Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I Wore to the Interview

Yesterday, Juliane commented:

"Since you are building a work wardrobe, will you share a bit about how you are deciding WHAT clothes you need (your anticipated work environment, professional or casual, color choice, shoe styles, etc.). I am looking to return to work in academia and am also facing building a wardrobe from the ground up, and you seem to have such a good handle on this project that I thought maybe you would share your thought processes on this."

I'm sorry to disappoint, Juliane, but I'm not really making new work clothes yet since I don't know where I'll be working. I'm trying to limp through interviews with my existing wardrobe pieces from my last job search 3 years ago. I do want to make a suit but I'm not going to rush it. As far as shoe styles, while I love the look of high heels, I can't wear them. I go for what I hope is a good mix of stylish and comfortable, but comfortable always comes first. I can't really be too picky right now, but I'd prefer an environment that is more business attire than casual. I don't really want to wear jeans to work every day. But I will if I have to. ;-)

For the interview this morning, I went with the blue suit. This pic is after I returned home from the interview so I'm wrinkly from the car and a little disheveled after throwing the jacket back on. Check it out — I'm even wearing pantyhose (and I didn't hate it).

The above pic and the next are a more accurate representation of the suit color vs. the last photos of it when I asked for opinions on skirt length. It's not a bad color on me but blue is just not one of my favorite colors in general. So why did I buy it? I have no idea, except that it was pretty cheap and fit well. Maybe I was thinking of using it as a pattern, but I don't remember at this point.

I decided on this skirt length (obviously!). Any shorter and I don't think I would've been comfortable while sitting and exposing half of my chubby thighs. At this length while sitting, it rises up to just above my knees.

With the suit, I wore this Ottobre Woman blouse I made 3 years ago. It's hard to tell, but in real life there is a perfectly matching blue inside the roundish thingies in the print and the taupe is a good color on me and (I think) a pleasing contrast to the blue. The pin looks kind of like a crab in this pic, but it's actually a cursive H turned diagonally. It was my grandmother's and the H was for her — Helen.

The interview itself went very well. I think I'm probably perfect for the job and I was getting the feeling they thought so too. But — it's in St. Pete, not Tampa, so it's a bit more of a commute. It's a HUGE place and I'm sure there would be advancement opportunities, and they have a great benefits package. But I'm not counting any chickens at this point. Time to wait and see.

Yesterday, I did start the McCall's cowl neck top I showed last post, but ended up abandoning it because I didn't like how fiddly the cowl is and it just wouldn't sit nice under the jacket. I really need an FBA with it too. I was just winging it on resizing, since I ended up with the envelope of smaller sizes because I went with "Medium" without realizing it was for 12-14. I used my TNT Ottobre tee as a sloper to adjust against. It fits OK, but across the bust is definitely too tight. I'll revisit this once I get back from my trip. I have enough white ITY left for another shell of some sort, whether it's this one again or not.

This is what I changed into about 5 minutes after the suit pics were taken. It's the Walmart dress that reminds me of See & Sew 5593. The print/color is kind of bland on me, but it's fine for around the house and/or running errands. Except I'll never go to Walmart actually wearing it. Does anyone else do that — NOT wear clothes (or fabrics) to the places they came from?

This will be my last post until I'm back from my trip. I'm hoping to leave at 5 AM tomorrow morning, and I still have a hem to sew and laundry to finish, and then pack my stuff plus Tyler's list of more stuff to bring him. What does a Marine do with FOUR guitars in a barracks room he shares with another Marine?

Have a great holiday weekend (or just weekend to the non-USAers)!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I'm Wearing Today

I've been wearing my "new" skirt all day, and it passes, but the next time I do this (and there *will* be a next time since I still have blue and black denim capris in the too-big pile), I will make a kick pleat in the back. It's a little bit tricky getting into the car and going potty. ;-)

The top is my latest make of the Sunshine Top I showed you last week. I love it with this white skirt and this is what I'll be wearing on Friday in Virginia (after a run through the laundry, of course). Can you see my gold chain belt? I dug this out of the drawer. I bought it over 15 years ago and it now fits again. I love this belt, so you may get sick of seeing it.

I hemmed one dress this morning (the blue print tie-front one) and still have the Vogue to do. That will be either be tonight or, more likely, Wednesday afternoon after my interview since I still have to hem my blue skirt for the interview tomorrow (I think I have another one being set up for after I return from my trip too) and I'm actually thinking of making a plain white shell to wear with it and I haven't even cut the pattern tissue yet! Yeah, Deadline Debbie - that's me. ;-)

Here's the pattern (like the solid red one in the drawing below the photos). Now, I'd better get busy! Fingers crossed the power doesn't die again, since a t-storm is going overhead right now.

Sewing Project ADD

Vogue 8724 is nearly done. I need to serge the sideseams and then hem it. I think I'm leaving it ankle length for now, with the option to change my mind when I'm tired of tripping on it going up the stairs.

I bound the neckline using my CS machine. I trimmed the back neckline for the binding, but left the front alone.

I solved the armhole problem with binding too. It looks really small here, but this fabric is very stretchy.

See? (Yes Andrea, the armhole problem is basically that the bust needs more room but it's also the short kimono sleeve combined with a full bust. They don't usually mix too well.)

So now I have two new dresses for my upcoming trip that are nearly finished and awaiting hems. I thought I'd get that done tonight but I found myself distracted by a flashback to my teenage years and a weird feeling that I was actually contemplating "refashioning" something like all the trendy young women seem to be doing these days. Refashion? Me? Well, yeah, at least for tonight.

As I was sewing the Vogue dress, I was thinking about what I wanted to bring to wear on my trip and I was really missing my now-too-big white capris, since they pretty much scream SUMMER!

Remember these?

Then it dawned on me that they are so big that they could be a white denim skirt without too much trouble. The last time I turned jeans into a skirt was back in 1970-something. Around the same time I was wearing hiphuggers, platform shoes, crop tops and had a flat tummy. I also remember hand-embroidering a big red heart on the butt of another pair of jeans I cut-off into shorts. Yeah, we old farts were refashioning and wearing designs on our backsides long before 2011, but I digress.

So after dinner, I sat in front of Jeopardy with the capris and a seam ripper in my hands. Fifteen minutes later, I had the inseams and crotch completely ripped out and starting pin basting to resemble a pencil skirt shape. Yes, today was my day for getting stabbed with pins. (While I was doing this, I was also thinking of some sort of basting invention that is fast to put in, doesn't stab, is fast to take out, and is reusable. Sorry, but I came up with zilch.)

So here's what the back looked like after a couple of tries. I ended ripping out all the existing center back stitching and cutting through the waistband so I could take it in about 4" and blend that "dart shape" into the new CB seam.

For the front, I overlapped the inseams and crotch curve and pinned it into place. I trimmed the inside with my serger after I was satisfied everything was working and double topstitched to mimic the original felled seams.

Then, around 9:30 PM just as I had put the bottom edge to the serger to finish that edge before hemming it, there was a big crash outside and the power went out. This house could not possibly be any darker at night with no light sources. I fumbled my way downstairs to grab a flashlight and some candles. (The huge crash, BTW, always happens when the power blows. We have above-ground lines here and a big transformer box-thingie on a pole on the property line. Even though I know what the noise is, it still scares the bejeezus outta me.)

I called the electric company and the recording told me they already knew and that power would be restored by 12:30 AM. Yeah, last time it was about 8 hours. I was so disappointed I was kicked out of my sewing room. But I did the next best thing and started reading by flashlight the new sewing books I was sent to review (more on that later!), and around midnight the power came back on. Yay!! Back to the sewing room to finish serging that hem, which I'll press and sew in the morning along with the other hems waiting for me. I made it a little bit tight both because it's stretch denim and I'm planning to keep shrinking me.

So here's the nearly finished skirt. I'm so happy with it. It was fast, free, and fills the casual white bottoms void. I probably won't wear tops tucked in with it and I certainly won't wear my PJ top. ;-)

Back view. The pockets used to have jeans buttons on them, but I noticed one was gone so I cut the other one off and sewed the flaps down. Those flaps always curled up anyway, so this is a good solution for me.

Parting Shot: We had a visitor this afternoon. Meet Bandit (who's checking out all the crap still on my sewing room floor). He lives sort of behind me, and has a yard with a wooden slat fence that needs to be secured in one spot. Until it is, Chili visits him on a regular basis and sometimes Bandit comes into our yard. No one answered at Bandit's house, so we had him until about 8:30 PM when his dad got home. He's a very friendly dog and is welcome to visit anytime.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's More Painful?

… trying on an in-progress garment that's been pinned together, or ripping out basting stitches? I do both, but I can't decide which method I like best (or least).

Anyway — here's what I'm working on now, Vogue 8724. KMQ enabled me on this one after hers turned out so pretty!  And kudos for Vogue Patterns' speedy delivery. I ordered this on Wednesday last week, on the last day of their sale (with some others, ahem) and the order was sitting in my mailbox on Saturday, just in time for this pattern to be my next project. (Did I mention I should be making a suit? Hah! I'm taking a cue from Peter on that one for the moment.)

Vogue 8724

I got it cut out yesterday, but then I lost steam in the sewing room after sewing the front pleats and left it. This morning, I got up bright and early and sewed the bust darts and back princess seams and then pinned all the pieces together and prepared myself for the painful try-on. Ouch!

I cut an 18 as usual for the upper chest and it fits fine there (sorry Ann, I think I just blew your theory) and morphed to the 20 for everywhere else. Technically, it fits but there ain't no graceful drape below those pleats as they go over my tummy. Hah! That's OK, the tummy is going down so I'll just let the knit compensate and camouflage for the time being and not adjust it. This pattern has separate bust cup pieces, which is fantastic since I made NO FIT ALTERATIONS whatsoever. How often does that happen?

I will need to do something about this, which KMQ did warn about but did I listen?

I think I will just cut two new bodice pieces. Or I'll live with it. I'm still deciding.

This is the right side of the fabric, which I'm sure many of you will recognize. It's one of my very favorites and I bought TONS of it when Lucy's Fabrics was still selling the Best Rayon/Lycra Prints ever. Sigh. That means you will see it again at some point.

I drank the Kool-Aid and this pattern also fell into my cart last week. I'm not sure my stomach is ready for it yet, though.

Vogue 1250

This is definitely my Summer of the Knit Dress, but they are so comfortable and cool to wear and I think I'll get more mileage from them as I keep losing weight.

Thanks so much for all the nice comments on the M6363 dress fiasco in my last post. I really do like the third version and getting it to work wasn't that hard. There's only 4 pieces (w/o the sleeves) and two of those are the ties. Yes, it sucks that the pattern has those oddities I pointed out. But since I have now pointed them out to you, the fixes won't take you long if you really do want to make it - even out the shoulders and tuck the CF/CB if it's too wide for you. Just buy the pattern on sale instead of being impatient like I was and you'll be even less irked at McCall's than I was. ;-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

McCall's 6363: The Dirt

Usually, I wouldn't keep going this far on a pattern that is obviously poorly drafted and just plain weird, but I actually liked how it looked on me and thought I could fix the weirdness without too much trouble. I was wrong. It's more trouble than I want to deal with right now. But I will end up with one wearable and one maybe-wearable dress, so it's not a total loss.

Again, here's the muslin:

A close-up shows some of the oddities. The biggest problems are that the shoulders are two different sizes and shapes and the way the dress is pulled when it's tied makes the armholes behave differently. On one side (your left), the underarm is really low and shows the bra, even worse than what this photo shows since I've actually got a tank on under this muslin. On the other side (your right), the strap wants to slide off my shoulder and my beige bra strap is showing.

I thought I could simply fold the pattern over itself and trace one armhole/shoulder to get two that matched. As I said earlier, I was wrong.The way the dress pulls, the armholes actually have to be different so they appear the same when worn. So, I raised the armhole on your left and filled it in where my bra was showing, and I made both shoulder seams the same length because while the two different shaped armholes *may* be an actual design necessity (I'm still not sure on this one), the fact that one front was a good 1/2" longer than the back shoulder seam is simply a drafting error.

With that done, I cut #2. And cursed myself for choosing this crappy rayon knit. I know both and Fabric Mart have been selling these prints like crazy, but they really are not the best quality. 

As you can sort of see in the pic below, the neckline is too big and is now folded over and pinned, until I decide what I'm going to do with it. I'm tempted to just throw it away. I bound the neckline and armholes on my CS machine. That went OK, but too bad the neckline is too big.

Here's the other problem with the pattern. It rides up one hip because of the tie in front pulling everything in weird directions. As you can see, the pattern is also not very friendly to linear prints in the back since the CB seam is shaped and you cannot match motifs all the way down.

Here's version #3, which has all the pattern corrections I'm going to make on this one. I used an ITY knit that I've had in the stash for a while, unloved, since I'm not really a "blue" person. But the print has grown on me, and it's OK for summer casual. I think this is the dress I will wear on my sister's boat next weekend.

The back still doesn't match up perfectly, and never will, but it's much better than the #2 version and isn't quite so glaring.The ITY has more recovery and the back doesn't ride up as quickly, but it does still ride up so it' a dress that needs regular adjustment. I also used clear elastic on the neckline and armholes, which I think is helping to keep things in place better than the versions without it. I ZZ'd it onto the wrong side and then turned under a 3/8" hem and coverstitched.

I narrowed the neckline by making at tuck at the center of the neckline, which, yes, is off to the right of the pattern like it looks here. On the back piece (not shown), I cut the CB seam about 3/4" deeper, starting from the neckline and tapering to nothing over about 6 inches.

If you look carefully, you can see the different adjustments to each armhole and the different shapes of the straps. Even though one is included, I cannot believe a sleeve will work with this and if you look at the pattern illustration, the sleeved views are drawings only — not modeled by a human.

A more careful look at the pattern photo shows exactly the problems I encountered, but they are easy to miss when you are trusting an envelope and are intrigued by an unusual style. The green line divides the model in half, but look at how weird and uneven the neckline and shoulders sit on her now that I'm pointing it out.

I'm really disappointed with this pattern because I like the idea of it and it looks good on me! I have ideas of better ways to execute the design and I may try it out one day, but for now, I'm moving on.

McCall's 6363: Three Words

Don't buy it.

(I'll be back with more details and some photos as soon as I finish my struggle with my THIRD version of this evil pattern.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

McCall's 6363: Muslin Thoughts

Before I talk about my muslin for M6363, I have to say "I told ME so!" As soon as I buy fabric for a suit, I get an interview (from a company who's been holding on to my resume for at least a month). The interview is next Wednesday and I don't think I will have time to fit and make up a complete untested suit pattern by then without stress and/or frustration but I'll keep it as Option #1 for now. Option #2 is to hem the skirt on the blue suit. Option #3 is to shop for and buy a RTW suit. I'll have to weigh those options and make a decision by Saturday. Don't be surprised if I go for all 3 options. But hey — at least I have an interview! (I even had my hair trimmed today before I found out, so I'm ready in that regard.)

OK, so on to the muslin …

I used a really crappy rayon knit with minimal stretch and no intention whatsoever for this to be wearable. I cut an 18 at the shoulders and straight 20 everywhere else, with no adjustments except for square shoulders at the shoulders only, not the armholes yet.

New setting on camera = less blurry

It's snug, but it basically fits. Except that I think I need to start cutting a 16 at the neckline and shoulders because this one feels a little loose up top, like the last dress. That's nice, but it also sucks since 16 and 18 are usually the split in pattern sizes. Thankfully, it's not too hard to grade down necklines and armholes.

The pattern itself is drafted like crap, with at least three glaring errors. Is that karma for paying the non-sale price for it?

First, since one of the views is maxi length, the front and back pieces are each horizontally split and you have to join the parts into a whole before cutting fabric. The front piece is below. Can you see that it doesn't match up? It's not me — if you match one side (which I did), there's no way the other side will line up. Easy fix, but something the proofers should have caught.

Next, do you see the notation to Gather? WTF? There's no shoulder gathering in the line drawing or instructions and it's only on this one side.

And worse, both shoulders and armholes are different sizes/shapes. No wonder BMV is looking for pattern drafters! ;-)

Still, I like the design even though it's the oddest thing I've ever seen — mistakes or not. Look at this! It's a big pouch of fabric that hangs like a saggy boob until you stretch it across and tie it off.

At first, I thought the instructions were wrong for attaching the ties because I was thinking it tied on the opposite side. But once I actually did exactly as the instructions instructed and looked at the line drawing again to check what side was what, all was well. I made it far more complicated than it is. What a dork.

I'm going to narrow the neckline and raise the armholes and then cut it from a nicer fabric with more stretch. Since I'm still unemployed and with the luxury of time, I've decided to again make the long drive to North Carolina, pick up Tyler and then head to my sister's in Virginia for the 4th of July weekend. One day over the weekend will be spent frying like eggs on my sister/BIL's boat, which is docked at my mom's an hour away so we'll see her too. I think this dress in a soft rayon knit will be perfect for the outing since I'm not yet at a point where I'll even go near a bathing suit. Hopefully, next summer.

Parting Shot:
The Marine is "deployed" this week. Not really deployed, just a week-long training exercise which has his squadron living in "tin can" barracks with no a/c, sleeping on cots, and doing their jobs as if they were deployed, including live ordnance — aaack! He's enjoying it, but he also seems to have a lot of down time for goofing off like in this photo (read his note on the tank and maybe you can guess what he wishes was really in his camelback/canteen).

Review: Pleating for Mercy

I was contacted by author Melissa Bourbon Ramirez in March when she asked if I would like to receive an advance copy of her latest book, Pleating for Mercy. She provided a link to her website, where I saw the cover illustration and read the book's intro:

All the Cassidy women possess special gifts. Harlow Jane Cassidy’s is creating beautiful dresses. But she’s about to discover secrets in her own family, and another gift—one that can reach beyond the grave…

When her great-grandmother passes away, Harlow Jane Cassidy leaves her job as a Manhattan fashion designer and moves back to Bliss, Texas. But soon after she opens Buttons & Bows, a custom dressmaking boutique in the turn-of-the-century farmhouse she inherited, Harlow begins to feel an inexplicable presence…

One of her first clients is her old friend Josie, who needs a gown for her upcoming wedding. But when Josie’s boss turns up dead, it starts to look as if the bride-to-be may be wearing handcuffs instead of a veil. Suddenly Josie needs a lot more from Harlow than hemming a dress. Can Harlow find the real killer—with a little help from beyond?

Dressforms, rolls of fabric, and a sewing machine on the cover? The main character a dressmaker involved in a mystery? How could I say no? Of course I wanted to read this!

The book arrived in early May but I had to put it on hold for a little while due to my then-upcoming trip to North Carolina and Virginia, and job-search activities. I finally was able to start reading it a couple of weeks ago, and then right as I was getting near the end, I left it at my dentist's office and there it sat for a week. Arghh. I picked it up yesterday and finished it last night.

So, how was the book? It was captivating and a very enjoyable read. Ms. Ramirez does an excellent job of weaving together a murder-mystery with our favorite hobby/obsession — sewing! There are varied characters you'll get to know through the author's wonderfully detailed descriptions and you'll still be trying to guess "whodunit" by the last few pages when the mystery is finally solved. As the story unfolds, there's a little love interest for Harlow, some spiritual magic, lots of sewing, and even a number of cultural references only real stitchers will get.

This is a fun read, perfect for vacation or, if you're like me, holed up on your bed turning the pages at 2 AM to find out what happens. I'm looking forward to the next installment in this new series.

Pleating for Mercy will be released on August 2, 2011 and is available for pre-order from Amazon, paperback and Kindle, by clicking here. (I have received no compensation beyond the advance copy.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Simplicity 3874: Done, and Darn Camera

UPDATE: I set up the tripod before changing into my PJs and I think we have a winner. Well, except for no feet. Imagine my orange sandals please.

Back to the original post below …

* * * * *

The dress is done and I'm wearing it right now. I went to the library today and to Publix (grocery store). So, how sad is it that my library card *expired* and they had to reactivate it? That's not to say I don't read — I do. I just haven't been to the library lately. Like in two years! I also had a $7.50 fine to pay. Oops.

So, the above pic is nice and clear, in focus, etc. As soon as I go for the mirror shots, all hell breaks loose as seen below. I'm still using Tyler's camera and it hates mirror shots. I really need to explore the thing some more and experiment with its settings to see if I can improve things. Until then, you're stuck with these:

Arms cut off, blurry.

Arms included, but still blurry. Wet hair in both.

Truth be told, I'm not all the way thrilled with the orange trim. It looks better when you're looking at the dress as a whole, but maybe I should've just stuck with the same print. Oh well, I ain't ripping it out now. It will grow on me. Like mold.

I ended up taking two pleats in the front so the dress shoulders wouldn't slide off of my shoulders. This worked. The rest of the dress is still too big though, so next time I will fix that. The sleeves as they are now are HUGE and if I lift my arms, you can see straight into them at my bra. Note to self: Don't lift arms in mixed company!

Speaking of the sleeves, I trimmed them in orange too for no particular reason except to carry the orange theme a little too far.

Tonight, I'm going to clear off the sewing table which is still holding yesterday's haul, the pattern for the dress above, and a few other odds and ends and then I'm going to veg with a book or two. Most are nutritional/diet reference books and one is a Scott Turow novel. I'm afraid if I start the novel, I'll lose the rest of the week so I'm going to hold off on that until the weekend. Plus, I'm near the end of another book except I left it at the dentist's last week. They're holding it for me but I keep forgetting to stop by. You would think I'd be on auto-pilot for that place by now but I'll be near there tomorrow for something else, so I'll get it then and finish it before starting the next one. I don't like "UFOs" in my novel reading same as projects in the sewing room.

Parting Shot:  Here's the McCall's 6363 pattern piece I mentioned yesterday. Isn't that hilarious?

Patience Never Was One of My Virtues

While unemployed, job-hunting, and changing my overall lifestyle, I've been trying to make it a point to go *somewhere* every day. Even if it's just a very small errand. Yes, this burns a little extra gas but it forces me to get dressed for going out instead of giving in to the temptation to stay in my PJs until dinnertime, which in turn makes me feel better about stuff in general. (Of course, with all the new clothes I'm making and the old ones I'm fitting into, my laundry has doubled but that's another story!).

Monday's outing was Joann's. You're thinking, uh-oh, right? Well, you wouldn't be wrong. It was a good day for the sewing room, since my UPS delivery was waiting for me upon my return.

Here's everything all together:

The coveted McCall's pattern, for which I was too impatient to wait for a sale. But sometimes you just have to feed the soul and not quibble over a few bucks. This dress has the weirdest front pattern piece I've ever seen. I'll show it to you as soon as I start working on it, which will be in the next day or so.

Next, thread — which  was my "excuse" for going to J's in the first place since I was out of some of my basic colors. I pile up the empties and take them with me to replace, which is why you see empty spools in this pic. (Yes, I should just make a list, but this works for me so it's what I do.) I also bought buttons. More on that project in a second but I noticed today that Joann's button walls seem to have improved. There are a lot more choices and prettier buttons than there used to be. It's about time.

This is what the buttons are for. Ignore the plaid; it's for "winter" so will be stashed for a while but it caught my eye so I had to get it, and I don't usually wear plaid so I have no idea what's up with that. Underneath the plaid is a dark taupe poly suiting, which was 50% off today and so I got it for less than $4/yd. I'm going to make a suit and here's my reasoning — as soon as I start on this very interview-appropriate suit, I will find a job. You know, Murphy's Law and all. (Hey, it happened last time I made an office wardrobe!) Plus, I need a more complicated (slow!) project or my closet is going to explode from my recent output. The Simplicity pattern is for the jacket. I already had it from the last trip to Joann's during the $1 Simplicity sale. I'll decide on a skirt pattern after the jacket is done. I may even use this Simplicity for that too since I think my TNT is going to be too big. 

Jane, I blame you for this book. ;-) Seeing it on your blog over the weekend planted the seed and then your comment about the convenience of all of the flowers in one place did me in. With a 50% off coupon, it was $7 of eye candy I couldn't pass up.

The haul. The prints are headed for the washer. The solids will be stacked in the closet for a minute. This white solid replaces the one I just returned as the first one was much too gray of a white for me; I wanted bright white. Thankfully, this one is so it will become a simple shell very soon.

Finally, the orange ITY knit against the orange in the latest dress fabric. Perfect match. So that's what I'm off to work on now since I'm really writing this Monday evening even though you're reading it Tuesday. I told you, patience is not something I'm known for. ;-)