Monday, June 30, 2008

Stretch Lace Fabric Lady Strikes Again

Apparently most of us on the same wobbly wavelength as far what we're making last week. Like 5 of you, I'm also making a top, although I hadn't really planned on it. This past weekend was beginning to look like a bust in the "Look what I finished!" crocheting and knitting departments, when I decided I just needed to get a cranking on another Santa Monica Tee using fabric from my collection. I knew exactly what I was looking for when I went fishing in the sea of plastic bags filled with fabric in my closet. I plucked out this particular stretch lace, yet another score from Vogue Fabrics remnants department. It was a small piece ( 1 1/2 yards, 40 inches wide) that tested my creativity and ability to streeetch a piece of fabric in one little corner just so that I cut a complete sleeve. But I did it and I still have plenty of leftover fabric for the bodice on another top. (Incidentally this remnant set me back $4.49 pre-tax sometime in March of this year).

Here are more notes on this particular pattern:
  • I cut out an extra small on the top and went two sizes up toward the hips. While I know I'm small on the northern part of my figure, a size small would at least give me a little more wiggle room and ease for my arms. Right now, I feel there's negative ease on this tee, but at least overall I'm radiating positive vibes. That's what's most important.
  • I'm really happy with the twin-needle top stitching on this top. There's very little tunneling (which makes me think of a prairie dog traveling just a few inches underground) going on. Yes, I dropped the tension to a 2 and I used Lite Steam-A-Seam2 (the 1/2" x 20 yards version) to make the neckline fold under nicely prior to sewing it, I was prepared to get a little tunneling, but this time around I got none. Zippity zilch! A pleasant pre-Fourth of July surprise in my notebook. It might be the fabric, my pre-holiday sewing disposition, the alignment of the planets or who knows what else.
  • I trimmed the neckline before I stitched it down just so it wouldn't be so tight in a 1940s "This is so fitted I can hardly breath" sort of way. See any of the blouses from that era to see what I'm talking about.
  • The back is inside-out. Oops. Which means the scratchy part of the lace is against my back. Good thing is that the wrong and right sides of this fabric almost match. So no one will notice except my skin. I'm wearing a camisole so it's a little more comfortable. As long as I wear this top over and over again, that's all that matter. Yes, I can proudly say I did sew my "Made by Mary Beth" label inside.
This is the last time I'm sewing this pattern for a while. But scallop-edge stretch lace fabric? Bring it on. I was eyeing some more here and there. Once I get a little more spending money and make a Volkwagon-sized dent in my fabric collection, I'm buying more of this stuff. It rocks for tops. If I can force myself to trace the Jalie t-shirt pattern I bought back in December, I'll use some for that. I'm also thinking of using my scraps on this local pattern. But no more of the Santa Monica Tee for a while. Besides, I'll make some tops that really test my creativity and challenge me in a way that Hamlet does when he's charging down the steps with me following him in my wicked wedgies.

However, the Santa Monica Tee satisfied the need to make something new to wear, but I'm still aching to get started on a knitting project that will take me through the Fourth of July weekend. I need something that I can do while I'm on the super-crowded train to the fireworks on Thursday, idling on a bus to Summerdance on Friday, and then some. It would be nice to have something actually completed knitting by Monday that I could happily upload and say, "It's not a swatch, it's not a bust, ...it's a sweater/skirt/Swiffer cover!" Actually, the only thing that's holding me back is the purchase of the yarn, not ambition. Since I'm determined, I'll probably get something going that gets my heart singing. I'm also thinking about doing some back-to-back days of sewing this weekend at Vogue Fabrics since I'm doing the staycation like so many other Chicago denizens. What are your sewing, knitting, crocheting plans for this weekend?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another Version of the One-Seam Dress



The dress: A black and brown version of this dress.
The model: The Lazy Milliner herself on a hot, humid Saturday morning.
The photographer: The one and the same.
The assistant: tied up to a stop sign, taking a potty break.
The scene: Near the railroad bridge at the Ravenswood and Morse Street intersection of Rogers Park in Chicago.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clothes-Related Crafts I'd Like to Try This Summer

I'm not all about sewing, knitting or crochet (the latter of which I'm really frustrated with right now. I'm contemplating the third go-around on just starting this skirt. I feel like I know the pattern, so I'm not just quite ready to ditch the project quite yet. A hiatus, yes; a complete spurning, no.)

Anyhow, there are some other crafts I'd think about doing because I'm constantly reading the thrice-updated Craft Magazine blog. Actually I don't think I've seen too much there about the first craft I'd like to try:

1. Hair-pin Lace. I wrote a little bit about this on my other blog. I bought a special walnut-frame lace pin last year. Have I touched it yet? It's still wrapped up in that lightweight white plastic wrap. I keep thinking about bringing it into this yarn shop and buying some yarn on sale, then just making a swatch so that I can at least say I gave hairpin lace a shot. I swear I'd probably would like hairpin lace once I started it. I have this way-cool 1930s hairpin lace pattern booklet that I got for 25 cents last year because it was missing its cover. It has some beautiful blouses, skirts, dresses from that time, all in hairpin lace. Naturally done with super-thin yarn at a tiny gauge, which scares me more than attempting that stupid crochet skirt again. But I should do a chunky yarn swatch in the lace pattern, than a spider-webby one. What do you think? Then, and only then, will I dive into something adventurous like the 1930s booklet. I also remember some 1950s Vogue Knitting pattern booklet that has this sumptous full-skirted dress all in hairpin lace. I think that would make for a pretty wedding dress. If I could come across that image again, I'd link it. And I'd make it and upload it to Ravelry. Which gets me thinking. How many hairpin lace examples of stuff are there on Ravelry anyway? I just might look after I finish this post.
2. Chicken-scratch embroidery. I've done embroidery and needle-point, so surely this is something I can do easily. I've even an embroidery hoop or two in my front closet. I just need some gingham fabric. I'd start with a very simple pattern. Maybe some "scratches" on pockets for a 1950s dirdl skirt. I really don't like dirndls because I feel they make me look heavier than I am. However, if I wore a pretty 1950s crinoline underneath, I think a dirndl would looks heavenly, breath-taking even. So how about a red-and-white gingham full skirt with a white eyelet-trimmed petticoat peaking out? I think that would be just gorgeous in a sort of Audrey Hepburn goes to the Lincoln Park zoo farm sort of way. I like all those embroidered aprons you see at the antique shops, but I have no real use for aprons in my life. I make salads and soups. I virtually never bake, unless you call making a complete-from-scratch pizza baking. My cooking is minimal, and so is my need for apronry. But a cute skirt is always useful, especially in summer time, when I virtually live in skirts (except at night, when I sleep in cropped pajama pants and a tee).
3. Smocking. I wrote about it way back when. This is another thing I've yet to do. Now makes it even easier than ever with Clover smocking stickers that show you where to put your needle. If I like to make all those French dots I made on that strawberry-shaped cocktail hat, why wouldn't I enjoy a little smocking by hand? I know I would enjoy it. Maybe if I did that 1940s blouse pattern on my old blog, The Sewist. If I used chiffon, I'd spray the silk or chiffon cardboard stiff with Hancock's fabric stabilizer, hoop it, and then smock away on a project for me, not for some little girl's dress that will only be worn once for a photograph. No, the top, the dress or whatever is going to be for me. It's the only way. It also has be somewhat easy. If it's not, I won't do it. So why I don't give up on the challenging crochet skirt is beyond me. I'm feeling stubborn. That's easy. I can be that way with crafts.
4. The Crazy Daisy winder. I have a 1930s version and a more current prototype. I could whip out cute sweaters. Even a dress! Even a skirt, nice and big in a 1950s way, but I don't know how to use this thing. I'm certain there's a YouTube video somewhere I how to use this thing, but I'm just....lazy but I'm not a daisy. I'm a peony.

Those really are the four crafts I'd really like to explore. What makes you explore a new craft? Is it a new tool? A pattern? The perfect fabric or yarn? Free stuff? Let me know because I'm dragging my size 9 feet here wondering whether I should really go to the local Stitch and Bitch when my crochet project and knitting projects have self-imploded. Sure, I can go and watch others work on their projects, I'll just eat and admire their handiwork.
*The image above? My latest eBay win. It looks like a crochet pattern to me. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Two Dresses in One Day*

I'm not particularly a whiz when it comes to let's crank it out and get it done today sewing. I tend to do things in stages. First, there's the picking out the fabric, letting it marinate in the bedroom closet stage. Then there's the "Oh, what could I do with this" part, which could actually be amount to several scenes in my own female version of Groundhog Day. The only variation of this part would be the mounds of clothes on my bed as I read patterns which be appropriate for a particular fabric. That goes for several months, even years. Actually my hair style might change besides the clothes atop my bedcovers.

So it was with great alacrity that I bought fabric and sewed it up in one day. Not only that, I made two dresses. So it was perhaps fours or so from the time the fabric was plopped into my Vogue Fabrics bag to the time I finished the rolled hem on my second dress. So what's my secret?

Elasticized fabric panels. But it's the nice stuff, nothing like the spools of the scratchy cheap cotton stuff you see parked by the Hancock's cash register. The panels I bought looks couture - it's rayon but it's got a silky metallic sheen and interesting pattern...butterflies fluttering all over. There isn't a spot of gingham print or Daisy Kingdom to be found anywhere on it. Thank goodness, which makes my dresses wearable to a wine tasting, wedding reception or a fancy-schmancy fund-raiser dinner. And the price is unbeatable. My source (who works both at Voge and the local Hancocks) tells me these Tres Chic dress panels are only a couple dollars more than their ugly counterparts (about $15 a piece).

It's funny that I even encountered these panels. I wasn't looking for love in the right places on my Sunday visit to Vogue Fabrics. I was coming off my volunteer stint at a street fair, feeling hot, ready to cool off inside. I wandered aimlessly: remmants, sale items, pattern section, silks, nothing new for these tired brown eyes. Oh yawn, wasn't it for a time for siesta? Then I saw this jumble of what looked like pricey taffeta or something or other on the counter. What was this? There was more of the same on hangers propped on shelves behind the counter.

Without making you fall asleep at your laptop, no sooner did I find out these were rapidly disappearing dress (or skirt, you pick) panels cuter than Snow White, I had to have these, especially since the olive green colorway was gone, completely sold out. So I snapped up the last of the brown/black combo, and another of the black/burgundy. I wasn't planning on buy anything at all when I entered the store, not even a needle or a button or a Burda World of Fashion Magazine. But I melted faster than a Hershey's chocolate bar on a car hood, and pulled out my Discover card so I could get these fabrics home pronto.

But I couldn't take a nap once I got home. I felt too guilty about my impulse purchase. I felt like I had to justify what I Just Done. So I did the only thing I could do: turned the "On" button on my surge protector that connects the Viking Husqvarna to the electrical outlet. And I sewed. Bed-time would have to wait.

I tackled the darker of the two panels first. I had this idea that I could make the dress reversible, but I realized it wasn't intended to be that way. Besides, the poufy pleats at the bust would be uncomfortable worn against the skin. That was after I did the rolled hem and straight-stitched the overlap connecting the two sides (I actually figured out that the hem-finishing should come last. More on that later). I finished that dress by using the faux serger stitch on my machine, trimming the edge, folding that over, and tacking that down with a straight stitch. Done! I wasn't too wild about my rolled hem which looked a little ragged because I had to force two pieces together that didn't match up.

The second dress went better. First, I "serged" ( I say this because I'm not using a serger) the back seam. Then I finished the bodice (serge, cut, top stitch). Finally, I did the rolled hem, making the width of stitch smaller (2.5 wide as opposed to the normal 4.o). That hem looks a little better. Done! Three, easier-than-slicing onions steps! I couldn't believe how fast I was. I thought perhaps my unknownst to me a twin (the one that feels guilty) had stepped in and masterminded all this stitch-witchery.

Here are some things I learned:

* Really Focus on the Hem. A rolled hem is easy if you have the proper foot. Starting it as a bit harder since you have to feed the fabric into the foot, and hold it with your fingers like you're about to sneeze until you're done so that it continues to furl inside the foot while you're sewing, if that makes any sense. If you blow it, you can always cut it off and start anew. I might do that with dress no. 1.

* The bodice can look a bit plain if you're not used to sleeveless dresses. I thought about putting in straps (matching or contrasting bra straps are $2 at Vogue) or some black elastic ruffle normally used in underwear to jazz it up, but I couldn't find the latter at Vogue (the trims section is a bit lacking at this store. This is where a trip to New York City or the Internet comes in handy). I'm certain there are other ways to make the dress more festive. Right now, I'll just wear the dress with a knitted bolero jacket and a pretty necklace.

* No fiddling with making the hem even! I normally spend a couple of hours just on this part alone. I put the dress on my mannequin, pin, pin and pin at knee-length where I should cut. However, with this, there was none of that. Absolutely zilch! I don't worry about it being lower or higher than a Gulf of Mexico levy; I can simply adjust at the bodice while I'm wearing the dress. You know all that tugging up you do when you're wearing a strapless dress. That's my instant hemline adjustment on these dresses.

* One dress is not enough! Especially when you can whip this up as quickly as I did. If you're interested at all in these pancake-mix-quick dresses, I'd call Vogue Fabrics and ask for the silk room. Tell 'em that you're interested in the elasticized dress panels. As I said earlier, the burgundy's the only one left. If you don't want to make a dress, you could make a skirt, but it's going to be pretty high-waisted, which isn't flattering for all body types. A dress is more universally flattering. If you think one panel won't be enough, buy two and that should be plenty. You just have one more seam to stitch! You can still finish it in time to go out to the supper club tonight.
* Hamlet helps me model the burgundy version. I'll upload pictures of the other soon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Pros and Cons of Crochet*

I started crocheting a skirt (see above) this weekend, using the same yarn I attempted to make this skirt and this top. So the skein of Lion Brand Cotton-Ease that I've been using is starting to look worn, and it's actually a bit harder to work with all these individual threads that just do not want to cooperate at all, they're like wayward Weimaraners. I can't keep them all in one line.

Still I leaped in because I've admired for this particular pattern for too long not to do anything about it. It's been a while since I've crochet ted since I've been busy working up and disassembling projects on knitting needles. Now that I've swatched and figured out the gauge for this pattern, I've come to some conclusions what I do and don't like about crochet:

Pros
It's easier to hide your mistakes in crochet. With all those loosy-goosy loops it doesn't matter if you throw in an extra stitch, double loop or swan dive in there. You can't really see even up real close with a magnifying glass. That's terrific for someone like myself who's prone to counting out the stitches incorrectly for the get-go. I throw in an extra double crochet one or two stitches early just to meet my stitch count for that row, and no one will be able to tell. Not even the Crochet Dude. Try doing that in knitting and everyone will know, especially the eagle-eyed and annoying fifth grader who doesn't know one iota about what it's like to work with two needles and a bunch of yarn.

You Can Mix Dye Lots More Easily. I've got three skeins of the aforementioned Cotton-Ease. That's not going to be enough to make this skirt. I'd have a heck of a time actually finding the same dye lot, but I could probably find the same color group. As long as I mix in the new batch with the older skeins evenly, I should be ok. I could probably make one scallop row in one hue, another in a darker or lighter hue. Try that in knitting and that same fifth-grader will give you trouble.

It's Easier to Teach Yourself New Stitches. I've been knitting for three years now, and I still need to everything demonstrated in person and on YouTube. Crochet ting isn't the same. Show me an illustration and write up the steps, I'll be nimbly working up on my new stitch faster than you can say, "Boo hoo!"

No Stitch Holders are Necessary! This is probably the best thing about crochet. As long as I tighten the noose on my projects before I stuff it back in my bag, my crochet's more safe than a piece of 5 gum in Rain on my desk at snack-time. No pushing back the stitches on a pair of circulars, putting pointy rubber thingies on the ends of my needles. Just pulling out that last completed stitch like it's a lasso on a horse (which I've never actually done, it just seems like an appropriate analogy.)

The Tools are Inexpensive. I love this part, since I've been known to lose crochet hooks easily. I still remember the one that slid down a crevice while I was on the train. I couldn't retrieve it, but I picked up another exact copy later that day for a mere couple of dollars! Knitting needles aren't nearly as cheap and woe if you lose a nice set of pricey bamboo circulars.

It's Easy to Add Length. Need your sleeves a little bit longer? Just whip out your size H hook and your yarn and starting looping away at the finished hem. Just make sure you do the same thing on the other sleeve. Since I adore the symmetry of a design element appearing at least three times in a project, I'd also add some crochet elsewhere like at the neckline or pockets. Then it looks like you planned the addition.

Cons
It's Harder to Get Your Crochet On. Gosh, if you think the first row is harder, the second row is even tougher just to make sure you've got your stitches in the proper place and you're not twisting the chain. This initial part moves slower than the inch-worm making its way across the sidewalk on a sunny day. Once you're past those initial rows, you've at least got some substantial fabric to hold onto while you're looping the loop a la Teva Durham.

It's More Difficult to Create Shaping. Sewing and knitting are all about maximizing your curve and getting the garment to follow your lines. Crochet doesn't lend itself well to this, you can't create darts easily. Sometimes crochet really works best as an embellishment on a finished knitted garment.

You Use Lots of Yarn, Lots. You will blaze through far more skeins than you would with knitting, which has tighter stitches and consequently uses up less yarn. If you're interested in conserving money on your projects, you're better to take up knitting and yarn often tends to cost more than needles.

People Confuse Crochet with Knitting More Often That You Would Think. I've had train passengers ask me while they're sitting across from me, "So what are knitting?" I have to resist the temptation to say, "Hello? I've got one crochet hook in my hand, not two knitting needles. I'm not making a pair of socks!" Instead, I very sweetly tell them I'm actually crocheting, a forced smile on my face.

It's Harder to Find Live Help When You Need It. It never ceases to amaze me when I walk into a yarn shop for assistance on a crochet project and the employee there doesn't know even the crochet fundamentals. Of course, this woman is a whiz with two needles, but doesn't know how to use a crochet hook other than fix a dropped stitch. Frustrating! All yarn shop employees should at least how to start a chain, single crochet, double crochet and make a Granny Square (I don't know how to make one, but I don't work at a yarn store.)

* I'm at the point where I might need to rip back that first tedious row because I misread the illustrations. Double darn.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Be a Voyeur - Sewing, Knitting Books On Your Bookshelves?

What is it about peeking at other people's bookshelves that's so intriguing? I can't really explain it myself, but it's certainly appealing even when I'm in a restaurant such as this one which is decorated with books cut in half. Yes, that's right. These books, which were in otherwise great condition - no stains, no dog-eared pages not even a musty smell, were sliced in half, right through the back and front covers, just so they could fit a set of shallow shelves. Even so, I had to pick these ruined books off the shelf and read them. I wasn't the only one, all my other friends at the table did the same thing to pass time until we got our order (they got the burgers; me, I had a humble bowl of chili and a Guinness.) It was so frustrating to pick up a cookbook which had some appealing German recipes, but the instructions were incomplete thanks to at least one over-enthusiastic decorator but not very appreciative reader. I mean I'm ok with giving away my books, but not destroying them if they're in good shape. I suppose halving a book makes it less marketable, so restaurant patrons are less prone to walking off with them after they've consumed one beer too many. Still!

Which brings me back to my own shelves. They're pretty small, compared to my pals'. I've always been this way. I didn't bother to buy too many books even as a precious fourth-grader, because I had the Glenview Public Library a block away. That's not to say, I didn't buy my share of Scholastic paperbacks at school. I did. But even so, my collection was so little and could be all contained in the shelves above the secretary desk in my bedroom. It just didn't make sense to spend all my babysitting money on books when I could borrow many for free easily. That way I also had left-over money for candy. As I got older, I started to buy my own clothes. Even then I was frugal - I remember the first outfit I put on lay-away at Fashion Plus in a nearby shopping mall.

In recent years, I haven't bought as many books, let alone read as many as I did as a pre-teen. I blame a lot of that on the Internet. Then when I do buy a book, I'm very practical about it. I can only justify books that I will use again and again. So you can imagine how guilty when I bought "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day". I assuaged my guilt by reasoning that I couldn't find the book at two libraries, so I was going to use my Borders coupon so I could read it now.

More recent purchases have included Wendy Mullin's "Sew U," last year it was "Sweaterbabe.com's Fabulous & Flirty Crochet" (I wanted it for several patterns, which I have to try). Further into the past, I bought a "Blueprints of Fashion" book, which is actually helpful when I'm thinking about how I might want to alter a vintage 40s dress. I've also bought some out-of-print sewing, knitting books that I know will be quite hard to find at the library. I actually was reading a compilation of 1920s-late 40s knitting book when there was a black-out recently in my apartment. I sat on the couch by a window, and read away until I got bored enough to actually leave my place.

That brings me to books I do want to borrow. I've got "Romantic Hand-Knits" on hold at the Rogers Park branch library. Someone else in Chicago (who could that be?) actually has the book at the moment. I really, really wish this person would return the book as soon as possible, so I can check out this book. Now as a child, I don't remember putting too many books on hold. Why would I? There were so many other books I could read while waiting for the One to be put back
onto the shelf into its proper, decimal system order.

But I'm an adult now who doesn't read nearly as much as she should, so one book on hold feels like forever, kind of like how I feel when a favorite band sets up to play but takes its time playing the first set. That just makes me so restless! "Romantic Hand-Knits" on hold is the knitting version of my "let's get the music going so I can dance!" anxiety. It certainly tests my patience in a way that Hamlet often does when we go outside so he can go to the washroom.

"Romantic Hand-Knits" is set to be returned any day now. With luck, it'll be back by tomorrow, the official beginning of summer. I'm not sure how I'll be notified - an email, postcard or a phonecall? So the next few days will be filled with suspense, but not the creepy Halloween-house variety. To keep myself from getting antsy, I visualize the book in my hands, a smile on my face. What a better way to launch a new season filled with sunshine, laughter, friendship, lots of creative projects including at least one from this book?

What sewing, knitting and crochet books are on your shelves? (By the way, I'd take a picture of my collection in my grandmother's bookcase, but my camera insists on using the flash when I take pictures indoors. The flash bounces off the shiny book covers and doesn't help with my quest to have really great photos on this site. I could pull out my favorite books, stack them up in a pile outdoors and take a picture, but what fun for you would that be? There isn't that covert "Oh, let's see what's in her medicine cabinet. Oh my gosh, she's taking St. John's Wort! She must depressed and won't tell me about it!" I'm just saying. Instead I give you yet another version of Santa Monica T. Aren't you just bored with the pattern on my site already? This top despite the twisty twin-needle top-stitching at the neckline, is one my favorites. It works with a job-interview plain Janet skirt and jeans, just not both at the same. The sheer knit makes it supremely comfortable even when it's extraordinarily hot.

Just A Little More Shifting


This dress was actually my first attempt at Simplicity 3681. It's a size 10, waaaay too large for me, I'm sad to say because I really love this fabric. There's something utterly compelling about this floral combination of brown and blue bought at Vogue Fabrics in my favor department, remnants. When I showed it to a friend, she suggested that I rip it apart and try again. That just feels like too much work, but it might be a way to salvage it, especially the collar which refuses to lay flat. If it I did undone what's be completed, I'd just place my size 8 pattern pieces on top, cut out a new front and back. A new collar and sleeves would come from leftover fabric. As it is, the dress doesn't really flatter me. It's something I might wear at home on a hot day with ceiling fan set on high, but not to a street fair or the farmers' market. What would you do with a dress that didn't quite work on the first try but you didn't want to give up on?

Anyhow, thanks for all who've voted thus far in the bathing suit poll. For those of you who would taked a class to learn how to make swim suits, does it matter what season? I mean is it more appropriate to schedule lessons just before you might hit the beaches in June, July and August? Or would you be eager to do something summery during the cold months of November, December and January...a project that you might be able to take with you and wear on a vacation in Hawaii or Florida? Just wondering.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Shifting the Lines and a Whole Lot More

Did you know that a shift is commonly confused with a sheath? Not me. Both are unfussy dresses that end at the knees. However, a shift tends to be less fitted at the waist and hips (like this Mary Beth creation) and a sheath clings to the body much, much more. I'm glad to know the difference and I'm afraid the shifts rule my dresser although not my closet. In fact, I know for certain there no sheaths in my wardrobe. Which brings me to another term that gets used pretty loosely in the design world. Couture? It actually refers to a tradition of custom-made clothing that originated in France. My friend Eia says that true couture hats are completely hand-sewn. Yes, from start to finish. So my handmade strawberry-shaped cocktail hat I made would fit the bill, I'm proud to this say.

Some more interesting tid-bits for those of you who sew, especially with vintage machines. Zig Zaggers wants to hear from you. I'm not a good candidate now because my grandmother's Singer is is sitting in the storage unit a couple of floors beneath me. I don't plan on unearthing it this year even for an interesting blog post. However, my sister has my grandmother's other machine that she actually got fixed up with a new motor and all, but never uses! I do have a creaky newish serger that I don't like at all, so I don't see it as blog fodder at all. I will likely donate it to this organization for a tax credit when I get around to organizing my linen closet.

If you've got children who want to learn how to sew, here are some tips. It seems like young boys are especially eager to get their hands on sewing machines; they're a little more fearless with it than girls. They just want to put their feet to the pedal and see how fast the needle can stitch. Girls are a little more timid, like they're afraid they might overrun a finger or two.

If you like to crochet, you can actually enter a crochet bag contest for $5. That looks like a ton of fun. Something like that could actually inspire me to use my vintage 1930s cordet, but I will probably procrastinate. It turns out there are only three spots left. Yikes!

What else? Gigi has found an excellent way to organize her paper rolls for next to nothing. It's such a great DIY project that really needs to be written up in Readymade or Craft Magazine. I'd do it too, but I need to borrow her boyfriend, but seeing that Florida is quite a ways from Illinois I just might have to improvise for the moment.

Moving along, I like this hat idea but I'd probably add some netting and turn to the whole thing into a hat-on-a-cocktail-hat concoction. It'd be just thing to wear to a square-dancing event or even to a street festival such as this one.

I'm running out of things to write about on this springy Wednesday morning (summer doesn't begin until Saturday). I'm wearing two things I made today - the chartreuse assymetrical skirt and my long black-and-lavender sweater coat. Will I sew today? Probably not. But I might do some knitting, probably along a long bus ride or something. I'm looking for some inspiration today but not finding it. Pre-bedtime these days, I find myself seriously considering making up Simplicity 2885 in either a white eyelet with red topstitching or using a lightweight lawn I bought at Vogue Fabrics more than a year ago. Or I could just finish up that third bathing suit I started this past weekend. I think I need a little sewing inspiration. I just might need to go to New Machine Party (yes, it's all in caps) at Vogue Fabrics on Monday. Play-time with some new toys always gets me in a sewing mood. Now if there are some complimentary chocolate cookies and juice, I'm so there. How about you? Where do you find your sewing mojo when you feel like it's slipped under a couch cushion?

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'm Done With Kwik Sew 2962

How many times have I sewed this pattern? Eight times? Nine? I've lost count, it's been so many. There was this black polka dot on pink number. Three different permutations of purple. That's four. Oh yes, another in fiery neon floral on a black background. Five. That brings me to the fraternal twins I labored to deliver these past few days. You've seen this, but not this one (see above). Oh, yes, there's still another that's lined, and ready for elastic. That is indeed eight, two fewer than the number of children in my family. Wow. To think that all but the latest three are the only ones still in existence is a shame. I'm just creating disposable suits. Perhaps that's why I'm not too keen on technique. I figure the bathing suit will be past its prime in a mere three months, so why worry if the zig-zag top-stitching looks like wayward railroad switching tracks on my bathing suit straps or matching stripes properly?

Even though I might feel like I'm a bit too carefree with my foot on the plastic pedal, I'm getting better making these suits. I still have to follow the instructions for inserting the crotch, but it's getting easier. I read the instructions a little more closely while I was stitching at Vogue Fabrics classroom yesterday afternoon ($5 for the day. What a steal!) and learned more about Kwik Sew 2962. Here were some things I noticed that might be helpful should you decide to try this pattern on for size.
  • The Sewing Procedures are Helpful. Here it suggests using a size 12/80 ball-point sewing machine needle. What's Not in the Instructions: I just used one intended for stretch fabrics, but had it started skipping, I would have hustled my bustle to the cash register outside the classroom door and bought what I needed. (That's one of many reasons why it's great to use this classroom.)
  • Top-stitching is a Science They Don't Teach You in School. Kwik Sew suggests using a medium zig-zag and a medium or slightly shorter stitch length. I dialed down both on the Viking 735, vastly improving the appearance of my stitching. You could top-stitch with twin needles, but can you believe I haven't done this before on any my bathing babies? I'm always, always afraid of breaking the needles. What's Not in the Instructions: Use matching thread if your stitching isn't always even.
  • Seam Allowances are 1/4 -inch. Oops. I'm so used to 5/8-inch allowances, I just assume that Kwik Sew's are the same. No wonder my suits are a little bit snug, although the scant allowance might be helpful if you're using a serger and you make a mistake the first time down a seam. What's Not in the Instructions: If you're a little off, there's still plenty of ease; swimsuit jersey is a stretchy fabric after all.
I also noticed something else on the pattern too. Apparently lengthening the suit is a different ballgame from giving yourself what appears to be more room for the back-side. I cut for the latter, when I really need to add inches higher up on Front View A and Back View A for my long torso. Ah well. Next time. The suit still seems to fit ok. I don't get a wedgie, which has always been a problem with ready-to-wear. That alone makes sewing swimsuits so worthwhile.

Anyhow, I'm officially done with sewing swimwear. At least for a while. I was going to make some one-piece suits for my nieces with all my little bits of leftover fabric and elastic, but I'm tired of sewing what feels like miles of elastic; it's kind of long-distance driving on the same highway for hours and hours (Driving across on I-80 in Iowa comes to mind, circa 2006). Still it's nice knowing I've got a couple of options at the ready for my next water-aerobics adventure.

One final observation re assembly-line swimwear sewing. Don't worry about using not using elastic specifically made for swimming. This is actually hard to find in my neck of the Illinois woods. I'm usually too eager to get sewing to really care, so I just use the regular stuff. Your fabric is more likely to give out before your elastic will. How many of you sew your own swimsuits? What are your tricks to trade beyond not photographing yourself in the suit for all of the Internet to see (that would be my no. 1)?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bathing Suit Finished...*

The bathing suit is finished, and with a little luck I might even wear it for today's deep-water aerobics at lunch-time. It's funny how even though I've finished what feels like my sixth or seventh suit, I feel like such a newbie. I still refer to the instructions, although I feel like I've got certain parts down pat, like sewing the crotch lining (which I love doing for some reason), other parts felt unfamiliar as the uncertain path I took to a party last night. I know Chicago's north side fairly well (like Kwik Sew 2962), but how just did I get lost when the city's streets are laid out on a grid (not unlike when I was cutting out View A's pattern pieces using the wrong lines)? I had to tape and recut to get the proper size.

Since View A is not a whole different from its sweet cousin B, I'm certain I'm ready for a new challenge. Lazy People's Swimwear Patterns (thank you, Melissa) looks tempting. What a great resource! The undies pattern has me thinking. Mac Berg, the resident sewing expert at Vogue Fabrics, loves to make silk panties. She just lays the pattern on the bias, cuts away. She says there's enough stretch to make it work. I just might have to try this for myself. If cotton is your friend during hot summer days, can you imagine what silk against your skin would feel like on those extra-humid days when nearly nothing feels comfortable? Silk, a completely natural fiber, would be your best best friend, the one you invite over to your house, time and time again.

Back to swimsuits, particularly View A. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order on this overcast Friday morning:

  • Keep your hip size in mind when you pick a particular pattern since you need to be able to slip into your suit. You cannot pull this over your head, unless you plan on sewing snaps on. You can only imagine my delight at how easy it was to put on this suit. No wresting, tugging or funny little shimmies to get this one on! It makes me even more eager to get into the waters and exercise. If you have wide hips, you might want to rethink a racer-back style suit. It will be extremely difficult to get on. I still remember two years ago when I attempted to try on a Speedo at Dick's Sporting Goods. I abandoned it from the get-go in the dressing room even though I love this look. Sigh.
  • The straps and arm scythes are extremely fitted. This isn't a good suit for someone who's serious about swimming. You will not be able to move your arms properly for to complete even half a butterfly stroke rotation. I also don't think this is the best pattern for someone who has muscular (or at least well-toned) arms. It will just feel too tight. I don't find it uncomfortable; it just feels constricting after wearing those racer-back suits that have straps closer to the collarbone. I'll wear this suit plenty since I'm just doing water aerobics, not laps in the six-lane pool.
  • A regular-cut leg opening is not nearly flattering as a higher-cut one. I did the more modest cut, knowing full well it would draw more attention to my bottom half...and I sort of regret it. Next time, a higher cut, but not nearly as high as the ones you see on the "Baywatch" lifeguards.
  • It's worth studying the pattern illustrations for a moment or two. I can see everything I've just written about if I study the sketch of the brunette in the fuchsia number on the Kwik Sew pattern envelope. There's the cleavage that had me concerned the other day, the close-fitted straps, even the different leg opening variations.
  • Think about lining the entire suit. I know this has been covered here, but it's a topic well worth revisiting (at least for me) considering the fabric on my last suit fell apart so rapidly, I could have filmed the process and uploaded it to YouTube. Besides, I see lots of suits at the Y that look like they're of the birthday variety, if you know what I mean.
  • Vary your routine even if it's ever so slightly. It's kind of like taking your favorite way from work all the time. It will get boring if you do it every day, five times a week. You might even fall asleep at the wheel. I've snoozed at the sewing machine, but I could see how doing the same pattern, stitching lines over and over just might make you blow your project. I'm contemplating testing out the Jalie suits or another Kwik Sew pattern next time, even though both are pricey at the check-out counter.
  • Finally find fabric that's going to last. Kay (see the comments) suggested using 100 percent polyester if you want a suit that's going to last longer than summer. Which has me thinking that the box of what I firmly believed was nice swimsuit fabric is probably just junk. How can you tell what's lycra and what's sturdy poly? I'm thinking thickness counts for something, but I'm not sure. I don't want to do a burn test, yikes! But a quick way to say, "This will last more than four turns in the pool," would be nice, not to mention a time-saver. Any ideas?
* Ok, latest swimsuit fared well at the Y at lunch. See it drying above outside, before this afternoon's storms. I'll model it soon, but I feel a tad self-conscious doing so outside where the light's the best and all the neighbors will be watching and no doubt laughing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Open-Source Bathing Suit Sewing?*

Now tell me this isn't a great idea. I just inspired after reading this post. I have bathing-suit sewing on my mind because I have a nearly finished project (which is significantly different from the unfinished, abandoned-for-months version) slumped on my daybed. Wouldn't it be great if you could just send all your measurements to Kwik Sew or some other company and they could send you customized pattern? You could tell them you want a tiny keyhole opening at the neckline, a ruffle here or extra straps up there. Of course, the whole shebang would be customized with your measurements. They could tell you based on the latter that version A is a lot more likely to fit you than version B. (Which is what I found out when I last took out the pieces for this pattern in March). While, technically, my newfound creation did fit in all the proper spots, I had the hardest time wiggling my hourglass figure into my work of art. I'll be darn if I didn't pop a few seams, but I did make it. I was motivated big-time - I was looking forward to a soothing hot shower, a few minutes in the whirlpool, and relaxing exercise at the four-lane pool at the McGaw YMCA. Now I have to perform this jiggle every time I want to go to my water aerobics class. Every time! Now thankfully no one has made any comments about my odd little pre-water aerobics locker room dance, but I'm just waiting. I don't have any sarcastic reply in waiting though. I should.

Actually, hopefully I won't have to wait. I'm making another bathing suit which should slide on like second skin. In fact, I'm mildly disappointed it's not ready for its baptism this morning. I threw out my two-tone bathing suit (lavender in the back, royal purple in the front) after Monday's ablutions. It felt painful to toss it out, knowing that my new suit might not be ready for today's routine. And it's not, but I simply could not wear the purply suit again. It had gotten so sheer in the back, it looked indecent. I was doing the towel cover-up constantly. I'd wear it over my backside backing into the pool, grabbing it again for coverage up the steps into the locker room. After Monday, I vowed no more such textile tactics! Instead, I'd finish the suit in double-time if I wanted to spend quality-time in the pool. So here it is Wednesday. I'm thinking more about going to the SnB at this restaurant, and less out about stitching on the elastic on my suit in the privacy of my own home with handy Hamlet on my side. That's all I need to do, the elastic! Then I'll be done. No fuss, muss or hemming! Yes, the lining is all locked in - the hardest part awaits - cutting the elastic into proper lengths, dividing into quarters, zig-zagging it into the place with thread, folding over the fashion fabric, doing another row of zagging and zigging. Then I'll be ready to stretch my legs in the water.

Now, of course, I've only made major progress on one suit. I really need to make at least two. The last time this pattern and I met...I made three suits, which is most excellent for the chlorine that loves to snack on my swimsuit polyester. After a month of three-times weekly water aerobics, my bathing suit looks like it's been through the 2012 Olympics and back. It's also good to have more than one suit, so when Monday's version is drying out, Wednesday's is raring to go.

If you're wondering just how much weight I've lost doing water aerobics, I have not. Not an ounce, if I can tell. Water aerobics are great for toning and helping you sleep deeply at night. That's about it. If you want a flat tummy, make like 90-something Jack LaLanne. Or pop in Chris Freytag's Ultimate Walking Workout DVD in your laptop. I have done neither, but I just ate an apple. I call that progress after eating at this show and snacking on the complimentary eats at this new venue. I'm munching on more of the same when I return to the latter at noon today. I figure if I cut out the breadsticks and French bread, I shouldn't have too much trouble getting into the suit when it's finally completed in time for Friday's turn in the waters. It's completely doable even though I'm attending another event tomorrow night.

If you're thinking about sewing a suit, I'd highly recommend picking a beautiful print. I've got enough solids to suit up a team of local triathletes. You're more likely to get excited about your suit if it's pretty, not so practical-looking. It will also help when you finally put it on (I hear a spray tan is advisable when testing ready-to-wear suits, but I haven't gone to such extremes yet). Yes, I'm taking my own advice. My newest creation looks like something Will Ferrell's sister might wear out on the ice rink in the sequel to "Blades of Glory." Yes, my fabric is wildly busy with orange, black and fuchsia splashes and dots (see above). My 70-something male classmates should get a kick out of it (naturally in the water, not on land). I'm just looking forward to having something that covers me up and gets me back into the four-lane pool pronto. Is that too much to ask? It's not like I need an outdoor pool in this wonderful weather or even a handsome lifeguard watching my every move I make (I wish. He's usually nearly falling asleep with the warm air circulating above at this particular pool.) No, this is not a slick suit you'd find in a Berkeley flick, Esther Williams movie or even on "Baywatch." Even so I'm proud. Just hear me bragging to the life guard, usually the females. They're so impressed, that usually keeps them awake for at least 30 minutes, the amount of time I spent jogging in place.
* I just did a test-run of the suit, minus the elastic. Man, there is cleavage on this thing. I'm not too pleased.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How-To: Wear a Fashion Hat*


Ok, as you can see from the title, this isn't about how to wear a baseball cap to a game or even a practical knit cap to keep you warm on a winter's day. No, this post is about how to wear a fashion hat. So, what's a fashion hat? In my book, it's any hat that isn't purely functional like the ones I mentioned above. It has style, and it's often often unique. That's the best way for me to describe a fashion hat. You know it when you see it. If you're compelled to say to a friend, "Did you see that....?" or to tell your husband when you get home, "You'll never believe what I saw...," then you've likely been exposed to the fashion hat.

I'm going to address how to wear a fashion hat since I often get asked this question particularly when I'm giving a presentation on the topic. Honestly, there's almost no wrong way to wear a fashionable chapeau. Really. If you want to wear it backwards, with the label smack on your forehead, go ahead! When I was five years old, I insisted on wearing my cardigan with buttons in the back. So I did....and I started a trend that would only filter to the East and West Coasts decades later. Wear your hat in a way that makes you feel comfortable. If you've got a cocktail hat that you're certain looks right only if you tilt way back on your noggin, go right ahead. If you feel silly with the veiling over your face, flip it up if you're so inclined. The beauty of wearing stylish hats now is there are almost no rules because hats are rare as robins flying about mid-winter. There are no milliners around to tell you, "By the way, honey, you've got your hat on all wrong" because there are only, like, about 13 full-time hatmakers in my town (Chicago) and they're busy working, not policing clients.

While they are no rules, I think it's only polite that if you're at an opera and your hat is blocking someone's view, please take it off. Otherwise, keep it on. Ladies are allowed to do that. Anyhow, a hat inside can keep you warm if the air-conditioning is out-of-control cold and aid with acoustics (at least it does for me with two hearing aids).

The bottom-line: wear your hat with confidence. That's all, really. It takes gumption to put on a hat and to keep it on. Sometimes it's tempting to take it of as soon as you notice you're the center of attention with passer-by practically pointing you to their friends, whistles and whispers. I think the first five minutes are the worst when it comes to wearing a hat, whether it's a wide-brimmed beauty or a little doll hat. It gets better once you forget you have it on.

Just one aside: For your safety, I'd take your lid off as I've done walking home alone after dusk. You don't want male motorists slowing down asking if you want a ride. Being safe takes precedence over fashion, ok?

But if it's day-time and you're surrounded with people who appear reasonably nice and normal, just put the hat on and carry on. This is especially important if you're feeling down, the economy's on your mind, or you're just plain mad as can be about escalating gas prices. The hat will help you forget your troubles even for a little. You'll look like you've got everything under control even if you really don't! Appearance is everything when it comes to hats. Wonderful things happen when you wear one. Maybe you won't be handed a thousand Euros, but other surprising events could occur. A man might open the door for you, you might get a complimentary refill on your Diet Coke without even asking...all these little surprising gifts of kindness can all add up to a truly wonderful day. At day's end, you won't even remember hassles at the office, the traffic jam on the ride home or an over-drawn checking account, but you will remember all the laughter and the smiles that came your way and that will put a smile on your face once you go to bed...and hopefully dream of hats. Isn't that the way it should be?
* the hat here is from Anthropologie, and it striking resembles the 1930s-style hat from Romantic Hand Knits, which I've reserved at the local library. I should have this book in my hands after June 21 or so. I can hardly wait. Now that I look at my Anthropologie find closer, I see lots of pulled yarn...I'm thinking I might return this hat even though it looks cute from afar.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Miscellaneous




1. A short-sleeve version of the Santa Monica Tee. If it looks like I'm being choked, I feel like I am. In fact, the top might be on backwards. That's one problem with this pattern - you can't easily tell after you're done sewing what's the front. Though from past experience, I could turn this top around and still feel like I've got a vice around my neck. Anyhow, isn't this lovely fabric? I got it at Vogue Fabrics. I wish I had more, it's just so dreamy looking. Speaking of Vogue Fabrics, there's a really big sale beginning tomorrow (however, if you go later today, you can start shopping early as soon as they change the sale signs). Silks, silks, silks (as it says in the store flyer) are $2.99 a yard, the Anne Klein collection, $4.99 a yard; lawn and voile, $1.99 a yard and leather pelts are 50 percent off. Get started on starting two seasons' worth of attire.

2. Interesting knitting poll results. It looks like 75 percent of you will continue your love affair with knitting needles through the summer, although one person will definitely not. I'm definitely with the sticks crowd. I'm working on a 100 percent cotton skirt. I've posted another poll on the side - check it out. It has something to do with Ravelry. One more thing regarding knitting: this year the World Wide Knit in Public Day is Sat., June 14th. The Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair organizers will be celebrating knitting in public at the Ogilvie (Metra) station downtown. They will gather at the Corner Bakery from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.. Look for the "Do It In
Public" signs. That's next weekend, folks. For those of you who live in Illinois, that means buy your $5 weekend Metra pass, get your act together needle-wise and head downtown. One drawback: if it's nice outside, you'll still be knitting inside. Rats, I know.

3. For Hat Lovers: Here's some more info about that fascinating millinery workshop straight from Eia's outbox:

FASH 602 001
Headwear Design: Straw Sculpture
August 17-August 23, 2008
1 credit hour
Instructor: Eia Radosavljevic
$100 Lab Fee

In this course students create headwear ranging from conventional to avant-garde using millinery straw in three different forms—flat yardage, braided, and traditional “hood” or “capeline.” Beginning with traditional techniques, students are encouraged to venture into non-traditional straw sculpting, inspired by the nature that surrounds them. Investigation and discussion of the historical, haute couture, functional, spiritual, or social roles of headwear will follow a visual presentation. No prior hand-sewing experience is necessary. The supply list will be provided in advance, and more difficult to find materials are provided by the instructor and included in the lab fee.

Registration info can be found here.

Ox-Bow requires full payment of all tuition, fees, and room and board at the time of registration unless you are applying for financial aid or if you are an SAIC degree student taking Ox-Bow courses for credit. Some classes require lab fees that also must be paid with registration.
Tuition Room & Board Full Rate Work Scholarship
One week
(non-credit) $520 $510 $1,030 -$330

One week
(1 credit)
UG rate: $1,025 $510 $1,535 -$510
GR rate: $1,140 $510 $1,650 -$510

Checks and money orders for credit courses should be made payable to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Credit card payments for credit tuition should be made through SAIC's payment partner, Tuition Management Systems (TMS), via their website, www.afford.com. Note that TMS charges a fee for processing payments.

All courses taken for non-credit must be paid for in full at the time of registration. Non-credit courses may be paid for by credit card, check, or money order. Ox-Bow accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express. All checks and money orders should be made payable to Ox-Bow.

Refunds can only be granted if drop requests are made three weeks prior to the beginning of the class. A signature is required for refund; notification by phone of intent to drop must be followed immediately in writing by mail, or in person, before a refund will be processed. You will receive a refund minus the $50 drop fee. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for refunds to be processed. In the event that Ox-Bow must cancel a course due to low enrollment or for any other reason, full refunds will be given.

Additional Fees
A limited number of single rooms are available for an extra charge of $100 per week on a first-come, first-served basis. You will only be charged the fee after it is confirmed that you have actually received a single room; this may be well after you initially register.
Lab fees are listed with the course descriptions. Lab fees cover the cost of essential class materials supplied by Ox-Bow, fuel costs (if applicable), and costs of maintaining the studios. Lab fees are due at the time of registration.

Scholarships
While the deadline for scholarship applications has already passed, there may still be some work scholarships available. For any student taking an Ox-Bow course. Credit and non-credit courses. No deadline; apply at time of class registration; first-come, first-served.
Work scholarships are awarded by Ox-Bow on a first-come, first-served basis, and there are a limited number of scholarship positions available per course. Work scholarship students receive an award in exchange for working approximately 15 hours per week during their class session at Ox-Bow. Duties include housekeeping, building and grounds maintenance, and dishwashing. Award amounts are listed under Tuition and Fees. Interested students should apply at the time of registration for classes indicating interest on the Registration Form.

Ox-Bow's history
After almost a century in operation, Ox-Bow's mission has remained consistent--to serve as a haven for the creative process through instruction, example, and community. Founded by Frederick Fursman and Walter Marshall Clute, artists from the Art Institute of Chicago, Ox-Bow was to serve as a respite for artists from the industrialized havoc of Chicago. Today, Ox-Bow's longevity is due to the strength of this mission and the artists who have held true to it.

Fursman and Clute began this tradition after visiting the Saugatuck area one summer. They became enamored with the natural beauty of the area, as well as its rural isolation. They began teaching summer painting classes at the Bandle Farm on the east bank of the Kalamazoo River approximately one mile upstream from Ox-Bow's present location. In 1912 and 1913, classes were held at the Park House, down river and at the Riverside Hotel. In 1914, the School moved its entire operation to the Riverside Hotel - which soon became known as the Ox-Bow Inn.

The Riverside Hotel always supported the industrial and commercial trends that dominated the area. The proprietors of the Riverside Hotel, the Shriver family, originally built a small house in the 1860s on what was then the ox-bow shaped bend of the Kalamazoo River. After realizing the potential for trade traffic, they added onto their simple home in the 1890s, converting it into a 20-room hotel.

At the turn of the last century, Saugatuck's major industries began to decline. In 1907, the Kalamazoo River channel was straightened to flow directly into Lake Michigan, effectively cutting off the Riverside Hotel from its patrons. Due to a lack of guests, the Shrivers then leased the hotel to a group of artists for the entire summer. The industry of art and leisure was taking over as the area began to reinvent itself as a Midwestern resort community. The Riverside Hotel persisted as lodging for its clients even though the clientele had changed from traders to artists.

After Clute's death in 1915, with the support of a group of core shareholders including Isobel and Edgar Rupprecht, Fursman took over as director for the next 30 years. Also in 1915, Thomas Eddy Tallmadge, the renowned architect and architectural historian, came to Ox-Bow and quickly became its best patron, leaving 110 acres to the school upon his death.

Over the years, Ox-Bow has changed in many ways, but two things have remained constant -- Ox-Bow's mission to remain a haven for artists, and its fellowship with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1987, SAIC assumed responsibility for Ox-Bow's academic program and in 1995 Ox-Bow and SAIC formalized a sponsorship agreement that affirmed the synergy created in this unique relationship. Today, the relationship between Ox-Bow and SAIC, forged by Fursman and Clute, remains strong. This mutual commitment to preserving and nuturing the artistic process has benefited generations of professional, student, and amateur artists.

On that note, I'm out of here to go buy a hat. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

One Sewer's Best Friend*

Hamlet approaches famed cloud wall.
Hamlet poses with foster mother wearing sleeveless top she knitted.
Hamlet poses behind foster mother as she shows off her back.

Dear Hamlet,

You've been here what - three full days? Boy, what an adventure it's been already, from the moment your human mother collapsed outside my apartment and had to be shipped off to the emergency room post-haste on that incredibly hot Monday late afternoon. Thankfully, nothing was seriously wrong with your mama that a glass of water or two or three wouldn't cure. And then I had to abandon you almost right away to go to my last French class. I'm terribly sorry. And to think that I was afraid that you would chew on my BCBG Girls, Franco Sarto boots, Natural Comfort wedgies, and 1940s slingbacks while I was away, I do apologize. I also feared that you would dig your nose in the kitchen garbage basket, and for that too, I am contrite. You also probably noticed I hung a garbage bag on a shower curtain hook in the bathroom, and you didn't even bother to check that room out. Not once from what I can tell.

I hope you don't think I'm a bad parent if I go off for hours. I felt bad yesterday went I walked off to Dunkin Donuts before even thinking take you out for your first bathroom break. Yet you didn't take it personally. You didn't take revenge and do damage. For that, I'm utterly and completely grateful.

I hope you don't mind that I don't want you spending the entire day on my bedroom rug and nudge you out into the living room accordingly. I do wish you would spend more time on what appears to be an expensive orange and pink cushion from Target that your mommy left behind for you. It's nice and soft, much more so than my at least 10-years-old mattress that I dearly want to replace sometime soon.

I'm also a bit concerned that you're not eating much. Mom tells me you need to drink more water so your body functions properly. At your age, 11 years young, you need to think about that. Not that I ponder my own chronology. I'm not one to say, "Oh, I'm falling apart!" just becomes my right thumb is arthritic and my bunion hurts like hell after I traipse even a few blocks to the abovementioned coffee shop in my Mias. I mean, a touch of arthritis in one part of my body is perfectly normal, right?. Even a toddler can say, "Oh, my achy knee!" am I right? Besides, tween-ager ballet dancers get bumps on their feet too. Anyhow, I hope you're not feeling your age when you have to go up two flights of stairs just to get home. The first flight is hard enough. I can only imagine what you think you see that second flight. "I don't know how I'm going to make it up there!" but you do and I'm so very proud of you (which reminds me you deserve a treat, which is atop my refrigerator).

I also want you to know that I've been bragging about you. I tell my friends, "He doesn't bark! Well, only once at another dog outside." And to think you startled me the other day when you changed positions while you were napping behind me in the office. You're a perfect canine - you're easy-going, quiet and polite. Why would I ever want a child when I got you? I wish I could see you blush, but it's probably not possible with all that fur on your face.

You've probably noticed that big white plastic box on my desk. That's my sewing machine. I know I've hardly turned it on while you've been here. I haven't been as motivated these days since I've been spending too much time almost all by my lonesome. So if I turn it on, don't be afraid. It won't come after you. It's not a vacuum machine, which by the way, I don't turn on often enough as you can see by the growing groups of dust-mites in my place. I'd say become friends with the dust-mites, but they might make you sneeze. So you're probably better sleeping as much as you do and simply befriending your nocturnal, other-world friends (what do you dream about anyway?).

When you're awake, don't be afraid to look out the window, but I certainly would be freaked out if you barked at the birds. My late cat Freaky liked to stare out at the robins and the sparrows and do that odd "I want winged creature" half-purr. Now, she had accidents, which was a major reason why I won't babysit felines right now. I'm done with the "I need a cat sleeping on my leg" stage of my life, for now.

We will go on longer walks, I promise. It would probably help with your overall health to do so. I'm not sure how far we can walk given that going up and down the stairs is an issue. It would be nice to at least be able to walk here, where I can show you off to fellow canine owners. Now if you're up to the task, Hamlet (by the way, how did you get your name? I haven't had a chance to ask your mom), perhaps you could facilitate a meeting between a cute, nice single doggie owner (or walker) while we're out and about. I'm not sure if you're match-maker, but you're are, I'm giving you a major hint, ok?

I'm not sure what else to say. I'm not the best letter writer, but I hope you enjoy your stay in this doggie hotel, Hamlet, whether it's two weeks or two months. I do want you and your mommy to re-unite one day in the near future. I love happy, Hallmark endings, but I won't cry at commercials for that card company because I'm not an emotional pregnant woman, just as a cynical singleton, ok? But I might shed a few salt-water tears if you leave. Oh dear, why am I thinking about that now? Perish that thought!

Love and Kisses, Mary Beth
* Folks, the top is from the Knit.1 green issue, Summer 2007. If had to do it over again, I'd make it up in a stretchier, bouncier yarn than the 100 percent cotton fiber I used. Still adorable even if I do have to tug it up every five seconds or so.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What Do You Think of Sew-A-Longs, TNTs*



I took my inspiration from this knitting-related blog post. It got me ruminating. I've sometimes been tempted to join the sew-a-longs at Patternreview, but then I get caught up like a spider in a web in other things I need to do work-wise. Somehow, I feel like if I get snared in a Sew-A-Long, I'll just spend more time on the laptop, instead of being social. For me personally, I'm better off going to a Stitch N Bitch for some human contact since I'm often by myself all day long.

On the other hand, a sew-a-long might be the kick in the sailor pants to get going on some projects that I'm shying away from. How do you feel about sew-a-longs? I guess I'm really intrigued after 75 sewers signed up for a coat sew-a-long. What inspired all these people to sign up quicker than lickety-split for this collaboration? Was it the prodigious project? Somehow I don't think people would be as inspired if they were stitching up a pair of undies or an apron. Or does the organizer have a really charismatic personality? I'm sometimes wonder what would occur if I launched a sew-a-long blog. Of course, I'd have to promote it on a crafty web site with heavy traffic just for the project to get some attention. I'm not sure I'm currently known "well enough" in the sewing community to attract more than a handful of participants. Or does it really depend on how "established" you are? Do you need to feel like you "know" your fearless fun leader in order to jump in feet first into a shared, online project? My final thought: do sewers leap on board simply because so many others have crossed the pedestrian bridge? I'll admit the Great Coat Sew-A-Long appeared enticing only after I heard it was closed to new participants. But then again, I could have been one of the lame sewists who signed up and didn't pick up a pair of scissors or even pick out a pattern. It's kind of like how my ace fingers rapidly signed me up to become one of Ravelry's beta testers, but then when I finally did get the invite, it took me forever and a few days to upload pictures of my knitting masterpieces to the site.

Talk of Sew-A-Longs brings me to another related topic: TNTs. This abbrevation and its use online sewing communities cracks me up because the first thing that comes to my brain when I hear, "TNT" is the stuff that's used to make explosives, and not anything remotely to do with sewing, fabric and patterns. But as I understand it, TNT means "Tried and (N) True" as in any pattern that's worth using again and again until it falls apart or out of favor. At one time, I would have said this pattern was a TNT because I sewed it at least seven times, exactly the same way: lengthen the torso by two inches, and using a McCall sleeve. Over and over not quite in my sleep because I think that might be dangerous, I did it. Now I'm tired of it in the way I got quickly tired of "The Rules" which by the way, I actually burned on my porch. I don't think I'll torch my Kwik-Sew pattern. I'll just let it become pals with the dust-mites.

Now there is another pattern that's most certainly a TNT. It's this Kwik-Sew bathing suit pattern. Since the three purply bathing suits I made last year are already falling apart, I feel like it's time to make another trio soon. I was thinking I might try another view this time just to keep the task somewhat interesting. I'm also going to use different fabrics to keep it lively. I at least need to use a print for limbo's sake!

I think that's really the only "active" TNT pattern in my collection. Wait. I take that back. The Santa Monica T pattern falls in the "tried and true" category. I haven't sewn it lately, but I've been thinking about it since I have a scallop-edge stretch lace remnant that would be perfect. The thing I love about this pattern is how easy it is. The hardest part is using a twin-needle to stitch down the neckline. If I didn't do that, this pattern would be almost easy enough for a 8-year-old sewer to make, although I think the darts in the sleeve are a bit disconcerting for someone just starting out. The darts in the sleeves and not the bodice are bit unexpected, don't you think? What are your TNT patterns? I'm eager to hear. I suspect the Jalie patterns I bought in December will become "favs" once I get around to sewing them.

In other non-related sewing/knitting news, Hamlet appears to be adjusting to his new home if all the sleeping he's doing is any indication. He's older dog (11 to be exact), so maybe he needs all extra sleep. He also also has some trouble getting up the stairs, but there's no elevator so that's the way it's going to be found. Since he snoozes plenty, I've found more than a Mount Kilimanjaro's excuse not to take him out for walks. He hasn't been outside yet today, but I have to Dunkin Donuts for an iced coffee. Unless he's begging and whining, "Please, please, let's go outside" in dog-speak, I'm afraid I'm going to put it off for at least another hour.
* Here is my TNT in a pretty floral print that just happens to coordinate with my skirt. So what do you think of my photogenic canine companion?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Monday Afternoon, Pre-Hamlet but Post-Lunch*



How far away and for how long can you go with a dog in the house? The reason I ask is that I'm going to be a foster mother. Of a canine (his name is Hamlet). This is major news in a household that hasn't been home to a bonafide mammal besides myself for more than 2 years. Make that about 28 months. It's just been just me, the dust-mites, my wood floor, the furniture, sewing supplies, a few foods in the refrigerator, and a whole lot of fabric and patterns. Now, I'm only going to be taking care of this dog for two weeks. Or at least that's the plan. I might be taking a short-term job in a place that would be make it difficult for me to attend a dog's need for walks (which I used to would actually spell out when I was living in my mother's house otherwise her dog would just get so excited he would practically hyperventilate on the spot). In any event, I'm going to be a mommy (I feel teary-eyed already) at least until June 14, which means this place needs to be "child-proofed" in a matter of hours. Oh, and the dog is supposed to arrive this evening sometime about the same time I have my last French class. I can just see it already I'll need be worrying about my new child while I'm taking a test en Français. Then, of course, I'll need to rush home just to make sure that my camel-back couch cushions haven't been pulled to pieces, or the foot of a nearby table hasn't been turned into a fire hydrant (that actually reminds me of this cartoon I drew.) Other than putting my piles of magazines and shoes (don't dogs like to destroy shoes?) onto my couch and armchair, I'm not sure what else I need to do. I'll do what I did when I had my trouble-maker cat Freaky. I'll close off the doors to the bedroom and office so that Hamlet cannot go into other room. I'm half tempted to get a gate that I can prompt between the kitchen entryway and the living room/dining and put my new child in the kitchen with his sleeping bed while I'm away. The one thing that complicates my new lifestyle (and isn't having a dog a lifestyle?) is the fact that I don't have a car. It's not like I can take Hamlet with me everywhere. I'm not living in France yet. Since he's not small enough to fit into my handbag so I can sneak him onto a bus (like I've seen other Chicagoans do), he's either going to have to stay at home when I go out (do I hear howls of protest already?) or we're taking really long walks, too long for my bebunioned foot's taste. I wouldn't mind having one of those bikes with a trailer. I could put Hamlet in the back and we could ride away on our adventures for two. We may to walk to this store and see what kind of options are available. That way I don't have spend money on this vehicle, and worry about keeping it fur-free for other prospective motorists. So where are we and Hamlet going to walk to? I"m going to focus on where we can go because the list of where dogs are prohibited is just too long and depressing. I do see the pair of us going here for the Stitch N Bitch every warm summery Wednesday night. We'll sit outside where we're wanted. I'll feed him bits of hamburger while he watches me knit fascinated (actually just waiting for another bite). We might even spend some time at Common Cup, another place in the 'hood where we could probably hang together at an outside table, him drinking water; me, iced coffee. To sweeten the deal, I can get a 10 percent off any purchases because I'm a member of this organization. We could walk to Bark Place, there's definitely a water bowl there, but I don't see myself buying too many toys. I firmly believe children have too many toys these days. Why should I have a different philosophy with a dog? Not too many treats either. I'm trying to cut back on snacks so my dog will have to do the same. Our stomachs can growl together. I'm at loss about other venues where Hamlet will welcome. I just did a search on Google and came up with this blogger, who I might be able to ask for advice. Otherwise, my foster child and I might be spending a lot of time at home...and I actually might be do a little more sewing than I have been lately, which brings me to another question. Are dogs less likely to pounce on tissue-paper patterns than felines? Freaky loved to help me lay out my pattern...with her claws. Hamlet, I think, is much more likely to snooze by the sewing machine pedal and chew on any empty Gutterman thread spools that bounce onto the floor.
* The shrug you see above was recreated with a flame-stitch remnant from Vogue. At 1/2 yard, it could only be one thing - a shrug. But I've gotten many compliments on it. I simply folded it in half length-wise, sewed up both sides, left an opening wide enough for my shoulders to slip in. What do you think?