Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Round-Up

Can the year really be half over? School has been out for a while, and I should probably revisit my school year resolutions list, but in the meantime, have some random links that tickled my fancy this last month:
  • This Cowbirds in Love comic. Cats and Star Wars and clever punning all in one! It doesn't get much better than that. Incidentally, if you enjoy punny comics about geekery and science (Sanjay is in med school, I think?), CiL is awesome.
  • I know this article about JoCo is super old (at least in internet terms), but I still found it relevant, even if I'm just a sewing blogger. I'm really sewing for myself, but I still love seeing what my readers have to say about a particular project. Whenever I finish a big/popular project, I'm kind of ruined for a few days, trying to figure out what to do next.
  • Trying to come up with inspiration for That's Sew Cinematic, I started wondering if there were any big Chinese-American film stars besides Lucy Liu. I don't know how I missed ever hearing about Anna May Wong, but wow, what a lady! Her story is heartbreaking, her outfits fabulous, and now I'm off to the library to find her films.
  • If I could, I would just dream up and make costumes like this for a living. These are astoundingly gorgeous and just out of this world. 
  • I've always thought hatting and millining were the same, so this article was a helpful clarification. And now I kind of want to take a millinery class!
  • This little newspaper clip on preparing to sew made me laugh. I do not try to look my most attractive when I sew! If my husband comes home in the middle of sewing, more often than not I'm in my unmentionables for quick-and-easy fitting. I like Gertie's suggestion of wearing a lab coat, though!
  • For those of you in VPLL's 1912 project, I stumbled across this pdf download of a book on Edwardian-ish-era underwear! It includes instructions on drafting corset covers and the petticoats and the like.
  • For those of you who are into fashion history, I really enjoyed this slideshow of extinct birds dressed in fashions from the year of their demise. Of the birds, I only recognized the great auk, but I was able to place the approximate era of most of the actual fashions. Also, did anyone else think of this gown when they saw the Carolina parakeet? I know it's the wrong year, but it's remarkably similar.
By Brian R. Williams, from here.
  • I really enjoyed reading Brooke's account of what it's actually like to work as a costumer. It's the kind of job I think would be amazing, and it turns out it is, but just with a lot of less amazing times in between the amazing ones. Which is kind of a lot like teaching, actually. 

I've finally finished my most recent sewing project -- a shirtdress! Unfortunately, San Francisco has reverted to its usual gray, overcast, faintly drizzly self, so I haven't been able to get pictures yet. I might have to just suck it up and freeze, though, like so many of you have to do to get Sew Weekly challenge pictures. Please forgive me for being a in SoCal for so many years has spoiled me.

Lastly, thank you all for your kind reception of my mom's account of her time as a garment factory worker! My parents are out of town this weekend, but when they return I'll be sure to let her know you all appreciated her story. The fruitfulness of trying to explain blogging and subscribers again to my dad is still questionable, though...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interview with a Former Garment Factory Worker

My mom is one of the most accomplished, brilliant people I know. Not only did she immigrate to the US as an adult and have to teach herself English, she also went back to college and got her CPA while raising three kids (who are all upstanding, contributing citizens, if I do say so myself). What's even more incredible is that she did all that after being garment factory worker in Hong Kong as a teen.

This is similar to what the factory looked like inside. [picture]

I always vaguely knew about this part of my mom's past, but having grown up working for my dad's company (elementary school students doing inventory, packing orders, making deliveries, etc.!), I never thought much about what her work actually consisted of. Now, as someone who's only recently come to realize how much work goes into a garment, I thought other sewists might also like to hear more about her experience. I interviewed her and translated her answers from Cantonese here.

How did you start working at the factory in the first place?

I think I was thirteen...I had just finished sixth grade, and I needed to start working to help support the family. My dad was a bus driver and didn't make much, and our family had eight people to feed. A neighbor told my mom that a nearby garment factory was hiring and training workers, but you had to be fourteen. Since I wasn't fourteen yet, my mom borrowed an ID card from a friend's daughter to get me in. The ID cards at that time didn't have pictures, just names, so the whole time I worked there I worked under the name Yuen Yee Lee. The factory managers knew, of course, that some of us workers had stolen IDs and were obviously underage, so if inspectors came by they would tell all of us underage workers to go hide in the bathroom.

What type of factory was it? What garments did you work on?

I mostly worked on button-down shirts at the Lacoste factory. I started out working on cuff plackets, then moved on to other parts and pieces. After I became more advanced, I learned to sew jeans, but at the end of the first day I looked at my hands and they were all blue from the dye! I stopped working that shift because the sewing was too heavy duty and my hands would always be blue. I also tried a stint on knit garments, but that was more difficult because the fabric was trickier. 

How big was the factory? How many other workers were there? What was the average age? What kind of training was provided?

The factory was huge! There were five or six floors, and there were at least a hundred workers on my floor.  There were all ages of workers there. The younger workers would start by doing simpler pieces, then as you became more experienced they would have you work on more complex parts of the garment, and you would make more money. Actually, there were many mother-daughter pairs that worked in the same factory.  As for training, the supervisor would sew one example piece for us, then we would be expected to start right away. If it turned out badly, I would have to rip it out and redo the piece.

What were the hours like? Breaks? Pay? 

I worked at the factory for at least three years, maybe longer. I worked ten hours a day, starting at 8 am. I always had a hard time waking up in the morning because I also went to night school, so my younger sister, who worked at the same factory, always had a hard time rousing me. I had half an hour for lunch break, but I would eat quickly and then practice dance moves with my friends on the balcony. We could take restroom breaks, of course, but it had to be fast. We worked six days a week with a day off on Saturday. Usually factories would give you Sundays off, but our factory was owned by a Jewish man and so we got Saturdays off.

Every dozen items I sewed was a few cents, so I had to work very fast to make any money. I kept a watch next to me and told myself that I needed to make x number of garments every hour. From my pay, my mom would give me a very small fraction for lunch and bus money. If I woke up early enough, I could walk to the factory and save my money for movies and going out with friends.

What was the worst part of working there? The best part?

The worst part was when new shipments would arrive, the bolts of fabric had so many chemicals in them that I would always feel sick. The odor was so strong! Also, one time I wasn't paying attention and managed to get a needle through my finger. The supervisor had to take me to the factory clinic to get it taken care of. There actually weren't too many injuries, at least once you became experienced. 

Once a year the factory would sponsor a field trip of sorts to the suburbs and we would have barbeques. Also, once a year they would offer a worker discount and you could buy two garments at 50% off. This was a big deal because Lacoste or Polo or any of these other high end brands were totally out of our normal price range.

Anything else interesting you want to share?

Some people (myself included) would steal from the company. We would bring our lunch pails with us to our workstations, and they were conveniently just the right size for a serger cone of thread. They would search our bags as we left the factory, but they never looked in our lunch pails. People would smuggle out thread, buttons, and even garment labels so that you could sew the brand name labels onto your own home-made clothes. You couldn't take too many, though, or else the supervisor would notice. 

Looking back at the experience now, how do you feel about it? What is your attitude towards sewing now?

I'm glad for the experience, as I learned many skills. I still like sewing, although I don't make my own clothes anymore because I don't really have time to do so. I've also forgotten most of what I learned about pattern drafting, so now it's mostly repairing RTW clothing and easy home dec projects like curtains.  

How do you feel about the growing movement to sew one's own clothing among people of my generation?

I think it's a good thing. It does take a lot of time to learn sewing, and time is not a luxury that everyone has. But if you have the time, it's better than just playing video games. However, for people of your generation, sewing is just a hobby that you do to show your ability to learn, or so that you can make cool things. For people of my generation, it was a skill that enabled you to make a living, so it's a totally different approach to the whole idea of sewing. 

So there you have it -- the candid answers of a no-nonsense Chinese mom, pointing out that real sewing for a living > hobby sewing > video games. I love it. Thanks, Mom, for letting me interview you!

[Incidentally, while I was asking my mom these questions, my dad walked by and was all, "Does anyone even read what you write? Who are you writing this for, anyway?" The concept of blogging is beyond him. When I tried to explain about subscribers and such, he asked suspiciously, "Where do all these people come from? Do you know them all? Why do they want to read your blog?" Le sigh.]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Leonora Knows

My husband and I went to the Treasure Island Flea this last weekend. I was all prepared to put into practice Liz's tips, but honestly, it was just kind of ho-hum and there wasn't much I found even worth asking about. It felt a little bit like Regretsy turned into a real live market, actually, with quite a few overpriced you-just-found-this-in-your-grandma's-garage-didn't-you type items. I was able to find this antique anatomy print for my sister, though:

It's her picture.

Afterwards, we continued our trip across the bridge and stopped in at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, where I've previously found pretty decent vintage patterns. This time, I'm pretty sure that someone had recently gone through the piles already, because all that was left was 80s and 90s dropped-waist, shoulder-padded monstrosities. I did, however, pick up enough vintage seam binding to last for a while, as well as this questionable pants pattern:

I don't know anything about this pattern company, nor do there seem to be any examples online of people making pants from this pattern, but I had to get it because THIS:

Oh. My. Goodness. Does Leonora know, or does Leonora know???

So yeah, I bought a dubious pattern (granted, it was only $0.20), just because there was a cat behaving characteristically on the pattern envelope. I'm pretty sure that places me squarely in the crazy cat lady category. Anyway, if I find some suitable fabric for cheap, I might actually give this pattern a try, although I'm still not sure about this particular style. In the meantime, have more Walnut, taking advantage of the amazing weather and the west-facing windows at my parents' house.

Can't believe I caught him at this perfect moment while he was grooming himself!

Seriously, Mom? Pictures of me taking a bath? What am I, a small human being?

Also, thank you all for your wonderful comments about my maxi dress! I'm blushing profusely. And I promise, my next sewing project involves more than four seams.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Magenta Mucha Maxi

First off, apologies: for the cheesy alliteration, for the over one-week break from posting anything sewing-related, and for tacking the incomparable Alphonse Mucha's name to this very modern dress whose only nod to Art Nouveau is the lily motif.

The wind whipping my hair around into vaguely Art Nouveau-esque curling tendrils?

Okay, now that the disclaimers are all done with, let's talk about this dress! I've sort of fallen off the wagon when it comes to Sew Weekly challenges, not being particularly enthused about mixing patterns, the 1940s, or Vegas. I did want to do something for the Jubilee or TV (have you seen Devra's awesome homage to Inara of Firefly?), but moving got in the way. I might go back and revisit those someday, but in the meantime, have my take on last week's holiday-themed challenge! I'm pretty sure that maxi dresses are the epitome of being on vacation, and the simple lines of this type of dress were perfect for such a large-scale floral print. I found this gloriously magenta-colored knit at the FIDM scholarship store while out with Oonaballoona (where apparently, I got away with the fabric equivalent of highway murder), and it's the first of that day's haul to be sewn up.

Wait, is that the bridge in the background?

Why, yes, it's actually clear enough to see the bridge!

I fell in love with the fabric's large white Art Nouveau-esque lilies and the stability and thickness of the knit (none of that thin, butterfly-fluttery slippery thin tissue that passes as jersey, unlike my coral-striped dress!). Upon closer inspection, I discovered that this fabric is actually white knit that's been printed with magenta all over. Whatever paint/dye they used for the magenta is slightly crunchy-feeling, and when you stretch it too much you can see the white underneath where the dye didn't reach. Ah well, what can you say when it's $2/yd?

Back view, with only a tiny bit of wrinkling around my swayback.

I wanted a one-shoulder maxi dress just to keep it from being totally boring (two straps would've essentially made this just a very long tank top!), and I was lucky enough to happen upon Dixie DIY's free one-shoulder maxi pattern. I kept her pattern's lines for the top, but instead of a waist seam I just extended the lines down and out to make an A-line-ish skirt. I also omitted a lining and instead just folded the top over to encase my elastic. Because my fabric is fairly stable, the cut of the dress is so tight, and I have a tiny apple dumpling shop, that little line of elastic is enough to hold the dress up...I was worried that I would have to put in a spaghetti strap, but it held up just fine on our half-mile (uphill) walk to the reservoir for pictures.

You can see all of the Outer Sunset down to the ocean!

Speaking of the reservoir, can you believe how gorgeous it's been in the city lately? Normally, this backdrop would just be dark gray, and I would've been freezing to death, but instead I was perfectly fine without my cardigan and you can see the Marin headlands, the bridge, and the sun reflecting off the ocean. When my city tries, it certainly cleans up nicely, doesn't it?

You can see here that the flare starts much lower than my torso.
Fabric: 2 yards of magenta-paint-on-white-knit fabric, unknown fiber content.
Notions: a strip of 0.25" elastic for the top
Techniques used: I used this same neckline finishing tutorial to finish the one armscye; it looks lovely.
Hours: I had to do some minor fitting to the torso area to get it to hug my body properly, but otherwise this was a ridiculously easy garment, clocking in at about three hours, including cutting. I also didn't bother hemming or finishing the seams inside, if you must know.
Will you make this again? Probably not, since I don't need anymore one-shoulder dresses.
Total cost: $4.50, including the elastic.
Final thoughts: My husband thought I looked hot, and a random lady walking her dog stopped me to say that my dress was beautiful, and the stretchy fabric means it's super comfortable, so I'm pretty sure this dress gets top marks. I was a little worried about how clingy it is, but I think as long as I suck in my tummy a bit and keep hiking up SF's notorious hills, I think I'll be okay. I was also concerned about my swayback and pooling fabric in the back, but I'm not sure how to adjust a waist-seamless pattern to fix that. I ended up just tugging it down a bit more so as to avoid this look, and that seems to have worked. If I were to make this style of dress again, I think I would make the flare of the skirt start at the torso instead of the hips, since the mermaid dress look, while appropriate for my wedding dress, feels like a bit much for what is supposed to be a casual dress.

Casual enough to squat down at look at the assortment of plants at the reservoir.

I feel a little sheepish about sewing up so many brainless garments lately, but I tell myself that it's because I'm gearing up to sew another 1912 project garment -- this time a whole dress! -- again, without directions. I need to ration my brain power...yes, that's it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Adjusting to Life in SF

We've been in The City for a week now, and everyone is more or less adjusting to life under my parents' roof. Here's another list because I can't be bothered with paragraph transitions right now:

1) Walnut did just fine on the trip up, much to everyone's surprise. He's taken to the larger territory of a two-story house with ease, and has cowed his uncles with his size and the sheer vehemence of his meowing. So far, the hierarchy negotiations have not come to blows. Let's hope it stays that way.

Looking out the same window as his uncles, but with his watermelon friend instead.

2) Cooking for six is a lot more difficult than cooking for two. Especially since my dad has an aversion to oh, anything too salty, too spicy, too buttery, too cheesy, or too meat-y. Actually, let's just say that he has an aversion to anything with flavor.

3) I've done very little sewing since arriving; mostly I've been running errands for my parents. I've been on too many Target, Costco, and grocery store runs in too few days. I've had fun, though, too -- I got to catch the Cult of Beauty exhibit at the Legion of Honor before it closed. Even better, my sister had free tickets! I enjoyed seeing the paintings and furniture, but getting to see the gowns was definitely the highlight. I can't wait to go to the V&A in August; this was just an amuse-bouche.

This is one of the gowns that was on display. The V&A website has a cute little set of letters that the dude wrote to his lady about it. He was a sculptor, and it totally shows in the way the dress looks. Even crazier, this dress is supposed be in striped silk, but the stripes have almost entirely faded! You can only see them from super up close, i.e. nose almost smooshed into the glass. 

4) I also got to go see Jonathan Coulton at the Great American Music Hall (which, incidentally, is an absolutely amazing venue)! He is probably my favorite songwriter ever; I mean, it doesn't get any better than catchy songs about IKEA, zombies, evil scientists, and bacteria. Also, I had a tiny two-minute crush on Scarface. Anyway, if you're a geek and love clever lyrics and haven't heard of him, go check out his stuff!

Requisite terrible iPhone picture. Scarface (in the middle) was singing Skullcrusher Mountain, JoCo is on the right.
You can also get a taste of the fantastic balconies in the concert hall.

5) I have been working just a little bit on my next sewing project...unfortunately, my mom's old Kenmore is not nearly as easy to use as my Brother. Okay, maybe part of this is my fault for not noticing, but apparently part of its crankiness was due to the fact that the feed dogs were lowered. I sewed new curtains for the basement, all the bodice darts, and the pockets without realizing this. I was wondering why I was so incapable of sewing in a straight line, and it turns out that I was pretty much free-motion quilting the whole time. That said, I think I did a pretty dang awesome job sewing darts in light of that.

6) Because of the Kenmore's disturbing habit of rattling like it's going to fall to pieces, I don't know if I'm going to get around to sewing jeans this summer. I just don't trust it for something like topstitching through multiple layers of denim. There's also no needle position adjustment, which boggles the mind. Lastly, the bobbin setup is not the drop-in kind, so putting in new bobbin thread takes about 15 seconds longer. I don't know why this bothers me so much. Anyway, my secret hope is that I will score an awesome vintage Singer at one of the antique fairs this summer, and then I can kill two birds with one stone (the must-have-a-vintage-machine bird, and the have-a-machine-that-doesn't-sound-like-it's-going-to-explode bird. Both of these are excellent candidate birds for killing).

7) After I arrived and unpacked my sewing things, I realized I forgot my embroidery snips, basic bodice blocks (!!!), and any buttons whatsoever. Grrrrr. Also, I already miss Cecily, my cutting mat, and full-length mirrors next to the sewing machine. While I'm mentioning sewing gripes, I might as well say that having two extra assistant cats isn't really helpful either. However, Walnut has done significantly less assisting now that there are so many new things to sniff and places to explore.

Totoro tells Walnut a secret (actually, Walnut just really likes chewing on the totoro's whiskers).

New Chinese newspaper > old sewing patterns for grooming purposes.

Okay now, less whining about the sewing situation, more actual sewing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Science-y Details

Since I already shared a few wedding photos yesterday, and I've mentioned before how I designed and printed my own wedding invitations and other paper goods, I thought I'd share a few more pictures of the other science-y aspects of our wedding. Little did you all know, I originally started this blog to chronicle my DIY wedding projects, but never wrote more than a few drafts. Then when I started sewing, I just deleted those drafts and kept the title and profile for my sewing blog. Unfortunately, some of it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense anymore, considering the usual topics here at Cation Designs, so I'll probably be changing that as soon as Walnut, Fenxi, and Gummy all stop hissing and growling at each other and I can take my eye off them.

When my husband and I were planning the wedding, we were going through a phase of life where we'd been attending upwards of six weddings a year for the previous few years. We were pretty thoroughly sick of letterpress birds-and-flowers invitations, Canon in D, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, the unity candle lighting, and reading of 1 Corinthians 13. So we decided to put our own spin on our wedding -- SCIENCE. It was all over our wedding stationary, and it crept into our decor:

Our card box, guestbook pencils, and edible favors (madeleines and gourmet sea salt in tiny flasks).

And because I couldn't resist, I snuck in a little chemistry lesson into our pastor's script (to be fair, he used to be a middle school science teacher, so it wasn't entirely weird for him). Instead of the standard the-ring-is-a-circle-it-has-no-end-just-like-your-love speech, he said, "These rings are made of precious metal, noteworthy for being on the positive end of the Electromotive Force Series. These metals do not lose their electrons easily, and are therefore resistant to corrosion. It is an ideal symbol of your love for each other, and a reminder of the promises you have made to each other today." And instead of a unity candle or sand, we had...

Yes, that's right, a unity precipitate. As our pastor explained, "If you look behind me, you will see two flasks of chemicals. Cindy, the flask of sodium phosphate represents your life up to this moment, separate and distinct from Eric's. Eric, this flask of copper sulfate represents your life up to this moment, separate and distinct from Cindy's. Marriage is the joining of two lives into one. This is what God meant when He said: 'On this account, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall be one flesh.' From now on your thoughts shall be for each other rather than for your individual selves. Your plans shall be mutual, your joys and sorrows shall be shared alike. As you pour these solutions together, they will form an insoluble copper phosphate suspension. This is an irreversible precipitation reaction, and as such represents the union of your lives, surrounded by God’s love." My students who were at the ceremony loved it, but also confessed to inward groaning that I somehow managed to put together an educational wedding. A couple of smart-alecks also pointed out that I wasn't wearing goggles or gloves...

And as a final touch, we had to work cats in, somehow...hence our Simon's Cat place cards. These were a beast to cut out the week before the wedding, but it was so worth it (and totally hilarious) to see them all lined up, begging for food.

Again, all photographs courtesy of The Youngrens!

Anyway, sorry for the little detour into wedding-land, but hey, it's June, right? Prime wedding month, according to my wedding photographer friends. I promise I'll have some actual sewing projects to share soon! In the meantime, I'm still trying to wrestle my mom's cranky old Kenmore into submission. Gosh, I miss my machine.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Too Late, It's a Quarter Past Silly

I like you and I know why.
I like you because you are a good person to like.
I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it's special
And you remember it a long, long time.
You say, Remember when you told me something special
And both of us remember

When I think something is important
you think it's important too
When I say something funny, you laugh
I think I'm funny and you think I'm funny too
I like you because you know where I'm ticklish
And you don't tickle me there
except just a little tiny bit
But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too

You know how to be silly
That's why I like you
Boy are you ever silly
I never met anybody sillier than me till I met you
I like you because you know when it's time to stop being silly
Maybe day after tomorrow
Maybe never
Too late, it's a quarter past silly 

Sometimes we don't say a word
We snurkle under fences
We spy secret places
If I am a goofus on the roofus hollering my head off
You are one too
If I pretend I am drowning, you pretend you are saving me
If I am getting ready to pop a paper bag,
then you are getting ready to jump

That's because you really like me
You really like me, don't you
And I really like you back
And you like me back and I like you back
And that's the way we keep on going every day

--from I Like You, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

We had parts of this book read at our wedding two years ago and it still perfectly captures why I love being married to this man. It's been a crazy last two years, what with living in San Diego, TCOCC, and now The City, and learning to deal with, at various times, teaching intense classes, unemployment, business school, and our fur baby, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Happy second anniversary!

All photos courtesy of our amazing photographers, The Youngrens.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Today Is an Epic Day

Today, Walnut will travel the farthest north he has ever been in his short life. Today, that poor guy will spend eight hours in a car (doctored up with Oona's recommendation of the feline equivalent of a stiff drink...does it surprise you that she has cocktail recommendations for cats, too?) and end his trip in the homeland of Giants.

Like most proud dads, my husband has insisted on dressing Walnut up in Giants' gear from day 1.

Once there, he will meet his grandparents for the first time. They're not sure how they feel about their first grandchild being non-human, but they've got beloved feline children of their own, and it's not Walnut's fault that he's not a small human being. His uncles will be anxiously waiting to meet him, having smelled and licked his fur samples, but whether they'll be the type of uncles that give their nephew wedgies and swirlies is yet to be determined. I want to hope that they'll just be the type that take him to baseball games and play catch, but I'm not holding my breath.

Is he here yet? Is he here yet? Huh? Come on come on come on hurry up!!!

If you think of us today, please say a prayer for our safe journey and smooth transition. Posts may be a bit scanty while we get settled in, but I hope to be up and running sewing as soon as possible! If you're in the Bay Area this summer and want to have a sewing meetup/fabric shopping trip/costume party, I'm game!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Sewing Equivalent of Voldemort?

Could it be? Did I actually make more cake? Actually, if underwear is cake, this is about as frosting-y as cake can be.

So, if Voldemort is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and underwear is euphemised as Unmentionables, well, then it logically follows that I just sewed up a pair of Dark Lords. Um. Right.

You know how I ended my last post by jesting that underwear was next? Well, I couldn't stop thinking about it. As in I went to sleep mentally assessing the state of my unmentionables drawer, and how I needed more seamless panties, and honestly, it couldn't be that difficult, right? I woke up deciding that if there was a free pattern somewhere, and it didn't take up too much fabric (I mean, how could it?) or printer paper, I would give it a whirl. Enter the Lace Tanga Panties over at Burdastyle, and three pages of printer paper and an hour later, I had this pale, noseless, Tom Riddle of my own.

I'm not about to model lacy panties for teh interwebs, so this heart pillow from IKEA will have to be my stand in. It's kind of remarkable, actually, what a good job it does...

Its butt is not as shapely as mine, though, so perhaps heart pillows won't be replacing humans as underwear models anytime soon. Also, the center seams look slightly crooked in these pictures, but that's just because I am really bad at dressing pillows. I promise it's straight in real life.

The pattern was remarkably easy to put together, with only a few seams and minimal fitting issues. The instruction sheet I downloaded from Burdastyle is supremely unhelpful (it also says 2 yards of lace required; I used less than a yard), saying only to follow the video, so I had to go search for that just to find out what the seam allowances are. In case you are ever seized with the urge to make your own, I'll save you the trouble and let you know that the seam allowance is 1/4". But if you want to watch the video, here it is (the best part is the end, where the older lady doing the demo says in a fakely excited voice, "It's so fast, so easy, and ooh! So sexy!" Please go watch just the last ten seconds and tell me I'm not the only one who was giggling insanely). Anyway, the resulting panties are mostly equivalent to the $12 seamless lace panties you can find at Victoria's Secret and such. My only beef with my pair is that it fits more like boy shorts in front, because you have to use the straight edge of the lace instead of being able to scoop it out to fit the curve of the hip joint. If you like boy short style underwear, that's fine, but it's not my favorite.

ZOMG my center seams all match!! You can also tell where I zigzagged the lining in.

Inside out. The video didn't say anything about how to finish the seams, so I just pressed the center seams open and stitched down the allowance on either side. For the other seams, I just pinked, pressed to one side, and stitched down the seam allowance.

Fabric: a little less than 1 yard of 6.5" wide cream-colored stretch lace from the Vintage Fashion Expo...I'd originally gotten it for lace insertion, but then I realized that it's way too wide and stretchy to boot. Also, a tiny scrap of what may be the most unstable, incapable-of-recovering jersey I've ever worked with for the lining fabric.
Notions: none...although I'm toying with the idea of adding a tiny ribbon bow on front. That might be too much cutesy for me, though. I mean, isn't it frosting enough that these are lace?
Hours: 1!
Will you make this again? This is a pretty good underwear pattern even for not-stretch-lace, so I think I will, but I'll scoop out the front section to accommodate my bulging quads, first.
Total cost: $2...That's a savings of $10!
Final thoughts: I'm actually pretty excited about this. I never thought that sewing the cakiest of cakes, the basic panty, would be so thrilling, but it is. Probably because it's lacy. I remember being in high school and walking into VS for the first time and coveting all the lacy-but-out-of-my-price-range unmentionables, and now I can make my own! I'm even thinking I want to try a Ruby Slip... Now I just need to find a good source of wide stretch lace, and I'll be all set to churn these out (if this pair is the equivalent of Voldemort, does making multiple pairs mean I'm making...*gasp* Horcruxes??? I think this is where the metaphor really breaks down. Although I guess that you could argue that it was already broken, considering that underwear is not evil, nor bent on enslaving the world, at least to my knowledge...).

Tiny Voldie head from here, pasted in and captioned courtesy of PicMonkey.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fake Renfrew Tee

Three-quarter sleeve, scoop-neck, black-and-white striped Not A Renfrew tee.
What is this, the end of the world? Could I really be sewing cake and enjoying it? Yes, it's true, fellow sewasauruses, I have made myself the most basic of basics, a plain tee in neutral colors. Maybe the comet will strike soon and render my sewasaurus self extinct?

Back view, slightly twisty because I'm trying to turn and give directions to my husband about shooting.

Side view. Stripes matched, again!

My picked-apart tee and the resulting pattern. I just taped on the
scooped-out front section so that I could flip it back when
cutting, instead of drawing up another piece for the front. I am
azn-ly thrifty even with my giant roll of brown paper.
After seeing all the Renfrew tops floating around the sewing blogosphere, I decided I had to get in on the action...only I can't shake the azn thriftiness ingrained in me by my parents (hello, Dad! How's that eight year old Walgreen's sweatshirt holding up?). Much as I would love to support* Sewaholic's awesome patterns, I just can't justify spending that much for something I feel like I should be able to draft myself. Or in this case, trace. I took one of my old tees that fits superbly, but is too grotty for public wear, took it apart (you should have seen the pile of serger thread I picked out!), and traced it off onto some brown wrapping paper. And seriously, without fitting issues or seam finishing, this thing just flies together! I could totally see making up a whole fleet of these, provided I had enough different knits, of course. I still have enough to make another short-sleeved version, but I don't think I need more than one. Maybe my sister will want one.

Unfortunately, the stripes weren't quite as easy to match up on this. The fabric was ever so slightly stretched out near the selvages, and neither as pliable nor as possessed of powers of recovery as my coral stripe knit dress. In fact, my machine was pretty grumpy about sewing this fabric, which was surprising to me. I expected the whisper-thin, floaty coral stripe knit to be an issue, but instead this fairly thick and stable knit kept wanting to get sucked down into the bobbin compartment. When it came time to using the twin needle, which unfortunately is not ballpoint and therefore has more issues with knits, my machine downright refused to sew through multiple layers. Because of that, I opted to "finish" the neckline by just sewing in a circle with the double line of stitching, and leaving the edge raw. It's not going to unravel, and I'll just say it's a, umm, design feature. I also left the bottom edge unhemmed, which actually makes it less obtrusive when tucked into my high-waisted shorts.

Unhemmed bottom edge, and a little baggy under the arm.

I really like how this tee fits through the torso and shoulders (for once, my shoulder seam isn't hovering over my bra strap! Yay for sewing to fit my own measurements!), but I think the arms are the teensiest bit baggy. Not surprising since I just guesstimated that part of the pattern, as the original tee I traced was a cap-sleeve tee. It does afford a nice range of motion, though, and my arms don't feel like they've been stuffed into casings. Frankly, I'm not sure it's even an issue at all, except that it doesn't look as sleek as it could. Ah well, whatever, sleekness is for sausages, pony rumps (but not pony rump sausages), and the "after" pictures in restorative shampoo ads. Seeing as how my upper arms don't fall into any of those categories, I'm willing to let it go.

I can stretch luxuriously!
I can wrangle an unwilling Walnut!

Fabric: 1 yard of black and white striped thick poly-blend knit from SAS Fabrics' discount shelf
Notions: none
Hours: 1!!! I whipped this up during my husband's Call of Duty session and he couldn't believe I had already finished a new top. Seriously, why go shopping when you could just sew?
Will you make this again? Oh yes. Best waste of an RTW tee ever!
Total cost: $1.50
Final thoughts: I love this top. Even with its unfinished edges and wonky double-stitching (shh, it's on the back of the neckline, which I purposely didn't photograph!), my husband declared it good enough to join the ranks of "real" clothes (I'm afraid superhero dresses don't quite count as "real" in his mind...but it's okay, they're loved and worn like the Velveteen Rabbit). I was afraid that the black and white stripes might make me look like the Hamburglar, or maybe a Sephora bag, but he reassured me that I don't look anything like either. Thank goodness. Even so, I don't think I'll be wearing this top into a Sephora anytime soon. While I don't mind looking like an IKEA couch, a cosmetics bag is an entirely different story.

So I'm not the Hamburglar, but I wouldn't be opposed to stealing a pastrami sandwich from Langer's...Seriously, I don't even like pastrami, or coleslaw, or Swiss cheese, or rye bread, but somehow when they are all combined into a #19 sandwich...mmmmmm. Perfect for a celebrating-the-end-of-the-school-year lunch!

So that's two pieces of cake in a row. Gosh, what's next, a pair of (non-Elizabethan) underwear???

*I did, however, show support by buying a Cambie dress pattern, as that's not something I feel like drafting myself. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Finally, Some Cake!

I finally sucked it up and made some cake. And you know what? It was still pretty fun! I think the key to enjoying cake-making (cake-baking?) is to pick frosting-like colors/prints. For me, a cake-y basic is a loose and comfy knit dress that looks put together with the addition of a belt. Even though I would love to say I lounge around in fitted woven dresses like Betty Draper, it's just not the case; knit dresses are so much more comfortable, but I need to be able to look respectable* when I run out to do errands and such. I think this dress fits the bill, don't you think? And the coral stripes keep it from being utterly boring.

Pretty pleased with my stripe-matching on the seams!

Back view.

Besides the stripes to keep it fun, I also tried a new technique in order to keep my brain engaged. I've had this knit neckline tutorial bookmarked since I first started sewing, but I never used it because sewing t-shirts is cake, and I don't do cake. This is the first time I've tried it, and I must say, I'm quite pleased with how real (i.e. RTW) it looks! I think I just need a little more practice with keeping it even (or just not use striped fabric). For the pattern, I just sketched a loose kimono sleeve tee and extended the sides to make it dress-length. 

Close-up of the neckline. I also need to invest in a nuder slip.

You can really see the kimono sleeve-ness of it here. I'm also loving the range of motion. I can fetch my own pitchers now, Farm Boy.

Fabric: 1.25 yards of jersey knit, most likely with some polyester since the selvages are pilling up already...I can't complain, though since it was from the bargain bin at SAS Fabrics (excellent source of fun knits if you're in the LA area). It's also ultra thin, the kind of material that my mom scorns when she sees RTW clothes made from it.
Notions: None. Love working with stretchy fabric.
Techniques: Neckband installation, twin needle use
Hours: 1.5...would have been less if I didn't have to fiddle with getting the fit right. Seriously, once I have the block made, it takes about 20 minutes to sew.
Will you make this again? Yes. I could have a whole closet in all sorts of fun knits! 
Total cost: $2...much better than the $20 it would have cost at Forever 21 or H&M. I do feel slightly bad, though, for kinda buying into the disposable fashion look even in my me-made sewing...
Final thoughts: I mean, what else is there to say? This is probably the most trendy, RTW-looking thing I've made. It's not vintage-y at all in silhouette, fabric, or color -- I'm finally getting in on the neon-plus-neutral look that's so big right now. And it's nice to work with knits every once in a while and take a break from darts and seam finishing.

Look Ma, no darts!

And finally, giveaway winners!
Set #1: Megan (the one who wished I were her chemistry teacher, and I swear wasn't biased)
Set #2: Disparate Disciplines
Set #3: Mommy to Maddex
Set #4: Pippi of Paper Yak

Congratulations! Please email me as soon as possible with your mailing address at cationdesignsblog at gmail dot com (if I don't hear from you by Tuesday night I will go ahead and pick new winners; I need to mail these out before we move!). And a big thank you to everyone for entering, reading my blog, and especially for the very kind comments...I had so many warm fuzzies reading them all! I was really touched to see how many people love geekery, bedsheet dresses, and Walnut.

*My first year teaching was right out of college, and I was only three years older than some of my students. I went to the local Target to pick up sunscreen and ran into some students while wearing a tank top and shorts leftover from San Diego was super uncomfortable trying to make small talk. If there's any chance of running into former students, I suit up accordingly.