Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So Nice I Had to Sew It Twice: McCall 3895

I signed up for Patternreview.com's sewn hat contest as soon it as was permissible. I mean, the moment the URL went live? I was there, hitting the keystrokes faster than I run to catch a bus. Really. I sometimes have knee issues, but fingers on the keyboard? Nearly never. Anyhow, I wanted to make Vogue 8405, view D. It's just got this retro vibe, besides the brim has this neat curve in the front that very Myrna Loy. I can see her wearing it, along with a matching crocheted dickey and gloves. Besides, I was going to be teaching how to make this hat, for crying out not too loud, at Vogue Fabrics.

But things happen, and a certain pragmatism (so unlike me, really) intervened. I got it in my head to use this damaged white and black print that I bought at Metro Textiles. Mind you, it wasn't ruined when I bought it, but it did become that way after I attempted to pre-shrink it. Anyhow, I thought I'd use it....consequently, View D was no longer suitable. I need to really showcase the large florals on my fabric, so I switched over to View A. Fair enough, I started cutting away, sewing while my students worked on View D in my workshop.

I didn't finish that day. I thought for sure I'd get to it the following Sunday during a scheduled sewing salon. Wouldn't you know it the day before I manage to lose my favored winter hat on the bus? I was having a very, very serious conversation on the cell phone, my stop was suddenly there, I hopped off with my bags and cell phone...but didn't notice my hat was not with me. I was practically ready to dash after the bus, but it was cold and raining. Besides, what good does it do to run after moving vehicles? Especiallly one that's probably a block or two ahead or me? Absolutely none.

I consider this hat a second love, it's been everywhere with me this winter. The Y, the post office, the grocery store, library, the bars and swing dance studio. Everywhere. Even the scratchy knits and the cute fuschia suede cap don't get this kind of attention. Why? The green suede bucket-shaped hat goes with my multi-green scarf and Forever 21 shawl and Kelly green handbag. No other headgear in my collection is green, cute and soft and works as a portable umbrella for the noggin. (I hate carrying umbrellas. I travel light, and umbrellas, even those little ones, just add to weight to whatever I'm carrying.)

The funny thing is the hat I lost is the second version of the original. I keep making the darn thing in the same exact fabric.

So I was on my way to this bar, for an event promoting Cuervo. Guess what I wore on the way home? A green, red, and white scarf from the promotion organizers. It looked garish, but it kept me warm and somewhat dry.

So Sunday rolls around like a dice, and I'm thinking, the hat contest is over on Tuesday and I need to make a hat. A practical hat that keeps me warm and coordinates with my other accessories became the priority. I found some scraps for the last project go-around, put all my stuff in my Vogue Fabrics sewing bag, and off I went to sew without any hat on my head. I was motivated to walk out of the store with a new matching hat, just like the old one.

I get there, plop my stuff in the classroom, pay for the room use, and get the fabric. I only needed $6 dollar worth of material. I got busy quickly because I wanted to go to visit a friend in the hospital and then go to Mass.

So in a matter of three hours, I made two hats, exactly the same. Here are some details from the 2005 version, plus some new details from Sunday's sewing session.

I think I'm almond nuts crazy to make the same exact hat four times. Has there ever been a hat you lost, and just never could stop obsessing about? What extremes have you gone to recover a lost or stolen hat or recreate it? By the way, I called the bus garage on the off chance they found McCall 3895, version 2. Sorry to say no, that hat probably went the same way as my bag of new yarn did almost two years ago. In the garbage! I do not cry over this stuff, it's just pointless.
* The details of the above photo. Jacket from Nordstrom, cowl I knitted using Noro yarn, multi-green scarf, Vogue Fabrics, shawl, Forever 21.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Great Gatsby Revival - A Cloche Call?

I feel a Great Gasby revival coming on. First, I got an email from a prospective student about the hat that Mia Farrow's wearing in the above photo from the movie based on Scott Fitzgerald's novel. Then I get an email from a newcomer who has moved to Chicago from New Orleans. She digs the flapper look. Then I see a woman reading a "Great Gasby" paperback on the subway. Today, this way cool cloche. What's going on? Are we going to see dropped-waist dresses and bobs next? Possibly, but not here in Chicago, we're just not a retro city the way San Francisco or even the Washington, DC metro area is. What do you think?

Anyhow, back to the cloche in the above photo. Arielle wants to recreate it. However, she tells me emphatically, " I don't need it to be just like that. I just need the shape and the fact that it covers all of the hair."

So if you have any ideas, I'm all ears. It looks like the hat has glass beads on it, doesn't it? Imagine how that would look doing the Charleston on the dance floor! Swinging!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On Grain, Off Track: Vogue 8405

Oops. I just realized that I completely forgot the best hat award for my millinery workshop on Sunday. I said in my class write-up that whoever wore the best hat to class would get a prize. I remembered to bring my box of candies and even my camera, but no goodies for the student with the coolest, most memorable chapeau. Actually, only one student wore at hat. That was Bernadette (Bernie) in the above photo. She blocked the hat she's wearing in another class. I was so impressed. I love the embellishment too - it reminds me of the Jessica McClintock Venice appliques that are all over Vogue Fabrics.

Anyhow, Bernie and the other student, whose name I forget, were all keen on making the fedora style hat (view D) from Vogue 8405. I, on the other hand, decided to use up this damaged fabric - black flowers bleeding blue on a white background, so I opted for view A with its large brim. We all set down to work well before the clock came close to striking 1 p.m., and didn't even come close to finishing our projects by the time the workshop ended at 4 p.m. This is what happens when you make a lined hat on a fabric with a grain. (In my previous class, one woman walked out with a finished unlined felt hat, minus the petersham sweatband. Impressive! She arrived early and didn't rest for a minute during the 3-hour class.)

Here's what we learned this past Sunday:
  • The lay-out for view D is completely wrong. Nothing is on grain, according to the Vogue Patterns instructions. Not one part! So follow your gut instincts. Align the pieces with the selvedge edge as you would with a skirt, a shirt, or any other garment.
  • Pre-treat your fabric to banish fold lines. My nameless student couldn't get rid of the fold lines in her fabric despite pressing, pressing and pressing. She ended up buying more fabric just so she could get started on her project.
  • Hair canvas* is not an embellishment, it's an essential part of the hat. It gives the brim and crown structure. Next time I write up the class description I'll make it crystal clear we're sewing a hat from start to finish, not gussying up a storebought version.
  • Finish the hat first, and then trim it. Otherwise, you might buy feathers, buttons and ribbons that just don't work on your completed hat, which truly might look just fine and dandy sans stuff. You'll save yourself money, time and grief.
  • Have fun. It's just a hat, not wedding dress.
* The link is for $24 a yard of pricey hair canvas. Rest assured, it also can be found for about $7 a yard, on sale, at Vogue Fabrics.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hello Again, It's Been A While: Vogue 8405*

So I pick up the phone to call Vogue Fabrics. Just to check in on my hat-making class on Sunday. Last I heard there was no one in the class. So I'm fully expecting to cancel the class. You know, just double-checking, checking it off my Friday list of things to do. I punch the Vogue Fabrics number, which I don't know really by aorta. Really, what's in the sense of memorizing numbers that are programmed into my cell phone but not my landline?
"Vogue Fabrics."
"Is this the business office?"
"It is."
"Oh, is this Evelyn? Hi."
She responds likewise. Nice lady.
"I'm just checking in on my hat-making class. How many sign-ups do I have?"
I'm just stunned, like I'm just been told I've won Lotto when I didn't buy a ticket.Blindsided! A week or so ago, last time I caught up with Evelyn, there was no one was in my hat class, but there were two in my leggings workshop. People have their priorities in order these days: learn how to make something that covers the legs, who cares about the head?
"Three people are in my class on Sunday?"
I didn't know this. In fact, if I hadn't called for a status report, where would I have been on Sunday afternoon? Yes! Vogue Fabrics, minus my hat and supplies, working on yet another pair of panties. It takes a moment or two to digest this information. I realize I'm not prepared just yet to teach millinery. Yes, I have the pattern, but I haven't made the hat. I thank Evelyn, hang up the phone. Sheesh, now I'm going to have to spend the better part of tomorrow getting ready to get my hat on Sunday. Yipes.
This means I will need to buy hair canvas, a first in my short life. I will have to cut pattern and fabric....and sew on my machine. At home. All by lonesome, not with a throng of women perusing the pattern books at Vogue outside my classroom door. Can I say I love my Viking Husqvarna, just not sewing at home in my dusty office? Really, can I say that to you women who love nothing more than to sew in silence away from your children, spouses, and various pets? You probably lock your door just to keep the various live creatures at bay. Me? I invite the dust mites inside, and I happily sneeze as they come right on in. Aaachoo, aachoo, aachoo, bless you for stopping on by! For those of you thinking, "Why don't you just bring your machine to Vogue?" Honestly, I'm not about to truck my personal machine to Vogue either, because they have the same exact product there. It's beyond dumb to schlepp my slightly outdated sewing machine, when they've got the latest models there already plugged into the wall. Another thing: I can't just drop into the classroom any old time...sometimes another teacher is there. Can't interrupt, you know.

I did say I'm a deadline sewer in a previous post, so I guess this means I must live up to my word, but it's all good. Really! This last-minute news gives solid purpose to my Saturday. No leisurely browsing on the Internet at 7 a.m.. No dawdling, no drawing, no dandering, no no no! Hair canvas, lining and petersham, oh my! And sewing, which I swear I'm only going to do with a Guinness at my side tomorrow (look: ace seamstress Mac Berg fully supports drinking while sewing, so if she says it's all right, it's A-OK. ) Besides, a four-pack of Guinness is on sale at Dominick's. Now, they're not cold brewskis, so I'm going to have to get some in the morning, get 'em in the fridge, so they're ready when the Viking shivers awake sometime tomorrow afternoon before I go dancing at the Battle of the Bands. I will limit my drinking while sewing to one, maybe two pints, but I'm not driving to the big Swing-dancing event, so I will not be endangering anyone except my long fingernails (which I've known to accidentally snip while I'm cutting fabric. Better that than my actual digits, you know?).

And if I don't finish the hat, that's ok. My students just need to be able to see some of the construction. Look, all hats are basically alike when it comes to making 'em. Some things never change, and millinery is one of them. That said (and you're fully entitled to say, "So what's the point of taking your class then, lady?"), there are some finer points that are difficult to learn outside of hands-on instruction. Like sewing the petersham on so it's looks like an elf did it. Or assimilating the difference between grosgrain and petersham ribbon, and why you even want the stuff inside your hat (basically it acts as a sweatband).

Back to my newfound dilemma: As long as I read and understand the Vogue 8405 instructions and have something tangible to show my students (and offering them fresh cookies never hurts), my workshop will be go well. Oh yeah, I need to wear a hat, and take pictures of the finest hat on the Vogue Fabrics premises. I'll pack up the goods Sunday morning, dress appropriately and I'll be ready to play teacher in the afternoon. I promise I will not be hung-over, the swing-dance crowd drinks water, not alcohol on Saturday nights. Yeah, we're kind of weird that way.

* This is an out-take from a photo session yesterday, outside in the cold. Read the fine print on the instructions from the folks editing the Craft Corps book that they don't want head-shot photos taken with a colorful background. So instead of pitchin', here it is.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sunshine Day: Vogue 1020

Can I just say this is my fourth rendition of Vogue 1020 and I really don't have anything new to say except this fabric is supremely sunny and soft? It is. I got it on special at Vogue Fabrics.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Slightly Guinness Induced Rant: Irish Dancing Dresses

Niece No. 1 (Vanessa): Snubbed me royally when I tried to get her to pose for a picture. Usually, I'm not used to this kind of treatment. I mean, I'm a cool aunt. I can do things that her parents can't or won't. For example, I let Vanessa watch "Dancing with the Stars" back when Julianne Hough and her partner, pony-tailed Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno, were fodder for gossip. She instantly had a crush on the guy, and all that glitter, faux tan, spandex made such a huge impact on her that she still talks about that one episode two years later. I wonder if the dress she's wearing above isn't a little boring for her taste? If so, in a few years she can graduate to the neon-hued dresses the older girls wear. Wait til the end of this post for a rant on these expensive dresses. I need to finish my Guinness and wipe off my foam mustache, ok?

No. 2 (Lucia) (middle two photos): She too snubbed me! I barely recognized in her wig, which I swear dwarfed her. She looked like she was drowning in dark brown ringlets. But she was a natural out on the dance floor, otherwise known as Tommy Nevin's Pub in Evanston. This is a girl so flexible she walks around with her toes curled under. Naturally, she has calluses in unusual places on her feet.

No. 3 (Elena): Younger than Vanesssa, older than Lucia, Elena also acted like she didn't know me! What is it? Do I smell or is it...I'm an adult just like all those parents in the room? That must be it. When it's just the two of us and the rest of the world, she will acknowledge me, beg me to swing her around until she's so dizzy she can barely stand, play games on my cell phone, dig around in my purse for make-up.

They all looked so cute in their dresses, which I know cost a small fortune (perhaps not Lucia's..hers appears simple). What is the appeal to having these garments made in Ireland? I know this dance, the costumes are all about tradition, but I studied these dresses...I saw laces and wovens that I know aren't from the Emerald Isle, but more likely the country shaped like a boot. So you have the bragging rights of having a dress made in Ireland...but it's really expensive (hundreds of dollars). The exact dress could probably made for less here in the U.S. with the identical materials. No one would know (unless you got 'em drunk on Beamish) that it was made in North America and not on the other side of the ocean. No one! Those crochet collars could be handmade by a granny or found in a thrift shop and stitched on with a sewing machine. All that embroidery? It's all done by machine, why not just hoop up the fabric and do the magic locally a Viking embroidery machine even if you had to rent it? Maybe when it's all said and done, adding up the labor and the lux fabrics, it comes still adds up to be an expensive dress. I just don't get sending hard-earned dollars overseas when the same thing could be stitched up within five miles of your own home. Loca-vores are all about eating vegetables grown practically in their backyards, why not do the same with expensive, custom clothes? If I had a little girl who wanted to get into this pricey hobby, I'd be firing up the sewing machine and scouring the remnants at Vogue Fabrics' bridal section faster than you can dial 847-864-9601. Tell me: Would a dancer be scorned if she wear a dress that her mom made not some sewer in Ireland?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hats Not So Haughty: A Round-Up

Is it just me but doesn't now seem like the right time to wear a hat? Maybe more people are...and I'm not just talking about your everyday black knit topper, just something bright and colorful. There were so many bright straw pictures at the opener for Nordstrom's trend show on Saturday in downtown Chicago, I thought daylight savings time had kicked in early times and I was at church on Easter Sunday. Which brings me to that day, discussion-wise. In years past, I haven't seen too many woman wearing hats (I'm not going to say bonnet because we're not talking babies, but full-fledged adults) on Easter, but this time, I'm hoping it'll be different. You know it will be a like secret meeting of the Yellow Hat Society. Serious. We'll all converge into the aisle at communion, give each other furtive winks, a cue to break out and start dancing, of course, all the crying toddlers already running amuck will just join up in the fun.

If you're looking at the hats above, I don't have plans to make a yellow fedora yet. I'm not looking to be the female version of Dick Tracy. Now I could see a daffodil cocktail hat with matching Russian veiling. That would be pretty and feminine. Pair it with a neutral trenchcoat, and it would be a darling way to end Lent. But I'm certain that there will be at least one or two women walking around on Easter in their Aretha Franklin knock-offs. That won't be me though, I'm too much of a rebel. Hah! (As an aside, I'm sure you've seen all the altered photos of men wearing Aretha's hats).

I actually need to make Vogue 8405 because I'm teaching it March 22 at a Vogue Fabrics store near you. However, I'm a lazy one, I sew best on a deadline. Consequently, when I hear my class is almost full, that's when I buy the hair canvas, the lining fabric, and raid the stash, and get sewing. Otherwise, I feel like why bother? Although, truly, it's an adorable pattern. My favorite is the one in the lower right corner with the brown plaid ribbon. I was going to focus on teaching that version alone in my workshop, but since the hat with assymetrical brim is featured on the Vogue Fabrics' web site, I figure I'll teach 'em all.

Wait, there's more! If you're a fan of Judith M Millinery no matter where you live on this great planet Earth, you'll be happy to hear she's starting an online forum on her site. So you can ask questions there until the black cows come home, (then you have to make me a Black Cow, ok?).

Finally, back to the pattern above. Which hat would you make if you had the opportunity?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Flappiness, Part 2

Primotoide futile's comment about the flapper dress I intend to sew eventually got me thinking. There are lots of current patterns out there that could be given a flapper vibe. I picked out just three from Vogue Patterns that could get you kicking up your heels doing the Charleston. Vogue 7762, above, isn't promoted as a 1920s style dress but the pose, the model, the backdrop just screams 1920s. It's in the catalog now! It calls for lightweight for Wool Crepe, Soft Faille, Silk Like Crepe, Matte Jersey and Lt.wt. Double Knit. I'd probably switch the back zipper to the side. Or I could put in a zipper on top in the back to make it a little more contemporary. With a pair of Mary Janes, you're good to go for a Great Gasby party.

This pattern is clearly directed toward the 'mature' woman, but I don't see why it wouldn't turn out for anyone. So don't let the labeling on Vogue 8487 deter you, but that dropped waist? So clearly Louise Brooks! It would be so comfortably made up in charmeuse, which is one of the recommended fabrics. There's no zipper either, making this project an easy-afternoon one.

Here's another waistless gem (Vogue 8229), with so many possibilities. I actually own a Anne Klein black linen burn out that would be perfect for this... paired with a fuschia or Kelly green batiste underneath the ruffle. I don't know why I keep putting off making dress. It's really great if you've got small shoulders and a nice neck that you want to play up. I could also see this in different types of white eyelet, all the same weight, of course. Only the linen's recommended, but I don't see an eyelet wouldn't work. With a big lightweight summer hat or cloche, you'd be the life of the soiree. What other patterns do you see online that might work for a 1920s look?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fit to Be Tied: Vogue 8048

When I told my mother that I might have to cancel my retro tie-making class due to a lack of interest, she was all: "No one wants to make a tie? Ties are fun. I like making ties." That's my mother who sewed seven wool plaid ties one year for Christmas for all my brothers. There are still a few of the ties floating around and at the holidays the men (now including some of the in-laws) sling 'em on over their hoodies (which just seems like a heresy, you know, ties are meant to be worn with shirts tucked into a pair of dress pants). All to please and amuse the matriarch on Dec. 25.

Have no fear or tears but I think I will try again with the tie class (we're not talking tie-dying, which is entirely a different craft) in the fall. When it's chillier, when men reach out for their cardigans. Right now, everyone here in Chicago is thinking about spring and summer, and trying their utmost to forget that we're still squarely stuck in winter even though the thermometer (or in Dashboard on my MacBook) says it's Spring.

I just think I'm ahead of the trends. Futurist Faith Popcorn should hire me, if she has the funds. In fact, I got an email this morning that confirms what I've been. This one was hawking $15 ties using the same fabrics and hues from Fashion Week. So...my class at $45? You could easily make some really trendy ties (and bow-ties too!) for a lot less than $15. Anyhow, back to the press release that landed in my inbox. Here is the tie color forecast, courtesy of Greg Shugar, CEO and designer of the Tie Bar. "We expect Fall 2009 to start showing more and more florals, ranging from traditional florals and brocades to modern botanicals and organics,” says Shugar. “The top color trend which men have seemed to warm up to is chocolate brown, a classic color that translates into all season and personal styles. We expect to see a lot more of it show in the Fall."

Did someone say chocolate? Oh, fabric. There's plenty of silk in that colorway at Vogue Fabrics. I personally gravitate to something a little more lively, especially now. I was actually studying the tie worn by the server at McDonald's today while I was ordering my hash-browns. That was cute, something along this adorable car-themed tie at the Purl Bee. See? Tie-making is on the upswing, it's starting with swing-set crowd first. Which of three ties above do you like? The middle one's my favorite.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Pursuit of Flappiness: Vogue 7571

Tomorrow I start a four-week solo Charleston class. It feels like an appropriate class to take now for several reasons. I need some kind of exercise that will tone me up in a way that water aerobics has failed to do. I go to the local Y thrice weekly and my figure remains the same no matter how much stretching or wiggling I do with the styrofoam noodle while I'm wading in the warm-water pool. I also need some kind of class that's utterly and completely happy, and jazz music from the 1920s and 30s totally lifts my mood. Finally, I'm looking for a workshop that will put me solidly to sleep when I come home. And I think this particular class will do the trick.

Now I will not wear anything fancy schmancy attire for this class, but I feel like I need a dress just like Flapper Fanny's at some point. Check out what the popular cartoon-girl of the 1930s wore. For a cartoon with a glowering husband, Fanny thinks: "Keeping a husband in hot water doesn't make a husband more tender." Or how about this one with suitably suspendered Fanny: "Most people call a spade a spade until they try to make a garden." I'm not one to smoke but this one's a hoot too. Can you read more about Fanny here at this blog.

I really don't know any women who read this cartoon back in the day, back somehow I can imagine the comments little old ladies who remember and what they would say:

Myrna: "I loved Flapper Fanny. She was always in the Chicago Daily News, and after my daddy read the late-afternoon edition with his pipe in the living room, my older sister Emma would always get her hands on it, and cut out the 'toons before I got a chance to read it. Then she pasted them into her scrapbook, all before I could look at it. It made me so mad. We had more than a few fights over the newspaper, and I can remember scratching and drawing blood a couple of times. Naturally, I was spanked for disrespecting an elder. Emma never did let me look before she cut...so I ended up still stealing the neighbor's paper every once in a while. Oh, I was a bad girl, I was."

Betsy: "Flapper Fanny was quintessentially naughty. Smoking, staying out late, fretting about her boyfriend. She was just everything I wanted to be...especially the hair. I figured at a young age that the boys might think I was wild if I just cut my hair like Fanny. My parents wouldn't let me. They thought I would go to hell if I got a pageboy. How do I stop a young girl who wants to grow up? I just went into the outhouse once with a pair of my mother's sewing scissors, and cut with a mirror in my other hand. Oh dear, I got in such trouble. But I wasn't sorry. The boys at school did notice my new hair-do."

Norberta: "Flapper Fanny was good, but there were lots of girl cartoons back then. We were all looking for role models, you know. I liked Marianne, who was quite the jitterbug. I remember she could cut the rug with her boyfriend. Gay and her Gang is the one that really that sticks out in my mind though. Gay seemed so saucy, and there was so much innuendo in those cartoons. I don't know how they got away with it in a family newspaper. I liked Gay. I'd cut out some of the cartoons, past them onto cardboard, and dress them up with little outfits I drew. No wonder I became an art teacher. It was all because of Gay."

That's just my make-and-pretend for today, perhaps because I like to sketch girls with drop-waist dresses and bobs. Since I'm so caught up in the era, the music and the dance of the late 1920s, I figure I need to make like Fanny sometime during my Charleston class even if it's only at the end....if and when we perform? I don't have a pair of Mary Janes anywere, but I've got the Louise Brooks hair cut. That's where the above pattern, Vogue 7571, comes in handy. Vogue Fabrics is having a sale on a half-a-table's worth of galloon-edged stretch lace. I think they may have robbed Victoria's Secret factory there's so much of this fabric. I've never seen so much of this particular type of fabric there except for the meager remnants that I'm sometimes able to eek out a t-shirt.

With the sale, there's more than enough to make a dress. Now the pattern doesn't call for anything with stretch. It's just plain old lace and charmeuse. Me? I "see" an easier than green peas dress minus the zipper in the back. All materials are as squishy and pliable as can be.

So...the challenge will be to buy the necessary fabrics and to make the time to create this Fanny-worthy dress. Right now, I'm more like to sew underwear and bathing suits with the sizable stash next to my bed and in my closet.