Friday, February 22, 2008

Three Tops and a Folding Screen

It would seem that the favorite top pattern in my collection would be the Santa Monica Tee. Isn't it ironic, but I've never been to Santa Monica, California, which I imagine is a lot warmer and greener than Chicago right now. I picture the locals walking around in shorts, sandals and sleeveless shirts. The women have their legs and armpits shaved. If they're not naturally tanned from the sun rays beaming on them every day, I imagine they spend their disposable income here getting some color, after buying a cup of Starbucks coffee. And the men? I bet their coloring is just as good. They're not lily-white like their Windy City counterparts. They wander about town in cargo pants, and they might even have pedicures to show off their toes and hairy bunions. Am I right or am I wrong?

Any way, the Santa Monica Tee (not be confused with Ford Model T) is just an amazing t-shirt pattern. It only has three pieces, which is just absolutely perfect for me because fabric parts tend to migrate under my bed or sometimes even sneak into the garbage (how dare they!) once I cut them out with scissors. So just three pieces. I can count them on one hand.

Then the construction. Beyond wonderful. There's none of that "ease that here" or "pleat at this notch" silliness. Who needs that in jersey top that's just going to the grocery store for Peter's sake? Not me in any event. You do have to put a dart in the top of each sleeve, which seems really weird when you're used to stitching darts at a skirt waist or on the front of a blouse bodice. But I just listen to the pattern, and do what it says. I figure the instructions know what they're saying (they don't always do, but that's entirely another tale, and not a tall one.) These 'ole darts give the sleeve shaping (a term I learned in knitting, by the way. Why don't I hear this term in sewing escapes on this bleak Friday afternoon.).

From there, the rest of the sewing is easier than rescuing a cold Pepsi from the refrigerator. You twin-needle stitch the neckline. I frequently feel sweaty at this point. I'm afraid I'm going to break a needle. My heart rate goes up and I press my foot down on the pedal slowly. I'm also fearful that I'm going to get this bunchy knot on the bottom of the fabric, and I'm going to have to start all over again.

That's the hardest part of this pattern - the spot where your neck is going to go. Then you attach those sleeves I mentioned earlier to the bodice, and zoom with your sewing machine up from the hem, all the way past the spot where your armpits will meet the fabric, past the elbow part and stop at the sleeve hem. Guess what? You're almost done. You hem that baby with either a cover-stitch on your serger or a zig-zag on your sewing machine. Yes, this pattern is that quick, which is probably why I have so many Santa Monica tees on the top of my grandma's Art Deco blonde wood dresser.

Back to the above picture. In no particular order, there's a Kwik Sew surplice top on the right, and then two tops I just discussed in length. I'm incredibly proud of the fabric I used for these tops. I nabbed (and I mean nabbed) the galloon-edged stretch lace from the remnant section at Vogue Fabrics. Galloon-edge means there's a scallop on each side of the fabric. You want to hazard a guess what that might mean? No, pirates are not near. It means yYou don't have to hem this piece of apparel! Can you believe it? That makes this pattern even faster, in fact, you could probably speed sew this top faster than a Bel Aire could cruise through even the busiest McDonald's drive-thru. Anyhow, I'm extremely proud of the fabric finds. I nearly never find this stuff in the remnants. It just doesn't happen. I think Victoria's Secret uses it all, and rarely has scraps for us home sewers. That's just what I believe. So what you see on your screen are two tops saved from being sewn into underwear in China and Viet Nam. (Those would be the two hangers on the right). Lord knows we have enough sexy underwear on our planet.

If you wondering about the folding screen, here's the story. The screen was made after I saw a quite expensive antique version in this store. I just didn't have the cash to buy that one, so I thought I would make my own. So after a carpenter friend delivered on this project to my Wicker Park pad, I set to decoupaging it with Victorian scrap and cut-outs from old books. This was in my Blue Period (as in I was blue over a guy who married another woman not me.). So I spent many nights in my drafty living room pasting tiny pieces of paper to this screen, just as I imagined my corseted 19th century peers might have done beneath smoky gas lanterns on cold, cold winter nights. Although I envision these ladies of yesteryear breaking for a sniff and sip of brandy now and again. Me? I just continued on in my misery over this guy.

Now, more than a decade a later I have this wonderful screen, the pride and joy of my Rogers Park pad. The Blue Period is done and I think I might be entering my Yellow or Red phase. I'm not sure just because I need to check with the Pantone people before I made a final decision. This is nothing I take lightly because it could have serious ramifications such as affecting the color choices of others.

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