March 29, 2013

Shabby Apple Giveaway

The nice people at Shabby Apple, purveyors of vintage clothing, are offering one lucky reader a $15 gift certificate!  They sell really cute modern vintage dresses and more, in 1940s-70s styles, and are rated quite highly.  Please comment by midnight March 5th EST to be entered (sorry, US residents only).  And have a great weekend!

(I'll be over here pouting that my long torso means almost all RTW dresses don't fit.  It's one of the reasons I started sewing, in fact.  Time to sew myself a sundress!)

March 28, 2013


As a Very Sick Person one of my small indulgences is to pay someone else to clean my apartment.  This is a wonderful arrangement: she enjoys cleaning, and is good at it.  I do not enjoy cleaning, am passable in ability, and cleaning hurts.  However, this week my cleaner has pneumonia.

Thus last night found me cleaning the bathroom.  This is one of the easy jobs, at least if you avoid dipping the corner of the rag in the toilet.  Tomorrow is vacuuming day, and I even trimmed the cats' claws in advance.  Dusting will come later, much of it courtesy of the vacuum (I told you I was only passable).  So yes, quite the exciting weekend I have planned ;)

March 26, 2013

Total Project Success

The felted cat bed is an unqualified success:

Who couldn't love this face?

Jake also loves the cat bed, though he juuuust fits in it.  I've decided to make a second, since it's obviously the best cat seat in the house.  When I knit I hope that the finished item is loved and used.  I only dream of a reception this positive. 

March 24, 2013

Spring's Demands

While the world comes back to life in spring, so strongly that cherry blossoms bloom on bare branches and crocus sprout from nude earth, there is a downside that few people see or imagine.  It takes great reserves of energy to initiate a year's growth; however not everything has that energy.  Some animals and plants are too weary after winter's hibernation to face the rigors of spring.  Instead of life renewed, they enter the afterlife.   

This is a truism I learned this year and it's a side to spring I never expected.  In previous years I was full of vigor: excited and energized by the sun after a long dark winter.  This year, I feel the pull from receding winter.  I understand the family members and friends lost to past springs.  The disparate sensations at a memorial last year: still-cool air on my skin while the sun warmed black-tight-clad legs, were a physical metaphor for spring's abundant yet demanding gifts.  This year I feel bare, insufficient in my efforts to absorb and store the sun’s warmth.  Instead of spring hurtling me into summer, I push myself forward, as though stealing energy from the sun as it rises higher in the sky each day.  This year I fear for loved ones who may prove unequal to spring's demands.

Courtesy of Randy Kochis,

March 20, 2013

The M Word

The most dreaded of creatures to a wool devotee, clothes moths!  I saw one last week, and an emerging larva on Sunday, so it's time to take stock and lock down any wool left about.  Which made me realize just how much wool I have: trousers, jackets, coats, some yarn, fiber, the list goes on.  Thankfully the bulk of my wool knitting yarn and wool sweaters are safely locked away in a cedar chest, which not even moths can breach.

I think these moths came in on a pair of thrift store trousers.  That or a feather fascinator.  I'm hanging the trousers in the sun, and have shaken and inspected them thoroughly.  The feathers I just thought of last night, so into the freezer went the fascinator.  Thankfully my silks and cottons are safe.

Clothes moth
I don't think of my clothing as temporary, not the nice pieces anyway.  I think of warm wool sweaters as friends for decades to come, and wooly trousers the same way.  Even cotton t-shirts have a lifespan from day wear to PJs to rags.  So to consider damage, potentially serious damage, is quite a surprising thing.  No matter how careful we are, life will out.  Just another proof that spring is here! 

March 16, 2013

Not Much Progress

The trousers are still on hold.  The big scratch on my leg is mostly healed at least.  Knitting has been slow since arthritis made a comeback.  It turns out the medication I was on that made me nauseous much of the time was actually helping, I realized after stopping it, so I started taking it again.  Only to get twitchy, jittery, fatigued and just feeling off.  My doctor kind of shrugged her shoulders and suggested I taper up more slowly.  Hopefully I can tolerate it again since it really did help the arthritis pain and swelling.  I was hoping it would make me feel better, not just keep things from getting worse, though.

I have a lace shawl idea if I can just get my energy level up enough to start working on it.  Lately I just feel like napping most of the time.  At least spring is here and longer days are very welcome!

March 13, 2013

Lace Mohair Sweater

The trousers are in timeout after crossing me one too many times.  Instead I'm focusing on knitting and have made good progress on a mohair sweater.  It's my own design: knitted sideways with a large scale lace design, slightly bloused body and sleeves with narrow ribbed midriff and forearms.

I've knit the front and back and am starting the first sleeve.  The Coral Cable sweater is pretty slow going so I pick this project up to really feel I'm making progress.  If we get a sunny day I'll try to get a photo of me in the sweater-thus-far.

The lace design, ~4", 10cm wide 

March 10, 2013

Next Project: 1860 Chemise?

Since fitting these trousers is so difficult, and most of what I like to wear is fitted, I thought of a new sewing project in a different direction.  A 19th Century chemise, either with a vintage crocheted yoke, which I own, or embroidered trim.  It may lead to a similar style top also, I do like less fitted tops in hot weather.

Embroidered trim chemise
The fitting would be minimal, I'd have a lovely fancy nightie at the end, and a pleasant combo of hand and machine sewing to keep my hands busy.  I'd wanted to start historical costuming before my health turned worse, back in the early days of the internet, though sadly I've forgotten most of the details.

The chemise pattern at left is from Peterson's magazine Dec 1960, but has no scale.  The layout is based on the width of cloth, each body piece being 2 widths, but I don't know the standard width of cotton in 1860.  I know fabric widths ranged from 20 and 35 inches until very recently.  22" wide seems a decent guess, given the couple existing garments I've quickly researched plus common sense.

I'll have to buy some cotton voile or other fine cotton or linen cloth, plus desired trim.  A chemise like this could work belted as a dress in summer, under a corset for a Steampunk party, or just to keep cool on a summer evening.

March 9, 2013

When Sewing Attacks

Today I was futzing with the recalcitrant trouser's pockets, and pocket facings*.  I pulled on the trousers in yet another try on of yet another adjustment, when I was scratched, nay gouged, by the damn things!  I'm no lightweight: I deal with severe chronic neck, back and jaw pain, constant headaches, and all kind of unfriendly autoimmune stupidness.  But this hurt!  I dutifully went to the sink, after noting that my pocket adjustments hadn't worked, and washed the 3.5"/ 9cm long bloody gash in my leg.

This photo is from 7 hours later, after washing it again just in case.  It is still quite angry with me.  I don't blame it--those trousers are mean!  Shea butter is not a cure-all in this case, sadly.

I do think I've found at least a partial solution to the gaping slant pockets: by adjusting the tension on the pocket vs hip facing I've stopped the pants front layer from pulling and sending the pocket opening flaring upward.  The hip facing (layer against the skin) needs to be at a slightly higher tension than the pocket (in the center, and this whole assembly is more tensioned than the pants front (self explanatory).  This way the upper layer has the least amount of tension while worn, the lower layer the most in case your fashion fabric stretches, and the pocket layer should be completely stable and floating in the middle withtout a care in the world.  Which is where I'd like to be.

I've now basted and removed most of the pins, the trousers are just waiting for daylight and someone brave enough to try them on.  If the pockets still gape badly I'll give them one more chance and then declaring it as good as it gets.  I would consider basting shut the pocket openings but I know I'd be driven slowly mad by having pockets that are entirely inaccessible.  So we're not even going there.

*Those pocket bits that extend all the way to CF that you're told are so important but right now are just a pain in my ass.

March 6, 2013

Ugh, Pockets

Burda 04-2010 #119
slash pockets of disgruntlement
Some people have sleeve issues, I have pocket problems.  The slash pockets on my navy trousers are gaping.  I used hem binding when sewing the pocket seams, so they wouldn't stretch and gape, but even after pressing, steaming and moving the upper edge, they're still gaping :(  I just read a tip to fully stretch the pocket opening before sewing, so I'll try that next.  Any changes I make from here on require unpicking finished seams so it's becoming a bit overwhelming.

As far as overall fit goes, taking in one leg by 2cm helped a lot so I think that part is figured out.  I basted on the waistband tonight: hips-to-waist and pockets aside, the trousers fit well.  I'm almost out of navy thread, having unpicked at least as much as I've sewn, so moved on to brown for basting.  It's much easier to see when unpicking, a nice bonus.  I invested in a scalpel-style seam ripper and it'll earn its keep this week!

ETA: I've added a Follow by Email feature, on the upper right below the About Me.  Thanks to reader Maren for bringing it to my attention.

March 5, 2013

Trouser Update

The trousers are coming along well.  I think I should have cut a size 38, not 40, especially with the give of wool twill.  The legs are baggy enough to have draglines.  I'll take in the outseams and see how they look.  The waistband seems to fit well, though I haven't sewn it to the pants yet.  The pockets gape a bit so I'll rebaste them before attaching the waistband.  Funny how something looks great flat but acts very differently on a 3D body.

Looking at the photos from my last post I realized I'd sewn the fly shield onto the wrong side.  If I'd sewn on the waistband, the shield would have prevented the top of the zip from opening.  Oops.  Thankfully it was easy to fold down the top of the shield and solve the problem.  I really didn't want to have to redo the topstitching!

March 2, 2013

I Sewed a Fly!

The navy trousers are coming along well, after I conquered the pockets.  I sewed the fly zip last night and it's in, looks good, and works.  At 1am I decided that the topstitching was good, unless it looked awful in the light of day.  The vertical stitching is a little bit further away from CF at the base than at the top, but not enough to be noticeable.  And no one should really be staring at my crotch once these are done.

The fly shield and waistband lining are in a bright madras plaid.  Working with this wool twill is just delightful!  It's squishy but manageable, presses wonderfully, and isn't so stretchy that all my seams look awful.  I think they'll be very comfy on, too.

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