Friday, February 24, 2012

Ouch! Fitting Issues!

So I started a new project (for me) this week, thinking I could get it done before we left town on Saturday morning. I had the materials, it didn't seem complicated, blah, blah, blah. AND, if the pattern actually fit me as drafted, it would be done already! But of course that's not the case.

The pattern is the Lotus Cami by Amy Butler.

I cut out the M/L, following the package indications for my measurements. After trying it on, all sewn up except the back and the armholes, it seems too big, but I'd rather cut it out too big than too small!

My issues are these: I'm definitely a smaller cup size than the draft model. But I have pretty broad shoulders and a broad back so I can't just go down a size. So I'm trying to adjust for a small bust along the princess seams.

And speaking of shoulders, one of mine is apparently smaller than the other, or droops or something, so I'm having to take length out of the shoulder strap for that side.

Here's my pins for those adjustments:

And here's the overall effect after pinning (except one little wrinkle in the neckline, which I've now taken care of, theoretically):

I think the neckline is looking okay, right? Ignore the side seams for the moment. It's not to easy to pin oneself and take good pictures!

But what is going on with these back wrinkles?!?

And I'm only getting the wrinkles on that side of my body. I can only assume it's related to the shoulder?? Does anyone have any ideas?

I know that Steph at 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World had quit a few problems with this pattern...but I had forgotten that when I decided to make it up! In any case, her finished shirt is gorgeous!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Project Plans

The next thing I have to finish is the Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2512 skirt that I owe my friend. I have a week's vacation coming up, so I plan on finishing the skirt then, with this fabric.

And after that, I'll continue to work on my Fall Essentials Challenge and Closing the Gap lists. But I'll also be dreaming about what to make with some new fabric I bought from Ray-Stitch.

I ordered two Colette patterns, plus some lovely celery-colored cambric cotton and pink cotton voile. I think I'll use the celery-colored cotton to make a nice dress shirt. I haven't quite decided for the cotton voile.

I got the Negroni shirt pattern to make some dress shirts for my husband. He requested these for his birthday, which was (whoops!) in January.

Here's the fabric he picked out with me; I purchased enough to (hopefully) make two or three shirts:

It's a bright white pique - hard to see in this photo!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fall Essentials Challenge: One More Down

Clearly fall has come and gone, but I'm still working on my list because all of the projects are things I really want to make and I already have the materials on hand. Here's a reminder of what I had planned. So according to this, I have two projects left to complete:

The most recently completed project - New Look 6808 - is a double whammy because it was on my Fall Essentials Palette and on my Closing the Gap list (a red shirt).

I chose View A, with the three-quarter sleeves, done up in a red linen that I had left from a Heidi costume. As you can see, the snow has melted and it's warmed up enough for me to take some outside photos:

I really love the result and I'm sure I'll be using this pattern again. I'd like to redraw the neckline and do a scoop neck eventually.

Oh yeah, and there I am wearing my refurbished jeans...but I still haven't finished removing the butterfly! And there's a self-knitted hat that I wear nearly every day in winter. I don't have a decent photo of it, so this is a combined photo shoot. ;)

I will make other changes for the next go-round. I had to chop off 5.5 cm from the hem because it was too tight across the hips, but I really liked the longer length. I should've graded out to a size 12 below the waist.

And next time I'll make the bust darts shorter because the length now makes me look *ahem* pointy.

AND, this time around I took out some of the width on the back darts to help with my sway back, but I didn't take out enough because I still have some pooling. So, next time around I'll make the back darts even skinnier...although grading out to a size 12 at the hips might help with that.

Finally, next time (and I should really just use this technique all the time) I'll insert the sleeves flat and sew up the side seams afterward. I managed to ease in the sleeve caps, but the top is still lumpier than I'd like. I'm hoping I can tame things a bit with an iron.

Still, I'm quite pleased and I can see myself making a lot of different versions of this pattern.

The instructions were to hand stitch the hem, so I did, and just for fun I added this ribbon inside:

I happened to have to leftover red ribbon (from making Christmas ornaments last year) and I'm happy with the effect. I was totally inspired by Kat's blue skirt at Modern Vintage Cupcakes. I need to buy some hem binding tout de suite!

Just a heads up for anyone thinking about making this pattern, the directions have you do a lot of hand sewing. You had to hand sew the neckline facing and part of the cuffs and the hem. I actually quite like hand sewing and so I didn't mind it, but I know some people try to avoid it. I'm sure there are ways around it though. ;)

I guess if I had finished this last week it could've been a Valentine's Day shirt! I totally did not plan that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Give-Away Results

There were less than 6 give-away entries, so I rolled a die to choose a winner :) I used this site ( and rolled a #3, Minnado!

You rolled 1 die:

Timestamp: 2012-02-14 14:21:49 UTC

Congrats and I hope you enjoy the magazines and find the book useful! Please send me an email at donnalhensley (at) gmail (dot) com, to let me know where to mail the goodies. ;)

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone and thanks for participating!

Monday, February 13, 2012


I don't have a sewing room, so to speak, but I have some storage room in the living room. Here it is, under the windows:

Those are actually Ikea kitchen islands hidden by a table cloth. I had my patterns stored in the drawers, but I ran out of room a long time ago. So, I decided to rearrange things.

I bought some green baskets (after looking all over the place!) and things are looking a little better underneath there. I like green. :)

The other side is still looking pretty disorganized. That's my repair pile, next to my uncut pattern tracings:

This weekend was a bit of a clean-fest. I also donated two bags of clothing to the Red Cross and I am happy to be rid of them. In the process of cleaning out my closet, I found these jeans:

They fit perfectly well, but there is the drawback of the giant sparkly butterfly. I used to wear these to go dancing in, but I don't go to the clubs much anymore, so...I think it's time to get rid of the butterfly. No point in wasting a perfectly good pair of jeans!

I'm using a screw driver to remove the sparklies, but maybe there's a better way? It's a bit slow-going...

Other than that, I've just been plugging away at little things. I'm still working on my striped sweater. And here's a photo of the progress on my pants for my sewing class:

My teacher had me serge the edges last week and I finished the darts and started on the pockets. I'm happy to report that the serger no longer hates me...for now.

There's one thing that I did manage to finish this weekend. I put elbow patches on one of T.'s sweaters. This time it's a contrast look. I think this sweater may be the last one that was in the repair queue:

OH! And just a reminder, you still have one day (well, a little less, depending on your time zone) to enter into the give-away. You have until the end of Feb. 13, whatever your time zone. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Give-Away

Normally I don't do much for Valentine's Day, but this year I decided to celebrate by having my first ever Give-Away on the blog.

I have three magazines to give away (2 sewing-related and 1 knitting-related) plus one book. Whoever wins, wins all four items.

The book is the fabulous Making Trousers for Men and Women by David Page Coffin, including the DVD-Rom. The magazines are Threads January 2012 (number 158), Stitch Gifts 2011 from Interweave, and Knitscene Winter 2011 from Interweave.

The give-away is open to anyone (worldwide), starting from today Feb. 8 and ending on Feb. 13 2011. I'll pick a number randomly based on the blog comment numbers. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog entry, explaining what you like (or don't like) about Valentine's Day. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Zara: Front Side Finished

Yay, the front part of my striped sweater is finished (minus the cowl)! I'm happy to report that after the first few skeins, the yarn stopped being splitty.

In other news, I've finished the first two books in my 12 in 12 Book Challenge.

So far I've read two books with more than 600 pages each. My friend recommended the Shadowmarch fantasy series to me, by Tad Williams. And then she gave it to my for Christmas! So two of those books I'm using toward the challenge. If you like fantasy, and haven't read this series, I really recommend it. The first book took a while to get going, but the long set-up really pays off in all the other books.

For my next book in the challenge I'm thinking of going with a Jules Verne. That counts as a classic, right?

Also, I've added an another page to the blog to showcase other projects. I already had my clothes organized in My Handmade Closet and I wanted to do something for the projects I give away to others. For now I've put everything on the one page, but I may reorganize that in the future. So, I invite you to go have a look if you're interested. :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Living as an Immigrant in France

This post will have nothing whatsoever to do with sewing or knitting or any other kind of crafting. I experienced two separate incidents this week, each disturbing in its own way, that I want to talk about. So if you want to avoid reading my thoughts about immigration, racism, xenophobia, and just hate in general, then you should stop reading now.

I, as a white American, get to avoid experiencing a lot of prejudice and hate directed toward me simply because I am white. This is doubly true in France: because I am white and I am American, I already physically resemble the French model identity enough to escape much notice. People notice that I am American once I start speaking; so my Otherness is outed (generally) only once I open my mouth. And even then I escape a lot of prejudice that other immigrants might face because people often assume that as an American I share similar ideals to the French (Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité) and even, that because I'm American, I'm well-behaved (loud, but well-behaved), well-educated and Christian.

I feel that all immigrants should be able to experience a safe zone, where they can walk down the street without being harassed - just like the ideal for everyone else - and - JUST LIKE THE IDEAL FOR EVERYONE ELSE - be judged on their individual merits alone and not on their ethnicity, origins, religion, gender or (for lack of a better phrase) sexual orientation.

Unfortunately this week I got a peek into the dark underbelly of how some French people view immigrants, specifically immigrants coming from Africa, the Maghreb, and Eastern Europe. This was not the first time I saw this, nor, I fear, will it be the last time I will be confronted by racism and xenophobia.

(I say SOME French people and I certainly hope it is not a majority).

My forced exploration into this topic began on Tuesday when an acquaintance somehow started talking to me about the immigrants coming from Africa. This person expressed that all (or a vast majority of) African immigrants don't work, have multiple spouses, and in general, live off and abuse the social security system. Indeed, this person identified the intention to live off social security as the entire reason that immigrants from Africa come to France. Later on, this person complained that these people - as well as people from the Maghreb and Eastern Europe - commit crimes, and in general, just don't fit in because they play loud music and dress differently. Basically, the fall of the economy and "French civilization" was blamed on these immigrant groups.

This person went on to hope that Marine Le Pen (I linked to the French Wikipedia article) get elected as President this year so that immigrants will be too scared to come to France. One of the slogans associated with Le Pen and the political party the Front National is "La France aux Français." France for the French. I pointed out that (obviously) I don't want Le Pen in power because I am not French and I don't want to live in a nation that is (even more) hostile to immigrants. The reply was, oh but this doesn't concern you, it's those other immigrants that are problem.

I found these sentiments repeated during another conversation that cropped up with unrelated people. Only this time, the speakers were much more vitriolic. One person even declared to hate all Muslims.

To give you context, this happened during one my English classes. We had originally been talking about the Great Wall in China, and somehow talking about the damage caused by tourists to the Great Wall led this person to talk about Iran and how "all Arabs beat their wives," etc. and yet love the American dollar. Then the hate part was added.

I am utterly blown away that an adult, educated person could make such a gross generalization and confess to hating millions of people simply because they belong to a particular religion.

My response to this was: Do you think it's okay if I say that I hate all Jews?!?

I do not hate Jews!! I was purposefully drawing a parallel with WWII and the Holocaust (something we have previously discussed in class) because this tragedy was in part fueled by hate and resentment toward one group of people simply because they belonged to a different faith. In other words, look what position hate and racism put France (and the world) into 50 years ago. Why on earth would you want to - AGAIN - hate and persecute people simply because they belong to a particular faith?!?

The person who professed to hating all Muslims didn't want to answer me, but eventually replied that all people have the right to think what they want. To which I replied, to THINK what you want is one thing, to say it out loud in a classroom is totally different. And then to act upon that hate and try to spread it is quite another.

To be clear, I do believe people have the right to think what they want and to express their point of view. AND I'm still horrified that someone would have such a thought. AND I find the comment completely inappropriate for the context. AND if someone chooses to share such an inappropriate comment with people they don't know intimately, then they have to be prepared for the consequences, which include, me, as a teacher, pointing out faulty reasoning. Other consequences include causing their fellow students to feel offended, attacked, saddened, alienated, etc.

Anyhow, I did not simply want to cut off the discussion there because I felt like the can of worms was already open, so we should use the opportunity to try to have a constructive discussion. So, I did my best to discuss how, for example, the American Bill of Rights views and deals with the freedom to practice religion, versus the French laws. I'm not sure how constructive our discussion was, but at least it has given me the opportunity to write this blog post.

In the follow-up discussion, some of the students were accusing recent immigrant Muslims in France of certain anti-social behavior, like not following medical protocol, setting cars on fire, etc. So here is where it is important to point out that collecting statistics about a person's religion is illegal in France. There is absolutely no state-sanctioned statistical evidence that can say it was people (who happened to be Muslim) who have done such things because nowhere is this recorded, not on a police report, not on medical documents, not on any official paperwork. So people who are accusing Muslims in France of certain acts cannot do so with any hard proof that Muslims do these things more often than any other religious group.

Embedded within the problem of religious prejudice is racial prejudice. Some people assume that if you look a certain way, have a certain skin tone, that you must also practice a certain religion. And, like in America, certain kinds of crime gets associated more often with non-white people, regardless of statistical backing. In other words, people make racist assumptions. My husband is constantly being mistaken for every kind of ethnicity except what he is and I can only imagine what other kind of assumptions people make.

As our conversation developped, several students said that they do not view the wearing of the head scarf by women in France to be in itself dangerous, but they view it as a symbol of those women's difference. My word: their Otherness. And they went on to explain that they interpret the head scarf as a sign that those women do not want to integrate (their word). They were disturbed by the visual reminder of difference.

This brings me to the heart of the matter. The model of integration in France, from my perspective after having lived here as a foreigner for four years now, consists of the immigrant giving up his/her original culture, customs, and beliefs and replacing them with French ones. The French beliefs being, according to my students, Catholic beliefs. In their words, France is not legally a Catholic state, but it is a de facto culture one.

As my husband says, an immigrant in France is asked to put away any prior national or cultural identity and take on French beliefs and French ways of being. The model is not one of blending, not one of adapting, but one of disavowal and conversion. And as my students pointed out, France is a de facto Catholic culture. So for many immigrants, were they to follow this model of integration, they would have to literally convert religions.

I, too, would literally have to convert because I am not Christian. This difference does not show up in how I dress, yet it is as real a difference as that of a head-scarf-wearing woman.

From my perspective, this model of integration is doomed to fail. When a country asks its new citizens to divest themselves of any connection to their native country, to rid themselves of any cultural Otherly behavior, of any native pride, then that country is asking its immigrants to be self-hating. And while some immigrants might want to devoid themselves of their native language, culture, etc. for a myriad of reasons, other immigrants are not ashamed of their origins and could feel resentment against those who try to strip them of their origins or denigrate their original culture.

And, depending on the economy situation, education level, emotional maturity, etc. of the person feeling such pressure and such resentment (and having HATE directed at that them, and being blamed for the downfall of society, etc.), this resentment might result in anti-social behavior, ranging from graffiti and schoolyard bullying to outright violence.

So, my wish is for all immigrants (and all people for that matter) to be allowed to be simultaneously be proud of where they came from and of where they are. My wish is for all immigrants to be able to dress as they like and practice their own faiths (of course, with limits...for example, no murdering people as part of your religious rites). I want no more of this hypocritical stance that says that difference is only tolerated if it is not seen, which is the cultural equivalent of the US Armed Services "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.

And I desire this for France not only so that I and my fellow immigrants can make a safe, happy place for ourselves here, but so that native French people can reap the benefits of being a strong, diverse society. I believe that the varied perspectives and traditions of the French peoples would make the country that much more capable of responding to challenges and creating solutions in every field: science, politics, the arts, you name it.

To sum up, please, people, put away your hate and your fear and instead open up your eyes and your heart and learn something from that stranger who is your neighbor.

Just as a side note, during the discussion I had with my husband last night about what had happened, I asked him why thinks people are capable of hating entire groups of people. His answer reminded me very much of what Freud wrote in Civilization and Its Discontents, basically that groups of people (societies) form their cultural identities in part by having enemies, by being NOT THEM. This may be so, but I choose to believe that this is a learned behavior, and not innate in the human psyche, and thus that we can unlearn this!!!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I'm sure other immigrants have had different experiences; I really hope that other people have had more positive ones.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Secretary Blouse

This blouse screams to me: SECRETARY!!! But not in a bad way. ;) So I paired it with this gored I don't wear anymore because I think it normally looks frumpy. But it goes well with this shirt, I think.

(Don't ask me what I'm doing with the door; that's my attempt at posing!)

This is my second version of Simplicity 2501. This project doesn't fit into any of my on-going challenges :( I just felt the need to make something relatively quickly that wasn't going to be too I used fabric and notions that I had on hand and chose a pattern I felt comfortable with.

Wonky tie:

My photos aren't that imaginative. It snowed here yesterday and it's way too cold to do a photo shoot outside (in other words, I'm a big wuss). Here's a closer view:

I originally bought these buttons to go on a knit sweater for a little girl, but I ended up not needing them. I'm pleased with how the pattern on the button mirrors the fabric. Serendipity!

Overall I'm happy with how this turned out, especially since I just used what I had on-hand and the fabric (a quilting cotton) is probably a little too stiff than it should ideally be. I am really happy with the silhouette. I think peplums are a good thing for my figure. They give me the illusion of having a waist and hips :)

I used the same size as I did the first time I used this pattern, but for some reason, this time around it's too big in the chest. So instead of trying to do an SBA (or some other adjustment) I just cheated a bit with the buttons to pull in the top. The buttons are in a slight diagonal line now, but I can live with this, no problem.

I'm not 100% finished. You can see in this back view that the cuffs lack buttons:

So I'm going to brave the weather right now and buy the matching buttons.