Fit Class Started Tonight!

I’m so happy. My “Fit a Skirt Pattern” started tonight. I have a group of (all returning) students. Tonight’s class was all about explaining pattern sizing vs. RTW, and getting their measurements. It was hilarious and gratifying. We’re going to work from the skirt in Simplicity 5311:
It’s a multi-sized pattern that includes both misses and women’s sizes. The roughest part so far (and I knew this would be the case) is trying to convince students that the size on the pattern just doesn’t matter. They took their measurments and were practically screaming, “What do you mean, I’m a size 16!?!” My assurances that especially in patterns, size is just a number, fell on deaf ears for about 15 minutes. I’m hoping they come back. I’ll let you know.

Happy fitting!

Ramadan Begins

(Image from

I’m not sure if there is a greeting for those celebrating Ramadan. I hope those who do have easy fasts and find peace and revelation during the Holy Month. And to quote another religious source (no, I’m not one of THOSE, I’m just trying to keep it equitable), “Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.”

I’m working on the final version of the singing gig dress, so I’ll post about that this week. Meanwhile, happy Sunday!

L'Shana Tova

(Photo by David Morrison)

I hope I spelled that right. Please let me know if I didn’t – I’ll plead Irish Catholic. Happy New Year to those celebrating Rosh Hashanna. I’m singing with a local group in November, and the piece is called “Shofar”. It’s a world premier by a local composer and it is inspired by the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanna. It’s a very cool work, with a 60-piece orchestra.

So happy new year to those celebrating, and happy autumnal equinox to all!

Matte Jersey, Friend or Foe?

The story so far:

I’m making Butterick 4849 for a singing gig I have in two weeks. My decision on fabrication was – and still is – a rayon matte jersey that I bought from Kashi at Metro Textiles in New York. I am n admitted muslin hound. I had not made this pattern before, and I have had spotty results with the fit on Butterick patterns, so I decided to make one. Since I’m working with a 4 way stretch, I started with a size 12. I should use a size 12 in patterns always, based on my cross-chest measurement. But I get lazy sometimes, and use a 14, since I can mostly fit in that size. First I made a bodice muslin without sleeves from a stretch lightweight wool. I hoped to just get an idea of the fit over the bust. I don’t have that muslin anymore, unfortunately. I threw it out last week in a big cleaning fit. But take my word for it, it was the right size, and it indicated that I needed to both do a full bust adjustment, and lower the empire waist seam by about 5/8″ to give myself the room and look I was going for. So I adjusted the bodice pieces accordingly:

Once that was done, I found some remnants of the same rayon matte jersey in brown that I had used to make another outfit. I didnt’ have enough to make the whole bodice, so I had yet more jersey in black (Kashi is very persuasive) that I used for the trim on the bodice and, ultimately, the skirt. I started sewing, and immediately noticed a problem. The crosswise stretch on this beast was huge! The bust on the pattern as it is printed for a size 12 is 40 1/2″. I added room with the FBA, but when I basted the seams together, I was swimming in the top. At this point I had decided to use the muslin to make a dress for myself for the fall, so I went back, adjusted the seams, and re-stitched with much wider seam allowances. It was better, but still big. I basted on the skirt, and then closed up the back seam. I was going to put a zipper in, but this baby has so much room that I can pull it on over my head.

The other thing I noticed was that, like slinky knits (which I have decided I hate, BTW), this fabric seems to be prone to length creep. It’s not as bad as slinky, which I compare to wearing bungee cord fabric on your back, but it definitely gets weighed down. Check out the length of the bodice on this dress:

Definitely longer than the original, two-way stretch muslin was. I haven’t hemmed any of the sleeves or such. I’d like to try to salvage this, and I know what I need to do to make it work (Love that Tim Gunn!). But I think I’ll come back to this one and institute the changes on my final version.

One final note. I did pre-wash all the fabrics to get any shrinkage (significant) out. But matte jersey stretches like crazy. I’ll keep you posted. If I were making this in a non-stretch, I think most of my adjustments would be pretty dead on. But I’m going to have to rein them in with this fabric. Lesson learned – when working with a new fabric (matte jersey is pretty new to me), make a muslin!

I’ll keep you posted, and when the final version is done, I’ll review the pattern.

Happy sewing!

Rumours of My Internet Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

I thought about calling this post “But I’m Not Dead Yet!” , but I’m not sure how many of you are Monty Python fans. Do you remember that skit? John Cleese is walking through the town with a wheelbarrow calling, “Bring out your dead!” One of the others brings out Michael Palin, who says, “But I’m not dead yet!”. Okay, it’s been a while since I saw that episode. If I got the wrong actors, please forgive me. And let me know so I can fix this post. Now back to the topic at hand….

First, please accept my sincere thanks to those who have asked me to continue posting. I promise I will. I will post here; I’ll post at The Sewing Divas. I’ll post at Stitchers’ Guild. I may even post again at PatternReview. I haven’t made up my mind, but I’m not spending a lot of thought on it. I’ll say this, any decision I make won’t be public. That’s no commentary on MB’s post. Which, by the way, was a fine example of irony. Most people don’t get irony. MaryBeth does. Brava, MB!

No, I’m not going away. I’m working on an interesting fitting issue on my Butterick Dress, It has to do with matte jersey and crosswise stretch. I’m going to talk about that as soon as it’s done, which will be tomorrow. At the same time, I’m helping my friend Danielle ready her store to reopen. She was struck by lightning in July. It caused a fire, after which someone broke in an looted the store. Man, people can be so nasty. I wish there was a nasty free zone. I’d send those thieves, and a few other choice folks, there to spend some time. Snarky I can handle. Heck, snarky I can respect. Nasty? Get behind me; you’re not worth it.

And speaking of nasty-free spaces on the Net, I heartily endorse Stitcher’s Guild. It’s a moderated site that attracts a lot of sewing enthusiasts. Many of those have talents to which I can only aspire. Good folks, fair and balanced, and moderators who keep the place on an even keel. Another forum to which I occasionally contribute, and which I recommend, is Threads’ Gatherings Forum.

Nah, I’ll curse/bless you with my presence for while yet. And I’ll make my presence known. I’m a Diva after all. We Divas always have to make our presence known! Yep, stay tuned. There’s lots more to come.

Happy sewing!

My (Other) Babies

Can I show you something? These are two things that make my sewing life a lot easier and my outside life more fun. Last year for my (mumble mumble)-fifth birthday, I took my Threads Magazine earnings and bought myself a Juki industrial straight stitch machine. This baby is one fast little machine! Actually, it’s not little at all. I’m not sure how much it weighs, but it’s more than I do. And when I start up the motor, all the lights in the house dim, and we’re on 200 amp service! But I just love this machine. It runs at 3300 stitches per minute, which means I can make wadders in less than one third the time! It only does one thing – a straight lock stitch. But boy, does it do it beautifully.

BTW, I completely blame this machine on Sewing Diva Gigi. She has a herd of industrials that make me drool. This is my humble beginning. If the joists in my sewing room can support it, I’m going to get myself an industrial serger next!

Up until last year, I drove sedate sedans and station wagons. I refused to succumb to the minivan. That’s simply not in my style lexicon, nor will it ever be in it. Last year, the lease on my VW Passat ended (thank God. I hated that car from the get-go). When my DH asked what I was going to buy to replace it, I debated for a nanosecond and came up with the answer. A Mustang Convertible. I learned to drive in my mom’s ’68 Mustang hardtop. I loved that car, and every time I would see a ‘Stang on the road I would feel a pang of nostalgia. So here’s my other, other baby.

As I said to DH, it’s my mid-life crisis mobile. And as mid-life crises go, this is a lot tamer than, say, an Italian Gigolo! As you can see from the plates, I’m a Patriots fan. I took my real babies (my boys) to training camp this summer, and who should walk right by us? Tom Brady!

Yes, he is as cute as the pictures look. And he was sweet and gracious and signed tons of autographs for all the kids there.

Well, off to work. Happy Sewing!

Oh Pleeeeeeeeze Let Me Be One of the First 50!

How cool is this? The PRunGayBoys have posted a link to Emmett McCarthy’s site. Emmett is hosting a Show and Sale this Saturday at his Downtown locale. Well, being the super-fabulous mom of two young boys, my fall weekends are shot and I can’t make it. BUT, he is selling Tim Gunn bobblehead dolls! And add to that, the PRunGayBoys have made a deal that, for their first 50 friends who order one, they’ll ask Tim to sign them. I put my order in already (Tim will be sitting on the shelf overlooking my sewing room). Oh boy! I’m so excited! I missed out on the Jack Kerouac bobbleheads when the Lowell Spinners baseball team gave them away a few years ago, I’m not going to miss this one!

Happy sewing!

Next Up – A Dress for a Singing Gig

Okay! It’s the fall, that means singing season is getting into full swing. I have two gigs coming up in as many weeks. One is at Tufts University’s Goddard Chapel. It’s just a half-hour recital at the noon hour, but what the heck. It’s a great chance to trot out some things, and it gives me the chance to work with the best accompanist in the Boston Area, Bill Merrill. Bill is also a great friend, and we have done work together in the past. Here’s a page with links to a recital we did together (with our dear friend Monique Argent, who is also a great musician). The week before that, I am going to be the soprano soloist for “Laudate Dominum” from Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes di Confessore – one of the most beautiful pieces in the choral repertoire. I am singing that for The International Catholic Stewardship Conference. It’s taking place in Boston this year and they asked little old me to sing for them. That’s kind of cool! I understand the presiding bishop at this shindig is going to be the number three guy at the Vatican. No pressure, right? Good thing the running joke about me isn’t “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been 37 years since my last confession. Where would you like me to start?” Well, as my dear Daddy used to say, “He likes to hear from strangers.”

So of course, I need a new dress. Preferably one I can wear to both events. I have hit several of the recent pattern sales, and I decided to use this one, Butterick 4849. I’m going to do View C, the one with the closer fitting sleeves. It’s not as instantly dated as the “Duro” lookalikes, and I’ll be able to wear it for several seasons.

I’ll make it with a lovely matte rayon jersey I bought from my Darling Kashi at Metro Textiles in New York. I have three trims that I got from Heritage Trading on Ebay that will work. I’m going to use the middle one. The background matches the color of the jersey perfectly. It looks lighter in the picture, but that’s an artifact from the flash. Oh, by the way, Phyllis, if you’re reading this, I’m going to need some expert help on how to make this work!

Well, I’ll keep you posted. I certainly have enough projects to keep me busy for a month of Sundays.
Happy Sewing!

I Was There!!!!

Do you watch Project Runway on Bravo? If you don’t you should. It’s a fabulous show. Probably the best reality TV around. 3 of an initial 16 designer wannabes sketch, drape and sew their way to the tents at Bryant Park. These folks seriously know what they are doing. I watched the show from Season 1 Episode 1, and I could qualify to be an officially licensed Project Runway Groupie. And Tim Gunn is – well, he is the ne plus ultre of fashion TV. Style network should ditch Cindy, Fiona and, dare I say it, Isaac? And they should make themselves into the All Tim Gunn All the Time network. Manolo suggested this first, I’m just seconding his nomination. Oh, and speaking of PRun commentary, if you haven’t already, get thee to Project RunGay. Fabulous commentary that is snarky, hilarious, and dead on! But I digress…

Anyways, this last episode was mostly set in Paris. And lo and behold, where were the designer wannabes staying whilst in the City of Light? The facionable Hotel Lutetia. I was there! Okay, it was 11 years ago, before most of the designer wannabes could drink (and probably while a few of them were still in diapers), but I was there! It is a fabulous hotel. We didn’t actually stay there. We were staying at a place closer to the Gare Austerlitz. But we went to the Brasserie for dinner to celebrate my husband’s birthday. If you check out the bonus videos on Bravo’s site, there’s one of the designers having breakfast in the Brasserie. We sat at the next table over from theirs.

Oh, the seafood was unbelievable! I remember the oysters. Having been raised on Chappaquidick and Wellfleet oysters, I thought I knew something about those little mollusks. No way. The French have it all over us when it comes to oysters. We got one of those big towers with about one and a half dozen oysters of different types. There were several varieties, delicate briny babies, medium meaty sweeties, and these amazing ones called Belons. Oh. My. God. I died and went to heaven. I can’t say if the Brasserie still specializes in seafood, but you must try Belons when you are in France next!

After dinner, we went up to the bar. Our waiter at the bar was just a sweetie. When he realized we were American, he asked if he could speak English with us so he could practice. Contrary to popular myth, Parisians are charming. Parisians are the Bostonians of Europe. Crusty, reserved, but they are genuine and quite warm once you break the ice with them. I found that with just about everyone I met in Paris. I think it helped that we both spoke passable French with a fair accent. As we arrived, a jazz trio was setting up. We struck up a conversation with the singer, and it turned out she was originally from California. She found out that we were swing dancers (I was still teaching at the time), and they played a bunch of songs for us. I was drinking Champagne (natch) and for his birthday my husband ordered a glass of Napoleon cognac – when in France, right? We danced, we chatted with folks, we had a wonderful time, and decided to order a second round (it was DH’s birthday and our last night in Paris). When we asked for the check, the waiter brought it, and it was way too low. We asked him to fix it so we could pay for the second round, and he told us that the second round was on him. His words: “Because I prefere you.” Needless to say, we left him a very big tip.

Ah, Paris! Some day I hope to get back there. I’ll wait until after 2008 though.

Mmm, thanks for letting me indulge in some lovely memories. Bon Nuit!

The Cobbler's Curtains, I mean, Kids….

I finally got around to making new curtains for my spare bedroom. The spare bedroom is really the cutting room. There’s no bed in it anymore. These curtains have been a very long time coming. I made the last set when I was pregnant with my oldest. He’s 11 now, and I threw the last curtains together at the last minute – literally. It was the day before I went into labor, and I figured I had best make some curtains so the poor baby wouldn’t have sun in his eyes all afternoon. I was in such a rush I didn’t bother to line the curtains, and as you can see, sunlight was not kind to them over time. If you look from left to right, you’ll see a definite fade pattern. The left side was in direct sun much of the afternoon. The boys never noticed. They’re boys, you know? But after they both vacated the room to bunk beds in the adjoining bedroom, the decor from the nursery remained. And by now it has officially outlived its usefulness.

Well, I again don’t have a whole lot of time to make stuff. And honestly, I’m not big on sewing home dec. I do it, and I charge a lot of money for it, and I do a great job, but not for my own home. It’s that whole cobbler’s children thing. But this weekend was a pretty rainy one here in Boston, so I figured I would whip up some cafe curtains and line them this time so they will hopefully last a little longer. It’s not much, but it’s a little sewing while the kids have been getting ready for school. So here’s what I ended up with:

The fabric is a cotton pique from Building 19. One of my students, Jeanne, bought some, and I liked it well enough that I ran to the store and bought a couple of yards too. It’s lined (or in the case of the valance, backed) with unbleached muslin from my stash. The entire project took me less than two hours (thank you, industrial Juki!). It’s not couture, but at least it makes the room a little nicer. Until each of the boys wants his own room and I have to give up my cutting room.

Happy sewing!