Archive for February, 2013

I can’t believe so many days have passed by between posts about my progress on the 365 photos project. Here is a mosaic of photos I took recently. Descriptions of each photo are on Flickr if you are so inclined to know what is going on in each photo.

Days 47-55 Mosaic

1. Day 47/365, 2. Day 48/365, 3. Day 49/365, 4. Day 50/365, 5. Day 51/365, 6. Day 52/365, 7. Day 53/365, 8. Day 54/365, 9. Day 55/365

I have given up on the “Purple Theme” for the month of February. Seriously, if I had kept up with it, you’d probably see 20 shitty photos of ugly purple flowers. Since I truly enjoy taking photos of my cat, I have reverted to taking a lot more photos of my sweet Bailey. In order to not bore my small readership, my goal from this point forward is to take photos of him in different positions and situations.

Only two of the photos in the above mosaic were taken with my dlsr and one of them actually didn’t come out that well despite using an external flash. My kitchen definitely has the worst lighting and I had a lot of difficulty figuring out how to best bounce the flash while still lighting the subject (my cat) with a dark background directly behind him. (wedding photography is so far out of my reach…..bleeerrrrggg.) Four of my iphone photos were edited using a filter and I actually like how all of them turned out, although I do admit that using a filter feels like cheating. Does anyone else feel this way? The remaining 3 photos were taken with my iphone and edited using Snapseed, which I discovered is free! I want to do a future post on some before/after comparison with using Snapseed. The floral photo from Day 50 is a good example that I will use.

Is it just me or has February FLOWN by? March arrives this Friday! This part of the year always bums me out because it feels like all I do is work. The next work holiday isn’t until Memorial Day…..waaaahhh! I have a lot of vacation time saved up (4 weeks!), but I’m just not quite ready to splurge on an awesome vacation. Recently I was talking to my coworkers about low cost vacations and they gave me a great idea. Actually, they pretty much planned my itinerary. I ran it by my husband and he seemed pretty excited as well since it would cover spots that neither of us have visited. Hopefully we can go on this vacation in late March or early April; I gotta plan it around some upcoming submittals. Ok, is “submittal” really not a word? Because we use it ALL THE TIME in my line of field.

Enjoy the last week of February, everyone!


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Before the long weekend, which was a week ago, I had one and a half goals in mind to accomplish. The first was to buy fabric at a nearby fabric store. I walked in and walked out after perusing TONS of fabric for about 10 minutes. I think at least 3 different workers asked if I needed help (and apparently I could get swatches as well although I don’t even know what I would do with a swatch…), but every time I said “no, thanks, just looking!” when really I wanted to say “I have no idea what I’m doing here! what fabric should I choose for a dress? what about for a skirt? what about for a blouse? why are most of your fabrics unlabeled?” I seriously need to do more research on fabric so I know what I’m talking about when I go fabric shopping. There was one fabric that I really liked and it was a taupe color, which I’m not usually drawn to, but it was $49.95/yard! I’m definitely not experienced enough to be messing around with fabric that expensive.

Fabric shopping was a bust due to my insecurities in buying fabric, but I did make a skirt! First off, I don’t understand how people can say “oh I whipped this dress up in 2 hours!” because that seems absolutely impossible at my level of sewing. I could spend 2 hours cutting pattern pieces and fabric. Anyway, I used Simplicity 2698 (a Project Runway inspired pattern, which apparently is out of print, but you can order it online), which I bought years ago and have made before so luckily I didn’t need to spend time cutting out the pattern pieces.

Simplicity 2698

(Simplicity 2698, image from PatternReview.com)

I made Version I a couple years ago (the photographed red and white skirt on the left) and made it as shown in the pattern with the skirt sewn on top of the yoke (so the top of the pleats are exposed), but this time I wanted to sew the skirt so the pleats would be sewn between the yoke and facing.

Last Sunday evening I cut my fabric, which is a lightweight navy/black (I can’t quite tell) faux-denim looking cotton I bought at Joanns months ago in the “bottomweights” section, although it’s not nearly heavy or thick enough to be used for trousers, so I thought it would work well for a skirt. Not until I cut the skirt portion did I realize I was cutting Version J, which has two tiny pleats in the front and back. I made this version a couple years back as well, but didn’t like it as much because it flared out more and looked stiffer. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough fabric to cut Skirt I, so I went with what I had. But hey, don’t I look like quite the rookie!

Rookie Tip: Not only should you measure twice before cutting, you should also check your pattern pieces twice before cutting.

I didn’t start sewing till Monday and took a long break to watch “It’s a Good Day to Die Hard” (great action movie, terrible plot) and then finished the skirt in the evening. When I finally tried it on my husband literally proclaimed “oh wow, that looks great!!!“. He caught me off guard because he’s never expressed that much excitement towards anything I’ve made before. I think he was impressed with how well it fit, because it fits like a glove in the yoke (waistband) and the length is pretty good. Howevaaaaa….I totally screwed up my invisible zipper. Here is a comparison of invisible zippers on the skirt I made years ago and then one I just finished.

Zipper Comparison

1. Invisible Zipper, 2. Not Quite Invisible Zipper

Actually, the invisible zipper in the maroon skirt is so invisible it’s really difficult to zip, but at least it’s invisible! In my new skirt, I was so excited that I sewed in the zipper correctly on the first try (using Tasia’s method in the Crescent Skirt) that I didn’t even check to make sure I sewed the fabric close enough to the zipper. And trust me, the zipper is very exposed when I’m wearing the skirt. What’s the point of having an invisible zipper if you CAN SEE IT!!? This really bothers me, so I’ll need to redo it otherwise I’ll never wear it in public (anal enough? why yes, I am!).

Overall, the skirt is ok. It kinda flares out at the sides, which I knew would happen, but it still annoys me and I’m not sure how to correct it. Maybe it’s because I still haven’t trimmed the seam allowances on the side seams. Or maybe it’s just the design. Oh, I really wish I had the made the correct skirt! Here is what the skirt looks like.  I realize now I probably should have ironed it before taking a photo….

Simplicity 2698 - Skirt J

I really like this pattern and have made it enough times that I finally know exactly what size to use. When I first made a skirt from this pattern I was just learning how to sew garments so I based my size on the measurements on the back of the envelope without knowing that the big pattern companies allow for a ton of ease in their patterns. Usually the patterns also include a finished garment measurement, but this pattern only had a finished length measurement, which seems totally ridiculous since it’s so effing easy to alter the hem. Isn’t a finished waist measurement much more  necessary for a skirt?!!?!?

I started with a size 10 for the first skirt I made and then discovered that I had to take in the sides so much that my pockets were pretty much useless. After a couple more iterations, I finally determined my correct size is a 4, which is a huge difference!!! Now, I have pockets that I can actually stick my tiny hands in! Also, I took off at least 2 inches from the hem to accommodate my below-average height. And thankfully, past me remembered to  mark the correct hem length on the pattern!

I used the sewing instructions from the Crescent Skirt Sew-Along to sew this skirt because I like the clean look of the waistband facing and how the zipper is attached. Here is a comparison of the top of the zipper (maroon skirt was constructed using Simplicity’s instructions, black skirt was constructed using Sewaholic’s instructions):

Zipper Finish Comparison

1. Zipper Detail, 2. Simplicity 2698 – Zipper Detail

You can obviously tell in the maroon skirt that I had no idea how to properly finish the top of the zipper. It looks like shit. I also used french seams on the pockets and applied twill tape at the pocket seams and waistband per Sewaholic’s methods. Seriously, I may not have been a fan of the Crescent Skirt, but I am a huge fan of Sewaholic’s pattern instructions and details. A huge reason why I just bought Sewaholic’s Minoru Jacket and Cambie Dress Patterns during Tasia’s recent free shipping promotion! I’ve been dying to make my own jacket…I can’t wait! (I figure if I start the jacket in April, then it should be done in time for the start of the rainy season, which begins October 1st.)

Overall I’m pretty happy with this skirt. The fabric isn’t the best quality (I’ll probably need to wear a slip underneath or leggings) and I’m not a huge fan of the way it flares out at the sides, but I’m really satisfied with its construction and how fairly easily it went together. This is the fifth skirt I’ve made with this pattern (3 of the versions were “wearable” muslins) and it was sewn in record time (although, not 2 hours) so it gives me hope that I will eventually get the hang of sewing clothes. I am finally convinced that it does get better!

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I’ve cleaned my sewing machine a few times, mainly after doing some free motion quilting when I know all the layers of fabric and batting are causing havoc on my Bernina. But it wasn’t until Lauren of Lladybird slapped the hands of every sewist through the interwebs and shamed us into cleaning our sewing machines that I thought I would read the manual again to see what it says.

I could have sworn when I first RTM several years ago that it advised to clean and oil every now and then. Well, to my complete shock, the manual says to clean your sewing machine after every use. EVERY USE! The manual didn’t say how often to oil your machine, but it didn’t say not to do it frequently. blerg…..so I cleaned my machine this past weekend.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of how my machine looked under the plate before and after cleaning:

Under the Hood: Before & After

1. Before, 2. After

I don’t sew all that often so I was a bit surprised by the amount of lint build-up. Or perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised given that since I sew so infrequently I easily forget how long it has been between cleanings.

I also went down below, pulled out the bobbin and cleaned in the hook rack. Does anyone else have the problem where as soon as you lower the lever, the hook rack immediately falls out? I don’t think it is supposed to come out this easily and it may be the reason why my sewing machine frequently jams when I near the end of a seam.

Day 49/365

(I applied a Flickr filter to this photo, which is why it has some texture to it in case you are wondering why it looks nothing like the other photos)

Anyway, I cleaned the hook rack with a microfiber cloth and then used an air duster to ensure all the lint was gone. I put the hook rack back in place and dropped 2 drops of oil and ran the sewing machine without any thread for a couple minutes to prevent the oil from soiling any thread or fabric. The manual says to run the machine “for a short time” after oiling, but the what the hell does “a short time” mean? I suggest being on the safe side; run your machine for a couple minutes, then sew a test swatch to make sure no oil makes it way onto your fabric.

I gotta say, after all that mess my machine sounded so much better! She seemed quieter and sewed smoother. My husband still thinks it makes a sh*t ton of noise, but then I tell him “why did I buy you noise canceling headphones?!”  I definitely won’t be cleaning my sewing machine after every use (who has the time for that), but maybe after every completed project…

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I finally failed my own monthly challenge of taking photos of purple in the month of February. Next time I do a color theme, I will make it a once-a-week challenge. I would rather take photos that are meaningful to me, than a photo of a particular thing just because I *have* to. Since all of the photos taken during the workweek were taken with my iPhone and posted to Flickr, here is another photo collage.


1. Day 42/365, 2. Day 43/365, 3. Day 44/365, 4. Day 46/365

I really like the photo from Day 44: Hot Air Balloon on Hollywood Blvd. I wish I had gotten a shot of the fire being blown into the balloon, but I was in too much of a hurry to time it correctly. 99% of the time I despise walking along Hollywood Blvd because of all the tourists and costume “performers”. Most of the time I feel like I’m *this* close to turning into Michael Douglas in Falling Down, except instead of breaking due to vehicular traffic, I’m breaking due to pedestrian traffic. I don’t know how people in NYC deal with all the foot traffic; navigating through all the hustle and bustle of real downtown city life would drive me up the freaking wall. Every now and then I do enjoy being on Hollywood Blvd when there is something cool, unique, and unexpected to look at and this was one of those times. But, if I never have to be on Hollywood Blvd ever again for the rest of my life….I would be fine with that.

If you ever visit Los Angeles and are wondering what sites to see, I would recommend avoiding this area unless you are an absolute diehard movie fan and have to see the Chinese Theater or for some reason you have to see people’s hand prints. Guess what, folks. They’re hand prints, just like yours and mine. Nothing spectacular to see. There are so many far better things to do in LA than walk along Hollywood Blvd among a sea of human misery.

Woah there, I sound so dour. Let’s end this post on a happier note. Here’s my photo from Day 45, obviously in violation of my February Photo challenge, but whatever. This is the front of the Valentine’s Day Card I gave my husband:

Day 45/365

And here is the inside:

I love you!

Funny enough, my husband gave me a very similar type of card. We tend to have this “argument” quite often.

omigod you guys, I am so happy I have off for President’s Day! I don’t have any concrete plans for the long weekend, but hopefully there is some good eating, possibly an outing to the movie theater, and maybe some catching up with old friends. I have a tenative goal to finish making a skirt, but since I always underestimate how long making a skirt will take (or rather I somehow always screw things up, which tacks on hours of extra work), I don’t have high hopes that a finished garment will be produced. My only real goal for the weekend is to buy some fabric at a nearby fabric store. They have tons of fabric, but I have yet to buy any because I’m always so overwhelmed when I walk in. I wish Tim Gunn was my BFF so he could accompany me on fabric shopping trips and make sure I don’t buy hideous fabric that is entirely unsuitable for its intended purpose. Tim Gunn and I are actually separated by 3 degrees (Me -> My Grandmother -> Tim’s Mother -> Tim) I think that’s 3….I can’t really figure out how to count degrees of separation…..anyhooo….that’s my humble brag for the month! 🙂 Not that it’s going to get Tim Gunn to go fabric shopping with me or anything. I’ll just have to pretend he’s there guiding me through my purchase(s).

Happy Long Weekend, everyone!

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I have to start by expressing my admiration for Tasia and her pattern line, Sewaholic Patterns. I love reading her blog and seeing what patterns she develops. Also, she’s cute as pie and I really want to support her business. I bought her Renfrew top pattern when it was released and made a couple tops, but the fabric I used was utterly terrible so the tops are more wearable muslins rather than wearable garments. I keep meaning to buy quality fabric because I really like the Renfrew pattern, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

One day back in August 2012 I had a strong urge to make the Crescent Skirt so I stopped by Sew LA on my way home from work and bought this pattern along with the Thurlow Trousers pattern and fabric for the skirt. I really wanted to use a cotton voile for the skirt, but Tasia mentioned that quilting cotton could be used as well. I thought the fabric I bought is called “City Commute”, but I just googled it and can’t find it anywhere, so maybe the fabric line is called something else. Anyhow, it’s a quilting cotton and I figured the grey color would go well with almost anything.

I set out to make View B, the fuller skirt option, and used the Crescent Skirt Sew-Along as my sewing companion. I finished everything, but the final hem, when I tried it on and decided that I hated how it looked on me. Unfortunately, View B made me look huge in the hips and incredibly bottom-heavy. I contemplated just finishing the hem and chalking this up to a finished (but never-will-be-worn) garment, but I decided that I really wanted to make something that I could and would want to wear. So I did what any crazy sewist would do: I took it completely apart and started making View A. Except that I got so burnt out after taking it apart, that I couldn’t deal with it anymore. It sat on my sewing table for months, until I finally had the motivation to finish it. Just before 2013 arrived I finished the skirt:

Here’s the front:
Crescent Skirt - Front
Instead of having 4 front yoke pieces as the pattern called for, I combined the two middle ones because I didn’t want a center seam .

And the back:
Crescent Skirt - Back

A close-up of the invisible zipper (which is not called for in the pattern, but I personally prefer):
Crescent Skirt -  Zipper

A close-up of the front detail:
Crescent Skirt - Front Details
You can see where an old seam was ripped out….but check out the top-stitching!

A look under (inside) the skirt:
Crescent Skirt - Inside
Those are some deep pockets, amiright? This was my first time sewing french seams in a garment. Also, I really like how the zipper was attached to the facing, which was then attached to the front yoke. I will definitely be using this technique on future skirts because it looks so polished.  Unfortunately, the hem is very un-polished….I finished the hem with iron-on bias tape. I saw this stuff at a local sewing store and thought it was worth a try. Since I desperately wanted to finished this skirt I thought I figured it would be quickest to use the iron-on bias hem tape. I definitely regret using it because it did not sew on smoothly at all. I’m also concerned how it will fare in the wash.

Final Thoughts:

It’s been over a month since I finished this skirt and I still haven’t worn it….One reason is because it’s been cold and I’m not the type to rock tights or leggings under a skirt. The other reason is because I’m just not super thrilled with how it looks. This version is definitely more flattering than the fuller skirt option, but unfortunately I don’t think this style of skirt suits my body type. I also couldn’t figure out if the skirt was meant to be worn at the natural or low waist. I made mine to sit on my low waist, but I think the yoke design, which is pretty wide (or long?) causes my legs to look shorter than usual. The skirt might look better on me if I make it to sit on my natural waist…

However, I am glad I made the skirt because I learned several new techniques. The french seam on the pockets looks so clean and I want to try it on future garments. Or perhaps I’ll try bias binding on the seams….hmmm, that’s a thought…..The skirt came together rather quickly once I put my mind to it; the construction of the skirt looks fantastic and that’s all due to the pattern, which is very well written. The sew-along was incredibly invaluable; I would have been lost at the zipper/facing point, but the step-by-step instructions were spot-on.

I may make this skirt again and if I do, then I will definitely use a cotton voile. I think quilting cotton is too stiff for this pattern. I like a bit more drape and swing in my skirts, especially with one that has so much body to it. Also, the pattern calls for interfacing on both the yoke and facing, but next time I’ll only apply it to the yoke so it’s not as stiff.

Anyway, whatever I decide to make, hopefully my next garment won’t take 4 months to complete.

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365 Photos: Days 35-41

I finally got an iPhone a week ago and am now taking way more photos with it compared to my dslr, which is good and bad. It’s good because I get to take photos I never would have because I don’t want to lug my dslr everywhere with me (especially when I’m holed up in my office for hours on end) and I can take photos a bit more discreetly. However, it’s also bad because the photos aren’t as great.

I admit that I half-assed my mine own assignment this week. First of all, it is a lot more difficult to find purple things to photograph when the rest of the world apparently does not share my love of the color purple. I resorted to taking photos of objects that were near me when I realized I had two hours left in the day to complete the “photo-a-day” challenge.

I discovered that the Flickr app allows you to apply filters to photographs similar to Instagram, I think. I’ve been having fun playing around with the filters, but I’m sure the enjoyment will wear off soon. I’ve heard Snapseed is a great mobile phone editing program, so I may purchase it eventually.

Here’s a mosaic (collage?) of the iphone photos I took this week:

1. Day 35/365, 2. Day 36/365, 3. Day 37/365, 4. Day 38/365, 5. Day 39/365, 6. Day 40/365

I included descriptions of each photo on Flickr so I won’t repeat it here.

Here is the one photo I took with my dslr this week:
Day 41/365

I don’t like buying the flag forever stamps because I think they are so boring, so I was pleased to be offered these Pixar stamps. Each stamp is really big, but they’re so adorable! There are also stamps of Wall-E and Ed Asner’s character in ‘Up’. Seriously, there are so cute I almost don’t ever want to use them.

My goal this week is to do a better job with seeking out purple in my daily commute. Maybe there will be a beautiful sunrise this week…

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I am several years late to the Sorbetto Party, but I finally made one! I thought about making a Sorbetto top last year, but of course I never got around to it. A couple Sundays ago, on a complete whim, I downloaded the free pattern on the Coletterie blog and got to work. This was my first time making something with a pdf pattern and I was a little nervous about printing at the correct scale and then assembling the different sheets. My concerns about printing to scale are warranted since I have the most difficult time printing at work. For some reason it takes several tries to correctly print an original 24″x36″ pdf to an 11″x17″ sheet of paper. (I re-read that sentence and I can’t tell if it sounds super nerdy or super lame.)

Anyhow…the great thing about this pattern is that there are only two pattern pieces: Front Bodice and Back Bodice. So freaking simple. Why didn’t I make this sooner? Actually, I know.  The one thing that kills me about Colette patterns is that the style is just not me. I love looking at the patterns and everyone’s creations, and I so badly want to dive in and make all of these garments, but I know the typical Colette Style does not look good on me, which is why I have never purchased any Colette patterns. Most of the styles have a boxier look and unfortunately, on my super petite frame (I’m 4′-11″ on a good day, over 5′-0″ depending on my shoes and, of course, only short peeps use the “with heels” description), these styles make me look even shorter. (Although, I am tempted to buy the Anise jacket because I think I could pull off the look, but the pattern looks a bit too advanced for me.) With that said, I wanted to try the Sorbetto because it looked simple enough that I could complete it in one evening and I really needed a win to get my sewing mojo back.

I used fabric that I bought months ago (at least 6 months ago) at Joanns. It was one of those purchases where I saw the fabric and thought, “oh, this would be great for a blouse!!!” and then I showed it to my husband when I got home and his reaction was something like, “really?“, accompanied by a look on his face that read, “are you out of your effing mind??” Regret. It was all I could feel. He’s no fashion maven, but he can tell good from bad and obviously I had picked bad. I pulled the fabric out of my stash bag knowing it would be a wearable muslin (underneath a fully-buttoned cardigan) and again regretted buying it. It wasn’t until I started cutting the fabric that I realized how shitty it is and then I REALLY regretted buying it. First of all, it’s a nightmare to work with, but surprisingly enough, I think the Sorbetto blouse is the perfect pattern. I don’t even know what type of fabric this is, probably some polyester crap. It’s really thin (see-through actually!) sorta sparkly from interspersed gold strands, crinkly with a bit of stretch. The random irregular stretch caused the bodice pieces to be unsymmetrical, but the drape helps to conceal a lot of mistakes. Here is a close-up of the fabric.

Day 32/365

I cut a size 0, tried it on. I knew the style would be boxy and loose, but it was waaaaaaaaay too boxy for my liking. I wanted a more defined waistline and took in the side seams by about 3/4″ at the waist, tapering at the top and bottom. I totally eyeballed this revision as I sewed, the whole time thinking “WHAT AM I DOING THIS IS GOING TO LOOK TERRIBLE OH CRAP THERE’S NO TURNING BACK!”. There is no possible way the two side seams are identical, but whatever, everyone will be too fixated on the fabric to notice the shape. I also felt the front neckline was too low, as in totally not work appropriate. Since the back neckline was also a bit low (for my taste) and I was worried the front armholes were bordering on being too tight, I only brought up the back shoulder seams by about 1/2″, which thankfully helped bring up the front neckline a smidge.

The next task was adding bias binding. I bought a 1/2″ Clover bias tape maker months ago knowing I would want or need it at some point in the future. I’m so glad I had it on hand because I would have gone bananas trying to make bias binding without it because this fabric is THE WORST FABRIC for making bias binding. It does not want to crease even with a strong press of the iron. It took me longer to make bias binding than it did to make the rest of the garment. By the time I sewed the bias binding to the neckline and armholes I was too tired to finish the bottom hem. My one night project turned into a seven-day affair….thanks, Fabric. Judgment time! Here’s the finished blouse.

Colette Sorbetto Blouse

Here is a close-up of the armhole and neckline binding and front dart. Sure, this part of the neckline binding looks fine, but trust me, it’s a disaster elsewhere.

Colette Sorbetto - Close-up

Overall thoughts:

I am really appreciative of having access to this free pattern. Even though I hacked away at it I am glad that I made it. This was the first time I made my own bias tape for a garment. I think it is a good piece to build on and revise to your liking. If you want a tighter fit, but don’t want to add a zipper, then I would suggest a fabric with a moderate stretch. I can’t wait to wear it over a camisole and under a cardigan! Yes, that’s right, I haven’t worn it yet, but I will!

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