Product, Baby, Product!

I’ve been asked by several people how I got my hair so “big” for my singing gig. Redken, dears! I use a whole lot of mousse first, then dry my hair using my fingers to style it – DH bought me a Super Solano dryer last Christmas, and that puppy is powerful. You need that power for this kind of ‘do’. Then I use the Water Wax to piece it up, and finally I spray the you-know-what out of it using the heavy duty spray.

I don’t always go through that much work, trust me. I may be high maintenance, but not that high maintenance. But this was for the singing gig for the big Catholic conference, and you know what they say:

“The higher the hair, the closer to God!”

Happy styling.

Judge Not….

Wow, I just posted a picture of myself in my singing gig dress at another site, and I got smacked by a few people about its inappropriateness for singing at a mass. One person, who has never contributed to the site, wrote: “seems pretty low cut for a FBA at a Mass gig…with a presider and all”. First off, let me just say that I have never seen a mass without a presider and all. And I’ve sung at a whole lot of masses. They all had priests at them.

Someone suggested that I wear a camisole. You know, the picture of me in the dress is not a full front shot, so you can’t see how low cut or not it is. Fear not, I did a cleavage check before I left the house. I may tweak the nose of authority at times, but I know where the line is and I know how to stay on this side of it. And honestly, wouldn’t it be better to not take a judgemental stance on how people dress at church and just be glad they actually show up? Get a grip. I’m from Boston. My neckline, plunging or no, pales by comparison with the heinous crimes that have been perpetrated under the noses of the Church hierarchy.

Lighten up people. I’ll share something with you. The times I feel closest to God/Higher Power/Whatever you want to call it, is when I sing. And I am pretty sure that He doesn’t care about my dress:

What, and no one noticed the fishnets???????

Not-so-instant Replay: My Slipcover Adventure

I backed up all my posts to another site recently, and in doing so, I saw a couple of reviews of projects that I had done that still make me laugh or otherwise tickle my fancy. Since I’m too busy getting ready for my next recital (next Thursday at 12:30 at Tufts University’s Goddard Chapel, if you’re in the Boston area), here’s something to tide you over until I have time to be pithy again.

Couch Slipcover Project, posted on 9/3/03

Project Photo:

Pattern Rating: Difficult, but ended up with good results

Here’s the short version. This slipcover took 3 days and 17 yards of fabric to make. The cushion back has 3 main pieces, attached to sides and a deck. There is a poufy arm, and I pleated the sides to fit. The back is cut from 1 complete width of the fabric (54″ wide) with small end pieces (10″ wide each). There are 3 cushions. I made the cushion covers from a single piece of fabric for the top, front and bottom, attached to side pieces, with a zippered back panel. I made this slipcover from upholstery fabric I bought at Fabric Fix in NH. Would I make it again? Read on…

The long version

Oy vey ist mir! And that from an Irish girl! This is one of those, “What on God’s green earth was I thinking?” projects.

So here is the story. Last spring (as my DH has been fond of reminding me), we went to Fabric Fix -by the way, it’s called Fabric Fix for a reason – and he said, “You know, the couch in the family room is looking pretty beat. Can you slipcover it?” I was busy drooling over some beautiful embroidered silk and muttered something unintelligible that he interpreted as “yes”. So when he asked me how much material we needed, I said “Huh?”.

“You remember, hon, the couch?”

“What about the couch?”

“How much does it take to slipcover it?”

“17 yards, why?”

Next thing I know, a BIG bolt of fabric is being loaded into the truck and I am being dragged physically away from my silk. But don’t worry, I snuck up the next week and bought 3 yards, which will get reviewed as something or another at some point in the future. The bolt takes up its place of prominence in my sewing room.

Ignore, ignore, ignore. “Sweetie darling, can you please move this very large bolt of fabric?”

Ignore some more. Time passes. Couch is even more beat. DH is looking at me funny whenever I emerge from the sewing room with a cool new purse, dress, jacket, shirt, whatever. Grumble.

Good news! There’s a stash reduction contest! Time to do the couch!!! Couch by now is extremely beat. Major holes in the cushions; needs Febreeze bad (naughty dog, stay off the couch! Why did we get a Labrador Retriever in the first place?).

I have never made a slipcover. I am really good at apparel construction, but I have no illusions about my abilities in home-dec. When I used to work full time in high-tech, home dec was something I hired folks to do. It took other skills and more space than I had. But time and people change, and so…

Day 1. Contemplate. Look at couch, look at fabric. Okay, this is not my usual, “I see the fabric in 3 dimensions on a human body.” This is a couch. As a side note, a voice teacher once told me “Honey, every once in a while, you have to teach a couch.” – this is my couch, but it’s not here for a lesson. Grim, very grim.

Day 1 1/2. This baby is not going to cover itself. I decide to take the shears in hand and start cutting. It’s only fabric, after all. I cut out the back, the cushions, and the deck of the sofa. Hey! This is all straight lines! The cushions only need 4 seams and a zipper! This is cool!

Day 2. Sew straight lines, lots of straight lines! Whoa… what’s this bump? There are no bumps like this on the human body, not even mine! Alright, meditate, breathe deep. DH is looking at me funny again and says I’m getting that look in my eye I get before I go down a particularly terrifying double diamond ski slope. I’m going to beat this. I am NOT giving in! … I think I’ll make DS a bathrobe!

Day 3. Both DS’s are back to school now, no excuse. Alright, what is with these bumps? By the way, many expletives are being deleted, to keep this blog family-friendly. Alright, you know what? We’re draping here. Drape, sew, drape, sew. Try it on for size, then pin and drape some more. This is not so bad. A few pleats here, a few pleats there. Keep the thread clippers handy because, even though it fits perfectly with this seam attached, I need about an inch when I want to attach it to THAT seam. A little slow going, but by the time DYS gets home from kindergarten, he can sit on it (I hope I got all the pins out!).

Day 3 1/2. All seams are sewn, and I had to pinch and pleat the bizarre bumps. I’m sure that someone with home-dec experience is laughing their kiester off at me right now, but it doesn’t look terrible. A tuck here and a tuck there. Man, now I know how plastic surgeons feel! If that’s how plastic surgeons feel, remind me never to get a facelift. I added a skirt at the bottom, which compensates for a multitude of sins. Remind me to ask prospective plastic surgeons about skirts… But I digress.

The good news? DH came home from “work” (like what I do isn’t!)
“Wow! that looks great! I can’t believe it only took you three days. I thought it would take about a month!”

I feel good!

As an aside, the couch lasted another two years, until the Labrador Retriever, Otto, passed away at the ripe old age of 14

Taming the Trim Beast

My “Singing Gig Dress” provided instructional to me on several levels. First was the fit/matte jersey issue that I discussed yesterday on the Sewing Divas Blog. The second conundrum I ran into was the trim. The neckline of the dress is curved. The trim I used was a heavily encrusted, beaded trim that was backed with a lightweight buckram. This made it pretty inflexible.

So my quandary was, how to curve this to conform to the neckline edge without distorting the jersey dress? First thing that needed attention was the dress’ neckline. It needed interfacing to stabilize it. I thought about using a hair canvas on the facing, but between that and the buckram backing on the trim, I think it would have been too stiff and would not lay flatteringly against the body. Instead, I interfaced both the neckline and the facing with fusible tricot. This gave the support the trim needs but maintained the flexibility I want.

Once the dress was ready, I designed a template by tracing the neckline of the dress onto oaktag paper. I traced the entire neckline, including the back, and I decided to use that to shape and press the trim into shape.

After a very little experimentation (I didn’t have enough trim to do many tries), I realized that there was just no way to curve the trim around the back of the neckline. The beading and buckram made that impossible. So the trim only extends to the shoulders. I didn’t want to risk ruining the beading, so to press it into the shape of the collar, I worked from the back of the trim, with a silk organza press cloth and sparing amounts of steam. This took a fair amount of time, and I ended up sticking pins in the trim to hold it in place and set the shape while it cooled. The result was a good match for the neckline of the dress.

Once the trim was ready, I used a length of single-strand waxed thread to whipstitch it in place along the inner and outer borders. This project took a fair amount of time and patience, but like anything of this ilk, it was worth both. I’m quite pleased with the results.

Happy sewing!

Tim's Here!!!!

The mail came, and my DS the younger came upstairs with a package for me, saying, “Dad says you’ll be amused.” I was perplexed, until I saw the return address: EMC2. At first I thought that it was from EMC the computer storage manufacturer (old nerd habits die hard), but then I realized it was from Emmett McCarthy, the season 2 Project Runway designer, and I ripped open the package, and here he is!!!
How cool is this? It felt like Christmas when I opened the box. And he signed it!

“I’d like to thank the Academy”

And look, our glasses match!

I know; I’m a goofy goober, but he’s my hero. He will take his place of honor on the shelf in my sewing room, and whenever I get stuck, I’ll look up at him, and he’ll (figuratively) say, “Make it work!” If you want to get your own, pop over to Project Rungay and they have the information for how to order one.

Speaking of making things work, I finished my dress. It turned out pretty okay. I’ll talk about it over at the Sewing Divas.

Happy bobble-heading!

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!