Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shut Up and Sew!

   I'm currently multi-tasking: eating my breakfast (OK, lunch--I missed breakfast), writing a blog post, and waiting for the iron to get hot again so I can go back to my current project. I should be finished with this skirt, but Thursday went very sideways--the local (Vallejo) Hancock Fabrics was temporarily closed (plumbing problems--there was 2 inches of water on the floor), I found what I wanted to get at the Napa Hancock's, but discovered that the coupons I clutched in my fist weren't good until yesterday.
   After spending the morning moving furniture in and out of the house, I went back to Hancock's yesterday, and made the trip worth my while: 8 patterns, 3 pieces of fabric, 2 zippers, and some trim for a throw/slipcover for the new chaise. As soon as I got home, the denim went into the washing machine for pre-washing, and I started trimming the pattern pieces to make a skirt.
   This is one of McCall's "Quick and Easy" patterns. Easy? Definitely, especially if one knows how to sew. Quick? Maybe, if one is exactly the size the pattern is graded for. I'm not, so I had to spend some time making alterations to the yoke/waistband, then to the pieces themselves. It's also "quick" if doing what I call "slash and burn" sewing--throw it together as fast as possible. This is clothing, not costuming, so I want something that is going to be well-made and hard-wearing, so I take my time: tailor's tacks where necessary, lots of pressing, and a willingness to do handsewing as it is needed, rather than taking shortcuts. The result? I worked about 6 hours on the skirt last night, and have a couple hours of sewing (attaching the yoke facing, putting in the zipper, and hand hemming) to have a skirt that's ready to wear tomorrow.

The front of my new denim skirt,
with the yoke facing pin-basted in place. 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

I Need Clothes!

Knickers, boots,vintage mink, and
the arrogance of youth, circa 1977.
   Once upon a time, I was a clotheshorse. Like many other things in my life, I came by it naturally--my fashion-model thin mother has a taste for fine clothes and accessories, and the skills of a dressmaker--and I grew up with a closet full of the latest fashions. In college, I read a book called Cheap Chic (by Caterine Millinaire and Carol Troy), and my own personal style was born: a mix of vintage and classics, seasoned with a lot of hubris.
   Somewhere in the early 1990s, I misplaced my fashion sense and my clotheshorse tendencies. Some of it might have been the move to northern California (the Bay Area really is less appearance-conscious than Los Angeles) and some of it might have been the jobs I worked at (the last ten years of teaching I wore jeans or khakis to work every single day). No matter: the result was a closet full of thin V-necked sweaters appropriate for the classroom, and drawers full of T-shirts and jeans. The few items I still have from my days of working in offices are wool suits--nice, but Boring.
   I've been out of the classroom for two years, launched on my current career as An Artist, and I've discovered that I have Nothing To Wear. Part of being an artist is being seen in public: there is a monthly local ArtWalk, weekly get-togethers at the local coffee roaster, and a host of other events throughout the year that require a bit more than jeans and T-shirts. I tried to fill in the gaps in my wardrobe with some basic pieces, only to discover that: a) there is little that fits my personal style; and (more importantly) b) most of what is available as ready-to-wear is poorly made crap. Example: I bought a long black rayon skirt to wear in the evenings. I wore it only 3 or 4 times before I found a hole in the fabric (not at a seam), simply there because the fabric wasn't very good quality. That skirt cost me nearly $10/wearing--not a good investment.
   Fortunately, there's a solution: I sew. In fact, I sew pretty darned well. I can go back to making my own clothes. I stopped sewing because teaching took up all my time, but I now have a bit more time, and I can indulge myself with high-quality handmade clothing. I was already leaning in this direction--I recently picked up a length of beautiful Italian wool tweed to make a Chanel jacket, and that started me down the rabbit hole of couture sewing--so it didn't take much to decide I'll simply start making nearly all my own clothes again.
   First up on the list is a new skirt to wear when I want something casual, but not jeans. Hancock Fabrics has McCall's patterns on sale this week, and I think this skirt pattern, executed in lightweight denim, will fill the bill nicely. Now, if I could just find that hubris...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Back to Work

New Year's Resolutions Goals for 2015:

  • Exercise more/eat less (Doesn't everybody put this on their list?)
  • Weave one warp for myself.
  • Weave at least one warp with 8 or more shafts.
  • Become production-proficient at both Rosepath and Summer & Winter (types of weave structures)
  • Get warps on and off the looms in a more efficient manner.
  • Survive the next round of work on the house.
  • Master couture sewing and make myself some new clothes I love.
  • Blog more often.
Currently reading: Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer.