September is National Sewing Month!

So I guess September is National Sewing Month? (In the US, at least?)

September is a pretty good month for it, if you had to choose just one: there’s still warm weather (again, in the US) but also the promise of cooler weather to come, so you can sew for both seasons. There’s back-to-school, which always seems to make people want new clothes (whether they are in school or not — and more time to sew if your kids just went back to school …). Plus there’s the annual goal of getting a jump start on any holiday sewing.

If I were going to set ambitious sewing goals for the month (which I’m not, but …) I’d try to make September a month to prepare me for better sewing for the rest of the year. I’d re-organize my patterns and fabric, I’d sort through (and blog about!) all the books in my sewing library, and I’d go get all my scissors sharpened and learn to use that last orphan presser foot that came with my machine. I’d toss all the old thread that I’ve moved eight times and will never use, and do something cool with all those vintage wooden spools that I keep hanging on to. And maybe (just maybe) I’d finally cut enough squares for a quilt.

That’s if I were going to set ambitious sewing goals for September, which I’m not, because I already have ambitious non-sewing goals for September, and well into October. (Watch this space!)

What are your National Sewing Month goals?

Gray Gardens

Hey, it’s another Simplicity 2389!
Simplicity 2389 Kokka

I think this fabric is called Flower Field (maybe?) and is Kokka Trefle? A few minutes’ desultory Googling hasn’t turned up a picture. It feels like Kokka’s linen/cotton mix and I know I bought it from Superbuzzy in 2013 (thanks to saving every fabric invoice in my inbox). Here’s the full front view:
Simplicity 2389 Flower Field

And here’s the center front, with an attempt at matching the pattern across the front seam:


And of course the shoulder piping:

Simplicity 2389 Shoulder piping

The zipper/pocket (also with piping):


And the back:

Simplicity 2389 Flower field back

I say “Simplicity 2389” but it’s really the Simplicity 2389 with the modified Heidi skirt, as usual. As you might imagine after seeing so many of these hybrids in a row, I really really like this dress. (And I have a few more coming to post.) It’s just so darn easy to make and wear, and I haven’t really run out of interesting (to me, at least) combinations of print and piping (even self.jpgping).

But last week I found myself thinking about a simple, V-neck bodice with a six-gore pocketed skirt, probably in  dark denim. I’d like it for rainy cold SF days (I’m betting/hoping that we may have more than a couple of those this winter), so perhaps the tide is turning?


In Search Of … The Perfect San Francisco Coat

I’ve been working in the actual city of San Francisco for about a month and I’ve realized that I need a “San Francisco coat”.

What’s a “San Francisco coat”? It’s a coat that is:

    • lightweight but wind-resistant
    • water-resistant but not waterproof (waterproof coats are usually too warm, and it doesn’t really rain that much in SF)
    • full enough to go over full skirts
    • movement-friendly (sufficient shoulder ease)
    • HAS POCKETS (of course)
    • long enough to be another barrier between you and the seats on public transit (just in case)

So here’s the current candidate (found on Etsy from seller mbchills):


It’s possible to be a “San Francisco coat” without the buttons and collar, but I prefer buttons to zips in coats (zips are too binary; a coat is either zipped or it’s not unless you do one of those fancy zips that open from both the top and the bottom and even then that little section of the zipper gets too much stress and breaks).

I’m thinking of making this coat—the shorter length—in a lightweight gray denim, if I can find such a thing. (Sometimes I imagine fabrics that, while technically possible, do not actually exist.) I’m a little daunted by those welt pockets, but, hey, I read somewhere on Pinterest that what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.

I have zero plans right now to line this darn thing, but we’ll see what happens when I actually start making it. I also have zero plans to do all that top-stitching, but I see some nice opportunities for piping. I’m pretty sure I’ll also shorten the sleeves a little; not all the way to three-quarters, but maybe to a length that is just shy of my watch.

I’ve never actually made a coat before — I’ve cut out TWO coats, neither of which ever made it to the “put it through the sewing machine” stage.

It was pretty warm for SF last week—cardigan weather, really—but you never know when you’re going to get another week of gray, 50, and windy, so I’m hoping to start this sooner, rather than later. Wish me luck!

I'm With the Bandana

Been a while since I posted a new dress, huh? Here’s one that’s been waiting patiently in pieces for ages:

Bandana Simplicity 2389 front

This is in some black bandana print so old that I can’t remember when or where I bought it. It is not great fabric — it’s pretty stiff and there were plenty of print faults and slubs. Not sure why I was all excited about sewing with it, but I think playing with the print motifs was part of it:

Simplicity 2389 bodice

Here’s a closer look at the bodice matching:

Simplicity 2389 bodice motif matching

Here’s the back — I was really interested in having the back bodice look as much like a standalone bandana as possible:

Matched the motif across the skirt panels too (this is the altered Burdastyle Heidi skirt, again again again, I really should do a separate post detailing all the changes I’ve put it through):

Bandana Simplicity 2389 motif matching

And the piped pocket and zipper:

Bandana Simplicity 2389 side zip and pocket

I bought a bunch of invisible zippers with very lightweight, almost knit tapes in Vancouver and they’re a bit trickier to sew with than I thought. As in, I’ve already broken two of them. I’m hoping it’s more “practice makes perfect” and not “you bought a bunch of lemons”. This one went it more or less okay, though. (Fingers crossed.)

I still have some orange bandana fabric yet to make up, probably the last piece of my epic 2008 Japan fabric binge.

(If you like odd bandanas you will almost certainly like the Calamityware Bad Bandana project.)

Oh, and if you missed it, I wrote about answering customer-service email on The Pastry Box! Very exciting, I know.

It's another shirt-shirtdress!

I finally found the right old shirt to complete this particular shirt-shirtdress: shirt-shirtdress

I’ve made this particular … can’t really call it a pattern; let’s call it an agglomeration, okay? twice before. (This one I blogged about.)

Here’s the back:
shirt-shirtdress back

I made the back panel wider this go-around, and used the same shirt for the back side and pocket panels (and you can see that there are three different sizes/shades of gray gingham here, and no, I didn’t match any of them):
shirt-shirtdress: I put pockets in my pockets

My favorite, favorite part of this dress is putting the front shirt pocket as the pocket panel. For some reason this just pleases me all out of proportion to how much use that little pocket will actually get. But EVEN MY POCKETS HAVE POCKETS, y’all.

I also like making sure the front center skirt piece has a pocket in it. I have put back otherwise lovely shirts at Goodwill if they lack this essential element:

shirt-shirtdress: lotsa pockets

The piping above isn’t made from shirts, it’s some bought-in-NYC Japanese piping I had left over from a gray chambray Simplicity 2389 that I don’t think I’ve posted about yet. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. The buttonholes didn’t really line up well at the center front (you can see here how one buttonhole is actually caught in the waist seam) so I just made a new one (that’s the second buttonhole down). No worries.

shirt-shirtdress rebuttonholing

My second-favorite bit of making these shirt-shirtdresses is unpicking the front pocket, sewing the darts, then sewing the pocket back down over the darts. Which you can’t really tell from this picture, but that’s what I did:
shirt-shirtdress dart and pocket

Matching the shirttail hem is also very satisfying — especially at the sides:
more shirt-shirtdress hem

And, of course, using some of the shirt fabric to make bias tape to finish the sleeves:
shirt-shirtdress sleeve

(The sleeve opening is actually a bit too wide here — next time I’m going to see if I can actually shorten the sleeve and gather it into the sleeve cuff from a different shirt. We’ll see if I can find some XXL shirt with big cuffs to go around my biceps …)

Fabric-wise, this dress took 2 extra-large, 1 large, and 1 medium shirt (for the bodice). The extra-large shirts really make it easier to match up the side panel hem curves without having to use part of the sleeve underarm (never the best part of a secondhand shirt!) at the top of the skirt side panels.

I have one more of these cut out (in different shades/sizes of *blue* gingham) and I hope to take some construction pictures to roll up into an eventual tutorial … these are really not hard to make. (The hardest part is finding the coordinating shirts.)

Winter is Coming (so you might need a new dress)

So hey, new dress:

Camo McCalls 6727 front

This is a very faithful (for me) rendition of McCall’s 6727:


(pattern image from VintageMoms)

I mean, I did change up a couple of things; the pockets in this pattern are topstitched to the skirt front, so I added a facing instead (as I am not under any kind of wartime fabric restrictions). And of course I made them significantly bigger (they’re bigger on the INSIDE). And I added piping. Here’s a view including the side zip:

McCalls 6727 side zip and pocket

I keep getting that little diagonal pull at the top of the zipper, I think I’m adding ease to the side seams wrong.  ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I also added a few inches to the center back — I usually need more ease in what I will euphemistically call my “lower-lower back” and this is a lazy way to get it:
McCalls 6727 back skirt gathers

The skirt here is longer than my preferred summer skirt length — I like a nearly tea-length skirt in the winter to wear with knee socks and boots. (That gap between the top of the sock and bottom of the skirt irritates me.)

The square neckline is a little deep, but not uncomfortably so (so far):

McCalls 6727 bodice

And I did the bodice facings in gingham, because I like the contrast of camo and gingham and also because why not:

I’m planning on wearing this (and have worn it) with a thin long-sleeved black tee underneath, black socks, and black roper boots. (And, of course, camo is a neutral that goes with everything.)

I’ve made this one more time, in a thin silk-cotton basketweave fabric in a deep deep olive-y/loden green, which I’ll be wearing it to give a talk about words on Saturday.🙂

Because It's There

So the other night I went to a Designers + Geeks meetup because it was about “Fashion Tech Design.” I always think that I will like the idea of fashion tech design but I usually come away slight less than whelmed.

The speakers were fairly interesting — my favorite was Meg Grant, you should check out her work here — but they left me with more questions than answers, the biggest question being, “Why?”

Grant’s work was a very straightforward answer to the “Why?” question … much of her work is art-project-y, and and such raises art-project-y questions. There are dresses that emit poems when touched, and gloves you can whisper secrets into, and a blouse where lights shining behind you seem to shine right through you, thanks to a clever arrangement of light sensors and LEDs. They’re intelligent and thought-provoking, but not something you’d necessarily wear every day. (Her recent work is investigating wearable textile solar panels, which *does* seem to answer a practical “why?” question — it makes perfect sense that if your coat could charge your phone, a sunny day would be even better.)

The other two speakers’ answers to the “Why?” question were less satisfying to me — Switch Embassy being able to animate light-up messages on a t-shirt or handbag is cool, but just because something is cool is not really reason enough to do it. Tech as decoration is really just battery-powered embroidery, or a new kind of sequin.

Sensoree’s answer to the “Why?” of tech + fashion was more therapeutic: their GER “mood sweater” is essentially a mood ring. Only, you know, in sweater form. (It also comes with a new word, extimacy, ‘externalized intimacy’.) Given how much trouble some people go to in order to hide their moods, I’m not sure that the mood sweater is really ready for the office. (Boss: “Here’s your 3Q goals!” Employee’s Mood Sweater: RAGE.) Sensoree also makes self-calming garments for people with sensory integration disorders, which seemed very practical and helpful.

The separation of “fashion” and “technology” just seems weird to me. I mean, clothing IS technology. We’ve been making clothing for tens of thousands of years. And we improve our clothing with “technology” all the time — what else would you call Scotchguard, Lycra, or laser-cut leather? And we apply technology to the fashion industry as well — what else would you call rapid prototyping, the rise of online shopping, and Pinterest? But when people talk about bringing technology to fashion, what we often mean is making it so a pair of jeans now needs batteries, and I’m not sure that’s really either a pressing need or an appropriate goal.

If you say that, no, what people mean by technology + fashion is adding sensors to clothing — making your shoes part of the Internet of Things — then again we should answer the question of “Why?” Do you want to put sensors in clothing so that you can track them as they pass through the economy? Then you’d better be prepared to only license your designer handbag, and give up the right to resell it, like you do with ebooks. Do you want to use sensors to track your health? Okay, then who has access to that data, and what happens when your sister borrows your dress? Who gets notified when your waistband figures out you’ve put on five pounds? Your spouse? Your doctor? Do you want to track your kids’ whereabouts through their sneakers? What happens when the signals are hacked and everyone knows where your kids are? Or griefers decide to make it seem as if every high-school freshman is now at the local dive bar in the middle of the day? (Which will happen …) Should the sensors communicate something about you to the world around you, a new form of self-expression? Then be prepared to listen to half a dozen PSAs at the movies telling you to please switch off your scarf and enjoy the show (after visiting the concession stand, of course).

Just because you had to solder as well as sew doesn’t mean that your dress is all of a sudden more “techie” than it was when the highest-tech thing about it was the zipper. Technology isn’t a seasoning — it’s a solution. And if you’re not solving an explicit problem, then you’re leaving your solution open for other people to match their problems to. (And if there’s one thing nobody wants, it’s other people’s problems!)

But solutions wandering around in search of a problem to solve often cause more trouble than the problems they end up being applied to … and we haven’t even touched on the ecological and human-welfare problems involved in manufacturing clothes that integrate electronics.

That said, it’s perfectly okay if the problem you’re solving is “I’m bored and I want to make a dress that lights up!” I will totally admit that I’m a big fan of kerblinkety lights, and I do have half-a-dozen “LED Dress” tutorials bookmarked. They’re fun! (Watch this space!) But just because you can add a battery pack to something doesn’t mean you should.