Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rose Colored Pants

Part of the reason that I wanted to learn how to sew was so that I could mend and alter things I already have.  So far, I have mended a few things for other people, but I haven't really challenged myself to alter anything in a big way...until today.

I really wish I had taken a before photo of these pants, but alas, I did not.  They were a hand me down from my friend Jenn who had bought them because of the color (a very light antique rose) only to find that they were too big.  They were actually at least two sizes too big for me too, but I just wore them baggy.  Sadly, they got even baggier as I wore them throughout the day, and ended up not getting worn very often.  So, today I decided to try to alter them to fit, and to my surprise, it actually worked!  Look how well they fit now!  Like a glove.  :)

Coat,:Anthropologie.  Sweater: The Loft.  Shirt: Urban Outfitters.  Undershirt:  Target.  Pants:  Hand me down!  

Butt shot!  But seriously, they fit great now and you can tell even better from the back.  :)
I have a few other pairs of pants that fit in the hips but could use a little tailoring in the legs. I am still a little wary about cutting into nice clothes, but they don't do anyone any good sitting in a drawer because they don't fit right.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lily Love

Here it is!  My first Lily!  It is my third intermediate pattern and I think my best.  I confess that I thought that it looked like it would be a cinch to make.  Actually, I found it to be quite difficult, and I kept having to put it down for a day or two to re-group.  My sewing philosophy is that this is not my job, so when I am not having fun, I simply put down the project that is causing me trouble and pick up something else for a bit until I am ready to tackle the problem project again.  It helps to keep this hobby fun and keeps me from making mistakes when I am getting frustrated.

When all is said and done, I'm so glad I stuck with this dress because it came out beautifully!  I added a little flower detail to the front, and matched the zipper color to it. The pockets are lined with the same green fabric that I used for my first Parfait pattern.  It turned out great, right?  This is how I wore it last night to my friends housewarming party.

 Back view.   

I also wanted to show off these great vintage shoes that I got for five bucks!  I have a lot of luck with vintage shoes because my feet are very narrow and a lot of vintage shoes were too narrow for the modern foot.  I also have pretty large feet, and I don't know why but I seem to find a lot of vintage shoes in my size, or even larger!  They fit great and were also very comfy!

 And here is the coat I wore- a Christmas present from my loving husband.  From Anthropologie. I love it so so much!  

Lastly, I wanted to highlight my new lipstick, also from Anthropologie.  It is Albeit lipstick in Vermilion and it comes in a pretty vintage looking gold tube.  It is a nice reddish orange color that strikes me as looking very vintage.  I am a little overly excited about it right now.  As a side note: the little black mark on my face is a flaw in my husbands camera.  We call it "the little shrimp" that shows up in the majority of his photos.  Wha-wha! The little drop earnings were a gift from my parents when I visited them in Alaska a few years ago.  They are jade.  :)

Pocket detail:

Waist detail:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Walk Away Dress Success!

My sister got this pattern for me for Christmas and I have been itching to try it!  The pattern I used was a remake (I think form the 90's?) of a pattern that was almost identical from the 1950's.  It was dubbed the "walk away" dress because it was considered so easy that you make it in the morning and walk away with a new dress by lunchtime.  It was one of the most popular patterns of its time.  There are several versions of "the walk away dress" that followed this one.  Every one of them is a wrap dress of one kind or another, and after trying this one, I would for sure like to try some of the others.

As for the re-make that I have, I have read that a lot of people were turned off by the fact that it was updated for modern sizing.  This did not bother me at all however, as I don't plan on wearing it with a girdle (though my retro long line bra looked great under it!).  People also didn't like the gaping at the sleeves, which I also wasn't thrilled with, but it was an easy fix (see the detail I created on the sleeve as a way of correcting this problem).  

All in all, this pattern lived up to its reputation.  I was pretty intimidated by it at first, but once I had all of the pieces cut out, it really was a snap to assemble.  Basically, it is a dress within a dress, that only has three pattern pieces.  If you want to learn more about the construction of this dress, simply look up "walk away dress" and about a million images and blog posts will come up.  

I did make a few alterations, mostly for style rather than fit.  Contrary to other's comments, I actually found the fit quite nice.  I will definitely be making more of these in different lengths and with different details, but be warned if you wish to attempt it, it does take a TON of fabric.  

These pictures were taken before I added the button and hook-and-eye to the front, but the over all look of the dress has not changed.  I used cotton with a slight stretch  but you really could play with the fabric of this dress and achieve a lot of different looks.

Back view.  I made it slightly shorter in the front and the back.  I wasn't so sure how it would come out, but this little detail was my husbands favorite part!  Doesn't it have a nice drape?  

Inside front.  

Sleeve detail.  

And this is the pattern I used. For reference, I am about a size 8 or a medium in most clothing, and the pattern size 14 was a perfect fit.  

So, yeah, I love this pattern.  I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a lot of bang for their sewing time buck.  My husband thought it was my best work yet!

As excited as I am about this dress, it can not compare to my next dress post.  Seriously folks, it is a good one.  Stay tuned...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Parfait number two

I couldn't help myself, I decided to do one more short post today and show off my new Parfait.  :)

I actually made this dress in December but haven't gotten around to posting until now.  This is my second Parfait, this time with several alterations.  I am really getting a hang of these intermediate patterns!  Actually, this one was a snap, and a lot of fun to sew.  I added tie straps and a full skirt for a bit of whimsy.  This dress is made of very light cotton so in my closet it will stay until summer.  But I can't wait to get a chance to pull it out then!  It doesn't fit on my dress form, so it is pinned on.  

Flops, Slips and Tops

Due to an out-of-commission Net-book, I have been woefully behind in posting my project!  Well, get ready for a sewing photo overload!    

Fist, I fully admit that a lot of my sewing endeavors have not been coming out just as I had hoped lately, mostly due to sizing.  But with every flop comes more experience and a greater understanding of my craft.  Take my first pair of Clovers for example.  Beautiful execution, but they are at least two sizes too small despite the fact that I made several practice pairs, one of which actually even fit!   Truthfully, I have made FIVE different practice Clovers now, and have yet to get the size exactly right.  I haven’t given up yet, but I'm going to take a little break and re-group.   

Here is my muslin number one- sadly, this is not the practice pair that (nearly) fit:  

And now the real deal: Fully lined wool Clovers that are way too small:

And now the lining.  So pretty, right?

Honestly, I'm not quite sure what I was thinking since I didn't really change anything sizing wise from the last muslin that was too small.  I guess I thought that this wool had more stretch...It's all a blur of regret now.  But I'm still glad that I went ahead and finished them.  They look so perfect, even if they are useless!   

Let move on to something nicer and less depressing.  This year one of my sewing goals was to make more useful things that I need for my wardrobe, not just what is the most new and exciting.  I have been in need of a new slip, but they are so dang expensive!  Even though I have been afraid to work with shear fabric I had a feeling that this was something that I could learn to do myself, and save a bit of money in the process.  So, I took this beautiful shear border print fabric that I got from my sister in law and this gorgeous bias tape I bought on Etsy from merrigoround & me (I am a return customer) and LOOK!  I made a beautiful slip!!!!  It can also be pulled down to be used as a skirt slip.  Yay!  I am so happy with how it turned out, and I can’t wait to make another to go under lighter colored dresses and skirts.  :)  

It just slips on and fits snugly over my chest or hips with no closures that might show under clothes.  Keep in mind that this could only work with a fabric that has a lot of stretch and a bias tape that can fit snugly while still keeping its shape, in case you want to make your own.  The best part?  I used French seams, which is a beautiful way to encase seems so that they don’t show or fray.  I am in love.  :)
Another goal I have been working on is trying more challenging projects.  Although I have gone into this goal head first, more complicated= more mistakes and less to show for you efforts.  Oh well.  Despite some setbacks, I am still feeling pretty confident in my sewing abilities, and I am learning as much, if not more, from my mistakes than I could ever learn from everything going smoothly.  But it is still a pain to work really hard on something and have it not turn out right.

I don't want to overload you today, but trust me, the best is yet to come!  I have been a busy little seamstress this month.  :) Tomorrow will be a bit more cheerful  (no sad too-small pants in the mix) as I will post my lovely new "Walk Away Dress!"  
***Bonus project for today: I also made this top out of scrap material and left over lace.  It still needs a snap I in the back, but it ended up being pretty cute right?     

Monday, January 14, 2013

Just eat the cookie…

 …and other words of wisdom from someone who has made all of the mistakes- so you don’t have to!  You’re welcome everyone.     

I want to get healthy, but what the heck does that even mean?  For me, wanting to get healthy used to easily morph into wanting to get thinner before my brain had time to catch up and slap some sense into the rest of me (now picture a brain slapping someone in the face.  Pretty funny stuff).  But I DO want to take care of myself and be the best me possible.  Unfortunately, there is such a fine line between accepting yourself and giving up, and I know I am not the only one who slips from side to side, sabotaging both my effort to have a healthy mind and my effort to have a healthy body along the way.
If you want to "get healthy", the first thing you need is motivation.  Today I woke to find that I can barely even touch my toes any more.  Despite my total lack of fitness (unless you count my heroic efforts to always park at the top of my parking garage as real exercise-which I DO!) I was caught utterly by surprise.  This attempt to prove my flexibility to myself was prompted by my parents recently reminding me that I was once the limbo champion of the world (undisputed I say!) AND I could also do the splits.   That’s right folks.  It was awesome. 
I have never been an overly active or athletic person (the understatement of the year!), but I have managed to go on exercise sprees where I find something I enjoy, do it for a while until I get lazy, do nothing for a long time, get inspired to try again, and then quit again. Unfortunately, in the past these sprees were often inspired by some pretty distorted feelings towards my body.  As in: I am fat,and that is why I am unhappy.  If I was in better shape I would be more lovable. If only I lost weight, it would solve all of my problems!  I’m sure I am not the only one guilty of telling myself these type of absurd lies, but let me assure you, they are lies.  Being thinner might make you happier in one area of your life, but it does not solve all of your problems.  Nor does it make you a better person in any way other than that losing weight may or may not make you healthier. 
So, when I grew up to be the self assured, fuck you weight loss I’m great as is kind of girl I am today, (this change happened right about the time I met my loving husband who loves my curves) I didn’t really feel very inspired to exercise as a form of self-improvement.  Sure, I have had my bouts of motivation followed by actual activities, followed by quitting in the last six years.   But without the idea that exercise would somehow make me a better person, I didn’t feel terribly inspired to keep up with it.
I think too often we think of exercise as something that should be done as a weight control method, so if we are happy with our weight and our appearance (which I am) we tend to feel all to comfortable forgoing exercise all together.  At least that is what I have done.
On the flip side of that, even though I don’t even want to lose any weight, I can still sometimes get caught up in the idea that maybe there is some perfect me out there just waiting to get out, and the only way to find her is to change the me I am now as much as possible.  This type of thought process is especially prevalent when I feel out of control in other aspects of my life.  Our bodies are often the one thing we feel in control of, and that false sense of control can lead to some really stupid behavior in the name of “health”. 
Which brings us to the cookie theory.  My internal monologue used to go something like this (take note that “the cookie” can represent any food, or really any "unhealthy" choice in general): 
Me: I want to be healthy so I won’t eat the cookie.  But if I don’t eat that cookie (that I really really want), am I giving in to stereotypes about who I should and should not be?  I deserve that cookie dang it, and I am perfect the way I am.  I ate the cookie.  Now I feel bad about myself for having no self control.  Dang, I just ate nine more cookies.  They weren’t even that good.  I suck. 
Or this:
I have been so healthy all day!  Yay me!  Now I want that cookie, but I fear that cookie.  This cookie represents an evil down slide.  I will have a whole tub of healthy blueberries so that I don’t eat the cookie.  Still thinking about that cookie.  Now I’ll eat yogurt so I can skip that cookie.  I still want that cookie.  Dang it!  I deserve that dang cookie.  Now I am going to eat that cookie!!!  Num num num.  Where did that box of cookies go?  I suck!
 Sound familiar? Do you, like some former version of me, have fear of the cookie?  After many years of this, I somehow learned to Jedi- trick my mind out of this behavior and realize that the cookie (or whatever it represents for you) is not really the problem here.  The problem is classifying food, even unhealthy food, as evil and bad, therefore daring ourselves to give in to temptation. 
So how do you create a balance in your life that allows you to value your health without relating it to your weight, or without letting it make you a crazy person who thinks that you are a mere XYZ pounds away from being happy?  For me, all it took was completely missing the point for years and years, doing everything wrong, and then finally figuring out these few truths that were staring me in the face all along:
Number one.  Repeat after me: food, and eating, are not inherently bad.  You kind of need to eat for you to, you know, live and stuff.  Just as spending all of your free time exercising your life away is not inherently good.  But wouldn’t you feel better if you just went for that walk?  I know I always do!
Number two:  Stop telling yourself that you suck.  You are already awesome as is, and it has very little to do with your body.  Sorry, that doesn’t mean you get to stop striving to be your best, but it does mean that there is no magic pill or juice cleanse that will change your whole life and finally turn you into a butterfly.  Find some happiness in the journey, because the journey should never end. 
Number three.  I have found that it is impossible to motivate yourself just by saying that you want to "get healthy".  That is too hard to quantify.  Instead, set a goal that you can work towards, like say, being able to lift more weight or get deeper into a stretch.  My goal?  To be able to do the splits again before the end of the year.  I may never again get there, but just having the challenge set out in front of me has already motivated me a lot more than telling myself that I am out of shape ever has (duh, right?  Why did it take me so long to figure this stuff out, really?). 
In each person’s life, in order to find happiness within yourself, you must find the balance between striving towards self-improvement and giving yourself a dammed break once in a while.  Not because you deserve it for being “good”, but because finding balance is the only way to ever find peace, and in that piece, some measure of real happiness.
For the most part, I am over the days when binging and then regretting was the norm, or even more importantly, the days when starving myself made me feel like I had accomplished something.  I still have my less than stellar moments of self-doubt and frustration with my own imperfections, but I can eat one cooking without eating ten, and if I do eat 10 I can get over it and move on without letting it dictate how I felt about myself while also not letting it become a pattern.  Food/ body enlightenment! Horay! 
I can’t pretend to have all of the answers.  If I did, I wouldn’t even have to think about this stuff, but would just let my body (not my fragile face slapping brain) steer me where to go and just get over it.  But I do know that balance, though not easy to master, is a worthwhile life-long goal.  Being happy with yourself when you have spent your whole life training yourself not to be can be a lot of work, but it is worth the effort.  Learn to be kind to yourself.  Treat your body right not because it is inherently good to do so, but because it will make you a healthier person inside and out.  And for God’s sake, if you want a cookie, just eat the dang cookie.   

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sewing Goals 2013

I had a great year sewing in 2012, and I am not ready to let the good times end!  However, I wanted to make a list of my sewing goals so that I don’t get so bogged down in everything that I want to do that I end up not wanting to sew at all.  Now that I feel like I have the basics down, I would really like to spend the year working on expanding my skills and trying new things, but I still want to stick with the basic goal of creating clothes that I actually want to wear.  Specifically, I want to:
1)      Learn how to make a button hole.  I really don’t want to, but is time.    
2)      Make a matching skirt and jacket out of interesting material and line it.  I already have this project all planned out, now it is time to execute it!  Starting with muslins (or practice garments) for each piece.  Which brings me to…
3)      Use muslins when starting working with a new pattern.  This is hard for me as I am impatient, but for some things it really does save a lot of heartache and expensive material.  Which brings me to…
4)      Make a pair of pants.  I don’t even wear pants that often, but this is just something I need to prove to myself that I CAN do.  So far, I have made a total of four Clover muslins, none of which were really good enough to wear.  But, by the fourth pair, I feel pretty confident about the fit and feel-like I am finally ready to make a wearable pair.  I am glad that I am branching out and trying new things.  Which brings me to…
5)      Try using a vintage inspired pattern.  I have tried, twice, to use vintage patterns, so far with mixed results.  My 1950’s dress turned out well (you can see it here), my 1930 dress not-so-much (you can see it nowhere because it was a mess).  Vintage patterns can be hard to use for several reasons, one of which is that they were often made for women wearing girdles which I am just not going to do.  However, my sister bought me a reprint of The Walk Away Dress, which has been updated for the modern consumer.  Yay!  I am very excited to try it, but I need the right fabric.  Which brings me to…
6)      Use materials that make me uncomfortable.  Up until now, I have mostly stuck to washable, non-stretch cotton.  Although I love the look of cotton, and the fact that it is totally washable, I really want to try to make pieces that make people stop and ask, “Where did you get that great dress???” I have gotten that a few times (brag, brag, brag), and it is a great feeling. Sometimes simple is best, but sometimes it is the details that makes a piece special.  Which brings me to…
7)      Use more lace and other small touches more often in my sewing.  I already have few special pieces of detail material that I can’t wait to use.  I also want to add small details to some of the dresses and clothes that I have already made, especially concerning the basic construction of a few pieces that I made at the beginning of this journey before I learned the tricks that really make a piece stand the test of time.  It isn’t too late to save them!   
8)      Lastly, I want to try out two new pattern books that I have that I haven’t had the confidence to try yet.  I will review them both after I try a few patterns from them, but for now I will just say that they scare the bejesus out of me, especially since you need to trace the patterns rather than cut them out (the horror of adding an extra step overwhelms me!!!).   
Other goals I have related to my sewing are to blog more about each piece I make, organizing my sewing and craft room, getting a cork/ white board to display ideas for new projects, and maybe even getting an Etsy site to start selling some of the stuff I make.  That last one might be a good one to think about a bit closer to 2014 though.  :)
I have learned so much this year and had such a good time sewing.  Still, my head is spinning with ideas of things I still want to do and lessons I still want to learn.  I want 2013 to be a creatively fulfilling year for me, and I already feel like it is going to be. 
When I started this journey, I was afraid to thread my sewing machine, afraid to pick out fabric, even afraid to walk into a sewing store and be sniffed out as an imposter who knew nothing and shouldn’t even be there.  But I really really wanted to finally try to become someone who sews her own clothes, and I have!  If there is something that you really want to do, don’t let fear of the unknown stop you.  Don’t let your early mistakes frustrate you and slow you down.  Just try, try, try again, especially if it is something that brings you joy.
Have a great day, and a happy, creative 2013! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Growing Out the Pixie: November, December, January

For the next year, I will post at least once a month to showcase how my pixie cut is growing out.  This may be more fun for me than for anyone else, but for anyone interested in how long it takes to grow out your hair from a really short cut (something I have searched the internet for time and again) this may be helpful.  So here we go!

First, here is of the last photos of me as a blonde in October.  Keep in mind that this was from a day at the beach so my hair didn't always look this dry, but still you can see why it needed to go.  It was basically as fragile as bird feathers at this point, but being blonde sure was a fun ride!

***Side note on growing out your own hair: The growth that I have in the above photo is what had grown out from another pixie cut about five months before.  This is a good reference for me to remember how fast my hair grows with regular trims.  When growing out a pixie, you will need to trim the back of your hair regularly to keep from developing a (shiver) mullet haircut.  You might also want to liven up the rest of the cut by cutting a few random chunks throughout so that you don't end up with a bowl cut.  Just leave the front alone as much as possible because that is the first place that length is really important in a good looking growing out haircut.    

In November, I made the cut and color.  Getting back to dark hair was a process, but not nearly as painful as I imagined.  I also had to go really short to cut off the most damaged part of my hair.  My bangs had to be cut really too short, but it couldn't be helped.  All in all, not a bad haircut for me to have done myself.  :)

Here I am in December.  my hair was starting to grow out, but still in a nice way.

And here we have January.  As in, yesterday.

So there you have it- basically two months of growth.  The next few months will be the most awkward (trust me, I have been here before) as my hair transitions from a pixie to a short bob.  There is a lot of opportunity for things to get very vey bad by February.  Like I look like a Campbell's Soup baby bad. I guess we shall see what the hair Gods have in store. 

P.S.- In case you don't want to wait a year to see how a pixie cut may grow out (and get some good pointers on how to keep it from becoming the dreaded mullet) check out Maybe Matilda's Blog post here:
Maybe Matilda

Hair styles from the last five years...

Most of these are really only from the last three.  Hard to believe, right?  Before this, I had just as many crazy cuts and styles, but to go through all of them would just take too much time.  Enjoy my ride down hair memory lane (almost but not quite in order)!