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!

Are They Nucking Futz???

Here’s a reason I’m glad I sew. I just read an article in the September, 2006 issue of Harper’s Bazaar titled “How Much is Too Much?” It’s a good read, if you like reading about insanity in the corps de la mode. Now, I have come face to face with the Balenciaga platform booties that are all the rage with the fashion cognoscienti. They look like the dog’s dinner to me, but if you have size 10s like mine, you don’t necessarily want to wear anything that makes them look that much bigger than they already are. But even if I didn’t think they were ugly as sin, would they be worth $1200? In my most spendthrift, Manolo Blahnik buying days, that number would have been tough to swallow (witness the fact that I never ponied up for the black lace stiletto boots back in 2001).

But that’s a drop in the bucket next to some numbers that are floating about. You like the Calvin Klein cashmere/mink coat?
(photo courtesy of
$29,500. You read correctly. $29,500. My godson is going to Eckerd College. That’s roughly a year’s tuition – for a coat!

How about a dinner outfit? This one from Balenciaga:

(Photo courtesy of
$101,000 and change. My mortgage isn’t much more than that. As my husband said, “What happens if you spill spaghetti sauce on it?” What happens, indeed? It wouldn’t be so insulting if it weren’t so instantly dated, not to mention butt ugly. The ugly comment is my opinion. The dated comment is fact.

The article talks all about the weak dollar, the increased fuel costs, the increased labor costs, the costliness of the fabric, and other lame excuses for these obscene prices. Whah, whah, whah (think of the sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher made). It still is just voodoo economics if you ask me.

So what would it cost me to make a mink/cashmere coat? I have a brown mink/cashmere fabric in my stash that I bought ages ago at the now defunct DiCarlo Fabrics in Boston. I think I paid the princely sum of $100 for the fabric. Add in another $50 for lining, interfacing and notions. And I’ll splurge on the buttons – let’s say I get really nice ones at M&J Trims in New York for $12 each, that’s $48. My time is worth about $150/hour, so 5 hours to make it, and I can still afford to send my kid to college! That’s why I sew.

The Balenciaga? If I were to make it… Never mind, it would never happen. But even the most expensive dress that I have ever made totalled less than $600 in fabric costs, and took about 10 hours to make. That’s a lot less than my mortgage.

The shoes? I don’t make shoes. But I can go to any number of places and find some vaguely comparable (but more flattering) style for 1/5th the price, or less.

I did like these boots by Christian Louboutin:

These I could see me wearing. They are $1,190 at Barney’s New York. As one woman said in the article, “The Louboutin wedge boots are a must. You’ll just have to bring your lunch to work every day for a month to afford them!” That’s $60 per day for lunch? Wow – that’s a lotta baloney, if you ask me.

Yes indeed, I’m very glad I sew!

Fun With Lining

I wrote a review for a skirt here at PatternReview. One of the things I did when constructing the skirt was to substitute a faced waistband with an attached lining for the “standard’ lining provided with the pattern. I decided to do this because I wanted to complement the slotted seams I used in the skirt. So rather than a lining that went all the way to the top of the waist, I created the facing and lined below it. This is really easy to do. In the case of this skirt, I used the top front piece of the garment pattern for the front facing, and I traced the top of the back pattern piece for the back facing, Then I grafted those onto the bottom of the lining pieces, adding seam allowances. There’s an even easier way to do this, which is to slash your lining pattern about 3″ from the top, add seam allowances and go!

But here’s the fun part. Don’t limit yourself to ho-hum lining fabrics. Banish that Bemberg! Hang the Hang Loose! If you are a stasher like I am, I’ll bet you have some fabrics in your collection that you look at and say, “Wow, I must have had a couple of cocktails in me when I bought that.” Not hideous, but not necessarily something you would want to flash to the outside world. Well my darlings, here’s your opportunity to use that fabric and let it bring a secret smile to your face. The world may not know that you are channeling Catwoman or similar, but it adds a luxurious touch (mmmmm, leopard print silk charmeuse slides so well over leggings or tights), and people will wonder at your enigmatic smile. Have fun with it! After all, isn’t that why we do this?

Happy sewing!

Narrowing the Choices

I hit the JoAnn Vogue Pattern sale two weekends ago, and among other things, I narrowed my choice for the Winchester Hospital Breast Care Center gig to these two dresses:

Vogue 2801 is a serious contender. I love the draping, and I think the overlay would be great in the charmeuse, with the crepe as the underlay.

I would probably end up bustling the train. We’re expecting about 700 people at the gala this year, and last year I was very grateful to have put a wrist loop on the train of my Flamenco dress. Face it, no one ever intends to step on your dress, but when you get a bunch of doctors cutting loose on the dance floor after a couple of cocktails, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Vogue 2774 is another strong contender. Thanks to SBanks for pointing that one out to me. I really like the almost Grecian lines of this fabric, and the drape could work in either of the fabrics. I’d have to mock it up on the dress form to see which I prefer – charmeuse as overlay or as the under piece.

The other thing I am on a quest for to make whichever of these gowns I choose is cotton tulle. I have Kashi at Metro Textiles looking for me. He had tons of it last year, but so far can’t find any. Anyone have a source? I’m very grateful for any info. I need it to make the bustier that will be the underpinning of the gown.

Happy Sewing!

What's up in Scandinavia?

Here’s a question for my readers. I checked my tracking software, and I have gotten tons of hits today from Finland and Sweden. When I checked the referral pages, they were all searching on the Maine Mutant Beast. Can someone tell me why? I’m really curious about this one. Is Scandinavia beset by a similar phenomenon? Or did the story of the beast, which experts now think is a Chow dog gone feral BTW, just make the news over there?

Thanks for letting me know!
Happy hunting.

They Want to Take Away My What????

I just took a break from working on Butterick 4859 (at left. It’s going to be fab, just wait and see), and I came downstairs to check my email. Now, I live in the Northeast. We can put up with a lot of stuff. Hell, we have the Maine Mutant Beast in our backyards for ages and I always thought it was my dog Hoover chasing a squirrel. We can put up with loads of crap from nature, neighbors, even government. But this has gone too far.

My husband sent me this story from ABC News. We all know about the foiled terrorist plot. Even though the skeptic in me says, “Wow, terrorists; election year, hmmmmm…”, I’m still grateful for the fact that someone is looking out for us, and trying to keep the ol’ snakes off the planes. And for those friendly skies, I’m willing to give up carrying my Arbonne RE9 skincare set, my Redken Mousse, and my Poland Spring water. I’ll even forego my duty free booze, if it keeps some bureaucrat happy and off my airborne case. But now they want my Cleavage Cupcakes!?!

My first thought was, how the hell are they going to know? Is the TSA going to hire a bunch of “feelers”? Can’t you just hear the conversation?
“Joe, there’s a plane full of beauty pageant contestants at Newark in Terminal B”
“You want me to put out the feelers, boss?”
“No Joe, I think we should take care of this one personally.”
“Alright boss, I’ll get my coat”

Okay, that was bad. I like Sewing Diva Phyllis‘ take on it, “falsie-wearing jihadists – that’s brilliant!”

Well, the friendly skies haven’t been friendly for a while, but I really would rather not get friendly in that way with folks at the airport. I think I’ll limit my traveling to within driving or Amtrak distance.

Happy, um… nevermind

Ta-tas darlings! (groan!)