Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pastel Dye Sticks+Fabric+Vogue 1020=Great Top (The Kind You Wear)

Ok, this is a project for someone who likes to sew and draw. Not everyone who enjoys lowering the presser foot likes to cut loose with crayons (in this case, Pentel Fabricfun Pastel Dye Sticks). I do. I have ever since I was less than 4 feet tall. I'm a leftie, so all that painting, drawing, doodling comes naturally to me, although none of creative scribbles are valuable yet. That last word is the operative one.

Here's my recipe for success, at least for this particular pattern. Vogue 1020, view B. Your sewing-mileage may vary (well call that YSMMV).

1. You need a lot of space to draw. I choose to do my artwork in the Vogue Fabrics classroom where there are several cutting tables. I don't have that kind of furniture in my own home, so when I must spread my stuff out like that, it's off to the Vogue I go. You can draw on the floor if you don't mind kneeling on a hard surface for a long period of time (or you can wear knee pads, another item I don't own right now).

2. Sullivan's Fabric Stabilizer is your BFF, although it failed me miserably in my time of need. It wouldn't spray, not even when I poked the nozzle with a pin. I proceeded forwarded without it, but my masterpiece would have been easier to create with fabric temporarily stiffened by the spray.

3. Think larger than life when you're decorating a t-shirt. A gorilla-sized fruit (strawberry), a humongous smiley face, or porthole-sized sun or moon. Actually my blossom was too big, and I had to cut away some parts, especially the part when I signed my initials and dated it 2008. Sob. If I had to do it over, I would trace the pattern piece first, do my scribbles, plop the pattern on top of the fabric again and snip. I'd also use fabric markers that instantly set - I had to press an iron on top of paper to make my flower permanent.

4. Do the creative stuff one day, the nitty-gritty cutting and sewing another. It makes the process so much more enjoyable and satisfying, besides there's the danger you'll smudge other pieces of fabric while you're sewing and that will make you so cranky, you'll want to ditch the whole thing!

5. Do some strategic placing. I really tried to put the flower center elsewhere besides my bust, but it just didn't work. Oh well. It doesn't bother me that much, but will my friend Paulette care? She's getting this top for a Christmas present. I trust she will not say A Word about the stigma.

6. Embellish with embroidery and crystals to make it look it super ready-to-wear. A NY Collection tee decorated with a woman's face had purple crystals on the brow, red ones on the lips. I thought that was so clever, and I just might try to create my own version sometime.

More on the pattern shortly.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bring on the Poodle Skirts at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston*

USA Today interviewer: Why a poodle-skirt class?
Mary Beth Klatt (MBK): Well, you know the poodle-skirt is so quintessentially 1950s. You never really saw them before that time and you haven't really have seen them since except for small revivals here and there and for movie and TV show costumes. Even so there's this mystique and certain silliness to them. What's with all that fabric? You can only imagine what it was like to get in and out of an automobile without getting stuck in the door. It's kind of like your wedding over and over again without the pressure of getting everything just right on that special day. I just love how women personalized them - it's like the custom t-shirt today, but not quite so serious with this Big and Important Message.
USA Today: ....and the class?
MBK: Oh yes, the class. I actually got the idea from Faith Popcorn, of all people. I was looking for some helpful stories to give to my students in my Introduction to Fashion Business class at Columbia College. Popcorn has been forecasting doom and gloom for the next year, but the one thing she did predict is the return of the 1950s, 60s, even 70s with a vengeance. She also said that people would be looking for escapism. I thought, why not a workshop to mix the two? I'd been looking for a teaching opportunity, particularly since my Columbia gig was ending soon. Hence the poodle-skirt class.
USA Today: It's not your ordinary class either. Students are expected to dress up?
MBK: There's the escapism part. You know how people often say half the fun in life is getting ready? You know everyone has something vintage in their closet that they hardly wear. Now's the time to dig it out and put it on. Besides, Americans are so competitive. Why not dress the part and win something for your efforts? It'll be fun. I'll be playing the part too! I am especially interested in seeing how Chicagoans respond to my class. The Midwest is not especially known for wearing retro clothes the way folks on the West and East Coasts are. The only residents who seem to wear vintage on a regular basis are those in the rockabilly crowd. I should note also that winners will have their pictures uploaded to the Vogue Fabrics web site.
USA Today: How long do you expect to offer your class?
MBK: For three hours on Sunday afternoons. Honestly, I hope the workshops eventually become unpopular. As soon as the economy pick ups, those poodle skirts are going into hiding, and everyone will be back to wearing the latest and great microfibers faster than Flash Gordon could zap across the sky.
USA Today: Until then....
MBK: Yes, until then you'll find me at Vogue Fabrics helping more people align their zippers than ever I've done in my life! To my credit, I've been sewing for years, and I make a lot of clothes for myself. See this top. I made it. The scarf? I knitted that. And I really know the Viking machines at Vogue Fabrics, because I own and use one myself.
USA Today: I think that's about all. Thank you so much for your time.
MBK: Oh, you're most welcome. I hope you sign up for the class. Nothing like a little sock hop with a trip to SuperDawg afterward to get the blood flowing!
* The interview with USA Today is pretend. I made it up. Okay? But the class is blood-and-flesh reel. Here's a link to check it out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sewing One for Me and One for You*

I'm returning to Vogue Fabrics on Sunday for another installation of the Sewing Salon. For the uninitiated (I was going to say uninformed, but I'm working on being more kind), the Salon is kind of like open call at the local comedy club, but significantly less intimidating. You will not be expected to get up on a stage (there isn't one, so this is not an issue). You will not be booed. Your jokes will not be met with silence (you might hear the hissssing of a steam iron). Finally, your sketch or routine will not be met with an over-enthusiastic round of applause the moment you finish ("I really suck. I can tell!"). You're not even expected to sew, but it would hard not to surrounded by a dozen or so sewing machines, two irons and what looks like a mile of cutting boards. You'd have to nearly insane (or half-dead) not to want to even turn on a Viking Husquvarna and watch the needle quiver awake (does anyone know why it does that? It makes me think of a cat's purr.) Truly, you could sit inside the salon (otherwise known as the classroom) and just hang out. Plenty of entertainment holds for even those who don't want to lift a presser foot. Little kids wander away from mothers lost in the dream world known as the pattern books. Admirers or wanna-bee sewers peer in and ask if you're taking a class. Store employees come in, try to shut the swollen wood door shut, slide two metal chairs next to each other, plop down on one and prop their feet on the other (she stands all day!) and open a brown-paper bag lunch in what looks like one motion. Amazing feat (not feet). Anyhow, this is Pat, who works in the notions department. Then there are the ladies who come in to do eyebrow-threading (they always stop to admire my work-in-progress which is nice). I want to stare, but that would be rude. (I do get eyebrows trimmed using the threading technique, just not at Vogue Fabrics.)

What else? You could always explore the store if you're really bored. Three huge rooms! You could get lost or find the fabric for your next project. I often like to go next door to the local grocery store for a soda pop (yes, we use those words here in the Midwest. Our new president will likely too when he goes to Washington, DC) and a bag of Sun Chips. I sneak snacks back into the classroom (what's a salon without refreshments? Not a proper one).

So anyhow back to the Salon, which by the way, summons images of Victorian-era ladies in bustles and crinolines working on embroidery and craft projects using human hair. Most of the time, I'm all by my lonesome with nary another sewer nearby. I love the inherent drama of kindred spirits, like the fellow PatternReview sewer who burned the ironing board. Or the African girl, dressed in native attire, who asked me a thousand questions on how to sew with patterns (like so many of her peers, she can cut out her own patterns, but she's at a loss with our American system of tissue paper pieces, cussing, sitting and stepping on our own pins). I don't mind stitching on my own and hear the chatter just outside the door, it's just much more fun with others. Then I'm not so tempted to spread myself around - a table for my jacket, scarf and hat, another for my purse, still another for my projects.

Anyhow, this Sunday I'll like be working at least one Christmas project (a top I started this year for a friend)...but I plan to do plenty of sewing for myself. It's the whole shopping concept just applied to sewing. You know, buy one for me, buy one for you. That means I intend to finish a couple of hats I started a few years ago and a swimsuit half-born but not baptized in water earlier this year. Oh, I might embelllish some fabric with some of these neat heat-transfer crayons I tested out last night. But that is it. Nothing overly ambitious. After all, I must devote time to eating and enjoying the holidays, no use slaving over the Viking, eh? I do have a knitting project that I intend to finish before December 25th, but I don't need the Salon for that, just the cozy comfort of a couple of loooong bus rides. How about you? What are you working on for gift-giving?
Finally, a couple of hatty links I found yesterday that you might enjoy:
Number One.
Another Burdastyle hat and mittens combo for those of you who like to sew, but not knit.
* The 1930s-era fabric above is from one of the unfinished hats. I actually made a pair of shorts from it a while ago. Not sure if I still have them. I might have given them to the Columbia College study collection.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Quilting Tools To Sew Clothes*

I used to look at the Nancy's Notions catalog with some disdain. All the tools, patterns and fabric looked more suitable for the Christmas sweaterset crowd, not super-stylish self. But I just flipped through the latest edition (they added me back on the list, apparently, even though I received a "this is your last one ever!" issue a month or so ago and failed to buy an item to stay on the mailing list). I saw the entire 56-page mailer in a new light (although not the Ott-Lite as I've been wanting for quite some time).

Paintstiks on Fabric. I could rub these onto a tissue-thin jersey knit. Do just like the major manufacturers and just embellish part of your fabric. Nancy's Notions suggest rubbing color over a unique rubbing plate, but I'd imagine you could use just about anything three-dimensional, a textured rubber mat comes to mind.

The Simply Crazy Quilt Template, intended to create the popular Victorian-era bed covers, actually looks useful for making ties, the kind the men wear around their necks to work and big, important job interviews.

Oh, the Lightracer is the stuff of delightful dreams. The catalog says it's a "must-hve for tracing quilt designs and applique projects." I envision it as a wonderful tool for tracing and drawing cartoons. Maybe I'd use it for sewing, just perhaps. This has me entranced in a Lite Brites sort of way.

The Yo-yo maker. I have this idea that one day I'm going to make a 1950s circle skirt out of yo-yos. Out of all my retro fabric scraps. I'll just sew all of these hundreds of circles together on my sewing machine, pop the whole thing over a big red crinoline so I can look rockabilly silly and then I'll wear it to Martyrs and lindy hop the night away in bobby socks and a pair of canvas sneakers.

Zip & Carry Bags. I've never been a fan of the totes that look like leftovers from Laura Ashley. This book, however, has me intrigued in a Nancy Drew sort of way. I have two bags, promotional pieces, that, when completely zipped, are just little puffy pocket squares, handy to have when you think you'll be picking up groceries on the way but you don't want to lug a cumbersome, hard-to-fold fabric bag. Actually, upon closer look, this book and the concept, is different. According to the Zip & Carry book, you make your entire carry-all from 5 1/2 yards of Make-A-Zipper and 6 yards of grosgrain ribbon. Still an interesting idea.

Here's my favorite, and something that would be high on my Christmas wish list: a quick easy mitred binding tool. It's for quilt edges, but it would make for lightening-quick work out of making sharp, hospital-bed crisp corners on scarves, skirts, jacket edges, and I don't know what else.

The Sixth Finger (TM) stiletto
is right up my alley and down my lane because I'm always burning my fingers on the iron. I'd practically have to wear the thing draped around my neck for it to be practical since I can see myself pressing fabric with my handy dandy gadget in a drawer or lost in a jar of pens.

Now tell me that Pins with a sense of direction (unlike myself sometimes while driving a car) wouldn't be helpful while cutting out a pattern, particularly one with nap? These would the sewing equivalent of Mapquest. By the way, I can't find the URL for this one. I think I need a GPS system.

And you got to love the Oliso Touch & Glide Auto-Lift steam iron. I mean, who hasn't burned an ironing board cover at least once in their sewing career? I mean I have. I'm certain Coco Chanel, at least a Project Runway winner or two or three have. The iron rises up on its own (kind of spooky, don't you think?) when you release the handle. That function alone would be worth the $109 pricetag.

That is all, for now. I don't expect to receive any of these toys for a certain upcoming holiday. 'Tis ok, I have enough toys on my desk and in my sewing machine tray to play with. Take, for starters, the Husqvarna circular attachment. Given to me by a fellow enthusiast and friend, I haven't even opened the package. It's been more than a few months. What attachments have you purchased that you haven't used yet?
* The dress pattern above? From Anna Marie Horner.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday's Hat*

Here's my version of Dizzy, which doesn't make my head spin despite the name. My rendition, however, is a bit scratchy. Warm, but itchy. I may have to layer it with another hat to make it useful and not just a dust-catcher in my household. Overall, I'm pleased. The hat fits. It's made from yarn from my stash. I did it all by myself, with virtually no help. I only had to buy one set of DPNs to complete it. Truly thrifty. Next up, is some sewing at Vogue Fabrics this afternoon and knitting a pair of toe warmers using an ounce of vintage Fleisher's EverMatch in a bluish green yarn. I've already butchered the heel once already! It's a great feeling to knit something with a bump that's actually supposed to be there.
*The scarf? It's actually a bolero jacket I sewed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dressing Retro, Knitting at Superdawg

For those of you who live in Chicago, particularly the Northwest side, there's no need to explain Superdawg. It just is. I've actually never eaten there, but it made a huge impression on me every time my mother would drive past it on our way home from my grandmother's house in Westchester. With 10 children, we couldn't afford to eat there. All those hotdogs! Fries! Cokes! Forget about it. We only ate out on Sundays at restaurants where kids under age 5 could eat for free, and that was more than half the tribe. So SuperDawg was just a pipedream for us kids. Still is (I don't consider myself all-growed-up to use TMZ's term). Anyhow, the flirting guy-and-girl weiners has been practically burned into my memory...not unlike the burning glow of the devil's eyes at St. Michael's Church in the Old Town neighborhood. Those kind of eyes are most unforgettable in a spooky way.

Anyhow, I don't live far from SuperDawg even today. I really owe it to my taller, wage-earning self to dine here at least once. Here's my idea: what if I created a Meetup.com group dedicated to dressing retro, knitting and dining at this most retro eatery, say, at least once a month? This place is already a magnet for old car lovers. Why not go the extra stitch and dress like it's 1959, order some stuff off the menu (2008 prices) knit for a while and watch the fascinating parade of people that also eat here? It's entirely possible you'll spill ketchup on your vintage dirndl skirt, screw up your knitting pattern majorly ... but we'll have so much fun it won't matter. We knitters could even rotate the location to another old-timey eatery (Russell's Barbeque is another childhood favorite) ...but always always dressing like it's the 1950s! The attire is half-the-fun, folks. You don't have to make anything from the "Father Knows Best" era, just work on something. It could be the latest free download from Ravelry, some embroidery, a crochet 70s beret. You get the idea. I think. I hope. Leave your comments below. I'll upload a poll on the sidebar to gauge interest.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday's List of Hat Links*

While I'm working at an elephant's pace on my knitted hat, I haven't touched my sewing machine in over a month. I'm not certain how the Viking Husqvarna would react if I were to turn it on now. It might give me an electric shock for ignoring it for so long, eat my fabric for lunch or to show how hurt it really feels, just rebel completely and not work at all. Really I think about sewing, and I'm disinclined to do any real-time stitching until there's a day's worth of freezing rain or snow. So there. I also love to dream about hats, and here are some great links about all things chapeaux:

* Two hats from Interweave Knits, Winter 2008.
* One man's impressive collection of hand-knitted hats. He made them all.
* Information on La Fete de Catherinettes, coming up on November 25. Warning: the link is completely in French.
* The Rutland Trail cap from Anthropologie.

* The image above? Drawn from part of my collection of fall/winter 2004 collection of playing cards from Eugenia Kim.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday's Quick Hat Hits

First off, I need to know whether you wore a hat to the polls on Tuesday. I did. Specifically, I wore this knitted topper. Yes, I did what I could to make the planet a little less serious that day (I frequently like to paraphrase Monty Python: "The problem with the world today, There aren't enough people wearing hats."). I'm not sure it worked. Well, ok, I heard fireworks later that evening after 10 p.m. Maybe it was belated recognition for my millinery? Anyhow, here are some quick hat hits if you're so inclined.
1. The hat above? It's Caityquilter's. Yes, those really are zipper roses. Now you know what to do with all those old metal-edged ones you find at garage sales. I've also seen them turned into clip-ons for shoes.
2. Have you wondered where to find high-quality flat wool felt? Here's a link. Now you can make those Vogue Pattern hats. I plan on ordering some soon (the Autumn gold looks beautiful).
3. So you're not inclined to sew, knit or spider spin a hat? Here's a whole blog post on what to buy: Refinery29's 15+ hats for fall.
4. I'm actually knitting another hat, no surprise I suspect given what I've made and uploaded to date. This one's called Dizzy, and I'm the ditsy making it. I will return to sewing in good time. I'm just waiting for some crummy cold weather. It's been like summer here the past few days, hardly appropriate for lowering the presser foot and getting down to business. That I'll do in good time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Head in the Clouds: Aqueduct Hat is Complete

I've completed my latest hat after ripping it back because I discovered it was more worthy of a baby's head than an adult. That return trip was, honestly, worth it. I think this could be my best chapeau yet! The yarn is Classic Silk, left over from the High Society Hat. Naturally, I had to buy another skein just to finish this piece of art. I stuck to the pattern save for a purl/knit/purl part that I didn't like...so I just I filled in those three of four lines of stitching with regular stockinette. I used millinery wire from Vogue Fabrics; it was thinner than the 1950s variety that I had gotten used to (I had a supply from a woman's estate). I doubled it up per Annie Modesitt's instructions in her book Knitting Millinery. I tacked it in using sewing thread (I should really try to match it to the yarn because I can still odd bits peeking out where I secured the wire to the hat). The hat feels a bit more snug than my previous works of art. At least I can be certain that it won't fly away in the wind!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stuck in the Knitting Quagmire

It's been one of those rebellious weekends where I didn't want to sew because it was sunny and why stitch in the ditch when I could be outside basking in the sunshine knitting in the trenches? Of course, any knitting usually calls for some regressive work so all progress made in two days gets undone in a matter of hours...until you have nothing to show for your 48 hours off. Oh well, which is a long way to say that my Aqueduct hat is not nearly complete...although it was FOUR stitches from being done when I tried on the thing and found that it looked like a child's bonnet, which is not the look that I'm after. I compared my work to the picture in the Knitting Millinery book and they didn't resemble twins separated at birth. So it was off to the LYS for major frogging, and then yesterday I found I was off by one stitch, so I did some ripping on my own, and now I'm Officially Stuck because I dropped one of my markers and I'm not sure it's in the right spot and wouldn't you know the LYS is closed today and I likely will not be able to go there until Wednesday earliest, maybe Thursday to further work on the Little Hat That Could? I'm tired of it already which you know in the World of Sewing I would be more than done with whatever I was making and I would have worn it three times already. Really. I need to ignore the the weather and make some face time with the Viking Husqvarna just so I can feel like I'm finishing garments faster than a snail stuck in mud's pace.
So instead of getting a picture of my completed chapeau, you get a scan of Eugenia Kim's 2004 playing cards. Aren't they cool? You'll probably see more of these as other knitting projects get stalled like semis on the highway.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Making Progress on the Aquaduct Hat...

No sewing has occurred in this household in the past 14 days. None. Zilch. But some knitting and a whole lot of ripping has happened in the quest to use up the yarn leftover from High Society Hat no. 1. I'm making the Aquaduct Hat (seen above) from Annie Modesitt's Knitting Millinery. This has been a fantastic journey! I've learned a new stitch: the double V, which is basically slip two stitch knit-wise, knit 1, and then slip back those two slipped over the one just knitted, if that makes any sense. Anyhow, I've made steady progress, and I hope to finish this project this week. It's entirely possible since I'm making a goal of it, really. It could be something wearable in time for the book signing for "It Itches" (not my book, unfortunately, it's Franklin Habit's) or even my next hair appointment. I'm already plotting knitting project no. 4, but I really need to find something not quite so expensive as this Panda Dk yarn for the Gone with the Wind hat in "Romantic Hand Knits," but it's very difficult (in a keep my hands out of the cookie jar sort of way) to look anything not quite as pretty. Could you?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Simplicity 4878 Meets High Society Hat

I hadn't really set out to make a retro-style top, but when I paired it with this pencil skirt (which still doesn't fit me properly even though I've lost eight pounds), tucked it in, added my thrift-store Newport News spectator shoes, and plopped on my salmon-colored High Society Hat, well, I felt a little like a lost extra for the 1930s-era movie, "Public Enemies", which was filmed here in Chicago a few months ago.

Here are some notes on the top, made from Simplicity 4878. I really need to thank my friend Jennifer, who gave me the pattern because it didn't suit her.

I have to say I adore nearly all Simplicity patterns because they tend to fit my small shoulders nearly straight out of the envelope.

First off, I used a beautiful galloon-edged panel of fuschia stretch lace that I got from the Vogue Fabrics remnant section. It measure 1 5/8 yards long, 50 inches wide, making it a bit of a challenge to work with since I really wanted to use the selvages for my hems.

I was able to lengthen the torso by two inches, and then I placed the bodice back and front pieces with the hems on the selvage. I'm aware that the hem is a little curved on the bottom of these pieces, so it's not an entirely an accurate placement, but so what! I wanted ruffly edge at the bottom! I get whatever I want when I sew, ok?

I also wanted the ruffle at the collar. Instead of cutting this piece on the fold as directed, I cut one piece with the selvage at the fold.

Let's see what else? Oh I also had my heart set on ruffles at the sleeve hems. I actually cut the selvages and sewed them onto the circular sleeve parts. See how pretty it is! I didn't have enough for one sleeve, and had to piece together two odd sections. It's no very noticeable. I'm going to save all my selvages from now on, and I'd suggest you do likewise. You can do so much with them! I'll write another post sometime on all the uses for these gorgeous leftovers.

I also lined the top with the same $1.29 a yard pink mesh that I used for other recent experiments, such as this top. I think that worked out well.

My final assessment? I love this pattern. The raglan sleeve cut is perfect, and very comfortable with enough ease. I highly recommend Simplicity 4878. I made view D, but I'm eager to try E and F sometime soon. I love how I can team this top with a pair of jeans or a skirt. The 3-d lace pattern almost looks like a complex knit pattern from a far. The collar is a bit fiddly, but I can live with it if I don't fuss with it too much in the mirror.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thursday's Thought on Accessories*

From a book on eBay: " A dress or a suit in itself is nothing. It is the wearer's individual taste in the choice of the proper hat, jewels, shoes and other accessories that determines the smartness of the complete costume."

Do you agree? A dress worn with flip-flops certainly makes a different statement than one worn with stilettos.

This is from Marc Jacobs' latest collection...Some are talking about the obi belt, but I'm loving the boater.

In other news: Timtex (the most excellent stuff for hat brims) is back, YarnCon is around the corner, Loopy Yarns is having a party tomorrow night, and I'm reasonably happy even though I've yet to find more of Gedifra Wellness 2115, lot 9100. There's an absolutely excellent compilation of 1930s and 40s British knitting/crochet patterns on Ebay: click here. (I have this book and it's excellent.)

* By the way, the hat above actually looks like one of Vogue Patterns' current selection, but I think it's out of print.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Help a Hat-Obsessed Knitter Find a Particular Yarn*

What I need is one skein, just one, of Gedifra Wellness 2115, lot 9100. This is so I can finish my third and what I do believe is the best rendition of the High Society Hat. I'm in the third and last lacy repeat on this pattern, and I don't think I'm going to have enough to finish this project. The hat is looking so pretty, and so brightly blue that I swear birds are going to mistake it for a human head-sized piece of sky when I finally do get to wear it (and I am! I swear. I just don't know when. It would be the perfect thing to wear on a gloomy day like today. We Chicagoans need our clear cloudless horizon whenever we can get it. When I can't command sunshine at a moment's notice, I figure a chapeau such as mine can go a long way to making someone's day a little happier. But I digress.)

Anyhow, I've searched on Ravelry, posted a desperate message on the Gedifra yarn group there, and generally yelled from every Internet mountain top I can think of. So far, I've heard one yodel from a Ravelrist who cannot help. Maybe it's time for a Twitter post.

So...I may need to put aside hat-in-progress to start another at least until I get what's necessary to finish up. It's not like there aren't any other unfinished sewing projects that could stand an afternoon's attention. Like the Simplicity dress pattern I recently started and somewhat abandoned because I didn't like how the V-neck was looking. I looked at it again the other day, and I see a "save" possibility that I really need to explore on an overcast day like today. However, the impulse is to start and finish something new. Like a Simplicity raglan style top that I think I could start and finish in about three hours.

Some kind of creativity will occur in the next 12 hours, I'm not just not sure what. To sew or knit that is the question, and a great slogan for a t-shirt. I might swatch Annie Modesitt's pattern for the Aquaduct hat (no distant photo exists to show you, unfortunately). Believe it or not, the brim pattern for the Aquaduct hat is exactly the same as the High Society Hat. Boring. But I'm not sure how to change it up so I just might do it as is.

Here's what I got on the schedule for this week: Stitch N' Bitch Edgewater, Wednesday; Nordstrom North Michigan Avenue designer event, Thursday (free appetizer and drinks!); big partee at Loopy Yarns' new store (it's not listed on the store's blog, but I know it's happening)
or Edgewater Antique Mall on Friday (complimentary beverages and eats again) and YarnCon Saturday. I plan to buy nothing (that's expensive) at any of the events. Seriously.
* This the Gedifra Wellness yarn of my dreams worked up in a sleeveless summer top. Just in case you need to see if you've got this fiber in your collection.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What's Up Next for the Hat Lady? A poll.

Hat no. 1
Hat. no 2
Hat no. 3
It's odd how two completely different people who don't even know each other call me "Hat Lady." One's the designer for my web site, another probably reads this blog, but suffice to she say she owns more than one dog. Anyhow both affectionately call me "Hat Lady." The designer even sent me a unsigned postcard from Paris with my moniker. I thought it was my other friend, which puzzled me because while she said she had just gotten her passport, she didn't tell she was going to France. The mystery was finally uncovered after Web man emailed and asked if I had gotten his overseas missive.

Anyhow, I'm working on High Society Hat no. 3. I will admit I'm kind of getting tired of the pattern, but I want something to do that's simple while I'm traveling Wednesday through Friday. A project that doesn't entail long-distance calls to Arcadia Knitting. So, the last High Society Hat for a while is the handiwork of the moment.

In the meantime, I'm pondering what I should work on next. Hat no. 1, I know was included in my last survey, but since I haven't tackled it yet, I'm including it yet again. I know I want to do this number in a mocha brown and kelly green to go with this fabulous $15 hand-sewn 1940s blouse I got at the Elgin vintage fashion show a few years ago. It barely fits my water-aerobics toned upper frame, but it's just so photogenic and demands an ooh-la-la hat like no. 1. Both no. 2 and no. 3 are from Boutique Knits: 20 Must-Have Accessories by Laura Irwin. My local library doesn't have this book now, so I might have to order it from another. I like the 1920s vibe of each hat, particularly the one on no. 3's model who looks like an extra from the silent film Metropolis.

Friday, September 19, 2008

October Hat-Making Class & High Society Hat No. 2

First off, this is my Anthropologie hat knock-off, made after I had to return the $42 piece of junk to the store (the hat begin to unravel almost immediately; now to be fair, it was a little snug so that might have prompted the hat to fall apart, but still). This was the hat I intended to make before I did no. 1, but the salmon-colored yarn did its siren song number on me and I had to do that one first.

I've temporarily embellished this hat with a grosgrain ribbon and a vintage black buckle, but I'll more than likely stitch on a permanent velvet ribbon with a bow, much like the version in Romantic Hand-Knits. This striped grosgrain gives the hat a preppy vibe, still 1930s-looking but I'm after a more luxurious look. This brim is much wider that version no. 1, making it resemble something that a woman during the Depression might have worn, not a 1920s flappergirl.

I also put in a sweatband inside made of petersham, which I plan on purchasing at Judith M Hats & Millinery Supplies. Then I'll put in my label, of course.

But I highly recommend this pattern. It's not hard and would be a great introduction to lace: learning how to do yarn-overs and knit-two togethers. The brim is tricky, and I can see from my photos it's not perfect. It kind of curls up on one side. However, the beauty of this particular chapeau is that you can move it around. There is no back. If you've got any questions on this project, leave a note in the comments.

Now for some information that landed in my inbox, plus some interesting URLs I landed on this week. The two-day class below is worth the investment. You'll get to make a hat-block for a fraction of the price of those vintage ones found online plus you'll actually make a hat.

Hat-Making Classes: October 10th through the 19th. The poll results are in and the classes have been selected. Thank you for helping us make the best pick. Now, it's time to get you registered!! We are taking deposits now to save your space (please understand these are non-refundable) The balances will be due September 27th. Please follow this link to view the schedule and find the on-line registration buttons (or phone us at 630.963.9573 with your mc/visa/amex info.


HATMAKING: Block Carving and Felt Blocking
Instructor: Eia Radosavljevic of Eia Millinery Design
(Save your spot today with a $200 deposit)

Day 1: Carve a head or basic crown block and then go on to block a velour felt on a wooden brim block (from Eia Millinery Design's collection of vintage and custom-carved Parisian blocks.)
Day 2: Block a velour felt hood on the student's own carved crown or head block, finish the felt brim, and learn how to assemble the felt crown and brim.

Class Meets: Saturday & Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Class Dates: October 11 & 12
Cost: $400.00

Hatty Links I like:
* This picture of Nie Nie in matching hat and necklace. For those of you who don't her family's sad saga to date, there's this New York Times story.
* Bonnet and girl's coat sewn from what looks like a vintage 1950s Vogue pattern.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ta-Da! The High Society Hat, Finally!


Here it is, folks, the High Society Hat (designed by Annie Modesitt for Romantic Hand Knits but made by me!). I knitted on no. 5 bamboo circular needles. I got lots of help from the Kelly sisters at Arcadia Knitting. Overall, this isn't a hard pattern if you're used to yarn-overs, slipped stitches and a willingness to riiiip back stitches done wrong, which I did lots. You knit the brim first, pick up stitches and finish the rest. I loved the chart pattern. This was the first time I ever that I followed a chart, and I think I'm a convert for life. It must be because I'm a visual person, but reading k2, yo, etc. now feels like I'd be interpreting Latin. What Annie doesn't tell you is that you need to switch over to double-pointed needles (DPNs) once you start decreasing. I didn't with this one, leading to a lot of stretched yarn which could break even now. I adored this project so much I wanted to do it one more time, using the DPNs. I did use a morel-toned version, using the same Classic Silk yarn by Classic Elite Yarns (a delicious blend of cotton, silk and nylon). Wiring the brim wasn't all that difficult either, but then again I've taken millinery classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I used vintage 1950s hat wire that was given to me just prior to a massive estate sale. I got tons of patterns and other stuff too; that's what happens when people know you like to make hats! So put the word out there! I wasn't thrilled with the cloche shape of this hat at first, especially compared with the one in Romantic Hand Knits, but you know, I think it works. The bow I improvised after the one on the 1937 crochet Tuckaway hat (which I cannot find on the Internet right now, but that's where I printed out from a few years ago). Anyone, I'm just thrilled to bits with the results. Charlotte at Vogue Fabrics said, "It's so you." Another man on the El platform asked about my top (Simplicity 3759) and whether the cut-outs were individually appliqued on. Still another guy approached me asking for money while I was on my way to Vogue. Such is the attention that a pretty hat can get you! Anyhow, I'm feeling a little bit competitive because it appears while others on Ravelry have finished knitting this hat, no one else has actually wired it (we're not talking about electricity, but rather putting in a headwire and one at the brim).
Stay tuned for the High Society Hat no. 2 - it's completed, and I'm testing out a rather preppy striped ribbon and vintage buckle. I'll take photographs soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday's Millinery Milieu

The High Society Hat - the mushroom-colored one - is done. It's supremely cute, and very 1930s-looking since I got the brim just right with the helpful eye of Kathy Kelly over at Arcadia Knitting on Saturday (which was by the way, was so woefully wet all day long there was nothing else to do but knit if you weren't in a neighborhood sandbagged to the hilt). I'd take photographs of my latest creation but it's overcast outside, not even the least bit sunny. I usually like a little bit of sun so I can do my best work with the camera. In any event, I'm so thrilled with my latest knitwear that I'm all set to make 1930s-inspired hats for the rest of my life, and I think I could given all the vintage (and retro-inspired) patterns that are out there. I just ordered Knitting Millinery by Annie Modesitt, who was once a theatrical milliner. I'm hoping I can get the book by this weekend, and then I can started on a new project, which I can take with me on an airplane trip next week.

One disclaimer about the book. I've seen it already, so I know the layout and the photography could have been better, but I just want to cranking on another one of Annie's hats, and the Aqueduct hat looks the most enticing (it's another short-brimmed lace hat). Maybe the book will tell me how it got its name. If any of you have actually have made any of the hats in Knitting Millinery, I'd love to hear from you. Until the sun comes out tomorrow (really it's supposed to, and Lord knows we Chicagoans deserve it after all the rain we got this weekend), I'll be back with some photos of hats and at least one top I sewed up a week ago.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Last Call Before Fall Really Hits

Thirty-three percent of you have started your holiday projects. Another 11 percent will begin next month, according to these new poll results. I'm impressed with such diligence. If I do any sewing, knitting or crocheting projects for anyone other than myself I will dive in feet first in the last week before Christmas (I'm often sewing crazily in the last 24 hours before the holiday hits. I stitched a too tight Santa Monica Tee just before Christmas Eve last year. That project, for my sister, undoubtedly sits at the bottom of some drawer, untouched.) I will likely hit my gift stash in the linen closet first for unused doodads, books and other gadgets that could delight my siblings and their offspring before I put my hands to work. My mom? She's another story, that will take some thought and actual shopping if it's of the frugal variety. She doesn't always wear what I make for her, so I'm a little leery in that department.

But for those of you who will commence stitching and knitting presents next months, here are some suggestions: from the land of Posy Gets Cozy, there's this ornament kit. I also like the instructions for this allergy-free baby's blanket, for the sporty guy I'm warming up to this 70s ski hat.

I did do sewing this past weekend, a top from Simplicity 3759. I used the same fabric and pattern as I did for the dress. The main difference here is that I lined it with a pink mesh knit from Vogue Fabrics' $1.29 a yard table. Since I didn't lengthen it to accommodate my long torso, I added a swath of the lining fabric to the bottom, making this project wearable with my low-rise jeans. Overall, I'm happy with this summery tee (I used the same techniques for the dress. Again, as I suggested before, I'd make that neckband waaaayy longer than called for in the pattern and neatly adjust to front gathers first and then work your way back to the seam.). I must have been in a last-call-for-before-fall-really-hits mode because I also worked on a blue bathing suit too. Have any of you sewed this pattern, if so, do you like it?

By the way, I'm done with the High Society Hat, at least the first one. I'd take pictures, but while I'm having a bad hair day, which is actually ideal for hat photographs, I'm having a not-so-good hair color day, which I'd like to fix before I snap some pics. Besides, it's overcast outside, which would make for very some very shadowy photographs.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

More on Hats...*

I just finished embellishing my first High Society Hat with a big self-fabric bow. I can't decide if it's too large or just right. Better on the you can see it from a quarter-mile away side than something so small it barely registers on the fashion radar. In any event, it's already attached to the hat, if I remove it, I risk cutting the yarn on the hat and then all the hard work will unravel in one fell swoop faster than Tracy Ullman's work did when it got trapped in the door of a fast-moving automobile. But it's easier to deal with projects that fall apart when they're small and inexpensive (mine's in the $14 ballpark) than when they're large and expensive (anything over $30). I just love the low risk of making a hat...if you make a mistake, you only have to riiiiiiippp back a few roows as I did with the mushroom-colored version of this hat yesterday. Hopefully, I can manage to complete this project with my yarn-overs in their correct spots. I'm eager to start on a new project, either a pair of these or this hat. I'm in such a hatty mood these days...especially the ones with a retro vibe. Maybe it's the economy. Perhaps it's the cooler weather - I wore a sweatercoat this morning. It could even be my response to what's going in the Presidential Elections. The answer to it all is hats. Here are a few that I've marked as favorites on Flickr: I like this one belonging to to kuki.deprada.net, this unfinished crochetted hat, Pamoolah's 1940s knitted hat that I want to recreate, still another one of Pamoolah's creations and no. 2 on this 1930s Simplicity pattern. By the way, there's a good chance I'll put what I should make for a vote this week. Stay ultra-tuned.
*The image above? That's Phillip Treacy's hat. Way cool, huh?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

More Millinery Inspiration...

5 Katherine Hepburn in Sylvia Scarlett, 1935
hat2
Forges Spring & Summer Catalogue 1936-1937 #14

Some of these images I scanned while I was vintagecrochetgirl and I had a blog strictly on 1930s hats. I didn't keep up the blog, and now it longer exists, except for in fragments on Flickr. Anyhow, these are great inspiration for the wired hats that I've been knitting. I was knitting (and frogging) my latest High Society hat while I watched the Republican convention coverage on my laptop last night. I'm thinking about heading over to Vogue Fabrics tonight with my hat to see what kind of ribbons they might have that could work with the Salmon-color version. For those of you in Illinois, are any of you going to the Elgin Vintage Fashion show next week? I'm thinking about going, if only to get inspiration for the hats I've been making. With a little luck, perhaps I could score some new vintage hat patterns. Even if I don't spend an Abraham Lincoln penny, I'd like to show off my newest hat, perhaps in the vintage fashion contest Friday night. That's the bestest night to go - lots of people love to get dressed up and compete. I wish I had this pattern in my not-so hot hands (they feel dry from working out in the pool). I'd do the blouse; I've seen two fantastic renditions of this top on Patternreview, and the simplicity of it would look great with my new hat, and perhaps the black and white pinstripe skirt pencil skirt I've got in my closet. Vogue Patterns online has a great deal for today only - so I'm thinking about getting Vogue 2859, but it probably won't be in time for next week's show. I may have to make do because I'm just so eager to show off my handiwork. A trip to the closet and thrift store might be in order just so I can have something suitably retro. Or I could finish Simplicity 4179 this weekend.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

1930s Hat Patterns On the Brain


I've got 1930s knitted and crocheted hats on my brain ever since completing the first version of my High Society hat. Boy, this was an easy project, although it looks hard. Even other knitters who made this hat on Ravelry have yet to wire the brim. I'll need to show them the way. This two-skein project inspired me to work on other similar hats. Now the High Society hat isn't technically a 1930s hat, although it's got the look with the short brim. Now I'm on the hunt for bonafide 1930-39 knitted hat patterns with wired brims. I've got a few in my personal collection that are crocheted, but I'm eager to craft one made on two needles. I've always loved hats from this time even though I really have the hourglass figure more suitable for the fuller skirts of the 1940s. There is a school of thought though that chapeaux created during World War II were the most creative ever. Yes, period. If you look at some of that were made in Occupied Paris, you just might agree. I might have search around online to see if I can find any of those.

In my eagerness to find some free patterns, I did a little searching. Here's a Depression-era hat pattern I like, the price I don't. At this site, you can buy instructions for a hat and a dress. Remember, you didn't walk out of the house back without either. In anything less, you'd be considered a rebel or communist or both. In the free department, I really like this 1930s crochet pagoda hat pattern. I even have gimp from that era. If you have access to online newspaper archives, they are apparently a great source of crochet hat patterns. This one is from 1935, but even I can't access it unless I pay $$. (I'd check to see if you can see the full newspaper page through your local library, college or ant hill. Just kidding about the last part. If you're not familiar with the silhouettes from the 1940s, click on this primer. I'm really warming up to to the pattern for this 1942 crocheted hat, it's got a brim I like, but I'd lose the tassel.

There are other freebies that I printed out a while ago so I'll have to go hunting for those when I have a moment or two or three.
* The swatch above is for the mushroom-colored iteration of the High Society hat, coming soon to a computer screen near you.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cat-enabled knitting...*

I was recently at the Little Brothers of the Elderly vacation facility in Rochelle, Ill. Out in the country with a window overlooking corn taller than this Olympic swimmer, I felt content. No noise could be heard unless you count the rustling of the abovementioned vegetable stalks. This is no small thing for an urban dweller who hears motorcycle rumbles and ambulance sirens every few minutes.

So in Rochelle, I got a chance to kick back a little and knit. Some of that was done under the ceiling fan of the screened porch. Aah, that was nice, but I particularly enjoyed the company of this very friendly feline who would hop on your lap if you asked. While I savored his/her presence on my lap, it did come with a price. Claws that could draw blood even through a skirt and a slip. So naturally I wasn't terribly inclined to check out this cat's gender. I didn't want to get any more scratches. However, It Cat purred while I knitted the second version of the High Society hat. This newest rendition is mushroom-colored, the first one, which I will take pictures of very soon, is salmon. I just finished putting on the brim wire and covering it up with a blanket stitch. I tried my latest masterpiece on for size - testing it out with some of my vintage 1930s and 1940s belts that I've made. I especially like it with a floral fabric belt with a mint-green plastic buckle. The beauty of this hat is that you can embellish however you want. I can even see it with a burlap ribbon tacked down with a big light blue Depression-era two-inch wide button.

Here are some early thoughts on the High Society hat:
1. Go with the smallest size unless you have an unusually large head. Yarn stretches. The hat will likely be blown off if it's too big.
2. The pattern doesn't tell you this, but switch over to double-pointed needles once you start decreasing. I did a lot of stretching of the yarn in the prototype and I was afraid I was going to break the yarn. It might be even weak now and still break. Oh well. Learn and live, or something like that.
3. Cut the wire with a little extra so you can tweak the fit. When you're pleased, wind thread where the two ends meet until it's tight. Then tack the wire to the hat with pins. Annie Modesitt recommends double wire, I don't think that's necessary, but then again I've been using vintage 1950s millinery wire, which I understand is more durable than the modern stuff.
4. Modesitt also suggests using a crochet hook to attach the wire to the hat, but I found that much too unwieldy. I prefer a flexible, plastic darning needle. Just do a blanket stitch around and around until the wire disappears beneath the yarn.
5. Blocking is unnecessary. I blocked my hat an overturned plastic bowl swathed with a terry cloth towel. Hat didn't look any different after steam from my iron.
* Yes, I am wearing a t shirt that reads, "Just One More Row Before I Go," which I bought from White Lies Designs.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Onward and Upwards with the High Society Hat*

My knitting will be kicking into high gear tomorrow when I go to jury duty. I'm bringing the High Society hat project with me and if I'm stuck waiting all day I swear that hat is going to be done by dusk. There isn't any reason I shouldn't be. I've just got three pattern repeats and then the top of the hat to do. That's it. Yes, the chapeau will be complete. Then it will be onto blocking the thing. Since I don't have my hatblock around, I'm thinking about how I can cheat on this part. I could use something like this or even this. What if I just skipped it all together and just did the wiring? What do you think, Milliners of the World who are reading this? Have you ever not blocked a hat and then later wished you had? I need your advice now, and badly. Please aid me in my indecisive moment. To block or not to block is the question. And it just occurred to me now as I was writing. I don't mind blocking, but it feels like an unnecessary step. I've worn at least one thing I've knitted that wasn't blocked and I lived to tell the fashionable tale. No one could tell (although the wire fibers themselves would probably enjoy a steam bath - who doesn't?). Anyhow, it's just food for early-morning thought right now as I'm already thinking about Hat no. 2.
Okay, I've returned from jury duty which was adjourned at noon, just in time for lunch. While there was absolutely no action and no one in the room was called, I got lots done on the hat. I'm in the last repeat pattern, which means I could be done knitting the baby by tonight. I feel a little stunned at the thought. I mean this was the chapeau I was avoiding. I had it in my head that it was going to be the hardest thing not ever but at least in the month of August. It's only the 19th; I've got plenty of August to embark on even more challenging projects. Now that's a truly dizzying thought. You know what? I'm just proud of myself for just diving into this pattern. That's right. I give myself a pat on the back for that part. Now I'm thinking of emailing Annie Modesitt to find out if there's a way I can bypass blocking. It's just too warm to do anything more than walk (not run) around the block, and most certainly it's not the weather to do anything that involves steam.
* By the way, here's a link to a Continental Airlines story I wrote on hats.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Considering Ellie*

The High Society Hat Project has officially begun. It's not as snotty as you would think. Of course, the name alone just summons all sorts of images of snobbism and elitism. You know - of women who hold up their noses when they see a haggard woman without a proper hat and gloves walk by. Or ladies who have tea everyday at 2:30 p.m. on the dot without fail, a proper Earl Grey - but no bags of dust in hot water please. The hat might even make you think of your great-grandma shushing all the grand kids at Mass when the priest is giving the homily and laying down the law when a fight breaks over whether the pew should be up or down. This is what you might imagine about a woman (most certainly not a gal) who dons a High Society hat.

I'll admit I had none of those ideas when I saw the High Society hat designed by Annie Modesitt. No, I just took one look and said, "How gorgeous. I want that hat!" But then I shuddered to think how difficult it might be to make. While I knew it wouldn't take much yarn, I just pictured myself all tangled up on the two skeins of yarn it took to knit up the thing. Yes, I took one peek at the instructions in Romantic Hand-Knits and then the four pages long (very grey to my eyes) of type on Millinery. I felt afraid, not too afraid, but I did remember the 1940s crochet hat that went well until I wired it, and the whole thing turned into a Saturday Night prop for Amy Sedaris. Wobbly, tornado-blown brim created by me. The whole, expensive fiasco sits in my linen closet, crushed by a load of pillowcases. I'm not sure what I'm waiting for, why I don't just ditch it already?

But that's what I think of when I even consider playing Milliner (Winona Ryder does it so much better in this movie which I've never seen).

I dwell on that much more than now that the actual knitting is going much more speedily than I thought. I've just begun! And I'm almost already done. Gosh. I'm never going to knit sweaters or skirts that months to complete after this. Never. Not when I can start and finish a project in about a week, which is what it takes for me to sew a skirt or a dress these days between laying out the pattern, cutting it up the fabric and stitching. (Not counting this dress I just made, of course. One day!) And the size of the project. Oh, my. This wee hat, circular needles and one yarnball, fit into a sandwich baggie. Yes, a plastic bag the size of six-inch Subway sandwich. Unbelievable. So I can naturally fit this into my tote along with a couple of newspaper sections. Oh day soon, I'm going to be able to carry the project - along with the pattern in its plastic protector sheet - in my skirt pocket. This will not fit a jean pocket, I know. Not enough room, not to mention that I might poke myself with a needle or scrape myself on the elbow with it. But I could get it into a medium-size skirt pocket. Then I would never ever be without something to do. My digits would never be idle, not for a minute, no. I'd be cranking out lots of hats, so many that some would need to be sold, if only to pay for this:This is Ellie, different from the one that Alicia Paulson owns. I've no idea what she (the object above, not Alicia) costs, since there are no price tags listed on this web site. But I like her already if not for her modest name, her brown eyes and hair (much like my own, except my locks are highlighted and I've got bangs). But brown-eyed brunettes are always much more fun! Now, if Ellie would only smile, she'd be perfect. No, she's ideal now with her Clara Bow lips stained ruby red. Now if I were able to purchase her for princessly sum, I'd put her to work straight away. Modeling hats, of course! Her primary work would be modeling all of the hats I make, starting with the High Society hat (see above). Then I'd protect her dark hair with this hat, and then maybe this, all of them made by me.

If it turns out Ellie is out of my financial reach for the moment, that's fine. She's a reproduction. There will be more like her. Now I could get the real McCoy (or McKay as the name was mutated in Buster Keaton's film on the South's most famous conflict - not the Civil War. ) at the Broadway Antique Market. Now the display model has blonde locks, and she's really old - from the 1940s although she really doesn't look like it. She doesn't have a dowager's hump, a cane, fake teeth, none of those tell-tale signs of a 70+year-old. But I really don't want an antique, especially one that can break. If I'm going to have a display piece for my hats, it's going to be one that's readily replaced. None of these wringing out hankies or t-shirt edges over a one-a-kind old thing that can't be fixed cheaply. Forget it. I've got enough World War II memorabilia in my home.

So that's it. I'm saving my nickels, dimes and pennies for Ellie because she's worth it. She'd have a special place here and I'd treat her well. She'd have the best food. Wait, she can't eat. Never mind.
* The swatch above is for the High Society hat!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Swatch for next Simplicity 3759 dress

The above swatch looks more orange than the pretty pale pink it really is. It's more a wearable lipstick in your bathroom bin and less Orangeade. In any event, this is the stretch lace I plan on pairing with a cloud grey (the overcast sky variety not the ones thunderstorm type) super soft jersey for yet another rendition of Simplicity 3759. I'm trying to lighten the load in my closet by using two fabrics at once. The stretch lace will act as an overlay on the basic grey skirt. So to imagine it (as I often do in the pre-production stages) the lace will be on the skirt and the sleeves. To put it all over would be much too heavy. I'm going after a cocktail party at 8 p.m. look, besides, I'd totally lose the ruching detail at the neckline if I put the lace on the bodice. Somehow, I have this idea that I could put a crinoline underneath, but I don't think the skirt's quite long enough, but it would be fun to take Simplicity 3759, the first rendition, to a vintage shop and try one just to see how it would look. Maybe I will one day soon. There's always the vintage apparel shop in Evanston (naturally near Vogue Fabrics on Chicago Avenue, a half-block away from Whole Foods or to the Antique Resale and Thrift Shoppe (which has a new web site - more of a reference point that actual online sales portal).

But back to the stretch lace. It's funny how little I see this stuff in ready-to-wear or even made up in clothes by other sewers. Is it scary to sew? Not if you have the right needle, tension or even stabilizer if necessary. Or is just too sexy looking for everyday wear? It doesn't have to be if it's paired with more meek textiles. In my case, I plan to team it with a dense but still light jersey so I get coverage I need besides, my knit is so humble it will let the lace be the star of the show! I think the dress will be so stunning, I'll feel like wearing a pair of 1950s-era gloves, fascinator and coordinated tights. In my mind (a vast place even if it doesn't look like it), baby no. 2 will outshine no. 1. That isn't the always the case in real life, you know, where the first-born gets all the attention no matter what the second child does to gain notice? At least in my sewing world, the second even third attempt at a pattern can be far superior than my initial attempt. Haven't you found that to be the case?

So while flowered dress's hem is being pinned up, I'm also working at a snail's stride on the High Society hat from Romantic Hand-Knits. I have happily completed the brim, now there's the small matter of working on the crown. Even so I was surprised at how swiftly and easily I started this project. It's been a while since I knitted any lace pattern, so I wasn't sure how hard this hat would be. I'm hoping that the crown is quick work so I can wire the whole shebang already. I'm already contemplating another round on this particular pattern, this time in the suggested Knitpicks yarn. Blue might be pretty, I'm not sure. But I'd love to get something in a tweedy marigold flecked with bark brown, just something I can wear in the fall perhaps. Just maybe.

Here too are some interesting links that you might enjoy reading:
* How to make a t-shirt quilt. This is for all those whale-sized tees in your drawer or even get ones from a friend for a fantastic and personal birthday/holiday gift.
* Shirt Sold Out? DIY.
* The International Millinery Forum, Wagga Wagga, Australia, Jan. 17-22. Registrations are coming faster and furious, according to this blog.
* Finally least but not last, my newest poll results. When I asked how much sewing gets done when it's really hot outside, 40 percent of you responded, "a little." Aah. You're just like me. Over and out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer's Not Over Yet...Pushing Daisies in Evanston*

For all the talk of summer slipping away like an eel, I'm not quite ready to write the season off just yet. In fact, I'm the type that won't even officially acknowledge fall until sometime in October or at the very least when the cool, jacket-weather winds blow through late September. To be completely fair (hard to do, I know) we've had a really mild summer so far in Chicago - no 100 + degree days, and the one day to date that was unpleasantly warm was actually only about 85 degrees but felt a lot hotter because of the humidity. Considering both coasts (East and West in the U.S.) have had some really scalding 24-periods during the past couple of months, well, I feel blessed and unable to complain about a few scattered thunderstorms here and there.

So I had to make a dent in my collection, so I really just went for the heaviest bag of fabric. I grabbed a hefty one with 3 yards worth of a pale grey super-soft jersey that I bought thinking I'd make Valerie's top again. I thought why not slay two birds at once and use some other fabric at the same time? So, just goofing around, I put a remnant of this pretty peach flower-print stretch lace on top. What a knock out! Then I pulled out Simplicity 3759 because I like the simple lines (read: super-easy to make) of View A. Figuring I'd cut two dresses at once, I uncovered another Vogue Fabrics bag with a lightweight sheer white knit with appliqued t-shirt weight fabric daisies in periwinkle, ruby and dusty beige. Summer magic, not fall lust.

So I headed off to Vogue Fabrics yesterday (Sale Sunday, folks!) with a short list of stuff to do: finish sewing bathing suit, and cut out two dresses while I was renting the classroom for $5 for the entire day.

Well, I ended up only getting one dress cut out and sewn. But I consider that an accomplishment of sorts considering this fabric has been neglected in my closet for at least a year. I remember buying three yards of it at Vogue Fabrics in the silk room. I don't have a receipt to show for it now. It was probably $2.99 to $3.99 a yard. It begged to be made in a flowy dress from the get-go, although I was thinking more along the lines of a wrap-dress not a t-shirt collar dress that it consequently became.

But I'm quite happy with the outcome, especially since it's wearable, with virtually no detectable flaws. Here's a short-list of what I like about this dress and some things to watch for if you, my friends, are decide to use this pattern:

1. This dress is ideal for women with small shoulders. It is a Misses/Petite Knit dress, according to the boldface print on the back of the envelope. It's also a raglan sleeve style, which is also flattering if you're small-boned and -busted on the top. I'm both, and I'm happy with God for making me that way. It makes sewing that much easier.
2. Probably the hardest part is the collar. While I cut a size 8 straight through from top to bottom with any alterations, I did cut a size 10 in the neck band, and actually could have gone with a size 12 in that department. I'd always always suggest cutting that piece out longer than you think because the pattern doesn't know how much stretch your fabric has. If it's too long, you can always cut, if it's too short, well, I'm not aware of any fabric growth hormone to make it longer. Be sure to notch it as suggested, and fit that part first, adjusting the threads on the ruching on the front bodice to fit. Then pin the rest of the collar all around. I serged the whole kit-kaboodle with the 'fake' serger stitch on the classroom Viking 735.
3. Since the fabric was so lightweight, I lined with a nude light knit that I think I got on what used to be the dollar a yard table (it's now $1.29 yard). I simply cut a top front and back, and both skirt pieces from this jersey. Stitched them directly to all pieces. Then sewed together the lined sections. I didn't line the sleeves because a) they don't need it b) it would appear too heavy.
4. I blind-hemmed the sleeves because anything else would have drawn attention away from the loveliness of the appliqued flowers. I did adhere Steam-A-Seam2 so I could keep the hem straight while I was blind-stitching, but that was awkward and time consuming because I had to pull away the somewhat sticky raw edge of the sleeve bottom just a little so I could do the hem properly. Sure, I could pin it, but I dislike having pins sticking out while I am sewing. It feels like I'm just going to get jabbed (Ouch!) that way. So I'm not sure what's a solution. Anyhow, the results looks good. So I'm content for the moment.
5. While I stitched the skirt lining and main fabric as one piece, next time around I would attach them separately so they hang free. I think it'll look better and be easier to hem. Right now, I've got to undo a little bit of the stitching at toward the bottom of the dress, so I can blind hem the edge. I'm hoping it'll still look smooth and pucker-free, fingers double-crossed.

All in all, I more pleased than Hawaiian Punch. I started the dress at 11:30 a.m. (laying the fabric, pinning the pattern pieces) and finished sewing around 4 p.m. (minus the hem, which is still undone). I love a pattern without zippers and buttons! This particular pattern might be a little boring for an advanced sewer, but it's great for a novice, especially someone who wants to sew with knits but doesn't know quite where to begin (start with the proper needle - I used a ballpoint one for jerseys - and fix the tension accordingly). Another note: this dress, with its below the knee hem, is probably a little demure for my taste. (I feel like I should go to high tea or at least a wedding reception wearing this). A certain, nameless member of my family would adore this dress. So while I'm not wild about the dress, I'm not entirely displeased, I do delight in how it turned out. I plan to cut at least one more out since I know exactly what to do and when. Yesterday, I also cut out the view B (a top) with the flowered remnant. I ran over to the main room to buy a yard of $1.29 sheer pink mesh, which I'll use to line it to make it distinct from the dress. By the way, when I wore the finished dress afterwards around the store, more than few admirers thought this was a top and a skirt, not one complete dress. So to make sure that the eagle-eyed sales staff doesn't think the top-to-be made isn't just part of the original dress, I'm lining it in pink so it's clearly different. So...summer stick around! I'll treat you well, well everyone's getting ready for autumn all too soon.
* Here's a fabric swatch, I'll upload a picture of said dress as soon the sun cooperates with my camera (i.e. I get an overcast day) and my hair's up to speed.