Archive for August, 2008

Some Sewing Tips and a Wardrobe Remix
August 31st, 2008 | Link

Still on a sewing kick. I found a few useful links recently:

I took a critical look at my wardrobe this weekend and thought hard about the pieces I like (or don’t), the pieces I wear (or don’t), and the pieces I would like to have (but don’t). A lot of clothes went to the donation pile, including some that I liked passably but rarely wear because they are difficult to launder or press, or that don’t fit me well and are beyond my ability to alter; and some that I don’t wear because they don’t fit my style. What’s left are pieces I wear all the time, or are my favorite dressy pieces. What’s coming are a couple more casual-to-business-casual skirts and pants, some dressier t-shirts and tops to wear to work with all my skirts and jeans, and a couple of classic shift dresses. I’m sticking with my mostly black and gray palette, with a few whites and bolder colors (mostly reds) mixed in. I bought a few yards of new fabric—cotton twill in a couple of neutral colors, and some cotton and rayon knits—to fill in some of the gaps: I’ve realized I like the comfort and easy care of knits, and they don’t have to look as casual as my uniform Gap T’s. What I hope to get out of this exercise is a wardrobe that I’ll wear all the time, that I feel good in, and that looks like I thought about what I put on.

Black Corduroy Messenger Bag
August 27th, 2008 | Link

Messenger bag

I have a small blue Jack Spade messenger bag that I like a lot, but I often wish I had bought a black one instead. I bought some black corduroy with the intention of reverse-engineering the original bag and making my own—that was months ago. But BurdaStyle recently put up a pattern for a messenger bag, so I decided to try that out. I changed the pattern to be an inch narrower and an inch shorter, and the resulting bag is just the right size for a magazine or a couple of books, sunglasses, and wallet. I lined it with a fun, bold Prints Charming cotton print left over from a skirt I made last January. (There’s another view of the bag on the Burda Style site that shows the lining.)

If I were going to make another—and I might (I’m such a bag geek)—I would probably add a zipped pocket inside and a loop for keys, and make the strap adjustable. It’s very quick to sew once you get all the paper taped together to construct the pattern pieces.

Okkervil River Get The Web
August 25th, 2008 | Link

Okkervil River (warning: sound) have a new album, The Stand Ins, coming out September 9th, and to generate interest in it they had a bunch of other musicians cover songs from the album, and are releasing the videos one song at a time every few days on YouTube. It starts with this video of A.C. Newman of The New Pornographers doing a duet with Will Sheff.

I love this strategy for so many reasons. As a fan, I appreciate getting a preview of the songs (since I already pre-ordered the album). I like discovering other musicians that Okkervil River like. And it’s a great marketing strategy: the Newman/Sheff video already had over 6500 views when I watched it.

I can hardly wait for the album.

Bathtub Dreamer Minus Bathtub = Dreamless
August 23rd, 2008 | Link

We’re going into week three of the tile renovation now, and I’d like to say we’re close to being done, but I suspect we’ll be going into September. Sigh.

The tile is laid, grouted and sealed in the first bathroom now. We decided to put in baseboards instead of a row of half-tiles around the wall after discovering that buying bull-nose trim tiles for the edges would set us back another $450 or so. But we couldn’t find baseboards that matched the baseboards in the rest of the house (four inches high with a quarter-inch rounded edge at the top), so the contractor offered to curve the edges of flat moulding instead, if we would buy the router bit. Which is great, but the baseboards aren’t in yet.

The tile in the second bathroom is laid, but not grouted or sealed. This, unfortunately, is the room with the bathtub, so I have had jarring awakenings this week (showers are just not the same for me). The floor should have been grouted yesterday, but for some reason the contractor didn’t show up. Hrm.

The kitchen and entry way are torn out, and most of the tile for the kitchen has been cut, but we’re having an issue with trim. The contractor brought in a two-inch wide, industrial-looking carpet bar that sits on top of the carpet and tile, and seemed very surprised when we said that wasn’t going to work for us. A week ago I printed off a link of the edging we wanted—the same thing we had before, commonly referred to as a Schluter—which is unobtrusive and sits between the tile and the carpet, with just a tiny lip over the edge of the carpet to hold it down. But for some reason this didn’t get ordered until two days ago, and it’s going to take a week to get here. So the furniture is still scattered all over the place, and there’s plastic everywhere, and the tile cutter is still sitting in the middle of the dining room, and we’re starting to question the contractor’s competence.

The tile in the first bathroom does look a lot better than what we had before, and they’ve done a nice job with it, so I keep telling myself it’ll look good when it’s done. Still, a four or five day job is now going on 13, and it’s becoming very dejecting. At least most of the noisy stuff is done.

Dog Days of Summer
August 17th, 2008 | Link

Meg cools off in a plastic wading pool

Meg_Pool_1, originally uploaded by magsontheroad.

My mom bought the dogs a swimming pool to help pass the time in the 30+ degree (Celsius) weather they’ve been having in Calgary.

My sister kindly took some photos of Meg enjoying the pool for me.

I miss my dog. But it looks like she’s having a really good life up in Calgary.

Next Time, We’re Buying a Free-Standing House…
August 13th, 2008 | Link

…and having it renovated before we move in.

Well, we’re on day three of the tile renovation. Our kitchen is unusable, the refrigerator is parked in the living room, the kitchen counters and lower cabinets are now covered in plastic and so is every piece of furniture in the living room. The old tile is gone from the larger bathroom and the kitchen, and my young Russian friend is laying the bathroom tile. Aside from the mess, and the visit from building security yesterday regarding the noise, things are going swimmingly. Slowly, but relatively well.

The security visit was our fault. We warned the neighbors on our floor and the floor below us, but we didn’t dream that the sound and vibrations of the tile removing tool (a small version of a jackhammer) would extend two, even three floors below us. I know it’s got to be annoying (I’ve been home most of the time they’ve been doing it, and it’s unpleasant) and I feel bad about it. We’re trying to work it out with the building management, and I think we’re going to owe several of our neighbors something nice to make up for the inconvenience. Today I just had the contractors finish the last of the kitchen tear out (there was only a single row of tiles left), and start laying the tile in the first bathroom and the kitchen. Even the laying of the tile is not as quiet as I thought it would be, because of the amount of cutting required to fit it—especially around the toilet. The carpet tear-out in front of the door shouldn’t make much noise, nor the tile (since we’re laying just the full squares there) but I’m not sure what we’ll do about the second bathroom.

I’m kinda stressed. We’re also a couple of days behind schedule now. But the new tile is here and it’s pretty and I know it’s going to look good, so I can live with the inconvenience. I still feel bad about the neighbors having to suffer through it with me though.

The Tile Guys
August 11th, 2008 | Link

It took us about 18 months to forget about all the dust and inconvenience and hassle, but we’re now renovating again. This time we’re replacing the tile in both bathrooms and the kitchen, and tiling the area in front of the front door (which is currently carpeted). We considered putting hardwood throughout, but decided that we probably won’t live here long enough to appreciate that level of renovating (cost plus inconvenience). This is a relatively small fix with a big impact, especially in the main living area.

I’m glad it’s a small fix, because the condo is in chaos right now. The dining room chairs are in my studio, the dining room table is in the living room, E’s office is full of pots and pans and sheets and towels and the living room carpets are covered in plastic and a very pleasant, young Russian man who speaks very little English has spent most of the afternoon drilling out the tile in the larger bathroom. I think it’s going to take a little longer than we were told, and it’s going to be a bit more inconvenient than we expected, and we probably owe our downstairs neighbors dinner at a good restaurant. But I appreciate that the contractors have covered our carpet, and that they closed the door of the bathroom while drilling to contain the dust, and warned me to remove the sheets and towels from the linen closet so we won’t be picking rocks and dust out of them for weeks to come (unlike the folks who tore out our counter tops).

Fingers crossed that we’ll be done by the weekend…

Random Sewing Blather
August 11th, 2008 | Link

Reason number 7,534 why I love the internet:

I found myself on the Wardrobe Refashion site yesterday, and in particular this post about the Sadie top that the writer had sewn from organic bamboo jersey. I haven’t tried this variation of the top because the fabrics I had don’t drape very well, but hers is beautiful! I followed the link to the sewer’s blog and read how she adapted the Sadie pattern to get the softer drape, and as I read further found a link to a post on how to work with stretch fabrics. And there, folks, appears to be the answer to my stretched out t-shirt seams. Yay!

Discount Fabrics has begun carrying a small selection of organic fabrics in their new location on 11th Street between Howard and Folsom in San Francisco, so I picked up a yard of bamboo jersey there yesterday and I’m going to have a go at that Sadie variation. The bamboo fabric is super drapey and has a slight sheen to it, so I think it will look great as a dressier top.

I spent some of the weekend working on Burda 8601 (view B, without all the foufy lace—I’m shooting for something more like this variation), which may have been just a touch beyond my sewing skills (the fact that I made it from Dupioni silk, which is very fine, may not have helped) but it came out all right. I took out the side zip in favor of a corset-style lacing up the back. It’s hard to say how it’s going to fit—I still have to put in the eyelets for the laces—and I’m a little nervous about how it will stay up! Hoping to finish it sometime this week.

One More Sadie Top…
August 5th, 2008 | Link

I had a couple of hours to spare before E. gets home, so I thought I’d do one more Sadie top. This knit is heavier than the other two and came from a sample sale at Discount Fabrics. I didn’t try to hem this top, as I want to explore the stretching problem first. But I did redraft the pattern a little: I dropped the arm holes almost an inch, and I took in about an inch of the width I’d added to the bottom (it’s still wider right at the waist, but tapers in again at the hips):

Tank top #3

This one is almost perfect. If I can work out my top-stitching and hem problems, I’ll be very happy with it. I do love how fast they come together with the serger!

Maybe I Should Stick with Wovens…
August 5th, 2008 | Link

Yesterday I suffered a spectacular failure sewing the Sadie tank top pattern from Burda Style web site. I used the size 34 version, and smoothed it into a size 36 from the waist-line down for a little extra ease. The fit was fine, but I had some problems with the neck and arm openings:

Finished tank top #1, with a saggy baggy neckline

I think the problem was a combination of things: I should have pulled the ribbing fabric tauter when I sewed it to the body; I should have used a longer stitch length on the serger so that the body fabric would ease in; and I totally stretched it out when I topstitched with the twin needle. Keeping all that in mind, I had another go at the top today, and here’s take two:

Finished tank top #2, with a much improved neckline but flaring at the bottom hem

As you can see, the neck and arm holes are much better here. But I still got a lot of stretching and flaring when I hemmed the bottom with the twin needle on my sewing machine, so I haven’t done the top-stitching on the neck and arm holes because I don’t want to totally ruin it. I think it’s a tension thing, or the feed dogs stretching the fabric out on the bottom.

On the bright side, I bought both fabrics for $1.99/yard from when they had a sale on baby-rib knits, so I’m not too upset about it. A little frustrated, but not upset. The second top is wearable. I like the fit and the shape on the whole: I dropped the bottom of the armhole opening about 1/2" on the second top and I think its still a bit high (note the bunching under the arms), so I’ll try dropping it some more. I could see making a few of these for summer tops or layering for work, once I get the kinks worked out.



My name is Shannon Hale. I make things from paper, cloth and yarn, and sometimes write about other things going on in my life. More...


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