Month: September 2012

Family and a UFO

It has been a busy couple of weeks here in SE PDX.  My parents drove in from Minnesota to visit for ten days (in part to help me celebrate my birthday), then hubby’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend were in for a quick weekend to visit from Austin, which meant a quicker trip out to the coast where hubby’s dad now lives.  It was two straight weeks of family visiting and running around.  I loved seeing everyone and treasure the time we spent together, but I was also glad when everyone was gone and I could recharge my introvert batteries.  Two weeks is too long without some serious alone time.

So, I jumped back into the sewing project that I was midway through before family visits, the KwikSew 2684 (out of print).  I un-finished it yesterday.  Here are some of the thoughts I had while working on this make this month.

  • That split-second when triumph at successfully inserting eight darts into a dress turns into panic when you wonder if you just inserted them incorrectly.  (I didn’t.)
  • That moment when you look at two pieces from a princess-seamed bodice and think that they can’t possibly match up like the instructions tell you they do.  But, with a little help from a tailor’s ham, they do.  It’s like magic.
  • The realization that you shouldn’t follow a slippery, fraying mess of a chiffon make with a slippery, fraying mess of a rayon make.  Next time I will insert a nice stable cotton make in between for sanity’s sake.  And use spray starch.
  • The moment in the construction where you start to realize that it’s probably not going to fit (no thanks to you and your lying size charts, Big Pattern Companies!) and you’re making a UFO, or a really nice piece for Goodwill.  At least it’s just a muslin.

I cut a straight size L for this muslin, as I was close to the L measurements for bust, waist, and hips.  After hours of working with the slippery rayon and sewing the dozen or so bodice pieces earlier in the month, yesterday I sewed the side seams, did a trial fit, and was swimming in it.  I took the side seams all in, but then had to take the bust in by several inches on each side. The bodice was obviously too large, which resulted in the straps being too long.  Being a self-lined princess-seamed bodice, to properly correct the straps would require removing the zipper and undoing the waist seam to remove the bodice, etc.  Even if I properly fixed that issue, because the bodice was a size too large the straps barely stayed on my shoulders.  Hubby commented that he liked the off-the-shoulder look, but I knew that  I would never wear it, even if I took the time to fix it properly.  On closer inspection, I also noticed that the zipper needed to be reinserted.  It was a normal zipper insertion, and somehow I didn’t sew the seam long enough, so there was about an 1/8″ of unsewn fabric below the zipper stop. (?!!) Thinking about the time it would take to unpick and correct all of these little mistakes, on top of all the time I’d already spent on the project… I felt frustrated.  Time to step away from the sewing machine and hang the UFO (UnFinished Object) in the closet.

Having slept on it, I know I’ll never wear the dress, even if I do take the time to fix it properly.  I love the teal fabric, so I will try to eek a top out of the fabric in the skirt.  And I will remake this pattern, cutting a size M bust.  I think it will be great for my oil refinery border print.  Someday.  Not now.

Sewing is always a battle with my Virgo perfectionist self.  “Good enough” isn’t good enough for me.  And leaving a project unfinished is against my nature, too.  However, sometimes you have to move on.  Which is what I’m going to do.  Time to start on my Colette Clover muslin.  Denim is going to feel like a dream after the slippery fabrics I’ve worked with the last month.


This last week we have found the green, messy husks of black walnuts on our front steps outside.  “The squirrels,” we thought, resignedly.  Ever since the overgrown juniper shrubs (though that’s too fancy a word for what they were) were removed from our front yard, the squirrels have treated it as their own personal playground and storage unit.  Every day I find new holes where they are just… digging.  Sometimes I find nuts, but mostly just little holes.

I must point out that in our neighborhood, which is early to mid-1900’s houses, the electrical and cable lines are not buried.  This criss-crossing of wires from house to tree to street provides the squirrels with a safe means of getting around the neighborhood.  We call it the Squirrel Highway.  And our street is a bicycle friendly street, too (i.e. lower speed limit, no through cars at the major intersection a couple of blocks away).  All this to say that we have a healthy squirrel population in the neighborhood.  I think the squirrels like SE PDX as much as the people.

This morning, I heard some strange noises outside the front door, almost like someone was hanging a flyer on our door or about to knock and try to sell me on some new religion.  I peeked out of the front window and saw this…

The little rascal!*

Sure is cute, though.  It almost makes me want to cast a couple of metal squirrel finials to place there permanently.

And now it’s time to sweep the front steps again.



*Note that ‘rascal’ is not the first word that comes to my mind when I think of “our” squirrels.  You may use your imagination to choose one you like, however.

Japanese Taffy

Last week I finally completed my Taffy wearable muslin.  It was my first attempt at French seams, so I was a bit nervous, but the Colette Handbook’s step-by-step guide to the process makes it so simple.

The weirdest part of French seams is that initial wrong-to-wrong pinning and sewing.  It was an interesting experience for me to notice just how, well… wrong it feels to do that while sewing.  Everything is always right-to-right, from cutting to sewing; it becomes second nature.  When you have to step out of that and go against your instincts, it’s a curious feeling.  I won’t tell you how many times I double- and triple-checked the instructions on the first few seams to make sure that I was really, really, really doing it correctly.  I was.  Phew.  While French seams are a bit tedious to do (especially on a slippery, fraying, bias-cut armhole), they do produce beautiful finishes on the inside of the garment.  My fabric was not so sheer that I could not have done a regular seam with serged seam finishes.  However, I wanted to follow the recommended method so I can put French seams to use in other makes.

And it only took me one seam to realize I needed to trim my notches before sewing up the encasing seam.  I know that a lot (most?) sewists snip instead of notch, but I just can’t get used to that method.  Especially in fabric that is wont to fray.  I’ve tried snipping notches in the past, but often haven’t been able to find them afterward, so I’ll end up dragging the pattern piece back out so that I can remark the notch.  That’s a royal pain, so I usually just cut notches.  I’m a work in progress, though, so this habit may change.

The fabric I used was a patterned brown poly(?) sheer (chiffon?) that I picked up for super cheap at Tomato in Nippori, Tokyo, in 2008.  The fabric was a mess* to work with!  It slipped, slid, and scooted this way and that.  And if you even looked at the fabric wrong, it started to fray.  After reading some other blogs, I now know the key is starching the fabric before cutting.  Lesson learned.  Starch is on the ‘To Buy’ list.

I cut a straight size 6 and the result is a perfect fit.  Perhaps a little too snug, so I will probably go up a size on the next make to see how that one falls.

As this was a wearable muslin, and because I couldn’t find binding that was a close-enough match for my taste, I didn’t use any seam binding as directed by the pattern.  Instead I just did a rolled hem finish on the hem, the sleeve hems, and the neckline.  I actually like the effect of the rolled hem; it makes it feel lighter and more delicate.  Flutterier.

I also think in my next make of the Taffy I will narrow the neckline just a bit.  It’s an attractive width on, but your foundation garment straps will definitely show.  Perhaps I just need to buy pretty bras to wear with my Taffies?

Overall, a success.  A quick make with great directions yielding an incredibly flattering finished blouse.  I will be making more.


*This is a family-friendly substitution for what I initially had written.


We stopped by IKEA yesterday morning to pick up a couple of small things for the kitchen.  Famous last words.  We came out with a couple of new chairs, which will replace our aging couch, as well as some new small glasses for drinking mead.  (Hubby sampled some mead over the summer while I was gone and picked up a bottle for us to try.)

Seen on the way into the store: