Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Squiggly Skirt

All I have left to do is to hem the lining, so I declared that it was time to take pictures. Nothing fancy. I kept with the office setting (our home office, very, very well organized, ha!) since it's a pencil skirt.

Unfortunately, I don't love it. I think it looks okay in the photo, but I'm not sure about the silhouette. I think I'm more of a A-line skirt or gathered skirt kinda gal - something with more volume.

And I really don't like where it sits on my waist. Too high. I think I must be used to waistbands sitting lower down. I feel squished in this one and not because it's too tight. Maybe I have a short torso relative to my height? I don't know.

Well, this was mainly a learning skirt anyway. I'll still wear it, but I don't think it'll be a favorite. In other news, I used the serger again last night during class, and I didn't muck it up this time!

Monday, November 28, 2011

One-Year Blog Anniversary + Some Almost Finished Projects

My first blog post was one year ago on this date - that went by fast! I haven't really reflected upon the impact blogging has had on my life...but off the top of my head, I would say that I love, love, love reading everyone's blogs and seeing what everybody makes, and that my blog is just my way of participating in that dialogue. So I think that reading all your blogs has had more impact on me than writing my own blog. Through your blogs I feel like I keep my engagement and my passion sharp because you all write such thoughtful posts and invite me to reflect upon things. My commitment to ethical purchasing has definitely been deepened by reading your blogs.

And now back to the regularly scheduled programming! I have finally finished (okay, 98% finished) the toile/muslin for my friend's skirt.

Ta da!

And the good news is that it fits how she wants it to. I'll be giving her the red skirt as soon as I fix the hem and some of the inside seams. Then it's time to tackle the real skirt with her blue silk.

Just for fun I did the pocket lining with polka dots:

There were a lot of firsts on this skirt: first time sewing bias tape on a curved waistband and first time improvising a lining, for example. The pattern doesn't call for a lining but I thought it'd be good if it had make the skirt wearable with tights. So I put in a lining as I learned to do in my sewing class, but the way the waistband was done, I ended up with 4 layers at the waist. And two of those layers have a lot of gathers, so the waist is perhaps a bit bulky, but it doesn't look bulky with my friend wears it. So I guess I'm planning on inserting the lining in the same way next time - into the waistband - unless somebody has another idea. Anybody, anybody?

Speaking of my skirt project from sewing class, here it is:

I just need to finish the waistband - some hand sewing. Then do the hem. So it will look pretty much like it does in this photo ;)

And I have one properly finished project: one of the Christmas tea towels.

I haven't ironed it yet, but I did wet it to get rid of the tracing.

You can see that my buttonhole wheels got better over time. That yellow one is really wonky. My satin stitch circles don't really look like circles either, more like diamonds! But the overall effect is still pretty, I think, mainly due to the colors. ;)

I've promptly started the next one; this time it's the 'Tree of Love' pattern:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's Your Style?

I have trouble defining what my personal style is. I asked one of my friends once to help me define it and her response was "old lady." So there's that. I'm not too conscious of having a style but apparently other people can identify it. My husband remarked the other day that another girl (woman, whatever) at our swing dance class dresses like me. I like how she dresses so I was happy with the remark, but I don't particularly think we dress similarly. Perhaps this is because my ideas about how I dress are layered in swathes of memories, of how I dressed in college, how I dressed in high school, etc.

Anyhow, all of this is simply to introduce my take on the new Colette book's (which I don't have) advice about creating a "thoughtful plan" before you sew. She (apparently) writes about identifying what you like to wear in your existing wardrobe and working with those insights to create new garments.

I got the idea for this post from Toferet's Empty Bobbin. She chooses 5 favorite items from her wardrobe and then analyzes them in terms of her style. The idea is to pick 5 items that you regularly wear, that you enjoy wearing, and whose look you really like. These are garments that make you feel and look good. Now, to determine, why?

I would say I have two styles: work and non-work. Non-work consists mainly of jeans, with some skirts, combined with cute blouses. I'm not so into t-shirts anymore. I feel like I have too many grey hairs to really pull off the standard t-shirt look anymore, so I'm not comfortable wearing them. This doesn't mean I don't wear jersey tops, just that they are a little fancy, with ruching or a shawl collar or something which fancies them up. Non-work shoes generally consist of flats.

Work shoes also generally consist of flats. And I also tend to wear separates to work: again, blouses, but this time paired with slacks or a skirt. I've begun wearing dresses more often. But for both the dresses and the skirts I generally go for knee-length or longer. If I have to bend over to pick something up I don't want all my students seeing my undies!

I would say that my work style finds its way into my non-work wardrobe, but not vice-versa. For work I dress modestly (no deep v-necks without camisoles) and I tend to dress in layers (shirt + cardigan) to cover up any sweat circles under the arm! I do tend to work up a sweat while teaching so this is important! :)

So, here's what I chose as some favorite pieces from my closet, both me-made and RTW.

#1 This is one of my favorite all-time shirts and I don't wear it much for fear of it becoming threadbare. It's both work and non-work style:

I really, really want to find a sewing pattern with a similar silhouette so I can replicate this look! Any ideas?

#2 This skirt is also both work and non-work, but more on the non-work side:

This is a wrap skirt that I bought in Sevilla and I wear it all the time in summer. Obviously I have it styled here for non-work. :) I would never wear that top to school! The shirt plus this skirt also demonstrate my love of green...

#3 My palazzo pants, which can also be styled for work or non-work:

This was a photo I took for Me-Made-June, styled for work. I have paired them with a tank-top during summer for a non-work look.

#4 Probably my favorite dress, a shirtwaist dress (?) made from seersucker, J. Crew:

This is more work style, but I will wear it out even on a non-work day. I threw this on just to take a picture, obviously it hasn't been ironed! But the photo does represent how I normally style it: with flats and a belt.

And finally, #5, a cardigan:

This is one of two that I purchased from Banana Republic 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 years ago (the years blend together!) and I wear them to work all the time. While these can be styled for non-work occasions, I think they definitely belong in my work style. They are classic, sober pieces. I like a little more funk than that outside of work.

From all of this I have learned that I like brown and green, and that I dress "classically" for work and my non-work style is a little bit more hippy-dippy. Apparently I really like garments that can be worn comfortably at work and that can also be worn on a weekend without making me feel too overdressed or too old or too boring! Filling all those categories can be a challenge.

I try to funk things up a little with my shoes. Right now my shoes are fairly boring, but I used to have some nice polka-dot flats and some nice red flats. I wore them to death. I need to find some replacements because they really brighten up a dull outfit.

My other funky element - at least in autumn and winter - is paired with my skirts and dresses: colorful tights. I have a pretty good collection of tights: green and blue plaid, blue, blue with a design, and then your basic brown, grey and black. But I could add a nice merlot red pair and it wouldn't be too much ;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas Crafting

I have several sewing projects in progress, as well as several knitting projects that are just waiting to have their seams sewn! And, on top of that, I've started working on crafting some Christmas gifts. I think it's safe to post my progress here because the destined recipients have no idea that I have a blog. :)

So, I decided to embroider some tea towels this year. I fell in love with these patterns at Polka and Bloom and I've started the Harvest pattern:

Mind you, normally I do cross-stitch with just a little embroidery, so my skills are not top-notch. Hopefully the tea towels will still look pretty, if a little rustic. Don't be fooled - I traced out the design in turquoise and there's some turquoise thread - but I'm not nearly as far along as it appears in this photo!

I placed the design in one corner so that if you fold the napkin in four, the design will be centered. I won't do this for all the napkins though; this one just happened to be the appropriate size for it. :)

I have to say that I'm really enjoying the process. It doesn't require as much attention as knitting (and doesn't hurt my shoulder) and it's more portable than sewing. I was stitching away in bed last night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I love The Sew Weekly. I love looking at the main projects as well as the interpretations that participants around the globe come up with. Last week their theme was All Pinned-Up: classic pin-up styling from the 30's, 40's and 50's.

Mena writes regularly on body image and empowerment: each woman deciding for herself what she feels comfortable wearing and not simply following the fashion trends; each woman dressing for her pleasure and not simply the pleasure of those looking at her. Given Mena's (I would say, feminist) perspective on things, I'm totally comfortable with the pin-up theme.

AND, I love this project that turns the tables: Men Photographed in Stereotypical Pin-up Poses. I don't think these men sewed their own clothes and I gather the photographer Rion Sabean is the brain-child for the project and therefore responsible for the sartorial choices and styling. So, it's not quite the same as the Sew Weekly folks' project, but I still appreciate the humor and the embedded social commentary.

Thanks to Drew for sharing the link on FB. :) And the photographer sells men-up calendars at the web-site, if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sewing Mojo

What do you do when your sewing mojo is hiding somewhere in the back of the cupboards? These days I can't seem to find motivation to clear off my sewing table and get some seams done. I haven't sewn a single thing in two weeks. I partly blame the weather. The days have been gloomy lately and we don't have good lighting where I sew (in the dining room) to compensate.

But I have been getting lots of knitting done. Over the past two weeks I've nearly completed an entire sweater! I'm taking a little break now because my shoulder is acting up...all that repetitive movement.

However, I can't allow myself to simply not sew because I've kinda sorta committed myself to some Christmas projects. So what do you do when your motivation is ten steps behind you as you are approaching a deadline?

Here are some photos with pretty colors in them, just because:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cross Stitch

Cross stitch was the gateway drug into my fiber arts obsession. It was not, technically speaking, the first thing I was exposed to, but it was the thing that hooked me. I took Home Ec in Jr. High because for some reason it was either that or shop class. The prevailing opinion at that time was that shop was for losers (I know, how very Breakfast Club), so I signed up for Home Ec without much enthusiasm. In retrospect I think I would've enjoyed learning wood-working in shop class!

The "cooking" part of Home Ec (is it really cooking if all the ingredients are pre-made, like a cherry pie with store-bought pie filling and store-bought crust? I think this is more like "assembling," but I digress) didn't grab me, but our teacher (who was also, oddly, a track coach) taught us to cross stitch for a Christmas decoration. I loved it and forthwith embarked upon a career of cross-stitching things for my grandma, aunt, etc. as gifts.

This is all just back story :) The real post is about my new purchase: a cross stitch book of patterns from the Ecomusée in Alsace.

Here are some of the pieces from the book that I love.

The recreated pattern is on the left and the extant piece is on the right. The original piece is 150 years old, according to the book, and its central motif was worked 8 times.

A table cloth:

A Tree of Life:

A Christmas tree garland:

So inspiring! I don't think I'll be tackling a table cloth just yet though.

This book also talks about a traditional fabric in Alsace called 'kelsch.' I had never heard of it, but it's basically a plaid or a check pattern that is woven from hemp or linen. The fabric was designed to be used as bedding or in the kitchen. It was also hung in front of alcoves to separate off the bed from the rest of the room. There are apparently hundreds of versions documented, with various styles having nicknames, etc. Here's a photo from the book to give you an idea. Sorry it's not a great quality image:

Needless to say, I am smitten. There are still craftsmen out there who make this fabric. There's even a guy not far from T's village, in Muttersholtz: Tissage Gander. Unfortunately it's quite expensive (like 36 euros a metre!) so I won't be buying some any time soon.

Here's a better image which is from the Tissage Gander website:

Apparently sometimes the kelsch would also be embroidered. There's an example in the book of a blue and white check cloth with red cross stitch worked directly on the fabric. It was too dark to photograph so you'll just have to imagine it! And I guess I better save up my pennies so I can buy some ;)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ecomusée d'Alsace: so viel zu erleben!

I promised to do a post about our other major visit last week: the Ecomusée d'Alsace. It's basically a village that has been recreated and is designed to represent the 'traditional,' pre-industrial style of life in Alsace in the countryside (and a bit in town). I believe there are now one or two families who live on premises and who are caretakers of the site, in addition to the people who simply work there.

Many of the buildings were moved from other sites. They were deconstructed and then reconstructed at the museum. One house, for example, was originally at Grussenheim, the village where my father-in-law grew up. Here's a rather typical example of a farmhouse:

They had animals of all kinds.


I don't know what that one is doing. It kept pawing (hoofing?) at the other one.


And stork homes without storks:

It was a little late in the season for storks, so the pigeons had replaced them.

Plus there were arts and crafts of all kinds; a blacksmith:

A bandsaw:

What they use at T's house to saw the logs into furnace-size ones doesn't look that much different! Okay, it's not made entirely out of wood, but it's one that the neighbor built himself :)

For the next post, I'll talk about some of the fiber arts.