total no-go. They're quite cute but the poly suede doesn't breath and there's no good support and the heels punch through the dirt ... such a pain. So what's a gal to do but make her own shoes? I'm using a McCall's pattern for moccasins suspiciously like those sold by Medieval Moccasins and of which the internet has no record. Hm. And the non-suspiciously-familiar shoes included in the package have been reissued as a Butterick pattern. Discuss amongst yourselves and formulate your own conspiracy theories.

I've traced out the pattern and got it fitted to my size (not easy when I'm apparently two sizes below the XXS - thanks a lot McCall's) and will start cutting tomorrow - tonight I'm exhausted, still a little shaky from the (cough) six cups of coffee I had (conference this morning and it's what they had to drink!) and really not in a good state to be holding anything bladed. :)

In similar news, DH found out about my cobbling aspirations and decided to make up his own pair of boots, version C from Butterick 5233.

Unfortunately he's two sizes BIGGER than the largest size (XL) so more mods had to be done. And he wants a cuff and for those tabs on the side to be smoothed out for a more medieval, less Indian look. So tonight he learned how to trace a pattern, pin-fit it, and size up. :) He did good!

And now for sleep. Soooo sleeeepy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SWAP - 7/12ths of the way done!

The bearded one and I have been doing a systematic cleaning of the apartment in prep for the move this summer and today it was the bedroom. We decided to rearrange since we were cleaning out as well and for just a short bit we had a full wall cleared. I pounced on the opportunity to get my present SWAP items all hung up in a bit of a collage. It's not great - three of them got pulled out of the suitcase and two out of the ironing pile and one's still needing the hems done - but hey, it lets you see where I'm at! Three bottoms finished, four tops, and I've got another bottom and two jackets in progress. The end is actually in sight!

So what do you think?

Looking over the items I'm struck, first of all, at how badly wrinkled they are. Especially the knits. Seriously, aren't those supposed to be just about magically resistant to wrinkles? Sigh. Also they're all so bland at the moment. I might add some cutwork to the purple top. Not sure about the black but I think the cowl's too high and stiff. I just made that today and the hem's waiting for me to set up the double needle in my machine so it's a total WIP. Still, once on and with the right accessories they're all great pieces and I've been wearing the tails off of all of them. It's getting a bit warm for the black and maroon tops but next winter I'd really need them (Wisconsin, here we come!) and so don't mind packing them away. I really dislike long sleeves and sweaters and get so tired of the ones I have so hopefully a couple new ones in the mix will help brighten up those cold days.

On a totally other topic, thanks to Sharon and Rose (Rose and Sharon ... Rose of Sharon - my favorite flower!) for the sisterhood award! Technically I'm supposed to pass this on but I'm already behind with the previous award and I don't want to nominate someone who's already gotten it or forget someone who's richly deserving of it and so ... I'm going to be bad and non communal and all that and just tell you all straight up that I've yet to go to any of your blogs (and, if you've commented or are on my sidebar, I do go often!) and not be inspired and encouraged!

And in a third topic, I'm ebaying the duchess satin silk I originally bought for my wedding dress. If you've been needing, say, seven yards of slightly golden cream silk then, hey, gotcha covered. I figure all of you are fine on silk at the moment but just in case, I'd rather it go to one of y'all's homes than anyone else!

Monday, March 16, 2009

My sewing story

For creative writing last semester we were to write one piece that was to encapsulate us and our history in some way - the guidelines were vague but there. After a lot of brainstorming and false starts this little story is what I came out with. It's sort of about how I first learned to sew but really it's, at heart, about female bonding, the stress we put on ourselves to be domestic, and evil sewing machines. Posting because (a) I haven't gotten around to photographing my latest SWAP stuff and want to post SOMETHING and (b) I figured y'all could relate. :) One caveat - this isn't a terribly polished piece, it's definitely a rough draft. But I still enjoyed it. I got to read it outloud and at the "saucy" line in the first paragraph EVERY female in the room was laughing while the guys were looking at each other and asking what was so funny. It was fantastic. :)

And mom, if you're reading this - please know that after I read this, you were the hero and soul mate of every woman in that class.

Domestic Bonding

Mom tried to teach me to sew, she really did. When I was nine she felt it was time for some female bonding and pulled out her old plastic machine, the sort that costs less than a blind date and performs just as well. But her mom sewed, her grandmother sewed, and her great grandmother sewed so some sense of history (or, more likely, domestic guilt heightened by nine years of microwaved dinners and store bought birthday cakes) led her to clear out a corner in the junk room for that machine.

I swear it hissed when she moved it.

With care mom showed me how to cut out the pattern, lay it out on the fabric, then swear when it all slid off the table in a heap. Next came the seams and the first match with the machine. The needle broke. New needle, restart the seam – and the needle broke again, this time sending a sharp shard pinging off against mom's glasses.

It was official, the sewing machine was out for blood.

Yet another new needle, and many colorful words later I'd learned quite a bit about sewing – the first being that mom was best left to do it on her own. I didn't want to be a casualty in the war between her sense of maternal guilt and that machine. Many dark evenings later mom emerged, triumphant, with my new nightgown. It was – creative. Lovingly made. Happily handmade with care. And oh so very, very twee. I tried it on and hid my relief that, in addition to being stiff and dead ugly, it was also two sizes too small. And unlike a grinch's heart, this was not about to grow. Mom taught me yet another new word and the nightgown and machine were both bundled away out of sight.

Years and a home economics class later I disturbed the machine again with visions of a dress for the high school play dancing in my mind. After all, it couldn't be too difficult, right? I'd underestimated the machine's resentment at being pulled from it's dark reseting place. In the end the epic battle between woman and machine was done and I emerged, mostly triumphant, with a medieval dress that almost looked wearable. If you squinted. It was a proud moment. The machine conceded defeat grudgingly though it never got used to being used and four years later it committed suicide. With that, a new machine came into my life, my grandmother's beautiful vintage Viking with solid metal gears and a whole box of beautiful feet. A partnership was born and together we've spent many lovely summer afternoons.

Mom, in her turn, has happily gone on with life without a homicidal sewing machine lurking in the closet and has started up a successful scrap-booking career that supports her new life of work and friends, and dinners out. And we've bonded, instead, over pedicures, trips, and a mutual dislike for domestic ought-to-bes.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Seven Basics and a thought

Sorry, just haven't been in a post-y mood recently. It comes and goes - give it another month and I'll be posting daily and commenting like mad on all your blogs. :) Does that make me a bipolar blogger? Hm.

Anyway, at Artisan Square someone posted that Donna Karan's returning to her designing roots of her seven basics: Body suit, wrap skirt, tailored jacket, tailored pants, cashmere knits, robe-like coat and evening wear. The idea is that these pieces form a sort of swap, working for home, office, and evening events. Neat, though personally I'm not feeling the items themselves. Wrap skirt? Tried, don't like. Body suit? Love the clean lines, don't so much love the gymnastics of rebuttoning after a bathroom break.

So I present my basics. Not authoritative but, hey, this is a blog. :)

1. Nice knit shirt

Preferably a v neck, in a great fabric and a good, versatile color. For me that usually means black. Hazard of being a tech chic from DC.

2. Trim pencil skirt

one in black, one in denim, and you're ready for most anything.

3. Long but fairly fitted button up shirt

Tuck into skirt for the standard business uniform, throw on over the knit shirt for a loose, casual jacket, or button up and wear over the skirt with a belt cinching it in.

4. Jeans - Dark wash, well fitted, with a bit of flare

Non negotiable. Come what trends may, I NEED my flare.

5. Little black dress

Hey, classics are classics for a reason. Doesn't actually have to be black if that's not your look - any color that plays well with others works. Just make sure it's well fitted and nice enough to go to the symphony in. Throw the button up shirt over it for a nice office look or wear it with the denim skirt for a shell look.

6. Bright wool coat

Because too much black is boring, especially in winter.

7. Gorgeous layering sweater

Pick the neckline and color best for you. Layered over the LBD, button up shirt, or knit shirt it looks fab and keeps you warm. And I'm all about being warm.


There they are, the Alicia Jeanae 7 basics. I'm working on making these into a reality with my SWAP. So far it's coming ... I've got the pencil skirts covered, made up one layering sweater, and (not included in the official SWAP as they're not sewn by me) bought a pair of jeans and was given a small collection of fitted longer buttonup shirts. So I'm just missing the nice knit tops (next on the sewing list) and a great coat. Which I really, really need but haven't settled on the fabric. Since we're already to short sleeve weather here, it's not a pressing concern so I'll take my time. :)

So agree, disagree with my choices? Think I'm missing something critical? Got your own choices?