Saturday, November 08, 2014

Tina Givens Jacket #2

Of course I made another one—of course! We all knew that was going to happen, right? I've maybe mentioned before that I'm just the tiniest bit obsessive, yes? I plan to make several more, in fact. I have plans for three more already, and it could go on for years and years. Because: yeah, I really like this jacket a lot. I wore the first one, the red one, last night to a wake that was actually a party (and a very wonderful party), and it worked excellently: it did not once slide off my shoulders, which is kind of the test with unbuttoned loose-fitting things: do you have to keep wrestling with them? Do they understand their place in the universe? Do you mesh together? This design is excellent there, because I put it on and it stayed on. I LOVE that in a garment.

I hate the Bum Flap even more than I did before, though, so something's going to have to be done there.

But never mind all that: today's all about Version 2.0. For this one, I had some things I wanted to try.

First, no Bum Flap. What I did was butt the two back pattern pieces up to one another and cut just one single back piece. That worked well. It will look much better once it's laundered and that middle fold goes away.

Someone suggested, very correctly, I think, that having two back pieces would create visual interest and texture, but that's not what I want in a garment: I want a blank canvas everywhere that's possible so I can do other stuff. So a plain solid back is really good for me. If I wanted something else, I might try some faux darts at some point.

I lengthened the sleeves, and they're long enough to look like the ones in the pattern photo. They hit about knuckle length, which is cool but doesn't really matter because I always have to roll up my sleeves to keep them out of the way.

I flared the bottoms of all the pieces, just slightly, to give it more room at the bottom edge. That worked, and I'll probably do that a little more next time. Eventually, when I get all the tweaks, I'll make a new pattern and incorporate them.

I tweaked the pockets a little:

Then I wanted to try to get rid of the collar, so I sewed it on the outside and turned it to the inside and topstitched, like a facing rather than a collar. That worked, too,

But that's where things get weird. With all the topstitched seams and the finished neckline, it looks really, really tailored. Except, of course, for the raw edges down the front and around the bottom.

While it's far from perfect, the finished-ness of it would, I think, please even my mother, who was beyond picky about sewing. I kept thinking that as I finished these seams: that even my mother, who was never impressed with my sewing, would approve of this, never mind my wavery seams and stuff.

I do not like tailored, though. I'm not a tailored kind of person. I like funky, but there's something in me that's always battling: my love of funky and some deep-seated desire to make things look Finished, as opposed to sloppily done. Raw edges are wonderful, but somehow I always think of them as being lazy. You know, like hems held up with Heat 'n' Bond instead of sewing, or appliqués fused in place with no stitching, or fabric glue used instead of needle and thread. 

So those two parts of me are always at war. I do not EVER sit down to make Something That Would Please My Mother, not consciously, because, gee: my mother is dead, we didn't have the same taste, and what on earth would that possibly matter at this point? So when that pops into my head—that even my mother would be pleased—it's all like Holy shit! in there, and I have to step back and see what's going on in my head. In this case, it seems to have been all about proving (to myself, I hope) that I could take a pattern that gave me problems and Fix It. Oh, yeah: Fixing Stuff is what my brain loves to do. 

Anyway, enough of this soul-searching crap. Who cares, right? What I had to do was to figure out where I wanted to go with this hybrid, this top-stitched-nicely-seamed-raw-edged jacket that I can't wait to wear. And I think I've got it, by jove. I've got to go do a ton of prepwork for the next part, which is all hand stitching from here on out. Yay for that.

So even though it's far from being finished, I wanted to show you what I've done on this one and kind of tell about the thought process, because there's a lot of that that goes on when you're working on something all by yourself in complete silence, kind of feeling your way along and wondering where it's going to end up. And, as always, I hope what you get out of this is simply this: if I can do it, you can do it. Almost anything is possible, even if you have to feel your way along in the dark. If you take what feels like a wrong turn, you stop and look around and find a path that looks promising and try it. None of this stuff is rocket science, and I'm no expert about ANY of it. My only sewing class was in 7th grade home ec., and I've never taken a workshop or lessons or anything. Seriously: if you want to do something, anything, you just start out simply and see where you can go. I still think someday I'm going to make a wooden sewing table. I know beyond nothing about woodworking, but why not? Why not? That's after I teach myself how to spin using the fabulous drop spindle I was given recently. Oh: and make a loom to weave a scarf before it gets cold.

But first? More jackets! Yay!!

I'll try to finish this asap so I can show you and, I hope, motivate someone else to get the pattern and give it a try. I'm loving the adventure, absolutely.

P.S. Huge thanks to every one of y'all who's been holding my hand along the way. Y'all are fabulous! XOXO

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

In Which I Make A Tina Givens Jacket

. . .with a little help from my friends, who kind of talked me down from the ledge the other night when I had a little meltdown. Facebook friends really are friends, you know? And you realize you're maybe not the only one who gets a little nuts when it turns out the pattern you're trying to make isn't going to match up exactly with the photos of the finished garment. And, no: it was NOT my fault. I have sewn from patterns before, and I know basically how things work, although there's a ton I don't know. Here's what the jacket looks like on the page where you order the pattern:
 Very cool, right?
So I buy the PDF pattern, and I finally get it to download (it took all day and a couple phone calls; again, not something I did wrong), and I print it out and tape it all together, very carefully, and I trace out the pieces, again very carefully, and make myself a medium pattern. Now, according to the measurements on the website, I would wear a small. But I want the coat to be a coat—you know, that I can wear over stuff. And although I'm not large, I have broad shoulders and hate it when things bind across the back. So I make a medium, which is supposed to fit a bust up to 40" and hips at 42". Plenty roomy, right? Should look just like the fit above, right?

OK, I'm not going through this step by step, but let's just say this pattern drove me nuts. For one thing, sometimes it said right sides together or wrong sides facing, but sometimes it just didn't. In the first actual sewing step, it said, "Place the back lower panel along the bottom edge of the back upper and stitch together." And it shows the two pattern pieces butted up against each other. Not right sides together, not wrong sides together. That's when I started to loose my mind. And it wasn't as if I could find really big, detailed images to show what that exact part was supposed to look like after I finished.

Then that back flap, above. See? It's kind of silly, but I figured, at this point (at first I hadn't even bothered to cut it out, thinking it was just decorative), that it must serve some purpose. So I cut it out, and I go, "Huh?" And I check the photo again, and I check my pattern again, and dang if the pattern doesn't have a flap that's less than half the size of the one in the photo, above. I check several times, making sure I haven't done something wrong. And then I get to looking, and see those pockets in the top photo? The pattern for the pockets is about half that deep. I double-check it, too. And see the long side seam in the second photo? With the stitching on the outside? While it doesn't specify in the instructions whether you're supposed to have seams on the outside or inside (yeah, I know), it does say to topstitch after you sew.

And on and on. The sleeves? See how nice and long those are? Perfect for cuffing or rolling up? I was a little leery after the other pattern weirdness, so just in case I lengthened the sleeves a couple inches. And dang, if they didn't come out about an inch SHORTER than the sleeves in the photos above.

And the length of the jacket? A good half a dozen inches—at least—shorter.

Here's an image from a google search; it comes from Pinterest, and I can't find a link, sorry. But this is a way more accurate photo of how the jacket will fit if you buy your size and follow the instructions:
This, above, not this, below:

As I said, I am far from an expert seamstress. I'm a much better stitcher than I am a sew-er, but I am not an idiot, and I checked and re-checked (bwahahahahahahahaha) this stuff. The fabulous people helping me on Facebook finally convinced me not to obsess quite so much about "accuracy" and just go with it. I'd planned to alter the pattern, but I wanted to make one "the right way" first, just to get a feel for it. In the end, I tweaked some stuff, I created my own pocket pattern (I do this all the time, adapting the size and shape to whatever scraps I have left over and the available space on the garment: I like them BIG and completely functional). I decided, after I was technically finished, that I didn't like the loose, flapping panels at the bottom, so I sewed mine all the way down and curved the bottom edge. I lengthened the front two panels because I didn't like it quite that choppy.  So here's what I've got:

To get that oversized look, I think I would have to use the extra-large, but then the shoulder seams would hang off my arms. I'd really like to know exactly how to get that fit, even though I wouldn't *make* one that big and droopy. I'd like to know.

For the next one I make, here's what I plan to do:
~Leave off that silly back flap. I'll make the back center panel all one piece.
~Lengthen the sleeves by another inch, so 3" longer than the pattern
~Get rid of the collar by sewing the facing on the outside and then turning it inside and topstitching, just the opposite of how it is now.
~Flare all the pieces at the bottom just slightly, or maybe sew in gores, to give it more room at the bottom edge for flow-ability
~Tinker with the pockets a little more, tilting them towards the sides.

If I wanted it as long as the photo, I'd lengthen everything by about 3", but I don't: I want duster-ish length, and this works pretty well. I may also lengthen the front bodice pieces all the way down, or at least longer. I'll have to wear this one to decide.

On this one, I've got to tinker some more with the collar, which doesn't lie completely flat. It's not supposed to, but I'm not a fan of collars in the first place and hate it when they flip up all the time. Hand stitching should take care of that. I have to do something with that ridiculous-looking (to me; I know it's groovy, but I don't like it) back flap (it reminds me of the flaps on long underwear). I think I may embroider text on it or something.

The good news is that the jacket fits, and I like the way it looks, so I'm pleased with the results. I'm not knocking the pattern: the mistakes could very well be mine. Except the sizes of stuff; I was very careful there.

I still need to do the buttons and buttonholes, but I'm not sure how I want to do those. I think I want to cut small squares of the linen scraps and fuse them on for reinforcement and then do a lot of decorative stitching. I've done this before for buttons and buttonholes on linen, and it works well. On the other hand, I don't know that I'll ever wear this buttoned, and if not, there's no point putting on a couple of my groovy vintage shell buttons that I could use on something else. So I'm still thinking about that.

So that's my first adventure in making a coat. I don't think I've ever done that before. I've been wanting to find a good pattern so I could make more: I'm thinking old denim, chambray, maybe linen lined with cotton batik. I don't know. For now, I have wear the jacket for a while, tweak this pattern some more, and make a couple more in linen to make sure I love it (I have enough linen on hand for at least three more, 4 if I dye up the yardage in the storage building).

It was an adventure, that's for sure~~

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

What We're Reading

Yeah, I know: it's been forEVER. I should have known: as soon as I think, "Ooh, this is fun; I'll do this every month!" then that rebellious teenaged part of my brain gets all like, "You're not the boss of me, and I don't have to if I don't want to." I can tell it, "But it was *your* idea," but you know exactly how well that works on a 13-year-old, and that's about what my brain is. At least it's not stuck in the Terrible Two NoNoNoNoNoNo phase.

I'm an extremely slow reader. No, that's not right: I read what I guess is fairly rapidly, at a good clip. Used to I could finish a book in a day, easy peasy. Oh, wait; I still can. I read a book every time we fly to Art is You. I have to make sure I'm prepared because one time last year I ran out and had to buy some hideously-over-priced paperback at some airport. Hudson News, where you can find the same crappy books at every airport in the universe, I'm guessing. Just in different languages, but you know that's no problem for, oh, John Sanford, whose signing in Budapest must have been interesting, don't you think?

Anyway, so I read just fine, but in My Regular Life, I get in bed a little after midnight and get all comfy and ready to read. Then Moe clambers into my lap, and he refuses to let me hold a book when he's there. If he gets tired of being petted, he'll go lie down at the foot of the bed after 10-20 minutes, and then, if I haven't gotten so sleepy from the loud purring cat in my lap that I can't hold my eyes open, *then* I can read. By then, it's what? 12:30 or so? And I'm sleepy. Duh. And during the day I don't sit down and read; I have other stuff to do. I figure when arthritis gets me for reals and I can't do anything else, I can sit around all day and read. Yeah, right.

ANYWAY. So I've had three really good books lately, good for completely different reasons, and I think someone out there might enjoy one or two or all three, so here they are, with links so you can find out more.

The first one is the 3rd of Tana French's novels. The first is In the Woods, the second is The Likeness, and then there are a couple more. You can find out all that stuff here.

 What I love about her books is the way she writes. The stories are OK, but by the time I crawl my way through a novel, I've forgotten half the plot, at least the part that occurred a couple weeks earlier. So plot alone doesn't do it. Mysteries that are completely plot-based don't work (unless I'm flying; then they're fine). I love her characters, flaws and all. I love the dialogue, even though the Irish-ness of it is sometimes weird to my inner ear. Well, crap. There was a paragraph I was going to include, one where Cassie, the protagonist, is falling in love with her new/fake life, and it's lyrical. But of course I can't find the one I wanted, and I don't want to spend the rest of the day hunting. Parts of the book remind me of The Haunting of Hill House, the parts where that character is getting attached to the house and can't bear to leave it in the end, and the tone and mood reminds me a lot of Donna Tartt's The Secret History In fact, I read a review somewhere that mentioned the similarity to Tartt, and I was like, "Oh, wow, me, too!" I'm reading Faithful Place now and love it.

Then there's this book. I saw it on the shelf at Flax, the art store in downtown San Francisco, when we were there at Art is You in Petaluma. The drawings intrigued me, and I did that despicable thing where you check for a used copy on while you're standing in the store. I know, I know. But if I don't buy books used and cheap, I don't buy books. And this one is a joy, indeed. Blackstock's Collections: The Drawings of an Autistic Savant, is exactly what it says it is: the drawings of collections of things in the world of a singular artist. Nothing about him except in the introduction; just the drawings. I'd like a bio, but this book is good at being what it is.
 Then there's this one, The Art of Annemieke Mein: Wildlife Artist in Textiles.
I think I saw her work on Pinterest, but I don't really remember. I was entranced enough to order the book even though the palette and subject matter aren't really my usual interest. What I love about the book is what she says about her process, about the joy she takes in what she does and the complete seriousness with which she devotes her life to capturing flora and fauna in textiles. I love that: when someone takes something so seriously, with no apology, as if the thing they love is every bit as important as international banking or global warming. I like to think it is, indeed, that important. So although I loved seeing her work up close and in detail, it was her description of what she was trying to capture and the bazillion steps and stitches she used in order to do that—that's what I love.

So there are my picks for The Best Books I've Read Lately. Completely different, but what they share: they're each well done, very good at being what they are.

OK! Now it's your turn: what have you been reading? Did you love it? Who else might love it? Or is it pig spit and we should all run away from it if we see a copy in the library?

Thanks for sharing~~no, really! I mean it: I've found some of my favorite books here from ones you've recommended. XO

Monday, November 03, 2014

Still on Track, Yay, Me!

So here's the rest of what I've finished up. I am so proud of myself it's pathetic, but still: I had two weeks with no interviews or deadlines, and I determined that I would tackle the pile of things I've started but haven't finished. One week down, this week still to go, and I've made really great headway. Sure, there're still things I want to *start*; but the things I had bagged and underway? Almost all of those are done. Here they are:

There was this that I showed last week:

Here it is finished:
 I'm pleased with it.
 Then there's this, made from something. We used it as a bedcover, a sort of light-weight blanket thing. It got old and started to shred, and I decided to see if I could salvage it. I'm not sure that was a good idea. It's loosely woven, and it seems to want to keep trying to fall apart.

 Here's the weaving/darning/mending I did. I was really pleased with how it turned out
 but then this morning when I photographed it, I saw this on the other side, which is why I'm not really happy with this garment: it wasn't like this yesterday. I think it's going to be more trouble than it's worth, since I'm not totally loving the way it wears, anyway, and may need to cut off and shorten the straps.
 Then my two ancient pair of Levi's, one cropped and one regular:
 They were in deep trouble, with holes and spots so thin you could see the light through them. I used floss I'd dyed earlier and just stitched, quickly and randomly without thinking, until they seemed sturdy. I'm happy with these and am already wearing them again. Yay for that.

 Then the two most recent woven cuffs. I'm getting there, and I really like these:
The purple and orange has silk of various kinds, including raw hand-dyed variegated silk floss that was a gift and that was the reason I started this one:
 The pink one is all silk: silk floss, silk ribbon (purchased), silk ribbon I made from sari fabric:
 I've got three more cuffs I want to do, and then I'll be ready to move on, I think.

Whew, right? What's next? Well, I still have stuff I can stitch on—a shawl that will take another 50 years, at least, and then this, which is lying exactly like this right now, waiting on me to take the plunge into the world of Tina Givens patterns:
Wish me luck, please~~

Friday, October 31, 2014

And on Thursday. . . .

. . .I finished this, a Cynthia Ashby double-layered linen jacket that 1) I fell in love with (with which. . . ) and 2) was—omigod!—gray, and so needed something to bring it back From the Edge. The reason I like it so much is that it's heavy, which is weird because the linen isn't heavyweight. It's two separate layers that are attached only at the collar and front placket; even the sleeves come completely out, not even attached under the arms.

So what could I do to brighten the charcoal gray? Felted wool appliqués and stitching with variegated floss I dyed a while back. Oh, and replacing the buttons.

 Ohl! and couching. That was fun, as I haven't done a lot of that, and I had some thicker floss that wouldn't work for stitching through the fabric.
 I couched around the edge of the top layer and did a running stitch on the inside layer; I didn't want them to look the same, since they're different textures and are supposed to look layered.

 Fuzzy felt:
 I really like this one a lot.

Then the one I mean to tackle today. Another Cynthia Ashby, this one a simple dress. I overdyed it to get a more denim-y blue. The problem with it—the opportunity for experimentation—is that the front of the bodice is a little too long, so the pockets are lower than I like (I want completely functional pockets) and the front hem was a little too long = dowdy. I am intrigued by smocking but haven't done any. My mother did, and it was way cool, but I don't want the look of traditional smocking; I want funky, free smocking, inspired in my head by the amazing work Michele Carragher, the costume designer for Game of Thrones, shows here.

So I was kind of thinking about that and the look of it, instead of the technique, which would require 1) lots of practice and 2) a lot more extra fabric, and I started pinning the problematic part on Ricë, and now I'm ready to stitch and see what happens. I think it will work.

 I'll have to do some finger pressing as I work. I was going to iron it to kind of set the folds, but these are the pins I use (the only ones I have), and you can't iron over them. Guess how I know this is true.

Instead of tackling this last night, though, I did a couple other things. I removed the silly collar from the green duster I showed you earlier in the week. Even after stitching, it wouldn't stay down and kept flopping around and bugging me, so last night at The Wine Rack I ripped out all the stitching, removed the collar, and restitched the neck band. Much better. Then I started mending a pair of Levi's that have been waiting on repair for over a year. I'll show you those later; I've got plenty to keep me busy today, but I'm still on track to finish up a project a day every day this week. Yay, me. Got to keep at it, though, lest I fall behind here at the end~~