Only Four Pieces

Only four pieces sounds like a bad deal when it's a box of See's, but when it's a pattern, it sounds pretty nice … (especially to me because I'm still wrestling with Simplicity 2180, and by "wrestling" I mean "sobbing over with a seam ripper that is glowing red from friction"). 

Like with this great pattern from Michelle at (which, by the way, has had a major update, including a shopping cart! Woot!)


Yep, this pattern supposedly only has four pieces: two bodice, and two skirt. I'm tempted to buy it just to open it up and marvel. Anyway, it's only $15 and it's B36, here.

I like how in this illustration you have Miss Burnt Orange, and Miss Purple, and then if you squint a little bit, you can see that Miss Print's print is burnt orange and purple. Which is not a combo I've tried, but by golly, I think it works. (Miss Burnt Orange and Miss Purple are both "why didn't I think of that?")

Coming up soon: more book reviews, a new shirtdress, and a Simplicity 1577 with *matched plaids*. Oh yeah. 

Return (Slightly Elevated, Not Yet Triumphal) of the Shirtdress

I think I've posted about this before, but I can't find it: Simplicity 6894.


Anyway, I made it. Here it is:


I chose such a busy print because 1) I hadn't done tucks before and figured that if they were uneven, uneven on a bed of slightly abstract ochre roses was the way to go, and 2) I have had this fabric SO LONG that it has been giving me reproachful looks. Especially as new yardage has continued to come in … it was well past the eye-rolling stage, and into heavy sighs and significant eyebrow-raising. So. Now it's ready for its close-up:


You can see a little of the red thread I used to thread-mark the buttonholes. The buttons are vintage, I have no idea where I got them, either. This is not their first rodeo — they had little bits of cloth and thread on them that I had to remove. Looks like I cut them off whatever they had been on before. (Or maybe I bought them that way? My buttons are not what you would call "organized.")

The fabric is very lightweight, just a couple steps up from voile, so I did a very deep blindstitch hem. [PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE] 

Oh! I added pockets, slash hip pockets: 

And in lieu of my usual "here's the side zipper" picture (which is nearly invisible in this print, anyway, but you can see it here if you are so inclined) I present to you instead the "here's the set-in sleeve cap." Not my finest work, but not the worst I've ever done, either:


(My set-in-sleeve-setting life changed when I finally started taking the time to sew from the top center of the shoulder down to the underarm seam on each side, instead of trying to sew the whole thing in one go from underarm seam to underarm seam.)

Verdict: A+, would sew again. This is not so hard to make (after I figured out the tucks, which look FAR more complicated than they actually are) and it's fun to wear. I felt like a 1960s schoolteacher all day, which is better than it sounds. It did end up being slightly too big (it's fine through the bodice, but I added too much ease for the pockets). I will go easier on the wearing ease next time. 

I have another shirtdress coming … one I'm very pleased with, and another one cut out. Oh, and a semi-traumatic encounter with Simplicity 2180, but I think we managed to hug it out. Stay tuned!

Another Couple of Liberty 8728s

I don't think I've posted these yet — forgive the shaky pictures — but I made two other 8728s before I went to Australia: 



Here's the back view:

This is Liberty (of course) — Percy's Leaf (from Shaukat). 

And this, in Mike (also Liberty from Shaukat) — a closeup of the bodice (kind of a shadowy picture, sorry): 

And a shaky picture of the back:


I know I'm not done with 8728 just yet — it makes up SO nicely! It's so easy to wear! — but I'm thinking it might be time for another shot at the Heidi … what do you all think?

Long-Overdue Q&A with Sarai Mitnick!

I know you all know Sarai Mitnick, of Colette Patterns … her new book (The Colette Sewing Handbook) has been out for a while (go check it out, if you didn't already get it for Christmas) and it is fantastic. I learned three new great ideas (including keeping a "someday" notebook for imagined projects) just from flipping through it, and it really rewards sitting down with it and a stack of sticky notes to mark things you want to try. 🙂

My favorite thing about Sarai's book is her emphasis on sewing as an experience, rather than just as a slower method of acquiring new clothes. I have a hard time explaining why I sew to people if I don't start with saying that I enjoy the process as much as the outcome. (If I became fabulously wealthy overnight, for instance, I would probably sew MORE, not less.)


Sarai graciously agreed (quite some time ago) to do a Q&A for me, and finally, here it is!

Q. What do you usually suggest as a first project for people learning to sew?

A. I think it's important to choose something that you have a good chance of (1) successfully finishing and (2) actually wanting to wear.

For those reasons, it's a good idea to start with simple, tailored shapes. That means nothing too flowy, no weird lines or corners, just a straightforward design without too many pieces. Patterns with fewer pieces are just faster to sew, and it's nice for a beginner to have that gratification sooner rather than risk frustration with long sewing marathons.

Skirts are a really excellent place to start when it comes to garment sewing, since they don't usually require as much fitting as something with a bodice. The bust and shoulders are usually the area that can be most challenging to get a good fit on, but with a skirt you just have to worry about the waist and maybe the hips, depending on the shape you choose.

As for making something you'll actually want to wear, a lot of classes start with the wrap skirt, which is easy to sew but isn't something that would really fit in my wardrobe, personally. But there are plenty of other really easy skirt shapes that would. I'd say to choose one of those, then pick a really cute or pretty fabric to make it in.

I'd also advise not to fear the zipper! So many people get hung up on zippers, and yeah, they can be fiddly and annoying sometimes. But most clothing does need a closure of some kind, and the more you practice with them the better you get. Look up tutorials, learn different ways of doing it, practice, make friends with your seam ripper, and go forth fearlessly!

Q. I love your approach to wardrobe planning (although I'm more of an impulse-sewer myself). Do you personally start with fabric, or colors, or shapes, or does your inspiration vary?

A. It does vary, but I think I'm pretty color oriented. We do these seasonal "palette challenges" over on my blog, where everyone comes up with their own color palette for the season and sews a little mini-wardrobe based on that palette. That's really helped me get creative with my sewing in the last year. But it all sort of fits together, because sometimes my palette comes from fabrics I own (or want to own).

Erin, even though you're an impulse sewer, one of the things I love about your sewing projects is that you'll often take a pattern and make it in several different fabrics. I do the same thing, when I find a style I love and that works, I stick with it. That's a great way to minimize frustration. I really love making the same dress in different fabrics, and trying out different techniques or details on each one.

Q. What was the hardest thing for you to learn about patternmaking? What do you like best about it?

A. Grading was pretty tricky at first. That is, learning how to create different sizes from a single size. I am the rare person who actually really likes doing math, but wrapping my head around the calculations and finding ways to keep them all straight was definitely a challenge at first. I'd made plenty of patterns before, but it wasn't until I decided to start Colette Patterns that I actually had to learn how to make different sizes! Fortunately, grading is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it.

The thing I like best about patternmaking is seeing the clothes come to life. It's really amazing to see something go from a sketch on paper to a 3D, real life garment. It never ceases to amaze me.

Q. Can you give us any sneak previews of upcoming patterns? e.g. are you working on a ball gown? A jumpsuit? A pair of Katherine-Hepburn pants? 🙂

A. Right now, we're working on a few new designs for spring/summer: two sundresses and a pair of shorts. One of the sundresses we've codenamed Sophia Loren because it just reminds me of something she would have worn in the early 60s. Probably in white and paired with big sunglasses. The other dress has a really cool shape and is going to work splendidly with border prints and eyelets, which I think is pretty exciting.
One last thing — my favorite tip from Sarai's book, on creating a "match point". I've never seen it explained as clearly before (or maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, always possible): 
Screen shot 2012-01-13 at 6.06.20 PM

Why I Won’t Be Using Simplicity PrintSew Patterns Again

So I was faffing about on Pinterest, and there was this great link from SewWeekly's Make This Look (isn't this dress lovely?): 


I went to go check out the pattern (which is Simplicity 2180, not Butterick 2180, as it has in the image) and saw that Simplicity was now offering print-on-demand patterns. "Cool," I thought. (Insert ominous music here.)

I blithely entered my Paypal information and got a confirmation link to download my pattern. I should have read the FAQ first. 

So here are some of the ways the PrintSew process is borked:

— you can't download the pattern, and you can only print the pattern three times. This is stupid DRM-thinking: "Let's make it difficult to use the product we sold you, and that will stop piracy!" In three minutes I can figure out five ways to subvert this. (Hint: Photo. Copier.) All it really does is make it difficult for people who have bought the pattern to use it again. (And it seems as if their DRM doesn't even work — Firefox on the Mac downloaded the file without blinking, and Adobe Acrobat opened it right up again.)

— but before you can even print the pattern, you have to add an Adobe "FileOpen" plug-in. Oh, and did I mention you can't use the Chrome browser? And that the installation process is borked? If the installation fails with no error message (as mine did), here's what the ReadMe file says to do:

You can also place the plug-in manually into the Acrobat/Reader application. To do so, you must first find the appropriate plug-ins folder. You can find the Acrobat plug-ins folder in one of several ways:

  • Locate your copy of Acrobat or Adobe Reader and then find the Plug-ins folder. Typically this will be in locations like the following:

    /Applications/Adobe Reader 8/Adobe

  • Acrobat/Reader 6 and later are packaged applications, so the Plug-Ins folder must be found by control-clicking the application icon and selecting Show Package Contents, then opening the folder Contents and within it the folder Plug-Ins. Paste the plug-in into this location. Note that the plug-in must not be placed in a sub-folder within Plug-Ins.
  • Search for another Acrobat plug-in, e.g. Acrofill or WebLink, and place the FileOpen plug-in into the same location. Note, however, that some Adobe plug-ins are installed into folders within the Plug-Ins folder; the FileOpen plug-in must not be placed into a sub-folder, it must be located in the root of the Plug-Ins folder.

How many people would even read the ReadMe? (I did because I compulsively read the ReadMes.) Oh, and it requires that Acrobat be your default PDF reader, too. This is flat-out dumb. It's ironic that Simplicity's tagline is "Creativity Made Simple!" because there is nothing simple about this. 

The PrintSew site does not inspire confidence, with icons out of the early 90s and messages like this:

Screen shot 2011-12-29 at 11.05.48 AM

Contrast this with BurdaStyle, which just lets you download a plain-vanilla PDF. That's how it should work. I recommend BurdaStyle downloads all the time, because they're great for people who are nervous or hesitant about working with tissue patterns. Screw it up? Print it out again! Heck, BurdaStyle should charge me a premium for their patterns, but they're some of the least-expensive ones out there (shh, don't tell them that). (And they also don't do the "list price is $20.99, but we'll do a 75% off sale every other week, okay?" rigamarole.)

Simplicity (and the other big pattern companies) need to figure this out pronto. I hardly ever go to their websites, and I hardly hardly ever go look at the books in the fabric store, either. If I'm looking for a new modern pattern to make I am much more likely to start with BurdaStyle or one of the other downloadable pattern sellers, because of the instant gratification factor. 

What do you think? Have you converted to printable patterns for your non-vintage sewing? Where do you find good downloadable printable patterns aside from BurdaStyle? Or do you prefer traditional tissue paper? (I also know lots of you draft your own patterns: I bow humbly in your direction.)

Today’s Pattern Story and Sale: Butterick 8373


Pink Print: If I tilt my head just a little bit more to the left, maybe I can shake this water out of my ear.

Red Dress: The role of Girl Kid Flash is mine, all mine. This is the best costume ever. Eat it, Wally West!

Bow White: Oh, dear. It looks as if my dress is fading out. Soon all that will be left of me will be an enigmatic floating bow. I'm like the Cheshire Cat!

Pattern from The Blue Gardenia, where Denise is running a sale (through midnight PST January 15): buy 3 or more patterns, get 35% off your total sale!

More Fabric!

You didn't think that piece of Liberty from last week was the only fabric I bought in Japan, did you? Perish the thought. :-) 

Here's the rest of my haul, this all from Tomato Fabric in Tokyo. First up: blue and mustard camo!


This is a really nice weight, and the blue is a little darker — not as teal as in this photo (not that teal is a bad thing). 

I'm not a huge Kokka fan but this print was just irresistable:


(I've been really drawn to that mustard color lately. I love it with red, so interesting!)

Another adorable conversation print (this is a nice heavy weight): 


There was also some plaid corduroy, so I bought it. Wouldn't you?


I also bought a single yard of this crazy super-narrow number fabric:


I forget who the designer is, but I saw it first made up into scarves in a department store in Japantown here in San Francisco, and loved it. But not enough to spend whatever the department store wanted, obviously. I probably should have bought two yards, because what the heck am I going to do with a yard of 22" wide fabric, I don't know. (It was still expensive even in Japan!) But I'll think of something …

Just looking at all these makes me want to jump up and start cutting things out, but it will probably be a few weeks until I have a little space clear for making these up. Suggestions welcome!

In Which I Pretend to be a Real Fashion Blogger(TM)

So the nice folks at ASDA sent me an email last month asking if I would like to "style" one of their party dresses for a blogger challenge. I pretty much never do this because most of these dresses either don't come in larger sizes, or they cost the earth, or both, which means whatever they send isn't relevant to everyday life. Also, agreeing means I have to rope the long-suffering Mr. DressADay into taking a picture of me, and THEN I have to post a picture of myself wearing something goofy. 

But, as it turned out, the dresses are from the new super-cheap George line (£20!) and come in larger sizes. Plus, I'm trying to be less self-conscious about posting pictures of myself. (And it's good I'm trying to be less self-conscious, because, frankly, in these pictures I look like a muppet, in both the US and UK senses of the term.)

Here's the dress ASDA sent: 

Screen shot 2012-01-08 at 12.48.41 PM

Yeah. This is not an optimal dress for a forty-year old. When I got the dress I found myself playing a version of the game I play in airports while waiting for my checked luggage, which is "What will I wear if my luggage is lost?" My usual lost-luggage-catastrophe plan (which, thankfully, has never been put into effect) is: run to H&M and buy a black skirt and black t-shirt and a couple of bright cardigans/pairs of tights (depending on season), and hope for the best. Only in this case, the "black skirt/black t-shirt" was "cream-colored cotton lace dress". 

So here's how I muppetized it:


ASDA George Dress #1

I was thinking kind of "late-80s/early 90s revival", because that's pretty much the last time I wore my skirts this short. (And I really loved that fuchsia-neon green combo back in the day, but never had the guts to really go for it.) The sweater is from Land's End, the tights are Hue, and the boots are a pair of Donald Pliners I bought on eBay ages ago, and which I wear when I need to add a dollop of bad-ass to something that would otherwise be too prissy. The watch is a vintage '80s swatch, too, in translucent pink. The lipstick is NARS Funny Face.

This dress is a UK size 12. (It fit fairly well — there were tie strings in the back to pull in the waist but they bugged me so I cut them off.)

Here's a better view of the boots (I really love these boots, but they're "parties only" since the heel is so high):

ASDA George Dress #2

I think if I were a bit younger, or if I lived in San Francisco Proper (or lived in Brooklyn and worked in fashion publishing) I would actually wear this outside of my fenced back yard. The only thing that's missing is some jewelry … I thought that an armful of lacquered skinny Indian bangles in bright pink and acid green would be nice, but I (of course) own no such thing, because bracelets are a pain when you type all day. 

(Supposedly all the bloggers participating will vote on the "most creative" look and the winner will get an ASDA gift card. I have about as much chance of winning as I do of attending the Met Ball this year, but I figure I should disclose that anyway.)

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled random sewing blogging.

Big in Japan

Fabric is, don't you know:

That's the Japanese Liberty print I bought in Tokyo, oh, lo these many weeks ago. (If you hadn't noticed, I got a bit behind on blogging there before Christmas … sorry about that.) I bought it at the same place I went to back in 2008 — so glad it was still there! 

It took me a while to choose this — I really wanted something dark, but of course all the spring prints were calling to me. I should have taken pictures of the runners-up, but they were mostly dark ditsy florals. This one has a little more heft to it, and the olive color is just gorgeous. Here, have a closer look: 


Not quite sure what this will be yet, but Vogue 8728 is a strong contender … 


Sew It All (or at least a couple of skirts)

I forgot to mention that I have a project in the latest issue of Sew It All … it's a no-pattern project to make skirts out of old t-shirts. 

Yep, that's the skirt I made there on the right. It really is simple to do, and all the materials together cost me less than $20 (for the skirt elastic, plus some tees from the local Goodwill). 

Here's a peek at the how-to page:


My only regret is that I couldn't actually show how to put pockets in — I had this great idea for using the the neckband of the shirt as the top of a patch pocket, but it just made the whole thing too complicated for what was supposed to be an easy project. Oh well, maybe next time … you can almost visualize it from the instructions here:


For those of you in the US, I think this is still available wherever sewing magazines are sold … not sure what the situation is overseas.